Friday, May 31, 2013

SwimAlong 2013: Swimwear notions and where to find them

We've got the fabric, but there are a few more specialized components we'll need to make a swimsuit. Obviously, this will be somewhat specific to your pattern, but there are a few things we'll all need.
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I know - we're sewing so obviously we need thread, but there are a few types of thread that can really make your swimwear sewing professional grade. Naturally, you'll need regular general purpose thread for seaming. Do be sure that you choose a polyester thread and not cotton or silk. Polyester has the slight give and strength you'll need for sewing swimwear. Another type of thread I want to mention is wooly nylon, which is pictured above. This thread is unspun nylon filaments, and it s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s with your fabric. If you are using a serger, you can thread some or all of your threads with wooly nylon for a truly elastic seam. I generally put it in my loopers and Maxi-lock in my needles. You'll be blown away by how much this seam will stretch! You can also use it in the bobbin of your sewing machine, both for general seaming and for topstitching. It's particularly fabulous when you are using a twin needle. It really gives the stretch you'll need when sewing swimwear.
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Pretty much no matter what swim pattern you are using, you're going to need some elastic. And swimwear elastic is put through a lot. It functions as an edge finish as well as holding the suit in the correct shape. It has to stand up to all the same environmental stresses that the suit fabric is exposed to, all while maintaining it's shape. If your elastic loses it's spring, you are going to be exposing body parts you may want to keep contained.
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There are two major types of elastic used in swimwear. The most common is cotton knitted elastic that has been treated to be chlorine resistant. This product looks much like regular elastic, although it is commonly an off white color. It behaves much like regular knitted elastic, so it is easy to sew. It is generally labeled specifically as "swimwear" or "swim" elastic, so be sure to look for that. The other type is rubber elastic. This is my personal preference for sewing swimwear, but not everyone loves it. It is made out of rubber (hence the name) and behaves a bit like clear elastic, but is much sturdier. Since it is made of rubber it is naturally durable and chlorine/sun resistant. Some sewists have also had good luck using clear elastic for swimwear, but I personally find it flimsy and more difficult to apply.
Image source - be sure to check this one out - awesome!
Even if you just put in a bit of a crotch lining, you'll need some lining fabric. Although it is perfectly acceptable to line a swimsuit with self fabric, you'll be cooler and more comfortable in lighterweight lining fabric. You can purchase swimsuit lining at many fabric vendors that also sell spandex. It's much less expensive than the fashion fabric, and it typically only comes in a nude-ish color. Remember that lighter colored fabrics particularly are prone to becoming sheer when wet, so a fully lined suit will make you feel more confident that your suit really is covering the topic.
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Another option, and one you'll see often in RTW suits, is Powernet (also called powermesh). This is a firm control fabric that acts like a sort of Spanx for your swimsuit. If you are concerned about jiggles or unsightly bumps, fully lining your suit with powernet can help control some of those things. It's also great used just in areas where you want a little extra support, like the bust area for a fuller busted woman.
Clasps and closures
While some suits are pull on or simply tie, many suits will require some sort of clasp or closure to stay securely on your body. These can be purely functional or decorative. There are as many clasp and closures out there as there are swimsuits.
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Bra cups or other bust support
If you are sewing a woman's suit, chances are you will want some sort of additional support for the girls. Bra cups come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are easily inserted into a suit. Another option is to build a bandeau style bra with lining fabric and plush elastic. We've a future post dedicated specifically to this subject coming soon, so I won't go into it further, but suffice it to say, these products are available to the home seamstress.
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So, where do you go to GET all this stuff? I find that vendors who cater to lingerie and swimwear sewing will have many of these products all in one place. I'm going to list a few of my favorite vendors of this type, but a google search for the product you need specifically will probably get you there as well.

SewSassy - This is absolutely my favorite source for my lingerie and swimwear sewing needs. They've been in business since they 80s and they really know their stuff. Don't let the archaic website put you off though. It can be a little tricky to find what you need, but the search is worth it. They even have Powernet.
Cleaner's Supply - It's a little random, but this site has amazing prices on tailoring supplies like thread and clasps/closures. They even have bra cups in a limited size range. Shipping is $4 flat rate and crazy fast. I generally get my order in 2-3 days.
Bra-makers Supply - Obviously they specialize in lingerie supplies, but they have a fairly comprehensive selection of cups, wire and even swim elastics.
Etsy - Etsy is one of my favorite places to find one of a kind notions. Interesting clasps, decorative elastics or lace and even bra making supplies can all be found here.

So, have you found a place that isn't on my list? Please share in the comments!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SwimAlong 2013: Fabric for swimwear and where to find it

Swimwear fabric has a pretty specific job to accomplish. It has to be sturdy enough to withstand constant stretching and movement, not to mention the effects of chlorine, sand and sun.
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It also has to be soft and stretchy, with great recovery so that it will fit well and not sag or bag with wear. Ideally, it should also be attractive, in a print or color that flatters you.
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Fortunately for us, we live in the age of Lycra. Blended with other fibers, we can have that perfect fabric; soft, stretchy and with great recovery. Add to that the synthetic fiber, Nylon and you also have a chlorine resistant, color-fast fiber that is perfect for swimwear. You'll generally find it labelled "Spandex" even though in actual fact the spandex (the generic name for Lycra) content of the fabric is probably between 10 and 20%.
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When you are shopping for your spandex fabric for swimwear, there are a few things you want to look for. Not all fabrics that contain spandex will be suitable for swimwear. Ideal swimwear fabric should be a blend of nylon and spandex (lycra) and should stretch in all directions. This last part is tricky as some vendors will label this 4-way stretch and others will say 2-way stretch. When in doubt, call or do not buy. Fabric that only stretches in the horizontal direction will not make a comfortable swimsuit.
Like this print? Get it here.
I thought it might help to peek at a screenshot from a common spandex fabric vendor, just to see what we're looking for. Click the picture to biggify. The arrow points to all the vital information about this fabric. The fiber content is 80% nylon and 20% spandex, which is great. You can go as low as 10% spandex and still have a suit that fits and moves with you. The next line shows the fabric weight. The bigger the number, the thicker and heavier the fabric is. Personally, I find that heavier fabrics are a bit easier to sew since they're more stable and curl less, so if you're new to sewing spandex, go for an 8 oz weight. Anything less than about 5 oz weight is likely to be sheer, so be cautious of the lower numbers. The final thing to check is to be sure that the fabric stretches in all directions. You can see that Spandex World specifies that this fabric has 4-way stretch, so I can purchase with confidence.

If you are on Twitter and would like to chat with fellow sewists (including me) about swimwear fabrics, we'll be having a chat on Friday, May 31st at 4PM Eastern Time. Get all the info (including how to join us) here.
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So, now that you know what you are looking for, where do you go? There are quite a few online vendors that specialize in swim and activewear fabric, so I'll introduce you around. I haven't shopped at ALL of these vendors, but I'll let you know my experience with those I have.
Spandex World/Spandex House - I lump these together because they really are very similar. Both are located in the garment district, and both carry a whole lot of good quality spandex fabric at reasonable prices. I personally do my business at Spandex World, so I can tell you that I have always had a good experience shopping with them, but Spandex House customers say the same. - This company specializes in commercial sales of sporting grade spandex, but they do sell by the yard to the home sewist as well.
Designer Alley Fabrics - This West Coast based company specializes in selling stretch fabrics to the small designer. They have lots of interesting prints and stretch trims.
These are just a few of the numerous other online vendors that specialize in spandex fabrics. A google search for "spandex fabric" may turn up something that suits you as well. Be sure you type in the word "fabric" if you search though. A search for just "spandex" may be more educational that you want...
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Specialty vendors aren't your only option though. Many of the larger online vendors also offer swimwear fabric, but you do have to be more cautious about checking to be sure it is the quality you are looking for. When in doubt, call or don't buy. A few vendors that are worth checking are: - Their prices for basic spandex are a little higher than the speciality places, but the free shipping can even things out. One down side is that they don't generally publish fabric weights, so you may not be getting what you think, and they can be hard to contact, so you may not be able to ask.
The Fabric Fairy - This vendor specializes in stretch fabrics, but has a nicely curated selection of swimwear fabrics, including microfiber fabric for board shorts, which is notoriously tricky to find. Their customer service is top notch.
Cali Fabrics - This is a relative newcomer to the online scene and their selection of swimwear fabrics is small, but of good quality and the customer service is very personal.
Chez Ami - For those who have never heard of them, Chez Ami specializes in personalized, boutique style children's clothing, but also offer their fabrics for sale. Their Knit Tactel Jersey is one of my absolute favorite swim fabrics to sew. It has almost no curl, is not as slick as typical spandex and is heavier weight. The down side is that they only sell their fabrics in 2 yard cuts, and the prints skew toward the more juvenile. Worth checking though, as their prices are excellent for the fabric quality.
Michael Levine AKA Low Price Fabric - This LA institution has a large variety of fabrics, including an excellent selection of swimwear. There isn't as much information on their website as I might like, but their customer service is great, so just give them a call if you are in doubt.
Obviously, this list is no where near comprehensive, particularly for those who are not in the US. I'd love it if you would include your favorite source for swim fabrics in the comments, particularly if you are overseas. We always need more places to buy fabric, right??

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Big 4 Experiment

In the last several days, there has been a flurry of activity centered around a problem that we all have. If you've ever sewn a Vogue, Butterick, McCalls or Simplicity pattern, you'll probably recognize what I'm talking about. Did your project turn out the way you expected it? Did it look like the pattern envelope? If it did, how much did you have to alter the pattern to make it look that way?
Robin, Shams, Anne and Barbara have all posted eloquently on this subject. The Big 4 uses an outdated fit paradigm, and complicates matters by adding significant amount of ease to their patterns. The pattern instructions use outmoded methods, when they make sense at all. As a result, choosing a size is pretty much total guesswork, combined with a little advanced math and geometry. The end result is based much more on the experience level of the sewist, and not on the quality of the pattern. While I don't think I can add much to the wise words penned by the preceeding bloggers, I'd like to add a little experiment, and I hope that some of you will try this out yourself.
I'm going to start with a basic knit top pattern. This one is described as close fitting. We'll see. I'm going to approach this project from the perspective of the beginning sewist. She's not had any formal sewing training, but she wants to learn, or maybe she's a quilter who wants to sew clothing. (I'm not trying to be gender biased here - I just so happen to be a she. Boys sew, too.) Either way, she's found herself at her local fabric and craft store, picked up a pattern and some jersey and set out to teach herself to sew. I'm going to cut and sew this pattern as McCalls instructs, basing the size on my full bust and using the pattern instructions to construct my top. When that is finished, I'm going to make the top  my way, using my "typical" Big 4 size and alterations, and constructing the top using modern knit construction methods. Then I'll share the tops with you.
If this sounds like a fun experiment to you, I hope you'll try it out yourself as well. I'd love to see some change happen, and I think that if we get a lot of voices to make a big noise, maybe we can find the ear of the powers that be at the Big 4. Are you in??

Monday, May 27, 2013

McCalls 2434 dress

I made a maxi dress last year out of some completely awesome floral and frog printed Qiana. I love this dress and wear it constantly. Every time I wear it, Myra asks me to make her one, but I only had a tiny scrap of the Qiana left. What's a sewing Mommy to do?
Fortunately, my mother had a scrap of pink sparkle jersey (left over from this wrap tee) that was a perfect match for the dark pink flowers in the print. The dress is not quite maxi length, as I was severely short on fabric, but Myra's a pretty busy girl and I think a maxi would slow her down.
The pattern I used was McCalls 2434, published in 1986. It's drafted for woven fabrics, and the neckline is finished with a facing. Since I was using a knit, I decided to finish the neckline with a band of the skirt fabric.
All the action in this pattern is in the back. The neckline is low and scooped, with a strap across at the shoulder level. I love how sweet this looks. I think that since the dress is unfitted, it escapes any "sexy" overtones and just looks girly. The pattern also offers a square and vee neck option in back, which are also very cute.
My copy of the pattern is a size 5, which matched Myra's measurements. Since it is meant to be a woven, pull over dress it is quite loose on her. I could probably take out some ease, but I think it works as is for a simple summer play dress. I did alter the pattern by lengthening the bodice 2 inches. It is drafted for the seam to fall under the bust, which has a very juvenile look, almost babyish. I knew Myra wouldn't go for that, so I compared the length to the Skater Dress bodice and adjusted accordingly.
Myra is very pleased to finally have her own froggie dress to match mine. It passed all the playtime tests, and  it's even bike friendly! It will definitely be a summer staple this year.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Go To Patterns Go To Gift Bags

It's that time of year again. School is out for us next week, so it was time for me to come up with something to give the teacher's who have worked so hard all year teaching and loving my children. They both had amazing teachers this year, and truly nothing can really express how grateful I am for them.
I feel like making something with my own hands in some small way expresses how important they have been to us. But without sizes and measurements, it's hard to personalize a garment, so I decided instead to make bags. I'm not at all a bag maker generally, but I think these turned out pretty darn cute.
The pattern I used is the Go To Gift Bag, from Go To Patterns. The pattern includes 3 sizes of basic gift bags, a quilted wine bag and a gift card holder. This is the "medium" sized bag, which was the perfect size for a greeting card, and a few products from Burt's Bees. The bags have a boxed bottom and bias finished top edge. For the fabric, I elected to use a heavy weight upholstery fabric, since the pattern doesn't call for any interfacing. The upholstery fabric has plenty of body on it's own, so the bags stand up nicely.
The pattern includes a couple of strap options. I decided to go with grommets, into which I threaded gold drapery cord. I really like the way this turned out. When I first pulled out the pattern, I was a little dismayed to see that the bag was unlined, since I think the inside of a bag really needs to look nice, but I needn't have worried.
All of the seams are french seams, so the raw edges are fully enclosed. There was one thing that I changed about the construction, and that was the inner boxed corners. I am just not a very precise seamstress, so when I went to stitch down the corners, nothing lined up. It was a hot mess, and I ended up stitching the corners down in the ditch of the bottom seam, so they don't look too great in there.
For the other two bags, I stitched the corner as a french seam - stitching the first pass wrong sides together at 1/8 inch in from the seam line, then flipping the seam wrong sides out to stitch a 1/8 in seam right sides together. I'm much happier with the way it looks this way. Another feature I really loved about this pattern was the edgestitching along the corners of the bag. This keeps the bag nicely structured and helps it hold it's shape. Despite the nice seam finishes and bias binding, these bags were super quick to whip up, less than 1/2 hour each. I'll definitely be using the pattern again.

Friday, May 24, 2013

SwimAlong 2013: Swimwear construction resources and choosing a good pattern

So, you're thinking about making your first swimsuit? Or maybe you've made a few, but want to hone your skills? My goal today is to provide some resources that will help make sewing a swimsuit, whether it is your first or your 40th, a simple and pleasant experience. Swimwear sewing really isn't hard! But a few simple tricks and tips can make it really a breeze.
I personally am a big book nerd. I love to read sewing books to pick up new tips and techniques. My two favorite books about sewing swim and activewear are Kwik Sew's Swim & Action Wear and Sewing Activewear, from the Singer Sewing Reference Library. Although naturally there is some overlap between the two, I feel like they both offer solid information in an easy to understand format. The Singer book, while a little lighter on written explanation, has great full color photographs, and a fitting section that is very logical and easy to follow. The Kwik Sew book is very complete and step-by-step. It includes the patterns for several different suits and also detailed instructions for a large number of variations.
There are also a large number of online tutorials and tips. I'm going to link a few that may be helpful, but a Google search will bring up help for whatever may have you bamboozled. Of course, here at the SwimAlong, we'll be adding several tutorials and tips to help make your experience great. Stick around for that!
Creative Chicks has pulled together a collection of great Swimwear tutorials
Brown Paper Patterns gives us a collection of Swimwear resources that she found helpful, and also published a great detailed post about construction of 3416, including some awesome tips for a professional elastic strap
Heatherty Featherty extensively detailed her construction of her tankini, including her fitting process. Tons of photos and helpful tips!
Prefer video? Jalie Patterns has a YouTube channel that includes quite a few great swimwear videos, including sewing elastic
BrianSews also has an elastic application video that is excellent.
So, now you have the skills, but how to choose a pattern? Obviously, aesthetics and style play the largest role here, and hopefully our inspiration posts have been helpful, but if this is your first experience sewing swimwear, you really want a quality pattern that is well drafted (with negative ease!) and gives you the information you need to construct your suit. There are a lot of great patterns out there, but unfortunately there are a lot of bad ones as well, and it's hard to tell which is which sometimes before you buy. Here are a few that I have some experience with, in order of my personal preference.
Stretch & Sew - I put this one on the top of the list because I personally think they are the best. The suits are drafted well and the instructions are clear and complete. Unfortunately, the patterns are no longer produced, but still available on Ebay and Etsy.
Jalie Patterns - These patterns are sort of the modern equivalent to Stretch & Sew. Fantastic drafting, clear instructions and the size ranges are amazing. You can also download the instructions from the website, so you know what you're getting before you purchase.
Smaller, independant pattern companies - I hate to lump these together, but there quite a few, so I will only say that in general I find the quality to be excellent and support from the designer or producer to be top notch. That said, there are going to be variations between companies, so if you are thinking of sewing up an indie design, be sure to do your homework first, and see how it has been reviewed by other sewists.
Kwik Sew - I put this here with some reservations. I find older Kwik Sew swim patterns to be excellent quality, but since being absorbed by the Big 4, Kwik Sew quality has been hit or miss.
Vintage Swimwear patterns - These can be really interesting with great styling, but depending on the era, you may be in for a lot of alterations to make these suits work with modern fabrics, techniques and machines.
One last word about the Big 4 (that's Vogue, Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity). While I sew often from Big 4 patterns, I would definitely NOT recommend a swimwear pattern produced by them, particularly for one's first attempt at sewing swimwear. Their drafting in general tends to be oversized, which is not something you want in a garment that should have negative ease, and the instructions are ridiculous for swimwear. Recently a few new patterns have been released and I bought one in the hopes that there had been some changes, but alas. It looks dreadful.

So what about you? Have you found some great resources? We'd love to hear about them? What's your favorite swimwear pattern? Please share!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ottobre 03/2013-10: Sporty Pocket Shorts

Now that the weather has changed, Logan has begrudgingly given up his wardrobe of knit pants and a tee shirt for his summer wardrobe of knit shorts and a tee shirt. I know, he's taking some fashion risks here... Of course, last summer's shorts are all ridiculously too small, so it's time for a few new pair.
I'm trying to add some new elements to his wardrobe, so instead of the boring one-seam shorts he's outgrown, we're going for some more interesting details. Not too interesting, of course or he won't wear them, but a contrast pocket and some side seam trim might be acceptable...
And he actually loves them, so I'm thrilled! I love it when I take a risk and it works out.
The pattern is from the latest issue of Ottobre, and is model # 10, the Sporty Pocket shorts. In the magazine, they are modeled by a toddler and made up of four different fabrics, but the line drawing convinced me that these could be toned down for my Kindergartener. My favorite thing about the design is the front pockets. They look like complicated welt pockets, but they aren't. They are embellished side seam pockets and they were actually pretty easy to do.

On the back, there is a single patch pocket that is rounded on one side and inserts into the side seam on the other. The side seam is embellished with a contrast panel. The shorts themselves are knit (french terry from Mood), but the back pocket and side seam panel are woven fabric, in this case a broadcloth. I like how nicely the side panel breathes. It's like a little air conditioning.
The waistband is made of rib knit with elastic inserted like a casing. I had a little trouble with this part. You are supposed to stitch on the rib knit right sides together in just one layer, fold it over then topstitch it down with a decorative or flatlock stitch. I'd planned to coverstitch from the reverse side so that the looper side would show (which is what I did to attach the front pockets), but I couldn't keep my stitching straight from the wrong side, and it was so bad looking. I ripped out all the coverstitching and just sewed the outside edge of the rib knit to the seam allowance on the inside, so it made a regular casing. It's a little rough looking on the inside, but it looks good on the outside.
They passed the worn all day and got really dirty test, so I think they're a success. I'm not sure if I should go forward with another pair in the same pattern or try something else new...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

SwimAlong 2013: Kids Swimwear, inspiration and patterns

While I'm really excited about sewing up a swimsuit for myself, I started off sewing swimwear for kids. Sewing kids swimwear is awesome. Most kids have a pretty straight up and down shape, so fitting is minimal, and their suits take so little fabric that they're almost free. It's a great way to hone your skills before tackling a suit for a curvy grown up.
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Nevermind that the cuteness factor is OFF THE CHARTS. Seriously, how adorable is this little sweetheart??? You can get the pattern for her suit here and here, and one to match her 18 inch doll here.
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Here is an adorable tank style suit with some fun design extras. Flutter sleeve? Cute bow in back? Check and check! Get this pattern here.
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And of course, the entire Jalie swimwear line comes in children's sizes, all the way down to 2T. If you are a swim or exercise gear beginner, Jalie patterns have fabulous instructions and are full of great tips to make your sewing experience successful.
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Kwik Sew also offers a line of children's swimwear for both boys and girls. Their styles are classic and the patterns are well written and well drafted.
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Of course, we can't forget the accessories! How cute is this little swim cap! Get the pattern here, as well as a pattern for the matching ruched tankini here. Doesn't get any cuter than that.

Well, that gets our girls ready to hit the pool, but there is an unsurprising lack of good boy patterns for swimwear. I hunted down a few for you...
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This guy looks pretty darn thrilled with his Surf's Up board shorts! We like them, too. I particularly like that they include instructions for the mesh lining you see in RTW board shorts. Nice work Peek-a-boo Pattern shop! Pick this one up here
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Dana of Made also provided a great tutorial for a board shorts refashion. You can find it here. Instructions for the mesh lining are included here as well, although the diaper cover pattern she references is only up to a size 24 months. I think the Kitschy Coo Boy Cut Brief pattern would be a perfect substitution for the larger sizes - just use elastic in the legs instead of the bands. 
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Looking for a more streamlined fit? How about these great Euro Swim Trunks by Running with Scissors? Get the pattern here
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Of course, no discussion of kids clothing is complete without a mention of Ottobre Design.
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The issues in which you'll find swimwear are 02/2002, 02/2004, 03/2009 & 03/2011. Back issues are easily purchased from Ottobre directly. Click here.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Jalie 2908 jeans: pink corduroy

These jeans have been a long time coming. I bought the fabric last year, and then moved on to other things, but this pink corduroy has been whispering from my fabric shelves, and I finally paid attention.
I used Jalie 2908, and made some alterations based on my last pair, and I'm really pleased with the fit as far as comfort goes. Seriously, between the softness and stretch of the fabric and the alterations I made, I could probably sleep in these.
The fabric is a stretch corduroy from Fashion Fabrics Club. It's nice and beefy, very much like corduroy I've seen in RTW clothing and nothing like the thin, flimsy crap you can buy at Joann. I'm very pleased with it. It sewed and pressed very nicely and it feels great to wear.
I made some new alterations for fit, mostly lengthening the front crotch hook and giving myself a bit more room in the rear, but I also altered the waistband significantly.
It's not very obvious with the belt in place, so here is a not-at-all flattering shot of the pants without the belt. On my last pair of jeans from this pattern, the waistband seemed really skimpy. I may have overcompensated for that but I have to say that the comfort factor of this crazy high waistband is amazing. It holds in all the fluff! Since I'm very high waisted, this isn't at all a good look when tops are tucked in, but I never do that, so I'm happy with it. This is also the only picture that shows the actual color of the fabric, as well as my AWESOME rhinestone rivets.
Here's an Instagram I took right after I set them. I'm totally in love with these rivets. They are so gorgeous and they were super easy to set. I got them from this Etsy seller, and I was very impressed with the service provided. They ship from Thailand, and they arrived far more quickly than I expected.
In back, my pocket design is pretty subtle. So much so, that in the overexposed images you can't see it at all. I wanted to pink-ness to be the star of these pants though, so I'm OK with invisible back pocket stitching. I am extremely pleased with the fit in back. I'm slightly twisted in this pic, but you can see how smoothly the pant fits on my left.
I've still got a bit of work to do on  the fit in front. I think I need to try out a full thigh adjustment, as I think that is what those radiating wrinkles are telling me. A few whiskers will not stop me from wearing these pants though! Today, I've paired them with my Ottobre tank and Tanit-Isis vintage shrug.

Today's tip

Pressing fabrics with a pile, like corduroy and velvet can be a tricky proposition. Pressure from the iron can flatten the pile and leave unsightly marks that often cannot be removed. But press we must to get a professional result! There are a few options that you can use to help protect the pile of your napped fabrics. The first is a velvet or needle board. This is a rigid pressing surface with tiny wires that hold the pile away from a firm surface. You place the fabric face down onto the wires and press as usual. The down side to this method is that these boards are quite expensive and often small.  I've also heard the tip that a fluffy towel can be used, but I find that fluffy towels aren't always fluffy enough, and they tend to shed. Instead of a needle board or a towel, I like to use a piece of self fabric to pad the pile.
Place a scrap of fabric (the bigger the better!) on the pressing surface with the pile facing up. Then the piece to be pressed on the scrap right side down. The pile on my garment piece (in this case, I'm pressing the pocket) is cushioned by the pile on the scrap. I know it will be compatible, since the fabrics are the same.
Cover with a press cloth and press without fear!
As you can see, the pile on the pocket still looks (and feels!) dense and plush. The scrap underneath took a bit of a beating. You can see the shine of the iron damage that my pocket was protected from. I've used this method successfully with many types of piled fabrics. I hope it works as well if you try it!