Saturday 30 January 2016

Teen Goth(ington)

Me: Hey, I have a question. 
Boyfriend: Go on.
Me: If I make a dress that's tartan on the bottom, black in the middle and that tree branch material on the top, will I look like too much of a hopeless Goth?
Boyfriend: ummm, maybe?
Me: I'm doing it anyway.

This is the Cashmerette Washington dress, which I totally wasn't going to buy but then somehow it showed up in the post. Oops. I thought the "three different materials" thing might be an interesting challenge for me since I've definitely got into the habit of making each project out of one piece of fabric. All three of these are leftovers - the tartan from my brother's pyjama bottoms, the tree branch jersey from my wrap dress, and the ponte from a massive piece of ponte I fished out of a remnant bin some time ago for no real reason. Ahem. Who wants to meet Teen Goth Jen?

How Teen Goth Jen wished to be represented: Staring into middle distance while standing next to an octopus lady drawing and holding a bottle of rum with a skull on it. For everyone's sake I decided not to recreate her make-up. 

I'm at the very bottom end of Cashmerette's size range in the waist, not so much in the hips. I decided to cut a 12 (E/F cup) at the bust and waist and grade out to a 16 at the hips. What I think I'd do next time, because the skirt seams are so low, is just cut a straight 14 in the skirt. I only had slightly less than a metre of the tartan, which wasn't a problem in terms of layout but did mean no pattern matching. Eh. 

This was incredibly easy to make up, probably one of the easiest projects I've ever done. The skirt and yoke are literally just two seams each, and the top comes together very quickly too. It gave me absolutely no trouble at all. I made it up in two sessions because of sewing machine drama (this is the work of two different machines), but it couldn't have taken me much more than a couple of hours in total. 

I really love how the back fits on this one. It's basically perfect. What do you think, Teen Goth Jen?

To be a proper representation of my Goth years, this should be piss-cheap cider rather than fancy Cornish rum, but there wasn't any in the cupboard for some reason. 

I made this without any real expectation that I would wear it (since it's literally all remnants, I wouldn't have wasted any money if I just made it because it was funny), but I think I actually will. It's not the most tasteful thing in the world, but hey, I live in London. In any given tube carriage there'll be much weirder things than me, even when I am dressed as a ridiculous fifteen-year-old grump. 

Teen Goth Jen heard that. 

Overall, a successful experiment with Cashmerette Patterns, and I look forward to getting over my fear of cutting into my aubergine print jersey to make my first Appleton dress. I'll do it this week. I will. I promised. 

Thursday 28 January 2016

SNYPH part one: Cordova jacket, or ARGH

My first project of the year! I've been sitting on this pattern for a while; I bought all the bits for it last year then changed my mind about what I wanted the fabric to be. But jacket making appealed to me, I wanted to make sure I kept making modern pieces as well as vintage ones, and I had an awkward-length separating zip just waiting for me. It seemed like the time.

I've not seen too many versions of this floating around, and a lot of reviews I have seen have been a bit "ehhh" about it. It's unusual, because generally with any given indie pattern you can find at least one blogger writing "this pattern and I are now legally married" posts. Not that I'd expect anyone to be making up the same jacket pattern over and over again, but still. Having considered all that, I decided that I was going to do it anyway because I still liked it and I need to care less about other people's opinions on stuff (life goal!).

Verdict? I like this jacket, but yeeaaahhhh... this wasn't the most fun I've ever had sewing a project up.

The instructions were definitely on the sparse side, which didn't bother me at all until I got to the bit where you attach the facing to the rest of the jacket and I had absolutely no idea what the diagram was getting at. I spent quite some time pinning it together in different ways, and I'm sure what I ended up doing wasn't what the pattern was going for. It's basically fine except for the corners at either end of the zip. I'd never sewn a separating zip before and I couldn't work out how to get a clean finish, so I just tried to get all the raw ends in as best I could. This was especially tricky as some of the pattern pieces seemed to be a centimetre or two short and the fabric was fraying at crazy rate. I was also a bit confused about the front lining pieces, which were shaped the same way as the front of the jacket (the curved neck forming a corner with the straight front) but had to be sewn to the facing, which is curved and doesn't have a corner.

The instructions called for quite a lot of handstitching, but I didn't do any. The fabric hides stitch lines pretty well, so I machined the whole lining and hems in place and topstitched across all the facing pieces. I wouldn't ordinarily sew a whacking great line of stitching across the back of something, but I was somewhat frustrated and cranky by that point. I also found the jacket a bit too boxy, so I took a couple of centimetres out at the waistline to make it a bit more fitted.

Oh yeah, and on the second day I wore this the back seam split. ARGH. I think it was a combination of crappy sewing machine and fabric that frays alarmingly fast, but it made me very grumpy indeed. I was visiting my parents at the time, so I hastily hand-stitched it shut and made plans to buy a new machine as soon as I got back to London. I've been wearing this jacket all week and my hasty hand-stitching has held up just fine, by the way. 

I'm in a bit of a quandary over whether I'll make this again. I would really like a zip-up jacket to use as a casual layering piece (still on my quest to put Zombie Hoodie out of its misery), and I literally cannot find even one other lined zip-up jacket pattern, but I'm in no hurry to struggle through these instructions again. Maybe once I understand how to finish cleanly around a separating zip. Having said all of that, I do really like this jacket. I like the black and white with the bright blue lining, I like the peplums and I like the puffy shoulders. I'm glad I finally got around to making it, and massive troubles aside, the whole thing cost me £7 to make up. Can't say fairer than that.

Monday 25 January 2016

Jen attempts to develop style: 2016 plans

I'm not yet done with figuring out how to dress myself, so this series will be carrying on, on a semi-regular basis, until I don't feel the need to do it anymore. And do I have plans? Why yes, I do have plans!

As well as my two-monthly pattern hauls with acronyms of varying quality, I will be keeping my projects to plan by making a list of all the fabric and patterns in my stash and putting some kind of time limit on using them, so that I don't have stuff taking up space for years and years. I am making a commitment right here: when I move house in August, none of the fabric that's sitting in my stash cupboard right now will be coming with me. Either I use it up in the next six months or I get rid of it. I also currently have seventeen unused paper patterns, and while I won't be as strict with those I will at least get rid of a few of them (I am NEVER going to make a stupid Walkaway dress anyway; it uses about eight miles of fabric and isn't me in the slightest). I've also started keeping track of fabric in/fabric out.

I have a separate list covering:

 - projects currently in progress and exactly where in the construction process they are right now
 - potential fabric-pattern matches and any notions I need to buy or difficulties I need to work out before I start it
 - things I think I'd like to make but don't have the fabric and/or pattern for, which need to be on the list for at least a couple of days before I start shopping

In terms of specific projects, I'm hoping to find my ideal trouser pattern this year, and I'd like to up my loungewear game a bit. I've tended to think of things I wear at home as not real clothes, and I don't think that's helpful. Especially since entire weekends slobbing around watching terrible TV and eating cinnamon popcorn aren't exactly uncommon for me (my terrible TV recommendation is the short-lived VH1 reality show Scream Queens, which aired about eight years ago and is ridiculous and awful and sheer effing genius. Everyone I've shown it to has been forced to agree with me on this). I'd like a pretty dressing gown, some comfortable but attractive lounging-about trousers, and possibly something completely impractical and fabulous like a kimono with massive sleeves or an indoors-only embellished capelet. Shut up, I can if I want.

I'd also like to pick up some new skills this year. I imagine some things will just come with the patterns (i.e. I want to make this, but I don't know how to do that, I'd better learn how to do that, then), but here are a few specifics I know I'd like to have a go at:

Working with lace
Working with silk
Working with leather
Pattern hacking
Making a dress block
Basic pattern drafting
Actually getting the stupid overlocker working and making an actual dress with it, WHY IS TAKING YOU SO LONG JEN

I have absolutely no expectation whatsoever of getting to all of these. If I manage half of them I'll be very pleased with myself. I am determined to try making a swimsuit this year (imagine NO SWIMSUIT SHOPPING AGAIN EVER) and I think if my overlocker isn't up and running by August I won't be able to justify bringing it to my new house, but nothing else is a particular priority so I'll get to it when I get to it. I'm going to turn New Skills into a series (or at least a tag. Tags are also going to be a thing) so that I can keep track of what I've learned.

Over the course of the year I'm also going to run a series of posts on my attempts at more creative sewing. For pretty much everything I've made, I've followed the patterns and instructions to the letter (apart from when I skip steps because I can't be arsed), and that's pretty limiting. The series will (hopefully) cover pattern hacking, mixing up fabrics, translating inspiration into a project, experimenting with things I wouldn't ordinarily wear, and whatever else I can think of. The first few will probably be hilariously small-scale because I am a wimp: using a fabric not specifically listed in the recommended fabrics bit, sort of thing. But hopefully by the end of the year I will have built up to something much more interesting/ridiculous.

On the non-sewing front, I want a better collection of shoes, more excuses to wear fancy hats and some earrings longer than my hair. That's about it.

Thursday 21 January 2016

meet the Gnome!

My sewing machine (a fairly basic Brother model) is a year old and has been getting on my nerves for a while. I've been getting skipped stitches, holes in seams, loose threads, weird tension issues and a bunch of other crap, and it complains when I ask it to work with knits, zips, fabric that frays quickly, anything heavier than medium weight cotton or lighter than lightweight cotton. For a while I wondered if it was me, but I wasn't getting these issues with garments I made in a class, or on my mother's machine at Christmas (and that one had been sitting in the loft for however many years). I'd already decided that I would be upgrading my machine as soon as I had money coming in again, but this weekend I had a minor disaster - story coming next week - and I reached terminal frustration.

Meet The Gnome, my new roommate.

I picked the Gnome for a few reasons:

- I've used Janome machines in classes and I like them
- It has several stitch options I've been missing, but doesn't have 300 stitch options I will never use
- It didn't have any reviews that weren't excellent
- 'Janome' is a really funny word
- I'd already thought of a name for it
- I nearly called this post "Getting to Gnome You". Sorry.

I bought it in John Lewis and carried it home on the Tube, need for instant gratification overcoming my natural laziness (thing I learned: using a piece of string as a handle is quite painful for the hands). The Gnome came with all the usual sewing machine paraphernalia and also brought me a couple of surprise bonus presser feet not listed in its standard accessories, so I think it wants to please me.

After two days of use, the Gnome and I are getting along well. It has happily complied with all the tasks I've set it so far, only protesting a bit when I tried sewing a thicker double-layer jersey fabric on a stretch stitch, and even then it was fine when I turned the speed down a bit. It vibrates quite a bit when going really fast, so I think I'll need to make it a little cushion (spoilt sewing machine). It makes quiet little whirring and humming noises when switched on but not in use; that might be normal for computerised machines, but I've never had one before so I've no idea.

The Gnome has a bunch of useful things my previous machine didn't - ability to change length and width of stitches, speed limiter, needle up/down function, 1-step buttonholes, stretch stitch, and an actual proper spool pin so the thread doesn't fall off the machine every time I speed up a bit (seriously, why would you not have a spool pin? Why would you just provide a useless stump thing?). It also claims to be able to do a makeshift overlock stitch, which I'll be interested to try while I'm still too terrified to get my Gremlin overlocker working. I know, I know, I'm pathetic.

Welcome to the Gnome! Hopefully this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Monday 18 January 2016

UODPH part five: Moneta

I did not think this was going to be the last one I made, considering that I've been planning to buy it for so long and it's such a simple beginner dress. My brain put the following roadblocks in the way:

1. You can't make this until you get your Unexpected Lidl Overlocker working.
2. All the fabric is wrong.
3. Some reviews said it's unflattering and that is a problem for this one particular pattern for some reason.

All of which is stupid, so having sewed up my last two UODPH projects in the space of a week, I used the momentum to buy some lightweight Dairy Milk purple jersey, remind myself that I have never seen an unflattering Moneta on anyone, and get on with it. Since hip size doesn't matter I cut a straight size L with another couple of centimetres added on to the hem, and I don't think I'd make any alterations for the next one.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, some actual decent photos!

This was a super-simple project, although the gathering with clear elastic wasn't the easiest (I'm tempted to look for another way to do that bit), and there is basically no reason for me to ever buy a pullover jersey dress ever again. Especially as those ones don't have pockets and this does. I've seen a few people complain about pockets in knits, but those people have never gone to a dance event, put their bag in the Massive Bag Pile, then been handed a cloakroom ticket or a handful of change. I don't want the pockets to be my handbag, I just like not having to root through a mountain of stuff to put a piece of paper away when I could be dancing instead.

Out of everything I've made so far, this is the one that's pulled in a) the compliments and b) the surprise that it's home made. I put this down to a combination of the following:

- Fewer things to fuck up
- Daily Milk purple is my colour
- Twin needle stitching looks fancy
- Dancers like when things have pockets

Lovestruck, I've fallen for a lamppost...

Scene change!

Roadblock response:

1. I didn't need the overlocker, though my sewing machine is definitely a bit rubbish at jersey.
2. This is definitely not a heavyweight jersey dress, but the stuff I got was totally fine.
3. I have literally never seen a photo of an unflattering Moneta, but if your preference is for no gathering at all at the waist, then that's you. I'm not the biggest fan of gathers, but I have no problem with these ones.

I'm looking forward to making my next Moneta. Mostly because I already have the title pun.

This is it for photos of Sicily. I'll leave you with one last one of me and my boyfriend looking smug/hungry, depending on which version of the story you're getting. 

Saturday 16 January 2016


I resolved this year to give up on disposable fashion, and since I'm trying to make those resolutions into a theme I thought I'd write a bit more about why.

I grew up thinking that the true mark of a successful purchase was its price. Something that was OK and very cheap was better than something beautiful and more costly. My friends and family would always react with greater enthusiasm to "and it was only eight quid!" than they would to "and it's perfect!" I went through a phase, when I first started earning money, of regularly spending £50-100 on a single item of clothing (that one year makes up a good 50% of my "previous hits" post, actually) and I kept it as quiet as I possibly could. Even though I liked these clothes much more, my friends thought that only a chump would spend £100 on a jacket when you could get one in Primark for £14, and I was quite embarrassed about it. 

In recent years I've been on many a Primark shopping spree. While I have found things that worked for me - flat shoes that don't hurt my feet, a jacket I've worn a lot, a black jumper that is my favourite ever - most of it gets worn once or twice and then ignored, or doesn't get worn at all. When I first moved into this flat I went on a Primark blitz and bought three pairs of suede ankle boots in different colours, totalling £36 for the lot. In my clear out last year I got rid of all three pairs, still with the tags on, still in the shopping bag they came home in. I've got rid of dozens of things that I don't even consider wearing when I get them home. In the changing room I ask a lot less of cheaper clothes, and when I get them home I can't get my head around the idea of "taking it back to Primark". Who takes things back to Primark? You'd spend more on your travel there and back than you did on the cost of the thing. You save money by getting home and throwing it out immediately!

But I have thrown out SO MUCH STUFF lately. At least six bin bags full of stuff in the last six months. I go shopping and buy things because it's cheap, or because I've tried it on and it's not great but it's not awful either, or because I really wanted to buy something. I buy dresses that fit when I try them on but lose their shape after a few washes, or shrink to "too scared to bend forward" levels. This way of shopping just isn't working for me. Impulse buying cheap clothes hasn't got me any closer to a functional wardrobe, and having piles of stuff I don't want lying all over my bedroom floor is just stressing me out. The people in my life are a bit different now - sure, everybody likes a bargain, but a lot of the people I spend time with will happily drop three figures on a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes they really like. The embarrassment of having spent money isn't really there anymore, although I still try not to mention it around my schoolfriends or family (my mother on hearing I'd spent £30 on fabric for my tea dress: "Oh my God! Thank God you didn't mess it up!"). 

Periodically throwing stuff out has always been my pattern and every time I've resolved to make better choices and exercise a little more judgement when ripping apart a Primark accessory wall. This time was different, because between this clear out and the last one, I'd learned how to sew. From an ethical standpoint, now that I know what goes into making a dress, it's no longer possible for me to continue pretending that I don't know about the dubious labour practices of fast fashion. I spent seven years working in employment relations, giving advice on employment law and best practice, and though I've recently quit, it's still pretty central to my ethics and I am not prepared to be a massive hypocrite about this anymore. I'm under no illusions that I'm doing anything praiseworthy or even helpful here, and it's going to go into the same bin as Amazon - will not use for reasons of personal ick. 

One of the things that's inspired me most about learning to sew is reading the blogs of independent pattern companies, watching them engage with their customers, seeing what they make themselves, listening to their advice and watching them take advice that's given to them. Prior to last year I don't ever recall being consumed by such a need to give certain people my money. I've got upset when particular companies release patterns I don't like because I really wanted to give them more money, and I've spent more time than I care to reckon up debating whether or not I can justify paying ridiculous Canadian shipping costs to get hold of Closet Case patterns now that they're in print form (the answer right now is "I have no source of income at the moment, but if there's a slightly sheepish coat post at some point in the next few months nobody should be too surprised"). I really like knowing who I'm buying from. I love getting packages through the door with hand-signed compliments slips. I would probably love buying from independent designers and dressmakers if I knew how to go about finding ones who matched my style. The idea of buying something beyond my skill set that's been made by an actual person is very appealing. 

It would be quite nice to just say "I will not buy any more clothes, full stop", but I don't think that's realistic. I have no immediate plans to start making jeans or underwear or accessories, and I doubt I'm ever going to take up shoemaking. What I'm going to say instead is that I will not go clothes shopping unless I need something particular, and that I will be very careful about where I buy it. The thrill of acquiring something shiny and new comes to me in a different way, and there's no longer any need for bags of disposable crap. It was fun, Primark, but now I'm done. 

Thursday 14 January 2016

UODPH part four: Elisalex

Next up in our Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul parade, the Elisalex. Photographed on a marble staircase in Sicily because I suck.

I'll be honest, a chunk of the reason I bought this one is because it was called Elisalex, named after one of its designers who is apparently genuinely named Elisalex. When I first saw the dress on someone's blog I assumed they had created a mash-up pattern but no, that's really her name and now I feel my parents let me down somewhat. That is an AMAZING name. Never let me near a deed poll.

I used a cranberry suiting fabric I've had in my stash for a while. I was intending to make wide-leg trousers out of it until I decided that I wanted properly swishy wide leg trousers for which that fabric would not work. So I decided to make my first attempt at the Elisalex out of it, lining it with the remnants from my Dance Party Hollyburn. Most of the versions of Elisalex I've seen have replaced the tulip skirt with a more standard one, often accompanied by the words "why would anyone ever want to add more inches to their hips?? Eww". And it was that more than anything else that made me determined to make the skirt as designed (except for cutting a bunch of length off because I cannot pull off a mid-calf length tulip skirt, and shoving pockets in it because pockets). I'm going to run into real trouble if I start taking Fear of Hips seriously as a style mantra.

(Incidentally, does anyone know what the rules for "flattering dressing" even are anymore? This skirt is bad because there's extra bulk at your hips, but full circle skirts are good because they disguise your hips, and pencil skirts should only be worn if you're very slim but also only look really good on curvy women. Does literally all of this come from writers on women's magazines scrambling to make a deadline?)

By Hand London don't sell paper patterns anymore, but Sewbox still has a few of them for sale (Sewbox is also completely amazing and if you're in the UK you should get all your indie patterns there) so I got hold of one. I'd decided that since I wouldn't be able to replace it I was going to trace the pattern rather than just cut into it as I normally do, and that since I was doing a bunch of extra work anyway, this pattern would be the guinea pig for my first ever attempt at a full bust adjustment. I used the tutorial on By Hand London's website, and also the tutorial at Curvy Sewing Collective when I started to get a bit freaked out by how much I needed to warp the pattern to fit my FFs. I eventually managed it, and ended up with one almost spherical piece and one that looked like it should extend to my hip.

I sewed my lining up first to check the fit, and had to take the princess seams in by a centimetre or so. Thinking I was being very clever, I then sewed up my main fabric with an extra centimetre in the seam allowance, only to have to unpick it all after I put the sleeves on and found that the main fabric has zero give in it and I couldn't lift my arms. This is what happens when I try being clever.

I was expecting this one to be more complicated than it was, and all the complications I did have came from me doing something silly (using too wide a seam allowance, forgetting to transfer all the markings onto the fabric, sewing the pockets on inside out because I'm smart). The bodice came together easily, the box pleats were easy, the invisible zip was easy. Even the FBA wasn't that hard, and I'm very glad I did it because I think the top would look quite weird otherwise. How often I have fought you, gapey neckline and squished monoboob.

For the pockets I pinched the pattern from Vogue 8998, because that was what happened to be sitting on my ironing board. You aren't going to see a Vogue 8998 here anytime soon, because the pocket piece is piece number 25 and for a dress labelled "Easy Options" I feel that's just straight up mockery. You probably aren't going to see any more pockets using this pattern either, because it's strangely long and thin, meaning that if I sew the pockets in at the place my hands would naturally go, the bottom of the pocket is some way out of reach. I find this really annoying. I mean, it's not awful enough for me to redo it, but it's not my idea of a comfy pocket. Though, admittedly, being able to carry basically an entire handbag's worth of things without a handbag was rather novel,

I am super pleased with this dress. It's the kind of thing I might have to invent occasions to wear, but what kind of hardship is that? I can see why so many people use the bodice of this dress basically as a default. I love the shape and style, I love the box pleats, I love the back neckline, and I think I haven't acquitted myself too badly on the construction either (I'm aware the hem looks weird - this fabric does not iron. Not even a little bit). Obviously I still have a long way to go, but I think the difference in workmanship between this and the things I was making six months ago is notable.

Also I have shiny new silver shoes with navy velvet insets, because I am taking my resolutions very seriously. 

This was my Christmas Day dress, and here is a photo of me and my brother on the day itself:

Tartan pyjama bottoms also courtesy of me and the sewing machine. Tiny sparkly top hat courtesy of my mother's "everyone gets a new silly hat every Christmas" policy. In the first draft of this post written before Christmas I wrote that I had my fingers crossed for a sparkly top hat, so I brought this one on myself, really.

So, big thumbs up indeed for first experience with By Hand London. I'm now looking forward to trying a pair of swishy trousers from their Holly pattern, and am seriously considering getting myself a PDF Anna pattern (I hate PDFs, but I REALLY want that dress). Though if I do that, I will also be tempted to buy myself three and a half metres of Liberty print emerald green silk to make it with, and I do not have £175 with which to buy three and a half metres of Liberty print emerald green silk. Goddammit.

Ta da!

Monday 11 January 2016

Sensible New Year Pattern Haul (SNYPH)

Planning! I am full of plans! So full of plans that it's actually a bit overwhelming! Help!

This year I want to approach what I make a bit more deliberately. I'm wearing the things I make on a fairly regular basis, so I'm not just looking for patterns that don't look too tricky and fabric that isn't too expensive. I'm trying to make things that I would buy if I saw them - a combination of things I think I need and things I'd really love to have, filling practical gaps in my wardrobe and making my wardrobe as a whole more interesting. The overall goal is to look attractively put together on a day-to-day basis with the option of going into vintage drag or something more casually interesting if I feel like it, while looking comfortable and like myself the whole time. Which may be a bit of a tall order. We shall see.

I liked the way the Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul worked out for me, and I'm planning to try it as a structure for this year. Four or five projects planned at the beginning of every two month period, and if I have the time and inclination to do other things too, then I will. Here are my patterns for January and February. Check it out - a sensible collection of patterns for the next two months AND a slightly less unwieldy acronym that could actually be pronounced like a word! Probably best you don't get used to that.

Sewaholic Cordova jacket

I've had this pattern for months, and I'd bought all the bits and pieces for it before I decided the fabric wasn't quite what I wanted. A little while ago I bought some black and white fabric for a cape and then decided it wasn't right for the pattern, so I'm going to repurpose it for this jacket.

By Hand London Holly trousers

I bought this pattern ages ago all excited about making a jumpsuit, and then when it came in the post I decided I was never actually going to make it up. However, it's also a pattern for wide-leg trousers and I think it might be just right for my swishy trousers. I'm going to make this first pair in black for practical reasons, though I haven't yet acquired fabric of quite the right swish.

Sew Over It 1940s wrap dress

I don't have a photo of this pattern as I'm going to a class to make the dress. I'll write more about it when I blog the finished project, but this dress is basically the reason I started sewing and I've been waiting for months for them to run the class again. I have some bright blue crepe to make it in and I'm planning for it to be my birthday dress (I don't have a birthday plan yet, so it'll probably come down to "where can I wear this dress?").

Cashmerette Appleton Dress

It's time I used my goddamn aubergine print jersey. I wanted it to be a wrap dress when I first bought it, and since all the wrap dresses I've tried so far have given me some gaping problems, it makes sense to try a pattern specifically designed for bigger busts.

These four are my priority for the next two months. I originally had five, but I have several pieces of jersey to make into dresses and I'm not sure which one to put on the list. I have plans for a border print Tiramisu dress, a blue patterned Moneta, a navy floral jersey tea dress, and a grey spotty Vogue 8615, so you'll be seeing at least one of those along with the rest of the list. I know, I know, I probably ought to just pick one. But there is such a thing as too much planning, right?

Saturday 9 January 2016

UODPH part three: Cambie

So I said originally that this would probably be the last of the UODPH I'd make for seasonal reasons, but then I made it third instead, because I'm crazy and unpredictable. OK, that's not why. I was getting a bit overwhelmed at the amount of fabric I was going to have to buy for the last three dresses. Three metres per dress is a lot, and when I try and buy for that many specific projects at once, I end up panic-buying and at least two of my acquisitions end up not being right for what I want to do.

After worrying about it for a while, I found myself reading the back of the Cambie packet and realised that view A wasn't a tight-fitting pencil dress like I thought - it's by no means a full skirt, but there are a few inches of ease in the hips. And view A could be made out of two metres of fabric. I got very excited - I had two metres of green crepe I'd bought for a trouser project I abandoned ages ago, and a ton of dark green lining that I could repurpose.

(This dress didn't come on holiday with me, so witness my first attempt at taking photos in my bedroom. They're not great, but they'll do.)

When I held my lining up to my main fabric, said main fabric seemed to have gone unaccountably blue all of a sudden and looked super drab next to the dark green. Huh. Oh well, no problem, I thought, I have two pieces of bright blue lining in my stash. I'll use that instead. So I got that out, and the fabric decided it was going to be green again and clash enormously with the blue lining. And I know it's only lining, but I also know it would bug the hell out of me. So I put it aside for several weeks. Finally I went lining shopping and it would seem that my crepe is the actual most awkward colour to match in the entire world. I couldn't find anything that looked good. So I bought a fairly neutral colour which looked like a very pale and unobtrusive buttercup yellow in the shop but turned into an odd apricot-y bedsheet-y colour against my fabric's stupid, stupid not-blue-not-green shade. So it still wasn't great but I couldn't find anything better and I figured it would do. The fabric looks really blue in these photos, but in real life everyone looks at me funny when I tell them this story because it's obviously green.

Apart from a bit of faff with the pockets (entirely my fault for trying to sew under the influence of a horrendous head cold and getting confused for no real reason), the first stages of the pattern were super easy and I had my main fabric sewn up in a couple of hours. I was a bit worried about the invisible zip stage, because my zip insertion skills still aren't great, but it went in fairly easily, and by following the extra instructions on the Sewaholic site, sewing the lining in was really easy too.

The sleeves don't look quite like the other Cambie sleeves I've seen, and at least part of that is that I couldn't get the fabric to gather particularly well. I think these sleeves are fine, but it would be nice to know I can do it the proper way and get to make the choice. I think I've worked out what I was doing wrong now, so we'll see.

I did have a concern that this dress was going to be a bit too precious for me. I've seen a lot of really sweet-looking versions that look great on the people wearing them but would look like a Hallowe'en costume on me. Pretty sleeves and a sweetheart neckline = possible Teen Goth Jen rebellion. However, I think the dark colour and the slimmer skirt take away the sweet somewhat and leave me with an actually super useful dress. It's also, I think, one of the more professional-looking garments I've made. How much of that is me improving and how much of that is a really impressively drafted pattern I couldn't say, but the way this dress came together makes me really want to try out Sewaholic's trouser pattern.

For my next Cambie (maybe electric blue in spring/summer time) I'm going to size down in the shoulders and do a full bust adjustment. I thought the fit of this was totally fine when I finished it, but this was the last dress I made before starting to experiment with full bust adjustments, and now the fact that it's slightly tight across the bust and slightly gaping at the top is really annoying me. I probably won't use this weird-ass polycotton lining next time, either.

Finally, a short series I like to call Jen Got A Hat For Christmas:

You will be seeing more of this hat when I start my Inspiration series and bore you all to tears on the subject of Phryne Fisher. Consider this your advance warning. 

Thursday 7 January 2016

tea in a tree

I'm back! Didn't I say I'd be back? I have lots and lots of plans for upcoming posts, which I will present to you very much not in the order I'd intended. I've had a sudden re-think on my January projects, and I decided that for some reason I'd get photos of my Unnecessary October Dress Pattern Haul parts four and five, but not part three. I think it made sense at the time. So now it's all going to have to wait because I don't want to rewrite the posts.

What I really do want, though, is to post another finished dress. Presenting my Christmas project, Sew Over It's 1940s Tea Dress, photographed in Sicily last week:

I'd been considering this pattern for a while and eventually bought both it and 2.5 metres of rayon crepe on a whim while ordering various bits of Christmas present from Sew Over It. I love dark dresses with white polka dots and I used to have about six of them, but they've all made their way to the charity shop over the last couple of years for not being quite right in one way or another.

I wanted to make this dress before going home for Christmas, but it wasn't until I went to get started that I realised I'd forgotten to pre-wash the fabric. I made another dress (coming soon!) in the meantime to use up my sewing energy, but instead of using it up it made it worse.  As soon as this fabric dried I got into a small fight with myself over whether I could start making the tea dress now given that I was a) leaving for Bristol in the morning, b) not even a little bit packed, and c) expecting my boyfriend to show up in a couple of hours. The only way I could convince myself not to was to pack the pattern, fabric and notions into my suitcase and suggest to myself that I could do it at my parents' house. Which, to my great surprise, I actually did.

I used my mum's fairly basic Singer, which she got free from a friend and has been sitting in the loft for some time. I quite enjoyed using it - I also used it to make a pair of tartan pyjama bottoms for my brother and it sewed through several layers of cotton twill without a grumble. My machine is less than a year old and it already whines and skips stitches when I try to sew anything more than two layers of lightweight cotton (plus it HATES knits), and the comforting robustness of Mum's machine even after several years of disuse has convinced me to upgrade as soon as I can feasibly manage it.

The dress came together fairly easily. The gathering was fine, the invisible zip was fine, the sleeves were fine. The neck facing was a bastard. It made the point at the neckline centre go funny and I've had to topstitch it down to make it stay on the inside of the dress. I've used many Sew Over It patterns now, and I love them, but they use these facings a lot and I find them to be an enormous pain. I cannot get them to stay on the inside no matter how much understitching and pressing I do. I think in the future I'll try a different way of finishing the neckline.

I'd like to make this dress again, but I'll be making a few changes. I cut between the 12 and 14 at the shoulders grading out to a 16 at the bust, but next time I'll cut the 12 and do a full bust adjustment (you'll see my first attempt at an FBA later this month. I'm slightly annoyed that all the people singing the praises of the FBA were completely right and I'll have to do one every time now. Hmph). Hopefully this would get the bust to sit under my actual bust, which it's not very keen on doing in this version. I could probably stand to go down a size in the waist (this one will need a bit of taking in before I wear it again). I'll also find another way to do the neckline. I also want to have a go at a jersey version of this dress, sized down and without the zip, as an experiment (and because I have 2.5 metres of navy jersey with a white floral overlay that I have no idea what to do with).

OK. Some pedant out there is complaining about the post title. We were to understand there would be trees, and you provide only boats? I would expect better of you. And in answer to that, all I have to say is:

Me: Look at that tree. It's huge. Looks pretty climbable too.
Boyfriend: Jen. Do you want to get in the tree?
Me: Well...
Boyfriend: You want to get in the tree, don't you?
Me: I really do want to get in the tree.
Boyfriend: Of course you do. Go on, then.

You tell me a better thing I could have been doing on New Year's Day than tree climbing in Sicily.

1940s tea dress: tree-climbing approved.