Monday, 13 May 2019

chill projects: Zadie jumpsuit

I'm back! It's been a pretty unpleasant time, but doing Me Made May these past couple of weeks has invigorated me somewhat and I've been able to make things again. I was intending to come back with a Big Project, but I need a bit more time to write that up, so here's an unplanned palate cleanser instead:

This is the Paper Theory Zadie jumpsuit, which literally everybody has made already and so it doesn't really require a review. But I'm going to do it anyway because this is my blog and I can do what I want.

I actually wasn't that convinced by the sample garments the first time I looked at the pattern. The fit looked - not really bad, but not the way I prefer to wear my clothes. I was quite resolute in not making it until a couple of months ago, when half the people I follow on Instagram suddenly all posted amazing versions and I decided what the hell, I was going to go for it it too. My initial thought was "ooh, maybe this is the pattern for my raspberry red linen from Mood" but I wasn't just going to cut into that for an untested pattern, regardless of how little fitting it claimed to require, so I picked this viscose up from Walthamstow for a trial.

There is a lot of ease in the finished pattern, and bearing in mind my thoughts on the product photos I decided to size down (16 top, 18 hips) for mine. It's still super comfy and has plenty of room, but it's not as oversized as I think is intended. For me, I like this fit a lot better. I took about a centimetre off the length of the bodice as my waist is super short, and that's worked well. The jumpsuit is meant to be cropped but I'm really not sure about that length on me, so I added as much as I could to the legs, which was maybe a couple of inches; the layout is SUPER efficient and there was barely any space at all to add length. While I very much appreciate the lack of fabric wastage, I also hate single layer cutting - we have a very long, thin kitchen floor which allows me exactly the right amount of space to cut fabric on the fold, but for this I was shifting things all over the place and it made it much harder to see how much space I was going to have. That's not a complaint about the pattern, just the reality of choosing to live in London. Sigh. I pieced some cuffs together out of the few scraps remaining at the end so that I didn't have to hem any of the length away. 

Construction was incredibly simple. I French seamed all of the insides apart from the bodice seam with the hole in it and the front crotch seam, since the bias binding starts and ends there. Making the bias binding was the only really fiddly bit of the whole process; if you have a bias tape maker it's probably fine, but since I do not, I used my hair straighteners instead. I do NOT have the dexterity to do pressing that small and precise with a regular iron (I've tried, I burned my fingers), so hair straighteners it is. I picked up that tip from a "what's your bad sewing habit" post full of women going "tee hee sometimes I only turn my jersey hems up ONCE, what a naughty naughty sewist I am" and decided that it was genius. It makes small fiddly bits so much easier to handle and if it's wrong I don't care to hear about it, frankly. 

This is astonishingly comfortable to wear. It's completely non-restrictive but allows me to have a waist at the same time, which is perfect. I will almost certainly make another couple over the summer. I really want to use my Mood linen for one of these, but I'm a little bit worried about fabric requirements as I only have two and a half yards and I'm really not sure about making a cropped leg. I'll experiment a bit with the layout and see what I can come up with! 

 Zadie Jumpsuit

Fabric: Printed viscose from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £7
Pattern details: Wrap-front jumpsuit with cropped legs, big pockets and bias bound neckline made from self fabric
Size: 16 bodice, 18 hips
Alterations: Added length to legs, reduced length of bodice
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Up next: I actually made the coat I wasn't sure I'd be able to do! It's purple!

Monday, 15 April 2019

two versions of the Sirocco jumpsuit

Last month Deer and Doe got in touch to ask if I'd be interested in an advance copy of one of their patterns in exchange for a review. I've done this with them once before and it was really interesting for me; I got to try a pattern that I never would have purchased, and though I rarely make the full dress these days I do use bits and pieces of that pattern almost every time I make a knit project. So I was excited to do it again. Then I scrolled down to the photo of the garment they were offering to send and I realised this was a whole other kettle of fish - a pattern I would have fallen out of my chair and purchased within seven seconds of first seeing it. I sat gently bouncing for about forty-five minutes then told them I'd love to.

You know I love a jumpsuit. If you were here in January, you might also be thinking, "My, that looks a lot like a faux-wrap black jumpsuit that could be worn for evening occasions and probably won't have upsetting pocket situations". And yes, I thought that too. It's a knit rather than a woven, but that doesn't remotely bother me. My longtime favourite RTW black jumpsuit was also a knit and I loved it.

While my endgame garment is made of plain black, high quality jersey, I will never just cut straight into expensive fabric for a new pattern. I went to Walthamstow (because of course I did) and bought this soft medium weight jersey with the amount of stretch dictated by the pattern instructions. White paisley outlines are not my usual jam, largely because paisley is so much Patrick's thing that I feel a bit weird wearing it, but the actual substrate was so nice that I decided to deal with it.

The pattern is a faux wrap, pull-on jumpsuit with a waistband panel, set-in sleeves and slash pockets. The bodice and trousers both have front pleats, and the trouser pleats are diagonal to mimic the shape of the pockets, which you can't really see in black printed fabric but is a really nice touch. I cut a 44 in the shoulders, 48 bust, 46 waist, 50 hip and 52 bicep. This is not what I'd cut next time, as I'll detail a bit further down. I also added two inches to the length of the legs, which is fairly standard for me.

First things first: this is a really fabulous jumpsuit and the shape is great. I've never made a narrow-leg jumpsuit before and I was a bit concerned that it would be too body-con without extra fabric in the legs, but it's not a problem at all (full disclosure: it kind of is a problem right now because I've been stress-eating for the last month and I'm pretty bloated, but in these photos from a few weeks ago it's not a problem, so I think I'll be fine once things stop going wrong). I think it would be really easy to make this either casual or fancy depending on fabric or even just styling.

Usually with knit patterns like this there's a piece of elastic at the waist do all the fitting work, but not here; the pattern uses pleats and darts (darts on the back trousers, pleats everywhere else) to give proper shape on both the bodice and trousers going into the waistband. It's great to have a jumpsuit with a sleek "this has been fitted to me personally" effect but also still made of knit so it's super comfortable, doesn't need a zip and glosses over any little bumps. It's unlike anything else I've seen and I think it's awesome. Also worth noting: the pockets are functional, stable, and roomy. Finally!

(SCENE CHANGE, surprise. I thought it made sense to do both so you could get a better view of the top while also being able to see some proper front-on shots.)

For people with similar body shape to me, there are a couple of things to be aware of. First of all, spend a bit of time baste-fitting the bodice and getting the surplice to lie correctly. I don't tend to do this with knit projects as the stretch usually glosses over any fitting issues, but my first attempt at this pattern had the entire middle of my bra visible. I think this is at least in part a result of my cutting too big a bodice. I don't normally add boob room with Deer&Doe, particularly not in knit patterns, and I'm not quite sure why I did this time. I should have just let the stretch do the work and maybe raised the neckline a small amount. I unpicked it to try and cross the wrap over more, but I reached the point where I was just making holes (unpicking black stretch stitches from black fabric, ugh) so I added as much to the crossover as I could and then added a couple of tiny poppers at the bust. Ordinarily I would just sew it closed at the right point, but you can't do that here as the wrap fronts being unconnected to each other is what provides enough room to get in and out of the jumpsuit.

Also on getting in and out of the jumpsuit: there is no zip, and the waist is not elasticated. Additionally, the earlier version of the pattern I was sent called for 30-40% stretch, which has since been corrected to 60% stretch. The first time I tried this jumpsuit on, I definitely heard a few stitches pop. It's entirely possible that I'd still have the same issue with the corrected amount of stretch, since my hips are a few sizes bigger than my waist and the waist is drafted with negative ease, so before I make my third version I'll do some calculations and report back on how the extremely pear-shaped might fare with this! If you're worried, go up a size in the waist - it'll give you an extra couple of inches and still fit with negative ease. I did this with my second version, which you'll see in a moment, and the fit was much the same.

Having produced a garment I really liked but needed some adjustments, I decided that it would be worthwhile to make a second attempt, so that I could test the alterations I thought would be necessary and give a better and more comprehensive review. I'd never made a playsuit before and I thought this was as good a time as any to experiment.

This time I cut a straight 44 bodice, with a little extra room at the upper edge of the wrap and an inch of extra length at the waist edge to give me more leeway overlap the front pieces further. I went up one size to a 48 waist to give a bit more room to stretch over my hips; I was still working to the 40% guideline on this one and so in the future, with a properly stretchy fabric, I might not do this. As I said, I'll do some maths before the next one! I also cut way more length than I thought I'd need on the shorts; I do this basically every time I cut shorts because my fabulous monster fabric-eating thighs are not what people tend to draft for. I marked the cut point on the fabric so that I would be able to see how much I'd added at the end, and it was about 2.5 inches, so that's what I'll be working to in future. I kept everything else the same. Were I to make this playsuit again I would definitely widen the legs - I am not loving this overall effect. I'm not 100% sure if this is another monster-thigh problem or not. The photos on the website show wider legs, which would imply that it is, but previous trouser patterns I've owned that have both a short and full-length version are drafted to be wider at the cut-off point on the shorts than the equivalent point on the trousers, and these aren't. Something to bear in mind!

Attempt two is definitely a much better fit. There is a small amount of bra showing in these photos, but I am standing right at the bottom of the stairs with the camera pointing downwards, so it doesn't normally look like this. However, I really doubt I will be wearing this version. The colours and print of the fabric just aren't me at all, and I don't like how tight the legs are. The fabric also clings way more than in my other version and I'm not a fan. I will almost certainly have another go, however; I really like the idea of this playsuit and I don't think it'll be too hard to adjust it into something I'll love.

Overall, this has been a rousing success for me and I will definitely be making more of both versions. Aside from the plain black jumpsuit of my dreams, I'm also thinking about both a playsuit and a jumpsuit for generally existing in during the summer. I like the idea of electric blue for the playsuit and possibly some kind of leaf print for the jumpsuit, depending on whether I can find a fabric that fits the nebulous idea in my mind. There are definitely a couple of body shape issues at play but they're fairly simple to work around, I think, and having made these two versions I'm pretty confident that I know what I'm doing. I'm thrilled I got to review this pattern and I'm excited to have it in my wardrobe!

Deer and Doe Sirocco jumpsuit

Fabric: Printed jersey from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £5 for the jumpsuit, £4 for the playsuit
Pattern details: Pull-on knit jumpsuit or playsuit with mock wrap neckline, short sleeves, waistband and slash pockets; gifted to me by Deer&Doe in exchange for a review
Size: Graded from 44 bodice to 50 hips
Alterations: Bodice altered to wrap over further in front, legs lengthened by 2in
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

I can't really tell you what might be up next because I am kind of broken. The last month has been absolutely horrific (multiple family illnesses and horrible diagnoses, the resurgence of some old and very unwelcome trauma, and also our bathroom literally flooding with sewage) and my motivation to sew has been almost non-existent. I'm hopeful that when the bedroom ceiling repair is finally finished and we can have our flat to ourselves again I can go through my stash and find a bit of excitement to make something, but my mental health is precarious right now and I don't know how it's going to shake out. Fingers crossed that things will stabilise and I'll be back with something next week!

Monday, 1 April 2019

spring sewing: Ellis skirt (and bonus Nettie)

As I've mentioned a couple of times now, I keep making denim skirts and they keep sucking. Most of them are so terrible they don't make it to being photographed. I've put my Ness skirt back on a few times since making it, and concluded every time that it's really not wearable and the fit around my waist and hips is just too weird. I had been planning to have another go at it, but put that idea to the side when I realised I'd be making eleven different adjustments for an outcome that was by no means guaranteed. I also briefly considered making a standard mini skirt out of denim and dramatically reshaping the back to be more of a tulip, but eventually went for the Cashmerette Ellis. I said in my sewing plans that I was a bit sceptical about the apple/pear differential, but went ahead and purchased it on two grounds: one, I wasn't sure I could take any more failures and Cashmerette has always fit me fairly reliably; and two, the line art showed the skirt noticeably tapering in towards the hem, which seemed like it would go some way to curing my butt-cape issue.

And look! It's wearable! That sounds like damning with faint praise, but every other denim skirt I have made has been worn out of the house once and then thrown away when I get back. There are certainly a couple of adjustments that I could make to this pattern, but they're quite minor and, crucially, won't stop me wearing this version as part of my normal wardrobe.

I normally make a size 12 waist in Cashmerette, but went for a 14 this time. My smallest part is very high on my waist, higher up than I would normally wear a skirt, so I thought it'd be safer to size up. For future versions (which I will make) I would size down in the back but not the front as I have a tiny bit of gaping at my back waist. I cut between 16 and 18 in the hips, and that was too big (you can see it's giving me wrinkles). Next time I'll go to 16 or a bit smaller. I bought 2m of this denim and the skirt uses 1m of it, so I'm going to make a second version with the fit adjustments I've detailed here and report back on how it works.

I also shortened the skirt by about an inch and a half, which is pretty standard for me; I think I'm an inch or two taller than the height Cashmerette drafts for but I tend to prefer my mini skirts to be a little shorter.

This skirt does not give me butt-cape (finally!) but I would prefer it to taper in slightly more. On future versions I'll either taper the back panels in more, or just size down and do a full butt adjustment. I've never done one before but I probably ought to start. Also next time I will use a slightly shorter zip. The pattern calls for a 7" zip but I had a good inch or so of my zip hanging outside the fly extension. I would probably use a 6" in the future, as that's what the fly extension measures.

You will notice that I did not do the contrast topstitching. I did some of the topstitching in navy, but I am not precise enough for nice-looking topstitching and the denim was super bulky (I thought I'd bought the same stuff I used for my last attempt, but this was both darker and bulkier) so it definitely wasn't the best time to start. It's on my list of things to practice, though, and I will make a topstitched version at some point. Almost all of my seams are flat-felled (the pocket lining is French seamed); the pattern calls for a zig-zag stitch or overlocking to finish, but I'm really not interested in a denim garment that's not flat-felled.

I'm wearing it with the Closet Case Patterns Nettie bodysuit from my spring plans. Normally I make a separate post for all my planned garments even if they're repeats, but I genuinely can't think of anything else I could possibly say about this. I wasn't convinced about this fabric as it isn't what I thought it was going to be when I ordered it, but I actually don't hate the way this looks on me and I've worn it a fair bit over the few weeks since I made it.

In conclusion: yes, something has FINALLY worked. I will definitely make more of these, probably in some form of needlecord. I saw a really pretty gold printed one last week that I've been struggling not to buy ever since, but I really need to clear another 20 metres or so out of my stash before I buy anything else. Ugh, the trials of living in London and having zero space to put anything. Our ceiling repair is finally getting finished this week and I'm going to attempt to use all the moving stuff around as an opportunity to KonMari my living space a bit. Possibly my sewing patterns also. I've definitely got at least a dozen that need to go but I never get round to it because we don't have any charity shops (or shops in general) anywhere within easy walking distance. I need to get a grip, though, because I'm not going to stop buying shiny new patterns any time soon! 

Ellis skirt

Fabric: Indigo stretch denim from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £10
Pattern details: Straight/slightly tapered skirt with two views: classic jean skirt with topstitching and front slit, and simpler mini skirt with diagonal pockets
Size: 14 waist, between 16-18 hip
Alterations: Hem shortened slightly, contrast topstitching omitted
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday, 25 March 2019

those things from Walthamstow: fabric haul and plea for suggestions

Hi! I had every intention of putting this post up last week, but then our flat developed a leak directly over the bed, which our landlord was confusingly reluctant to fix. So rather than writing posts and taking photos, the whole week was rather consumed with plumbers, arguing, and trying to find ways to get some sleep. Fortunately my new favourite person the Really Pushy Maintenance Guy found a way to bypass our letting agency and browbeat the landlord directly, so we now have a brand new pipe, a temporary ceiling, and the mental space to think about lovely shiny fabrics. Yay!

In my spring plans I talked about Those Things from Walthamstow, fabric I'd bought because it was bargainous and beautiful without any real idea what I was going to do with it, and more than one person suggested to me that maybe I could actually share what Those Things are. Which is obviously an excellent idea because then I can crib suggestions off of helpful passers-by.

I've photographed all the fabrics to the best of my ability, and I've made notes on fibre, weight, drape etc, as well as colour when the photo isn't quite accurate. I've also included a couple of non-Walthamstow (i.e. much more expensive) fabrics at the end because they've been hanging around for ages and I'd love to get some ideas.


(Please excuse wrinkles. Because of my storage constraints everything in my stash gets wrinkled; I promise I'm going to iron it all before I use it.)

This is a wool twill, it's beautiful, and it's the piece that's been in my stash the longest. When I bought it I think I intended it to become another bomber jacket or similar cropped unlined thing for summer, but quickly realised that this brick/terracotta colour, gorgeous though it is, matches literally none of the things I might have paired it with. That was over a year ago, and though I pick up and think about this fabric regularly, I haven't been able to think of a single alternative. All I know is that it deserves to be a cool, everyday statement-type piece. I'm a bit concerned about making a dress with it as I think it could go twee quite easily, and I can't pull off twee. I have 2m of it 140cm wide.


This is a crepe, somewhere between emerald and forest green (much greener and more saturated in real life but my camera, as ever, refuses to accurately record any shade of green in existence), and it's definitely less precious than everything else. It probably wouldn't be on the list at all except that it's an actually nice green and WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO FIND. I was actually looking for a much darker green crepe to make a pair of trousers, but I bought this anyway because I will always buy fabric in a nice shade of green unless it feels really awful. It's quite a spongy crepe; not quite right for trousers and definitely not right for a dress, so the only thing I can think of is a jumpsuit. Which jumpsuit I have no idea; I don't have any patterns appropriate for mid-weight wovens. I have 2.5m, 140cm wide.


This is a really lovely mustard and bronze viscose with a good bit of weight to it, and it's the second lot of it I've bought. I used the first bit trying to make a pair of Victory Patterns Esther/Megan Nielsen Flint mash-up trousers, somehow got it super wrong, and ended up with ones that are completely skintight over my backside. No idea how I managed that. The guy still had some more so I bought another piece, which has sat there ever since. Admittedly a large part of the problem here is that I'm paralysed by the fear of messing this same fabric up a second time, but also I legitimately don't know how this print would work best on me. I feel like I'd prefer a maxidress or jumpsuit to just remaking a pair of drapey trousers, but I'm worried the colour and print would be overwhelming on me head to toe. Maybe if I could find a sufficiently streamlined but not tight maxi pattern. I have 3m, 140cm wide.


This is a viscose twill and it's not my usual style at all, but it feels beautiful. I went over my budget to buy it because I just couldn't stop touching it. I can't even describe how perfect it is, it's one of the loveliest substrates I've ever encountered. I know it needs to be a skirt, but I cannot get any further than that. I can see it working for almost any style of skirt, which doesn't really help me to narrow it down. I have 2.5m, 140cm wide.


This is a sweater knit and it is bonkers. It's two metre-long panels of poppies and turquoise, and I couldn't just leave it in the shop but equally I don't have the first clue what to make from this. How would cutting this even work? I will take literally any suggestions on this one, including "there is absolutely no garment you can reasonably make with this, here's a link to a tutorial on turning sweater knit into a wall hanging".


This is the same sweater knit in a different print, and I can't work out what to do with this either. I thought this one would be easy, but the flowers are just SO HUGE that I can't get past potential pattern placement issues. I think it should be a dress because the flowers would be disproportionate on a top, but as to what dress... no idea.

And two bonus items I thought I'd sneak in:


This is a 3m cut of silk I bought in Shaukat the one time I went there. I still think it's absolutely gorgeous, but it is also a) see-through, b) very narrow, and c) definitely brown. That combination of things rules out almost anything I might think to do with the fabric. People usually suggest some variation of kimono-sleeve jacket when I ask them about this, and I get why but please trust me when I say that a long-sleeved brown garment is horrific on me 100% of the time. I've thought of a skirt but it would need a shorter opaque underlayer, and that's hard to do without it looking weird. Maybe I should just make a fully-lined Anna dress and be done with it.


This is a really amazing quality barkcloth and it's one of the few pieces of fabric I actively regret buying. I bought it because I loved this fabric so much and wanted to make another dress in the same stuff, but this was the only other print they did and in retrospect I did not love it enough to pay £50 for two metres. I intended this to be a Yoyo dress, and I know now that it will never be a Yoyo dress (partly because I can't get the fit right enough to make into a dress that expensive, partly because I've just gone off the idea of a Yoyo dress in this fabric). I haven't had one single other good idea for what to do with it. Help? I have 2m, in one 1.5m piece and one 50cm piece.

Please do share any thoughts you have on any of these. I'm not going to make anything that buttons up or anything with the word "blouse" in it, but beyond that I would be really grateful for any ideas anyone might have. I don't like having an overflowing stash and I really want all of these pieces to become clothes I actually wear and like, preferably within the year. I'm excited to hear what you think!

Since my last post I've managed to complete several new patterns to a standard I'm comfortable sharing, so I just have to decide what order I'm going to post them. I'm in a bit of a strange place both health and sewing-wise at the moment, so apologies in advance if I get all rambling and introspective on you!

Monday, 11 March 2019

spring sewing: the wrap skirt wardrobe malfunction test

The idea of making a wrap skirt has been rattling around in the back of my head for a while. In the summer I wear maxi length almost exclusively and you all know I love a wrap anything, so it seemed like a no-brainer, especially when I realised I was sitting on four pieces of fabric that all wanted to be wrap skirts. But I kept putting it off, because I wanted to find an actually interesting pattern. I know I could cut some rectangles, add some ties to the end and be done, but that's not what I wanted. I wanted something with a bit of actual design to it, and nobody seemed to be making those. 

This is McCalls 7606, and I'm not sure it's the one. 

This pattern is for an off-the-shoulder or cold-shoulder bodysuit (which I may make if I'm bored one day) and this shaped wrap skirt, with or without hem ruffles. I wasn't sure this was what I wanted but it was literally the only one I could find with any interest to it whatsoever. Everything else looked like it came from a WikiHow article using only two measurements and a ruler, which I'm not saying is a bad look but I am saying I wouldn't pay eight quid for. 

The fabric is a viscose from Fabric Land, a gift from my mother. I love the colours (I think I actually look better in red and purple but I'd much rather wear peacock shades) but I didn't spend enough time with the fabric before I decided it had to be a wrap skirt. When I came to cut it out, I realised that a) the print went vertically and not horizontally as I'd originally thought and b) it was super narrow so I couldn't just cut the whole thing on the cross-grain. As a result it doesn't look quite like I'd envisioned it and it definitely suffers from that. I wanted a fairly sleek skirt but I'm now wondering if I should have added the ruffles anyway just to make it a bit more interesting. 

The most important thing, obviously, was the obligatory Wardrobe Malfunction Test. So I broke out my favourite pair of chub rub shorts, which I got in Sainsbury's about ten years ago and have never been able to replace. They're falling apart now, so I really need to start working on making some myself, but they won't be as perfect as these ones GAAAAHHH. Anyway, I put them on and went for the briefest walk I could possibly plan, bearing in mind what happened last time I did one of these tests. 

And... yes, malfunctions occurred. I think it's a combination of how light and easily disturbed this fabric is, the small amount of overlap at the waist and the curve at the front. Any two out of the three and it might have been alright, but as it was things definitely got precarious every time there was a slight breeze. If I were going to remake this skirt I'd definitely go up a few sizes to get more overlap at the front; due to the way the curve is cut I wouldn't even lose that much leg, I don't think. 

(This top is the black Nettie bodysuit I'd originally intended to make for my winter plans. It is one of the best and most useful things I have ever made and I have worn it to goddamn death this last two months. Not having to worry about tops riding up makes getting dressed so much easier and it's enabled me to get wear out of clothes that had just been sitting sadly in my wardrobe for months. I love it. I'm seriously considering buying more fabric and making two more identical ones so that wearing it as often as I do is a bit less gross.)

I will probably not be wearing this skirt, which is a shame. For an easy summer skirt I'm not that bothered about it not looking quite how I'd imagined (the colours carry it sufficently, I think), but the potential for malfunction is too great. I'd just never be able to relax. Maybe if we end up going on a beach or beach-adjacent holiday this year I'll take it with me as a swimsuit cover-up, and it'll probably be useful around the house if we get another super-hot summer. What I definitely will not be doing is making the three further versions I'd intended on if this one worked. I have three fabrics currently in my stash that have decided they want to be wrap skirts, and I don't know what I'm going to do with them now. Someone must have an interesting take on a wrap skirt, surely?

Up next: probably a Walthamstow fabric post. I've had a run of failures lately and it's been super demotivating (and unhelpfully timed). I will eventually get round to taking photos and posting about them, but I'm not in that place yet. Fabric talk and crowd sourcing ideas it is!

Monday, 4 March 2019

sewing plans: spring 2019

My winter plan went surprisingly smoothly. There were a couple of failures, sure, but everything I planned for at least got attempted and I was finished by the end of January. My only annoyance is that the M7626 trousers didn't work well enough for me to finally get my yellow pair. Sigh.

I've been worrying about this post basically since December. Historically my spring plans have been the least cohesive and had the least stuff made from them, and dressing for spring is such a headache. It's cold enough for tights but it feels weird to wear them, traditional "spring colours" don't suit me at all, and my summer clothes don't really lend themselves to being layered up. I really hate that Me Made May is in spring because I'm sure my clothes look much better the other three seasons of the year (though maybe I just think that because I'm not taking outfit photos every day and can ignore that I'm wearing the same five things on a loop, who knows). Looking at last year's photos I seem to have four spring modes: wearing autumn clothes and feeling unseasonal, wearing autumn clothes without tights and feeling uncomfortable, wearing summer clothes and feeling self-conscious (and/or cold) and wearing summer clothes with awkwardly-matched layers. This year I would like to not do that, so I'm going to plan with that in mind.

Colour-wise, my wardrobe needs a bit of variety. Last year I made a lot of black basics to wear with bolder pieces, but my Instagram almost-daily outfit photos show that I'm not doing that and am just living in black, blue and grey. They're nice outfits, but they are colour-limited in a way that I don't wish to be. So this time I have mostly green and yellow fabrics, and most of my plans are for separates.

Also I recently did a fabric inventory and YIKES I have way too much fabric relative to the space I have to keep it in. There are a couple of things I really want for spring that I don't have the fabric for, so I left those on here, but I removed several things from my original draft that would have required me to buy more stuff. Ideally I'd like to reduce my fabric stash by about a quarter over the next three months, with the eventual goal of getting everything to fit in the box, so I've divided my plans based on fabric acquisition and dedicated the last part to stashbusting.

Let's go!

Plans I have the fabric for

A maxi wrap skirt

I've often thought about making a maxi skirt but never actually done it (assuming we aren't counting that time I bought a piece of pre-shirred fabric, sewed the two cut edges together and called it a skirt). A long skirt that I could wear with long-sleeved tops would grant me a lot more versatility than just putting my suede Lupin jacket on over every summer outfit I own and repeating "pale pink suede goes with everything" on a loop. I mean, don't get me wrong, it kind of does go with everything, but that gets a little dull after a while. My mother bought me a piece of yellow/green/blue printed viscose (when in doubt, return to the peacock colours) and I'd like to make it into a wrap skirt. I've bought McCalls 7606 and I'm going to give that a try. Actually I got slightly ahead of myself, so I finished the skirt before I made the post... tune in next week for more exciting "did this wrap cause a wardrobe malfunction?" content!

An olive Nettie bodysuit

The Nettie pattern 100% won me over. Tops ride up on me so easily and it's made a huge difference to my comfort levels not having to think about that. I ordered fabric for a third one a few months ago, then put it aside because it looked very different from the photo and I was disappointed. On the website it looked like an antique gold with an embossed-effect leaf and sunflower print, but in person it's definitely a very yellow olive and the sunflowers are clearly brown tie dye. It's still not my favourite (I've seen it used in a few Instagram posts encouraging people to join in with 1970s week on the Great British Sewing Bee and the 70s are far from my usual jam) but now that a bit of time has passed I think I'm going to make it anyway; it's a very unusual colour for me but since I don't already know I hate it I might as well try it, right?

A pair of green trousers

I bought the Sew Over It Sara dungarees pattern when it came out, not because I had the remotest interest in making the dungarees but because the trouser portion looked like the exact most flattering shape for my body. It's not the most fashionable shape but sometimes I just want to feel like my legs are nine feet long. Also I remember the Ultimate Trousers being a fairly good fit once I modified the darts and I'm hoping these will be the same except with an actual waistband and therefore much less annoying. My trial version is going to be made of a moss green crepe, which I like enough to wear a lot if it works but not enough to cry if they're unwearable.

A mustard jersey dress

I debated delaying this one because it feels like more of an autumn thing, but I am in sore need of long-sleeved jersey dresses and it's definitely going to be cold for a while yet. I haven't picked a pattern yet; my original plan was to try and turn the Deer&Doe Magnolia into more of a day dress, but I'm less certain of that right now. I feel like it shouldn't be that difficult to find a go-to pullover jersey dress, and yet I don't have any patterns with both sleeves and a waist seam that I care to remake. Somewhere within the next three months I will find a solution to this.

A sports bra

This is going to be a bit of a punt. I'd sworn off the idea of bra-making because it's so fiddly and needs so many specialist supplies (and a bra that fits even a tiny bit wrong just takes over my whole day and makes me extra grumpy), but a sports bra seems way less fiddly and also would let me wear something with cool straps. Also I only have one sports bra and Patrick calls it "Jen's unattractive sports bra", so there's that. I got some blue-purple spandex in Abakhan that I'm going to use for the first go, possibly with a grey contrast if I feel like it, and following a recommendation on the Curvy Sewing Collective I'm going to try the Greenstyle Creations power sports bra (one of the strappy versions).

A denim skirt

I am going to have yet another go at this, and what I'm thinking of doing this time is picking a straight or A line skirt pattern and reshaping the side seams to be a little more tulip-shaped (or, possibly, just grafting the back panel of my tulip skirt onto the front panel of something without waist pleats). I haven't settled on a pattern yet, but I don't think it will be the Ness again as that fits me very strangely and would need a fair bit of alteration before we even get to reshaping the skirt. I might try the Cashmerette Ellis skirt, which seems like it should be just the thing but I'm a bit sceptical of the 1 inch difference between the apple and the pear fits.

Plans I don't have the fabric for but are quite important

A weekend bag

Last year I said I wanted to try making a weekend bag, but then I looked at some proper handbag patterns and freaked out about how much hardware they all seemed to take. A few people I follow have made the Grainline Portside travel set recently and I think I'll be doing the same. I've never used Grainline before (all the garment patterns seem pretty shapeless for quite a lot of money, though when I mentioned this at a sewing meet-up I had four women simultaneously give me dirty looks and yell BUT THE DRAFTING IS REALLY GOOD at me, which frankly didn't endear me) but it's a nice-looking set of bags and doesn't appear to need more than a few extraneous bits. I think I know one of the fabrics I want, but haven't settled on a colour to match it yet.

A light knee-length spring coat

I considered jettisoning this from my list, but it really is the thing that would make the biggest difference to my spring wardrobe. Once it gets too warm for my big wool coat I get a bit lost and end up trying to coordinate most of my outfits around a cropped jacket, and it would be nice to have something I could just throw on instead. Unless I get a better idea it's going to be the Victory Patterns Ulysses trench coat, and I'm still undecided about colour. In my head it's quite a bright blue-green, but I know how annoying that is to find, so I might be persuaded in any direction that isn't dark or neutral.

A first-ever shirt experiment

I want to plan in one big 2019 project per season and this is where I'm going to start. I think it's the best one to begin with because it's not for me and doesn't have any body image or fitting-related baggage to accompany it, so I can just focus on the techniques. I'm going to seek out a very classic shirt pattern for my first try before I attempt all the double-cuffed fancy stuff Patrick eventually wants (cufflinks are to him what earrings are to me). Any recommendations gratefully received!


Jersey offcuts

I have a bunch of different jerseys between 0.7m and 1.5m in length that I either picked up at remnant sales or had left over from a previous garment (why is it that when I buy 2m of a fabric I don't have any patterns that will fit on it, but when I buy 3m I have a bunch left over? Grrr). By the end of the season I want to have used or donated all of them, and I don't want to panic and end up making a dozen cropped sweaters. Only one of them is at all precious to me - a black and grey swirled sweater knit that I know will be my favourite thing in the world if I can find the right shaped top - so I may as well experiment with everything else. T-shirts, weird bodysuits, underwear, whatever I feel like trying. There will be at least one cropped sweater, though, I'm still me.

Those things from Walthamstow

This may seem like a vague category, but it's actually very specific. I always go to Walthamstow Market with a very defined list of what I need, and I always come back with about half that stuff and something else that I don't have a clue what to do with, but was really cool and also only £6 so it would have been a crime to just leave it there. I'm currently sitting on more than half a dozen of these, because I like them too much to accidentally use them for the wrong garment. I don't think I'm going to get through all of them, but I'm aiming to use two and have plans for the others (even if that plan is to give it to someone else).

This felt like a small plan when I was writing it, but having added the stashbusting stuff it's probably bigger than usual. The success of my winter sewing and the fact that my therapist asks if I've sewn and what I've made every single week gives me hope that I can do it.

Monday, 25 February 2019

three versions of the Ruska dress (Breaking the Pattern)

I pre-ordered Named's first book basically as soon as I could find somewhere other than Amazon taking pre-orders. I ended up getting the book several weeks before its official release date (I saw a few people talking about this so I think there must have been a miscommunication somewhere), and at first read-through I didn't think I'd actually end up making anything. I just couldn't imagine any of the garments working with my aesthetic or my body.

However, I eventually decided that since I owned the book I really ought to try something out. I went with the one that appealed to me most, the Ruska knot dress. I was not at all sure about it, but I always have that problem when presented with a beige sample garment.

Much to my surprise, this is great. I was fully prepared for it to look awful on me, but it actually works perfectly. The fabric is of course from Walthamstow and it could not be better for this pattern. It's on the lighter side of medium weight and has a great balance between holding shape and draping.

The main reason I thought I might hate this is that it's almost impossible to tell from the finished photos what kind of fit they're going for. It looks pretty straight up and down, but is it designed to have a boxier fit or is that just the model's shape? Since the pattern is also a T-shirt and tunic pattern, I thought it was more likely to be the former. But it's not! The T-shirt and tunic have separate, straighter pattern pieces, and the dress has a substantial amount of curve in the waist-hip area, even before I started drawing wild lines across three sizes.

I cut the hips a couple of inches bigger than measurements dictated because I was really worried about clinging, but I really didn't need to do that. It doesn't make much difference in this fabric, but as you'll see shortly, in a heavier fabric it's noticeably too much.

The one issue I had was the neckline. This is an issue I have with Named in general - almost all of their patterns have super-high necks (unless they're strappy, or are trousers) and I've never thought that worked for me. The book only has one variation of one pattern where the neckline isn't right up at the throat. I decided to give this one a try anyway, balked a little when I sewed the ends of the neckband together and realised I'd have to stretch the fabric to almost its full capacity to get it over my head, then decided to leave the neckband until I was able to try on the dress. The neckline as drafted did not suit me at all and I made a few attempts at scooping it out before I realised the problem wasn't the depth, it was the width. Everything I've ever made from Named has a neckline that starts exactly where my neck ends, with no hint of shoulder, and in most things I make from them it's fine. But more than once now I've tried to make a T-shirt with one of their patterns and I find myself staring at this massive lumbering wall of shoulder. I don't even have wide shoulders but it looks really off proportionally. (I went back to read my Selja tee review while writing this; I still wear that T-shirt for exercise and think about how much shoulder I have every time, but I'd completely forgotten that I'd actually already attempted to alter the neckline. God knows what it looked like before!)

I couldn't tell you with any real accuracy how much I cut down the neck on this one. I didn't have another pattern's neckline immediately to hand so I just cut bits off and tried the dress back on each time. I really like how it looks now - I don't think a scoop neck would have worked here, but with a bit of extra room at the sides I don't feel like I'm entirely composed of shoulder and despair. (If Shoulder and Despair wasn't a furious emo band in the early 2000s, someone really slipped up somewhere.)

I'm really happy with this dress. It's incredibly comfortable and I think I'm going to be able to wear it pretty much anywhere. It works with or without tights, so it might be one of those rare all-year-round dresses too. It also feels oddly familiar to me - maybe I used to have a jersey dress in a similar fabric, but I have to actively remind myself that this is a new dress and not an old favourite I've been reunited with. It's a little trippy, actually.

Buoyed by the success of this version, I decided to take a risk.

I got this ABSOLUTELY AMAZING rainbow foil sweater knit on my most recent Abakhan trip. I have a "no buying fabric without a specific garment in mind" rule in effect right now and this did not meet it at all, but I bought it anyway without a second thought. When I got it home I started to worry; I couldn't imagine any way to put seams into this print, nor could I imagine any one-piece-front pattern that would look good on me. But the first Ruska worked so well that I found myself wondering whether this was finally my route to the mythical attractive-looking T-shirt dress. I talked myself into it by reasoning that I had three metres of this stuff, so I could easily use 1.5m for a trial version and if there was even a starting point of workability I could remake the whole thing no problem. If it was hideous, I could scrap the whole idea and just make some sort of jumper with the remainder. Once again I was fully prepared to hate it, and once again I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm in two minds about whether to remake this version. The extra room I added at the hips gives me noticeable fabric hip wings in this heavier fabric, and so far I've not been successful in removing them. I also think it's maybe a tiny bit too short and in need of a slightly different neckline. This fabric didn't work as a neckband, so I didn't use one, meaning it's not quite the shape I had in mind. I've worn this out quite happily already - it's an amazing low effort/high impact dress and it's super comfortable - but there is a chance that I'll cut this one down to T-shirt length and remake the dress with a few alterations.

Buoyed by success yet again, I made this:

This dress was made with a very specific intent. Quite a lot of the projects I make and the way that I plan them are to work with or around my mental disorders, and I keep a fairly close eye on the way my sewing and my clothes impact my mood and state of mind. Getting properly dressed in nice clothes is something that definitely helps me, but sometimes sensory issues and mental blocks mean I end up just sitting in a pile of clothes on the floor going nopenopenope and then nothing gets done all day. One of the things that always gets in the way here is the waist seam. For some reason when I'm in this state I cannot stand them. I don't want skirts or trousers on, and I can't cope with a dress that has a waist seam even when it's fairly loose. Just the fact that it's there upsets me. I wore the SOI Heather dress a lot for the first few months after I made it for this reason, but it was also quite unflattering, which made me feel worse. So what I wanted was a pullover jumper dress with no waist seam that I could wear around the house but was pulled together enough that if I suddenly got a burst of energy I could just get up and go run errands in it.

This ponte is another Walthamstow find. It's super thick and soft and is so comforting to wear. I put it on, was pleased at how comfortable it was, then went to look in a full-length mirror and was surprised to see that I probably could have worn it to an office job without raising eyebrows on anyone.

I didn't cut the extra hip room for this one, and it fits much better (yet still doesn't cling to my stomach). I used the long sleeves, which don't come with cuffs but I added some anyway, partly to match the neckband and partly to bring the sleeves in at the wrists a little bit. This dress is possibly my favourite of the three; it fits well, it's extra snuggly, and I'm going to wear it to death if it's even slightly cold. 

I will definitely make more of these. I need to do some tweaking to the shape for different fabrics, but it's just SO EASY. The last two dresses took me less than an hour each to make, and only need 1.5m of fabric. Whether I will make much more from the book remains to be seen, and probably will depend heavily on how easy it is to change the necklines.

Ruska knit dress

Fabric: Between 1.5 and 2m each of Mid-weight jersey from Walthamstow // Rainbow foil printed on sweater knit from Abakhan // Thick ponte from Walthamstow
Cost: £4 // £12 // £4
Pattern details: Knit dress pattern with four views: simple knit dress with side vents, shorter dress with knotted overlay, hip-length tunic, T-shirt
Size: 6 at the shoulders out to an 8 at the hips (this is the book's sizing, not normal sizes, FYI, I'm not a size 6)
Alterations: Neckline widened and lowered, skirt length varied, cuffs added for long sleeves
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Up next: My spring plans on Thursday, and then I'm not sure. My mental health has very much inserted itself between me and the sewing machine these past couple of weeks, so we'll have to see what I come up with!