Monday, 20 November 2017

Ghosts of Zombie Hoodie past (Kommatia Patterns J005 bomber jacket)

Hey, remember two years ago when I was desperately trying to replace my Zombie Hoodie?

This may not have been on my autumn list, but this is one of the most peacock things I've ever seen.

I'd never heard of Kommatia Patterns until a few weeks ago. I followed a link to a pattern which on closer inspection wasn't for me, but while I was there I had a bit of a browse and saw the pattern that Jen from two years ago was searching for in vain: a cropped, hooded zip-up jacket. I waited a couple of days to buy it because I've instituted a new rule about not buying sewing shit at 12.30am when I'm delaying going to bed for unknown reasons, but after some reflection I decided this was a sensible purchase. I have nothing like it, it cost about £6, and teenage me was quietly squeeing.

(I've just noticed this dress is covered in fluff. I bought some VERY ill-advised fabric and clearly didn't throw it away fast enough.)

This fabric is from a stall in Walthamstow Market. I'm not exactly sure what it is; the guy said "woollen fabric" but I would say it most resembles a super-light twill. I'd gone out with the intention of buying something black - a black floral, ideally - since I already had some black rib knit and was completely uninterested in complicated colour-matching, but this fabric was an unignorably beautiful colour and also had enough black in it to work quite nicely with black ribbing.

The whole thing took me a couple of hours to make up. I left off the zipped pocket on the arm for many reasons, not least of which my lack of desire to search for a 4-inch zip. I flat-felled all of the main seams since the jacket is unlined.

The jacket is described as "very loose-fitting" but I did not find this to be the case. Sure, it's not tailored or anything, but my understanding of loose-fitting in home sewing terms is that it will have a decent amount of ease in it. My bust is about an inch larger than the Kommatia size L, so I made that assuming it would be fine for a loose-fitting garment. In practice, while it's not uncomfortable to wear or anything it's certainly not what I would describe as "loose". There's also a slight range of motion issue when it comes to folding my arms.

Overall I love this thing. I love the way the black rib and black zip look (and I'm also impressed I managed to identify the correct length of zip on sight from a market stall basket full of unlabelled haberdashery), I think the fabric is great, and it looks like a professional piece of work. My boyfriend, who lives with me and my constant attachment to the sewing machine, saw me in this and actually thought I'd gone clothes shopping. Something this super-casual is going to be really useful, I think, since I tend to make things slightly more formal-looking than my life requires at the moment. This will be great for flinging over jersey dresses when I'm going to dance events, and is a great piece of loungewear too.

I was so pleased with this one that it was mere days before I started thinking about the black floral bomber I originally had in mind. "That'll be great for my winter plan," I thought. "I'll start looking for the fabric now so that it's all ready for December."

I bought the fabric on a Saturday and was wearing the finished jacket by the following Wednesday. Sure, it would have been much more sensible to hold off and make the things that were actually on my autumn plan, but who do you think you're talking to here? Unless the garment in question is super complicated or takes a ton of fabric, my immediate reaction to liking a new pattern is almost always to make a second one RIGHT NOW.

I popped into my local Sew Over It for their monthly remnant sale, where I got quite a lot of nice bits of jersey that are mostly destined to become pyjamas, and they had a huge roll of this floral twill sitting by the door. I decided it was perfect and impulse-bought a metre, assuming that would be enough. It was not. They didn't have any more left (apparently it got promoted on their vlog and EVERYONE ordered it), so I spent a bit of time debating how to work around it. I know that a bomber with contrast sleeves is a classic and I almost cut it out that way, but kept stopping as my scissors were about to cut into the fabric because I didn't really want that. Eventually I decided to make a plain hood using the fabric left over from my Flint trousers, and I'm glad I did because I actually think it works better. The main fabric is kind of burlap-ish on the wrong side, and since the hood is unlined I think it might have looked a bit odd. Yay accidentally improving things! 

I sized up for this one and it's definitely more of a standard bomber jacket fit now. I left off the arm pocket again (I'm never going to use an arm pocket), and flat-felled all the seams. I love a good flat fell, even if it does get really awkward when you get to the wrist or ankle. 

I really like this version. Winter florals are much more my thing than spring/summer florals, with the dark backgrounds and deeper colours, and I like the contrast of the fabric with the style of the jacket. It's super autumnal, but it'll also work for most of the rest of the year if I wear it with different things. I've been getting tons of wear out of both of these, and I'm surprised at how much difference a range of outerwear and layering options makes to getting dressed. Two bombers is quite enough for now, but I think there will be many more jacket-type things in my future. 

Next up: I needed a top, but I made two dresses instead because why wouldn't I

Monday, 13 November 2017

autumn sewing: McCalls M7626 jumpsuit

So this is not exactly what I intended to happen:

I did intend to make McCalls 7626, which is what this is, and I did make McCalls 7626 in a teal babycord, which is not what this is. Let's just say I had some issues. 

Let's start with the good stuff: I really like the shape and fit of these trousers. The neckline works with the Wanted top underneath exactly the way I pictured it. I've been thinking about an olive winter jumpsuit for a while now. It's outside of my wrap-dress-and-tulip-skirt comfort zone, but I do think the end result is cute. 

BUT. I found making it to be kind of a headache. The first and most important reason is that the sizing was not what I expected. Here's attempt one:

Cute, right? I actually like this version much more. The colour is better on me and the fabric isn't as thick, which definitely works better for this pattern. The only problem is that I can't do it up and the back is just flapping open behind me in this photo. I have a small amount of fabric left over, and I would love some advice on where/how to insert extra fabric to make this fit me properly. I'm finding the whole idea a bit intimidating at the moment. 

I was frustrated, but I wanted a wearable jumpsuit. So I bought this olive corduroy on my Goldhawk Road corduroy hunt, and had another go, sizing up basically everywhere except the mid-upper back, which always gapes on me anyway. 

This one fits (and fits comfortably with a top worn underneath it), but it's not perfect. As you can see in the photo above, the height of the back is in exactly the wrong place for a comfortable zipping experience. It's slightly too high to do up in one motion from the bottom, but slightly too low to be able to finish by reaching over the shoulder. It's really annoying. Also the legs could do with a little more length. 

I wouldn't use this kind of thick cord to make this pattern again; it's way too bulky. Putting in the zip was one of the more annoying experiences I've had because there is just so much fabric in the waistband seams. Invisible zips do NOT want to be sewn in straight over four layers of cord and I had to unpick and redo several times. The sample dress on the envelope looks to be made of a corduroy-type fabric, and I don't think it would have ever occurred to me to do this without that picture. It looks great and is a fantastic warm autumn piece, but yeah. Use a thin cord. 

This review is going to come off a lot more negative than I mean it to. I really like this jumpsuit and will make it again (I want to try it in a thinner fabric), but there were just a lot of little annoyances along the way. Sizing off, zip insertion annoying, bulky bits, too short in the legs, slightly odd instructions. I'm convinced there must be a less convoluted way to handle the lining, but I'm too much of a beginner to know what that way might be. Sigh. 

I'm pretty sure I'll get a decent amount of wear out of this, assuming I don't get too hung up on how much of a departure this is for me style-wise (self-esteem is currently a huge problem for me and I am fighting the urge to just disappear. Wearing a corduroy jumpsuit does not boost one's invisibility, it turns out). It'll be especially good for layering as it gets colder. 

My next go at this pattern will definitely be attempting to fix the teal version, and again, advice very gratefully received. I basically need a small amount of extra room in the bum and waist so that it will zip up, and a little bit more ease in the bust so that I can comfortably wear a top underneath it. I WILL do it before the end of the year. I am determined. 

Really restrained Josephine Baker-ing for no reason whatsoever! 

Monday, 6 November 2017

unnecessary sewing: the emerald green evening dress of my dreams

One of the main reasons I started sewing in the first place was because I was almost always going into clothes shops with a very specific idea of what I wanted, and it was almost never there. I might be able to find the right shape but not the right colour, the right colour but in a completely different garment, or more often than is right and proper, the right colour in the right shape but also with a gigantic asymmetrical boob ruffle. Why?? Two and a half years into dressmaking, most of those problems are gone. Unless a) I have an extremely specific plan in mind and I just can't find the exact right pattern for it, or b) I want something green.

I don't know what it is about green fabric, but the colour is almost always wrong. The mossy olive I'm searching for is always muddy, the deep forest green drab and school uniform-ish, and the brilliant emerald just doesn't exist in any form whatsoever. Two winters ago Liberty had a really beautiful emerald green silk, but I couldn't justify £50 per metre, and when I tried to buy some in the sale it had sold out. I still think about that fabric, and the dress I imagined making from it, way more often than I should, but I could never find anything that was even in the same ballpark. Until now.

I saw this satin-back crepe at the Knitting and Stitching show, on the M Rosenberg stand. It was satin side up on the roll, and I'd already decided to buy it just based on the colour. The woman then showed me the crepe side, which feels super expensive and does beautiful things when it moves. (I never realised that was the purpose of satin-back crepe, but consider me thoroughly educated.) The colour isn't quite accurate here - I put an Instagram filter on it and this is much more representative of the actual colour. It is super green and I love it.

I'd already decided this was going to be a straight Anna dress so that the fabric could be the star of the show, but I debated for about a week on length. A knee-length one would be more versatile and I'd probably get a decent amount of wear out of it, but what I wanted was the completely impractical occasionless floor-length version. Patrick told me to make the dress I really wanted, but I was still full of practical doubts, so I let the fabric decide. Turns out, the maxi Anna pattern fits very easily onto three metres of fabric. Oops.

This is about the tenth time I've made this bodice, so I didn't change anything. I did add a couple of small front pleats to the skirt because I wanted it to mirror the pleats on the bodice. It is a skosh tight because everything is a skosh tight on me right now, and this will hopefully be remedied soon.

For this version I decided to line the top of the dress, since I hate the facing that comes with the pattern and stitching or binding round the neck and sleeves would detract from the look I was going for. I found a tutorial for attaching the lining to the zip tape by machine, and I like the way it looks SO much more than slipstitching. I still had to hand stitch the lining at the waist, but anything to cut down on the tedium. I then hand stitched down one side of the split, all along the hem and back up the other side of the split which took FOREVER so well done on cutting down that tedium there, Jen.

(It took me FOUR attempts to get decent photos of this dress. My camera suffered a knocking-over incident during a power cut, and I thought I'd got away with only a slightly damaged tripod, but after getting made up and dressed up three times and coming back with blurry images each time despite messing with ALL the settings, I had to face up to the fact that there was something wrong. My camera doesn't have autofocus in the body so I assumed the damage was in the lens, which turned out to be the case after I tested it with my wide angle. Luckily replacing a kit lens isn't that expensive, so I ordered a new one and normal photo-taking service can resume.)

I don't feel too guilty about having made something this unnecessary. I've been a very restrained dressmaker so far and never made a party dress that wasn't intended for a specific party, so I think I can give myself a pass on this one. The shorter version would have been more versatile, but also would have made me sad because I wanted this. Hopefully someone will throw an obnoxiously formal Christmas party this year, or I can just wear it on Christmas day like a twat. Why not? 

Look at me being all dramatic in the momentarily-cooperative wind. Nice. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

unblogged projects, part one: a bunch of Olivia dresses

Over the course of this past year I've made more things than I've blogged. A few times the item in question has been too much of a failure to photograph in any state at all (is it useful to people to have text posts about projects like that? Let me know), but most of the time it's because I have nothing left to say. I'm remaking a pattern I've made several times before, I've already got it to fit, everything is the same. My rule these days seems to be that I don't do more than two stand-alone posts on the same pattern, unless there's something substantial to talk about (still working on the fitting, trying a new technique or fabric, the garment in question is amazing and I want to take a million photos of it), but that leaves a lot of stuff unblogged. Since I like my records to be complete, I'm going to start infrequent "here's some stuff I don't have more words for" posts.

To begin, it makes sense to start with my Named Clothing Olivia dresses. When I posted the first one, I didn't think I liked it, but within a month it became my very favourite dress and I wear it far more often than I should. A couple of months later I made another two, raved about the pattern some more, and then decided I had nothing more to say. I have, however, made another three versions, and here they are:

Version 4 here is probably the one I wear the least, because I didn't shorten it at all and so it's usually too formal for my lifestyle. I don't want to alter it, though, because it looks great like this. This jersey was an impulse buy from The Textile Centre in Walthamstow, based almost entirely on how unbelievably soft it is. I really wish I'd bought twice as much and made a set of pyjamas too. 

There's no elastic in the waist of this version. I really liked how it looked and felt without it. 

Having now made a bright red, a bright orange, and a light blue version of the dress, I started thinking about having a rainbow of Olivias. Partly because I like silly gimmicky things sometimes, but mostly because I did some colour analysis on things I've made versus things I actually wear and discovered that I'm not the biggest fan of rainbow-coloured separates. I'm not sure what it is, I just don't like the way they pair with things most of the time and I'm much more comfortable with bright colours that aren't in the rainbow (fuchsia, turquoise, gold and so forth). I do, however, get a ton of wear out of my rainbow-coloured dresses, so this is basically how I'm to decide which fabric becomes which garment from now on. 

I got this green jersey from Sew Over It. I don't shop there as much anymore because it's a LOT of girly floral to sort through, but occasionally they get something like this that's right up my street. I made this one shorter than the blue one but not as short as the orange one, and it's probably the most versatile length. This is my second favourite next to the orange, and I wear it all the time.

(please excuse this photo, my camera lens was dying and I had to do a bunch of weird editing to make the dress look OK. Next week I will have a shiny new lens and then we can all look at some much better pictures.)

Aaaand having gone about the rainbow thing for a whole paragraph, here's a black one. I knew I was in need of another short Olivia, and the right yellow, indigo and violet fabrics still haven't come my way. I got this from Girl Charlee at the Knitting and Stitching Show, and I'm going to be keeping a close eye on it. I haven't seen many reviews of Girl Charlee that don't contain one of two phrases: "Girl Charlee is terrible" or "Girl Charlee got in touch and offered me some free fabric" (I'm not knocking that, fabric is expensive and I'd struggle to turn down a freebie too), but I want to like them. I'd love a decent-quality knit fabric specialist, and they have a whole range of printed sweater knits. And this fabric is SO soft, and the colours in the florals are SO bright. I really want it to work for me. I want to believe that they took the negative reviews to heart and started sourcing much better quality fabric. I WANT TO BELIEVE. This is a very new make so hasn't gone through the wash yet, but this is what I know so far: it took forever to dry after the pre-wash, it was a pain in the bum to sew, it feels really lovely to wear, it is a really terrible fabric for making pockets. I will update when it's been through the machine a few times. 

I made this version super-short and left out the elastic waist. This is probably slightly too short; I think it went a bit haywire during hemming. But it is super comfy and so far I really like it. 

Next week: if all goes well with my new lens, a completely unnecessary evening dress. Yay!

Monday, 23 October 2017

autumn sewing: gold Thurlows and a mish-mash top

I'm working my way steadily through my autumn sewing plan, and I've now finished almost all the day-to-day pieces I committed to making (I will be making the coat and have some camel-coloured wool for it, but I've decided against the Leanne Marshall pattern and am waiting for a couple of promising-looking coat patterns to become available here before I start that project). Mostly it's gone very well, and I'm wearing everything I've made on a very regular basis. This one, however, caused me a little more trouble.

Here we have my second-ever pair of Sewaholic Thurlows. My first ones fit well, but because they were grey pinstripe they felt too formal for me to actually get any wear out of. I've been putting off making a second pair because complicated, but now it's officially autumn (I went outside today in a scarf. A SCARF) a pair of comfy trousers is exactly the kind of thing my wardrobe needs. 

So, fabric. Sigh. The fabric I had in my head was an extra-saturated mustard corduroy, and I searched for it for a month. I ordered what claimed to be mustard cord from Minerva Crafts (I hadn't used them before, and yeeaahhh... let's say I was not sold), but what turned up was the most horrendous shade of toddler yellow I've ever seen. That basically killed any drive to find what I was looking for online. Several weeks later I went to Abakhan in North Wales with my partner's mum and found the exact colour I was looking for, except it was wool. Which I bought, along with some cotton to line them. I got them almost completely finished, tried them on to fit the back extension, and they didn't fit at all. I have no idea why, because I used the exact same pattern and size for both the previous and subsequent pairs, and they were fine, but the wool ones were unwearable and unsalvageable. I bought this peachy gold corduroy on Goldhawk Road a few days later, and I do like it, but part of me is still mourning that bright yellow. Grrrr. 

As with my previous attempt at these trousers, I made them up mostly straight out of the envelope. Trying on my first pair revealed that they were slightly too short, so I added about 1.5 inches to the legs, and honestly the length is probably one of the things I'm most pleased with. They neither drag on the ground and get dirty nor do that weird hovering thing that slightly-too-short trousers do. I kept all the details (except the belt loops, because I do not own any belts); I made the back welt pockets and constructed the front fly without any problems whatsoever, then promptly sewed the trousers up as one giant leg with two hip holes because I was apparently high on my own sense of accomplishment and thought I didn't have to pay attention anymore. 

I flat-felled all the major seams and hemmed the trousers by hand. I've been doing a lot more hand hemming since I realised there's no reason to keep the stitches hidden on the inside and a herringbone stitch is actually quite nice to sit and do. 

The biggest problem I have with these is the fastenings. Super-secure, neat-looking hand-sewn fastenings completely elude me, and I'm certain that the hook and/or bar is going to come off sooner rather than later. Is there a trick I'm missing? How do you get poppers and other such notions to go on neatly and stay put? 

The top is a Concord top with added cuffs and a slash neck, and honestly it's not really what I wanted. That doesn't mean I don't like it or won't wear it, but it's not what I had in mind when I planned to make this. I wanted a layering piece, but this is just a very slightly roomier version of what I usually make. I think getting the shape I was imagining is going to be quite tricky - I want something I can throw on over tops and dresses, but I do not want baggy or boxy in any way, and I think it might take me a few goes to get right. I have about a metre of this fabric left, so I might have another go at it. 

I copied the neckline from an old RTW jumper of mine that's about to die, and though I like it I think the neckband needs some work. I've had better success with neckbands since I stopped using the neckband pieces that come with patterns (or using them for width only), but I still don't have that instinctive understanding of fabric that allows my necklines to come out right all the time. This one stands away from my neck a bit at the shoulders, so I probably needed to make the band a little shorter. 

Both these pieces will, I think, serve me well. I'm going to have another go at getting the shape of top I want, and I'm debating whether I want another pair of trousers. When I bought this gold corduroy I bought another two pieces too, one of which is a much finer and thinner piece of burgundy cord. I'm unsure whether I want it to become another pair of Thurlows or a miniskirt. Ah, decisions. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

the winter Kathleen dress (McCalls 7350)

I made a few attempts at getting over my inability to sew things, and this dress is another of those:

This is McCalls 7350, which I bought in the last flash sale for this view in particular. I thought it looked like a really versatile silhouette and I'm basically always looking for cute pullover jersey dress patterns. This one has a faux-wrap top and a faux-wrap skirt with a wide gathered waistband in the middle. I'm often drawn to waistbands and waistband detailing but in practice struggle to find ones I would actually wear, so I was quite excited to try this. 

I got this jersey at Walthamstow Market, from my current favourite shop there (helpfully named "Fabric Store"). It's almost the exact opposite of my usual style, what with being white and having the exact kind of brown florals my grandmother used to have on everything, but nevertheless I was drawn to it, and I had this pattern in mind from the beginning. I rarely if ever name the clothes I make, but this reminds me so much of Gran that I've been calling this dress Kathleen without even thinking about it. 

(The fabric is panelled, so the line at the back of the neck is a seam but the line across the back isn't.)

The dress wasn't exactly what I expected. The line drawing seems to imply bands finishing the front neckline, but it's basically just a great big drape with self-facing sections. You will note that it's sitting differently in almost every one of these photos, which in one sense I quite like but I don't know how I'll feel about it after wearing it out for an evening. It's quite easy to end up exposing sternum, which I don't prefer, but I'm also not exactly sure where to stitch it to stop that happening without messing up the drape. 

Also, the skirt claims to be gathered, but as you can see, all the gathering is concentrated to a few inches at the centre back. I don't mind it so much on this version, but as a general rule it's also something I don't prefer, and for any subsequent attempts I'll probably try to alter the pattern to cut down the amount of fabric in the back skirt.

My intention in making this was to wear it to a party at the end of September, but as soon as I tried it on I realised that this was obviously the winteriest dress that ever wintered and it was going to have to wait a couple of months to be appropriate. I think a Christmas party where absolutely nobody drinks any red wine anywhere near me may be in order. (This is why I don't make white clothes.)

I think I probably will make this again. It's turned out very well (my boyfriend was particularly effusive, but then I suppose this kind of fabric is much more his thing than it is mine) and I think it'll be fairly easy to get wear out of it in the winter. I love the waistband and I love the way the skirt looks from the front, but I'd want to get some of the excess fabric out of the front neckline and centre back for future versions. This is one of those patterns that's ripe for mix and match, so you're probably more likely to see bits of it stuck on to other patterns than the whole thing made up like this.  

Even Teen Goth Jen doesn't hate it too much. 

*stares moodily off across the imaginary snow pretending to be C.S. Lewis's White Witch*

Monday, 9 October 2017

autumn sewing: peacock skirt (and bonus Givre)

I didn't post last week for two reasons. One, I'd decided to start about five projects at once and so had five half-finished things as opposed to one or two actual wearable garments, and two, I was having an especially bad time with sewing and self-image. I've put on a bit of weight recently so a lot of my clothes fit awkwardly, and I couldn't get my head around picking a size or taking photos of the finished product. But equally, not sewing was making me sad, so on Friday I decided to make my peacock fabric into a Sew Over It tulip skirt. It was in my plan, I've made the pattern over a dozen times and I know it fits, and I had enough fabric that I'd be able to remake the skirt if my size changed drastically any time soon. Also, it takes me about 20 minutes these days.

(In these first three photos I look like I don't have any legs. Please ignore that. I do still have legs.)

I got this fabric from Fabric Land in Bristol, and it was the genesis of the whole peacock theme thing. I usually breeze past the printed cottons and stretch cottons in Fabric Land, but I saw this from the other side of the shop and I knew it had to come home with me. Colour is king in my wardrobe, and the saturated blue and yellow with tiny hints of red and purple is just too perfect. 

Unusually for me, I opted not to put pockets in it. I might regret that somewhere down the line, but I wanted the skirt to be as simple as possible and I didn't have workable pocket fabric immediately to hand. It should fine - it's autumn now, so I'll be wearing this with a jacket more often than not. I used a regular zip instead of an invisible zip, because all the invisible zips currently in my notions box are 22 inches long and bright salmon pink. When did I buy a job lot of salmon pink zips? 

(I took these photos in our stairwell. I'd got myself all geared up for photo-taking, then realised it was raining and the flat was a mess. I think it works and I'll probably do it again - apart from anything else, I look way less murderous making eye contact with the camera from this angle. The struggle with RBF is an enduring one.)

While we're here, let's talk about the top:

I decided to make another Deer and Doe Givre dress, because much to my pleasant surprise I've been wearing the first one all the time. This one isn't quite as successful - the fabric doesn't stretch quite as much so it's a bit restrictive, and also something about the combination of colour, texture and overlocking (my friend Micky fixed my overlocker, and I managed to do this one dress before it did something weird and now I don't know how to fix it again) reminds me of the sleeping bag I used to use as a duvet at my nan's house when I was seven. I don't even think that's a bad thing; it's just that the association is so strong that it's all I can think about when I wear this. I do LOVE the colour, though - this orange-yellow-gold needs a bigger place in my life. 

I'm super into this outfit. It's very "business casual Rainbow Brite" which is an aesthetic I could stand to explore a little more. I've been spending a bit of time on personal style forums lately and there's something tremendously appealing about the pithy little style phrases people come up with. I'm thinking about doing a short series on styling and wearing things differently, because I'm sure my wardrobe could be way more versatile than it is. 

I managed to get a couple of things finished and photographed this weekend, so up next: a dress that has nothing to do with anything I planned. Hooray!