Monday, 18 September 2017

autumn sewing: my triumphant peacock Sewaholic Minoru

Fair warning going into this post: this jacket is one of my favourite things I've ever made, so this is going to be a pretty gushy review. Second warning: because it is now autumn, I was suffering a horrendous cold when I took these pictures, so my eyes have puffed away into nothingness. They do that.


I am so pleased with this. The fact that I made this myself makes me feel like some sort of wizard. Even people who know I make everything don't realise I made this. 

The Sewaholic Minoru is one of those patterns that I've liked for a long time but could never quite see how it would fit into my wardrobe. (I don't think the orange sample garment helps; orange and slightly puffy just reminds me of lifeboats, and lifeboats aren't particularly my aesthetic.) I hadn't thought about for it ages until I saw this Liberty print laminated cotton on Dragonfly Fabrics, and then I knew immediately that the two had to go together. 

From the picture on the website, I was expecting the fabric to be the black and white colourway, which was the only one I knew of at the time because my boyfriend has a mug in that print. Since I bought this fabric we've also got duvet covers in the yellow colourway, because we are terrible influences on each other and really ought to be stopped. I was surprised that it turned out to be this blue, but I'm actually glad; this fits in with my other clothes much better. 

(This is a stupid picture. Just go with it.)

The thing I love most about Sewaholic patterns is how thoughtful they are (excepting the Cordova, which I didn't really care for). They're designed by someone with serious patternmaking chops who really thought about details that would be useful and practical as well as ones that would look attractive, and the end product is designed to look completely professional. I miss Tasia, though I completely get why she might have quit and I'm glad she's sewing again. 

 The jacket is just below hip length, with raglan sleeves, an elasticated waist and cuffs, interior patch pockets, a wide collar, and a hood that can be rolled up and zipped away. All raw edges are enclosed apart from the centre seam of the hood, and the sewalong tells you how to line the hood if you want that one hidden away too. It doesn't come with outer pockets but I added some anyway, because any outerwear intended for adverse weather is functionally useless to me if I can't shove a pair of gloves in the pockets and then forget they're there. I did consider adding welt pockets to the front pieces, but I couldn't find a way to position them that didn't look weird with the print, so I just freehanded a fairly wide and deep pocket piece and stuck it in the side seams about 1.5" below the waist elastic.


I've never worked with laminated cotton before, and I found it to be a massive pain in the arse. It was all going fine until it came to sewing the front plackets, and The Gnome just was not having it. The fabric wouldn't feed through normally, and I had to cycle through all kinds of stunts, including literally operating the machine by hand, to get through the seams and the topstitching. As a result my topstitching is definitely not the prettiest, but for the most part it's not wonky either, so unless you get super close it's not really noticeable. 

I decided to follow the sewalong on the Sewaholic site, which was a good decision. I didn't necessarily need all of the extra detail, but there were a fair few helpful bits which aren't included with the pattern instructions, such as how to get neat corners on the internal pockets and how to attach the cuffs to the lining by machine. The latter took me a while to get my head round, but I'm so pleased that it worked. I hate slipstitching cuffs (as per the patterns instructions) because I nearly always manage to catch a stitch on something and pull it out. No, I don't know how either, but it makes me feel so much better to know that the stitching is neatly tucked away on the inside. 

And now, a few flat shots:

The hood comes out of a zipped pocket along the collar...

...and rolls away like this. This makes the collar slightly padded, but not in any way lumpy and weird unless you just shove it in willy-nilly like I did the first time. Lesson: don't do that. Roll it up. It's much easier. 

The interior patch pockets are meant to close with Velcro, but sewing Velcro onto this stupid laminated fabric was not a thing that was going to happen, so I don't have closures on mine. I don't think I'll need them, but I can always go back and hand-sew a popper in if I change my mind. 

You can also see here that the waist elastic runs from inner pocket to inner pocket, creating shaping at the back without disturbing the pattern in the front. 

The pattern also comes with a hanging loop, which is exactly the kind of practical detail I get excited about. (I know it's an easy enough thing to add in myself, but I always forget if it's not written into the instructions.)

Cuffs! With no slipstitching!

I am going to get a hell of a lot of wear out of this. Depending on how cold winter is this year, it might well work for three out of four seasons. Historically most of my outerwear has been aggressively neutral (my purple coat was actually quite a departure for me, as all my RTW jackets and coats were/are black, grey and navy), but this is making me think things like "maybe I should have a BRIGHT YELLOW COAT" and "maybe I should dress like a literal peacock feather and have a massive hat with fringe all over it" which is why I'm not allowed to think things. 

But this? This is great. One of my top five projects of all time, easily. 

Extremely justified smugface!

Monday, 11 September 2017

autumn sewing: Vanessa Pouzet Wanted top

Time to get started with the things I actually planned to make. First up, a basic: the Vanessa Pouzet Wanted top. I had literally never heard of Vanessa Pouzet until about a month ago, and then I watched a bunch of sewing vlogs one afternoon and three out of the first four I watched were making her patterns. Ah, the little bubbles the sewing community gets into.

I wanted to start here because I am so short on tops. I don't actually wear several of the ones I do have because they don't quite fit properly or don't really go with anything, and I have to keep going to back to old RTW T-shirts that look like afterthoughts. This is the main thing about my wardrobe that I'd like to fix in the coming months, but it's really difficult to find patterns that meet my requirements. 98% of patterns for tops are either super-long with all the design in the lower part, massive, or designed with exceptionally stupid sleeves. I just wanted fitted jersey tops that can be worn at my natural waistline, but it's been a struggle to find anything that isn't just a basic T-shirt. So when I saw this top with a cool neckline, I jumped on it immediately, ignoring the bit where my French is almost non-existent these days. 

This fabric was a panic-buy for Mum's Kielo when I started to worry that time was running out, and I knew even as I was buying it that it wasn't going to work. I didn't really think it would work for me either, but decided to use it to make a wearable toile of this top rather than cutting straight into the sweater knit I'd bought for it. I never would have looked twice at this colour, but much to my surprise I actually think it looks great on me and it goes with almost every colour of skirt that I own. Apple green: who knew? 

I found the top pretty simple to construct without needing to refer to the written instructions at all. The diagrams were clear enough for the neckband, and that's the only bit that differs from making a standard T-shirt. It takes a tiny bit longer but I still had this sewn up within the hour. My main concern had been that the wide square neckline would fall off my fairly narrow shoulders, but as you can see it's perfectly fine. So I went on to make my black sweater version. 

(I took the photo above and the photo below literally two minutes apart, and the sun moved, so despite the fact that I still have the remains of what passes for a tan on me thanks to my holiday, my face is suddenly blinding white like a Goth album cover. I apologise for any damage this does to your eyes.)

This version, annoyingly, does fall off my shoulders a bit because the fabric is so much stretchier. I could do without the hints of bra strap but I don't think it'll stop me wearing it because it is SO comfortable. The fabric's also quite thin but not so prone to riding up, which will make it super versatile for my wardrobe. Normally I can't wear longer tops with my really high-waisted skirts because it creates a load of unnecessary bulk (tucking in does not work on me unless the top is only slightly longer than my natural waist or is so long that I'm literally just wearing a skirt over a dress. Anything else will ride right up and create a very attractive lump below my waistband), and if I cut all my tops super cropped I have nothing suitable to wear with trousers. This I can wear with both, which is great. 

I really like this neckline. The square shape is flattering and takes it out of "boring-ass T-shirt" territory quite effectively. I do think that in the future I'd make the back neckband a little bit shorter as it doesn't lie quite as flat as I'd like. It's so rare that the neckband pieces that come with patterns are the right size that I'm planning to start ignoring them completely and just measuring the pieces out myself. 

If you have a favourite not-just-a-T-shirt fitted top pattern, please do comment and let me know! This one and the Givre from my last post brings me up to a grand total of two, and while I will make more of both, that's going to get a bit stale sooner rather than later, and I'd love to have a bit more variety to fall back on. Functional wardrobes!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Givre me one reason to stay here...

(You thought I was done with the convoluted music puns? NOPE.)

Yeah, I know, first post of the autumn and it's something that wasn't on my list at all. But there is a reason for that.

Last month I got an email from Camille at Deer and Doe, asking if I'd be interested in an advance copy of one of their new patterns in exchange for photos and a review. I've never been approached about this kind of thing before and applying to be a "pattern tester" has never interested me, but I really like all four of the Deer and Doe patterns I've previously tried and I respect them as a company, so I said yes. The pattern they sent me is not one I would have bought if I'd seen it for sale, but since it was free I thought it would be a good opportunity to try a Thing That Might Not Work (you know, like I said I was going to do in my 2017 resolutions and then didn't really). And here it is:

This is the Givre, a knee-length jersey bodycon dress, with three-quarter sleeves and a contrast yoke in view A and sleeveless with a scoop neck in view B. I was a bit nervous about this, because I do not wear bodycon dresses. From the front, I like to show my natural body shape and have clothes fit fairly close to my hips. From the side, not so much. I have a fairly sizeable pot belly and I do not like wearing clothes that cling to it. Dresses which mould themselves to the underside of my abdomen make me incredibly self-conscious, and stupid as it sounds I find it hard to concentrate on anything besides that if I notice that it's happening. With that and my general wardrobe preferences in mind, I decided to make view A as a mini, size up in the hips and use a thicker fabric. The pattern calls for light to medium weight jersey with at least 50% stretch, so I bought a sweater knit from Fabrics Galore that was stretchy and not too heavy, but would also be less likely to do upsetting things than a drapey viscose jersey. To make it a mini I cut the pattern at the length line for the smallest size, and this was probably slightly too short. It was perfect until I realised I had to hem it. D'oh.

(This was first thing in the morning and as flat as I get. Give me a slouchy chair and a bowl of pasta and it's the widest point on my entire body. It's not the best.)

I cut a 44 in the shoulders, 46 in the bust and waist, and 52 in the hips. As I said, I do actually like my massive hips, but they do make for some weird-shaped pattern pieces. The dress came together very easily in a couple of hours, and is as well-drafted as Deer and Doe patterns always are. The pattern pieces have a fair amount of shape in them rather than relying on the jersey to do all the fitting work, which is what I've seen in a few other patterns, so the final garment is actually fitted to me rather than just stretched over me.

My absolute favourite thing about it is the neckline and skinny neckband. I've often not been quite happy with the way neckbands look on me (unless I've done something deliberate with it, like my stripy Vogue dress), but I've never really thought about why until I tried this dress on, looked in the mirror, and thought, "Wow, that neckline looks great." I think this looks way more professional than the wider neckbands, and I'm quite possibly going to alter all the neckband pattern pieces I currently have. I also think the proportion of the neckline itself is perfect. 

I think this dress is killer, but it remains to be seen how much I'll wear it. Even going up a hip size it's still a bodycon dress and it still clings. I can't tell you now whether I'll become comfortable enough with that to wear it outside regularly (as a dress, anyway. Because it's bodycon and I shortened it, I can easily wear it as a top under most of my skirts). But I'm not completely ruling it out because I love the way this looks from the front, and it's a great autumn dress. We'll see how much my confidence behaves as the weather gets cooler. If it turns out that I do wear it, I'll definitely be making another. 

Either way, I will definitely be making this up as a top. It fits me perfectly, I love the neckline, and because of the yoke there's a lot of scope for colour-blocking. If subsequent versions go together as well as this one did, this could well become a TNT for me.


Monday, 28 August 2017

summer sewing: birthday dresses of varying success levels

My mum's two dresses were the last things I made this summer. That's partly because her birthday is towards the end of August and I didn't want to have the dresses just hanging around for months for me to obsess over and poke at, and partly because I had VERY SPECIFIC visions and was afraid of not being able to live up to them. In the end, I sort of did and sort of didn't, as I'm about to show you.

I'm going to start with the successful one:

This, obviously, is the Named Kielo, which I've made twice before (and worn constantly this summer). Mum asked for one of these after seeing mine, and I agreed on the proviso that I got to choose the colour. I love the way she looks in rich autumnal colours, but they're quite hard to find so she rarely wears them. I, because I am very smart, didn't properly realise that because these colours are hard to find, they were also going to be hard for me to find, and I searched for the right fabric for more than three months. This led to a ton of empty-handed fabric shop trips, stressing out, and panic-buying the wrong colours (and in one case, panic-buying the wrong colour online late at night, only to discover in the morning that I hadn't actually bought anything at all. I don't quite know how that happened). I finally found this one in A-One Fabrics on Goldhawk Road about two weeks before her birthday, and I legitimately gasped out loud, "Oh my God, it's my vision!" I am such a twat. 

I think this colour is absolutely perfect on her and I'm so pleased. The fabric has a slight crepey texture to it and doesn't wrinkle at all, so it's going to be a really useful travel dress (she's off to Las Vegas in a couple of months with some friends she's known since school, as a "we've all reached this milestone birthday this year, we're still alive and still like each other" celebration). I don't know whether it will carry over seasonally with cardigans and boots and so forth, but we shall see. 

At Mum's request I shortened the dress to below-knee length as an anti-tripping measure, and since that brought it to maybe a couple of inches below the start of the back vent, I didn't bother putting that in. I also put the secret pockets in this one, for tissue-stashing. 

I'm super happy with the way this came out, and I'm so glad I found the right colour. She looks exactly as fabulous as I thought she would. 

Now for dress number two, which I don't think is a success (and is also wrinkly because transport):

This is the Cashmerette Webster dress, and I don't like this version at all. I just don't think this fabric was intended for this kind of dress, and I don't know what I could have done to it that would have made it look good and fit Mum's requirements. Left to my own devices I probably would have made something like the Deer and Doe Centauree (the only cotton sundress I have), but it has a gathered skirt and Mum doesn't like any extra volume at her hips. The fabric feels lovely, but it just doesn't have the drape. She looked great when she tried my navy version on, but in the stiffer fabric it's really obvious that I didn't fit it on her. 

On the plus side, the neckline looks really nice. I also hemmed it with a narrow bias facing, and it's the neatest hem I have ever done in my entire life. Hems are the bane of my life, so I was very pleased with myself. The dress is very comfortable and breathable, but if it just ends up as house dress for hot days I won't be at all surprised or offended. 

Overall I'm quite OK with these outcomes. The first dress is great, so she's got a nice birthday present that she can get a lot of wear out of, and the second was a learning experience which led to me finally making an actually neat hem. I'll make her something else for Christmas to make up for it.

Monday, 21 August 2017

sewing plans: autumn 2017 (peacock edition)

I'm posting this slightly early because I want to go about it slightly differently this time. I've found my last couple of planning posts haven't been that helpful; I commit to things I don't have the patterns or fabric for and get stressed out when I can't find them, or I write the plan in a panic and realise a few weeks later that I don't particularly want or need any of the things I talked about.

I didn't sew anything at all in July this year, and I wondered for a couple of weeks what the problem was and where my sewjo had gone. Partly it's because I wasn't home that much - we were on holiday, then I spent nearly a week with my parents and several days with Patrick's parents - but once I started planning for autumn and got all excited, I realised that I didn't want to sew any more summer clothes because I was happy with what I had. I was done. My Kielo dresses, Sallie jumpsuits, Webster dress, Lupin jacket and Vogue T-shirt dress carried me quite nicely through the summer, everything was cute, coherent and put together, and I didn't need or want any more summer clothes. It was refreshing.

What I want to do for autumn is come up with something a bit more defined and a bit more thorough. I'm going to work to a theme, have as many pieces work together as possible, and plan a lot more things than I usually do. I already have the fabric and patterns for almost everything in the list (besides the maybe pile, which is why it's the maybe pile), and I'm running with a peacock theme for the season. I have two pieces of actual peacock feather print fabric, but mostly I'm looking at a blue-gold-green jewel tones palette with navy and black neutrals.

This is what I'm planning between now and the end of November:

Statement pieces, AKA Literal Peacock:

- A peacock print raincoat. I bought some amazing Liberty laminated cotton from Dragonfly Fabrics, and I'm going to make a Sewaholic Minoru from it. I've never had a bright or printed coat in my entire adult life, but I'm really excited to make this one.

- A peacock print fitted skirt. My mum bought me a piece of peacock print stretch cotton, and the colours are saturated and beautiful in a way I can very rarely find. I have a Butterick skirt pattern with a high waist and back princess seams, and if my toile works that's what this fabric will become.

Wardrobe staples

- A pair of trousers. Since I made my Flint trousers I've found that I'd quite like to be wearing trousers more, but they're the only day-to-day pair I have. I'm planning to make the Sewaholic Thurlows, but this is the only planned item I don't yet have fabric for. Ideally I want a deep mustard-gold colour, but I will go with olive or burgundy if I can't find that.

- A long-sleeved top. I recently found the Kittenish Behaviour vlogs on Youtube, and she made the Vanessa Pouzet Wanted top. When I saw it I bounced up and down and bought the pattern immediately, even though my French is rubbish and I can't really read the instructions. Fitted jersey tops that don't just look like regular T-shirts seem to be almost impossible to find, so I really hope this one works for me. If it does, I'm planning two - a black sweater knit one and a green one.

- A navy jumper. Almost all the jumpers I currently have are very close-fitting, and I really need a jumper I can use for layering over dresses and tops in colder weather. I have some navy anchor print sweater knit and I'm going to try sizing up the Concord and putting the neckline from my favourite RTW jumper on it.


- A Shakespeare print dress. With some of the money my grandmother left me I bought two metres of amazing blue Liberty fabric. The standard Liberty prints aren't my thing at all, but this one is a waves-and-constellations design with Shakespeare verse imposed on top of it (the fabric is called Tempest but the verse is clearly from Romeo and Juliet, which honestly kind of annoys me. It's good job the fabric is so beautiful). I'm thinking it's going to be a Sewaholic Cambie dress, since I keep meaning to make another.


- A wedding guest dress. I have a wedding coming up in October, and I promised the happy couple I'd make a new dress for the occasion. I'm going to use this an opportunity to force myself to cut into some really expensive purple silk double crepe I've been hoarding for a while, but I haven't decided which pattern to use. I'd like the dress to have a bit of flow to it, but the fabric is really narrow, so I might need to experiment a little bit. I'm certain I must have an appropriate pattern somewhere in my stash.


- A winter jumpsuit. This has the potential to look completely horrendous on me, but also I really want it, so I'm giving myself permission to spend money on something that might be terrible. I'm going to try the jumpsuit version of Vogue 7626 in teal corduroy, and if it works it's going to be the best thing ever. If it doesn't, I'm going to hate it. We shall see.

- A lace dress. This is going to be experimental in two ways: one, I've never worked with lace before; and two, I have my doubts about the pattern. I bought the Papercut Patterns Kobe dress as soon as it came out based on the sample photos, but the more I look at the sample, the line drawing, and other people's finished photos, the more suspicious I become that that pattern can be used to make that sample dress. But as an experiment, I'm going to try, and I'm going to try in semi-sheer fabric just in case that's what reveals all the beautiful layers in the sample. I don't think it will, but I'm doing this for science.


- A dressing gown. After over a year of talking about making one for my boyfriend, I've finally bought the fabric. We gave up on finding silk in a print he loved, so it's going to be Tana lawn. I've bought four metres of multicoloured paisley on a cream background -  it's entirely insane and it's perfect for him. I have a Butterick pattern to use but I'm not willing to cut into £90+ of fabric for an untested pattern, so I'm going to make a toile out of Patrick's old duvet cover and make sure I can do it justice.

If I have time

- A knee-length coat. I like the coat I made in January, but with the clothes I'm currently wearing most I could really use a longer one. I'm thinking about attempting the Leanne Marshall Simplicity pattern I discounted last time, since I don't particularly need this one to have a functional hood. Ideally it'll be bright blue.

- Some lingerie. I'd like a couple of slips and to attempt making a pair of knickers just to see how easy it is, but this is right at the bottom of the pile.

That's about a dozen things, which isn't unrealistic but also might take me well into December and January to complete, which is fine. I'm going to seize this moment of being inspired to make lots of things and temporarily able to afford a lot of nice fabric, plan a lot of things, and take as long as I need to do them. My plan is to update monthly on how things are going, and once I've got through most of it decide whether this worked as a strategy (and move to a twice-a-year collections kinds of thing) or whether I need to come up with something else. Time will tell!

This time we're ending with the gif:

Monday, 14 August 2017

the very mild experimentation series: a chiffon kimono jacket

(I thought I'd scheduled this for last week, but apparently I didn't. Oops.)

Learning to work with chiffon has been on my mind since I started sewing. I actually bought a piece on one of my very first raids of the remnant bin, but got rid of it six months later when I realised I didn't know what the eff to do with it. Not in the sense of "oh God, I can't work with chiffon, I'm rubbish", more "oh God, why did I buy this print that would only look right on a Masonic wife tightly sipping a glass of sherry and glaring at anybody under 45" (I'm a Mason's daughter, just trust me on this). I didn't buy any more to replace it because by that point I'd stopped remnant bin raids and started looking for stuff I might actually wear, and that rarely includes chiffon.

But then June hit, and temperatures of up to 34 degrees were mentioned.

I bought this particular piece of chiffon from The Textile Centre at the end of last summer. I had grand visions of a flowing layered maxi dress, and only recently admitted to myself that a) I didn't have anywhere near enough fabric and b) the dress in my head would almost certainly require complicated underwear arrangements, meaning I just wouldn't wear it. Fuck strapless bras. The idea of the kimono came to me when I was trying to find something to throw over my shoulders that wouldn't also cause me to sweat to death, and I realised I had a gap in my wardrobe.

The pattern is the Sew Over It kimono jacket, which I've made several times before. I still have and get tons of wear out of one of the two I made for myself, and I've made several more as presents since. It seemed like a good first-chiffon project because it's just a bunch of straight lines. I wanted a little bit more flow to this one, so I cut it longer (I'm not sure how much longer, just as much as the fabric would allow). The insides are French-seamed, and the hems are scratty. Next on my to-do list: learn how to do a half-decent rolled hem.

(I call this the "holding arms out awkwardly" series.)

I had very definite ideas about how I wanted to position the flowers, and due to the way the flowers were laid out on the fabric it wasn't all possible. The most important thing for me was to get a large flower cluster slightly off-centre on my back, and the way I had to fold the fabric to do that meant there wasn't as much choice as I'd have liked for the rest. I wanted flowers on the front pieces, but not in identical layout, and a plain black collar piece, so I did that as best I could and then the sleeves just had to be cut from whatever was left. 

I think this is cute. However, I wasn't getting quite as much wear out of it as I'd hoped, so I bought a semi-acceptable black jersey from Fabric Land and made another V9199.

I really like the way this looks over an all-black outfit, and it's making me want to make some black shorts (which I'm not going to do unless it's a pair of tailored wool shorts to wear over tights in the winter, and there's no way on earth I'll be wearing chiffon in the winter). The dress is only a couple of weeks old, but I've worn it like this a couple of times when the weather allowed, i.e. when it wasn't pissing down with rain in the middle of bloody August WHY IS THIS A THING, and it's cool and breezy and stops my arms sticking to themselves, so it does the job. 

This is the dress on its own. I don't like it as much as my stripy one, mostly because the fabric isn't quite right. Also it's too big in the back, but I'll take that in next time I have black thread in my machine. I screwed up my first attempt at the neckband, so I just cut it out, meaning that the neckline is a little bit wider. It doesn't bother me at all, but I won't go out of my way to do it again. 

The dress is okay, and I will get some wear out of it. The kimono is also okay, but very much for hot days and holidays, so I probably won't wear it a huge amount, but will keep it for next summer. Chiffon was exactly as annoying to work with as everyone says it is, and I probably won't be using it again in a hurry. I will if I'm inspired to, but for something I'm not bouncing around with excitement about, I don't think it's worth the faff. 

Next week I'm doing my autumn sewing plan a little early, to give me time to give Mum her dresses and photograph them on her properly. I'm a bit nervous about the fit, but mostly I'm just happy I got them done with time to spare. 


Monday, 31 July 2017

summer sewing: Webster top and dress

Having promised my mother I'd make her a dress for her birthday, I spent months looking for the right pattern. She had quite specific requirements:  no fullness or flare of any sort in the skirt, comfortable for summer so not tight or restrictive, preferably a pull-over, below knee length, and could be made out of the cotton lawn she'd bought for the purpose. This was remarkably hard to find. I sent her a few patterns and she said "yep, maybe," which means "no, but I don't feel comfortable saying so because you're putting a lot of time and effort into this".

When I got the email about the Cashmerette Webster dress, I sent it to her immediately and she was extra enthusiastic. I bought the PDF (which I rarely do, but the printed pattern wasn't available here yet and I wanted to have plenty of time) and ended up making three versions more or less back to back: a toile top made in cotton which I could use to check the fit and drape on Mum and make sure it would work in the fabric, a dress version for my holiday which I could also try on Mum to check length and so forth, and another top for me because the fabric was there and it would match the lining of my new Lupin and that would be cool. I'm going to start at the end, as I so often do, with my top.

 As drafted, the top is very long; completely covering the backside and not that much shorter in the front. I get why it's drafted that way because that's how a lot of women like to wear their tops, but I do not. I made it straight up to see how it looked, laughed for about five minutes, then hacked several inches off the hem. What you see here is my version of a "long top". I made a size 12 G/H, which fits very nicely. There's a lot of ease at the waist, but that's fine for a viscose summer top.

The back detail is cute, and it's nice to be able to have a bit of strap fun when all your tops need to provide adequate bra cover. I have a pretty narrow back, so I had to shorten the straps by about an inch and a half to get them to lie flat against my skin instead of drooping awkwardly. 

(I find it almost impossible to smile naturally when I'm taking pictures of myself with the remote. I try every time and it almost always looks like someone's just out of shot threatening to kill a bunny. When Patrick takes the pictures it's much easier for me to smile, but also it's a trade-off: he knows almost nothing about photography, and when I'm in my natural state rather than my posey one I have to edit around my natural lumbering posture. Sigh.)

And now the dress: 

While free and floaty and full of ease is fine for a summer top, it is not fine for me for a dress. I made the straight 12 where ordinarily I would size up in the hips, and sandwiched a couple of ties in the back seam. I didn't make any changes to the length and it sits a couple of inches above the knee on me, which is perfect. 

You can see in the picture above that the way the top is made into a dress is by adding a thick band of fabric to the bottom. I do not like this. It basically cuts across the crotch at the front, which is a weird place to have a seam line and makes it look like a mistake rather than a cool detail. I don't think it'll be such a big deal for Mum because of the fabric she has, but it really bothers me on this one. Would it be possible to cut the hem bands onto the main bodice as one piece, or would that screw something else up? 

Having said that, this was the perfect dress for sightseeing. Long enough to cover my longer shorts without being so long that it gets in the way while I'm walking, well-fitting at the top and otherwise nonrestrictive even with my ties, cool and breathable and just the right amount of coverage. Hem band or not, I will be taking this dress on every single holiday I go on. I was walking around on top of this mountain actively feeling grateful for it. 

I just like this photo, really. Look at that view! Madeira is gorgeous.

I took both the dress and the cotton toile with me last time I visited my parents and tried them both on Mum. Overall, it was a success - she was happy with the way the cotton worked (though for a dress, I probably wouldn't go there) and really liked the style of the dress. Interestingly, the dress looks much better unbelted on her. For the final version I'll be making it an inch or two longer so it hits just below her knee like she asked for. I also won't be shortening the straps - they were straining a bit when I tried this version on her, and I think they'll work much better in the original length. 

So, no more Madeira photos. Back to the palm tree next week!