Wednesday, 16 January 2019

winter sewing: Sierra jumpsuit

I'm a couple of days behind on my posting schedule because this jumpsuit took me way longer than I expected, and was also incredibly frustrating. This post probably reeks of UTTER FURY but that's mostly because I'm writing it immediately and have no time to just go away and get a grip. 

I've been trying to find a pattern for a black eveningwear jumpsuit for years, and everything I've seen is either way too casual or completely backless (why??). When Papercut Patterns released the Sierra jumpsuit I bought it pretty immediately - they've styled it very casually, but it looked a lot like my previous favourite black jumpsuit that doesn't fit anymore. I bought myself some black crepe and planned it in as my first project of 2019. 

Let's be clear here: this version is a fail. The vibe is exactly what I was after, but it just doesn't fit. The thing I was worried about - awkward tightness and lines round the stomach - wasn't an issue at all, but that still leaves the fact that the back is too big, there's not enough room in the hips, and there is literally no way for me to wear this without my bra all up in everyone's face. I've gone back and forth on whether to just remake this exact same thing and I think I will (assuming the guy at Walthamstow still has the fabric), but a lot will need to change next time. 

 I spent ages scouring the internet for help and information on this pattern, but because it's so new there was almost nothing. I do not have the answers to most of the problems I had, but I can lay out some of the issues I came across in constructing this one. Some of them are my fault, some of them not so much.

Firstly (and I'm not sure which of the two categories this fits into), the pieces don't become jumpsuit-shaped until right at the end. The side seams and leg seams are some of the last steps in the whole process, meaning that a) there's zero opportunity for fitting and b) it's REALLY confusing when you actually come to sew the side seams together. You probably aren't as thick as me, but I did not keep track of where everything was supposed to go and had to do a whole bunch of unpicking when I realised one of my shoulders was twisted. I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the floor with what I can only describe as a line of jumpsuit, trying to work out which seams needed to go together. It's... an unwieldy project, let's say.

Secondly, I needed slightly more room in the hip than I gave myself and chose a super-light lining fabric. As a result of this the pockets on both sides slide outwards every time I move, giving me an extra-weird silhouette. I basically have to keep my hands in the pockets, or keeping yanking on the side seams, to get them to stay put. I think this bit is mostly my fault, if we ignore the bit where in-seam pockets in trousers are the devil's work and I am officially never doing them again. What is not my fault, however, is the pocket instructions. 

The instructions are the third, and worst, problem I had. I've never had issue with Papercut's instructions before, even in my Kobe review where I took issue with basically everything. And everything was going fine on this jumpsuit, right up until we get to sewing the pockets. The instructions have you sew pocket pieces to the trouser front only (using fairly specific instructions to do so) and then sew the second pocket piece onto the first, leaving one open edge attached to nothing. Following this, the word "pocket" is never mentioned in the instructions again. The diagrams for the side seams show a stitching line all the way down, and the zip - which is a side zip going through the pocket - is explained with only "insert invisible zipper" and moving on. I'm normally quite happy for instructions not to explain how to insert a zip, but this seems to me like a fairly niche skill and one that at least warrants a mention of the pocket. There is a little note that an invisible zip tutorial can be found on their website, but all I could find was standard invisible zip tutorials. Maybe they plan to do one for this specific pocket contrivance, and maybe it'll be helpful to some confused soul six months down the line. That does no good to me right now, though.  

I eventually found this tutorial which enabled me to actually get the zip in, and I'm now absolutely certain that the pocket on the other side is just meant to be a standard in-seam pocket that they forgot to finish instructions for. Less hand-holding is one thing, leaving out steps in construction is another. Also it's completely inconsistent - they go into great detail about how to sew the first pocket piece to the side seam, so they can't possibly be assuming that you already know how to do this. There's a similar inconsistency issue with seam finishing instructions - they start by telling you which seams to finish and when to do so, and then they randomly leave out finishing the inside leg seams because maybe that particular one should be obvious? I don't know. 

Bad instructions aside, if this had eventually turned into a garment I could actually wear I'd probably be much more chill about it, and I do still think I'll have another go. I am super into the idea of this style of jumpsuit and if it fit me properly it would be great for dancing in. However, to keep both wrap and pockets in place I have to stand as still as possible, and Dancing Jen isn't great at that. 

(I totally planned to do a full old-school dance party post, but I went at it a bit too hard and my camera couldn't handle it, so everything was blurry and mostly useless for a pattern review post. Also everything looked much worse afterwards, as you can probably see.)

At some point I might go back and take the pockets out entirely, thus giving me a vaguely wearable jumpsuit that I could put a long-sleeved top underneath for autumn/winter daywear, but this invisible zip was an absolute bitch that took me about twelve tries to get in nicely, and the idea of redoing that AGAIN makes me want to cry, so it's just going to go in a pile for the moment until I work out what I want to do. 

For my second attempt, I will: add a bit more of an FBA, add half an inch or so to the hips, take the back down a size, either omit the stupid pockets entirely or steal some slash pockets from a different pattern, use a slightly thicker lining fabric, and probably add another half inch to the length of the legs (this version is lengthened by an inch already). I'm not particularly looking forward to doing it, but I really want this jumpsuit to exist in a form that fits me. If it goes wrong a second time, I will start throwing things.  

As making the jumpsuit took longer than I expected and I'm away from my machine visiting my partner's family this weekend, I really doubt I'm going to get anything done for a post next week. I've rejigged my project queue so that the next thing I make will be both familiar and brightly coloured, which should hopefully wash the taste out a bit and I'll be much less of a ball of fury when it comes to writing my next post. 


Monday, 7 January 2019

winter sewing: stretch velvet Magnolia

Presenting my extremely extra Christmas dress:

I knew I wanted to try a stretch version of the Magnolia as soon as I made my first one. I loved the dress, but I loved the idea of having one without the side zip and sleeves woes even more. The idea of making it in velvet followed very shortly afterwards, and I'd seen a couple of teal and bottle-green crushed velvets at various places online that I was considering. What I ended up going with was a much more emerald colour that the guy at the market just happened to have on his stand when I was there looking for something else. I'm quite happy with the colour in person, but it just will not show up correctly in photos. Not on my proper camera, not on my phone, not on someone else's better phone, not inside, not outside, not with or without flash. It will not do it. At the bottom of the post I've included a few photos from my phone of the dress out in the wild, and please be assured it is none of the colours it appears. Argh.

I made a bunch of changes to my first version, though not so much in terms of size. I cut the back waistband a little smaller and made the back darts bigger, but that's it. My first version was very fitted and I wanted this one to give me sufficient space for a giant Christmas dinner. Also, the velvet isn't so stretchy that it requires a huge amount of sizing down, just enough to let me dispense with the side zip. I also dispensed with the back ties. I really like them as a detail, but in fabric this heavy I thought they'd just be cumbersome (especially for a dress made to sit down in). There's no excess fabric in this version so they're not really necessary.

The biggest change I made was the sleeves. Even if the original sleeves had fit me the way they're intended to, that still wouldn't have worked for this fabric. I switched out the sleeve and armscye for the Givre, which you know is my favourite, and once again I think it's worked really well. They're not noticeably restrictive but thanks to the comparative lack of stretch in this fabric they are tighter than usual. This is actually a secret bonus as it helps the neckline stay where I want it to stay.

I finished the neckline by hand as I didn't want any visible stitching there. This wasn't a great idea as it does need to stretch, but I really feel like machine stitching will warp the fit of the top across the bust, which is currently perfect. Post-holiday I went back and machine stitched the back neckline down. It's not necessarily the most elegant solution but it does hold things in place better without me having to become some sort of neckline wizard.

Remembering that version one came up short on me, I lengthened this one substantially when I cut it out. This was the wrong thing to do, because this skirt is heavy and stretchy and thus hangs down much further anyway, so I just had to go and cut it all off again. Sigh.

Here are a couple of photos of the dress out in the wild on Christmas Day:

I keep rewriting this paragraph trying to describe our hotel and I keep sounding like Margaret Drabbs the 16th most prolific Trip Advisor reviewer in Tunbridge Wells, so I'm going to stop. Suffice to say it was not as fancy as it thought it was and we were made to feel pretty uncomfortable. Also they tried to charge €26 for a Bombay Sapphire and tonic. I wouldn't pay that for a bottle of Bombay Sapphire. However, all that aside, you can't deny this is a pretty sweet view. This photo was taken just before Christmas lunch, where most other people were indeed wearing sensible beige trousers but also up to their eyeballs in foie gras so didn't really care what I was wearing.

This, however, prompted a lot of amazed stares, I think mostly because I was out on the sea front without a coat. From my British perspective it was about the temperature of a nice spring day and while I could have been wearing a coat it didn't bother me that I wasn't. However, all the locals were bundled up in quilted jackets and enormous scarves and they probably thought I was a crazy person. For someone in anxiety therapy it's actually quite nice to be magnitudes overdressed and know for a fact that the worst judgement people are making about you is that you're probably cold.

I also ended up wearing it to an extremely low-key NYE house party at the insistence of the host, who then wore green velvet herself and pressured another friend into doing the same. When we went out for the fireworks at midnight I insisted we take a photo, which turned into a "people standing round holding flashlights at various angles" job and also left me with a brief accidental video where one of my friends says to the other, "This is for Jen's Instagram, stop eating my shoulder!" while I continue to pose away, drunk and oblivious. 

Anyway, I really, really like this bodice and would like to try turning into a jersey dress for daywear. I don't know if the shorter skirt is the one for me, but as it's neither fitted nor full enough to give me hem anxiety I think I might give it a try. It'll definitely be quite cleavagey for a day dress, but that doesn't bother me hugely and it can easily be layered with wrap cardigans and so forth. I will probably bind the neckline on future versions as it won't be so disruptive when I'm not using velvet.

I'm hoping to get the Papercut Sierra jumpsuit done over the next week, so assuming it's not horrific that'll be my next post. The problem about making something so soon after pattern release is that about five tiny people have made it and it's impossible to know how it sits on curvier bodies. It's fine; I shall do it for science. Science! 

Monday, 31 December 2018

sewing resolutions for 2019

We're back from Nice! I'm putting off the post about my velvet Magnolia til next week, as I haven't managed to take proper pictures yet. For some reason Patrick and I both had massive skin problems as soon as we got to France and haven't quite recovered; all pictures of me at the moment look quite a bit like someone smeared melted brie on a Sticklebrick. So for now, resolutions!

In all honesty, I did not do well with my resolutions for this past year. Partly for mental health reasons, partly because I'd not thought through the issues I was trying to solve before writing the post, but mostly it came down to a simple point: I wasn't specific enough. I've been making and writing down non-sewing-based resolutions every year since 2001 and I KNOW I have to be as absolutely specific, concrete and measurable as possible for these things to work, but apparently I thought that sewing-related resolutions might be different? I don't know. Anyway, it's not, and I'm not going to do that again.

Here are my extremely specific plans for next year:

1. I will at least make a toile of the ridiculous 1920s ballgown pattern I bought two years ago. A few weeks after I started sewing I saw a picture of this dress, pined after it for a year, finally decided I was sufficiently committed to sewing to be permitted to purchase it, and it's sat sadly in my stash ever since because I'm worried it'll look terrible. It's a reasonable worry; it's a 1920s dress designed for 1920s bodies, i.e. the exact opposite of my body. But I do need to try it, and this is the year I will do that. I will buy some cheap fabric, treat it as a sewing challenge, and not expect it to look amazing.

2. I will plan and make one fun piece every season. I've been much better this year about not getting bogged down in practicality, and I want to make sure I continue that by actively making space for the fun stuff. I've found an occasion for every ridiculous dress I've made thus far, and I also have a guarantee from Patrick that whatever I make, he will find somewhere I can wear it. I don't intend for it to all be OTT dresses; variety is good. I'd very much like one of them to be a crazy print coat.

3. I will be much stricter about planning and purchasing. Another thing I already KNOW doesn't work is writing in my plans "so I don't know exactly what this will look like yet, but I want this vague kind of thing" and yet I continue to do it. Going forward I am not going to put anything on my list if I don't have either fabric or pattern for it, and for at least three quarters of each list I need to have both. If that means the list has to be smaller, so be it. I'm going to start keeping a separate running "Vague List" of ideas I've had, but I can't put it on a plan until a) I know exactly what it looks like and b) I know the means for making this exact thing exist.

4. I will take some kind of course or class in fitting and/or sloper making. This is something I'd really like to get a handle on - I've got to the point where I can, for example, adjust a bodice so that it's the right size for my shoulders and bust, but not necessarily the right shape for my shoulders and bust, and I think if I could understand what pattern pieces need to look like to fit me properly, it would make a huge difference to the overall appearance and feeling of the things I make. I have three different avenues I might take depending on finances: the London College of Fashion course in making all your own slopers; a couple of smaller-scale fitting/sloper evening classes; or the Suzy Furrer Craftsy classes. I will do one of these three by the end of the year.

5. I will make a pair of black jeans. I haven't worn jeans in years, but I have one specific outfit rattling around in my head that requires black jeans. Also I think it would be good for me to have a go at it and stop thinking of it as a giant scary complicated thing. Where one acquires acceptable quality black denim in this country I have NO idea, though. I'd love some suggestions from UK people.

6. I will learn to make shirts. This is something I never thought I'd do because I do not like buttons and I never have. I don't like the way button-ups look or feel on me, I have never once wished to wear a shirtdress, and I deeply dislike the idea of adding decorative buttons to things. I took off my last school-uniform shirt in 2001 and vowed that I would never wear buttons again, and so far I have not. In the sewing community, Land of Shirtdresses, I'm aware this makes me a tremendous weirdo. I've made all sorts of complicated garments, but I literally made my first and only buttonhole a few weeks ago (and I spent some time thinking about whether I could get out of it first). However, recently Patrick has started making noises about me abandoning my no-shirts rule; he really likes shirts and has very specific taste that literally nowhere is currently catering for. I'm nervous about it - it's a LOT of new skills and he's used to spending fair amounts of money on very high-quality shirts, but he doesn't ask me for much so I'm going to try. Also, there are some times when it would be easier to just sew a button on a pair of trousers instead of going to huge lengths to work around it.

7. I will make a list of things that bug me about the quality of my work and actively practice/research and experiment with ways to improve. I haven't got very far with the list yet but two things I definitely want to work on are the quality of my twin needle stitching on thinner jerseys and better finishing on waistbands with a zip. I want to have the list written by the end of January and have solved or noticeably improved at least six of the things by the end of the year.

8. I will only buy fabric if I can visualise what I'm going to do with it. Last year I resolved to use my three most expensive pieces of fabric and I didn't use any of them. I realised this year that the problem wasn't fear (I have cheerfully cut into fabric at least that expensive before), it was that I'd bought them without a plan because they were beautiful and expected the plan to present itself later. It has not. I have neither the stash space nor the bank account to hoard fabric, so if I don't know what I want it to be I can't buy it no matter how pretty it is. I will also actively look for patterns for the three pieces I already have, but I don't want to make using them an actual goal again. If the match isn't there it's not there.

I'm going to leave it at that. Three specific item goals, three planning goals and two technique goals seems like a decent spread and not an overwhelming amount. Some of it feels a bit intimidating right now, but I'm pretty sure that there's nothing here I won't be able to handle when I get into it.

We're off to a New Year party tonight, and the host has requested I turn up in my velvet Magnolia. I'm pretty sure nobody else has been asked to wear an evening gown, so it'll just be me sitting there on the sofa demanding that people in jeans fetch me Negronis. But at least it's getting a second outing. Happy New Year, everyone, and thank you for sticking around. Here's to more pretty things!

Monday, 24 December 2018

winter sewing: Nettie bodysuit

My winter sewing plans stated, with complete confidence, that my first attempt at the Closet Case Patterns Nettie bodysuit would be plain black, for maximum utility.

However, sometimes you're in Fabric Land searching for a plain black four-way stretch that isn't also obvious swimsuit fabric and you walk past something that's matte, super-soft and super-stretchy, and you can't pass it up even if it is tiny black and white cheetah print layered over unidentified black blobs. I'm certain that I will make a plain black one at some point when the right fabric comes into my life, but this substrate is so perfect for a bodysuit that I will cheerfully make new clothes to go with it if I have to. 

This pattern is mostly super-simple. I chose not to put the shelf bra in because a) I wasn't making the low back version and b) there is zero chance that a shelf bra would do anything at all to support 34G boobs, so it mostly makes up like a standard T-shirt with a couple of pieces of binding round the open leg holes. If you don't put in the snap crotch this is about an hour's worth of work. But I did, because why be half-naked in a public loo if you don't have to? Also, I wanted to do the version with the high back to start off with and I wasn't sure whether that would give me enough stepping-in room.

I used scraps of black silk and hammer-in press studs. I struggle to hand-sew things securely enough and I didn't want my bodysuit randomly coming undone in public, but it did make it that much more annoying to redo everything when I realised I'd done it wrong. The instructions for this bit lost me (as instructions sometimes do) and I'd have been better off pinning and experimenting to get it right. The second time it worked... and then one of the hammer-in studs fell out. But I put it back in, and now I have a functional snap crotch! I was worried it might be uncomfortable, but I literally forget it's there.

As you can see, the legs are cut super-low. In many ways this makes absolute sense; you don't get any weird VPL, it's guaranteed to provide total bumcheek coverage with no fear of awkward wedgie situations, and given that the lower half will be covered in almost all instances it's right to prioritise comfort and practicality. But at the same time there is no denying that this is not the most flattering cut in the world. It is very much lump-emphasising. This may or may not bother you, but I thought the record should reflect.

Because this pattern is drafted with negative ease and thus super close-fitting, I used about five different sizes (ranging from a 12 in the neckline and shoulders to a 20 in the hips and upper arms) and added an FBA by just cutting some boob-shaped lumps into the front side seam at chest height. This fabric is stretchy enough that I probably didn't need to go to a 20, but I wanted to play it safe. For any future versions I'll keep the variation in sizes but choose the sizes themselves based on the fabric stretch.

I did debate making scoop front and scoop back, and I'd still quite like to try that, but I do worry that it wouldn't stay on my shoulders. I know I could add bra carriers, but I don't want to add bra carriers on something that's meant to be super-easy and casual. If I can find a suitable fabric at a cheap enough price, I think I will give it a go for science. Either way I'll definitely make another one (probably two). I will definitely not make the dress, because that level of bodycon is beyond me.

I'm wearing it with Papercut Palisade shorts. These were actually the first ones I made; I cut the trousers out first, but then decided I really needed a pair of shorts for a burlesque class I was going to that night. Not having a go-to shorts pattern, I just cut out another pair and ran them up in an hour and a half. As a result they're not the most beautifully finished, but I do like them and I do think I'll have another go. Possibly out of stretch woven if I'm going to wear them to dance classes. 

(It's super-weird to put photos of myself in a bodysuit and no bottoms on the internet, but I feel like it would be a really unhelpful post if you couldn't see the fit below the waist. So here's me leaning into it.)

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm heading out of the country today for a few days (she says confidently, PLEASE NO MORE DRONES AT GATWICK). We're having our first Christmas by ourselves this year, and we've booked a trip to France in the hope of getting some actual sunshine back into our lives. Whatever you're doing over the next few days, celebratory or not, I hope it's joyous! When I get back I'll share the completely OTT green velvet dress I'm wearing for Christmas lunch.

I thought I'd include this photo of me reacting like an Austen heroine being spotted across the room, while also wearing an animal print bodysuit on some stairs. I don't even know. 

Saturday, 22 December 2018

2018 sewing wrap-up

Normally at the end of the year, I do a bunch of review posts over the course of a few weeks. This year I don't feel like I can do that. I will still make some resolutions (resolutions are sort of ingrained into my soul at this point), but my sewing has been so erratic and so under the control of my shitty mental health this year that making favourites and least-favourites lists seems kind of unhelpful. So instead, I'm going to talk about some of the more significant things I made and some of my thoughts about next year.

My By Hand London Rumana coat was the only thing I made for almost the entire first three months of the year. It was a really nasty time for me and for a while I did not believe I could ever come out the other side. Things now are better but not better, if you see what I mean, and I'm not yet quite over the fear of ending up back where I was at the start of the year. The coat, however, has escaped being tainted by its circumstances and is probably my favourite project of 2018. I've worn it every non-summer day because it's warm and sleek and goes with everything. This lining choice - extra dramatic but not bright and distracting - was one of the best design decisions I've made and I need to remember it in the future when I'm about to get distracted by some horrendous chartreuse thing. The pockets on this pattern are amazing, because they're huge and when it's cold I can just walk with my hands in them at normal relaxed-arm height. I would definitely not be opposed to making a second. 

The award for Most Worn Garment of the Year goes to this Burda hoodie. Patrick wears this almost every day around the house (and occasionally even out of the house, which he NEVER does with tops that aren't proper shirts), and it's come with us on almost every trip we've been on this year, even in the height of summer. This is probably the most gratifying thing I've ever made, because I get to see how much he loves it all the time. 

Spring was a bit hit-and-miss for me in terms of successful garments, but my summer sewing was ON POINT. During the heatwave I wore jersey maxi dresses and floaty wide-leg jumpsuits almost exclusively, and I felt like I completely understood my style for the first time (i.e. super glamorous but also basically wearing pyjamas at all times). 

I loved all my maxidresses and most of my jumpsuits, but McCalls 7789 was the number one, partly because of how much of a surprise it was. That pattern envelope is SO UGLY. I really don't know why I even bought it. But this is so comfortable, so breezy, such a statement, and the only instance of perfect bra coverage I've ever had in a strappy top. I'm already looking forward to wearing it again. 

Things then went a bit wrong, because this happened:

This fucking jacket, man. It took me nearly two months to finish, and the rest of the year to properly get my sewjo back. I think if I'd actually been able to wear it I could have moved past it more easily, but the fabric was so thick and so rigid and so uncomfortable that I literally could not keep it on for more than three minutes. I then decided to make another TWO versions, the second of which I ballsed up at the last minute and haven't been able to face going back and fixing. The whole process was painful, the lack of a finished product was worse, and it's only in the last couple of weeks that I've felt my old sewing spirit come back. Ugh.

I made the Deer & Doe Magnolia dress as soon as it came out as a way to get some confidence back. It definitely did help with that (and this is a pretty killer photo), but I probably wouldn't have included it if it hadn't been the most popular thing I've ever put on Instagram by a long, long way. Like, more than twice as popular as anything else. I knew people would like it because I know Instagram likes fancy dresses, but I'm surprised about just how much love it got. I think the dress is awesome but the sleeve situation isn't great for me. As you'll see after Christmas, I'm working on ways to adapt it to be perfect for me, and I might have a go at a shorter version next year too. I do love a Deer & Doe bodice and if I can use it for a ton of jersey dresses then I absolutely will.

Another surprise to me is quite how much I've worn this Simplicity 1613 top. It's SUCH a pain to construct but it looks amazing, and it makes a bog-standard top and trousers look like you've put some real effort into your outfit. I really think I'm going to have to make more, even though I do not want to deal with sewing that neckline again. Next time I'll baste everything first and write myself some detailed instructions, I think. 

Honourable mention goes to this Named Asaka kimono Miss Fisher fantasy nonsense. I put off buying this pattern for so long and I was entirely wrong to do so because it is perfection. 

Despite my mental ups and downs, I've overall felt much better about the things I've chosen to make this year. I certainly made a few wadders, but I recognised every single one of them for what they were and recycled them immediately. Nothing sat in my wardrobe taking up space and making me feel vaguely dissatisfied for unknown reasons. I didn't include much of my winter wardrobe because it was tough to pick a representative example, but I now have several pairs of wearable trousers and a much improved range of tops which makes getting dressed much easier. 

For next year I want to fill out my wardrobe a bit more with a clearer idea of what I want and what style it needs to be. I've started making a list of some fairly specific gaps in my wardrobe, which I may or not post in the new year depending on how coherent it is when it's finished. I also want to balance that out with some experimenting and the odd bit of impracticality, but the important thing is to be inspired to make the things I make. I have a history of buying patterns because it seems like a safe thing to try and I know I won't be too disappointed in the end result, but those things rarely last long in my wardrobe. My first challenge will be the mustard jersey I recently bought - I really want it to be a dress but don't have a pattern I like, and I've half-convinced myself to use a pattern that I never hate the result of exactly, and maybe all the other times I got rid of the finished dresses within eight months were just flukes and it'll work this time... I need to not do that. No matter how much I want my mustard jersey dress to get me through what will definitely be a difficult January. Find a better pattern, Jen. Find a better pattern. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

winter sewing: Palisade trousers

Hey! So I'm still kind of sick, but this past week has been the best one for sewing that I've had in many months. I've completed four items from my autumn sewing list (well, technically five, but the M7626 trousers do NOT look good on me and I'm throwing that idea entirely out of the window), plus a bonus item. For the first time in a while I'm actually feeling encouraged and motivated, and a good bit of that is down to these trousers.

I have to say, these surprised me. I bought the pattern because I really liked the shape of the pockets and I need more slim-fit trousers for when it rains and I don't want to drag wide legs through endless puddles, but I didn't have hugely high hopes for it. Elastic waists can so often look weird on me and I never know what tops to wear with them, and since I've never made trousers from Papercut before and thus don't know how they cut them, I thought that I would most likely end up with some unflattering things that could only be worn as pyjamas, or a pair of nice-looking trousers that I couldn't put into a decent outfit for the life of me. What I got was a pair of surprisingly smart-looking trousers that also happened to have an elasticated back. I really like these.

This fabric is, I think, a cotton-viscose blend with a nice bit of weight to it. I picked it up in a swap at last month's London Stitchers' Meetup. It was already on the table when I got there so I have no idea who the original owner was, but whoever you are, thanks! It's an unusual colour for me and I'd never wear it near my face, but I really like it for trousers (even if it does get pretty wrinkly). I especially like it with this top, and it's making me want to make another.

I cut a size L for the waistband and an XL everywhere else. Rather than grading out at the hip I just cut an XL and took the excess out at the centre back, where my trousers always gape. I think this has worked but I  may need to make the back rise a tiny bit higher to compensate. It is super difficult to fit slim trousers to a pot belly, and though I know I haven't got it 100% right, but it definitely looks wrinklier in photos than it does in real life.

(It was way too cold to keep taking photos outside, so I didn't quite have enough. Stairwell shots with the heating on!)

I'm not sure how Papercut intends the trousers to fit round the thighs. I'd assumed they were meant to be fairly loose, but they certainly aren't on me and now that I look back at the product photos, they don't look enormous on the model either. I don't mind this - I fill the trousers out enough to make them look almost tailored, which is quite cool - but I do think next time I'd add a tiny bit more room for comfort. The crossover pockets look great and I like them, but they do create a bit of bulk on the inside, and with thighs like mine it is noticeable.

I will definitely be making more of these trousers, probably as soon as I'm done with Christmas things. I really like the idea of adding this silhouette to my wardrobe, and I think a black crepe pair would be incredibly useful. My yellow cord is probably too bulky for this pattern, but if I can find the right weight of fabric, a pair of mustard Palisades would not go amiss either.

Unnecessary posing in terrible light!

Up next: my Nettie bodysuit, which is totally not the plain black wardrobe staple I had intended...

Monday, 10 December 2018

winter sewing: Ness skirt

If it weren't for the fact that I have been utterly deathsick for the past week and a half and haven't been able to get anything else done, I probably wouldn't be posting this skirt. I can't work out what I think of it, and I think I could do with making another version to work some of the kinks out. But this is what I have, so here we go:

The simple denim skirt has been the absolute bane of my sewing life. I have made five different ones to date, none of which prior to this one have made it to the blog. I made a Hollyburn that somehow grew three sizes within the first week of my making it, a Vanessa Pouzet Wonder skirt (without the swags) that sat weirdly, a combination of that and an old RTW skirt which didn't work at all, a Simplicity one that did deeply disturbing thing to my backside, and now this, the Tilly and the Buttons Ness skirt.

This one is certainly my best attempt yet, as you can tell from the fact that you're actually seeing it. But it's still not quite right, and I'm trying to work out why that is. I think it's maybe a bit too big - I made the hips two sizes larger than the waist as usual, but given that it's designed for to have a bit of stretch it looks a little bit weird. I also don't think it's designed to sit as high as I'm wearing it, and I might be better off making a straight version of the size in the middle of the two I tried (which I think is a 6? I found their invented number sizing to be a bit confusing).

I had to learn a lot of new tricks to make this skirt, including installing a jeans button and making my first ever buttonhole. It turns out that, once you've realised you're using the 4-step buttonhole foot from your old machine and replaced it with the proper foot, buttonholes are actually pretty easy. You just put the fabric in place and the machine does it all for you. I even made a fancy keyhole shape to accommodate the jeans button.

Installing the jeans button was kind of a pain at first, because the tack doesn't sit comfortably in the hole until it's been hammered a little way, and it's really tough to get it started without hammering your fingers. I ended up holding it in place with Blu-Tack until it was decently wedged in, and I have to say it looks rather nice.

(It's not centred, I know, but I ended up with one end of my waistband being slightly bigger than the other and this was the only way to get them to line up at the top.)

I flat-felled all the seams except the front one, which I mock-felled as the instructions directed. I only did this because I wasn't sure if a proper fell would mess with the fly in some way (of course it doesn't); I'm not generally a fan of mock-felling. The whole point of a flat-fell is that I don't have to deal with finishing raw edges and thus confront my lack of a functioning overlocker. When my mental health is in a stronger place I'll have another go at getting it to work, but for now everything is flat felled and French seamed. (I used bias binding on the front mock fell.)

I did not do any contrast topstitching. My topstitching is not good, and while I will have to start remedying that soon I was not keen enough on having a topstitched skirt that I was prepared to spend a month on getting it right.

My intention is to acquire another metre of denim and have a second stab at getting this right. In theory this is exactly what I want, but in practice it's not quite there. I think I need to make the back pieces smaller than the front, get the whole thing to sit a tiny bit lower, shorten the hem, use a slightly longer zip, make sure my waistband ends are even and work out how I did that thing with the fly that I shouldn't have done. I think it should be easier the second time, now that I know what I'm doing and not relying entirely on the included instructions (I've heard a lot about the amazing quality of Tilly and the Buttons instructions, but I felt that they used a lot of extra words to say not much more than regular instructions do. Admittedly I didn't use the video links because I wasn't confused enough to pause the thing I was already watching to look at someone putting a zip in). For now we'll call this a toile, and I'll try again in the new year. 

Next up: depends how this week goes, but I hope to have at least a pair of trousers to show you!