2017: The Year of Trousers

Folded chinos

2017 was the year of trousers. I set out at the beginning of the year to redraft my trouser pattern from scratch, thinking the process would be relatively simple. It was not. Most of my free sewing time was used on this one new pattern, and despite my lack of updates, I actually spent a lot of time sewing in the last twelve months.

I started with a trouser draft I found in the Cutter and Tailor forums (amazing tailoring resource by the way). If you are interested, it is the draft found in this thread. You may have to create a free account to view and download the draft.

Most of the above trousers are pretty much the same with some minor differences. All of the fabric except the gray pair on the far left was purchased from an Imogene and Willie “yard sale” in Nashville years ago. I have a ton of this stuff, and will be sewing from it for years to come. The gray pair was made from linen I bought while traveling in Japan in April of 2017.

Chinos fit pic

I am happy with the latest changes I made as seen here on this brown/tobacco pair of chinos. The side seams are more balanced, with a better fit through the leg than previous attempts earlier this year. The fabric I used took on a really weathered look after washing it. I’m not sure why, but it was unexpected, and not exactly the look I was going for. I decided to embrace it and make the pants anyway. They have been worn four or five times, but look like they traveled around the world.

Trousers side seam pocket

This was my first attempt at in-seam front pockets, and while I love the way they look and blend in with the seam, I will be changing them to slanted pockets on the next pair. I use my pockets a lot for keys, phone, sunglasses, etc. I am always in and out of my front pockets, especially when traveling. While it may seem like a small inconvenience, I strongly dislike the extra reach backwards to access the pockets. Maybe my shoulders don’t rotate far enough back…? I’m not sure, but it drives me nuts. I feel like a contortionist just reaching for my phone. A slight slant towards center front of 1” or 1 1/4” makes a huge difference.

Trousers front pocket finish

I learned a new technique for finishing the inside front pocket bags that I will be keeping for future pants. After examining the pockets on my suit trousers (store bought), I noticed that the side seams were pressed completely open under the pocketing, and that one side of the pocket bag was attached to the back seam allowance on the side seam.

The standard way I’ve been making front pockets is to finish both layers of pocketing with both side seam allowances, surging it all together, and then doing some kind of “press-over fold” to get the rest of the side seam to press open below the pocket. I dislike that little press over, and dislike the bulk created by finishing all of the pocketing and side seam layers together. This method seems to distribute the bulk more evenly, and just looks nicer in my opinion.

After looking through one of my favorite tailoring books, I noticed it included a method for this type of pocket finish. It does take some extra time, but I am very happy with the results. It’s my favorite technique I learned this year. (*note, the above link is for the second edition of the book. I have the first edition, but assume they are similar. Also, it’s an Amazon affiliate link.)

As usual, the draft was a fine place to start, but I made extensive changes to the pattern, and went through a decent amount of muslin testing the fit. Is my final pattern perfect, absolutely not. Is any clothing pattern ever “perfect”? If you follow me on Instagram, I documented some of the necessary changes I made to the pattern. Looks like I actually started this process at the end of 2016.

I used Petersham to finish the interior of the split waistband. It may not look fancy, but it does give a clean, flat, and functional finish without adding a gazillion layers of fabric. Petersham will curve nicely with a hot iron and some steam, so it even works on curved waistbands like mine. Lots of men’s trousers have these elaborate “curtained” waistbands, but I’ve never quite understood the function of all those layers on the interior of men’s trousers.” Maybe it helps the waistband and upper portion of the pants to lie flat with a shirt tucked in, who knows. Seems like a lot of extra bulk and unnecessary work to me.

Chinos button fly

Alright, some more goofy fit pics. I used to cut my trousers a little slimmer through the thigh. Maybe I’m getting old, but I’ve decided that I like the comfort of a slightly roomier leg. It helps with some basic human things, like sitting down and walking up stairs. Plus I could actually wear these on a long haul flight and still be relatively comfortable.

The waistband is split open at the top at center back. Some people say it gives a little extra “spring” in the waist, which makes these chinos perfect for large meals. 🙂

Chinos welted pockets

Here’s where I promise to post more in 2018. Seriously, though, I have every intention of doing so. I also hope to release more bag patterns in the coming months.

Happy New Year everyone!

The Desmond Roll Top Backpack Pattern

desmond pack frontSewing world, meet The Desmond roll top backpack! It’s finally here and I am beyond thrilled to be releasing my first pattern! The pattern is currently available as a PDF download in my shop.

The Desmond backpack is perfect for your next adventure, whether that be a weekend getaway, trip to the market, or commute to the office. It’s big enough for all of your essentials, but small enough to use as an airplane carry-on, easily fitting in under seat storage as well as in overhead bin space.

desmond pack sideA simplified design features a roll top closure, zipper pocket on the front for smaller items, and two slip pockets on the sides. The pack is fully lined with additional open top pockets on the inside.

Finished pack dimensions: 16.5″ tall, 11.5″ wide, 5″ deep.

desmond pack back

The shoulder straps are adjustable using a set of O-Rings, but other strap adjusting hardware can be substituted depending on preference.

Fabric and hardware requirements can be seen here. In addition to the pattern, I am also selling kits that contain all of the necessary hardware to make the pack except for fabric and thread. There are two versions of the kit, one with webbing and zipper included, and one with just the hardware if you want to choose your own zipper and webbing colors.

I used the reverse side of 13.5oz Cone Mills denim for this pack, which I happen to love with navy webbing and zipper. As awesome as it looks, the thick fabric proved to be a bit tricky to work with in thick areas. Use your best judgement depending on how your machine handles thick fabrics. You can certainly use a lighter weight denim for a similar look that might be easier to work with.

Skill level for the pattern is intermediate.

This is an unstructured pack (no frame or padding), so it’s not the kind of pack you would use for lots of heavy books, a jungle trek, or mountaineering with heavy loads. It is, however, perfect for use as an every day bag.

Starting a week from today, October 8th, I will be hosting a sew-along with step-by-step instructions for anyone who wants to follow along and make their own Desmond roll top pack.

desmond pack model

Here is the backpack in natural canvas.

desmond pack inside

A look at the inside of the pack. The lining has several open top pockets to keep smaller items organized.

This is my first jump into the pattern world, and I am always open to suggestions on how to make things better. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about the pattern, or if I can help in any way as you cut and sew your own Desmond backpack.

Lastly, I want to give a huge thanks to all of the testers who helped me refine the instructions and make this a better pattern overall. Pattern testers play one of the most important roles in pattern development, and I am forever grateful to those who helped me with this first pattern. Not all of the testers have a web presence, but those who do are:

Novita from Very Purple Person
Christiane from Cutikula
Alli from Moreplease Thankyou
Nique from Nique_et

Get your Desmond backpack pattern in the Supply Shop!!!

Call for Pattern Testers {Closed}

*Edit* The call for pattern testers is now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted the form and expressed an interest to test the pattern.

My backpack pattern, the one I announced almost a year ago, is almost finished! I know, it took way too long to get to this point, and even though I have a few good excuses, I won’t bore you with them.

While I’ve completed some initial testing with the pattern, I want to open up testing to some of my readers who are interested in making a roll top backpack. The finished pack is approximately 16.5″ tall, 11.5″ wide, and 5″ deep. It features a front zipper pocket and flat patch-style pockets on the sides. The lining also has several pockets to keep things organized. Keep in mind that this is an unstructured pack, so it’s not necessarily ideal as a long trek through the jungle or technical mountaineering kind of pack, but it’s perfect for an every day tote, weekend get-away, or airplane carry-on.

Initially the pattern will be offered as a pdf. download. Once I have your contact information, I will e-mail each tester a pdf. with the pattern and instructions. Please note that the pdf. will need to be printed and pieced together.

roll top backpack sketch

Farbic requirements
(1) yard at 60″ wide for the exterior of the pack.
(1) yard at 45″ wide for the lining.

Hardware requirements
(2) 1″ snap hooks
(2) 1″ D-rings
(2) 1″ slides
(4)  yards 1″ wide medium-weight webbing
(1) 9″ zipper

If you are interested in testing the pattern, please fill out the form here. {closed}

The form has questions about skill level and how long you’ve been sewing. If you are a beginner, or haven’t been sewing for very long, this is perfectly fine as I’d like a variety of perspectives. If you have never sewn anything before, this pattern probably isn’t for you, but my hope is that a determined beginner (someone who is familiar with their sewing machine, has completed some basic projects, and knows some common sewing terms) could handle this backpack.

I hoping to have the testing phase finished by September 1, two weeks from today.

I have learned a lot through this process, but also realize that I have a lot more to learn, and I am open to honest and constructive feedback regarding the pattern and instructions. Taking time from your busy lives to help me test the pattern is something I greatly appreciate. Each tester will receive the final version of the pattern.

Backpack Pattern Preview

rolltop backpack sketchI’m so excited to share this “sketch” of my first pattern that I plan to release later this fall! There might be a few slight changes from what is pictured as I am still testing and tweaking the design. I took what I learned from my first three backpacks  (waxed canvas, rolltop v.1, rolltop v.2) and tried to incorporate the best elements of each into this pattern.

There is lots of debate elsewhere online about pdf vs. traditional print patterns, but I’m curious to hear from anyone who might be interested in this pattern if they have a preference. There are pros and cons to both. While there is the immediate satisfaction and instant delivery from a pdf download, they can be a pain to print and assemble at home. On the flip side though, the cost to print and package physical copies of the pattern can be high, which makes the price of the pattern more expensive for y’all.

I also worry a little bit about pdf copies of the pattern being so easy to distribute online. Not that any of you would give the pattern away of course :), but once a pdf hits the internet, there really is no way to stop people from giving it away for free. I would love your thoughts on this issue as well.

With the exception of all-purpose thread, I plan to stock all of the supplies you would need to actually make the backpack. Initially I will offer a simple canvas fabric option, as well as all of the hardware, zippers, and webbing necessary to make the pack. Obviously people can source their own supplies, but I thought I would offer the basics through my shop. Does this sound like something in which you would be interested?

As soon as the pattern is released (I don’t have an official date yet) I will be doing a comprehensive, multi-step sew-along for the backpack.

If this release goes well, my goal over time is to develop a whole line of bag and pack patterns, from zipper top backpacks, to messenger style bags, as well as duffel and smaller toiletry bags.

Your thoughts on the above would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Suit Jacket/Blazer Pattern Revisited

Men's jacket pattern draft

Three years ago I started drafting a jacket pattern and got distracted. At the time, I needed shirts and pants more than a jacket so I put the project on hold. Rather than revive that old project, I decided to start completely from scratch and use a drafting system to create a new jacket, or “lounge coat” pattern.

There are several drafting systems available at the Cutter and Tailor forum. On a side note, I have to give a huge thanks to all who make that forum possible. It has been amazingly helpful for this project, and I am indebted to all of the members who help to maintain the forum as a valuable resource.

The drafting system I chose to work with is called Rundschau, and it is based off of four basic measurements, chest, waist, seat girth, and body height. These four measurements are then plugged into a bunch of calculations, and this set of measurements and calculated numbers form the basis of the pattern draft.

As Jeffery mentions on his blog, there is some debate as to whether this is a good way to draft or not, but I was so fascinated that such systems exist, I had to try one to see how it works. Somehow the system is based off of various body proportions, which is why the entire draft can be created from four measurements. It sort of seems like magic, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how this is going to turn out since I haven’t tested the fit in fabric yet.

The keys to being able to complete the draft are a good tailor’s square and a lot of patience. In some ways a fearless approach is necessary to learn things like this. After reading through the forums a bit, I got some blank paper out and decided to give it a try. It might not fit, and might not be the way a professional tailor would do things, but for me this is a starting point towards creating my first jacket.


Part of the reason that I haven’t kept the blog updated this summer is that I’m currently developing my first backpack pattern that I hope to offer for sale later this fall. I’m so excited I can barely stand it! There is still lots of work to do, and obviously I will be talking more about the pattern in the future. Stay tuned for more details.

Women’s Selvedge Denim

Cone Mills, Blue Line Selvedge Denim
100% Cotton, 11.5 oz

women's selvedge denim, front

women's selvedge denim, cuffs

Just in case you were wondering, the easiest way to get into a girl’s pants…is to make her a pair.

For the past few months I’ve been working on a pattern for a pair of selvedge denim jeans for my wife Lindsay. After she saw how awesome my jeans turned out, she has been coveting a pair for herself. Three test fit garments later and countless adjustments to the pattern, she finally has a pair of jeans.

women's selvedge denim

She wanted a slightly looser fit, which we are calling the “the husband” cut. This was actually helpful when trying to preserve the selvedge on the side seam. Women have curves, which is a good thing of course, but they also present a challenge for novice pattern makers like me. The jeans basically have a straight leg with a very slight taper on the inseam. They feature two topstitching thread colors, a zipper fly, and hand-felled yoke, center back, and inseams.

women's selvedge denim, back pockets

They are the definition of awesome.

cupcake pocket lining
Yep, those are cupcakes on her pocket lining, which is completely appropriate if you know Lindsay. She is a cupcake queen, and our fridge is always packed full of amazing desserts that she makes from scratch. I am a lucky guy in more ways than one. You can read all about her/our culinary adventures on her food blog Love & Olive Oil.

As she wears the jeans and the denim breaks in, I’m sure I will be making adjustments to improve the pattern for the next pair.

Men’s Khaki Chinos

Are they chinos, or khakis, or in this case both? I see the names used interchangeably, but I wonder if anybody really  knows. The purists say that “chino” is a type of pant and “khaki” is a color. I say when you know how to make ’em yourself, you can call them whatever you want to.

Self-drafted pattern
Flat front, button fly, slim fit
100% cotton twill

Folded mens chinos

Hanging chinos

First attempt at making welt pockets.

Welt pocket close up

Lined waistband.

Chino button fly

Chino pants back

Chino pants front



Spring/Summer Men’s Shirts

small check gingham men's shirt


light gray Pima cotton men's shirt

The weather is warming up here in Tennessee, and comfort on those hot, humid days is what I had in mind with these shirts. I chose two lightweight warm weather fabrics. The first is a small check blue and white gingham, and the second shirt is made from a light gray Pima cotton. Both are 100% cotton and feature a single pocket on the left hand side. I may end up adding buttons to the collars to make sure they don’t flair out too much, but I want to wear the shirts a bit more to see how the collars naturally fall.

Back in January, I started re-working my shirt pattern  in anticipation of needing a couple of spring/summer shirts. There was too much ease in the back of my first few shirts, which caused them to “poof” when tucked. Overall, I ended up taking out about 2 inches of extra room from the back of my shirt pattern.

Another major change I made was to the length of the shirttails. On my first three shirts, I purposely left the tails somewhat shorter than normal so I could leave the shirts un-tucked and not look like I was wearing a dress. I’ve pretty much decided that un-tucked shirts look sloppy and a little juvenile (maybe I’m getting old?). This time around I lengthened the shirttails to make sure they didn’t pull out when tucked.

I also made a couple of small changes to the collar. I slightly widened the spread of the collar points, and I made the collar taller by about 1/4 inch. Lastly, I took out a little ease from the sleeve, raised the arm hole, and refined the shape of the side seams. While I was happy with the fit of my first shirts, the above  modifications are definitely an improvement.

men's shirt fit picture

I kind of wish I could photoshop that stupid look off my face.

men's shirt fit picture

This picture was taken right after I finished sewing on the buttons. It fits better than depicted above. I should have ironed the shirt first, and it would help if I was standing up straight instead of leaning on that railing.

Modified Men’s Jeans Pattern

I started work on a new pair of jeans today. While I still love the first pair I made, and pretty much wear them every day, there are a couple of areas where I can improve the fit. The waste on my first pair is too big, and the fit through the leg is a little baggier than I prefer. Even though these were fairly minor changes to make on my pattern, I still want to make a muslin version before cutting into my denim stash. You never know how a few small changes in one place will alter the fit somewhere else.

The other reason I want to make a muslin version is that I just got a new industrial sewing machine, which is really, really fast, and I can use the practice to learn the new machine. The seams below puckered a little bit, which is probably a result of the tension being set too high and the heavy duty feed dogs that are on the machine. Once I switch to denim, the puckering shouldn’t be an issue. I attached the yokes and back pockets today, and hope to start work on the fly and fronts this week.

Backs of practice jeans with pockets and yokes

Men’s Shirt Pattern and Test Fit

The majority of my men’s shirt pattern is finished. Yay!  I ran into quite a few snags during the drafting process, and this pattern took much longer than my jeans pattern to get right. I am still tweaking the shape of the collar a bit, and I need to determine the shape and length of the shirt tails, but thankfully the tough parts are over.

Men's shirt pattern pieces

After finishing my sloper and the main pattern pieces, I made a quick muslin version of the shirt to test the fit. I didn’t attach cuffs, plackets, or buttons because I just wanted to make sure that the main body of the shirt fit properly. For the most part I was really happy with the way this test shirt turned out. There is a little extra room throughout my lower torso area below my chest and arms, which will be corrected by curving the side seams inward. My neckline, collar, and collar stand all need to be taken in as well, but these should be fairly easy adjustments. Otherwise, I am almost ready to start on some “real” shirts.

On top of my test shirt below are three different shirtings I plan to use:  a gray chambray, a charcoal chambray, a blue striped fabric, and some interfacing. All of the fabric is 100% cotton, including the interfacing, which is actually bleached muslin. Based on David Page Coffin’s recommendation, I’ve decided to use sew-in interfacing for the collar, collar stand, and cuffs rather than fusible interfacing.

Practice muslin shirt and shirting fabric

Throughout this entire shirt making process, I have been using Coffin’s Shirtmaking book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning great construction and fitting techniques. He provides step-by-step, detailed instructions for the most difficult tasks such as constructing and attaching collars, collar bands, and cuffs.

I can’t wait to get started making some shirts that I might actually wear!

Shirt Sloper Continued

So I finally finished my men’s shirt sloper by adding the necessary ease across the upper back and chest area. I am going for a somewhat slim fit with this shirt, but let’s face it, I still need to be able to move and breath with some comfort. To determine where I needed the extra room in the sloper, I tried on the version below for my totally awesome pattern drafting/sewing teacher. She drew vertical blue lines in the areas that were too tight.

Men's Shirt Sloper test fit

From here, I carefully matched up my pattern to the muslin test sloper, and then transferred the blue lines to my pattern paper. To add the ease to the pattern, I cut along these lines and spread open the front and back pattern pieces as seen below. I inserted some scrap paper underneath the cuts in the open area, and attached these pieces with tape.

Men's shirt sloper, spread to add ease

Below are the final front and back to the shirt sloper. The orange area is where I added ease across the chest and back. One consequence of spreading the sloper at the shoulder seam was that this created a shoulder seam that was too long. To fix this problem, I folded out the extra length along the seam, which I marked with blue in the photo below.

Men's shirt sloper with ease

Now that the sloper is finished, I can begin tweaking it to design my shirt pattern.

Men’s Shirt Sloper

men's shirt sloper drafts

Um…yeah…that’s a lot of paper.

During the past few weeks I have accumulated this mass of paper in my attempt to draft a men’s shirt sloper. I have drawn, adjusted, and redrawn this pattern too many times to count. Compared to my jeans sloper, which came together relatively quickly, this shirt sloper is taking quite a bit longer than I expected. I started with the same book I used for my jeans, The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Menswear by Lori A. Knowles. This taught me the basic shapes for the front piece, back piece, and sleeve, but I had some fit issues with this initial pattern.

Trying to draw a pattern on a flat piece of paper that allows for the way the arm moves relative to the body is more complicated than I previously thought. I started making some changes on my own, and while I got somewhat close to what I was looking for, the sloper still wasn’t perfect and certainly wasn’t ready for me to use to begin making shirt patterns.

Instead of continuing with blind trial and error, I decided to save some paper (and my  sanity) and got some help from a wonderful sewing/pattern making teacher here in Nashville. She was able to help me with some of my fit issues and as a result, I finally have an upper body sloper that fits really well. I still need to add a bit of ease across the chest and shoulders in the back, but for the most part I am almost finished with the shirt sloper.

Men's Shirt Sloper Variations

I ended up with three or four different variations.

Front/back test fit in tissue

I tested the fit of the front and back in tissue prior to cutting out the pieces in muslin. Tissue is not the best way to gauge whether the pieces fit correctly, but I wanted to see if they were roughly the correct shape.

Men's sloper test fit in muslin

Once I determined that I was on the right track with the tissue test fit, I cut out each version of the pattern in muslin to give me an idea of how the sloper would fit using fabric. This also gave me a chance to see how the sleeve interacted with the front and back pieces. Each version was progressively better than the previous version. Since I wasn’t sure how the pattern would fit, I only cut out half of the sloper each time I tested it. As soon as I add some ease to the latest version, I will test the whole upper body at the same time, which is really the only way to make sure the sloper fits exactly how I want it to.

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