Hello Sewists,

London is slowly waking up from lockdown. The ‘non-essential’ shops are opening and the streets are getting busier. It will be at least two more weeks before I can return to work and, as I don’t really go shopping (especially with no income at the moment!) it doesn’t feel like much of a change for me; I’m still feeling pretty locked-down. Two weeks will fly by though. I’m both excited and daunted by the thought of going back to work. I am lucky that I don’t have to travel far, or use public transport. The studio is big, light and airy. I just hope that after twelve weeks off work that I have the stamina to get through what will inevitably be very long and busy days. Seeing my clients (& of course my colleagues) again will help get me through it.

Thankfully, to help the fitness levels, I’ve been able to regain access to the hall I usually teach tap dancing in. Three times this week! So I have a few new dance tutorials posted on youtube and more planned over the next few weeks! The videos are a bit clunky, I’m still finding my feet with the process; learning to be camera man, sound operator, writer, producer, director and editor, as well as presenter! It’s a lot to take in – for me and my Macbook… we’re both feeling a little bit fried! It’s worth every hour put into it when I see the view count rolling up and receive lovely comments from not just my regular pupils, but tappers from all over the world.

I was due to be a part of the line-up for the return of ‘The Refashioners’ project this year. This was (justifiably) disbanded at the beginning of June as the world was shaken by the death of George Floyd and the growing Black Lives Matter movement. Taking a break (not just from blogging & Instagram – although I’m not doing much else atm) to read, learn and better understand, came naturally. With so much going on in the world I’ve found it difficult to get back into blogging & IG, but here I am now with a long and wordy post.

Before I get too far (…!!!) I should tell you that both the fabric I have used and the PDF pattern were sent to me for free. I was not asked for a blog post (or, indeed anything) in return and all opinions are my own. Thank you to both Olivier and David at Patrons Les BG for their generosity – and Vandana at The Delhi Store for her generosity and patience*! (I’ve included links at the end if you’d like to learn more about either supplier.)

*I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve had this fabric since last September. Vandana very kindly reached out to me to ask if I would like to sew with one of her fabrics, she even picked out three perfect options for me which made it difficult to choose! (I must admit, I felt very spoilt, this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me very often!). I chose this gorgeous blue linen; It’s a really fresh aqua blue with a very subtle white and yellow stripe running through it. It’s light without being see-through (which is handy for clothing!) and perfect for summer.

Part of the initial delay in sewing it was that I wanted to try out a technique that I’d read about that’s meant to help stop creases. (I’m going to get this totally wrong, but it’s something like; First you iron it really hot, then you wash it pretty hot, then you tumble dry it (quite hot?) but before it’s completely dry, you iron it again (… moderately hot…?!) then it’s ready.) The big problem I had was getting access to a tumble dryer. But then, as it happened, I had a very busy October, followed by my first Festive season as a freelancer (super busy!), then… some crazy virus struck the world, taking all of our focus! And then the news just got worse… I’m not making excuses, but, if I were…

In the end I gave up waiting for a tumble dryer and instead waited for the good weather to inspire me to use this beautiful soft linen. Like most good linens it was a bit slippery to work with so I was extra careful to interface all the relevant pieces. For extra security I spray-starched some of the smaller pieces before cutting them out, pockets, waistband etc.

Now, the pattern came more recently. Olivier and David at Patrones Les BG DM’d me to ask if I’d like to try their new bermuda short pattern, ‘The Playboy’. It is currently only available as a PDF download pattern, also the instructions are only in French for now. I knew straight away that this would be the perfect pattern to use with this lovely linen, so, undaunted and grateful I accepted their kind offer. (Now, if you only translate one section of these instructions, let it be the part that tells you which sheets to print for either the long or short version – don’t do what I did and print out the whole lot with nothing but fumes in my ink cartridges. By the time I got to page 24 my pattern was looking like a faint watermark and I only needed half the sheets I’d printed!)

The pattern has you bias bind most of the seams but I chose to french seam all but the back pocket bag and the seat seam. I would have french seamed the back pocket too but I hadn’t left myself enough seam allowance. I only did it once before to a back pocket and it was a fun process to get my head around, I’ll have to try it again next time it comes up.

Front pockets French-seamed.
I really like the curved shape of the front pocket openings.

Talking of bias binding; (forgive me for repeating myself; I posted this on instagram too). Usually I apply bias with the two stage method (where you sew it on, press it over and sew again to catch the underside) – Here, I took the time to shape my bias tape first, with the steam iron; I also off-set the fold slightly to give me a fighting chance of catching the tape underneath on the first pass.

The photo below shows the bias tape shaped to the fly shield, prior to sewing.

Bias tape steam-shaped.

As I said, this fabric is perfect for the warm weather, so with that in mind I made a small adjustment to the pattern for extra hot-weather-comfort.

So that I could pull these lightweight shorts on without having to worry about the weight of a belt, I decided to elasticate the back section of the waistband. This wasn’t too tricky: With the shorts half made and the back darts omitted, I measured the back waistband length and drafted a new waistband piece. One thing I forgot to do was to adjust the curve of the waistband to accommodate the new waist shape. I didn’t notice this until it was too late, but a couple of ‘reverse-darts’ on the facing tidied it up again. I was reluctant to cut another waistband as I’m trying to save enough fabric for a matching shirt.

Extending the waistband facing to accommodate no darts.

Once the waistband facing was attached, I measured a piece of elastic to match my back waist and sewed it to the side-seam allowances inside the waistband, before closing the waistband by stitching in the ditch.

Back elastic stitched to inside-side seams (you can also see the ‘reverse-darts’ in the facing)
Waistband facing pinned in place (I ran out of blue bias! #usewhatyouhave)
Pinned from the front, ready to sew. I kept the belt loops at the front for the visual.

They’ve ended up really comfortable, but maybe not really flattering round the back. I’ll be interested to see how the fit is when I make the next pair with the darts. Maybe I’ll grade the hip down a bit too, but I quite like the extra room!

Back view!

The fabric behaved beautifully throughout. As I mentioned, a little starch on the curved cuts-stopped them from losing their shape as they were handled. The finished shorts feel so light and cool, perfect for the warm spring we’ve had in London (and for the hot summer we hopefully have to come!)

Handmade t-shirt, shorts (underwear!) and espadrilles! The dog, I had to borrow!

It has been said that Patrons Les BG patterns can come up a bit on the snug side. Personally, I think they have taken a more modern approach and used less traditional amounts of ease throughout their drafting. I suppose this is more apparent if you’re used to using patterns by some of the main companies, where I sometimes find there is so much extra ease added, it’s simpler to trace out the smaller size than make all the adjustments necessary. These are modern patterns, drafted this decade… that being said, I’m not in the market for skin tight shorts so I not only checked the measurement chart but I also measured the pattern pieces in strategic places to help get the right fit. Interestingly, in most patterns I fit into one size bracket, with these shorts I measured closest to a medium at the waist, a small on the hip and a large thigh (… all that tap dancing…?) so rather than make a pair of convex shorts, I ignored the hip measurement and blended out from the waist to the thigh. The finished shorts might look a little wide on the thigh, but trust me, when I sit down, those tap thighs fill up any excess space!

It may not look it, but both my thighs are the same size!

Now I really have to get focussed, I’ve got a busy couple of weeks ahead. I need to plan for my return to work (pre-consultations, scheduling, stock ordering etc) … I’ve got two ‘refashioners’ projects which I’d still like to finish (although that’s got harder since the deadline was removed) … Hopefully I have enough fabric left over to make a matching shirt for these shorts, that’ll be ‘Summer Set Part II’! (I’m thinking ‘popover’ shirts for work this summer) and I’m planning a few more linen garments for the salon, as it’s going to be hot; hairdressing in gloves, mask & visor.

Thanks again to Patrons Les BG for the PDF and to The Delhi Store for the fabric. Here are the links if you want to learn more…

Patrons Les BG: WebsiteInstagramPattern

The Delhi Store: InstagramEtsy

Take care, Sewists and Happy Sewing!

Notes to self;

  • Use spray starch before cutting out to help smaller pieces keep their shape.
  • Hurry up and make the shirt!
  • Start picking the pace up, it’s too late to get fit but it’s not too late to get organised!