Monday, 9 June 2014

This is my dubious face (or: Made: Ottobre 02-2014-04)

Or, it would be my dubious face if I didn't usually make the executive decision to remove my face from my photos for the good of the world reasons. You'll just have to imagine my dubious expression.

This weekend I decided to take a breather from my woven top issues and make a pair of shorts for the summer we're not in any way having. All the shorts I own just now (other than my actually much beloved, constantly worn PJ shorts made by me to an Ottobre pattern, which are sadly not outside-the-house wear) are dreadful. They are either too small, too big, or represent a highly inadvisable fashion statement that I can't remember wanting to make and thus cannot imagine why I bought them (probably: I was desperate, they were cheap).

Now, as I've mentioned before, the prospect of fitting trousers fills me with great trepidation, although I plan to try it, health and other issues permitting, later this summer. However, on perusing the most recent Ottobre (also the source of my woven tee pattern, so it was already out) I saw what looked like a pattern relatively unfitted baggy shorts, which appealed both from a fitting (i.e. there wouldn't be much) and wear perspective. You can read my sensible srs bsns PR review of the pattern here if you are so inclined.

Ottobre 02-2014-04 image and technical drawing, taken from the Ottobre website
They are called 'Cute Culottes', but when I looked at the image I sort of scoffed. These are not culottes, I said. I remember culottes from the 80s, those great voluminous baggy not-a-skirts! (Sad but true: I loved them in the late 80s. Leave me alone, I was 12 at the time. Although to be fair, it's not like I have any better fashion sense at 38.)

So, I merrily started tracing the pattern, and at this point I started to have some questions and some doubts were starting to creep in. What is this giant inverted pleat thing on the pattern? I heard myself asking. These legs seem AWFULLY wide. ARE YOU REALLY SURE ABOUT THIS?

I persevered nevertheless. For my fabric I had this deepest of stash green linen. I am making a conscious effort to use some of my oldest fabric, and I bought this in my first month of garment sewing, back in 2012. This has been earmarked from the beginning for something summery like a skirt or shorts, but way back in the mists of time I was not sufficiently experienced with buying fabric to understand that some eBay sellers have no idea what they are advertising or to translate their inept descriptions. Thus, I did not quite expect to receive what came when I bought this piece, which was in fact two small 75cm long pieces of a 140cm wide 100% linen, and was therefore stymied as to what to do with it. It has lurked in the bottom of a crate ever since.

As linen goes, it's an unfortunate weight. It's neither top weight nor bottom weight, really, and has a strange stiffness to it even after washing and tumble drying. It's also slubby as anything and shred and otherwise deteriorated rapidly as I handed it. At any rate, I didn't think it was great for anything, but I thought it would make a perfectly serviceable pair of shorts. (I want to disclaim responsibility for my shockingly shoddy t-shirt I am wearing with it, which I bought for €6 from Next a couple of weeks ago. I tend to think it's not worth making little tees like this, and then I buy RTW and remember why I thought I would make them in future. I've only washed it once and the hemline has already twisted horribly in a way my own tees have not.)
Ottobre 02-2014-04 "Cute Culottes" Only... not so much with the cute.

This is what I ended up with. I don't really feel like it's a close match to the Ottobre images AT ALL. For example, OK, so, look back at the model from the Ottobre magazine for a start. As you look at the image, on the right you can JUST see the fold of a pleat on the inside of her leg. Doesn't look too massive, does it? THIS IS DECEPTIVE. There's a GIANT inverted pleat at the front and back of the culottes that you sew together to just above the crotch. I have previously considered buying the Megan Nielson Tania Culotte pattern, which has been very widely and positively reviewed around the internet, which I understand uses a similar construction method to disguise that it is a not-a-skirt. It does so more successfully though, in my opinion from seeing images of other sewists projects, than this Ottobre pattern. GIGANTIC PLEATS ARE GIGANTIC.

The images below probably make this clearer than any wordy description. You can see the pleat on the front in the shot on the left and at the centre back in the inside shot. There are also gathers just next to the hip, as you can see in the technical drawing and also on the detailed shots below.

In other words: SO MUCH VOLUME. SO MUCH. It's slightly like wearing a parachute with a crotch seam. I think the view from the back with the centre pleat is really particularly unflattering,  though luckily I almost never have to see my own arse and I don't care what other people think of my behind so that's of limited concern to me, really.
Construction details: EPIC inverted pleat at front and back, plus my super fancy seam binding
Can we talk about my bee-yoooo-ti-ful sewing though? I went ALL OUT with my finishing on this garment, probably because I worked on it in short bursts over several days, and fiddly tasks like binding and topstitching every single seam are less onerous when you're just doing a couple at a time. Actually the other reason for this is that this fabric SHREDDED. I mean, just fell to pieces every time I handled it in any way. It's quite a coarse weave, so this was inevitable, but my choices were to overlock everything in sight (and I only have white, cream and black thread, none of which matched well with the fabric) or to bind everything, and since I take perverse enjoyment from making bias binding, I bound every thing. The bias binding itself is left over from an old sheet that I dyed olive green in a dying experiment for binding for the World's Slowest Quilt Project.

I am sort of annoyed by how great my sewing processes were and how unfortunate the outcome. All my stitching is lovely and doesn't wander, my invisible zip insertion is A+. If only the shorts were more wearable! However, it did occur to me that actually, I shot myself in the foot. I think one of the reasons that the hang of the culottes at the back is so peculiar is because I bound and top-stitched the seam. It makes for a certain degree of rigidity of the centre back seam that I don't think really helps. So, that's unfortunate.

In conclusion: This not-very-flattering not-a-skirt cost me about £6 and a couple of days work to make and I'll probably only wear it around the house. In the grand scheme of things it's no great loss that it didn't turn out great and it used some older fabric that I had no particular desire to hoard and cherish forever. Although I'm mildly distressed that all my beautiful internal work was not rewarded with a stellar garment, I am inclined to take the position that it was really useful practice, and showed me how actually quite easy it is to get a good internal finish even if you can only sew in short bursts (and, I now have an excuse to indulge my enjoyment of making bias binding!


  1. What a pity the lovely finishing is let down by the style failure. I'd be tempted to wear this inside out around the house and pray that the doorbell doesn't ring.

    1. I will probably get SOME wear out of it if we have any warm days when I am not leaving the house, just because the alternative shorts situation in my wardrobe is so dire. They are pretty terrible, but they are not actually as bad as the unfortunate stripy M&S shorts that I hoped they would replace! It's a shame though that the inside is the nicest thing about them!

  2. Because I am now living in the desert, with 109F today, those culottes look like just what I need (for around the house!). Lovely workmanship on a deceptive pattern. How are you doing overall???

    1. Good grief, 109F D: Dublin had a daytime high today of 17C (about 62F).

      I actually think if you WANTED this outcome from the pattern, and knew that was what you were going to get, it's a nice enough pattern and it's certainly well-drafted. It just really wasn't what I wanted!

      I am doing OK, health-wise, and I have been able to get on with things most days so long as I don't try to do too much, hence a sudden surge of sewing output! It helps that term has finished so the things I was finding very hard like teaching hours have come to an end.

  3. The lady on the pattern certainly seems pleased with herself, maybe if you always stood with your hip out and your knees two feet apart, they'd look like they're party-ready for you too!
    Glad you'll get some use out of them anyway!

    1. Haha, party-ready! It would be the saddest party ever as they are now. Although one of my friends said it reminded her of a German hiking outfit circa 1950 (weirdly specific, but there you have it) and a German hiking party in 1950 could actually be the saddest thing ever.

    2. I actually like the skort, or whatever you want to call it, on you. It definitely looks more like a skirt than shorts. But I can't tell there are inverted pleats at the center front and back. Personally I would get rid of the gathers at the side hips. They don't seem to make sense from a design standpoint, and draw the eye. I made a pair of culottes for summer a couple years ago.. I wanted the looseness for hot, humid weather and the crotch to hold it down when it got windy. Loved wearing them.

    3. Thanks, Audrey! I agree about the gathers. I don't think they're necessary at all, and if I had to do it again I would probably take them out. This fabric is way too prone to shredding to be excited about making any major changes now it's all finished, so I am afraid I am stuck with them for now!