Monday, 16 May 2022
Monday, 11 April 2022
Look! Free fabric!
I think I might have mentioned once or twice that a few years ago I came into an unexpected fabric bonanza courtesy of my friend Emily's late mother. She made couture wedding dresses as a profession, and when going through her things after she died, my friend offered to let me pick through any bits of fabric that might be left over. I think we were both expecting some bits of white lace and maybe the remainder of a bolt of ivory satin. What I ended up with was a giant box (I could comfortably sit in it and pull it closed over my head) full of mostly silks, some linen and wool, and a few other miscellaneous bits, a combination of leftovers from bridesmaid/groomsman outfits and things Emily's mum had bought to make clothes for herself. It was a little treasure trove.
I took a couple of pieces back with me at the time, distributed some of it to other people, and the rest stayed at my parents' house where Emily had dropped it off. The box went missing for a while, as things tend to do when you put them in the attic, and was found again a month or so ago during a clear-out. I've now brought most of it back with me (though there's still another trip or two to go, including some more dupioni remnants and some sequinned Art Deco nonsense), and I thought it might be nice to share with you. Small disclaimer: all of this came up in two trips, and only the stuff from the first trip has been ironed as of yet. I promise the rest of it will get done before I put it away.
Here, then, are 25 pieces of fabric, divided up into vague categories:
Here we have seven pieces of silk satin. I've arranged them here based on how much I have of each, going from least (the white rose-print silk, 1m) to most (the baby blue, 2.3m). I will freely admit that these pieces are, in general, not my colour, and I'm also a bit nervous about the super shiny stuff because it seems to be impossible to work with. If A list celebrities are turning up to the Oscars in custom designer gowns made of satin that's more wrinkles than fabric and hems that look like ass, what chance do I have? I imagine that at least half of these will end up as lining fabric, which is fine.
Here we have the non-satin silks, the category I'm most hopeful to be able to make into wearable things. So far I've established that the green is going to be a slip and the red, if there's enough of it, will be a party dress. I have 2m but it's quite narrow. The floral isn't really me at all, but I'm going to try to find a pattern that will let me do a 90s baby Goth Winona Ryder thing in the hopes that might vaguely coincide with my style wheelhouse.
Two 1m remnants of silk dupioni. I also have a piece in lilac that's nearly 2m that will come to me in the next trip. I have no idea what to do with these and I really wish there was more of the green one with the burgundy shift.
Chiffon and silk habotai. These two are both labelled "slate" and both from the same place, so I'm assuming they were bought to go together. My plan is to stick with that. I don't have enough for a dress (there's around a metre of each), so it'll have to be a top, and I'm honestly not sure I own any woven top patterns.
Two chiffons. The black (underneath) is basically going to be used as a practice piece before I use either the printed one or the grey above. The other is one I'm really excited about - according to the selvedge it's Liberty, and I have three and a half metres of it (the final half metre is a separate length). What I want, obviously, is a maxi dress, but that's fully contingent on my being able to semi-competently insert a zip into chiffon. We'll see.
Two pieces of lace and a remnant of black silk. I'm assuming the black silk will be used in conjunction with one of these pieces, though it might turn out to be too short. On the left we have a piece of quite thick lace that I'm hoping to be able to cobble into a maxi skirt, and on the right an absolutely stunning piece of silk lace that might be one of the most beautiful things I've ever touched. I'm dying for it to be a dress, but I'm not sure there's enough (there's 2.5m but it's not an even width as something has been cut from one side). If I can't make a dress, I think I'll most likely try an oversized cropped sweater.
Two pieces of linen. The mint piece is just over a metre, and when I first got hold of it I was sure it would be a tulip skirt, but I've not been wearing those so much these past couple of years. I have two metres of the white and if it didn't feel so lovely I honestly would have left it behind. I don't wear white ever and also absolutely cannot be trusted with dye of any kind. I might end up using both pieces in the same garment if I can think of any mint-and-white outfit I might conceivably wear.
One remnant of coral wool and one remnant of amazing faux fur (there's no reason for these two to be grouped together other than they didn't fit with anything else and didn't seem to deserve a separate picture each). I'm hoping to use the fur to trim a winter coat at some point, but I don't have any ideas for the 1m of wool, given the "maybe I'm not going to wear a bunch of tulip skirts anymore" caveat above.
Finally, this deckchair-looking monstrosity, which of course I have more of than anything else in the haul (nearly 4m). It's quite a heavy cotton twill, though not heavy enough to actually use for a deckchair. I asked people about this on my Instagram stories because I was stumped, and the responses I got were overwhelmingly either dungarees or a jumpsuit. I can absolutely see the dungaree thing but would also absolutely never wear stripy orange ones, so a jumpsuit seems like the most likely bet. I don't even know if I'd wear that, to be honest. I'm going to ponder on this one a little longer.
I think it's going to take me a while to get started on this lot. Apart from the need to come up with actual project ideas and potential patterns, the sentimental and irreplaceable nature of it means I'm more reticent than I would normally be. I also know that it does no good to anyone just sitting in my cupboard, so I fully intend to get through all of it in good time. I would love any recommendations for what to do with any of the 1m cuts, or suggestions of dress patterns I might be able to fit on two metres of narrow silk or lace.
I'm still sewing pretty consistently, but also still having difficulty with the whole picture-taking thing. I have about half a dozen finished projects waiting for me to get it together. Hopefully I can manage it before we go on holiday - if not, I'll come up with something else to post!
Monday, 28 March 2022
Today I have for you a dress I made from my autumn plan, back in the season I was supposed to make it, and then never posted because everything went to shit. But here it is now!
Monday, 14 March 2022
I've decided I want a spring sewing plan. I wasn't going to make one this time, to give myself a bit more freedom and flexibility, but I'm now thinking the structure might be helpful. This plan is shorter than usual, because I don't want to overwhelm myself, and I'm writing it with the full expectation that some of this stuff won't get done and some other random stuff will. I've divided it into two categories: the first is projects I have all the supplies for but maybe not as much driving motivation, and the second is projects I'm really excited and inspired to make but haven't got all the stuff for yet.
Section A: Things I have fabric, pattern and notions for
A lemon dress
I know, I'm years behind on the whole lemons thing. Most sewing people got lemons out of their system three years ago. When it was everywhere I went back and forth on it - in some ways I liked the idea, but I worried I might find it sat on the wrong side of the novelty print line when it was actually on me. Also everyone was making these whimsical dresses and I, a decidedly not-whimsical person, couldn't see past it. (I thought all the dresses I saw were lovely, this is not shade. They just weren't me at all.) But last time I was in my local fabric shop I ended up buying a couple of metres of navy lemon-print cotton, and I'm going to make this dress again and hopefully stamp around Spain in it like a tourist:
A pair of cords
I keep saying this, and it keeps not working. So what I have done is slowly accumulated enough cheap cord I don't really care about to make four pairs, so that I can experiment and do large-scale fitting adjustments and hopefully, eventually, come up with something that works. I'm starting with the trouser block I made a couple of years ago, and a couple of different waistband options.
A maxi skirt
I made a dress out of half of that blue linen I've been trying to use up for years (it's finished and photographed and I'm in the process of writing up the post), and I think the other half is going to become a Fumeterre skirt, with the modifications I made last time. The only thing I need to do before I start this is work out whether or not I make any changes to the waistband to provide a bit of flexibility. I love that yellow skirt but I've been having a lot of issues with bloating since starting my meds and can't wear it out to dinner anymore. I made a second version with a bit of elastic in that gets a lot more wear but also undeniably looks worse. Decisions, decisions.
Section B: Things I would really like to make but don't have the stuff for yet
A wedding guest dress
I have a family wedding coming up in June and I'd like to make something new for it. I think it will mean a lot to the couple in question that I put thought and time and effort into celebrating with them. I'm assuming I'll use a pattern I already know well, but this particular project is very much going to be led by the fabric. I'm looking for something very traditionally "summer wedding guest", no white or black, that I like, and that generally conveys joy. It's very much a "know it when I see it" sort of thing and the pattern is going to have to bend to whatever I find.
A massive fluffy bathrobe
I made this bathrobe in 2018 and though I do still wear it occasionally, the main fabric really hasn't held up at all. They called it French terry and it absolutely is not. If that fabric arrived on my doorstep now I'd consider it basically a write-off and probably make some oversized sleeping T-shirts so it didn't go completely to waste. The robe now looks horribly schlumpy and I only wear it for fifteen or so minutes between shower and pyjamas on the very coldest days of the year. I would like a nicer bathrobe. A great big fancy fluffy one that I could do pedicures in and shit. I don't yet have fabric or pattern for this - the pattern I used last time was M7516 and I will never use it again. I've seen what I think is perfect fabric on Fabric Godmother but I don't have the money to buy it immediately, so I'm gambling on it still being there next month.
I'm going to leave it at five things, rather than straining to reach a longer plan. There's still a bunch of stuff from my autumn plan that I'd like to get done, but I don't want to officially carry it over because I don't want to feel like I'm trying to "catch up" (which has happened in the past and stresses me out to the point that I don't sew anything at all). The most difficult thing to do, I think, will be the cords - I have had many failures there and I don't have any particular faith in this block - but I'm hoping that preparing for multiple versions will help set my expectations and allow me to treat it as an ongoing fitting challenge rather than a failure if (when) the first one doesn't work.
As I mentioned, my blue linen dress is done and photographed, so that post will be coming at some point in the next couple of weeks depending on how difficult it is to write. I'll see you when I see you!
Monday, 28 February 2022
First I'd like to say thank you to everyone who commented on my last post, and to the couple of you who emailed me. I was struggling and not in a space to reply but I really appreciated it, and it really helped me to get my head back in a sewing space again.
Life update: this past month has been weird. I can't remember how much I've talked about this, but I was diagnosed ADHD at the beginning of last year. I was so hopeful that things were going to fundamentally change - it's why none of the anxiety and depression medications worked for me, it's why I wasn't getting anywhere with therapy despite having an excellent therapist - and then spent a full year going through an increasingly ridiculous comedy of errors trying to get some basic medical information to the psychiatrist, meaning that I didn't actually get any kind of prescription until a few weeks ago. Taking medication has made things so, so different and I'm both excited for what I might be able to do and having to confront the concurrent reality; ie. that I am having side effects, some of which exacerbate other health conditions I have, there are things about my life that will need to change in order for this to work, and the full extent of the medical care I am getting is Zoom appointments at 9pm with a man who completes a tick-box sheet while yawning his head off and then charges me quite a lot of money to write a prescription for which the pharmacy then charges me quite a lot of money. So there's a lot on my plate right now. But on the upside, we've booked our first holiday since September 2019 and I am very much looking forward to that.
Also, it was my birthday this month, and I made a dress! And took some actual photos!
Cost: £15 (I paid £30 for twice as much as I used)
Pattern details: Mock wrap dress with pleating under bust, princess seamed back panels and choice of cup sizes
Size: 16 at the shoulders, 18 everywhere else, D cup pattern piece
Alterations: Neckline changed to bias facing, back princess seams taken in slightly
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes
Saturday, 15 January 2022
Hello and happy new year, this blog is still not dead! I'd just got back into a sewing rhythm when stuff went wrong again, except this time it was different stuff. I don't want to go too far into it, but suffice to say I have seen quite enough of my local hospital except I will have to keep seeing it since I'm now in a clinical drugs trial. The whole thing made me pretty depressed and I didn't touch my sewing machine for two months. I have now managed to finish something, which has lifted my spirits enough to return and post an update.
What I'm not going to do this time is make any commitments to my previous regular schedule. Eventually that's the goal, because under normal circumstances that works really well for me. But the normal circumstances will have to come before the regular posting. I don't know when my next garment post will be, either. Honestly I think a large part of it will depend on how good the new hairdresser I'm seeing this afternoon is. I have a few finished items to post - I had several made and ready to photograph before everything went wrong again - but taking proper project photos feels like a bit of a leap from where I am now.
On the other hand, I do want to keep posting even if non-project posts get zero engagement. One of the most helpful things I've done to get myself moving again was actively surround myself with sewing stuff. Looking at fabric online, going through my stash, watching YouTube videos of people just getting on with whatever they're making (not the big ambitious stuff, just the actual process of making, like, bog-standard skirts). I'm planning to take myself to Walthamstow next week which will hopefully result in a fabric haul, and I've also been working on a post about my utterly disastrous first dressmaking class. It won't be every Monday like clockwork, but I am planning to keep in touch and do what I can.
Thank you to everyone who still swings by here occasionally. May your 2022 be a bit less shit than the previous two years!
Monday, 27 September 2021
Check me out, getting on with my plan.
I knew this skirt was going to be one of the first projects I made, mostly because I already had the fabric and pattern in mind and thus wouldn't have to do any more thinking, but also partly because I actively need it. This is proving to be a very stupid September that is neither summer nor autumn, and I've been sorely lacking transition pieces. Also I've been trying to get maxi skirts into my wardrobe for years and never really succeeded, so it was long past time to try again.
(I am once again asking you to please excuse the wildly inconsistent lighting in my photos.)
I made the Deer&Doe Fumeterre skirt three times last year, and you've seen two of them. For these two I made the pattern up as it was, and it's turned out to be... not really what I want out of my skirts. I love the shape of it, but I've not been keen at all on the front fly or elasticated back, both of which seem to actively work against the way my body moves. I then made a third. I was still doing the Minerva thing at the time and this was a project for them, but it looks like this:
For this one I cut the fly extension pieces off the pattern and turned it into a zipped back with a faced waistline. I normally can't stand facings, but I couldn't work out how to cut a waistband so that the diagonal stripes looked aesthetically pleasing. I also ditched the patch pockets, which I've found to be not terribly useful, and replaced them with the S8380 pockets I keep banging on about. I cut one pocket piece out of the wool and one out of lining fabric, which works very nicely. This is unquestionably the version I've got the most wear out of, but it's limited by two things: one, the fabric is a fairly hefty wool and so only nice to wear when it's very cold, and two, I was incredibly stressed at the time and didn't think through my alterations. I didn't compensate for there not being elastic in the back and consequently it's a little too big. Not unwearably so, but noticeable. I wanted another version, without these problems.
For Fumeterre Version 4 (which, by the way, I am delighted with and will be making multiple times more) I kept the back zip and change of pockets from version three, but reinstated the waistband. I could more or less use the original pattern pieces, with the back waistband piece now used as the front. I shaved off a couple of centimetres from the back seam and the now back waistband pieces to compensate for the removal of the elastic and it fits beautifully. I put a press stud closure in the back waistband. All four versions have the hem facing, which I still love.
I ended up not putting a lining in this one (still a little gun shy from version two, where the lining arguably fucked it up) and I have yet to determine whether I'll regret it. I was hoping to have done some test runs by now, but instead I have been isolating because Patrick has raging Covid. There was a "reconnection event" at his company last Thursday that turned out to be extremely poorly ventilated and someone showed up with the rona, so now half the office is out sick. He's been really ill with it all week and it's horrible. He's never had a virus worse than this in his life. Miraculously I seem to have not caught it, despite living in a very small house with him and having an immune system that's basically one old man with a blunt stick. I do have an intermittent cough, but the tests aren't showing anything, so a round of applause to AstraZeneca, I guess. He's still not well and won't be going anywhere for a while, but technically his isolation period ends tomorrow so I can leave the house again.
All of which is to say, I don't know how the skirt works with tights and anti-chafe shorts yet. If it turns out to be unworkable I might try to make a skirt slip. It's not something I've really considered before but if I'm going to make several other maxi skirts anyway I should get a decent amount of use out of it.