Tuesday, 20 April 2021

a fabric haul

 Hey, I got to go fabric shopping! Walthamstow Market opened again last week so I swallowed my nerves and dragged my half-vaccinated ass onto the tube. The dude was there, unbothered as ever, and he had lots of pretty shiny new things for me. I got a lot of stuff (surprise) and I'd like to share it before I start cutting into it with wild abandon. 

Most of what I have is solid coloured, and most of the colours are slightly off when photographed. I think I'm going to try and acquire myself a proper light; everywhere in this house is either extra sunny or too dark to take any photos at all. 

a piece of blue-violet grape

First we have a fairly standard crepe, dusty blue-violet in person, that I want to make into a pair of trousers. I want to try out the Gertie/Charm Patterns Lucille trousers, which seem to be wide leg and swishy without being quite as enormous as these (no shade to these, they're still one of my most worn items). Historically Gertie's drafting has worked well for me but I haven't ever tried her trousers. This one may not work and I'm OK with that. 

a piece of turquoise fabric

I didn't ask what this was exactly, I was too taken by the colour (it's much more turquoise in person). It's a mid-weight woven with a small amount of stretch. This is the only one I bought without a plan - I got four metres thinking I could maybe get two things out of it, but now that I'm home with four metres of it there's a little goblin whispering "make a massive fancy dress despite zero occasions to wear it, you know you want to".

a piece of brick red microfibre crepe

This is a microfibre crepe (which I've never encountered before) and I bought it basically because the dude recommended it to me. It's a very brick red in person and light bounces off it in a very interesting way. This might become my second attempt at the Simplicity jacket, but I want to play around with it a bit more first and make sure it'll actually work for that. When I was folding it after pre-wash it seemed to produce a ton of static, and I don't yet know if that's the fabric or just our oddly static-conducting new house. I might need to find an alternative pattern with a full lining. 

a piece of burgundy ponte

a piece of grey ponte

Two pontes next. One of them is destined to be the crossover hoodie view of the Closet Core Mile End sweatshirt, and I'm not sure about the other yet. When I bought them I was intending for the grey to become the hoodie and the burgundy to become trousers or joggers, but when I got back from the market and showed them to Patrick he said "ah, you've bought something to camouflage my trousers" and that's when I remembered that Patrick literally only owns burgundy trousers. I have made a pair in the past and I ended up not wearing them very much because of how odd we looked together. So either I'll switch them round or I'll use the second piece to make T--shirts. 

a piece of black/white/pink floral crepe

This one is a bit of a punt. It's not really me at all, and I have a huge amount of it (he was nearing the end of the roll, I ordered four metres, he asked me if I'd pay for five in exchange for six, so I did). It feels lovely, and it's a really beautiful weight. Part of this may become the spring maxi I mentioned in my plan, and the rest will become a dress to wear to my friend's wedding in August. 

Today I finally ordered my cheap laser printer, which is hopefully going to make everything a lot easier. Once it arrives I'm going to start working on the trousers and the hoodie. My last couple of projects haven't turned out an end product I'm happy to share, but hopefully one of the two will come good and I'll have a proper finished garment post within the next week or so. And if not... I'll probably go right back to the market, tbh. 

Monday, 22 March 2021

just make something: Wanted top

 Two weeks in a row! And they're both actually things I've made! 

Today is Patrick's birthday (his second lockdown birthday, poor guy) and it marks only one remaining week of waiting until a) our bed arrives and b) restrictions are lifted sufficiently to allow us to have other humans in our garden. I cannot wait. Sleeping on the floor is ruining both of us and extreme introvert though I might be, I really miss people. I think it'll take me a while to remember how to socialise, and it'll be a long while yet before I'm prepared to deal with a crowd again, but one or two humans? Yes please. 

On to the thing I made! It's a top which wouldn't ordinarily be something I'd bother to post. There's rarely much to be gained by writing about the same knit top pattern more than twice and if I were making things at a normal rate, you'd see this in a month's time being photographed with whatever new pair of trousers I'd made with a short single-paragraph aside of "oh, also I made this."

But I am not making things at my usual rate. This is the first thing I've made in months. So we're going to talk about it. 

As you almost certainly know, this is the Vanessa Pouzet Wanted top. I've made this many times and used it as the bodice for a summer maxi dress many times more. It's a particular favourite of mine because it's both a very simple knit top and a bit more interesting than a basic T-shirt, and I thought making it now would let it serve as a good transitional piece between "I'm inside all day, nobody is going to see me" and "oh, humans again" without too much culture shock. 

The fabric is a piece of sweater knit from the Abakhan bins that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas in 2019. I've been hoarding it mostly because of the sheer novelty of someone else giving me fabric I didn't pick. But when March rolled around and I decided this whole no-sewing thing had outlived its welcome, this fabric was a no-brainer to start me going again. It's knit, it's nice quality, it's a good colour, it can become a simple top and get worn regularly and immediately. And so it was. For a while I was considering trying to make a dress out of it, but seeing how clingy it is I'm very glad I didn't! It did not enjoy being hemmed, and there's a chance I might try to piece together enough scraps to make bands so I can unpick the twin needle stitching. 

The first time I made this top I did so out of jersey with basically no recovery, and it started falling off my shoulders pretty quickly. I made the assumption that the neckband was too long and so not holding everything where it should, and for my next several attempts I shortened the band considerably. This time I went back to the original length and I have to say I prefer it. So far it hasn't threatened to fall off my shoulders at all. I also made the decision not to adjust for my quarantine boobs or quarantine biceps, in hopes that I can continue to wear it when all returns to normal. I'm fine with it being a bit tight, but it is quite noticeable in these photos. 

I cannot imagine how irritated Past Jen would be if she found out that she did all that work to whittle down and clear out her stash only to have Present Jen whine that now she didn't know what to make and this is why people have a stash. (Past Jen was correct, I don't like a big stash, but we are in very particular times right now.) 

I'm happy enough with this as a project to get things moving again. There are things I would, in better times, have paid more attention to, but the most important job this top has is reminding me that sewing is good and fun, I can make things I like and I should do it more often. Though I still might replace that bottom hem with a band if remnants allow,

Since Walthamstow is still a little while away, I've ordered myself a McCalls maxi dress pattern (8174) to try out with one of my experimental pieces of jersey. It's yet another triumph-or-disaster sort of project, so you may or may not be seeing that within the next week or two. The test jersey I've picked is bright red because I absolutely intend to overcompensate for the past lost year by showing up to everything bigger and louder and brighter and fancier than anyone has any right to be. 

Back soon, with a new dress and another background option! 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

toile talk: the never ending leather jacket quest

Last week was rougher than I'd anticipated. Partly for good reasons - I got a last-minute appointment for my first dose of the Covid vaccine and spent the following couple of days cycling through extremes of temperature and trying to sleep it off. I am incredibly grateful and relieved to have some protection for my asthmatic self and hope it'll ease some of the anxiety about the world opening up again. But the latter half of the week... I've tried several times over the past few days to write something about Sarah Everard's murder and the horrifying range of responses to it, and I just can't. It makes me too sad. But I will say that she was kidnapped fifteen minutes from my house, and the proximity of it all has made everything hit me a little harder than it should. 

All of which is to say, I did not have it in me to take any photos last week. But now I have! What I'm about to show you is one of the items from my autumn plan six months ago (I am Good at Things), and it is yet another attempt at having a stupid biker jacket. This one is McCalls 8121, the Nicole Miller pattern from last year. I did in fact make this last year, in an attempt to use up some stuff before moving. I didn't photograph it at the time, thinking it hadn't worked that well, but coming back to it three months later I like it a lot more and I have a lot to say about it. 

New garden! No more palm tree! I don't know if this snail wall here is going to be my new permanent photo background (I'm going to try a few different things), but it has the distinct advantage of being right next to the kitchen door and affording much less interaction with the cold and wet and drizzle that is March. 

This toile is made out of one of the first fabrics I ever bought. I'm not exactly sure what it is - it's cotton, but it's also been treated with something to make it stiffer and and possibly slightly water-resistant. When I bought it I had only made one dress pattern ever, bought this to make it again, and quickly realised it wasn't going to work. It sat in my cupboard until Patrick and I moved to a flat that had no fabric cupboard and I began using it to line the wooden box I stored my fabric in. When we planned to move again and regain a Jen cupboard, I thought I might as well use it up. I think it photographs much better than it looks in person; it has gold butterflies on it that very much have the look of "five-year-old doing potato prints", which will absolutely stop me wearing it, but they're not so noticeable in the photos and just blend into a general impression of colourful and shiny. I think it looks particularly nice in the photo below and I will probably keep an eye out for sunset-evocative fabric that I could use to remake this in a wearable way.

First off, the design of the jacket is really great. It has all the biker jacket details I've been coveting: asymmetric front, collar, zipped sleeves. It also has welt pockets, which I didn't put in the toile but would in a real version. It's lined, and the design is such that you have hidden pops of lining fabric on the outside - the under collar is cut from the lining fabric, and my personal favourite detail, a lined back shoulder tuck which is almost entirely hidden but gave me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I got super excited when I discovered it and I really wish it was more common for patterns to include things like this. A patch pocket does NOT count as a "beautiful detail", please try harder.

What I liked less were some of the construction methods. To construct this jacket, the directions have you completely finish the body before you even start on the sleeves. Lining and hem and everything. You then sew each sleeve and lining up as one piece. It's very weird and I'm not at all sure why they do it that way. At first I thought it might be to eliminate the need for slipstitching the sleeve lining to the zip tape, but nope, you still have to do that. There is a baffling amount of slipstitching in general given that a jacket should be a pretty hard-wearing item and faux leather is an explicitly recommended fabric. The hem is slipstitched (despite the fact that the armholes are still open and the jacket could be turned through them), and then the sleeve lining is slipstitched to the armhole as a final step. I had this on a coat pattern once before, years ago, and it was the worst idea. I swore I would never do it again. If I were to remake this properly I would want to change all of this to eliminate as much of the hand sewing as possible, but I haven't yet worked out what I would do instead. 

As this was a toile I made it up as is, and we're going to look at some of my fit issues:

First and most obvious: FBA very much needed. I knew this was going to be a thing but after so many failed jackets I wasn't prepared to put the work into something I might have hated. I don't think I need masses of room but an extra couple of centimetres would go a long way. It's a princess seam jacket so that should, I hope, be fairly simple. I also think I could do with a little more room in the bicep.

Second and also fairly obviously: the back doesn't fit properly when the jacket is zipped. I either need to shorten it so it stops before it meets the Butt Shelf or widen it so it hangs straight down, and I'm leaning towards the former. I think that will look a little more even overall. Also I apologise for the quality of this particular photo - I only realised later that I was standing mostly out of shot every time I turned around. I miss having a very specific stone to stand on under the tree (that is the only thing I miss; in every other way my living conditions have upgraded substantially. Well, apart from the lack of doodle puppy living next door, but at some point in the next couple of years we will get a dog of our very own to remedy that).

In conclusion: not bad! Promising! Best result so far! I might even allow myself a tiny sliver of optimism! I will probably attempt another test run with fitting adjustments/pockets/different construction method before going anywhere near another piece of faux leather, but since I'll soon be able to go to the markets again and get decent quality fabric for cheap I'm going to aim for a test that I can and will wear. This one is too potato-print (and the wrinkles look so much worse and more obvious because of whatever the stiffening treatment is), but the fact that it photographs well means I can look back at this post and feel encouraged, which is more than any previous jacket has given me. 

Up next will be the first and only thing I've made this year! Yes, it's a basic knit top I've already made several times, but it's a thing and I made it, which for a little while there I was worried would never happen again. It might be a literal year to the day since I first went into quarantine and I might be full of feelings about that (most of them are exhaustion), but things are moving, I made a thing, and I've remembered how to write. It's okay. 

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

sewing plan: spring 2021

 I was absolutely certain that this season was going to be a great one for sewing. I didn't make a winter plan so wouldn't be rushing to finish anything, and I would have lots of time to plan and workshop and come up with a dozen or so projects that would really work for me and my wardrobe. Finally, I would succeed at spring. I even wrote a whole introductory paragraph in advance for this post about how great the plan I hadn't yet come up with was. 

Obviously that hasn't been the case. Partly that's because of life and the world; I'm struggling way more with the tail end of lockdown than I anticipated, we still don't have a bed (the ten week lead time has turned into four months and we still have a month left to go), the previous owners did something weird with the boiler meaning we had only lukewarm water during the cold snap, all of which has left me in a mini-depression that will hopefully start to clear up come April. But it's also because I don't know how to plan three months' sewing without being able to see and touch fabric in person. I don't mind buying a small amount of fabric online when I know exactly what I'm doing or see something that particularly inspires me, but that doesn't work for a whole season. 

I've also spent the past several months working on projects for Minerva almost exclusively, which hasn't been great for me, and as of last week I'm no longer working with them. The partnership was great for me when I was just writing blog posts for them, but their format has changed and the last thing I need right now is another social media account, particularly one I'm obligated to update and engage on. 

All of which means I don't have a complete plan yet, and I don't even have a first completed make of 2021 yet. I got most of the way through making a birthday Magnolia dress, but the fabric just isn't working for it (ordered online, wouldn't have bought it in person) and I'm not sure I can persuade myself to finish something I know I'm not going to like. Beyond that the only sewing I've done this year has been mending existing stuff and whipping up a couple of basic tote bags, and honestly it's making me quite sad. I'm really hoping inspiration strikes soon. 

On with my vague semblance of a plan:


As I mentioned in my last post, I'm planning to make all of the curtains for the new house and I want to start this as soon as possible. We haven't yet started buying fabric but we've agreed on the ones we want for three out of four of the rooms (I have something very specific in mind for the fourth and it appears to not exist, so I'm going to need some time to get over that and move on). In order of priority this is what we're looking at: 

peacock print upholstery velvet

Living room (velvet)

gold-beige chenille upholstery velvet with art deco print

Bedroom (chenille)

Sewing room (cotton)

We are not subtle people. 

I have never made curtains before in my life but am assuming that with a basic tutorial it won't be too difficult. I want to do these well because my mother-in-law will be inspecting them (not because she's awful, she just really likes curtains. And makes all hers on her hand-cranked 1896 Singer, so puts a lot of stock in precision). 

For actual garments, I have no firm plans right now. I'm dividing my thoughts into two categories: fabric I already own (that you'll have seen before if you've been reading here a while) and would like to do something with; and garments I'd like but depend on me having seen the colour/drape/feel of a fabric in person. 

From the stash

This one is driving me crazy. I've had it for so long and I'm dying for it to become something I can wear, but nothing seems right. A jacket is still uppermost in my mind, but I'm having trouble figuring out something that won't be redundant. I have a lot of jackets.

I thought I was going to use this for another trial run at modifying the Ruska dress into a cowl neck, but I've now come to the conclusion that it's too thick and not drapey enough. Plan B is a sweater of some kind, and I'm on the lookout for one that won't require a neckband (the fabric unravels easily and produces a lot of long tails). 

This one would have been the centrepiece of my whole plan had I been able to go shopping properly, and will probably be what I think of when I am allowed to return to the market. I have five metres of this and haven't decided whether I use it all for a maxi dress or divide it between two garments. If I were to make it a maxi, it would need to be one I could wear in spring/autumn without looking out of place. If I were to make two pieces, it would most likely be either a shorter dress and jacket or a maxi skirt and crop top. 

Ideas I need fabric for

A light knee-length coat

I want to try Simplicity 8554 again, but in a lighter material with more drape and with welt pockets instead of side seam pockets. This is something I would absolutely need to see in person; the colour, the weight, and the drape all need to be right. 

A pair of trousers

I have been having so much trouble with trousers. I live in my 7726s because they're the only pair of actual trousers that don't pull tight on the thighs or sit in under my belly, and I honestly just don't want to be wearing such a wide leg so often. I think my best bet here is to return to the idea of working on my block and make a few pairs in the same fabric until I get the fit down. I'm hoping this will be easier now that I have a sewing cupboard and my drafting stuff is more easily accessible to me. 

A maxi dress for spring

Regardless of what I end up doing with the linen mix above, I want to have a go at the Cashmerette Upton expansion pack and make a maxi with longer sleeves that I can reasonably wear in April. I'm most concerned with finding the right colour and print for this one; casual non-summery fabric that also fits my style has historically been a pretty tough one for me. 

Because I've had to temporarily lift my rules on planning (i.e. I need to have both the fabric and the pattern for the majority of my plans when I make them) a lot of this will be subject to change. When I can finally go fabric shopping in person again I might be inspired to make a completely different set of things, though the final three projects are legit wardrobe gaps and I will make all of them at some point when I find the right stuff. The most important thing is that I find a project I'm excited about and get things flowing again. 

I have a few posts planned for the next month: a couple of toiles (one of which is a very small dress, so I'm really hoping it warms up a bit!) and a first update on my sewing room progress. That should take us through to April when hopefully things will start to look up a bit. If anyone has any advice on how to get out of a can't-touch-fabric slump, I would be very grateful! 

Monday, 18 January 2021

sewing room part one: plans

 This Friday we are finally moving house, and I will be graduating from a wildly messy corner of a one-big-room flat to an actual sewing room! Half a sewing room to begin with, until we build a little home office for Patrick in the garden. 

sewing room with flamingo wallpaper

Obviously I am very excited about this, and I thought it might be interesting to document what I'm doing with the room and how I'm setting my sewing space up. We're not planning to redecorate other than putting up some art, so the flamingo-and-fireplace wall will be staying as it is. 

My main goal is not to make it Pinterest-worthy but to set it up so that it works for me. I can be motivationally challenged, I spontaneously generate mess, and my logic does not always resemble actual logic. Rather than continue to shout at myself that I should be a different person, I want to remove as many barriers as I can in advance. 

window and floor-to-ceiling cupboard

This cupboard will be my main source of storage. It's way more storage than I currently have - it looks quite shallow in these photos but it's built into an alcove so it goes a fair way back - and I want it to be, as far as possible, enough. At the moment I'm pretty sure all the fabric I own will fit on a single shelf (I've moved most of it across already because it's easy to take a bagful with me every time I go to do an errand there) and I don't ever want to need more than two. Optimal stash size is such a personal thing and for me, huge amounts of fabric feel like the piling up of unmet obligations and I get very stressed and stop being able to sew. Similarly, I want to reserve 1-2 shelves for patterns, one for mid-sized equipment and one for works in progress. 

(The other cupboard, incidentally, is reserved for Patrick's niche culinary equipment which there won't be space for in the kitchen.)

I do not want to have to buy a lot of extra cupboards and cabinets, mostly for reasons of space. Eventually I would love to be able to have a cutting table, a dressmaker's dummy, a separate desk for my overlocker, and that just won't be possible if I have too much crap that needs a home. Those things aren't in my immediate plans because money is very much a thing, but there are a few things I'd like to get my hands on asap:

- a new ironing board. I bought mine for £12.99 from Sainsbury's when we moved in to the last flat and I discovered there wasn't one already, and I really don't like it. It's flimsy and slightly the wrong height. Last time I went to visit my parents my mum had just bought herself a new one that was everything an ironing board should be, and I keep thinking about it (much to my supreme embarrassment). 

- a full-length mirror. Being without one since ours exploded (this fucking flat) has made sewing so much more difficult. I'm so looking forward to easily seeing if something fits properly or not. 

- a set-up where I can take basic photos, i.e. a bit of blank wall I can point the camera at. I still intend to take most of my photos outside, but sometimes blogging would be so much easier if I could just photograph a top against a white wall instead of going through all the rigmarole. 

- some different sized scraps bins. I could do with a "bits of thread and overlocker offcuts" container to sit on my desk, a decent size scraps bin for the larger but still not big enough to sew with bits, and a dedicated place in the cupboard for scraps I can still sew with.

- pattern storage. I know, in my heart of hearts, that just throwing all my patterns onto a shelf isn't going to work, and I'll need to find some non-hideous boxes for them to live in and a way of categorising them (probably frequency of use, that's historically been the most useful way for me to put things away). 

- some kind of magnetic whiteboard, or somewhere else to place visual reminders. One of the things I'm really hoping for this year is to get an ADHD diagnosis and treatment, but while I languish on a waiting list I see no harm in adopting ADHD coping techniques. I'm excellent at recalling facts but my short-term memory is garbage, so being able to see a list of current projects without having to go looking for it and have a place to write notes that I won't immediately lose will, I think, be super helpful to me. 

- a small wall-mounted bookshelf for my sewing books. I don't have a ton of these but I could do with not needing to keep space for them in the cupboard. 

- curtains. What there is currently is a pink blind, and I hate it much more than it warrants. I've never made curtains before; I'm planning to make all of the ones we need for this house (we've had to buy temporary bedroom curtains, which are the only ones we have an active need for) and it feels like quite a mammoth task. Fortunately there is no real pressure other than my hatred for this blind. 

These are my stage one plans, and realistically it'll probably take me a good few months to get all of it together (for reasons of money, time, general pickiness). My first priority is making sure everything has a place to live, so pattern storage and scraps bins are where I'll start. I want to be able to unpack my patterns and put them straight into semi-organised boxes, and if I can do that in the week following the move, I should be in a place to start sewing again at the beginning of February. Not a huge amount of point in making myself a birthday dress this year, but that's not necessarily going to stop me! 

Monday, 4 January 2021

autumn sewing: Hepburn tops and Plausible Deniability Trousers

 2021 is here! So far I've been alternately very sad and angry that we've Brexited, scared about how fast the new Covid variant is spreading in London and how poorly the response to it is being managed, and also somehow riding on a very small wave of motivation to get stuff done. The decorators are starting work on our green parrots bedroom today, I've drawn up approximately ninety lists and spreadsheets to manage our move and my health and general survival, and this week's plan is to get sewing again. 

Today I'm going to talk about a couple of things I made towards the tail end of last year and struggled to formulate useful thoughts on:

To begin, the Charm Patterns Hepburn top. The pattern is a mix-and-match one fairly typical of the company's style, and so far I've only made this one variant - basic dolman sleeve round-neck top. I have, however, made it four times, and three of them are made from this exact fabric. I bought two metres of it, ended up with closer to three metres because there was a big hole cut in it and he gave me that bit for free, and I thought I'd make a full loungewear set out of it. Instead I made three of these (two short sleeve, one long) because it is my perfect T-shirt. The pattern has French darts that create cup sizes up to G-H, thus allowing me to use a snuggly low-stretch knit and have it fit comfortably. The fabric and pattern together make up the nicest T-shirt I have ever owned, just beating out the Betty Boop T-shirt I bought from New Look in 1998 that was good enough quality to survive on heavy rotation for a full decade. 

However - and this is the reason the review took so long - I don't want this to come across as an unconditional recommendation for the pattern. I love the end product, I will make it again, I may even make some of the other versions. But I feel like this is one of the most "if you like that sort of thing" patterns I've ever used, and if you'd already dismissed it I wouldn't recommend you change your mind. If you don't like dolman sleeves or are bothered by any excess fabric near the armpit, if you don't like turned and stitched necklines... there are many reasons you might not like this. 

For me, it's amazing. My style in separates is very much black on top/colour on the bottom (I actually wish I had more colourful tops but I've never found a way to style them that I like) so this goes with every single thing I might ever need to wear it with. I love the neckline, I like that the back is a tiny bit different, and miraculously, it fits me in a way that doesn't ride up. I will wear these three identical tops to death, and if the fabric is still for sale at the market when we get out of lockdown (sob), I will buy a bunch more of it because it's perfect. I'm even looking forward to picking up some velvet and making the version with billowy sleeves!

One thing I would say even to people who don't have any misgivings about the style or construction is that this pattern really, really shows up mediocre fabric. Allow me to demonstrate:

This fabric is a ponte from Fabric Land that I've used before, and thought it was... fine. Nothing special, nothing terrible. I was happy to buy it again for this colour, which I really like on me. But in this pattern every single one of the fabric's weak points is really, really obvious. It's not thick enough to smooth nor thin enough to drape, it's a little too synthetic and a little too shiny (in an unintentional way), it clings oddly, and having a seam in this fabric running down the top of your arm is not something I would recommend. I will probably not keep this version, which is a shame because the colour is SO good. 

While we're here, I'm going to tell you a little bit about my Plausible Deniability Trousers. These were on my autumn sewing plans and also one of my Minerva projects. I tend to prefer not to mix the two so that I can keep my Minerva projects separate and not have a hole in my documentation here, but there was good quality black jersey on offer and I couldn't say no. 

I debated using an actual trouser pattern, but I didn't want to rush into that untested and had no back-up ponte lying around, so I made the pyjama bottoms from McCalls 7875. I've already made these twice in thicker jerseys and so I knew the fit would be OK. Rather than make the hem bands I just lengthened the pattern. I overcompensated in length slightly and I've taken them up a bit since I took these photos. They look fine here with wedge sandals, but... I am not wearing these with wedge sandals. I am wearing these with multiple pairs of furry slipper socks shoved inside an ankle boot. 

I'm really happy with my PDTs. They fulfil the "I don't want to go out today, but I could" niche perfectly. I don't know how many more pairs I want - it would be very easy to just switch to a wardrobe full of tracksuit bottoms and I know that wouldn't be great for my self-esteem - but I'm so pleased to have these. They have enabled me to leave the house more than once since I made them. 

Actual finished garment posts might be a bit sporadic for the next month or so while we get ready to move and get settled in the new place, but I do intend to carry on posting. I'm still working on a write-up of my most common fitting adjustments and I'm also going to do before/after posts on my new sewing space. Plus hopefully more! One of my non-sewing resolutions for 2021 is to finally unstick my writer's block and I want to be able to put together text posts that don't require the super-specific scope of you have to review this thing you made. Writing! I can do it! 

Charm Patterns Hepburn top

Fabric: French terry-type black ponte from Walthamstow
Cost: £6
Pattern details: Knit top with a V back, French darts and many different sleeve, neckline, and collar variations
Size: 10 G/H, blending out to 14 in the hips
Alterations: None
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Maybe

Thursday, 31 December 2020

2020 wrap up, resolutions and good riddance

 So... it's the last day. It would be stupid to pretend that the nightmare is over, but symbolically it's great to see the back of this godforsaken year. 2020 has been awful to everybody, some much worse than others, and I'm so sorry for all the losses we've collectively suffered. I hope everyone who is able to gets vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, and that we're able to hold the shitty governments of this world to account for how inexcusably they've let their people down this year. In many, many ways. 

But for now, let's not. Fighting the populist menace can wait two days. 

Obviously, my success rate with last year's resolutions was... low. I put all the energy I had into making sure I was sewing at all, and even that didn't work half the time. I did reasonably well in clearing out fabric - I only have 7.5m of what I bought in 2019 left (plus three or four older pieces) and about 15m of what I bought this year. In 2020 I bought less than half of what I bought in 2019. Everything else fell a bit by the wayside. I could not persuade myself to make a swimsuit or a ballgown or anything else that would have to languish in storage for a year or more. 

This year I'm planning five resolutions. None of them will depend on Covid going away, none of them will rely on me becoming a fundamentally different person, only one of them is a specific project. 

1. I will set up my new sewing area to give me the best chance of keeping organised and on top of things.

Patrick and I will probably move into our new house sometime in January. We definitely won't have sofas and might not even have a bed, but we want out of this flat and will most likely book a moving van as soon as the decorating is done. To begin with the second bedroom will be a combined sewing room/office, but eventually Patrick wants to build a garden office so he can work at home without having to keep work in the house. So I'm going to end up with an entire - small, but entire - sewing room, which is amazing but I really need to set it up so it doesn't get out of control. I am incredibly disorganised (just generally, as a human), and sometimes the barrier between me and a productive sewing day is a giant pile of stuff. Basically I need it to be easier to put things away than to leave them out. This is my number one priority for the year and I think its success is key to whether or not I succeed at anything else. I'm thinking I might make a couple of posts about my progress and how I've tried to overcome my massive executive function problems. Niche, but I hope it might be useful to some people. 

2. I will find a way to catalogue my patterns and notions.

In a way this is part of the previous resolution, but it's such a big job that I wanted to make it a point by itself. I already keep a pretty good up-to-date record of what fabric I have, but I really need to expand that to notions too. I keep being surprised by what I do and don't have (e.g. somehow always every length of black zip except the one I need right now). I haven't worked out what format is the best for storing this kind of information, but I want something that's fairly easy to update and to sort through. My plan is to work on this as I move, at the same time as reorganising my storage. 

3. I will watch all of, and complete some of, the Suzy Furrer Craftsy classes.

My 2019 resolutions included making my own sloper, and early this year pre-lockdown I went to a couple of classes claiming to teach just that. They... didn't really. It was very noticeable that the people in the room who got the best fit were the people who were more likely to have success with a standardised draft. I might be able to work with the trouser draft but the bodice draft is basically nonsense. There was a lot of "you'll get a number between X and Y... you got Z? No, nobody's Z, let me measure you... oh, you are Z. Well, just put Y" which I didn't think was really the point. Having got the cheap Craftsy premium deal I'm planning to walk through the Suzy Furrer classes and see if I can come up with something better. My main goal is to get a better idea of how to tweak things; I don't want to try making all my own patterns but knowing how to alter necklines and armscyes and crotch curves and so forth would help me out a lot. 

4. At least once this year, I will make several items that could be considered a collection or a capsule.

A couple of years ago I was very into the idea of having seasonal themes, managed it really well once, then got a bit stymied by actually having to come up with a new theme every few months. I ended up reverting to "a couple of random colours" which wasn't really enough. I don't expect myself to suddenly find enough inspiration to do this four times in 2021, but I reckon I can do it once. I will come up with a theme that suggests a few colours and also a print, silhouette or technique, and I'll do my fabric shopping with that in mind. I don't want to go back to buying masses and masses of fabric, and this might be a good way to keep me focused. 

5. I will make a corset.

So this is something I've always wanted to try but thought would forever be outside my reasonably attainable skill set. It's clearly not, though, and in 2021 I am going to try and make the Ralph Pink Laila waspie (which seems like a good beginner starting point) and if that goes well, a slightly more involved one too. My waist is inside but my hips are outside the Ralph Pink size range, so the waspie will be fine but I'll need to learn to grade corset patterns if I want to make a full one. 

I haven't made a sewing plan for winter and I'm not going to. I still have some stuff from autumn to catch up on, and as my sewing space is being transplanted it feels like a fool's errand to make a list now. I'm going to use the next couple of months to get my UFOs done and my room set up, so hopefully come March I'll be ready to go and full of ideas for the eternally-difficult spring plan. 

Here's to a stronger year. Cheers.