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. 

Monday, 14 December 2020

autumn sewing: Fumeterre toile

Hello! Here's an intro!

Here we have the Deer & Doe Fumeterre skirt, which I've considered on and off for several years. I love the idea of a maxi skirt appropriate for cooler weather, and this one seemed to offer a bit of room at the hips without being overly poofy. I always held back, though, because a) I wasn't sure how much of my interest was just Teen Goth Jen reacting to the styling and b) I was concerned about practicality. The samples show a floor-length skirt and I live in quasi-central London where everything is drizzles and puddles and surprise pavement dirt and I just couldn't imagine how or where I would wear that. But the pattern was suggested to me as an option for my beautiful barkcloth, and it made perfect sense to me. The fabric is both expensive and white, meaning I'm not going to want it as an everyday garment, and as much as I like the idea in theory I'm also not going to get much use out of Event Overalls. But a statement maxi skirt for nice dinners (and similar occasions) would be super useful - I get to dress up without feeling overdressed, the fabric gets enough wear to feel worthwhile without getting ruined by overuse, and when I sit down to eat I can cover it with a napkin. Amazing. But I wasn't prepared to just cut into it for an untested pattern, so it was the crap crepe's time to shine.

The crap crepe, incidentally, is the reason I will not be wearing this version. I hate it SO MUCH. No wonder I could never pick a pattern to go with it. I had remembered the texture being a bit odd, but it's way worse than that. This fabric is ass. It is the Itchy and Scratchy show. It's like taking an old-school bathroom sponge with the massive holes, cutting into various misshapen spikes, and hurling it at your own legs as you walk. Accidentally brushing the back of my hand against it genuinely sets my teeth on edge. It is truly nasty and I'm so glad I moved it to the toile pile.

As to the pattern itself, I really like the shape of the skirt. I think it's a perfect cool-weather shape and style, and I'm definitely making plans for a couple more everyday versions. I'd love a wool mix for winter. (The pattern recommends lightweight fabric, but this was absolutely fine and also I am absolutely not making a fly-front rayon skirt.) I was a bit worried by the patch pockets, which I don't normally like for myself, but these are only semi-patched - the pockets are the size and shape of the side front panel, meaning the side seams enclose the pocket sides and only the bottom edge is sewn like a traditional patch pocket. As someone who is Bad At Hems, I always appreciate Deer & Doe's inclusion of hem facings, and I really like what it does to this skirt. On me, this is also the absolute perfect length for a maxi. Ankles more or less covered, but not in danger of trailing on the floor. I'm not actually sure why this is; I'm tall but not super tall (around 5'8" depending on posture), the skirt is floor length in pictures and most reviews say they found the pattern hilariously over-long. My first Magnolia dress also came up way shorter than I expected, so this may be a strange personal idiosyncrasy.

What I really did not like were the instructions. I've never had a problem like this with Deer & Doe before, but I did not get on with these at all. The directions for the fly front literally made me think I was losing my mind. I went from "fairly OK with fly fronts but could use a set of instructions to remind me" to "oh, maybe I'm really not OK with fly fronts" to "WHAT IS LEFT" in the space of three bullet points. There are a few things wrong with them, but the main issue is that they switch the perspective halfway through the instructions from "as worn" to "as it faces you" meaning ALL the instructions are for the left side of the zip. I can't deal with that. I don't care which way round you do left and right, but you cannot tell me everything is left, my brain will melt down. Immediately after I finished this I started working on my biker jacket toile, and that is a very bad idea for someone suddenly insecure in left and right. (Fortunately, it turns out that after several minutes' break to scream at the sky, I could just sit down and work it out myself based on what a fly front logically needs to be able to do.)

The waistband construction was also weird. The instructions have you leave holes in the inner waistband seams for the elastic, then attach the inner waistband to the skirt first. I don't understand that and didn't do it. I sewed it the usual way and attached the elastic to the inner waistband before I stitched it down. They specify "half a yard" of elastic for all the sizes, which was too much for me in a 48 so it's a real waste of elastic for the smaller sizes.

Despite those quibbles, I decided to go ahead and cut into my fancy barkcloth. Which I will show you, but I want to make a small disclaimer: I put a lining in this version, and I did something wrong and it's hitched up at the hem. I didn't notice this until I came to edit my photos because there is no full-length mirror in this flat since the last one exploded (I am SO READY to be gone, can you tell), so I couldn't see it. It's on my mending pile to be corrected, but given how much I've struggled with photos recently I'm not going to take these again. 

The barkcloth is too heavy to flow like the crepe, but I really like the shape it holds. I lined this one, as I said, and I also omitted the back elastic because I didn't want any gathering in a fabric this thick. There's really not that much difference in the fit, if I'm honest. I think it's going to be a great dinner skirt once I've fixed the hitch, and I'm looking forward to dinner being a thing again. 

Up next: Hepburn tops! The Trousers of Plausible Deniability! 

Deer & Doe Fumeterre skirt

Fabric: scratchy green crepe from Walthamstow // Cloud 9 barkcloth from Minerva
Cost: £6 // given to me in exchange for a blog post, but would have been around £90 if I'd bought it
Pattern details: Panelled maxi skirt with a front fly, slightly elasticated back waist, semi-patch pockets and hem facing
Size: 48
Alterations: Added lining and omitted elastic on version two
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes with caveat about the instructions

Monday, 7 December 2020

just because: Style Sew Me Lisa lounge set

Hello, I have been gone for a million years, I'm so sorry. I tried several times to write an update post and I just couldn't do it (I don't even know why, it's not like I had terrible news to share), eventually just deciding to let the blog be until some of the stuff was sorted out. I have been sewing off and on, and there have been a lot of fails - I'm especially grumpy about the Esther trousers, which don't fit even though I used the exact same pattern as my other pairs which do fit. The sewing was really good on them as well. Gah. 

Anyway. Last Friday we finally, finally exchanged contracts on our new house, which means that next week it's ours. We're not going to be able to move in immediately - we've both been renters our whole adult lives and don't really have any furniture to speak of, so that needs to be made and delivered first - and we haven't yet decided what kind of timeline we'll be on, but next Tuesday we will go to our new house and I will mark my territory by putting a piece of fabric in my future fabric cupboard, a multipack of loo roll in the bathroom, and Gerald the hideous silver bird water dispenser on the living room shelf. This means that the era of palm tree photos is coming to an end (I am sick to the back teeth of this stupid falling-apart leaky flat but I will miss the palm tree dearly). Not quite yet, though. 

It occurred to me a few days ago that the ridiculous Spice Girl top has been the first post on my blog for about two months straight, so that would have been the first impression for two months of whatever newcomers might have stumbled across it. Probably ought to do something to correct that. 

Check this out. It's utterly ridiculous and I love it. 

This is the Style Sew Me Lisa lounge set, and while it wasn't on my autumn sewing plans it has been on my list for some time. I hadn't heard of the company until a list of Black-owned sewing brands went round over the summer, and I loved this set as soon as I saw it. There are three views: this one (boat-neck top and tapered bottoms), a set with a batwing top and wide leg trousers, and a full long-sleeved hooded jumpsuit, which I am absolutely going to try at the earliest possible opportunity. 

This is actually my second attempt at making this pattern. For my first attempt I'd bought some inexpensive silver-blue velour that I thought was really pretty, but it was disastrous to work with. I haven't experienced shedding that bad in a long time, and I use a fair bit of velvet-type fabric in my projects. Before I could even complete it, Patrick and I had agreed that all trace of the stupid velour needed to be banished from the house immediately as we were in danger of actively having to swim through it. That was a while ago now and I'm still finding the fluff on things. 

For this version I used a sweater knit that I'd bought for a wrap dress. I like this fabric but I would not have liked it in a wrap dress, and had I not been stress-shopping I wouldn't have got it at all. Fortunately it was easy to repurpose for loungewear and it turns out that I actually love this. The bold-patterned head-to-toe faux jumpsuit thing is really working for me. No, I'm probably not going to go to the pub like this (not least because I'm not going to the pub at all, sigh), but this is a piece of loungewear I feel genuinely fucking great in. 

I did make one alteration between the Nightmare Fluff version and this one, and that was to substantially lengthen the front rise. I feel a bit stupid saying this, but it didn't remotely occur to me that any trouser pattern might be low-rise. And some of them should be! It annoys the piss out of me that pattern companies often all make the exact same thing at the same time with no real difference in style or fit to appeal to different customers, and there should be different rises and fits so that more people can find the thing they're looking for. In principle I actively like that these are low-rise. In practice low-rise does not work on me at all, and so I changed it for this version. My first version was low-rise in the front and hit my waist in the back, so I only lengthened the front pattern piece to get the fit I wanted. 

Interestingly, the pattern has you finish everything with bands except the neckline, which is just hemmed. That's what I've done here - I really like the shape of this boat neck and I didn't want to distort it by trying to bodge a neckband in there - but I'm curious to see if holds up to being stretched. 

I will definitely make this again, I think it's great. I'm particularly keen to make the trousers in a less ridiculous fabric and see if I can get away with wearing them outside. I would also like a non-shedding version of the velvet set I planned in the first place. And as I said, that hooded jumpsuit is coming (though probably after we move because I have a very full sewing queue and would rather not get involved in printing new PDFs right now). 

I have managed to finish and photograph a bunch of stuff, so regular posting schedule will resume, at least for a bit. What you will not be seeing is the Named Astrid trousers, which I thought were really nice when I first tried them on, but in all the photos my crotch looks like that time Homer Simpson ate a super sour gumball.  

NOPE. I have absolutely no idea why and I'm not invested enough in the trousers to try and work it out. But I do have my Fumeterre, my Hepburn tops and my Plausible Deniability Trousers to come, and none of them are that upsetting. See you next Monday, one day before I officially become a home owner!

Style Sew Me Lisa lounge set

Fabric: Rose print sweater knit from Fabric Land
Cost: £15
Pattern details: Three different loungewear sets - boat neck top and tapered trousers; dolman top and wide leg trousers; and a long-sleeved hooded jumpsuit
Size: L for the top, XL - 2XL for the trousers
Alterations: Front rise lengthened by 4cm (I think? I didn't write it down at the time)
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

McCalls 8117: Jen is every Spice Girl at once

Category is: things I made because I knew they would look ridiculous and thus would be amusing to me! 

I freely admit I'm helping the All Spice Girls thing along by wearing it with leopard-trimmed tracksuit bottoms (and having vaguely Posh Spice hair all the time), but they happened to be what I was wearing when I tried it on for the first time and looked in the mirror. I tried to find a more appropriate pairing for this top, but there just... isn't one. At least not in my wardrobe. Sadly I own exactly zero pairs of moonboots. 

This is McCalls 8117 (they've also named it Heather, but... no thanks), a release from a few months ago that made me laugh for quite a long time. I don't make a habit of buying patterns because they're stupid-looking (the last time I did it was two years ago, and that doesn't really count because it was secretly a really great pattern) but this one was so hilariously overwrought that I couldn't help it. One shoulder! Asymmetric waist tie! Option for a peplum and/or one single long sleeve! Plus a third view that I thought I might actually like and wear, but we'll get to that. 

First of all, my thoughts on the finished product: I expected to get something so bad it was unphotographable, and instead I got something pretty bad but acceptable to put on the internet. I wouldn't call it a fail, since I was never trying to make something I'd actually wear, and I will probably keep it for comedy purposes/All the Spice Girls Halloween costume. This does not look good, but it is enjoyably amusing, and I do have some thoughts on the pattern that might be useful to anyone considering it.

The fabric I used is a piece of weird glittery rib knit that I got from the Abakhan remnant bins. I bought it thinking I was going to start incorporating shell pink into my wardrobe (which I'm still not opposed to), but I've never used it. It's too glittery for everyday and too dull for evenings. It was also an absolute bastard to work with - if the right sides touch at all they stick and I had to literally rip the pieces apart constantly - and I'm not at all sorry it's ended up as a comedy toile. 

My original intention was to make the single-sleeve view (which I considered the most hilarious) but got view A and view B confused while I was sewing and ended up sewing the armhole and lining shut before getting to the sleeve. In retrospect, I'm quite glad. The top is fully lined so requires no hemming at all unless you put the sleeve on it, and hemming this fabric would have been... a job. 

A piece of very narrow elastic is sewn into the neckline to get a close fit, and that works very nicely. What I would absolutely do if I ever made this again is to sew elastic to the seam under the bust on the left side. You can see very clearly in these photos how it's gaping (and these are the better photos because my underboob does not need to be on the internet) and if I lift my arms without due care and attention the entire thing can end up under my armpit. If I ever have occasion to wear this top out of the house I will definitely bodge a piece of elastic to the back of the seam.

(As I went to take this photo my upstairs neighbours suddenly opened their bedroom window and I'd been really hoping nobody would see me dressed like this. Oh well.)

Would I recommend doing this? I mean, no. Clearly not. But I will say that purely as a sewing project, it was quite enjoyable. Not having to hem or bind necklines and armholes is a really nice change, and if you were prepared to do a bit of topstitching you could make the finish on this version completely clean. If one of my more... rave-inclined friends who fit a similar size asked me to make them one of these, I would do so quite happily. But only because I already own the pattern, I'm not suggesting anyone buy this expecting it to bring them joy. 

 Of course, I also wanted to try what I thought would be the actually nice version that I might get wear out of. You will very quickly see the problem I ran into.

So there is no photograph or drawing of this view on a model, just a disembodied garment. From the disembodied garment illustration I assumed that the finished product would be cropped, but would end at, you know, my waist. Admittedly I have a much larger bust than the pattern calls for, but that's never really been an issue with jersey tops before. The effect you're supposed to get is a nice scallop where the two pattern pieces cross over at the hem, but there's not enough length for that so it just looks a bit like my bra is hanging out. 

As you see, the back does sit further down than the front, but still not long enough to reach the top of my ultra-high-waist leggings. Lengthening the back is a simple enough task, but I'm not at all sure how to go about altering the front. I have no idea how you'd do an FBA on this kind of pattern piece, and I'm pretty sure that wouldn't give me enough length by itself. I'm also concerned that just making the pieces wider will result in weird flaps. I would possibly need to elasticate the lower front edges the same way as I would the first version. I'm not opposed to giving it a go the next time I come upon some non-precious jersey, though. 

I don't mind too much that this version is unwearable. Mostly because this fabric (a super mega cheap jersey I bought to toile a different top) is the worst unbreathable poly I've ever encountered. I'm not a fibre snob, as a rule - I'm fortunate not to have the same level of extreme discomfort in synthetics as some of the people I follow - but this is just gross. It's September, I had this on outside for seven minutes with my entire midriff exposed, and I almost died. Shame, because it's a really lovely colour. More purple! More red! 

I shall leave you with my best Posh Point. I went to a Spice Girls dance class last year, where the instructor exhorted us all to pick which one of the five we were and really embody her... then stopped three minutes later to scold some of us for not smiling. I heard at least two other people in the room making outraged noises and muttering "but I'm Posh! I'm clearly Posh!" 

She's a real lay-dee...

What's up next will depend on how this week goes. I got some sort of bug last week (not that one, we're taking part in a study so we've been tested) and it just wiped me clean out. Something I have been considering is writing something - designed to live in my menu bar for new people, but probably as a regular post first - about my body type and usual adjustments, as a reference point for readers wondering how relevant my experience with a pattern will be for them, so if I don't get a project finished that might be the next post. We'll see!

McCalls 8117 tops

Fabric: Glitter rib knit from Abakhan/purple poly jersey from Walthamstow
Cost: Extremely cheap - probably about £5 for both together
Pattern details: Fully lined jersey tops - one-shoulder side-tied top with single long sleeve or peplum/long sleeved crop top with two overlapped front layers
Size: 16
Alterations: None
Would make again/would recommend: Maybe if feeling experimental/No