Flying High In My Blanca Flight Suit
Fresh off my sewing machine is my Blanca Flight Suit #blancafightsuit designed by Closet Case Patterns (@closetcasepatterns on Instagram). This is the latest offering from Heather Lou and I bought the pattern the first day it was released for sale. I didn't think I needed yet another coveralls pattern, but the zipper front, the curved back pleats and the pocket belt loops were details too alluring to pass up on.
This is my most elaborate make to date. First, due to embroidering Sashiko for the first time on it, and second by entangling myself in a series of sewing blunders. With your patience I'll take you through the process of how this flight suit came together warts and all.
Let's begin with the embroidery. It was not part of the plan to begin with. I had ordered fabric online for the first time because of the lockdown, and had chosen an eye-catching black and blue zebra print on cotton sateen for my flight suit. It was at 50% off at an irresistible price For a Cadena Sale. This idea had to be scrapped when the store ran out of this fabric. So I settled on this striped medium-weight cotton drill with 3% lycra in it from Cadena Fabrics. When I went to pick it up, the colour turned out to be darker than what I had imagined it to be. So I hatched a plan to brighten it up with contrasting fire-engine red embroidery and landed on Sashiko as the way to go.
It is basically intricate patterns embroidered with a running stitch. I picked a pattern called Asanoha and used this video as a guide to draw the design directly on the back bodice with a washable pen.
The whole process of learning and doing something new was immensely exciting. On the other hand, embroidery also has a very soothing, calming and meditative aspect to it that I enjoyed thoroughly.
From start to finish, I accomplished the Sashiko within a day and a half. Probably beginner's luck, but I was really chuffed with myself after finishing the Sashiko on the back bodice. Don't get me wrong, I am eons away from being a Sashiko master since my stitching is extremely uneven. The running stitch sounds so basic and simple, but getting them equally spaced and evenly wide is the wizardry to aim for here. I reckon it will take years more of practice to pass an actual Sashiko master's approval.
Nevertheless, I was feeling quite smug, and erroneously thought that I would then complete the rest of the flight suit in two days tops. I was a speed-demon on a roll, I thought. Besides, this was going to be my 6th or 7th go at a coveralls pattern. It'd be a breeze! So I probably soared a little too close to the sun the way Icarus did, and the sewing gods decided to clip my wings and take away my sewing mojo. That definitely took my hubris several notches down.
Sometimes the sewing gods are not on your side, and what was supposed to be a smooth ride became filled with non-stop turbulence. This is in no part due to the great pattern or the clear instructions. I can't fault Closet Case at all. The fault was my impatient fervour, and know-it-all stance. I should have approached the pattern with a beginner's mind, instead of assuming expertise. I should have slowed down to absorb the details. The slowing down would have prevented mistakes, and in turn would make it a faster sew. A bit of a paradox here, but that's how it works most of the time. "Fast and furious" is never a good philosophy with regards to sewing.
Here are my mistakes:
1) Most of my woes were zipper related. I clipped the zipper tapes on the front pockets too close to the teeth and had to go to the store to get new ones. There's a warning on page 2 of the instructions about this, but in my haste, I missed it. One good thing that came out of this mistake is that my itchy hands decided to embroider on more Sashiko on the front breast pockets having nothing to do while waiting for the shops to be open the next day.
2) Then I sewed the front zipper on misaligned at the centre front waistline and it was too late to change it when I realised what I had done. Another example of not taking the time to check my work as I go. I am really embarrassed by this almost 1/4'' misalignment and thank god I can hide the boo-boo with the belt.
3) I clipped the zipper tape too close to the zipper pull (AGAIN!!!) on the front zipper. I fixed this by carefully hand-sewing the overly-shortened zipper tape to hide the ugly fray jutting out at the top of the zipper. The second time is definitely not a charm in this case.
4) I topstitched the centre seam of the back legs 1/8'' from the seam line instead of 1/4''. This was the result of habit, and my eyes missed this detail on the instructions. Again, too late to change it when I finally discovered the mistake.
5) I simply assumed the cropped length in the legs would fit me instead of double-checking the actual length of it. They would be too short if I wanted the option to taper them at the bottoms with a button tab. So I ended up having to lengthen the legs by adding a 1'' self-made bias cuff on the inside of each hem of the pant legs.
6) The initial belt buckle I bought was too big to fit through the front pocket loops. This required a second trip to the haberdashery to get the right-sized buckle. As a result, the belt had to be reduced to 1 1/4'' at the width to be able to fit through the new buckle.
In the end, a project that I thought would take just 2 days to complete was delayed with all these blunders, and it took me about a full week to bring it home.
Phew! With that catharsis out of the way, let's dive into the yummy parts of this garment. The intentional alteration is leaving out the sleeves completely. This pattern gives the options for short and long sleeves, but I opted to have none because I want to be able to continue wearing my flight suit during the hot months of summer in Tel Aviv. In the colder climate, I can just wear a long-sleeve layer beneath and I'm good to go. To do this, I simply finished off the armhole with red store-bought 1'' bias tape.
I also got a little crazy with the topstitching, and topstitched in places that I wasn't supposed to like on the waistband and the front waistline.
The flight suit is drafted to be fitting around the hips. After machine basting at the suggested 5/8'' at the side seams, a fitting revealed that they pants were too snug around the hips for me. So I reduced the side seams to 3/4'' to allow for more ease from the hips down.
Sizes for this flight suit is generous at 0-20 and 14-30. I sewed a size 2 at the bodice, then graded to size 4 for the waistband and pants. I am not sure if I should have reduced the length of the bodice, which is something I usually do for other patterns. I might do this the next round when I do a linen version with short sleeves. I imagine the fabric you choose would change the look of this garment quite significantly. A linen with drape will be quite different from a more structured shape of heavier-weight fabrics.
The pattern is drafted for straight-leg pants but there's the brilliant option to taper them with a button tab and buttons close to the hem of the bottom of the pants. This means I can stuff them into my boots or roll up the hems for a cropped look.
All in all, this make has been an odyssey, with unforeseen detours that I had to take. I only have myself to blame for that but I am absolutely in love with my new flight suit, and I'm buckled up for flying high again with for more Sashiko and Blanca creations in the near future. And here's a bird dance to prove it: