Monday 21 December 2015


Every year since I was sixteen I've made ten resolutions every January, then come back to them at the end of the year to see how I did. It's such an ingrained tradition now that I forget that literally nobody else in the world does this. I've made my resolutions as usual, but I feel like before I take a blogging break for Christmas it would be nice to make another ten here, relating to my new area of interest, split 50/50 between sewing and style:


1. I will learn to fit properly.

Since one of the major advantages of making stuff yourself is that you can fit it correctly, I want to learn how to do that properly. Mostly any 'fitting' I've done when not in the presence of expert tuition is of the "pull seam in a bit more here, sew it up" variety, which is fine but still leaves a lot of fit issues in my clothes and adjustments I could do with learning. I'd like to get a better understanding of my body's individual shape and fit requirements and how best to serve them.

2. I will plan my projects two months at a time.

I was surprised at how useful my Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul was. I bought five patterns at once, which is not unusual, but then I posted about them and began thinking of them as a set, which gave me a lot more incentive to actually work through them. I ran into problems with not having appropriate fabric at hand though, and I need to work on getting these two lined up a bit better. I'll probably end up writing myself a set of guidelines or something equally dorky to make sure that I get through some of the stuff I actually have instead of buying endless new stuff.

3. I will be more creative.

Because I'm just a beginner, what I do right now is: buy pattern, cut out as instructed, sew up as instructed. What I'd love to be able to do is understand patterns well enough to be able to mess about with them, change necklines and sleeves and shapes and turn a tank top pattern into a wedding dress or whatever the hell it is other people seem to be able to do. I'd also like to be able to turn inspiration into wearable clothes, and I have acquired myself some croquis with the intention of attempting this every month or two.

4. I will work out what the hell to do with my scraps pile.

At the moment, I have two bins and two bags full of pieces of material that aren't big enough to go in my fabric cupboard but aren't small enough to be thrown away without guilt, and I need a good way to reduce this to at least a quarter of the size and keep it there. I think using pieces to try out bodice fitting is probably not a bad idea to start off with, as is reminding myself that whilst random sewing bloggers are perfectly entitled to write appalled posts about how they would never throw out a scrap of anything, they aren't actually the governor of my life choices and I can throw stuff away if I want.

5. I will become a more disciplined fabric buyer.

My fabric buying policy so far has been "buy as much as you can as cheaply as you can", which I think is a large part of the reason my cupboard is so full of stuff I don't seem to be able to pair with a pattern. I will still buy cheap fabric for my first attempt at something, but I would like to keep at a similar level of spending and acquire smaller volumes of better fabric that's more compatible with my pattern queue.


6. I will get a grip on my shoe situation.

It's only fairly recently that I realised how much better I feel in a good pair of shoes, and to be fair I have recently started taking steps to sort that out. But next year I want to build up a small collection of comfortable and pretty shoes that I can wear on a day to day basis without hurting my feet. The chances are that I'm going to have to get more of a grip on shoe shopping (which I hate because I have weird-shaped feet and it's so difficult to find comfy shoes), and also spend more money on each pair of shoes (which I also hate because even shoes that feel comfy in the shop often start hurting after I've paid money for them). But I will feel better for it, and I know that.

7. I will elevate my everyday casual wear.

I don't really want this to be anything drastic, I just want to have a slightly more polished baseline than jeans and a top, i.e. jeans + random top isn't an outfit, but jeans + specific top + specific jacket is. At the moment a lot of my handmade stuff goes unworn because it's too far above my baseline casual - I go out in a dress and it's such a noticeable shift in my style level that people ask me what I'm dressing up for. I'd like to be able to wear dresses on a day-to-day basis and not have people look at me funny, is all.

8. I will maintain a haircut.

This is weirdly fundamental to the success of my previous resolution. I find it almost impossible to dress in a put-together way if my hair isn't behaving itself, and my hair has spent most of this year not behaving itself. Having now got my hair cut into a proper style, I need to commit to getting it cut every couple of months and not letting it grow back into a mop.

9. I will shop more carefully and more ethically.

I haven't done a ridiculous Primark shopping spree in a while, but I think at this point I'm going to put a conscious end to them. I have done so many cheap-ass shopping sprees and thrown out so many of the things after one, two or no wears (I do have one Primark jumper that is amazing and is still alive and I love it and it was £9, but that was years ago and it's literally never happened again). No more buying disposable shit from places with dubious labour practices. I want a wardrobe that makes sense, which means not just chucking random stuff into it because I saw something purple that maybe doesn't exactly fit or go with anything but look, purple (genuine thought process I have had). I can afford to put a little more thought into this stuff.

10. I will find out what 'me' clothes look like.

This is the intended outcome of my "attempts to develop style" series, and it's something I want to work on next year because I think it'll make everything a hell of a lot less confusing. I want to have a very clear picture of what's 'me' and what's 'not me' while still leaving room for me to try shit that may not be exactly me but is fabulous.

I'm now going to take a couple of weeks' break. I'm at home with my family for Christmas, and next week my boyfriend and I are flying out to spend New Year in Sicily (yes, we suck, I know). But I shall be back in January with sewing plans of all kinds. Merry holiday time to everyone!

Wednesday 16 December 2015

blog notes

Blog note the first: Posting is going to be light from now until I get back from Sicily in January, but I do have a resolutions post and a couple of other things scheduled to go up in the next couple of weeks.

Blog note the second: All of my Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul projects have now been completed (yay!) but will probably not be posted until next month. I was thinking about rushing them all out before I start talking about my next pattern haul, but I was forgetting the bit where I haven't made any of those things yet and would rather not have long stretches where I don't post any finished makes at all.

Blog note the third: I have to make/finish about six Christmas presents in the next two days because I have a fanciful imagination and terrible time management skills. Please wish me luck.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Jen attempts to develop style: observations and step one

Let's start off with a word dump.

Observations from hits post and past makes:

saturated colours
graphic and tonal prints
black tights
structural details
navy + white
shoulder detail
wrap style
waist emphasis
minimalist accessorising
very dark + very bright

And now some words I think of when I think about an aspirational style I'd like to have:

olive green
balanced proportions
deep shades + cream
vintage inspired
swishy trousers
Italian style

There's a bit of crossover there, but Imaginary Jen appears to be more elegant, sophisticated, and subdued than Actual Jen. Given that so many of my favourite clothes are crazy bright colours I'm not going to try and bring Imaginary Jen to life, but I think I can accommodate a few elements of the second list. Enough that I can choose to swish around and pretend to be Sophia Loren and/or Phryne Fisher every once in a while and nobody will think it's weird.

And now, the tremendously exciting debut of my first step towards this whole style thing: after looking back at my old photos, I decided to cut my hair again. Now it looks like this:

I was worried it might be a tiny bit too short when I first saw it, but now that I'm used to it I think it's a lot better. My hair is super-thick, sort of curly but not curly enough to be actually curly, and never behaves in the same way twice, so when it's a bit longer it sometimes looks fine and sometimes looks like I've had some sort of horrendous accident with an electrical socket.  It was starting to drive me nuts, and the time was right for a symbolic chopping of hair, so here is my proper-short bob!

Having an actual hairstyle as opposed to a mop forces me to pay more attention to what I wear, and one of my resolutions (which you will be seeing in a couple of weeks) is to commit to regular hairdressing appointments. If my hair is up together I'm a lot less likely to fall back into the "eh, fuck it, that'll do" manner of dressing. I do think that what I wear is likely to shift slightly now that my hair is this short and I'll be keeping an eye on that.

Technically I've done step two as well; a few hours after I had my hair cut, a van turned up and took away several bin bags' worth of clothes and shoes I don't wear anymore, so there is now a small amount of space in my room for me to accumulate new and better things. Marching with grim determination down the road to progress, that's me. Also it's just over a week until I leave for Christmas and I'm having serious trouble convincing my brain that that's not sufficient time in which to make three and a half dresses. Sigh.

Monday 7 December 2015

jacket in


A little while ago, I bought the Sewaholic Cordova jacket pattern. I loved the shape, and having seen on the envelope that lightweight brocade was one of the recommended fabrics, I had a vision of a black brocade jacket with an electric blue lining that rather excited me. But finding a brocade I liked and thought I'd happily wear as a jacket proved trickier than I'd imagined, and I started to look at other options. Eventually I bought some white wool with multi-coloured flecks, mostly because the online shop had named it "Joseph Boucle" (who's got two thumbs and enjoys terrible fabric/literature crossover puns? THIS GIRL) and planned to make the jacket up in that instead of brocade.

When I came to look at it, I realised that the fabric was a lot more multicoloured and a lot less white than I had in my head, meaning I wouldn't get the kind of contrast with the lining that I'd been hoping for. Apparently that was the main selling point of the jacket to me, because I then completely lost enthusiasm for the project.

A little while later, I bought a sewing magazine with a free pattern on it. I've now stopped doing this, because I've learned that sewing magazines always supply the smallest size and that's no good to me. The free pattern on this magazine is a New Look pattern with a much larger range of sizes - US sizes 8-20, it claimed. I thought that might bode well. Then I got it home and saw that this range of patterns only has a nine-inch hip-to-waist difference, and that their "US size 20", i.e. a UK size 24, had a hip measurement of 43 inches. I know sewing patterns are sized smaller, and I know I have a lot of hip, but given that I wear a UK 14-16 on my bottom half in ready-to-wear, I was not expecting to have this problem. Ugh.

The pattern was for a sheath dress and cropped jacket, and due to my ridiculous 14-inch hip-to-waist difference, the jacket pattern did fit my measurements. I threw the dress pattern away because what is even the point it's just a dull sheath and decided to repurpose the boucle to make the jacket.

This came out really well. The photos did not, because we took them at 4pm and apparently that's night time now. Yay autumn!

It isn't quite neutral enough to bring the Zombie Hoodie Replacement Race to an end, but it certainly covers some more of the bases. I found it quite easy to construct - the main problem I had was that this fabric frays really quickly. This was my first time inserting sleeves in a woven fabric, and it didn't give me any grief at all. There aren't any closures on it, which in some ways is great because I definitely would have put this off if it had a zip and possibly put it off forever if it had buttons. It's also unlined, and I'm not so keen on that because I have to look at my seams every time I take it off. When I make it again (which I will) I'd like to try and put a lining in, though I have no idea how easy it is to just Frankenstein a lining into something. Experiments!

(Also, remember when I made this top? I had no idea it would be so useful, but I get loads of wear out of it, especially now that it makes a nice outfit with this jacket. I must make some more.)

Posing Tip: Pretend to be looking at something far away. This is a simple way to find the light with your face, allowing your ridiculous expression to be shown off to full advantage.

Also positioning yourself in such a way that it looks as though you're lost in the wilderness of your very small North London garden. That's a good one too. (This is why you come here, right? The modelling tips? You wait til I do a whole post using Tyra Banks' 'pose with pain' philosophy.)

More jackets to come. I've not decided whether to make a more neutral version of this or have a go at the Cordova first, but it will probably be one of the two unless something else comes up. I am organised and good at planning. You cannot deny my truth.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Jen attempts to develop style: finished projects review

Following on from the "pictures of things I've worn and liked" post, I thought I'd try a "quick and dirty evaluation of things I've made" post. Here is everything I've ever made and posted (up until the writing of this post), reviewed in one sentence or less, divided into three categories by frequency of wear.

Things I wear a lot:

(Probably the least 'me' thing I've made, but if I keep everything else simple and dark I'm comfortable enough to get a lot of wear out of it)

(Super useful pullover summer dress)

(I mean, I don't wear these three a lot right now, but it's December in London and common sense is still a thing)

(I'm surprised how useful this one has been)

(Love it, but might remake it - some of the construction bothers me)

(Again, surprising, given occasionally indecent stretchiness. Apparently that doesn't bother me as much as I thought)

(Love this and wish I had more of this jersey)

(Best skirt shape)


(Really great dress, will make more, but need to be aware that I won't like it as much if I make it in a neutral colour)

(I need to get over my fear and make another pair of trousers)

Things I wear occasionally:

(It's a bit big and it's not very well finished, but it's still purple and swishy)

(This annoys me because I really like it, but there's a disconnect between style and fabric; it's a basic cotton cushion fabric so it doesn't feel fancy, but when I wear it as a regular dress people ask me what I'm all dressed up for)

(This is great, but because it's SO high-waisted it doesn't go with that many things)

(Turns out this isn't an everyday dress. Also I want to buy myself a softbox)

Things I hardly ever wear/have never worn:

(I think this needs some fixing. I often go to put it on and take it off again because it's just too baggy in the shoulders)

(This photographs so well but it goes with literally nothing else I own)

(This wasn't the right fabric for this top)

(Too short and too itchy)

(Zip needs fixing)

(Zip needs fixing)

(I've had this for about two weeks and so far no suitable occasions have arisen)

Things I can learn from this:

1. I need to work on my zip insertion
2. My success rate is higher than I think it is
3. Having put them all in a list, my makes aren't as schizophrenic as I thought they would be
4. I need a defined purpose and pairing for everything I make
5. The biggest reason for my not wearing something is poor fabric choice
6. I wear prints more than I think I do, but since I hardly ever mix them I need an equal amount of neutral things
8. Very bright + very dark = happy Jen

It is now time to work out exactly what I'm going to do with all this information I've acquired. Slapdash analysis time!