Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Pictorial Analysis of Bellbottoms

While my personal bellbottoms are waiting patiently for a waistband, I thought I'd take a stroll through the pages of the Sear's Catalog of the 1970's. Thanks to my sources (e.g. random googling) several facts have revealed themselves:

1. Bellbottoms reached their height (or should we say width?) in 1975.

2. Bellbottoms have their origins in sailor pants, a style which was also fashionable in the 1930s.

3. For sailing folk, the flared legs made it easy to put boots on and to roll up the legs in case of high water. Both features are, of course, still useful to us today, sailors or not. ETA: Ladykatza noted that the main reason for the flared legs was that if a sailor ever found himself overboard, the pants could quickly be removed, tied off at the ends, and used as a flotation device. I knew bellbottoms were a fashion statement; I didn't know they were a safety device!

4. I wasn't able to find a concensus on the definition of bellbottoms other than that the hem is flared. How much do they flare? Are they fitted at the waist and hips, flaring below the knee (hip-huggers)? Or are they wide-legged? The choice is yours.

5. Bellbottoms came in a WIDE variety of fabrics.

6. Despite their obtrusive nature, bellbottoms need NOT be made in unobtrusive fabric!

Seersucker: an excellent choice for picnics.

Plaid and polka dots: another excellent choice for picnics.

Twill: solid and sturdy.

Red and blue: good for patriotic Americans, Brits, Cubans, Norwegians ... and plenty of others with red and blue in their flags.

I won't lie. Double knit acrylic is not my favorite fabric. But you can't beat pull-on styling WITH cuffs.

Maternity: there's no reason to forego style just because you're expecting.

Denim: pair with a Western shirt for the rugged look.

Plaid: What can I say? Effortless.

More double knit: a matching cardigan and front leg seams add that extra touch.

Corduroy: a versatile favorite.

Corduroy jeans-style bellbottoms.

Dress it up with tweed.

Nothing elongates better than stripes.

Well, I don't know about horizontal stripes.

Tired of the same old flared legs? Try a geometric print.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Award and Daily Life

Thanks to Sew Mental Mama for passing this award to me. It's hard to say whether I'm truly all that. Maybe it's more accurate to say I'm some of that. But that would hardly look right on award, would it?!

I'm going to cheat and, instead of answering 5 questions, I will subject you to 5 photos from our regular lives. And you thought all I did was sew?

Look, ma! I made ketchup! My oldest does not eat sugar, and ketchup without sugar (or corn syrup) cannot be purchased. Hence the homemade ketchup. It's easy to make and fills the house with a wonderful smell (the distinctive ketchup smell comes from the allspice). At a certain point, however, I'm tired of smelling ketchup and need to put it away in jars.

We went zooing (as my sil calls it). Here's #2 in a giant ribcage. Maybe he'll be a paleontologist.

Someone's checking out our new squirrel baffle. It wasn't baffled for long.

A heron in our neighbor's backyard. A minute later the heron caught a giant fish (probably a Northern Pike) and swallowed it headfirst. That was pretty amazing.

The 5, all decked out in homemade. This was supposed to be our Christmas photo, but I never sent it out. Maybe next year.

By the way...

Those of you who guessed Abbey Road were correct! Here's a link to the original.

I'm working on my bellbottoms. I've been hung up on the pocket design and, well, daily life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Double Denim Duo

As you can see, one half of the duo is feeling more cooperative today than the other half. And yes, that's freshly fallen snow. Lucky us.

Once again, the boys desperately need pants, so I made two identical pairs with waistband elastic inserted in addition to the zip flys (or is it "flies"?). It's a lot faster to sew two pairs of jeans simultaneously than back to back. It cuts in half the mental processing required, which is good since I have a lot of things competing for my mental processing time. I guess Henry Ford was on to something there, huh?

I still haven't made a noticeable dent in my 3,000 yard spool of gold topstitching thread. Apparently, the thread is good for hair weaving, too, if you do a lot of that.

I'm pretty sure the pockets are aligned much better than they appear in the photo!

The pattern is my much used Ottobre 1-2004-24. I'm getting a lot of use out of the one time I traced that pattern! One boy got extra length, but the width is still more than sufficient. Since I've made this pattern several times I know that the pants won't look too baggy once the denim softens up in the wash and doesn't stick out so much.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Groovy Bellbottoms Challenge!

First, go here to discover whether YOU are ready to make bellbottoms.

Here is the official sign-up for the "Groovy Bellbottoms Challenge!" The deadline for submitting your entry(ies) is June 1. That gives you just over a month. If you'd like to participate: .

1. Leave a comment in this post about your entry. You can leave fascinating details about your project such as pattern, fabric and personal journey. If you sew additional pairs, leave a comment for each or indicate all pairs in a single comment.

2. Sew your bellbottoms! [This would be the most important step.].

3. Submit a photo to the Flickr group, Bellbottoms and More. Please label your flickr photo with "Groovy Bellbottoms Challenge 2011!" along with any other interesting morsels. [You can join flickr for free for the first 200 photos. Or, just leave a link if you'd like to post your photo elsewhere.]

4. Grab the "Groovy Bellbottoms Challenge!" button and post it on your blog. [This step is optional. You clever ones out there will realize that blog buttons are essentially advertising and, if you advertise, more people MAY participate which MAY reduce your chances of winning.] .

I'm employing the Cheater Widget method here since, frankly, I'd rather fuse interfacing than figure out how to create a widget. Save the button picture and upload it to your blog with a link here. (In blogger, go to the Design tab and choose to add a Picture.)

Each pair of bellbottoms entered by June 1 will give you a chance to win this fabulou s book: Make Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele Margolis. This book is loaded with instructions and illustrations on how to make a multide of garment elements. It does not give you instructions for making your own sloper, but it tells you what to DO with your sloper - or with any other pattern, for that matter.

After poring over this book, I finally understand darts and feel comfortable moving or changing them. I also used the instructions here for drafting cowl necks.
FAQs *

1. Do I have to use a vintage pattern? No, you can also draft your own, use a modern pattern with a 70's vibe, or modify a pattern.

2. What if bellbottoms just aren't "groovy" for me? Wait for the upcoming "Groovy Tunic Challenge!" (and possibly others...).

3. Do I get extra points for using 21 wale corduroy? Sorry, no.

4. Can I make bellbottoms for my husband, grandma, or neighbor? Yes, you can stitch bellbottoms for any human.

* Just kidding. No one asked any questions.

[Thanks to my husband for creating the pseudo-widget.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

How Not to Blend In

I snapped a photo of the kids before we went out shopping today. I made the boys' trench coats last October and happened to find girls' trench coats on clearance at Target shortly thereafter. Score!

Now, we are used to getting stares and comments whenever we go anywhere, 5 kids being rather unusual in these parts. But when they're dressed alike in trench coats (with the exception of the toddler), the curiosity factor is turned up a notch.

So we went shopping today and the kids thought they'd be funny and follow me around the store single file and in complete silence. I was having a hard time not cracking up. Normally I'm pleased when they're quiet so that I can think clearly. But I was having trouble thinking with them so very quiet and orderly.

Apparently other people were having trouble concentrating on their errands, too.

One lady exclaimed, "You have the best behaved children I have ever seen in my entire life!"

Another lady said, "Look at all of you lined up! Does the baby have a tan coat, too?"

The checkout lady laughed, "You look like you're from the Sound of Music! Are you going to sing for me?"

**** Bonus points for whoever can guess which famous photo inspired my photo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Do you have no qualms about invading other people's personal footspace? Do you feel most comfortable when there's a strong wind on your calves as you walk?

Do you love creating bigger swooshes in puddles than other people?

Hopeless of ever being "fashion forward", do you see a glimmer of possibility in "fashion backward"?

Were you too young to dress yourself in the 1970's?

Do you like to make people wonder what kind of footwear you're wearing?

Do you dream of godets?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are ready to make yourself some BELLBOTTOMS!

What has inspired this madness of mine?

1. The strong appeal of 1970's (and 60's) fashion which I mostly missed out on, having only experienced the decade as a toddler.

2. Recently discovering at my library several drool-worthy Butterick Home Catalogs from the 1970's.

3. The revelation that my sister-in-law is also obsessed with the 70's.

4. Karen's decision to satisfy her daughter's request for bellbottoms, using the same pattern I've been eyeing for a year or two.

5. Tanit-Isis' recent stitches, including a maxi-dress and even men's wear.

If the bellbottom bug has bitten you, too, you can submit photos to the newly minted Flickr group: Bellbottoms and More. I plan to start a pseudo-sewalong with a flexible start date. If, by some stroke of genius, you have recently (in the past year or so) sewn a 60's or 70's garment, you can submit it to the flickr group and it will still qualify for the contest. Details to come.

There's plenty of love in blogland for 30's, 40's, and 50's fashion, but not so much for the 60's and 70's. I'm happy to do my small part.

Leotard Lineup

Shannon, you are right, there is NO snow! To say we're happy would be an understatement. Two days ago, the lake was covered with ice (a very thin layer, no doubt) and yesterday there was none. My husband actually dug out the canoe and took a few kids out on the water.
Three of the kids started gymnastics last week and, not surprisingly, my oldest girl outgrew last year's leotard. So I pulled out Jalie 2443, an out of print pattern. The leotards I made a while ago are here and here.

I experimented with a variety of stitching methods, hoping to determine what was easiest and what looked best. For the suit above, I used floral nylon/lycra from the swimsuit fabric scrap bin at Mill End Textiles and purple nylon/lycra from I stitched it per Jalie's instructions: first do a wide zigzag at the outside of the seam, and smaller zigzag 1/4" in. If you enlarge the picture, you can see that some of the stitching is visible where the fabric pulls.

For this suit I used polka dot nylon/lycra scraps from Mill End Textiles and black nylon/lycra from Spandex House. I stitched this one with slightly larger zigzags and I think the stitching is even more visible. The larger the zigzags, the more stretch you retain, but the stitching is also more visible. As I'm zigzagging the seams, I also stretch the fabric taut.

This one is made from tactel/nylon fabrics from Chez Ami. This is the best quality of the fabrics I've used for the leotards - it's beefier than regular swimsuit fabric and less shiny. I serged this entire leotard (except for the sleeve hems and the leg elastic), without stretching the seams. Serging is by far the fastest and easiest method - the serger is faster than the sewing machine and I didn't need to finish the edges in a second pass. However, the stitching still shows a bit where the fabric is pulling, but not as bad as in the suits with wider zigzag stitching.

Oops, I forgot to upload a photo of the solid teal sparkly suit (on the far right of the lineup). I dug this costumey stretch fabric from the scrap bin at Mill End. For the final suit, I stitched the seams with a smaller zigzag (still stretching the fabric) and am happiest with this method. It's still more time consuming than serging, but the stitches are less visible when pulled. There's still plenty of stretch. The one problem? Those sparkles are scratchy and Grace won't wear it until I replace the neckband with something soft.

Here are a few modeled shots.

Some further notes:

I mixed and matched styles to makes this crewneck version. After I cut out all the pieces for all four suits, I realized they were going to be a challenge to get on! So I widened the necks a bit and cut new neckbindings, making sure there was plenty of stretch.

About the leg elastic: I stitched the elastic into a circle. Then I zigzagged it to the inside edge of the leg hole. (I don't quarter mark, I just get the stitching started and then pull the leg opening and the elastic out to the side and estimate how much elastic and fabric should match up in the next stitching stretch. Does that make sense?) I pulled the elastic tighter around the back side of the leghole - the fabric needs to pull in there more closely than it does in the front. Lastly, I turned the edges under and zigzagged once more.

For the sleeve hems, I turned under the edges and did a narrow zigzag with no other finishing. In the past, I've done a coverstitch hem, but didn't feel like changing my coverstitch threads 4 differents times!

If you're scratching your head about sewing a swimsuit or leotard, try your hand at a Jalie pattern - they have good instructions with illustrations. Here's a link to the in-print gymnastics leotard pattern: Jalie 2792.

My swimsuit lining, which you can't see, came from Spandex House.

Sewing swimsuits and leotards is probably my biggest money saver. Each suit used less than a half yard - closer to a quarter yard and cost $2 or $3 dollars. The leotards for sale at our gym range from $31 to $39 and are not as nice, in my opinion (:

©2009 21 Wale | by TNB