Monday, 18 June 2018

spring sewing: the other things

Hi! I'm back from New York! We've had a great time - eaten and drunk far too much, caught up with friends, seen Come From Away which was phenomenal, rode on a strange light-up fish carousel thing, all the usual NYC stuff. I've now finally recovered from my jet lag and crammed enough vegetables into my body to calm it down a bit (is it a general thing for American restaurants not to serve veg with anything or were we just spectacularly unlucky?) and I'm ready to start thinking about sewing again. My summer sewing plan isn't finished yet due to a chronic lack of fabric (no, seriously) but I hope to have rectified that by next week. 

For your amusement, here are a bunch of things I don't have enough to say about to warrant a post of their own! Some of these are from my spring sewing plan, some of them I just made because I could. This will wrap up everything I intended to make except Simplicity 8424 (which will get its own post) and the trousers (I've made a couple of pairs but I'd like to do some more work there before I post about it).

Aqua Named Kielo


This is probably my least successful Kielo and I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe the fabric is too thin? It looks odd wrapped in the front the way I normally wear them and I much prefer the look of it wrapped in the back like this, but I'm not really comfortable actually wearing it that way because it's so clingy. This one is on probation right now.


Goth dress


I bought this fabric to cheer myself up and to indulge Teen Goth Jen. This is an Anna/half circle skirt and I completely hate it, so much so that I got rid of it a week later. It's just not me in the slightest; even taking a few photos in my back garden I felt deeply uncomfortable wearing this. Teen Goth Jen will have to find another way to feel her oats, and having been reminded that I do actually like red, I will have to make myself another red dress in a style that fits Current Jen better.

Stripy Wanted T-shirt


I really love this, but much to my confusion it doesn't seem to go with anything else I own. I'm going to try and work out why this is so I can find a way to fit it into my wardrobe.

(Also we took this photo in the grounds of our hotel in Seville a few months ago and that place was so beautiful it almost makes me angry.)

Kwik Sew harem trousers


This was an attempt at exercise/loungewear. I like them in theory, but they are WAY too big. I fell between sizes and the pattern tissue told me in no uncertain terms that I was not permitted to cut between sizes or blend between them, without explaining why, which I found kind of weird. In case there was some sizing danger I wasn't aware of, I played it safe, cut the larger size and found that they nearly fell off. (Also it only includes a 6mm seam allowance, which seems weird for something with this much gathering?) I will have another go, but I'll probably size down twice. All of this has left me not hugely enthused about future Kwik Sew patterns, if I'm honest.

Also in the above photo I'm wearing a Simplicity 1716 cowl neck top. I've actually made three of these (one of which was a Christmas present) but I've never blogged them because I cannot find anything to wear them with. This seems to be a running theme with me and tops and I need to work out what that's about.

Up next: my summer sewing plan and my trip to Mood!

Monday, 28 May 2018

spring sewing: stripy Jalie hoodie and a birthday present

A few months ago, I was suddenly hit by a very strong desire to own a cropped stripy hoodie. This was partly because I'd bought some really lovely stripy ponte without a clear idea of what to do with it, partly because I literally never make jumpers I can layer over things and so always end up in old RTW when it's cold, and partly that I'd just made Patrick's hoodie and had hoodie envy.


I didn't want raglan sleeves, so rather than alter the Burda pattern I used for Patrick's, I went looking for another. There is apparently no such thing as a crop length hoodie in the sewing pattern world, unless you count that one Mimi G pattern that's literally just a hood and some sleeves, and standard hoodie patterns are all much of a muchness, really. I dithered over it for some time and finally bought the Jalie unisex hoodie pattern, mostly because I was looking to make a birthday present for my father at that time and it seemed to make sense to get a pattern that could do both.


As it was left to me to decide what "cropped" means, I made it a bit shorter than full length then stood in front of the mirror pinning the hem in various places to get it to hit the right point on my waist. I wanted a loose silhouette but still have the shape of my waist be visible, so that this has a chance of being part of my everyday wardrobe and not just something I shove on to slob around the house in. Overall I ended up taking six inches off the original pattern, and I think this is about right. My smallest point is still covered here, but I have a super-short torso and if I'd taken the hem up any higher the proportion of the hoodie itself would have been thrown off.

I left off the kangaroo pocket. I had the options of "cropped at the right place", "kangaroo pocket", and "not having really weird pocket boobs" and could only pick two out of three. I also just hemmed the hoodie with a twin needle rather than putting bands on; I didn't want a hem band for previously mentioned proportion reasons and decided it would be more cohesive to leave them off the sleeves as well. This does make the sleeves a tiny bit short but that doesn't really bother me.



The neckline and hood on the Burda pattern are much better than this one. The neckline is SUPER small and I'm not a fan of that at all. The hood also doesn't have a drawstring and eyelets, which I would have preferred (I know I could easily have added them, but I didn't realise it until I'd attached the hood to the neck). On the version I made for my dad, which was a regular jumper and not a hoodie, I ended up cutting out the neck binding entirely after my first attempt because the neck was so small. Cutting it out made it slightly too big, so I think I'd have to be careful how I altered it in future. He seems fine with it, though.


 (Dad is not a model. I stopped after four photos because his face literally wasn't moving and I was getting worried. He's very pleased with it, though.)

I will definitely make this again. When it gets colder I'll probably make another one for myself, and I'll try and mash it up with the Burda hoodie to get the neckline and hood style I prefer. I'll also almost certainly use it again as a default "promised I would make this person a jumper" pattern, though still with a modified neck because it is SUPER small and few people want that. I'm definitely down to try more Jalie patterns after this - some of their activewear stuff in particular looks fantastic. Yay good pattern companies!


Intense staring off into middle distance while dramatically popping a hood!

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Spring sewing: ALL the jumpsuits!

(Who's got two thumbs and forgot to schedule their post then spent three days wondering why it didn't have any views? This girl!) 

Much to my surprise, my sewjo has come roaring back and I've managed a first attempt at all three jumpsuits! I've got tons done over the last few weeks and most of my spring sewing is finished, though that doesn't amount to as many posts as you'd think as there have been a LOT of wadders. Partly due to new patterns not working for me, partly due to fabric issues, slightly due my tastes having changed, and as always, a good dollop due to incompetence.

The first jumpsuit I tried was New Look 6468, which I loved the idea of, but it looked absolutely horrendous on me. It was a special level of hideous not often achieved. The sleeves were too small round the bicep (I ended up removing them entirely), the neckline was weird, and the top was so blousy that even an elastic waist couldn't give me any definition at all. It was so bad that when the charity donation van came by the next day I threw it straight in the bag. About a week later I realised I should have got a picture anyway, but hindsight. I still really like the idea of a lace-up jumpsuit, but I won't be making this one again; I probably could get it looking slightly nicer with nineteen or so alterations, but I don't wanna. Also one of the diagrams instructs you to sew the underlap on upside down. I'm sure I'll be able to alter something else to get the look I'm going for.

Onwards to better things! Jumpsuit number two:


This is McCalls 7632, and I was certain I was going to hate it. Actually, I was certain I was going to hate everything I made out of this lightweight viscose and I was sad, because I liked it. Turns out everything I made from it worked pretty well so now I'm worried I'm going to get sick of it. The pattern envelope recommends more structured fabrics than this, so I was worried about that, I was worried about the fit, and most of all I was worried I'd produce something that actually looked like the sample garment.



This jumpsuit is definitely meant to be more fitted than I've made it, and I'm not sure where the fault lies for that. For some reason I seem to need a bigger size in jumpsuits than I do in tops, dresses or trousers, so I was playing it cautious with the sizing to begin with, but I also think it's grown since I made it. You can see in the back shot above that the fabric is distorted on one side - it does that super easily. I had to retie that knot a few times and the fabric did not like it at all. There are benefits to it being this oversized, though - I first wore it on a bank holiday Monday when the temperature got up to 28 degrees (which for a Londoner is incomprehensibly warm) and because it's loose and flowy and drapey I managed to stay pretty cool and comfortable all day. I don't know what size I'd make if I attempted this one again.


It's an incredibly simple project. It's only got four pattern pieces and since the shoulders are just tied together there's much less fitting than there ordinarily would be. The bodice is lined, but again that's very simple to do. It's easy enough to knock out in a few hours.

I LOVE the shape of the trousers. This is the exact kind of swishy wide-leg awesomeness I was looking for. I am definitely going to see if I can use this pattern for a pair of stand-alone trousers, and also for grafting onto bodices I like. I'm less sold on the top - it's nice, and the ties certainly make it easier to keep the back from drooping, but having giant knots at the shoulders limits your layering options somewhat. I'm not opposed to trying it again, but I'm not in love with it either.


For any future versions, I would probably put slash pockets in at the waist and either size down at the waist or add a sash belt. I still might make one for this version if I have enough scraps left over. There's also a tiny part of my brain telling me to make the one-shoulder version with the ruffle, and I cannot work out why. I hate clothes that require specialist undergarments, and I'm really not a fan of ruffles either. Maybe I just like the idea of a dark summer floral, as they've drawn for that view? I don't know. Don't make ruffled one-shoulder jumpsuits, Jen.

Jumpsuit the third:


This is Simplicity 1355, which I got free with a magazine. I almost never buy sewing magazines unless they have at least two patterns I'm interested in (one pattern if the magazine is cheaper than six quid), but last month was just such a month. This one has an elastic waist, side seam pockets and a low crossover back. 


I almost didn't make this at all after the failure of the New Look one, which was also an elasticated waist and looked like ass. But I'd said three, and I had the fabric for three, and so I was going to make three jumpsuits, dammit. I'm glad I did because this one works much better, probably the best version of the three. It fits closer to my waist than the McCalls jumpsuit (without me having to size down and make it form-fitting) but is much less blousy than the New Look pattern, so it doesn't take me to Frump Central. Currently this is the number one candidate for "wandering around NYC jumpsuit". 

There is, however, this issue:


So as far as I could see, the pattern does not instruct you to attach these two crossover back panels to each other in any way. That possibly works if your back is broader than mine, but when I first put this on both panels just flopped down to my waist. I've seen lots of very nice backless jumpsuits, but they are not for me due to previously mentioned dislike of specialist undergarments. I hand-stitched the panels together at the crossover point, which holds them up, but I'm thinking I might need to go back in and fudge that crossover point to be an inch or so higher. I'm not generally that bothered about bra straps showing, but for aesthetic and comfort reasons I'd rather my bra fastenings weren't making friends with strangers on the tube. 

Assuming I can work this out to my satisfaction, I am definitely up for making another version of this. It's extra comfy but still cute and I think it'll be a real workhorse in the summer. This was the pattern I was least excited about, so I'm really pleased it's turned out so well. I like to have my expectations confounded every now and then. 


In conclusion: Jumpsuits! Woop!

Monday, 14 May 2018

all I ever Wanted, all I ever needed

You may recall that last year I made several attempts at a grey T-shirt maxi dress, and failed every time. I gave up on the grey (it just doesn't work on me head-to-toe), but I still hankered after the T-shirt maxi. I wasn't sure what to do - I was still smarting a bit from all the wadders I ended up with last year, and also didn't really want to pay for the kind of simple pattern I was after. It was only when this dress finally gave up the ghost that I realised I could just copy that, except... you know, properly this time. 


This is the Vanessa Pouzet Wanted T-shirt with a gathered skirt attached. Much like last time, I used the front panel of the BHL Anna skirt at the front to give me a side slit. My original gathered skirt was just one piece of fabric bunched up terrifyingly at the waist, but this one is three panels at the front and one at the back, which works much better. 


I decided against using the Anna bodice this time. Every time I've made it in lightweight jersey it's very quickly got stretched out and pulled down and lost shape, so I'm reserving it for woven fabrics and heavier knits in future. Also, this neckline looks great on me. 

This fabric is from Fabric Store in Walthamstow because of course it is, and it's fabulous. It's lightweight but not see-through, stretchy with great recovery, and super soft. And this print is awesome. I must try and get some more. 



The main issue I had with this dress was trying to get the waistline to sit in the right place. I cut the bodice to where I thought I wanted it to sit, without considering that a maxi skirt is obviously going to weigh the whole thing down. It ended up sitting a good couple of inches below my waist in an extraordinarily unflattering way, and rather than unpick all the stretch stitches (ugh) I just cut the whole thing off below the stitching line and did it again. The finished version sits pretty perfectly on my waist from the front, though it is still a little too low at the back. But I can't see that, so eh. 


For an experimental dress I am pretty damn pleased with this. I absolutely love the chilled-out summer Goth (well, recovering Goth) vibe of it, and it's really great to have a summer dress that isn't bright and floral. It's incredibly comfortable while still being put together, and I will be wearing the shit out of it this summer. If I can find the right fabric, I'm going to make a second one. I have bought another piece of summer maxi dress fabric, but since it's bright and floral I think I'm going to reserve it for another Kielo. I strongly prefer to have my legs covered when it's sunny (unless the dress in question is really amazing), so half a dozen maxi dresses and a few jumpsuits will see me quite happily through the entire summer. 


(There just is something incredibly bitchfacey about this whole look, so I figure I may as well run with it.)

Next up: jumpsuit time!

Monday, 7 May 2018

on this lovely Selja knot tee

(Pun context should you require it)

I'm starting to get into my spring sewing now, and to start it off, here's some exercise gear!


I first made this pattern last year, but I never blogged about it. I wanted to recreate an old-tie front T-shirt that I used to love and the Named Selja looked like it would fit the bill. The front is made of two pieces with one tie end on each, so rather than a huge knot around the natural waist it's a more relaxed one sitting somewhere between the waist and hips, which is what I was after. I never posted it because I didn't like it - it was a boxy fit even when made out of the most lightweight jersey, and the neckline was super high, which I just hate for T-shirts. I even threw away my traced pattern because I figured I was never going to make it again. 

However, back in January I went to a dance workshop that required fitness gear (it was 90s Britney Spears and it was GREAT). All I had were a couple of old pairs of leggings and some T-shirts from when I was a couple of stone lighter, and I just felt way too self-conscious. Then I remembered I still had the Selja, and the boxy shape combined with skintight bottoms actually worked pretty well. I've worn it for a few dance classes in the time since, and I started to think that maybe I should make another. 



I got this fabric in a Sew Over It remnant sale. I'd considered buying it several times but always held back; I really liked the fabric on the roll but couldn't imagine for the life of me what I could make out of that material that would feel like me. I don't know why this is. Maybe it's the style of the print, or the size of it, or the fact that it's black and multiple bright colours on a white background, I'm not sure. I just felt like if I made up one of my go-to patterns using it, I would look unstylish and a bit clueless. It seemed like too big a risk to pay Sew Over It prices for. However, a metre or so for a couple of quid in a sale was probably worth a shot.

For this version I went down a size and tried to scoop out the neckline a bit more. I think I was a bit over-cautious - this is definitely better, but it's still a bit high for my tastes. Actually, it's not even that - it's that it feels like I'm more fabric than body. On a fitted T-shirt, or one where the sleeves stopped before the end of my shoulder, it wouldn't bother me nearly as much. What I didn't do was increase the length of my neckband to compensate, as the neckband on my previous attempt ended up not lying flat. 


This has and will continue to serve me well as a workout top. I have videos of me doing a couple of different routines wearing this, and it looks pretty good. I will absolutely not wear it in any other circumstances, but hey, that's not what it was made for. 

While I'm here, I'll also share this:


This is my Jenicorn T-shirt, and I don't if you'd call it an alteration or an upcycle or what. I normally never do those because I think it's actually much harder than making something from scratch (at least, if you want it to look good), but back in March my father requested we all accompany him on a trip to celebrate his retirement and I found myself at a golf, spa and crafts hotel in the middle of nowhere. We signed up for the T-shirt painting, got given some cheap-ass T-shirts, and much to my surprise I ended up with something I quite liked. (I did not draw this. I have zero sense of proportion or perspective and I still draw like your average six-year-old. Hooray for stencils!)


I had a similar problem with this one as with my first Selja - it was an unfitted, super high-necked T-shirt and I did not like the way it looked on me at all. When I got it home I cut the neckband and sleeve hems off and replaced them with some offcuts of black jersey, which has improved things somewhat. Clearly the shoulders still end somewhere halfway down my arms, but I am not so invested in getting a perfect fit on a £3 exercise T-shirt that I'm prepared to take it all apart, recut basically everything and put it all back together. 

I was going to include a couple of screencaps from my class routines here, but then I spent about an hour trying to get one that a) actually looked like I was dancing and b) didn't make me look deformed, and came up empty-handed. So here's me doing Single Ladies instead:


Monday, 30 April 2018

Esther? I hardly know 'er

(Oh yes, we have progressed into Dad Joke titles, lovely readers.)

I wasn't sure I was even going to post about these.


Having been not the remotest bit interested in wearing trousers for the past few years, I've suddenly found myself wanting to wear them all the time and getting increasingly annoyed that I don't have any. Trouser fitting is still a scary thing for me, because I've made so few. I don't really understand all the ins and outs of adjusting for certain issues so it's still a matter of luck whether my trousers fit or they do that thing (everyone has a different that thing, but mine is either a gaping waistband that sinks dangerously low when I sit down, or fabric settling in below my belly making me look like I'm wearing a nappy. Or just trousers that won't go over my thighs).

I will start to get a grip on this fitting thing. But first, some actual wearable trousers. I thought the Victory Patterns Esther looked like just the thing - loose and comfortable, but interesting and cool at the same time.


The pattern is very well drafted, as you might expect, and came together quite easily. The trouser front is made up of two pieces per leg, which are pleated and overlapped at the waist making a kind of triangle shape at the thigh (it's really hard to see in this dark fabric, sorry). This is the reason I thought I didn't like these trousers. If those pleats aren't knife-sharp and lying as flat as they possibly can, they're not pretty. In a super-light fabric like this, the inside of the pleats can fall out and form what my boyfriend referred to as "pubic flaps". Don't have extra pubic flaps.

This fabric is from Walthamstow, and unless all my toiles go drastically wrong you'll be seeing a lot more of it. Sometimes I buy ten metres of something just because I can.



My intention was to install a press stud for the fastening rather than a button as directed or a sew-on stud as I would normally do, but after my first practice go (I got everything installed properly but then the whole thing just ripped straight out of the fabric as soon as I tried to use it) I gave up and went back to the sew-on method. I really dislike hand-sewn fastenings, but clearly I have not found my way around that yet.


Having got the pleats sitting properly, I really like the silhouette that these trousers give. They sit at the natural waist, there's enough room for my hips without sizing up, and because the pleats fall straight down they don't give me that pot-bellied silhouette from the side. I wasn't sure about the shape of the legs at first (I was expecting them to be a bit wider at the bottom), but it's definitely grown on me. 


I'm in two minds as to whether or not to make another pair of these. I definitely want more lightweight spring/summer trousers, but this is quite a specific shape and I don't know if I want to faff about with all the pleat pressing for a second time. I'm considering trying to mash this pattern up with the Megan Nielsen Flint trousers - I love the shape of those but I can't see the ties holding up in the kind of lightweight fabric I would want to use. I don't think I'd ever use the Esther for colder weather trousers - wool is one of the recommended fabrics, but it seems like an awful lot of bulk and volume for winter weight fabric. Maybe that's just me and my preferences, though. 

All in all, I'm quite pleased with these and glad I managed to rescue them from the brink of failure. Yay!


Next up: finally getting on with spring and some workout gear! 

Monday, 23 April 2018

My First Burda: a paisley velour hoodie

For the first almost-three-years of my sewing journey, I never touched a Burda pattern. Two main reasons for this: one, I am awkwardly sized so that my top half fits into their regular range but my hips are well into their plus range; and two, the tracing. Oh God, the tracing. I rarely trace my patterns at the best of times (unless I'm forced to or know I won't be able to replace it) and just looking at the mass of overlapping lines gives me a headache. I will have to deal with this soon, because the only leather jacket pattern I like is Burda and is in the one issue of the magazine I have. I could buy it again separately, but I'm pretty sure that my £5.99 could be better spent elsewhere.

What I've done here is neatly sidestepped both those problems by acquiring a men's paper pattern.


I don't make a lot of handmade stuff for my boyfriend. I don't want to be making stuff for the sake of it and he's picky enough that it's fairly rare to find something he really wants which is also within my skill set. But when something does fall in the middle of that Venn diagram, it usually requires a bunch of new techniques that I wouldn't have got round to for years if making stuff for myself and I come out the other side marginally stressed (because it matters more if it goes wrong) but with a pile of shiny new knowledge that opens up doors to a new variety of Jen-shaped patterns.

New technique number one: use of paisley velour.


I've never got round to using velvet or velour for myself because the one time I tried to cut into some it started shedding all over everything like an over-enthusiastic sheepdog and I decided I didn't need that kind of negativity in my life. But then I said "paisley velour hoodie" to my boyfriend and he started gently glowing from the inside, so I powered through and got it done. The shedding was nowhere near as bad with this fabric (another Abakhan purchase) thanks to its shorter pile and its print, so rather than a blue floor I just had some slightly furry scissors by the end.



The hoodie has raglan sleeves and a typical hoodie front pocket, and it went together very easily. It's a very well-drafted pattern (which I was expecting given how many Burda fans there are out there) with fairly sparse instructions. It's not a complicated pattern so that wasn't an issue, though I do think they called for an unnecessary amount of basting. I got as far as sewing the hood sections together, and then I had some more learning to do.


EYELETS.

This was my first foray into installing hardware on clothes. It was one of the goals I set myself for the year and it was nice to have an impetus to get on with it already. I'd bought a starter kit but not bothered to read the instructions, so five minutes after I sat down to get learning, I had to stand up again and go and buy a hammer. Why did it not occur to me I'd need a hammer? Who knows. Apparently the idea is to punch a hole in the fabric using the hammer and eyelet tool, but the fabric would not be punched, so I just cut a hole instead. I don't know whether this was my fault, the fabric's fault, or the tool's fault. I had one practice go at installing an eyelet on a piece of scrap fabric and it... went in fine and looked like an actual eyelet, which I was not expecting. I put the next two straight into the garment, and they also went in fine and looked like actual eyelets. I spent the next couple of hours feeling incredibly smug.


(This is as close as a representation as we'll get of me looking smug after installing eyelets correctly for the first time.)

The pattern calls for ribbing on the cuffs and waistband, but the ribbing I ordered turned out to be a horrible colour mismatch and I didn't have time to get any more. I used the self fabric and I think it's fine. The drawstring I bought matches the fabric exactly, so weird dusky blue ribbing would have looked extra wrong.


This has been an exceptionally well-appreciated present. Patrick wears it almost every day at home, and when we have people over he insists on going to put it on and modelling it for them. Sometimes he just says "paisley velour hoodie" for no reason at all. I'm very proud of it - it couldn't be more perfect for him, and beyond a couple of slightly wonky stitches I think I've done really good work here. I would definitely make this pattern again, and it's really making me want a hoodie of my very own. 


 I'm not sure what will be next up. I've been struggling for motivation over the last few weeks, and the things I have finished I hate too much to ever photograph on my body ever. Hopefully things will pick up a bit this week and I'll be able to get some finished garments and nice photos before we head to my in-laws at the weekend. Though I have my FIFTH dental operation this week (apparently two of my teeth died inside and my dentist can find absolutely no explanation for it! What a joy it is), so we can't count on it. Fingers crossed one of my experiments actually works out for me.