Friday, 30 October 2015

Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul

Earlier this month I got a bit of sewing block. I had loads of patterns and a cupboard full of fabric, but I couldn't find any matches. I went out and bought more fabric to make a specific dress, then couldn't convince myself to get on and do it. I was uninspired.

So I did what any normal person would do. I went online and bought a bunch of unnecessary dress patterns. Then a few days later I went online again and bought a couple more. Within the space of a week I bought five.

(Excuse the terrible photo.)

Cake Patterns Tiramisu dress

This one had several things going for it. One, I did actually have a fabric I thought might work for this dress. Two, the sizing is determined by high bust and cup size, not just full bust measurement, so there was a better chance it would fit my FFs without gaping massively around the neck and shoulders. Three, it was named like a pudding and that delighted my simple soul.

Colette Patterns Moneta dress

This one I bought partly because it looked like a great dress for everyday wear and I want to be able to wear my stuff more often, but mostly because I've been dying to support Colette. Colette as a business seems to do everything right. They have a wide sizing range, they use genuinely diverse models, they're clearly engaged with their customers, their blog is incredibly useful and insightful, and they periodically release cheaper PDF-only quick projects which I would be ALL OVER if it weren't so difficult to print things right now (when I find a way to make it less difficult, I will be ALL OVER the Seamwork patterns). Problem is, a lot of the stuff in their regular pattern line either really isn't me at all or is basic enough to be very close to something I already have. I'd been going back and forth on the Moneta for ages and finally put it in my cart after looking at a ton of women wearing very flattering versions of it on Flickr.

Sewaholic Cambie dress

This is totally not the time of year to be buying a dress like this, I know that. As a result it will probably be the last of these patterns to get made up. But it's so pretty!

And then, a week later...

Colette Patterns Wren dress

...Colette released a wrap-front dress and offered a free long sleeve pattern for everyone who bought it in the first week. So I did. I'm a bit worried that one version will be too clingy and the other will have too much volume in it, but I really want to support a company that gets its practices so consistently right and I'm on a wrap-front dress kick.

By Hand London Elisalex dress

Since I was already buying something, I thought I might as well get something else to get better value out of the delivery charge. I've seen By Hand London dresses all over the place (though most of them were Annas, which is now PDF only and printing is a pain in the bum) and I thought I'd like to try one. Out of the ones Sewbox still had as paper patterns, I thought the Elisalex looked most like something I would wear. In at the waist, out at the hips, what's not to like?

Of course, having bought all these, we run into the problem of not actually having any appropriate fabric for them, which means buying more fabric even though my cupboard is already too full to fit everything in. So I'm going to try a "one in, two out" policy until everything fits in my cupboard with a bit of space left over.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A healthy dose of fail

A little while ago, I decided to buy myself a book. I'm a bit of a sucker for books full of patterns because I'm always convinced I'm getting a fabulous magical deal. "Twenty patterns for twenty quid! What a bargain! Sure, I wouldn't wear that, or that, and I'm fairly sure nobody in the history of ever would want to wear that, but that's still an amazing bargain! And yeah, I already have a pattern very similar to that, and that, and that one looks more trouble than it's worth, and that barely warrants a pattern at all..."

[several hours later]

"...three patterns for twenty quid! Bargain! You can't say fairer than that! ...OK, maybe two patterns, but still, that's not bad value all things considered..."

I'm trying to stop that now, because I don't need the most patterns for the least money, I need the right patterns. And in my defence, I really thought this particular book had that.

The book I bought was Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress by Dolin Bliss O'Shea. It seemed like a great mix of practical and fancy-ass patterns, including a long-sleeved 1970s wrap dress that I pictured making in about four hundred different fabrics. A Coco Chanel dress, a 1930s cowl neck modelled after Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn's Sabrina dress... I was sold. Despite the micro-mini with chiffon sleeves and a Peter Pan collar, despite the crotch-length Kate Moss dress which only works on people who are Kate Moss, despite the Princess Diana dress (i.e. the super-boring piece of nothing which belongs nowhere near a book called "Famous Frocks" - do Americans really think Princess Diana was a style icon? Really?), I decided that overall, it was worth it.

The first thing I tried to make was an Anjelica Huston jersey dress. Volume on top, tight on the bottom. This is the exact opposite of the way I normally like my dresses, but I had this piece of black fabric with a textured mesh overlay (blame Teen Goth Jen for that one) that I couldn't figure out what to do with, and a friend of mine suggested a batwing dress. Once she'd said that I couldn't think of anything else that fabric could possibly be, and I fished it out of my cupboard to start cutting.

I do not have photos of the finished dress, because nobody needs to be subjected to that. Here, instead, is a list of the things that were wrong with it:

1. It was MASSIVE. I cut it in my size, but I had to take 4cm out of the seams on both sides to get it to even remotely fit.
2. When I got it to remotely fit, it didn't look like a dress with a deliberately larger proportion on top, it just looked like it was too big around my waist.
3. The facings were massively bulky.
4. It was a lot longer than the photo suggested it would be (and I am not a short person)
5. There wasn't enough material in the cowl for it to remain cowl-y when on me and just created a weird slash-neck thing instead
6. The entire neckline stands up away from my body and makes me look like I'm poking my head through a man-hole.

I am in the process of trying to salvage something semi-wearable from this dress, because it is incredibly comfortable (of course it is - it's jersey and it has no fastenings or waist elastic or anything else). I've taken it in at the waist and plan to shorten it, sort out the cowl and somehow strap the neckline right the hell down. If I can find myself a black waist belt that I like, I will have something that I could wear, but bears absolutely no resemblance at all to the original dress except for the fact that it is a dress and it has sleeves. I have it on now and it really is comfy, but I would never let anyone see me in it. Seriously, this neckline is INSANE.

I then tried my hand at the wrap dress which was my main motivator for buying the book. I was a little gun-shy and definitely not willing to risk my amazing abstract aubergine print jersey (oh, amazing abstract aubergine jersey, when will I find a pattern worthy of cutting into you? I want my aubergine dress, dammit), so I bought some disposable stuff for £1 a metre at Walthamstow Market and made a toile. It's meant to have a full skirt, but it looks exactly the same on me as my other wrap dresses and it uses an extra half metre of fabric to do so. Nope.

Having tried two patterns and come up with nothing better than 'meh', I'm not really prepared to try a third. It's a shame, because I have some amazing green drapey stuff that's crying out to be a fancy-ass Joan Crawford cowl neck dress, but my trust has gone. Also I went to the author's website, because I do that, and there was a big thing at the top saying "BOOK ERRATA" and apparently there is something wrong with six out of the ten patterns, including three that are scaled incorrectly. Which is pretty shit, to be honest. As a result I have cleared all these patterns off my "to make" list. And then bought several new patterns to cheer myself up, but that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


I got my first ever fabric haul from a Dunelm. It had a little haberdashery section complete with an even littler selection of fabrics, intended for cushion-making. I bought two cottons; a solid bright red and a navy and white stripe. I pictured, with the feverish imagination of one who has no idea how to make clothes, all the wonderful things these two pieces of fabric might become. I brought them home and sat them in my cupboard, and they became my stash. The idea of having a stash consisting of two pieces of fabric is actually quite appealing now. 

The red cotton became my first ever dress, and I felt that was a good use of it - it was good enough quality that I would wear the dress, but not so good that I would worry about messing it up with my amateur hands. The stripy fabric, though, sat in my cupboard for months as I looked at pattern after pattern that said "not suitable for stripes". I knew that it must be possible to make stripy clothes - I mean, I'd seen them and everything - but began to wonder if I'd made a mistake in buying it since pattern companies apparently considered it unusable. 

Then I discovered that chevrons were a thing. 

I think it was a Colette pattern that made me aware of the potential for chevronning and I almost bought it, having had this fabric for some time and being quite keen to use it. But then a copy of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual fell into my hands (because I went to a bookshop and picked it up and paid money for it), and within its pages sat a chevron skirt. I knew that my cushion material's time had come, and one insomniac night (I have a lot of those), I cut it out and pinned my stripes together. 

It's an easy skirt to make up; four pieces of skirt and two pieces of facing, with a concealed zip down one side. This was my first attempt at putting in a concealed zip, and when I can be bothered I need to rip it out and do it again - it keeps catching and I think some of the stitches are starting to break. Also I'm still not keen on faced waistlines. But I do want to fix this skirt, because it's got a lot going for it. I got my boyfriend to pin the skirt up while I was wearing it, so my hem is actually even for once. When it's off it looks like a mullet hem, because I have rather a lot of bottom to cover, but it's really nice to look at a photo and go "hey, that's a good hem." (I never do that. I hate hems.) Also, check out my chevrons:

I think this is some damn good chevronning. (Excuse the wrinkles. I am bad at ironing.)

This was a really good lesson project. Pattern matching, even hems, concealed zip. And it will be an even better lesson project if I fix the little things - if I can persuade myself that actually, it is worth taking the time to redo something properly instead of shrugging and deciding that "technically wearable" is good enough, then I think I'll have grown as a person. Not into one of those finicky people, because I just never will be, but working to improve something I've already done without demanding perfection of myself would be tremendously healthy for me and now I'm definitely not going to do it, am I. Sigh.

Monday, 19 October 2015

blogging note

OK, after faffing about for eight hundred years or so, I've actually managed to take some pictures. It would be nice if, after all this time, I'd taken each project out on its own little trip and got photos (or at least taken them all somewhere pretty), but I haven't. Taking photos of these things has been on my list for ages and I've started to have Feelings about the fact that I haven't done it, so I just wanted to get it done. In my living room, with the kind of light you normally get on an October afternoon in London. I have a remote release and messy hair. I will try to do better in future, but I just wanted to get these photos taken and have some bloody content again.

I'm planning to write longer posts, make more terrible jokes, and publish everything in a well-spaced-out timeframe but a completely random order. I'm also planning to intersperse my "here is a thing what I made" posts with other stuff, so I don't end up dumping everything out there within the space of a week and ending up in this exact same situation again. Posts on planning! Posts on skills! Posts on how much I despise hemming! Yay!

(Photos tomorrow. I promise.)