Monday, 30 November 2015

Vogue designer dress, or ARGH

I saw this dress (Vogue 1395) on Lladybird, and I wanted it. The pattern seemed easy enough to get hold of, but there was no point if I didn't have the right fabric, I told myself, and I wasn't going to find a lovely black fabric with a pretty cherry print like that, was I? So I left it, riiiight up until the point where there was a half price sale on Vogue patterns and I was having a bad day and needed cheering up. It only sat in my pattern folder for about a week before I found some pretty black floral fabric of indeterminate make-up at Walthamstow Market that I thought might work, and I started making the dress the next day.

So, obviously it doesn't look as good as Lauren's, but then I'm new at this. Also I am so glad I read about her experience with this pattern, because the instructions were absolutely fucking terrible. This was the first Vogue pattern I made (I made this one pre-red skirt and am posting things out of chronological order because I'm a rebel now), and it put me off sewing up any of the other Vogues in my stash in case all their instructions were like these (luckily, they don't seem to be). I spent literally an hour and a half trying to work out how on earth to put the shoulders together, and I'm sure what I did isn't what it told me to do.

So in many cases, I did what she did. I did French seams (for the first time ever) rather than double-stitch all the seams because I am never going to double stitch all my seams without being given a bloody good reason, I took the shoulder seams up by 4/5cm because the neckline was all huge and loose and gapey, I entirely ignored all of their hemming instructions and I'm fairly sure I didn't put the facings on the way the instructions told me to either.

It has an overlay attached at the back which wraps round and ties in the front. It does not appear to enable the wearer to fly, which is a mark against it in my book.

I also didn't understand their instructions for sewing the elastic casing, though I'm not sure whether that's more my fault or the instructions'. So I literally just sewed the elastic onto the seam allowance of the skirt, which is maybe not a great long-term option, but meh. By the time I'd got to the elastic I was a tad bit annoyed by this dress and wasn't really thinking about its longevity. Also the hems really need redoing - I recently acquired a stupid cheap overlocker from Lidl because apparently that's a thing, and it looks easy enough to do a rolled hem on those.

RANDOM CHANGE OF SCENE FOR ONE PHOTO ONLY. Somehow the lining ended up being longer than the outer skirt even though I did a tiny hem on the outer fabric and a huge one on the lining. This was an earlier photo, in which you may or not be able to see that I accidentally folded the hem towards the outside because I am a moron. I've cut that off now, so hopefully the dress looks like a bit less of a derp in the newer photos.

Having finished this dress, I do like it, though I'm not sure when I might wear it. I was hoping it would be a good dress to go dancing in, but because of the way the overlay sits the ties ride up and create a boob shelf if I put my arms up, so I don't think it'll work for that. Also it's a bit short, and I'll definitely add to the length if I make another one. But since I've got very little negative ease in the elastic, it's incredibly comfy and will be an excellent dress for massive dinners.

You all wanted to spend some more quality time with my amazing shoes, right?

BEST SHOES. Oh, the dress? I might make it again in the summer, by which time I'll hopefully have a better handle on how to make the process of constructing this thing less of a pain in the arse.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Jen attempts to develop style: previous hits

Most of the style overhaul advice I've read suggests starting off with a mood board. I've tried a couple of times to do a style mood board thing and I just can't get it to work for me. I understand the rationale, but there's always a disconnect between what I come up with picture-wise and what I would actually wear. So I'm not going to try that this time; not yet, at least. Instead, here are some outfits I have loved in the past, represented through photos which are mostly very poor, but we can work through it, right? Right. Let's go:

1. Grey fitted jumper and red tulip skirt

My favourite outfit six years ago, which I would say was the time I felt happiest about my wardrobe. I don't have a photo of the top, but here's the skirt, which I am obviously VERY excited about: high-waisted, bright red tulip skirt, mid thigh length with pockets and a thick black waistband. The jumper was thin, fitted, in a mid to dark grey with mini shoulder pads.

2. Black dress and grey wrap

I only have these two in separate photos. As you see, one photo is very small, and the other features me in a pink pointy party hat, because why wouldn't it. Black short-sleeved dress with neckline/shoulder seaming detail, fitted through the top with a drapey skirt which probably has a technical term but I don't know it. What's the technical term for 'random folds of fabric'? The wrap was literally my favourite thing ever until it fell apart - I got it from All Saints and they called it a 'pirate cardigan', but now they're calling something else a pirate cardigan and it's not even remotely the same. It was basically a cross between a wrap cardigan and an infinity scarf and I LOVED it. I've never found anything else like it since, and I'd buy another one in a heartbeat even though it fell apart rather too quickly for the amount of money I spent on it.

3. Black wrap dress

My hair looks like a wig here. Basic black wrap dress, wore it to death, sure I still have it somewhere but can't find it. If I ever find it again I will be working out a way to clone it. Oh, also, this blue thing? I bought it from a market in Galicia about ten years ago and I wear it constantly, as a scarf, as a wrap, as a sarong, as a shoulder-protecting device when it's sunny. I'm not sure what I'll do when it dies.

4. Black strawberry print dress, black belt, black leather jacket and tape measure necklace

I was looking for a photo of this dress, and I found two featuring the whole outfit, which would be great except for some reason I am a) looking far too excited about M&Ms, and b) standing in a bath. Oh, Past Jen. Anyway, I really want this necklace back. It's a tape measure twisted into a heart that I bought way before my sewing days and it would be my favourite thing ever now if I hadn't lost it. I would also be wearing this belt all the time if I knew where it was. The dress is a printed chiffon over black lining with shirring round the waist and little cap sleeves (and a LOT shorter than I remember it being), and the jacket is a very thin leather with a draped front which I still have.

5. Blue lace dress

This is one of my favourite ever photos (photo courtesy of the amazing Fred Lindbom; dipping courtesy of the equally amazing Alexis) and I love the colour and style of this dress, though not so much the way the lace overlay started unravelling really quickly. Hmph. I got a lot of wear out of it in the short space of time before it became too tatty, though.

6. Burgundy silk dress

Dress has split sleeves and a wrap effect at the front. I wouldn't normally think of wearing bird print but I loved this dress. It was also surprisingly versatile and I used to wear it quite a lot; not to work or anything, but it was my go-to "thing to wear in the evening" for quite a long while. The second photo doesn't add much but it makes me smile.

7. Short sleeved red jersey dress

This is the kind of dress that was my go-to a couple of years ago; simple pullover jersey dress with a fitted bodice and flared skirt. I wasn't going to put it in but I seem to have been photographed more in this dress than in anything else I've ever worn and they're all great memories, so here. In my long-hair days, dancing in Genoa with Micky, who is basically a unicorn in human form and we love him for it. Photo credit: Alessandro Cabella

8. Jeans and black vest top

Apparently posing in baths used to be my thing. These were my favourite, favourite jeans. They were the best-fitting jeans I ever had, I felt amazing in them and I wore them long past the point I should have thrown them out. I got them from Oasis at the same time as I got the red tulip skirt, and after that they apparently had a complete overhaul of style and fit because I've never found anything I like in there since. Omnipresent grey wrap again in the second picture, where I am on a carousel because that's what grown-ups do.

9. Mustard dress and black belt

Gah, I miss this belt. This was one of several long-sleeved fit and flare skater dresses that I had from Asos before Asos quality dropped massively. Here are two photos of me in Venice - one that shows what I'm wearing and one of me pissing about with a lamppost.

10. Cream jumper and shorts

I'd forgotten how much I liked these shorts. I wish it was easier to find ones this length. (Giant chair and fake old lady because why not.)

11. Bright pink party dress

A bonus one; this is by no stretch of the imagination daywear, but I would be remiss not to include it because I'm not sure I've ever felt so good as I did in this dress. Bright pink Karen Millen strapless satin minidress with some kind of origami pleating thing at the front. I can't wear this anymore but I'm never getting rid of it.

This is about as much as I can do from memory and Facebook photos. Going back through photos of me trying to find ones where I'm wearing day clothes that I liked has been a bit of a slog - there are 20+ photos of me in a Goth ballerina dress, about a dozen in a hooded Santa dress and approximately forty-six million of me in stupid wigs, but decent photos of normal clothes? Can't help you.

From this we can pick up:

- a lot of black, red and blue
- quite simple
- short skirts
- shoulder detail
- knee high boots
- oh, black tights, I love you so much
- very dark or very bright
- assuming we ignore the bonus dress, easy to wear
- that one belt was really great
- there aren't a whole lot of sensible photos of me in existence

I will be doing something very important and useful with this information (I assume), so hold that thought and we'll come back to it in a couple of posts' time.

Monday, 23 November 2015

I see you shiver with pantici...


(I'm sorry. I don't even call them 'pants'. I just couldn't not.)

Behold my first ever pair of me-made trousers:

These are made from Sew Over It's Ultimate Trousers pattern, and I went to a class to make them. I'm really glad I did, because I never would have got a pair of trousers that fit from this pattern otherwise. Not to disparage the pattern at all; it's just not designed for people with as much hip as I have, and if I'd gone through and followed the instructions diligently, I would have ended up with a pair of trousers that looked perfectly fine until I tried to put them on and expose everyone to the tight hip/loose waist/baggy crotch/odd length extravaganza.

After trying on a couple of pre-made toiles and doing a LOT of in-progress fitting, I made the following changes:

- added 1cm to the hips on the pattern
- added 5cm to the legs on the patten
- omitted the front darts
- swapped out the long, thin back darts for a couple of huge squat chunky things half the length and two and a half times the width
- pinched about 1cm out of the crotch seam
- added a slight tapering to the legs
- taken another 1.5cm or so off the waist once I got them finished and home in true slapdash fashion (no, it's not proper tailoring, but the waist fits, so I don't care).

These trousers have a concealed zip down the side. I put mine in, put the trousers on, did the zip up, and the zip immediately split. Note to self: shoddy market zips maybe not the best idea. They also have a faced waistline, which I'm not especially keen on, so if I make this pattern again I'll probably stick a waistband on.

I think for my first attempt at pattern-matching checks, it's pretty good. I know quite a few people thought it was a bit rash of me to use this kind of pattern for my first ever pair of trousers, but once we'd got past the 'have I cut it out right?' bit I was actually really glad to have it. You've got built-in guides all over your fabric! It's great! It is entirely possible that I'll take all of this back the first time I have to cut something out with no assistance from Julie the Magical Sewing Fairy, but for now I say, Yay Tartan! More tartan trousers!

These are by no means perfect trousers. The waistline isn't completely even (particularly around the zip), and despite understitching the facing and sewing it down to all the seams it still likes to bubble out of the top. I may make this pattern again, but not without a waistband of some sort.

However, another pair of these is not what is next for my trouser-constructing journey. Oh, no. My next trouser project will be a pair of Jen Trousers made from a completely accidental self-drafted pattern. Yes, accidental self-drafting. Story coming very soon...

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Jen attempts to develop style: introduction

So, five months into this whole learning-to-make-clothes lark, I have approximately two dozen finished garments of varying quality, a stack of unused patterns, and a cupboard full of fabric which boasts extremely limited compatibility with any of my pattern stash (used or otherwise). I'm not sure I like this whole stash thing; I think I'd much prefer to see a pattern I want to make and then go out and buy fabric for it. I have no plans for at least half the fabrics sitting in my cupboard and most of the projects in my queue will require me to go out and buy yet more stuff, and any attempts to do that will result in so much pressure to only buy the exact right things for these very specific projects that panic will ensue and I will end up with yet more stuff I can't actually use. Ask me how I know.

My wardrobe in general feels a bit all over the place at the moment. Vintage Swing Dancer is fighting with Sleek Lines which is fighting with All Of The Colours which is fighting with Please Don't Notice Me (ugh, depression) which is fighting with Please Explain To Me Why I Am Not Phryne Fisher Yet. All of which is fighting with my tendency to impulse buy things I will never wear, or will only wear for a very specific occasion which may or may not ever happen. As a result, most of my clothes don't go with each other and getting dressed can be a bit stressful. I would rather this wasn't the case, especially right now when I've just quit my job and am trying to recover from a year of fun with anxiety and depression.

I go back and forth on whether I would want to develop a uniform, or at least a go-to shape and style. On the one hand, SO much easier. On the other hand, limiting (my boyfriend has a very specific personal uniform and sometimes complains that it's now impossible to get dressed up for anything because all his clothes are exactly the same). I used to have this - short-sleeved jersey minidresses with short sleeves, fitted bodice and flared skirt, with black tights and flat shoes. It mostly developed for practical reasons; i.e. I spent all my time dancing and that was the most comfortable thing to wear. Plus with sleeves and black tights I didn't have to bother about keeping a regular waxing schedule NOT EVEN SORRY HAIR REMOVAL SUCKS BURN THE PATRIARCHY. This go-to died out because I was buying cheap dresses that lost their shape and/or shrank pretty quickly, and when I stopped dancing as much I didn't really have the incentive to buy more of them. I don't think that's where I want to go back to; I tried one on the other day and felt "meh" enough about it that I didn't buy it even though my mother liked it and it was an amazing bright blue colour that I really ought to wear more often.

So I've decided that in order to make my wardrobe, my sewing, and in some small way my life make more sense, I'm going to write a bunch of posts to help me work through it. I'm going to attempt a multi-part trial and error series, borrowing a bit from Colette's Wardrobe Architect project but mostly just me futzing about. There are a lot of traps I could fall into here:

1. Searching for a pattern that most closely resembles my previous go-to dress, regardless of whether that's still the right thing for me
2. Not finding the right things immediately and latching onto something that isn't really me
3. Not finding the right things immediately and giving up in despair
4. Trying to make myself fit into a particular style rather than finding a style that fits me
5. Thinking I need to have all the answers before I publish anything and getting stuck because it turns out that I don't
6. Writing so many lists that I never get beyond the list-making stage

Ideally, I would like most of the garments I acquire next year to be working towards a broad common theme, with the occasional ridiculous experiment thrown in because we still have to have some fun here and ruts aren't fun. Hopefully through a combination of planning, reviews, analysis, experiments and reminders that it's fine and actually helpful to be shallow every once in a while, I can achieve Wardrobe Happiness at last and not stumble into quite so many sewing blocks. Here goes.

Monday, 16 November 2015

UODPH part two: Wren

I had thought the Colette Wren dress would be one of the later projects from my October haul, probably fourth. I figured I'd want to space my knit fabric and woven fabric projects fairly evenly, and since I already had the fabric for the Tiramisu and had been planning to make a Moneta for longer, the Wren would probably be de-prioritised. Also I still wasn't quite sure about it. (Spoiler: I was not correct to be unsure about it.)

But then I instituted a two-out-one-in rule to help me achieve the goal of all my fabric fitting in its designated cupboard, and while trying to sort through what I had that could be immediately used, I realised I had a remnant of pink ponte knit of the exact dimensions specified for version 1 of the Wren. It seemed like fate; there would be more space in my cupboard, and I could try an initial test run of a) the pattern and b) the company on a piece of fabric I paid £3.99 for. Result.

(Possibly this is my "Result" face)

I settled down to start cutting and immediately hit a snag. When deciding what size to cut, I looked at the finished garment measurements, saw that the pattern was designed to have two to four inches of negative ease at the hips and went HA HA HA NOPE. I am not going to be wearing negative ease on my hips. I'm not saying I will never ever wear negative ease on my hips, but right now that is not a thing that will be happening. So instead of grading out to one size larger in the hips as I would ordinarily do, I graded out two sizes larger. Which is fine, but the 1.5 metres of fabric wasn't enough for that. Luckily I also had a ton of black ponte from the same remnant bin, so I decided to colour block it (also, two fabrics used! One new fabric for me!). Once I'd started cutting it I panicked that a bright pink and black dress would look too 80s for words, and not in a way that would seem deliberate, but eh. It was only a test.

(I cannot explain this pose to you. I'm sorry.)

The first thing I did was sew the skirt up, because that's what I was most worried about. I tried it on and it seemed to fit perfectly. It wasn't the super-fitted "here is my ass" type of skirt that I think they were going for, but for what I wanted, it was great. Going two sizes up in the hips gave me somewhere between zero and a fraction of an inch positive ease, which gives me a nice silhouette without pulling and make me feel self-conscious. I will possibly make myself a carbon copy of the skirt and put some kind of waistband or facing on it, because it seems like the perfect work skirt, for when work is a thing again.

I moved on to the top. "Hem with a twin needle", it said, and I thought, hey, this is just a test one, I could try the twin needle, everyone says it's really easy. If I had to sum up my first evening's attempt in one word, it would be GRAAHHHkcjnbvhruuogb (or something to that effect). My machine ate the fabric, which it hasn't done in months. The threads kept tying themselves in knots, and once one of the threads managed to feed itself directly through the middle of the other thread. I have no idea how. I eventually got the neck edges hemmed, but it took me 40 minutes and about nine or ten complete rethreadings of my machine. I put it to one side, discouraged and disgruntled.

But I would not be defeated. I WOULD finish. I came back to it the next day having read up on how best to tame a twin needle, and I managed to hem both my armholes with only one reset. I was pleased. When I hemmed the skirt, I got it all done in one go and felt extremely accomplished.

BRAIN: We did it! Now for decorative topstitching in bold contrasting colours!
ME: You do know this hemming isn't actually straight, right?
BRAIN: Tra la la...

I have a tiny bit of weirdness around the bust, as you can probably tell from the flashes of bright blue bra you're getting in these photos. I'm not entirely sure how to fix that; I think I need to raise the armscye slightly and possibly even go down a size in the shoulders then try doing one of these full bust adjustment things. Basically, though, I'm really happy - it gave me more grief than I was expecting, but I can see how this would be a fairly easy pattern if you're a bit less useless than me. I think it's super flattering and having gone up the extra size in the hips, really comfortable as well. 

Also, let us stop for a minute and admire my amazing shoes. They are from Miss L Fire and they are bright yellow suede and they are super comfy and I LOVE them. They cost a lot more than I generally spend on shoes (I don't like shoe shopping because I have weird-shaped feet that behave themselves when I'm walking around the shop trying shoes out, but start screaming in agony when I try to wear any shoes I've actually paid for. A lot of money has been wasted this way), but my boyfriend instituted a "when I get my first paycheque from New Job, we're each getting a pair of entirely frivolous shoes" rule. I highly recommend this rule for anyone looking to win at being a boyfriend. Having not really worn yellow anything since I was eight, I'm now convinced it goes with everything. You will be seeing a lot more of these shoes, and you may get sick of them. I, however, will not. YELLOW SHOES.

Anyway, dress. We were talking about a dress.

Boyfriend's assessment at the trying-on stage: "It's not even that 80s. I was expecting much worse from what you said. It's actually just quite a nice dress." Then he noticed that I hadn't sewn the bodice and skirt together yet and starting poking me in the midsection, because our relationship is largely based around being quite childish quite a lot of the time. 

I have plans for a couple more of these - one in this style with long sleeves, and one with a gathered skirt, possibly in the aubergine print jersey I've been hoarding (once I've tested the other skirt out on something, because I am completely terrified of making a mess of that material. I'm not sure why it's such a block, it wasn't even that expensive in the grand scheme of things). I also need to make a cropped jacket to go with this, because it is very much not November attire, even with this weird-ass fake November we have going on at the moment. 

Yay Colette! I'm so glad this worked out, I wanted to like you so much that I think I'd have been a bit upset if the dress hadn't come out well. Next stage: see if the Moneta works as well for me as it seems to have done for every single other person I've seen in one. I have high hopes now. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

happiness is a red skirt

I would like to introduce you to Vogue 7910, my new favourite thing:

I bought this pattern a few months ago. I was after something quite different, but the reviews of the one I wanted were middling and the reviews of this one were all FIVE STARS BEST SKIRT EVER MAKE THIS SKIRT EVERYBODY, so I bought it. Then it turned up on my doorstep looking all sensible and practical and dull in its neutral colours, and I put it away, wondering what on earth possessed me to buy a work skirt pattern when I wasn't at work and was trying not to think about work as a concept. 

Then I happened upon it again when trying to break a weeks-long sewing block. I had some inexpensive drapey red cotton I could experiment with, why not? 

(Two different settings, because I'm crazy and unpredictable in an incredibly restrained way.)

I made view A, an eight-panelled gored skirt with a waistband, and it is my new favourite skirt shape. It doesn't add extra volume to the hips, but also it doesn't cling, and it doesn't seem to create static with my tights either. It was really easy and fun to sew, and I will be making many, many more. 

I haven't worn skirts for years because I've just never been able to find one that looks OK on me. They all cling too much, or they have way too much volume, or they do that thing where they jut out from the waistband and sit on top of your hips and make you look square, like a loo roll cover that's also a doll. I've made a bunch of skirts in the last few months and I wear most of them, but this is my favourite in terms of shape and comfort. And I really enjoy red clothes. 

Also it does this, and that pleases me. Let's have some more!


I'm planning, possibly ill-advisedly, to try making one of these out of this strange textured neoprene-like material I bought a little while ago. I'm not sure it's going to work, but I don't have the first idea what to do with the stuff so I might as well experiment with it. And if it does work, a neoprene gored skirt should make for some interesting shaping. (That was a bad trip to the fabric shop. I bought four things and have no use for any of them. My new plan is to put them in a pile labelled 'Experimental' and just try making weird shit with them all. I'll let you know how that goes.)

Monday, 9 November 2015

UODPH part one: Tiramisu

(yep, that is a really unwieldy acronym, and yep, I'm using it anyway)

The first project from my Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul was the Tiramisu from Cake Patterns. I had the fabric, and I was excited to try out their pattern sizing system, so I started cutting this one a couple of days after I got it in the post. It hadn't really occurred to me before I looked at the sizing on this pattern that something being drafted for my bust measurement wasn't the same as something being drafted for my cup size, and it explains a few of the shoulder problems and gaping I've had in previous projects.

It's REALLY comfy. It fits well around the waist. The skirt is a good length and hangs really well, and also POCKETS. I also think overall it's got quite a specific kind of vintagey look that I really don't have anywhere in my wardrobe, and I think I'd like a bit more of it.

The instructions were very clear that the shoulder seams must be stabilised with stay tape. So I did that and now they're really itchy. I've cut most of it away, but it's still quite annoying and I'll probably need to cover it up at some point (redo the seams, you say? Couldn't possibly. It's finished now, see, and we can't go back. STOP LIVING IN THE PAST).

I started writing the post before I took the photos, and I wrote several lines about how the V-neck was a bit too narrow for my taste and I'd much rather it was wider at the neck. However, having seen the photos I'm taking all that back. Maybe it photographs better than it looks in real life, I don't know, but seeing the pictures I wouldn't change a thing about it. There are a couple of minor fit issues round the bust, and I'm not knowledgeable enough to be able to fix them properly, but beyond that this is a great dress and I will be making more. 

And now, especially for you, a couple of Jen's Over The Top Ridiculous Modelling Shots:

Thank you for indulging me. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


So I made another circle skirt. But this one is ORANGE.

I bought this fabric ages ago, intending to make a massive floofy full-skirted dress with it. During a bout of insomnia the other week I pulled both the fabric and Sew Over It's Betty pattern out of my stash and started laying it out. Annoyingly the fabric was narrower than I remembered and the pieces didn't quite fit. I made a late night judgement call, scrapped the dress pattern and decided to make a circle skirt instead because what I really wanted was a massive orange floofy skirt and I'd live with it not being attached to a dress if I had to.

(I have no idea what the hell this pose is.)

This is the same circle skirt pattern as my previous two, but I've modified it a bit (because I'm fancy now). I added a couple of inches to the bottom because I wanted a slightly longer skirt for autumn, and I put pockets in it, which was pretty easy to do - I nicked a pocket pattern from one of my books and worked out the placement by holding the pinned-together skirt around me and marking the most natural place for my hands to go. I also drafted a slightly wider waistband for no good reason, and having worn this skirt a LOT lately I actually think I should have drafted a narrower one.

Look at it go!

This skirt makes me happy. I feel like me in it. I find it much easier to build outfits around this ridiculous massive bright orange printed thing than I do around a lot of things I acquired for the sole purpose of being easy to build outfits around, because this skirt is mine and I feel comfortable and happy and I know what works with it. I also don't care what other people think of it, which was a happy surprise. I often worry about how people are judging me based on what I'm wearing (or how they're judging the questionable workmanship in the things I make), but not this time. Because I know it's mine.

Do I need more orange clothes? I possibly need more orange clothes.