Thursday, 25 May 2017

sewing plans: summer 2017

My last seasonal plan didn't work very well, so I'm going to try to be a little more realistic with this one. These are, for the most part, things I have the fabrics and patterns for and have been thinking about making for a while. I will make more than this, obviously, but everything else will depend on finding the right fabric and being able to pair it with a pattern. Right now I only want to commit to things I know I can do. Otherwise I'd be planning this:

(I love Violet Chachki.)

1. Birthday presents

My mother has a significant birthday in August, and she wants me to make her two dresses. For the first one, she's given me some fabric (a beige geometric cotton lawn) and asked for an unfussy summer shift dress. I know literally nothing about shift dress patterns, so it's going to take some experimenting. Can anyone recommend a shift dress for a curvy woman?

Mum also wants a Kielo after trying mine on. I've agreed to make both dresses under the proviso that I get to pick the colour for the Kielo. When she picks fabric she tends to default to grey and beige, and I want to put her in burnt orange or olive green, both of which look amazing on her. 

2. A grey marl T-shirt style maxi dress

My priority project for myself this summer is to recreate a dress I saw a woman wearing on the Tube about six years ago. I spent years looking for something similar in the shops, and it just occurred to me that I can make it myself now. It was a super simple dress with no tricky bits, so I'm going to try making the Concord into a maxi dress with a gathered skirt.

3. A light jacket

During Me Made May I've been wearing the hell out of my Lupin. Dark green goes with more of my things than I'd have thought, but not everything, so I want to make another short jacket (whether another Lupin or a new pattern I'm not sure) in either navy blue or a light minky-mauve colour. Or both, if I have the time and the inclination.

4. A denim dress

I'd like to continue experimenting with patterns and styles that I like the look of but am unsure whether or not they'll suit me. With that in mind, I'm going to try making the Papercut Patterns Yoyo dress, which I've only seen on very thin women so far. I'm expecting to either think it's amazing or hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, so I've set my expectations to low and am prepared to have spent £10 and a few hours on something I don't like in the name of science.

Other things that might happen if I can find the fabric/pattern/fabric and pattern: black or polka dot pedal pushers, orange Flint shorts, a Sew Over It Eve dress, and a Named Anneli dress. Also probably some short-sleeved T-shirts if I do find myself making and wearing shorts all the time. That's actually quite a lot of things. I'm going to stop there. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Megan Nielsen Flint, or experimenting with trousers

In terms of woven garments, so far this year I've made a coat (which went well), a skirt (which seemed like a great idea but in practice I don't actually like), and part of a dress (which was a disaster and is now sitting waiting for me to work out if I can save it). Everything else has been jersey dresses and a couple of tops. Since that is what I tend to wear most often it's not a problem, but it has left me feeling like I'm in a bit of a rut. So it was time to mix things up a bit.

These are the Flint trousers by Megan Nielsen, a pattern I loved as soon as I saw it. When she had a 20% off sale I ordered it directly from her website, reasoning that even with shipping it was still slightly cheaper... and then I got charged £12 customs, making this the most expensive pattern I've ever bought. Sigh. I don't know how common the customs thing is (I got charged the one time I ordered Decades of Style patterns too, though my boyfriend insists that low-value items like this aren't meant to be subject to customs charges), but it can't have helped that the pattern shipped out in a massive box packed with cardboard bubble wrap type stuff. "Hmmm, a box. Looks valuable. Better charge for it."

Since my trouser-making experience is limited, I wanted to make a toile first.

Here is my toile, made of the worst fabric in the entire world. Try as I might I could not capture its full hideousness on camera, but please be assured that it looks MUCH worse than this in real life. The place I ordered it from called it "terracotta", which I presume is a typo for "paper church decorations constructed by Brownie Guides for the harvest festival service". I used to be that Brownie Guide, and these shorts give me flashbacks. There are so many colours this could be that I would like - burnt orange, mustard, tan, the terracotta I thought I'd ordered - but instead I have this. Pumpkin sugar paper from the back of the art cupboard realness. It's also horrible fabric - scratchy and stiff, yet also wrinkles as soon as it senses you looking at it. It is the very worst of all linen qualities. I wore them for a day to make sure all was OK with the fit, and then I threw them away.

Having got over the mild fabric trauma, I decided to move on to a proper pair of trousers. The pattern is for shorts and cropped trousers, but my wardrobe can't really accommodate wide-leg cropped trousers right now, so I lengthened them (and graded them out slightly, because too much hip for the size range). This fabric is a really soft suiting I bought at Walthamstow Market - yes, it's black, which is super hard to photograph, but also I do actually need some black basics and I'm going to put a bit of effort into making them over the next several months. I've tried to lighten the pictures so the details aren't completely obscured.

The pattern is well-drafted, quite simple, and really rewarding. Because they're loose the pain of fitting trousers is much reduced (I'm still planning on a properly fitting pair but I am having body image issues right now and can't face it), and they can easily be made up in an afternoon. And the design is fantastic - it works as a basic item in a normal wardrobe, but it's also detailed and different. The waistband wraps over at the left side, and the left pocket is half-open to allow you to get them on. There's an internal button (or press stud, in my case) holding them closed, and then they tie together at the top of the pocket. It's stuff like this that makes me not resent making basics, and I need more patterns like this in my life.

I almost never wear trousers these days, so I'm going to see how much wear I get out of these before I decide if I make another pair. I hope I do, because I enjoyed the process of making them so much that the eventual outcome was almost beside the point. It was one "oh, that's cool!" after another. I do really like these, though, and I think they'll be useful. I can wear them at the weekend without feeling like I'm dressed for temping, but equally I could wear them to work and they wouldn't look weird or out of place.

One thing I would like to do is remake my toile. A pair of orange shorts would actually be a great addition to my wardrobe if I could find orange shorts-appropriate fabric that didn't upset me down to my very soul. My new mission will be to find some, and banish the memory of that harvest festival tablecloth stuff for ever and ever. It's possible I'm being a touch dramatic, but it's really nasty fabric, OK?

But these I like. Applause to Megan Nielsen! And now back to your regularly scheduled dresses. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Kielo part 2, and a bonus Concord

I wasn't intending to make another Kielo so soon after my first one, but the three metres of stripy Fabric Land jersey sitting in my stash started looking at me, and when fabric tells me what it wants to be instead of making me guess, I just roll with it. 

Kielo the second, very similar to Kielo the first. This one has the extra-special addition of secret pockets, an idea I stole from Catherine Daze. Every time I don't put pockets in a dress or skirt I regret it, and to be able to have them in a dress like this is amazing. I made the pockets big enough to fit my phone and not much else, and that's as much as I need. The first time I wore this outside was to an interactive theatre production of Alice in Wonderland, and having secret pockets to squirrel away all the random shit they give you on the way round was a blessing. (Which reminds me, the 6 of Spades is still in one of the pockets and needs to be removed before I wash it.)

HAHAHA what is this face, Jen. This is where the pockets are, as demonstrated by my phone. 

Pattern matching is slightly askew on the back bodice, but the skirt lines up pretty well. 

I did bias facing instead of bands on the neck and armholes this time, and that worked much better. The fabric is less annoying to work with than the green jersey was, so the twin needle stitching looks better too (though not good enough for me to want to share a close-up. I WILL master you, various types of topstitching). 

This dress is distinctive enough that I don't really want to make one in every colour, so unless we have a crazy hot summer and I want to be in maxi dresses all the time, I probably won't make any more for myself. I am going to make another for my mum, who has requested I make her one for her birthday this year (by which I mean I showed her a picture and she said "Ah, I'll have one of those then" then bought fabric for an entirely different dress so now I'm making her two birthday dresses. She is literally the only person in the world who is allowed to do this.)

I had a bit of leftover fabric, and I decided to try making another Concord. I'm glad I did; this is the best-fitting one I've made so far. 

The fabric was extra wide, so I managed to squeeze this out of a half-metre remnant. Between the Concord for jersey and the tulip skirt for wovens, I barely have any remnants at all anymore. Which is nice, because it was getting to the point where I was hoarding awkwardly-sized remnants that I didn't want to throw out, sitting on top of them in a cave like some sort of fabric dragon. I made a 14 G/H instead of a 12 for this one, because I don't like my T-shirt tops as close-fitting as I like my sweater knit. There's not much else to say about this; it's a Concord, I like it, I will make more Concords.

I'm unsure whether this counts towards my "tops that aren't grey or black" goal. On the one hand, it's still half black. On the other, it will introduce a bit of lightness to my outfits and I will definitely feel less like a secretary wearing this than I do wearing a black skirt with a grey top or vice versa. And it's already proving incredibly useful for Me Made May (I'm not doing roundups here this time, though I will do some kind of post at the end. My outfits are on Instagram @the_slapdash if you're not following me and would like to). Eh, we'll call it a pass on the basis that I do have two actual bright tops cut out and waiting for me to sew them up this week so I'm not wussing out of colour altogether. 

Up next: I'm not sure. If I can get my trousers done by next week, that's what it'll be. If not, probably more wrap dresses. Not even sorry. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

spring sewing: a vaguely spring-like dress, two ways

So it's probably fair to say at this point that most of the things in my spring plan aren't getting made. I've not been in the right frame of mind to start an enormous time-suck project, and anything requiring me to buy new fabric has been shunted to the back of the queue. It's not that I haven't been making things; I have. But I've been making jersey dresses with fabric I already own, and here are two of them:

It's a white dress. This hasn't happened since primary school.

My original intention was to make the fuller-skirted version of Vogue 8972, and I got as far as cutting the pattern out before I realised just how flouncy the skirt was. If I'd tried to make that in white I fear I would have awoken Teen Goth Jen from her slumber and then I'd have to spend the next eight months putting flowing black lace sleeves on everything to calm her down again. Which I think we can all do without. I'd still like to try V8972, but it's going to need to wait for a different fabric.

The pattern I ended up using for dress #1 is Vogue 8724, which I bought online after seeing a ton of positive reviews on the site (not so common an occurrence). It's a mock-wrap bust with overlapping pleats at centre front and back princess seams, and comes with cup size options (YAY). The fabric is white ponte from John Lewis that my mother gave me for my birthday. It's SO soft I would happily just sit there and stroke it, but apparently people don't like it when you do that. Of course, they don't like it when you make it into a dress and then sit there and stroke your thighs either, but hey.

I knocked this up in a couple of hours and I really like it. The fit is great. The fit on the back is PERFECT and the only change I had to make to the front was to wrap the bust panels over a little further for modesty's sake. I sewed the panels together at the front along the neckline hem to guard against gapping, which seems to have worked pretty well and doesn't make any noticeable difference to the overall look of the thing. 

The pattern is a yay, and I recommend it if you like the style. After a couple of wears I even got used to the extreme white. My main concern with this dress is its versatility. I would consider this to be a 'nice' dress (i.e. not slobbing around at home and running errands), and my 'nice' dresses are usually worn to weddings, dinners and dances. Wearing white to a wedding is still a faux pas, and if I wore white while eating literally anything or even existing in the same room as food I would become one giant stain within seconds. I also don't think I'd ever wear this dress dancing - I strongly prefer to have cleavage covered up while doing full body contact dance. With this last point in mind, I made a second dress with the leftover fabric.

This dress is the same By Hand London Anna/Sew Over It tulip skirt mash-up as my tropical print dress from October. That dress is one of my current favourites for dancing in, so I thought I'd make another. I made a couple of changes, both of which were ill-advised: I added a bit more length to the sleeves, which I don't think I like, and I added pockets, which are somehow too small to fit my hands in even though I used the same pattern I normally do. Sigh. This is the problem with sewing as therapy. 

The first dress is much nicer, and I'll be looking for excuses to wear it. The second dress is a better fit for my wardrobe. I am counting both as successes.

On spring sewing: I'm still going to do the red dress, and rather than making trousers I'm making a pair of shorts to try out a different pattern. I'll make better plans for summer, honest. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

the Very Mild Experimentation series: going without a waist seam

In my last post I mentioned some suspect advice I'd read about green not being a good choice for someone with my colouring, and several people told me that was nonsense. I know it's nonsense (basically any saturated colour works for me, and it's muted tones and pastels I have to be careful with), but it's interesting how these generalisations are presented as fact and can easily get into your head. A little while ago I was searching for styling advice and kept coming across stern-voiced pronouncements on "The ONLY three silhouettes that work for your body type" and completely serious "50 things you should NEVER wear if you're over 30" articles that I genuinely thought had been parodied out of existence. And yes, it is nonsense. Yes, finding personal truth in one of these articles is basically akin to finding insight in a daily horoscope. Yes, it can all fuck off and rot. But it's insidious, all the same, and there are times when I actively need to fight against it.

All of which is to say, I'm taking the first step in my resolution to try some shit out and see what happens, and that first step is a dress without a cinched waist.

The only dresses in my wardrobe without close-fitting waist seams are wrap dresses with waist ties (and my favourite wrap dress pattern does have the close-fitting waist seam). This is cool, since I like my waist, but if I can have a wider range of shapes in my wardrobe then I'd like to. I'm unlikely to ever be the woman in loose-loose silhouettes or enormous slouchy sack dresses, but a slightly more relaxed look every now and again couldn't hurt. I picked Vogue 9196 because it still had plenty of seams and fitting lines, but no waistline and a nice relaxed 60s vibe that I thought I'd like to have a go at.

I am dressed exactly like the pattern envelope in these pictures; I already had the blue ponte and once I saw the illustration I couldn't get it out of my head. No, I didn't have to put the boots on, but why not go full dork, I always say.

As you can see, I do still have shape in this dress. It's not meant to be completely straight up and down and I think I prefer it that way, since most straight shift patterns don't appeal to me in the slightest. When I was taking my introductory class at Sew Over It, the instructor pointed to a sample of their shift dress and told us that was the ideal next step in our dressmaking journey. All eight of us took one look at it and said, "Hahaha, no," and it was never spoken of again. The idea of a relaxed T-shirt dress appeals to me more, but I think that would take a lot of work to get right for my figure. I'm not opposed to trying, though.

Ponte is one of the recommended fabrics for this dress, but it's mainly drafted for wovens and is meant to have a centre back zip. I had to do a lot of weird folding to get the pattern out of one metre of fabric whilst also cutting the back pieces on the fold, but I made the effort knowing I was likely to need the second metre for a second attempt. Which I did; the first dress had several problems. One, the armholes were too high and it looked weird. Two, the back V as drafted was way too deep for me. Three, I hadn't compensated enough for my narrow back and the dress had what I can only describe as a shower curtain quality from behind.

I recut the dress with lower armholes, a different back neckline, and two sizes smaller for the back pieces. I also took a few inches off the hem, because I wanted a 60s dress and the knee-length version had more than a whiff of sack about it.

I love the colour of this dress, and in person I really like the way it looks. In photos the silhouette is jarring to me, probably because I'm so unused to seeing it. It hasn't put me off wearing it, though - it's easy and comfortable and put together, and with opaque tights it's a really nice dress for both dance events and general mooching about. Whether or not I make another one depends on finding the right fabric, but I'm definitely open to it. 

Aaaand some frond fondling to close. I tried to take a photo of me doing that arms down, hands pointing out to the side pose that a lot of sewing bloggers do when they're wearing something vaguely 60s, but in every single frame I had a face totally suffused with inexplicable fury and murder. I have learned my lesson and will not be trying that again.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Named Kielo, or a real green dress

(That's cruel.)

I've been talking myself in and out of buying and making the Kielo for ages. I thought that I wasn't cool enough to pull it off and it wouldn't work for my body type, and yet still I wanted it. I bought the pattern in January, talked myself in and out of it a few more times. But I'm interested in experimentation at the moment, and having a) received several assurances that it wasn't just a pattern for skinny bodies and b) realised that I didn't HAVE to make it in beige chiffon like the sample, I decided to go ahead and make myself a toile.

Here is my toile! Except it's not really a toile because I have been wearing the shit out of it since I finished it last week. I love maxi dresses and yet I've somehow only made one up til now, so I pounced on this one as soon as it was out from under the Gnome's presser foot. 

This fabric is a fairly cheap jersey I got from The Textile Centre, and it's not the greatest quality, but what it lacks in quality it makes up for in being an ACTUALLY NICE GREEN. I love green dresses, and when I started sewing I imagined making at least half a dozen of them, but I've never found fabric in a shade I like. It's always slightly too faded, slightly too dull, slightly too musty-looking. This still isn't quite the brilliant deep emerald of my dreams, but it was close enough for a casual maxi dress.

I had a hell of a time sewing this up. Since it's almost impossible to find nice green fabric, I've never needed to buy green thread for a project, so when I sat down to sew this up the only green thread I had was a spool from a rather suspect "BAG OF THREAD MANY COLOUR" that I ordered off the internet when I first started. My machine did not like this thread, and it didn't like the fabric either, but I was determined that the stitching on the back vent (which would be visible) would be done in the right colour, so I had a thoroughly frustrating time until I got the topstitching done, when I threw the thread away and replaced it with the next closest colour I had (dark teal, so really not very close).

I got to the point where the dress was in a state to be tried on (i.e. after sewing the seams, before hemming or binding any edges), looked at myself in the mirror and went "OMG that's kind of amazing". It certainly doesn't make me look any smaller, and this jersey is extra-clingy to any bumpy bits, but it has this beautiful Grecian drapey effect which manages to look regal and casual at the same time. And it has to be said, my stomach is my least favourite body part and this style of dress tucks it away nicely without making it look like I'm deliberately hiding anything. I'll take a bit of lumpiness in the hip in exchange for that.

 Also I LOVE this colour. I've read things in the past which say that someone of my colouring isn't "supposed" to wear green, but I think it looks great. Shrug.

Having decided the dress was potentially really good and not just a disposable toile, I put it to one side until I could get hold of some non-terrible green thread for the finishing. Actual patience and planning for once! Maybe I'm growing as a person.

The one thing I really don't like is the finish on the armholes (I used jersey bands and didn't like the way they looked, so I topstitched them down to the inside). Part of that is my crappy twin needle stitching, but since that's probably not going to be any better next time I make this dress, I need to come up with another method.

I will definitely make more of these. I foresee myself living in them (and maybe one or two other styles of maxi dress) when summer comes. I'm now not so sure that the red fabric will work, but I have some wide stripy jersey that I'd like to try it in. Honestly though, what I want most of all is some better quality bright green jersey to remake this one, because it's not going to last very long. Anyone have any ideas where I might acquire such a thing?

Conclusion: Kielo is not body type dependent. Go forth and be cool, all of you!

Monday, 27 March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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