Tutorial: How to read the back of a home sewing pattern

Some of my favorite vintage patterns

Sooooo hard to read the back of a pattern for the first time. The guidance of a patient friend, relative, teacher or fabric store clerk can be invaluable.  This week I wanted to try to help unveil the mystery with a super primitive infographic (though truthfully, “primitive infographic” feels like “jumbo shrimp” to me.  I take that to mean my infographic is anything but primitive!  :)).

Simplicity #7092

I think pajama pants are a great beginner’s project.  I’ve had luck teaching with Simplicity pattern #7092 (though there are many other pajama pant patterns; this is just one I’ve used with beginners for sewing lessons).

It says it’s a one hour project- I think that’s accurate if you’re a pajama pant making machine (I sold pajama pants in the dorms in college to help pay for study abroad in Paris and have it down to an hour), but if you’re a beginning sewer, I’d plan on 2-4 hours…  A lovely afternoon!

From the front, you can see the different options inside  the pattern- they all look like a drawstring pant, at different lengths.  On the back you’ll find drawings of the garment back, along with suggested fabrics, a list of other goodies you’ll need for the project and a size chart, among things.  See below an annotated pattern back for this pair of jammie pants, or click here for a pdf with live links.

A little step-by-step - click for a pdf of the image with live links

So what do you think?  Does this help?  Have you ever had or needed help reading the back of a pattern before? Please comment below!

And if you take the plunge and make a pair of pajama pants, post a picture on LVEO’s facebook page!  🙂


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Is that a story in your underpants?

There's definitely a story here! 🙂

How do you tell your story?  How do you choose what to leave in or out, what to emphasize?

We all have stories we fall back on, ones we love to tell because they get a great laugh (My best friend and I once got pulled over twice in one night for smoking cigars), or because of their shock factor or uniqueness (The toes on my right foot all died and came back to life.  For real.  Zombie toes.)

So now I’m working on telling my new stories, the ones about my business (why underwear?), my motivations (why tshirts?).  What I do and why, and why people should care (Thank you for caring!  Thank you for reading!).

Yesterday I met Christian from Boomba Chicken.  He’s a kind of professional story teller, a great communicator that helps business people tell their stories.  I’m really looking forward to bringing him into my journey and refining my stories and sharing my experiences.  With you 🙂

What about you?  What are your favorite stories?  Comment below to share 🙂


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Eye Candy, Green Birds, & Josef Frank

Hello hello!  Glorious glorious eye candy and green birds this week!  I spent Wednesday morning at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum checking out their Josef Frank exhibit (showing through February 19 – highly recommended if you’re in the area! :)).

Frank was a Austrian designer who, in the 1930s and 40s, helped pioneer Swedish Modern design  (which is a genre, I learned :)).  They showed both textiles he’d designed and some of his furniture.  I immediately fell in love with his use of color and the whimsy of how nature inspired his designs.  Of course birds should be green and vegetables should grow from trees!

Green Birds and Hawaii are my favorites.  Which ones are yours?  Comment below!

Green Birds by Josef Frank

Doh!-Didn't-get-the-name-of-this-amazing-couch by Josef Frank

Hawaii by Josef Frank

A dresser by Josef Frank (apparently I did a bad job getting the names of the furniture... Sorry!)

Vegetable Tree by Josef Frank

Rox and Fix by Josef Frank

Himalayas by Josef Frank

Whew!  And that was just a smattering!

I’d love to hear what you think.  Please comment below 🙂


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The Why

Last week I gave you the what I do, so this week I wanted to give you the why I do.  🙂  A little statement of belief— I think it’s ever evolving, so I’m calling it my malleable manifesto 🙂  And after, the how I got to where I am, otherwise known as my somewhat unabridged biography.  🙂

Undies on a line

An underwear revolution blowing in the wind 🙂

La Vie en Orange’s Malleable Manifesto
I make underwear because it’s something that most people need. It’s not more stuff. Unless they don’t fit well, they’re usually something you buy and then frequently use.

I make underwear out of old tshirts because I believe that we already have more than enough, materially, and I am passionate about finding creative ways to use and reuse materials sustainably. I make underwear out of old tshirts because I think about the impact that fashion has on the environment, our psyches, and future generations. I believe that fashion and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive and that we’ve already been entrusted with everything we need to live full lives, and ensure that our children’s children thrive.

I believe that every woman should have the opportunity to wear high quality clothing that is well made and long lasting. I believe that every woman should be able to find clothes that fit exactly how she wants them to and that make her feel good. I believe the world needs more fashion options that respect and honor the earth and all body shapes and sizes. I believe my customers respect themselves and care about the environment. I believe they want to build community. I believe my customers love to laugh and love bright colors. I believe my customers are amazing, wonderful, bright people who fill those around them with joy.

So what do you think? I’d love to hear your reaction in the comments below, or drop me an email at koriel [dot] jock [at] gmail [dot] com.  And read on to learn about how I made it to this perspective 🙂

The Backstory
I’ve been sewing since I was four, so when it was time to go to college, fashion was the only thing that made sense (despite briefly entertaining the idea of becoming a mechanical engineer). I wanted to be a pattern drafter— I am enamored with how fabric goes from 2D to 3D. It lays flat on a table then turns into sculpture.

My junior year in college I started volunteering with a peace education program, PeaceJam. It’s an organization that inspires youth through the lives and work of Nobel Peace Prize winners, and through my involvement, I found my voice and defined my values. I realized I could work for social justice in every capacity I chose, whether by making small choices every day or taking on big projects and make a difference.

It was then that I started having trouble reconciling my art— my chosen field— with the consumerism and environmental impact traditionally associated with it. I was overwhelmed by the collateral impact of fashion – from being told that products only last three months, to the environmental impact of discarding the same products, the bleaching and disposal of fabrics, to the dependence on cheap labor and unsustainable labor practices – I felt the only thing I could do was to remove myself from the situation.  I had planned on moving to New York after college and didn’t. Instead, I started working with young people, both teaching and with after school programs that empowered youth to find their voices and their causes.

But I still loved to sew and design. So I did. One summer, I realized I needed some undies, but didn’t have the extra money to invest, so I got creative with some elastic and a few old tshirts. I made the first ever Upitees (though the name would come later :)). Years later, that first pair is long worn out, but I got excited because I realized that underwear was something that everyone (well, almost everyone :)) needed and wore.  For me, that meant that it was further removed from the cycle of consumerism and accumulating “stuff.” I also felt really comfortable with recycling old tshirts for the raw materials:  there is an abundance.  Also, tshirts from the United States might do harm when donated elsewhere (Click for articles from TimeFreakanomicsForeign Policy Magazine and AidWatch.). Sidenote: it will be interesting to see what happens with this weekend’s Super Bowl and whether there will be any of the same controversy.

So Upitees were always in my head as a potential business, but I never felt a strong motivation – I was happy as a clam in Kalamazoo, feeling fed and nourished by my work with youth, and creatively satisfied by my own other endeavors.

Everything changed when I fell in love and moved to Seattle. Far from home, and physically removed from my network of friends, I started looking for ways to ground myself, keep myself busy, and prove to myself that I was still me (happy, creative, driven). I knew that it was finally time to get this Upitees thing off the ground. I started to create [grade] underwear patterns making sizes other than my own. I learned how to screen print at the Vera Project and with my now-husband, started building a home screen print studio. I started talking with my girl friends of all shapes and sizes about their underwear needs and realized that there was a lot more going on down in Lady Town than I had ever realized.

I have been blessed with a long and lean physique, great metabolism, amazing health, and a love for running. Depending on the brand, I wear anywhere from a size 2-8.

A rant: At 5’10”, I think it’s utterly ludicrous that I would ever fit into a size 2 anywhere. Really! Anyway, keep an eye out for a future blog post unpacking the sizing mystery!

I learned that my sweet and petite friends sometimes had trouble finding undies that were small enough (this makes perfect sense if I sometimes wear a size 2…). I learned that my beautiful and voluptuous friends had all sorts of trouble, especially finding underwear that fit correctly and maybe even more so finding underwear that was cute.

I was appalled. How could folks [the market] not be serving these ladies? I believe that every woman should have the opportunity to wear clothes that fit well and make her feel good. I believe the world needs more fashion options that respect and honor the earth and all body shapes and sizes. I don’t believe we have to accept the status quo, or feel badly about ourselves. I don’t believe that we have to compare ourselves to conventional models, or what the fashion industry sometimes tells us we should aspire to. And that’s where I hope to come in.

I’ve got lots of ideas about how to move forward:  grand visions of expanded sizing charts that take into account whether someone is apple shaped or pear shaped (wouldn’t it be fun to know that you wore a “14 apple”?), and ideas for expanded lines and other products that do respect and honor the earth and all body shapes and sizes.

I look forward to getting to know you, and to growing my business with your support. I know I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but with such amazing people, like you, around me, I’m looking forward to every step of the way!


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The Anatomy of Custom Undies

This week, I bring you the custom undie, care of an amazing customer, A., who agreed to let me photograph the process for you, dear Reader!  🙂 A. took the plunge, emailed me just after Christmas asking about whether she could send me some tshirts to make undies out of.  Could she ever!  🙂 See below the amazing transformation of A.’s beloved tshirts. 🙂

More Cowbell? Yes, please! Keep that cowbell ringing for years!

A. and I emailed about whether to use the front or back of each shirt for the front or back of the undies (if it ever seems like it could get confusing, I include photos during the process to help clarify).

Party Fowl? Unpossible in these beauties! 🙂

With every customer, I encourage them to buy a pair in their size or use a tshirt for a trial pair before I go past the point-of-no-return just to make sure we’ve got the fit down pat before I cut into your most sentimental of tshirts.  A. had a Maui tshirt that we used first.  She was super pleased with the results so I had the green light to cut into the rest of her shirts (5 in all!).

I’m so grateful to A. for letting me photograph the process.  It was so much fun to see which tshirts meant a lot to her, and cool to help her clean out her tshirt drawer and replenish her undie drawer!

Thank you, A.!

Do you have a favorite tshirt you’d love to turn into some undies?  Any questions?  Thoughts?  Check out this listing in my shop on Etsy to learn more.


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How much do you want to work?

So in the spirit of getting organized in the New Years and keeping up with resolutions, this week I thought I’d share the way I keep track of all that’s going on with La Vie en Orange. It helps me manage priorities and keep from feeling overwhelmed with all there is to do and all I could be doing. Check out the video below, or read on for a more detailed written explanation with photos 🙂 I learned this great project management system from Jeremy Lightsmith at dotORG Weekend, a Seattle volunteer event where tech professionals, grant writers and attorneys donate 30 hours over a 3 day weekend to support participating non-profits’ needs. You can use it to break down big projects (like we did during the 30 hours we spent with our 6 person team), or keep track of lots of different things over a longer period of time, like I do for my creative business, or like we do at the office where I’m a fundraiser for a non-profit law firm.

Where the Agile Planning magic happens

Essentially, each project (or task) gets a card, and a rating for its size/difficulty. I like to rate mine according to tshirt sizes S-XXL or even bigger (I haven’t met a task that big yet :)).  Then, you move your cards left and right through various categories (I’ll start with the furthest right first…):

  • Accomplished – where all the cards eventually go 🙂
  • In Progress – what you’re working on right now
  • Pre-flight – tasks/projects coming up, that will soon move into In Progress
  • Ongoing – a category I created specifically because there were so many things going on that I needed to keep in mind, keep visible, and remain accountable for
  • Parking Lot – great ideas that aren’t yet ready for pre-flight, or that aren’t a huge priority wait here for their time in the lime light.

My Pre-Flight, In Progress, Ongoing & Accomplished projects

You can also put your tasks/projects/cards in priority order and move them up and down under their headings appropriately. I also keep a column for my overarching goals (both doing goals and being goals), and at work, we have columns to help keep our constituencies at the front of our consciousness.

I find this system to be very flexible, and I love how dynamic it is. I get lots of pleasure from moving things into the Accomplished category, and when I have a great idea that I want to revisit later, I love putting it in the Parking Lot, because I know it won’t get lost or forgotten.

I think this form of project management could also be super effective in a spreadsheet, but I’m a little bit more old-school 🙂

What do you think?  Would you adopt something like this? What systems or tricks do you already use and love?  Please comment below or email me at koriel [dot] jock [at] gmail [dot] com. 🙂  xoxo

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Photo shooting!

Too exciting to not share!

Carmen, Jina and Inky modeling Upitees

Carmen, Jina and Inky braving the cold to model Upitees!

Today's La Vie en Orange photoshoot!

Mandy shooting at today's La Vie en Orange photoshoot!

Whew! What a day! Met up with a photographer friend, Mandy McGee, who wanted to shoot my beloved Upitees in a vintage-inspired shoot. Carmen, Inky and Jina, three super talented and brave models volunteered to be a part of the outdoor shoot (and the high today was only 42 degrees!). Thanks to everyone for your hard work!

We had a blast, and it was so exciting to see the undies styled in an aesthetic that’s a little bit different from my own- what fun! I’m so looking forward to the final product and Sunday’s tentative indoor shoot.

Stay tuned!  🙂  xoxo

P.S. Check out Mandy’s photo of her last shot here 🙂

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