Monday, 27 January 2020

a winter maxi

Hello and welcome to another instalment of Really Not Prioritising the Plan at All! I blame January. I don't know why I'm so bad at January. This one's been better than most because I've been incredibly socially active and going to a bunch of new classes (including my first pattern cutting weekend, which was... mixed, but I don't want to do a full review until I've tried to apply the techniques myself), but I'm still not able to function like a proper adult. I'm having to sew what my brain will allow me to sew, and this time it's something that wasn't on my list at all.


In a sense, this has kind of always been on my list. In summer I wear literally nothing but jumpsuits and maxidresses and I feel great. I often think about making winter versions and sometimes I even try to do it, but so far nothing has worked out the way I want. My ideal cold weather jumpsuit still eludes me, and most maxidress patterns I see at the moment are knee-length dresses with a massive ruffle whacked on the bottom to bring it down to the ankles. Nope. I've also historically had a bit of a static problem when trying to wear maxis with tights. But I kept thinking about it, and when I came across this fabric a month or so ago, I knew I wanted a long-sleeved Kielo dress.

I got this fabric from Walthamstow as usual, and if he has this in a different print the next time I visit, I'm going to make the exact same dress with a square neckline. It's a super-light sweater knit that's thin enough to drape nicely but substantial enough to keep me warm, and it is the absolute perfect thing for a winter Kielo. I was really pleased to find an actual horizontal print for once; I've been burned so many times by buying prints online only to find when it arrives that they were displaying it at a 90 degree angle and the stretch actually goes the other way. Of course, I then realised that the Kielo has a centre back seam for the vent and I would have quite a pattern matching job on my hands.

It's not perfect, but it's good enough.

The colour palette is pretty muted for me, and though I like this dress a lot it's not an experiment I'll be repeating much. If I wear this with my beige coat and my standard not-doing-much-today lipstick I look like I got very sick at a hempen crafts festival.

Embarrassing confession time: I made this dress with sleeves a few times in 2017 and it was great. I then misplaced that version of the pattern and had to redo it when I came to make it again last year. Both times it felt weird in the bust/armhole area. If I position the dresses just right I can still wear them, but they're annoying and uncomfortable to put on. I assumed it was something to do with my fluctuating size and decided to make another copy of the pattern. When I got everything out and ready and looked at the new armhole curve, I realised something: my bust is still the same size, and my last version of the pattern had the armscye drawn on upside down. D'OH. So now I've done it again properly, and it's really comfortable. 

(I take this photo literally every time I make one of these dresses and I'm sure it can't be useful anymore, but here it is nevertheless.)

On this version I scooped out the neckline and added wide cuffs. I only decided on the cuffs because the sleeves came out at a weird length, but they actually make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of the dress. I don't think I'd like it as much with a plain stitched-down hem. I really enjoy the two sets of spikes pointing in towards each other.

I adore this dress. In the last two weeks I've worn it as often as I can get away with, which is the number one way for me to tell I've made an unqualified success. It's super comfortable, it works for pretty much everything that isn't either the gym or a gala of some description, it's warm, and it doesn't stick to my tights! Perfect. I really hope to make another one before winter ends, assuming I can find the right kind of fabric. 

In terms of what's next, I feel like everything I have left on my list is pretty involved, and I've also given myself an overly ambitious plan for one of my Minerva projects this month, so we'll see how we go. I'm definitely not getting it all done by February, but I want to prioritise the coat and the shirt. Chances are I'll be skipping another week of posting, but hopefully be back with something I actually need and planned to make. Fingers crossed! 

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

winter sewing: Amelia jacket toile

I'm finding that the things I'm motivated to do at the moment aren't necessarily the most useful ones, but this one really is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Not only did I choose to go with a toile of a spring jacket, i.e. the thing that should have been right at the bottom of my priority list, but I also decided to make it out of the most expensive per metre fabric I own. Weird. If you were reading last year, you may remember this post where I canvassed for ideas to use up stash fabric I didn't know what to do with. I got a lot of great ideas from people, including the suggestion to turn my super-expensive fabulous quality Ray Stitch barkcloth into a cropped jacket. The second I read that, my mind was made up. I did consider making a toile before I cut into £50 worth of fabric, but the mere idea turned my brain into a full-on Kevin the Teenager because I do sort of resent this fabric. I was extremely depressed when I bought it and every time I look at it I wish I hadn't spent so much money on it. That was three and a half years ago now, and the money I spent on it is long gone. At this point the fabric either continues to sit sadly in my stash or it gets cut up and makes at least a modicum of use of itself.

Fortunately, it is not a fail! I was almost 100% convinced it would be, because expensive fabric and untested pattern I also had some doubts about (we'll get into that), but it's worked pretty well! I will definitely get some wear out of it, although I've yet to work out exactly how versatile it's going to be in terms of colour and shape.

For this fabric, which is a very loose weave and thus frays at a rate of knots, I wanted to go for a jacket pattern with a lining. The Sew Over It Amelia jacket was the accompanying pattern for an issue of the now-defunct Lisa Comfort magazine, and when it came out I remember thinking that I liked the look of the pattern but was absolutely not going to pay £14.99 for Lisa Comfort magazine. When they reduced the price to £5 to clear out their remaining stock I decided to go for it. I had fully intended to put the actual magazine straight in the recycling, but it turns out you can't do that because that's where all the instructions are. So now there is a Lisa Comfort magazine sitting in my flat for my boyfriend to periodically make fun of. Hooray.

I cut a 16, blending to a 14 in the shoulders and forearms. I didn't do a full bust adjustment but I did do a full bicep adjustment - past experience has taught me that the SOI block has very narrow sleeves. I also added a couple of inches of length, partly to compensate for my boobs but mostly because my 18 inch zip was nicer than my 16 inch zip. Turns out this was exactly the right thing to do, as this jacket is SUPER cropped. Which is good! I spend large chunks of my life looking for actually cropped jacket patterns rather than ones that hit my high hip and look like shit on me! But if you have a large bust or a long waist, take note - SUPER cropped.

The zip, incidentally, was a major annoyance for me. The notions requirements say "We recommend buying a 22-inch zip and shortening it". First of all, no. Second of all, shortening it to what? What length of zip did you draft for?? I really hate this kind of thing. This made me very concerned that they'd drafted for, say, 21.25 inches of zip or something equally unpurchasable, but I pressed on. My jacket, as I said, ended up needing an 18-inch zip after I lengthened it. To make this jacket as drafted you'd have to take six inches' worth of teeth out of the zip, possibly more if you're making a smaller size. There is just no way that a 22-inch zip is the most convenient one to purchase. They suggest it's to give you leeway to make alterations to the fit, but I'm not buying that. Who is making six inches of alterations to a cropped jacket? Aside from that, adjusting my notions based on the alterations I make is my business, not the pattern's, particularly when the pattern does not contain any instructions for adjustment. Just tell me it's a 16-inch zip and let me do my thing, yeesh. Also if you work in either metric or imperial exclusively, this pattern will be very annoying to you as it skips in between the two constantly, as only British people of a certain age can. At one point it told me to subtract 2.5cm from my 22-inch zip.

The jacket has wide elasticated cuffs and an elasticated waist, the instructions for which I did not pay attention to. I feel like there's a lot of unnecessary slipstitching in this pattern, and I rejigged the instructions until I didn't have to do any of it. The instructions for the cuff elastic in particular I found baffling; they have you leave a hole in the cuff's seam, attach the cuffs to the sleeve, go ahead and make the rest of the jacket, then insert the elastic into the hole with a safety pin, yank both free ends out and sew them together, then slipstitch the hole closed. I just sewed the cuff, sewed the elastic, put one inside the other and carried on. This is how I did the cuffs on my Minoru jacket, which are basically identical to the ones on this pattern, and I do not understand why you'd do the stupid slipstitching method when this is easier, faster, and gives you a cleaner result.

(It's my very strongly held opinion that commercial patterns should try and avoid hand sewing wherever possible; I'm all for people going full steam ahead on the couture techniques if that's enjoyable for them, but neat and secure hand sewing is actually really difficult and requires being taught properly. A lot of my earlier projects had a much shorter shelf life than they could have because nobody told me you could attach lining to zip tape by machine.)

One thing I did like about the construction is that it's very easy to fit as you go. I've made jackets before where you have to get quite a long way in before you can see if the size is right, but on this one you have a vest with a working zip very early on in the process, so you can take in or let out as necessary. (The instructions say to make up each lining piece after the corresponding main piece, but that interrupts my flow so I just put the whole lining together at the point when I needed it. If you are following the recommended method the zip will be a slightly later point in the process.) I didn't need to alter anything, but was very glad to have opted for the full bicep adjustment.

I also really like that the lining includes a facing, so I can wear the jacket halfway unzipped as I prefer without having to worry about lining co-ordination.

Other things to note: the sleeve heads have to be gathered to fit the armscye, which is not my favourite detail; the pattern does not come with pockets; and the instructions needed a little bit more work. They aren't terrible or unusable, but the photos aren't that helpful and the bullet points are all on top of each other with no line spacing. Also, I don't feel there's enough information in the instructions to justify the sheer amount of them. In this format I'm actually pro lots of instructions - generally the people making a pattern from Lisa Comfort magazine aren't going to have a wealth of expert knowledge at their fingertips, and with that much space I would have liked to see explanations of things there isn't normally space for in instruction leaflets, like attaching the cuffs by machine (here you go). As it was, a huge chunk of the bullet points were dedicated to attaching the waistband, and it just doesn't need that.

I'm not generally this critical of a pattern that produced an end result I liked, and I've gone through my review several times wondering if I should take stuff out or soften things a bit. However, if I were a reader considering this pattern, all of these things are things I would want to know about in advance. Having read these things, I might still go on and make this jacket (it's hard to find cropped jacket patterns and they're the only jacket patterns I'm interested in) and I would have a much less annoying time as a result. My main problem, I think, is that I didn't really enjoy the process of this one, and so it's harder to find joyful words. I'm hopeful that when they do release this pattern as a main line SOI one, they'll redo the instructions and maybe even some of the techniques, leaving a much better pattern for other people to have a much better experience with. 

I will almost certainly not make this a second time, though I may try and mash it up with an unlined jacket at some point in the future. 

(Things were happening through the window. I apologise.)

I'm not exactly sure what will be up next. My sewing area has sprung a ceiling leak AGAIN so if they decide to fix it properly this time I will be out of commission for a little bit while they cut large holes over the Gnome's head. Also I saw Cats at the weekend and frankly I'm having trouble thinking about anything else. But something else will be coming soon, as soon as my flat and my brain are straightened out a bit! 

Sew Over It Amelia jacket

Fabric: Organic printed barkcloth from Ray Stitch
Cost: £50
Pattern details: Fully lined cropped bomber jacket with flat collar, zip front and elasticated waistband and cuffs
Size: 16 (14 shoulders and sleeves below the elbow)
Alterations: Lengthened by 1.5 inches, 1 inch full bicep adjustment
Would make again/would recommend: No/No

Monday, 30 December 2019

sewing resolutions for 2020

Christmas is done! It was extra chill this year - Patrick's sister is heavily pregnant and we had his grandpa's funeral during our visit, so nobody was feeling especially bouncy. It's still exhausting to be in someone else's house for a week, so we're currently decompressing ready to start the new year. I did start writing a "sewing year in review" sort of post, but it just ended up being me ranting about the stupid Sierra jumpsuit pattern again so we're skipping that this year and moving straight on to the resolutions.

I went about 50/50 on my 2019 list. At the beginning of the year I assumed the one I would definitely do was the ballgown toile, but when I actually got the pattern out and looked at it I realised I don't actually like the style lines that much. What I liked was the general vibe and the idea of having a swanky red ballgown. I also didn't make the jeans (couldn't find the denim) and didn't take any fitting classes. Money was a bit of a thing this year and my back-up plan of Craftsy classes got a bit scuppered when Craftsy rebranded and became much worse. However, the resolution is not dead! Patrick has very kindly bought me a couple of sloper-making classes for Christmas, so I'll be doing a bodice block in two weeks' time and a trouser block in February. I'm interested to see how this goes and I'll be doing a class review here.

What I did manage to do this year was make an acceptable shirt (!), improve my twin needle stitching and get much better about planning and purchasing. Most of the fabric I bought has already been used, and I've not bought a random pattern without a plan in ages. This is solid progress.

On to 2020!

1. I will either use or get rid of everything that's currently in my stash.

With the exception of my aubergine silk double crepe, which needs to wait for the right pattern and occasion, I want everything in my stash to be used or donated by the end of the year. Even the expensive stuff. I really hate having a massive stash and would much prefer to just keep fabric for my upcoming seasonal plans and maybe one or two other pieces (sometimes Abakhan has amazing swimsuit fabric in October and you just have to buy it and wait). I've been trying to work on this over the past year and the number of metres in my stash has definitely reduced, but I don't think I'll feel like it's really working until all the old stuff is out of there. I'm currently working on pairing every piece to a pattern, or at least a type of garment.

2. I will make a good quality swimsuit.

I've tried and failed at this several times now, but I am determined to make it actually work. I probably want two swimsuits - a bikini with proper underwired cups, and a one-piece swimsuit because I have stripy multicoloured fabric that I don't think will work as a bikini. Sewing pattern designers thus have a year (six months?) to come up with a swimsuit pattern I don't hate! Yay!

3. Following on from last year, I will pick some more areas that bug me about my sewing and work on them.

This worked pretty well as a resolution last year and I think I could benefit from making it a permanent fixture. My number one goal is to be able to sew a lined/faced woven V neck that actually looks like a V. I don't know what I'm doing wrong here - I clip my seam allowances extensively - but I want to work it out and have one nice V neck garment by the end of the year. I'd also like to be able to improve my topstitching to the point that I'm happy to do it in a contrasting colour and make it a feature. During the year I'm planning to remake my Cashmerette Ellis skirt (there was a flat fell failure) and I want to put the proper topstitching on.

4. I will try out some of the patterns I've acquired but never used.

My hard drive is full of PDF patterns I've never had a go at. Most of them aren't ones I've paid full price for, but if I downloaded them I must have liked something about them (a free pattern you hate is still a pattern you hate) and it would make sense to start working through them. I'd particularly like to get to the Sew Over It patterns I harvested, and some of the other patterns from the Named book that I've been putting off because of the neckline modifications I'll need to do. I've also got a bunch of printed patterns I've never used that I'd like to either work through or get rid of.

5. I will make the swanky red ballgown.

I think not making the actual 1920s pattern was a smart move but I also think I should have a ridiculous red gown. What I specifically don't want is to end the year saying "well, I made a long red dress at one point, so that totally counts." It does NOT. I want to make something that I haven't made before, and I don't want the fabric to be doing all the heavy lifting. Usually the ballgown factor comes from the dress being big and poofy, but I don't like big poofy dresses so I need to find another way. I want this to involve me learning at least one new technique and possibly even trying embellishments. Where I find my starting point pattern for this I have NO idea, but I'm dreaming big on this one.

6. I will learn to use all the different sewing machine feet I have.

I have a box of different feet I got when I first started sewing, but I only ever really use a couple of them (standard foot, regular and invisible zip feet, walking foot, and recently buttonhole/button feet). I'd like to know that I can, should I require it, use the rest of the feet I have. I want to make sure I know what they all are and what I'm supposed to do with them, work with them until I can reliably make them to the thing they're supposed to do, and integrate the useful ones into my regular sewing. I'm sure I'll mostly continue to use the same half dozen feet, but I'm also sure that it would add to the quality of my sewing life if I were able to, say, do a nice blind stitch or rolled hem.

7. I will wear everything I make at least twice before I post my review.

Something I've noticed over the past year is that I sometimes make something I like, get very excited, post a glowing review immediately, and then over the next few days of wear I start to notice things that make me like it less. Then several months later I'll get a blog comment that says "thanks for the review, I'm definitely going to check this out based on your recommendation!" and I worry that I've accidentally misled said commenter by not including things I discovered when wearing the item out and about. Obviously I'm not going to stick by this so rigidly that I can't post my ballgown until it's had a few trips on the 344 bus, but for everyday clothes I'm going to test run them for a week or two until I'm sure I'm able to give a complete picture.

That's a fairly well-rounded set of resolutions, I think. Fewer than I usually make, but the stash-clearing one in particular is enormous and I don't want to overwhelm myself. My hope is that 2020 is going to be a year of change and upheaval for me, where I have to work very hard whilst also protecting my health, and my sewing needs to serve that this year and not end up being an extra chore and source of guilt.

Happy 2020, everyone! Good things for all of you!

Monday, 23 December 2019

winter sewing: McCalls 6713

Hands up who's surprised that the thing I motivated myself to sew was the fancy velvet dress?

I finished this dress over a week ago, got up the next morning with the full intention of taking photos and making a post... and then got hit with a random vomiting bug that left me in an unphotographable state until two days ago. Merry Christmas to me, indeed. 

As I mentioned in my planning post, this pattern was intended to be my first ever velvet dress. The velvet I had at the time was this ridiculous extra-long-pile cheap stuff that shed all over me like an overenthusiastic husky as soon as I touched it and I gave up before I'd even got the first piece fully cut out. I've thought about that velvet dress fairly regularly over the intervening three years (HOW has the past three years somehow also been nineteen decades, ugh), and my current velvet kick seemed like the right time to revisit it. My original velvet was red, but my guy at Walthamstow had this dark purple which I just couldn't say no to. I went for view D, with the long sleeves and straight skirt.

So. First of all, I really like the end result. This dress looks exactly the way I'd imagined it would; the bodice fits nicely, the skirt isn't overly clingy, the drape is cool, the sleeves fit well. It was also exactly the right length straight out of the packet, which is super rare for me. And I always love this colour on me. In terms of the final dress, this was a success. However, I changed many, many things to get here.

I got this pattern free with a magazine (or more accurately, I got some patterns packaged up together with a magazine I didn't read) and it's not technically my size. That's very rarely a problem I have with McCalls, but this one randomly stopped at size 16. I believe there is a separate plus size envelope, but the magazine wasn't giving that one out and I wasn't going to buy the same pattern again. I managed to get a really good fit by cutting the size 16 bodice and just grading out the hips and upper arms by a size or two. Based on the pieces that were already cut out my original plan was to skip over the hip issue by cutting the full skirt, but I am certain I wouldn't have liked this dress anywhere near as much if I'd done that.

This dress is supposed to have a lined bodice. I didn't do that because the bulk would have been beyond my sewing machine's capabilities. Even without a lining it was a bit of a struggle. The drape on the skirt is two layers sewn together, which are then pleated and folded forward on top of the seam line between the two front skirt pieces, and then sewn to the two layers of the front bodice. It's a giant lump of fabric, and had there been another two lining pieces in there I think my machine would have thrown a stomping tantrum. I used facing pieces instead. (Also, if I'd lined with the velvet as I originally thought I would before reading further down the instructions, this would be the heaviest dress in the entire world.)

The pattern also calls for shoulder pads and waist elastic, neither of which I used. Maybe an elastic casing wouldn't look weird in a viscose jersey version of this dress but it would sure as hell look weird in a velvet one. It's possible that this dress fits me so well despite being clearly too small by the sizing chart because there's a ton of ease in there intended to be gathered into elastic, and again I would not like this dress nearly as much if that had been the case. Whenever I see a pattern call for shoulder pads, I keep hoping they're going to be the tiny little cloth things I had in a couple of my jumpers back in 2009-ish, which didn't really look like shoulder pads but did correct my very round shoulders a bit. It never is, it's always ridiculous 80s nonsense and I'm not sure why pattern companies are still doing this. I want my tiny shoulder pads, dammit!

I will probably not wear this for my first Christmas with the in-laws. They are extraordinarily practical people and velvet dresses when you have no intention of leaving the house just aren't the thing. NYE might be its time, though; last year my friend insisted I wear my green velvet Magnolia dress to her low-key house party, and now I've accidentally started a tradition. This will be slightly easier to exist in, at least.

I was hoping I'd like this pattern enough to make it again because there's a maxi length version and I am dying for a non-fancy maxi dress I can wear in the winter, but the chances are extremely slim. I love this version but I feel like getting to it was too much of an accident. It looks like the picture but not very much like the measurements or instructions. For similar reasons I don't feel I can recommend the pattern either; it's a really lovely design but I just don't know what you'd get. You might get something that looks like this or you might get a weird blousy thing with 80s power shoulders.

Next up: A year-end wrap up post or two, followed by my many thoughts on a jacket pattern with many issues. Grumpy Jen incoming!

McCalls 7613

Fabric: Purple stretch velvet from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £9
Pattern details: Mock-wrap dress with lined bodice, dropped shoulders, optional long sleeves, straight or full (in two lengths) skirt options, and side drape
Size: 16 bodice, graded out beyond pattern sizing in the hips and bicep
Alterations: Swapped out lining for facings, omitted shoulder pads and waist elastic
Would make again/would recommend:  No/No

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

sewing plans: winter 2019/20

Sewing has been a bit of a struggle recently. Patrick and I both got ill simultaneously with slightly different things, then somehow SWAPPED bugs just as we'd started to recover, and the two back-to-back illnesses combined with the sudden cold weather has really done a number on my lungs. On top of that, my baste fit of the yellow cords shows that they are doing the exact thing I was worried they were going to do, and lack of ideas on how to fix it has killed my sewjo dead.

(We're taking a break from the RPDR gifs because I am currently overrelating to The Good Place in a way that probably isn't healthy.)

I wrote this plan over a month ago and honestly in my current state I really don't know how successful it'll be. But things are always worse when I don't have a plan out there, so I'm going to go ahead and post it anyway. I may only get half of it done if things don't improve, but that will still be something.

One of the major motivations behind this plan is to cut down on the size of my stash. We're short on space so I keep my fabric in a wooden box, which is currently massively overflowing and I don't like it. I also don't really like having a massive stash; it's rarely useful to me and I much prefer buying fabric when I already have a plan in mind for it. We're hoping to be able to move house soon, and when we leave here I want to have about half the amount of fabric I currently do, and I want it to fit in the box.

There are a couple of things here I will have to buy fabric for, but for the most part it's me going through my fabric catalogue and working out what the hell to do with everything. Here we go:

A second Rumana coat

I really love my original Rumana and I'd like to make another one in a brighter colour, possibly a slightly shorter length, with a tie belt. I've found some really lovely bright red melton wool (an ex Karen Millen according to my guy at Walthamstow) which I'm excited about, and now I just need to decide what kind of lining I'm going for and whether I do belt loops or sandwich the ties in the back seam.

A fancy pyjama set

I bought McCalls 7875 at the beginning of the year and I've been avoiding putting it on my plans until I actually had the fabric for it. I'm trying to be realistic about which fabrics I'm likely to be able to find without too much hassle, and this didn't seem to be one of them. However, I've now found this amazing silky blue stuff which I'm told is viscose but feels way more substantial, and it's going to be my pyjama jacket and bottoms. I'm slightly nervous that I don't quite have enough fabric, but I'm sure I can work something out. I'm also going to do a test run of the bottoms (to check for the butt/thigh issues I've historically had with woven pyjama bottoms) using some cream tartan wool mix I inherited from my friend's mother's stash.

A fancy Liberty shirt for Patrick

March is a Significant Birthday for Patrick, so I want to make him a proper fancy Liberty shirt. This is one of the few fabrics I'll have to buy and it's not going to be cheap. A quick glance suggests that Shaukat is a better place for the kind of prints he likes than the actual Liberty store right now, so I'll be picking something and making another Sew Over It Hackney shirt (possibly with a double cuff grafted on; I haven't decided yet). This is definitely not happening until I get Christmas and all its accompanying shopping obligations out of the way.

Some black leggings

This is one of those things that isn't strictly necessary right now, but I bought 4m of leggings fabric and using it up would go a long way to freeing up some space. I'm hoping to make two pairs of Jalie Clara leggings and possibly also a pair of shorts from it.

A bag set

OK, I said I'd catch up with this and then I didn't, so I'm putting it back on the official list. Portside travel set, in tapestry fabric (which I do have) and navy canvas or faux leather (which I don't), I will do it before my birthday next year goddammit. I also want to make a few tote bags; my original learn-to-sew tote bag is falling apart from constant use, so I'd like to use the heavier bits of cotton in my stash to make some replacements.

Another pair of Pietra trousers

Something I've been thinking about for a while is making a second pair of slimmed-down Pietra trousers in a fabric with a bit of stretch. I've now made several pairs and I vastly prefer the slimmer silhouette of my blue ones, but my thighs do spread out a LOT when I sit so they're not comfortable if I'm going to be sitting in them all day. I have a couple of pieces of stretch crepe that I bought for other, now-abandoned, purposes, and I'd like to turn one or both of them into slim-fit Pietras suitable for vegging out a bit in.

A Christmas dress

Guess what? More velvet! The first and almost permanently off-putting velvet dress I planned to make was McCalls 6713, and now that I know velvet isn't terrifying I want to have another go at actually making it. My fabric is Dairy Milk purple, which isn't necessarily a traditional Christmas colour, but it's one of my favourites. I don't get to wear it much (it's oddly difficult to pair with other colours and thus not much use to me as a top) and it looks really good on me, so Christmas is its time.

One or two cropped jacket toiles

I know I'm not going to be able to persuade myself to put actual light jackets on this winter post, but I might be able to argue for toiles that aren't really intended to be worn and will set me up for an easier spring. Especially if it clears out a couple of fabrics I haven't been able to work out what to do with. I have the Kwik Sew moto jacket and Sew Over It Amelia jacket, and I'd like to toile one or both depending on time and motivation.

A cape

I LOVE the new McCalls 8029 cape. I do not remotely need it and couldn't justify buying a second lot of wool in one season, but then yesterday Minerva agreed to send me 4m of purple wool blend coating for a blog post, so the cape will be mine! I'm very pleased.

I'm trying not to put a huge amount of pressure on myself to get all of this done. I just want to have several options to pull from so that when I feel the slightest bit of motivation to get going again, I can start with whatever kind of thing I'm in the mood for right then. Fingers crossed for me (and my poor beleaguered lungs, it really hurts to go outside right now), and hopefully I'll have something new to show you soon!

Monday, 11 November 2019

Butterick 6621 (twist version)

When I first made Butterick 6621 a couple of months ago, I'd already decided that I wanted to experiment with making the twist version. It's something I've always wanted to try, but on the assumption that it would either be very good or very bad for a large of stomach person like me, had never been willing to take the risk of a twist-specific pattern. Now that I already owned it, it was a different story.

It worked! It's really cute!

As I mentioned last week, this is the exact same fabric as my jumpsuit. I'd not originally thought of making my trial version this fancy, but realised that I don't actually have a standard-issue black evening dress (I have my Trina, which I love, but it's quite a specific look and not necessarily as versatile as a black evening dress ought to be) and if it worked there was a niche in my wardrobe it could fill.

Construction was actually fairly simple, once I got past the roadblock of my own making, where I accidentally put the instructions in with a different pattern and could only find the diagramless French instructions. I tried to go with it, realised that my French is terrible (I got an A* in GCSE French, but I'm also absolutely certain I've never known more than fourteen words of it), and put the whole thing on pause until I could find the English sheet.

The dress is made up of two front pieces, and one wraps over and round the other to create the twist. You're then left with a couple of darts to sew up, and the front is complete. It's not a difficult thing to do at all, but I wouldn't have got there from the pattern pieces and sparse French instructions. The whole thing was maybe a couple of hours' work

In terms of adjustments, I cut on a cheat FBA, ignored the neck binding piece to do my own thing, and shortened the sleeves by about an inch. I don't think I've ever had a short sleeve be the right length out of the packet; they're all a bit too long and cut my arm at a weird place. I didn't want to shorten the skirt too much as it messes with the proportion of the twist. 

This version is obviously a snugger fit than my sweater knit version, and for this view I think it's better that way. I think if it were a looser dress it would just feel like unpleasant bulk sitting on top of my stomach, but when it's tight like this the twist just eliminates the stomach cling I hate so much. I'm aware that's why they do this sort of thing for maternity dresses, but I am not wearing a maternity dress and let's not go there, please.

I'm also surprised by how much I like this neckline. I tend to shy away from V necks because they look horrific on me if the proportions are even slightly wrong (especially if it's not a very deep V), but this is really nice and balanced.

The one thing that does disappoint me a bit is that I was hoping this would be a good dress to go dancing in, and for me it's not. I have a super-wide high hip (almost the exact same measurement as my lower hip) and a few enthusiastic dance moves is enough to push the entire twist directly under my bust and make everything else unflattering and precarious. It's completely fine for a more sedate evening, though, and I'll definitely get plenty of wear out of it in dinner-and-cocktails situations.

Overall I'm super pleased with this dress and would cheerfully make another one. I originally thought that if this version worked I would make another in cotton jersey, but now I'm not so sure about that. For me and my body shape, this works perfectly in a heavier, super-stretchy fabric that allows me to wear the whole thing a little tighter, and I think I'd be looking for a fabric with similar properties were I to make a second one. It's actually entirely possible that I'll make another one in velvet; I'm a bit obsessed at the moment (you may have noticed), and I feel like I'm racing to catch up on all the velvet clothes I didn't make when I thought the fabric was too hard to work with. Not any more! All the shiny strokeable clothes! 

I'm not exactly sure what will be up next. I really want to get the stupid yellow cords done but also I've screwed this up THREE times already, so I'm weighing the pros and cons or either the time and expense it would take to make a test pair of whatever pattern I choose (I think it's going to be the CCP Jenny, just because I've been struck with the awful fascination of trying out a pair of overalls later), or the possibly of ruining my yellow trouser fabric for the fourth time. One way or another I WILL make a decision before the end of the month, goddammit. 

Monday, 4 November 2019

autumn sewing: why not have a black velvet jumpsuit

I think when I put a second version of the Deer & Doe Sirocco jumpsuit on my autumn plans, I was imagining a garment I might be able to wear on a day to day basis. I've seen several people on Instagram just wearing theirs to the shops and so forth and looking great doing it, but when looking for the right kind of fabric to copy the vibe I always come up short. The bright colours I'm normally drawn to would probably lift this pattern slightly too far out of the casual zone, and the muted burgundy/navy/olive tones I've liked on others just don't suit me. If there's no richness to a colour I just end up looking sallow and depressed.

I'm going to mull on that for a while and hopefully find a solution, but in the meantime I did this:

Black velvet jumpsuit!

This is not a replacement for the high quality black jersey jumpsuit I keep talking about; I will make that when I come across black jersey I'm really happy with. This one is fun and fancy and warm for going out in the autumn and I'm really pleased with it.

The fabric is from my favourite guy in Walthamstow (I think you can just assume this now unless I specify otherwise) and it's very narrow stripes of velvet on a sheer background. You can only tell there are sheer bits if you put your hand under it. I whacked the lightness up on these photos so you could see some of the pattern details, but couldn't get it light enough to show fabric texture. It's super stretchy and incredibly comfortable. I actually bought an extra metre and a half of this fabric to make an extra dress, which you will see next week.

You may recall that last time I made this, I had a bit of trouble working out what size to cut and how to fit it. After two versions I still wasn't sure. The black one is the only one I've worn and it sits much better on me now than when I first made it, so I went back to my original size picks. The only changes I made were to cut the front bodice pieces a centimetre higher, overlap them further across each other than specified, and lengthen and widen the lower legs slightly (they're still pretty narrow but not quite as close fitting around the ankle). I made sure to get fabric with the right amount of stretch this time, and it makes SO much difference. No popping stitches, no awkwardness, it just does what it's supposed to do.

The one thing I should have considered and didn't is that velvet pockets are stupid and pull themselves inside out whenever you try to use them. I should have made the pocket facing from a normal cotton jersey.

From the point of cutting this out to trying it on for the first time, I was at least 80% convinced it wasn't going to work. It was going to be too clingy, I needed to do more alterations to the bodice, what did I really think I was going to do with a velvet jumpsuit anyway. But I was wrong; the bodice is now a perfect fit, I'm not at all uncomfortable with the negative ease, and while I probably won't be wearing this to the shops I think it'll work really well for date nights, any dance things I decide to go to, and whatever last minute Christmas things might crop up. 

Next up: same fabric, different garment!

Deer and Doe Sirocco jumpsuit

Fabric: Black striped velvet from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £9
Pattern details: Pull-on knit jumpsuit or playsuit with mock wrap neckline, short sleeves, waistband and slash pockets
Size: Various, from 44 in the shoulders to 50 in the hips
Alterations: Bodice altered to wrap over further in front, legs lengthened by 2in and widened slightly
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes