Monday, 27 March 2017

There's layers to this shit player, Tiramisu, Tiramisu

(Sorry. I haven't even heard that song all the way through, but it gets lodged in my head every time I've worn or looked at one of my Tiramisu dresses in the past year or so.)

I haven't made a Tiramisu dress since early last year, and given how often I wear my spotty one I'm not quite sure why. I think it might have something to do with finding out more about the company after I made my second version; the way that indie companies operate and market themselves means that I'm much more reluctant to make a pattern when the company and/or its figurehead is behaving unprofessionally, even if I already own and like the pattern. (See: why I have never made a second Moneta.) But I had some fabric that gave me an idea, so I broke it out again.

I got this fabric at Walthamstow Market for a whopping £1.10 per metre. There were two of these huge panel prints in every metre, and also a lot of plain navy space, so I wanted to make a dress with pattern on the skirt and nowhere else. I got two metres, cut it out on the single layer and had two of the panel prints left over. It's amazing how much fabric you start saving when you ignore the cutting layouts.

This fits more like my first Tiramisu than my second, which is a shame because I much prefer the fit of the second one. As I was writing my notes for this post I remembered that I went down a size for the second one, but I must have not altered the pattern to match. It won't stop me wearing this one, but it will motivate me to alter my pattern now.

I did change a few things on this one. I eliminated the centre front and centre back seams so I didn't have to cut the print in half, I used the neck and arm bindings as facings instead because I'm really not hugely keen on the look of the bands, and I stitched both the bands and the hem down by hand. That's not something I would normally do with a jersey dress, but I spent most of last week back with my parents preparing for my grandmother's funeral and I wanted to have something practical and uncomplicated to keep me busy in between flower logistics and eulogy writing and all the usual funeral things. Having been somewhat stressed by all this, the stitching is probably not my best work, but from where I'm sitting it falls squarely into the category of "Fuck it, that'll do" and I have absolutely no interest in redoing it. Unless it falls apart, which I suppose isn't out of the question.

There will probably be more Tiramisus, though I don't have any particular plans for another one. Part of me would like to give it a go in the striped fabric it's designed for, but I'm not bouncing around with enthusiasm to create and wear a stripy Tiramisu of my very own. I did just buy some ridiculous black and white striped jersey where the stripes go all over the place and change thickness and stop randomly and become something else, and I briefly considered using that; putting on a wide-eyed innocent face and saying "I used stripes, just like it said" to see if anyone would come out of the woodwork and explain to me that I'd done it wrong. Ultimately, though, I think it would just hurt my eyes, so I'll use it for something simpler.

I'm hoping to have a really productive week of sewing, but this does depend on the bundle of haberdashery and patterns I ordered actually turning up (I've never had this problem before, and I'm a bit grumpy about it). If it doesn't, I might just wrap myself in all the fabric I've acquired recently and stomp up and down the flat proclaiming myself to be immensely talented and the height of style. It would make for a different sort of blog post, anyway. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

A red Turner, and Dress Yourself Happy

I've been struggling a lot lately, as you probably know. It's been hard to get excited about sewing, or wearing the things I make, I haven't wanted to make statements and I've been trying my hardest to be completely unnoticeable. However, I'm also sick of that. I'm currently trying every avenue I come across that might help me get better, and I know that in the past, I've been able to make "I'm too self-conscious to wear this" go away by hitting it backwards. If I'm wearing it, I can't possibly be too self-conscious. I'm doing a Dress Yourself Happy on Instagram for the next month (I don't know if that's even a thing, but it was a pre-existing hashtag so I'm using it for my own ends now) to get me wearing only things I feel good in. And to help that along, I made a red dress.

This is not the red dress from my spring sewing plan. I've had a thought that that fabric might make a good Kielo, but I'd want to toile that first (I've bought toile fabric, so that's happening soon). This is some red marl jersey that turned up in one of my packages from The Textile Centre, as part of an order I'd made at 1am. I have absolutely no memory of ordering it or what I thought I was going to do with it, so it sat there for quite some time while I considered my options. Originally I thought of a layering piece, but it's just slightly the wrong colour and didn't quite go with any of the things I'd want to wear it with. Eventually I went with another Cashmerette Turner because a) I wanted to try out my fitting adjustments on a less annoying fabric than last time, and b) it's a super simple pattern so I wouldn't have to worry about anything other than having a nice red dress. 

This is my third Turner, and the fit is much better on this one. I made a size 12 G/H and lowered the waist by an inch, though I think it could still use a little more. I went for short sleeves even though it's March; I wasn't keen on the thought of long sleeves in this fabric and since I'll probably wear it primarily for dancing, the shorter sleeves will be more versatile anyway. The lining is a scrap of red jersey I had left over from my Coppelia, which I thought would feel nicer next to my skin.

I haven't had a red dress since the very first one I made. I'd got it into my head a while ago that red was too... something, I don't know. Too much, maybe. But as soon as I put this one on I remembered that I actually LOVE the way I look in red. Why don't I have more of it? Note to self: more red clothes. 

As you can see in this photo of me fishtailing about because I couldn't think of another way to pose, the skirt is somewhat see-through. I didn't notice that until I tried the dress on, so to keep it on the right side of decency I partially lined it with a scrap of that terrible jersey I keep complaining about (it's nearly all been used on lining and toiles now, so I'm almost free of it). I don't mind if the outline of my legs is visible, but I'd rather keep my pants to myself, thank you very much.

 (Fishtailing out of shot because I am a professional and totally have awareness of where I pointed the camera. Also my camera definitely isn't wrapped in Sellotape to keep the battery compartment shut.)

This has reminded me that no, I really do know what I like, and I'm starting to feel a tiny bit better about things. I've got solid plans for my next few projects (that I really need to get on with because my boyfriend has started to give my fabric box a look whenever he walks past it) and I kinda sorta feel like I vaguely know what I'm doing again. Amazing what a red dress can do. Let's hope it lasts. 

And finally, from the "It was on the camera, I can't explain it, let's put it on the internet" files: 

I can see into your soul now. I apologise. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

wrap top diaries: Papercut Coppelia (with bonus Vogue 8685)

Hi! Everything hurts today. I took a dance class at the weekend with RuPaul's Drag Race alumnus Laganja Estranja, which claimed to be for "all dance abilities" and was NOT. I had to give up halfway through (which I don't think he was very impressed with, but I am an occasional blues and burlesque dancer and I just don't move that fast. Also I will never do another backwards roll in my life if I can help it), and yet my muscles are so stiff today that I can barely move.

(We learnt a "beginner version" of the death drop. I told my boyfriend about it and he tried it out, but he'd already had three gins and just bruised the shit out of his knee.)

ANYWAY. Sewing. 

After my last wrap top post, I was quite keen to get on and make another. I thought it was the kind of basic garment that there would be hundreds of versions of, but that wasn't the case. I couldn't find any still in print from the Big 4, and since my printer is currently misbehaving I couldn't get a PDF. The only currently available printed pattern I could find was the Papercut Coppelia, so I went ahead and bought it.

This is actually my second Coppelia. The first one looked literally exactly the same as this, but after I wore it for a few hours I discovered that the jersey had somehow turned my armpits burgundy. Maybe burgundy armpits are in for spring, but I wasn't a fan, so I chucked it out and made another one in better quality jersey. 

The Coppelia has raglan sleeves, a neckband, super-wide cuffs and a waist band which extends into the ties. Also, and most importantly, it is NOT TOO SHORT. This alone is enough to warrant making more of them, even if raglan sleeves aren't my favourite. It hits my natural waist nicely, so I can wear it over dresses and with skirts. That really shouldn't feel like such a victory, but there we have it. 

On my first version, the neckline gaped like crazy. Papercut's instructions say that you should vary the length of the neckband based on your fabric's stretch, but they don't give any more guidance than that. It seems a little bit odd to be because I've made a lot of things with neckbands and every other pattern has been able to provide a standard size of pattern piece. Sometimes you make a judgement call, sure, but I'm not sure about that being written in the instructions. Small quibble, but I am nothing if not a pedant. 

While we're here, a word or two about this dress. This is Vogue 8685, which I now realise I said I was going to make in my winter plan and then never posted about. I don't feel that I can give a proper review of the pattern at this point because this fabric just did. not. work. It's really soft and comfortable, but it doesn't hold shape at all, so it looks shapeless and oversized even after I took six inches out of the side seam, and the fabric is too sheer over the bust (hence no photos of just the dress). Also it makes a terrible neckband. I can sort of get away with wearing it if I have something layered over and/or under it, but mostly it's just going to be a house dress. I still think the pattern has potential, so at some point I'll try it again with a less floppy jersey.

I'm planning another couple of wrap tops; one in a navy and one in a cream. This colour, as much as I like it, turns out to be quite awkward to pair with most of my clothes. This is probably why people talk about planning their wardrobes around a colour palette, but frankly I just can't be arsed. I'm not going to walk away from fabric I like because it's teal and I have petrol in my seasonal colour concept. Does mean I need more tops, though. What a drag. 

Monday, 6 March 2017

leopard print realness

Several weeks after my birthday, I present to you my birthday dress. It ended up getting two outings; I'd intended to wear it for cocktails on the Saturday, but then found ourselves planning a trip to a 1970s bar on the Friday and you can't make a leopard print wrap dress and not wear it to the 1970s bar. Then I wore it the next night as well because I could and nobody was going to stop me.

This is another Simplicity Amazing Fit 1653, with longer sleeves and wider ties, which I definitely did on purpose and not because I zoned out slightly and sewed the pieces together instead of folding them in half. I also managed to make the wrap the correct way round this time, though I've actually found the wrong-side wrap on my first dress makes it much better for dancing in (since I'm primarily a follow and having ties on the left would create a bump in the body-to-body connection). This isn't a dance dress, so no such issues here. 

I bought this fabric in a bid to stop making so much grey stuff. It was in the sale at Dragonfly Fabrics and I thought it would be a fun throwaway thing to make up, but I was surprised at how much I liked the fabric when it arrived. The quality of the print is beautiful and the fabric is lightweight but not too thin and stretchy while still maintaining its shape well. I haven't used Dragonfly before, but I was impressed.

I'm surprised how much I like this. I don't think I've ever owned anything leopard print in my life (or animal print in general, come to that) and this probably isn't a turning point towards a wardrobe full of giraffe, but the fabric is just so beautiful that I have no choice but to be won over.

I'm not yet sure how versatile this dress will be, but not everything I make needs to be suitable for all occasions. Even if it's just a dress for cocktail bars I'll get more than enough wear out of it, and it might be that once I get used to wearing an animal-print dress I'll think less of wearing it on a day-to-day basis. We shall see. Has it broken me out of my black and grey rut? Eh, sort of. My fabric stash currently contains nothing of either colour (except remnants) and my spring plan is all red and blue and silver, but I can't deny that my brain is quietly formulating plans for at least three black things. It's so easy, I can't help it.

(I'm not sure if this marks a return to outdoor photographs. I saw a rain-and-wind-free window and I jumped through it.)

Thursday, 2 March 2017

sewing plans: spring 2017

Spring is the most difficult season to plan for because it means literally nothing in this country. The other three are easy enough: for autumn, you make warm stuff; for winter, you make warm stuff, and for summer, you make optimistic sleeveless dresses that get worn under jumpers for the whole three months, except that one week where the temperature goes nuts and all the trees start melting. So rather than make "spring clothes", I'm going to use this season's plan to fill a couple of wardrobe gaps, get started on some things I've been putting off, and making something bonkers just because I want it.

Latrice will lead off:

1. A ridiculous dressing gown.

I've wanted to do this for ages and I've decided that now is the time. I have this 1970s maxi wrap dress pattern and ten metres of silver stretch satin, and together they will create the most amazing OTT robe. Ten metres is a bit more than I need for the dressing gown, so if time permits and I don't have to recut any pieces, I might make a matching nightdress as well. This is going to be one hell of a time suck project, but I am READY for it. 

2. A vaguely appropriate spring dress

The other reason I'm not good at spring is because it apparently means pastels and florals all over the place, and I still look like a sarcastic Goth in those fabrics. However, on the off-chance that we do get a couple of nice days it would be good to have something to wear, so I'm going to make Vogue 8972 out of white jersey with navy polka dots. Vogue 8972 was one of the very first patterns I bought (thinking "Easy Options" meant it would be easy) and I've now got to the point where a) it seems much less difficult than it did in 2015 and b) I know how the pattern can be altered to make it less difficult still. Provided it doesn't end up looking too girly, it should be a really versatile dress.

3. A red dress

I bought some amazing red jersey from Abakhan a couple of months ago. It's so hard to find fabric with colours that good that I've been too afraid to do anything with it. I'm still not sure what it'll be, but I will be using it in the next couple of months. This is the fabric, by the way - if anyone has any suggestions I'm all ears.

4. Another pair of Thurlows

My first pair of Thurlows were great, but they were also really obviously work trousers and I've not been well enough to work very much lately. So I want to make a pair I can wear on a day to day basis, with a bit less flare in the leg. I'm thinking of using a burgundy or aubergine needlecord, which will take them out of work territory but also won't be hard to pair with things I already have. I'm interested to see whether this will work for my wardrobe, since it currently contains one pair of jeans that I wear once every couple of weeks and no other casual trousers at all. If it turns out that I like and wear them, I might try making some patterned ones.

5. A couple of jersey tops that will go with several skirts I already have and are not grey or black

This has been on my mental list for ages, but almost all my tops are still grey or black because I cannot find jersey in the right weight and colour. I've managed to get hold of two pieces (red and light blue) that I think will work, but if I find fabric for any more then I will make more. Running up a jersey top is a couple of hours' work at most, so I'm hoping to have a few by the time June rolls around.

Next up: leopard print dress. Yay!

Monday, 27 February 2017

winter sewing: the trials of coat making

I have had the same coat for several years. It's light grey, with an asymmetric zip, a tie belt, and a faux fur collar. I still love it to death and have no intention of getting rid of it, despite the fact that it has literally NEVER fit me properly. I loved it so much that I bought the last size they had; one size too small for me at the time, two sizes too small for me now. The coat does not do up. So when I was thinking about winter sewing, the one thing I knew I needed more than anything else was a functional coat that will close when I need it to do so.

Finding a coat pattern was the biggest pain in the arse. I thought I'd found it in Leanne Marshall for Simplicity 1254 before I looked it up and realised it looks terrible in real life. Then I thought I'd try the Waffle Patterns Pepernoot coat, but that wasn't really what I wanted either. I also considered the Closet Case Patterns Clare (mostly because I already own it), but nice as that looks on most people, I don't want an A line coat. What I wanted was a knee-length zip-up coat with waist shaping, a tie belt and a hood, but as far as I can tell this pattern literally does not exist. Eventually I bought McCalls 6442, which still isn't quite right because it's not a zip coat and it's not long enough, but was closer than anything else I'd found and I'd already decided I wasn't comfortable spending silly money on five or six metres of wool for my first ever coat. I bought some dark blue boiled wool to make it with and was all ready to get started... until I tried laying everything out, when I discovered that the boiled wool was narrower than expected and the pattern didn't fit on it. ARGH. Finally I bought some purple melton wool in a normal width and got started.

Here is my coat, and I'm actually quite glad that illness forced me to postpone writing about this one. My original draft of this post said "eh, it's fine, it was a good practice coat", but after wearing it for a week I've decided it's actually a pretty great coat. My initial view of it was clouded by two things: first, that I had a extremely specific vision in my head when I was planning this, and second, there were several issues with the pattern. Now that I've been able to step back a bit, I can appreciate this coat as its own thing rather a subpar rendering of a picture in my head. I really like the overall silhouette of this coat; I would hate this shape in a skirt but for outerwear it really works for me. The fitted waist and the length work well with the kind of things I'm wearing at the moment (the main reason I decided against making the Clare was that I thought it would look weird with the short tulip skirts I wear most of the time), so it's a very practical addition to my wardrobe that I will get a lot of wear out of. People have actually stopped me on the street and asked where I got this coat. HOWEVER, there are several points about the pattern itself that I think warrant addressing.

The biggest problem, from my perspective, is that this coat is designed to have no closures at all. The belt is the only thing you're supposed to use to keep this coat closed, and yet the pattern does not come with belt loops. I think that's ridiculous. Even if we set aside the fact that I am constantly losing things and would drop the belt on the street somewhere within minutes of wearing it outside for the first time, it just doesn't make any sense to have a belt without belt loops. I made and added some belt loops based on the Thurlow instructions, and I really don't think it would have taken much to include that in the pattern. I also added a press stud at centre front because for me, a coat that doesn't actually close up is just silly. I will probably add another press stud nearer the neck for when it's cold and I want to wear the coat fully closed. Also for when I need the hood. When the coat is open at the neck and the hood is up, it looks weird. It's neither drapey nor shapey enough to work.

The construction of the coat is not quite what I was expecting. I was expecting to make a coat, make a lining, sew together, bag it out. This pattern has you attach the lining to the bodice, lower section, and sleeves separately and then handstitch all three parts of the lining together when the coat is constructed. This is obviously a valid way of doing it, but I would personally prefer not to have a load of amateur handstitching on something as hard-wearing as a coat. The shoulder pads are covered with lining fabric and hand-sewn in too, and it turns out I am REALLY bad at that. I've had to redo one of them already (I don't want to say I'll practise, because I can't imagine I'll be putting covered shoulder pads into a lot of things). Curiously, the lining pattern pieces don't fit on normal width lining fabric and the instructions tell you to piece it together. Which, you know, is not a big deal to do, but I do find it confusing that a pattern would tell you to buy 45" lining fabric while knowing the pieces won't fit on it.

I made the lining all green and shiny, though, because why not.

Also, in quibbles: the pockets are too small and I don't like that. They seem to be a similar size to the tulip skirt pocket that I use on most skirts and dresses, and that is not what I want in a coat. If I can't put a pair of gloves in my coat pockets and then forget they're there until it's cold enough to need gloves, then I might as well not have coat pockets. Also the pocket opening is at the waist, and while I understand why that is, it's also slightly too high and makes walking along with hands in pockets quite awkward. Which I wouldn't need to do if the pockets were big enough to accommodate gloves. You see my problem.

Overall, though, I'm really pleased with this coat. The colour and shape both work well for me, and aside from the whole shoulder pad thing, I think my construction is pretty competent. Assuming we don't get any blizzards or below freezing temperatures, it'll probably see me through most of the year in London. It's not a big protective layer, but it's warm enough and versatile enough for at least three of the four seasons we tend to get (those three seasons being "drizzle", "it's a bit nippy out", and "").

Apart from anything else, this was a good confidence builder. I was pretty sure that the last purple coat I tried to make went wrong because of the pattern, but there's always a small voice saying maybe it was you being a dumbass, and this seems to me to be fairly solid proof that it wasn't me being a dumbass. This was a lot more involved than the things I usually make, but I wouldn't say it was that much harder to do. The wool was much easier to work with than a lot of fabrics, everything went together in a fairly logical order (lining aside), and there wasn't a lot in terms of new techniques I had to deal with. Instead of thinking oh, I've never made outerwear before, this is a big new scary thing, I found myself thinking of course I can make a coat, I CAN SEW. 

And that's a good feeling.

This marks the end of my winter sewing, minus the black dress which went a bit weird and is going to take me a while to salvage. On Thursday we move onto spring sewing, which will be... well, very similar, if I'm honest. Dammit, London. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Giant Grey Cardigan day: McCalls M6844

So, I went from a manic birthday week (including three cocktail bars in two days because cocktails) straight into a raging bout of flu. I really wanted to post about my coat this week, because it's finally done and I have a lot to say about it, but there's been no way for my red nosed, dry skinned, cough-filled face to take any photos fit for publication. So here's something I made and photographed a few weeks ago, and seems fitting for my current state.

This is McCalls M6844, a consistently well-reviewed pattern I bought last year when I realised I needed more layering pieces. Then I didn't use it because reasons. However, I've decided that this year I want to get through the majority of patterns in my stash, and I am still in dire need of layering pieces. So on an especially balls cold day, I cut it out and went to work. The fabric is the same light sweater knit I used for my grey wrap dress - I had enough left over to make this cardigan and another top, which won't get its own post because it's another Cashmerette Concord and I don't really have anything left to say about it. 

This pattern is well-reviewed for a reason. It has four different versions (longer and shorter, with or without the peplum thing; this is the shorter, peplummed version. Yes, that's a word now) and it's an excellent staple pattern if you're a wearer of this kind of cardigan. It came together within a couple of hours and presented me with zero problems, except the one where I forgot to cut out the second pair of collar pieces and had to do some weird piecing with my remnants, but that really can't be blamed on the pattern. The instructions are good and it's easy to alter should you need to.

There is no denying that this is a giant grey cardigan that can very easily look like the sartorial embodiment of depression. But goddamn, is it comfy and useful. I wear it at home basically every day. Sometimes I wear it with the top I made in the same fabric, which looks slightly more pulled together, but mostly I don't even care because LAYERS. LAYERS FOR EVERYONE.

(I tried to go outside earlier to get some more flu drugs and almost got knocked over by the sheer force of the wind. Maybe if I wear enough cardigans I can become large, stone, immovable by storm. Or maybe I'm just mildly delirious.)

I will definitely make this again. I'd like to try it in a slightly livelier colour, assuming I can find a suitable fabric (all sweater knit in this country is grey! WHY is all sweater knit grey?), and I think I recall seeing a belted version somewhere that I'd like to imitate. I'm not going to make hundreds because that's not what my wardrobe is set up for, but there's definitely a gap for another one or two.

Next week: coat! Promise.