Tuesday 31 May 2016

The Great British Sewing Beecap, Series 4 Ep 3

It's lingerie week! Claudia starts off by referencing 50 Shades, which, no. Come on, Claudia, you're better than that. I won't digress into a Worst Thing Ever rant because you will actually not be able to stop me, but I have OPINIONS on those fucking books.

All the contestants chat about how they hope they don't have to make bras, making a bra would be the worst thing ever, please don't make me make a bra, so of course as soon as they enter the room they're all given soft-cup bra patterns and told to make with the stretch lace. Josh is particularly worried as he has "meaty hands". Eugh.

A fashion historian with the most amusingly posh voice I've heard in a while tells us about Edwardian lingerie, and then we go on a tour of the room. Claudia is upset by the all the colour people are using. Joyce doesn't use patterns normally, but says "I'll try and fit in, as long as I can do it my way." Calling it now: Joyce is Official Slapdash Favourite.

The finished bras are mostly pretty good. With the exception of Angeline, who lost a lot of time unpicking things and hasn't finished, and Josh, whose bra is predictably Josh-like (but also bright orange so I WANT it, or at least a similar orange lace bra that isn't quite so badly made), most of the judges' critiques are pretty nitpicky. Rumana's bra breaks on the mannequin, which is awkward. Joyce wins with an amazing purple bra that the judges can't critique even the tiniest bit, YAY SLAPDASH FAVOURITE JOYCE. I actually kind of want to try bra-making now. Am I mad? I might be mad.

For the alteration challenge, everyone is told to pick three different silk scarves and make them into a piece of lingerie. It's a really interesting idea but WOW are there some ugly-ass fabric combinations going on here. Charlotte's, Jade's and Josh's bother me particularly. And what is Josh making? Why, a "sort of drop-waist jumpsuit", of course. I can't decide whether Josh's advanced level of cluelessness is endearing, hilarious, or just infuriating. But at least he's not wearing a hat this week. What he ends up producing is some kind of paisley tunic with split side seams and comes last because of course he does. Jamie makes some worryingly unattractive lady boxers with terrible hems, and Tracey wins for being the only one to not mix fabrics too hideously. Well done Tracey.

Going into the made to measure challenge, it seems pretty obvious that Josh will go home, especially given that he's been on borrowed time since week one. Everyone is asked to make a robe, and the judges will be paying special attention to the sleeves, the fit around the shoulders, and the work done on the collar. This is definitely a thing I want to try soon, so I'm taking notes.

Charlotte produces a floral kimono robe in cotton lawn, and makes up for her choice of an easier fabric with loads of hand-stitching and perfect finishing.

Rumana makes a kimono robe from crepe back satin, which is also lovely. Patrick complains that the collar is sitting away from the neck and EsMay snaps that this is historically accurate as the Japanese considered the neck an erogenous zone and geishas would always wear their kimonos that way. I feel that this exchange warrants EsMay getting a nickname back, but I can't for the life of me work out what.

Angeline produces an enormous red satin vintage thing, which is completely impractical and also gorgeous and I WANT it.

Tracey makes a collarless robe in satin and lace, which the judges seem to like but I think is actually kind of ugly. Tracey and I do not share a taste level, this much is clear.

Jade decides to make a man robe from a black and white geometric print with pink piping, which looks really good. It would be nice to see someone doing something interesting with their pockets at some point, mind - I know they all want to show how spiffy their pattern matching is, but I like interesting pockets, dammit. Give me a print on the diagonal, at least.

Jamie is... fucking up substantially. He's also making a man robe and it's basically all wrong. He decides he's going to quilt it then cuts corners for time, the collar looks weird, the sleeve cuffs are wrong, and it's just a mess. Exactly the kind of mess I might have produced, but a mess nonetheless. Patrick says "you just haven't done it very well," which is about equivalent to a judge on any other reality show straight-up shooting someone in the head.

Josh, on the other hand, has not fucked up. EsMay is super impressed by his incredibly floral man robe, his collar and sleeves are done well, and it looks as though he's saved himself. Cut to Jamie not looking so happy.

Joyce produces a paisley-ass lined robe which I'm not a fan of despite her being my new favourite, and the judges aren't particularly enthused either. Lining a dressing gown was possibly not the way to go.

Garment of the week goes to Charlotte, which I'm fine with, and third boot goes to Jamie, which I am NOT fine with despite it clearly being the only option here. I really liked what Jamie was doing and he was the only one I was sure was going to be a finalist, but there's no denying that he done fucked up this week. Josh lives to fight another week, which baffles me to no end.

Next week: going international with Chinese dresses, sari refashioning and African print dresses. It looks awesome.

Monday 30 May 2016

SSSHH part two: May Stashbusting

I made two tops and a skirt from my metre-or-less pieces of fabric in May. I'm going to do a separate post for June to encourage me to get through some more of it.

First up we have yet another cropped sweater:

This fabric was given to me by my wonderful and generous friend Micky, who let me raid his stash just before he moved house. I picked up about a dozen things (possibly ill-advised given current drive to get volumes down), and this is the first one I've used. It's a sheeny baby-rib jersey and it is a pain in the mothereffing arse to work with. This incredibly basic top took me over a week to finish because it was so frustrating, and even then I still have a weird-ass neckline to show for it. It's annoying, but it won't stop me wearing it, I don't think. 

And here are the other two pieces:

Yes, it's another tulip skirt. These aren't going to have their own posts anymore because I'm still making them at a rate of one a month, so I'll just chuck them into posts like this when the opportunity arises. This one is made out of crepe, and was without a doubt the easiest one to make. It's also maybe my favourite; it looks good, it's really easy to pull into various vintage-y but still quite different outfits, and because it's crepe it doesn't wrinkle. More crepe!

Pockets! Fancy Liberty pockets, at that - I bought this fabric to make a make-up bag for my mother and didn't want the scraps to go to waste. 

LOOK AT HOW MUCH YOU CAN'T SEE THE POCKETS. I always struggle with sticky-out pockets so I'm really pleased that I managed to do it well this time. I also haven't pressed my machined blind hem yet because eh. I will do it before I wear it outside. 

The top is a mash-up of a couple of patterns. I wanted to make the boat neck top from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, but since this is Liberty jersey (oh yeah, I'm all Liberty all the time in these photos) I used up another scrap of my stash to make a toile, and I'm glad I did. The boatneck was far too boaty and basically fell off both my shoulders at once. So this one is a mash-up of the boat neck and the cropped sweater.

I was trying to still keep a bit of the boatiness, but that wasn't a great idea because Gertie patterns seem to be drafted for people with a LOT more shoulder than me. So there's an annoying bra strap thing I could do without. I have another piece of Liberty jersey with which I plan to make a similar top, and I'll bring the neckline in a bit on that one. 


Thursday 26 May 2016

SSSHH part one: Doris

Here we go with the May and June garments!

Jesus, I look cross. I'm not sure why I look so cross. It's possible this was the day when the sunlight was being a pain and making all the photos look terrible and I had to try about forty different camera positions to get it to work. 

I bumped this one to the top of my list and made it within the first week of May. Technically this should have been my lowest priority but I wanted to try it out before I decided what skirt to put on my wedding guest dress (I decided not to use this one - the fabric for my other dress is so busy and loud that I think I need the shape and style to be as simple as possible).

As I said in the planning post, I've modified this a bit. Originally I wasn't planning on buying this pattern at all because of the button up front, but everything else - the scoop neckline, the gored skirt, the grown-on sleeves - seemed to be exactly what I was looking for, so as I am now One of Those People What Can Modify Stuff, I bought it with plans to simplify it. I omitted the facings and interfacing at the centre front and converted the button-up part into a straight centre seam. The fabric is rayon and really light, so I French seamed the entire thing. I am terrible at finishing my seams but I really enjoyed doing this; turning the dress inside out and seeing all the lovely little enclosed seams gives me a sense of accomplishment that looking at zig-zagged seams just doesn't. Extra effort AND it still looks scratty (I KNOW I NEED TO GET TO GRIPS WITH MY STUPID OVERLOCKER ALREADY, I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW), whereas this looks pretty and professional and therefore feels more worth my while.

(You can tell it was a properly nice day because I switched to orange lipstick. I never wear orange lipstick unless it's hot and sunny, because otherwise I feel like I'm walking round with a face full of misplaced optimism all day)

I made my usual Sew Over It dress size - 12 at the shoulders, 14 everywhere else. I tend to think of Sew Over It patterns as being quite fitted, but this is actually looser than I imagined it would be (especially given the finished measurements on the packaging), and I can get into it without needing to undo the zip at all. For future attempts at this dress, I'll either size down for a more fitted dress or just leave the zip out completely and have a loose comfy thing for summer.

The bodice has pleats at the front and back, and the back pleats are sewn after inserting the waist ties into them, so the ends are all enclosed and the back is finished nicely. I was in the middle of squeeing over this detail when I realised I had become an actual sewing nerd.

You will notice that the pleats are sitting in such a way as to give me a nippular look. This is also something to be corrected next time.

I'm surprised at how much I love this colour. My instinctive reaction would normally be that the colour is too light for me, but as it's a very bright pale colour instead of a pastel, I think I can get away with it. I know I can get stuck thinking I can only wear complete neutrals and jewel tones, so it's nice to have things like this, my mustard tulip skirt and my coral Anna dress come along and show me that I can have a slightly more interesting colour palette without feeling any less like myself.

As a result of the size thing mentioned above, I'm not 100% sure I love the silhouette. It doesn't give me much waist definition and the material is too light for there to be any shaping in the skirt. I don't mind as much as I otherwise would because I'd planned it to be a dress for really hot days that won't get much wear when it's cooler (I discovered in the sudden warm spell at the beginning of the month that I am seriously lacking in clothes like this), and if it looks like we'll be getting a crazy hot summer I'll make a couple more like this. For the rest of the year I'd definitely want it to be more fitted, and I really hope Sew Over It releases a sleeve pattern for this dress come the autumn.

Amber likes it too.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

The Great British Sewing Beecap, Series 4 Ep 2

It's kids' week on the Sewing Bee, and I am definitely excited for this and yay children and I'm definitely not horrified at the mere concept of babies you must be thinking of someone else.

First up is the pattern challenge, so everyone is given a weird-ass babygro pattern with poppers down one leg and warned about the dangers of an inaccurately-sewn gusset. They pick their stretchy kid-friendly fabrics and get down to the business of cutting out. The importance of cutting out accurately is stressed to us, and then Ghislaine immediately does hers wrong. This will be a theme for the evening.

Josh makes his own T-shirts and so actually prefers working with jersey, which the judges speculate might give him an advantage. This is all very well, but the fact remains that Josh is wearing a backwards baseball cap, which wasn't acceptable even when it was a thing and in 2016 I think you can actually be arrested for it.

Charlotte never made babygros for any of her kids, because they throw up and poo on it then immediately outgrow it, so it's pointless to spend the time and energy. Fair. "I love the throw-up and the poo," says Claudia tearfully, "it's my favourite bit of parenting."

Gusset time! Jamie says "I don't want any kinks or puckers in my gusset, if I can help it" and I snigger because in all truth, I am the child here. Josh has a snag in his "gullet" and Joyce proudly flashes her gusset at the camera and asks if we can see it. Ghislaine is making hers a different colour from the legs, which... no. She also manages to sew it halfway down one leg instead of in the actual gusset place, then sews a cuff on the wrong way round. Her response to this is a philosophical "oh well", which is a higher commitment to slapdash than even I can offer. This blog will henceforth be written by Ghislaine. It was nice knowing you all.

The creepy be-nappied baby mannequins are dressed and presented to Patrick and EsMay. Angeline has a hole in her gusset and hasn't put the top popper on, giving the whole thing a really weird "low cut baby clothes" vibe which makes me uncomfortable. Jamie did his binding differently, which they don't appreciate because when do they ever appreciate someone not following the instructions? Ghislaine's babygro is more of a babygroan (THANK YOU I'M HERE ALL WEEK) with the missewn cuff and lopsided gusset and no poppers. She comes last, as you might expect, and Charlotte wins for not doing anything wrong. Well done Charlotte.

Incidentally, it's a really uninteresting week judging-wise. EsMay is being disappointingly non-terrifying and thus will lose her descriptor until she does something to prove herself worthy of it again.

For the alteration challenge, everyone is given a slightly different bridesmaid's dress and told to make a kid-sized thing. They are reminded that they're expected to, you know, actually do something with it and not just make a row of skirts like last time. "RIP IT WITH YOUR TEETH!" Claudia bellows.

Josh decides to make a gilet. "Is a gilet enough? Should there be some undergarments?" asks Claudia. "Well, I wouldn't have thought so," says Josh as Claudia and her ever-encroaching raccoon liner give him the most perfect You Are A Moron look I have ever seen. What he ends up producing is an Aladdin-looking maroon vest that, true to its inspiration, is too small to close on the body. If he'd made a fez as well, I'd be all for it. But he did not, and so he comes last. Then there are seven dresses boasting varying degrees of floof which don't interest me in the slightest, and the surprising winner is Ghislaine and her orange boxing outfit which I maybe kind of want even though I know that's ridiculous. Look, I just like orange, okay?

For the final challenge, everyone has to make a woollen cape. Sometimes I think I want a cape, but if I ever made one it would be floor-length with a massive hood and I would never be able to wear it anywhere. Jamie is making a tweed "gentleman's cape" which looks adorable, and then Claudia suggests accessorising with a fake pheasant and I am immediately and firmly Team Man Cape.

Ghislaine is using a freehand cutting technique rather than a pattern, but Ghislaine is clearly no Chinelo. She says she wants to take her time on cutting her scalloped edge and then immediately does it wrong. Oh, Ghislaine. Josh is making a Burberry-looking cape while still wearing his bloody backwards hat and it's just painful. Stop it, Josh. Stop it at once.

Claudia tells one of the models to ask her mum for a pet goat. I was quite drunk when I watched this episode (hooray for London Wine Week!) and was extremely tempted to ask my mum for a pet goat. Had I asked my also quite drunk boyfriend, I suspect I would have woken up the next morning to find a goat on my doorstep and then I could be having goat cuddles right now. It's possible that I'm still drunk.

Some assorted opinions on the final capes:

TEAM MAN CAPE. It's not quite finished but I don't even care. It is clearly the best cape.

Ghislaine's cape is made of nope, nope and more nope. Everything is terrible and wrong. It looks like the child made it herself using a rug, wrapping paper and PVA glue.

Josh has produced this really weirdly proportioned thing that made me burst out laughing when I saw it. The hood is nice but then the cape ends at, like, armpit level. It's a confusing piece of clothing.

Jade's cape has a fur-lined hood and pom poms and I WANT it.

Angeline wins again, which seems weird given everything else she did this week was terrible. Her cape was fine, nice godet and everything, but it doesn't seem quite right. I get that this isn't Bake Off and they reward the single best garment rather than overall performance, but if you've come second-last in everything else then I don't think you should get to win without doing something a bit more spectacular than "nice godet". Also TEAM MAN CAPE.

Obviously Ghislaine is sent home after producing two complete trainwrecks ("what really let her down was the babygro. And the cape"), which my head agrees with entirely but my soul is still scarred from Josh's backwards baseball cap and wanted it to go away. Also I feel like I should have a favourite by now but I don't. Somebody be interesting!

Up next: lingerie week. This could be disastrous. Must remember my popcorn.

Monday 23 May 2016

Me Made May week three

Week three collage:

(I am wearing, top to bottom and left to right: Sew Over It circle skirt; Sewaholic Cambie dress; Sewaholic Cordova jacket (plus barely seen Gertie Sews Vintage Casual cropped sweater underneath); three-pattern mish-mash Liberty top and Sew Over It tulip skirt; By Hand London Elisalex and Butterick 4443 mash-up dress; BONUS Closet Case Files Sallie jumpsuit; Colette Wren dress; Sew Over It wrap dress)

This was the most difficult week so far, and it made me worry about the final week (which is also nine days long, so yay). By mid-week I found myself thinking "oh God, I NEED to make more stuff" even though I had more than enough stuff left, which probably means I need to do some thinking about the other things in my wardrobe. The photo of the black and white Liberty jersey top was taken literally seconds after I finished making it in a rush of relief at having come up with an outfit, which probably isn't a great sign.

I also made the jumpsuit this week. I haven't actually worn it outside yet, but I finished it on Friday evening and was so excited that I had to post it immediately. Blog post coming soon!

Week three observations:

1. This week looked a lot more subdued and although I love my greys and navys and blacks, I'm not sure that's the direction I want to go in.
2. I could really do with some more comfy things, both for loungewear and general wear.
3. Much as I joke about having all the tulip skirts in the world, I've found that I really like wearing skirts and tops and I actually don't have enough of either.
4. I seem to have decided that three items of shop-bought clothing per week is my limit.
5. The handmade stuff that's simple and versatile will get a decent amount of wear even if I'm not really in love with it.
6. I like either "super practical and comfortable" or "I feel pretty fancy dressed like this" and I've not got much time for anything in between.
7. If I knew right from the beginning of the month that I wasn't even going to consider wearing certain things I've made, why do I still have them?

I'm going to do my final nine-item collage on Thursday next week rather than having a stupid little extra one with two pictures, and hopefully won't just consist of pictures of me looking panicked and wearing tops I don't like on my head. This is not entirely outside the realms of possibility.

Saturday 21 May 2016

14 thoughts on my one-year anniversewry

(Yes, I went for "anniversewry" rather than "sewniversary". I don't question your pun choices.)

This month marks my one-year dressmaking anniversary. In May 2015 I completed my very first self-made skirt and allowed the sewing machine to eat a piece of my soul. I have made around sixty articles of clothing since then, and though I still feel like a complete beginner amateur rubbish person, it's a more refined version of the complete beginner amateur rubbish person I was a year ago. I've learnt a lot, both about sewing and about how to do general life shit. To mark this momentous occasion, here are fourteen things I learned: seven about dressmaking, seven about being a person.


1. Pinning is overrated. At least I think so. Pinning patterns to fabric takes AGES and it doesn't seem to be worth it. I find it so much easier to get started on something now I know I can just put the pattern on top of the fabric, stick some weights on it and cut it out. It cuts down the time by about two thirds and cutting out is no longer a stressful thing for me. Yay! I also tend not to pin straight edges and just line them up as I sew them. Pinning is great for curves and sleeves and other fiddly bits, but otherwise? Unnecessary. Also they know my views and now go out of their way to poke me a lot more than they used to.

2. I find that either it's cutting time or it's sewing time. Going straight from the cutting table (i.e. the floor) to the sewing machine basically never happens. What I tend to do now is cut out two or three patterns at once, then put the pieces to one side. That way, when I'm in the mood for sewing I've always got something to be getting on with. However, my brain has decided that marking and pinning darts is part of the cutting process and not the sewing process. If I've cut something out and left it for a couple of days and come back to find I didn't already sort the darts out, getting started on the sewing is a lot more of a challenge than it otherwise would be. I'm not sure why this is.

3. I will possibly always struggle with pretty finishing. I can deal with taking my time on things like zips and sleeves, because they're integral to the garment and give me a sense of achievement, but hemming? Eh. It's dull and non-essential to the dress being a dress and I can't be bothered. My scratty hems bother me when I look at them, but I cannot make myself take pride in doing them well. Stupid hems.

4. Facings suck and I hate them. Some people seem to manage to get them to stay on the inside, but I have had endless trouble with every facing I've ever used. Learning that it was fairly easy to chuck the facings away and replace them with bias binding or a lining made a huge difference to me.

5. Full bust adjustments are necessary and wonderful and it annoys me so much that I can't just ignore them. This is a lesson I hope to carry over into my second year of sewing, where I learn how to do all the other necessary and wonderful and annoying fit adjustments.

6. Most patterns overestimate the amount of fabric they take. I still buy as much as recommended if I haven't used a company before or the pattern has a fabric-hungry skirt, but by rejigging the layout I managed to cut the Anna pattern's fabric requirement by a metre and I can get a tulip skirt out of a metre rather than the 1.8m listed in the instructions. Saving money AND not having that really awkward length of scrap that feels like a lot to throw out but not really enough to keep!

7. Fabric is much better as a thing than it is as a pile of fabric, even if the "thing" it turns out to be is cushion stuffing and a learning experience. No fabric is that precious and special, and even if it was it's not worth much sitting in a cupboard. Make the thing! I have learned this, and no longer sit on fabric because it's too special and/or expensive to cut into. What I have not yet learned is how to get over the "this thing or this thing" indecision, or the "but I bought three metres of this and if I make that thing then I'll have a really awkward length of remnant left over" roadblock. Working on it.


(I posted about 95% of this stuff on another blog last month (I have too many blogs), but I'm putting it here too because it's relevant, dammit)

1. How to plan.

For my first few months of dressmaking I flailed, bought masses of random fabric from remnant bins, made stuff I couldn't actually wear, then got discouraged and stopped for about a month. Standard. Shortly thereafter, I read Colette's Wardrobe Architect series, got inspired, and set up a regime of slightly over-the-top planning. I keep working documents on how much fabric is in my stash and how long it's been there, what stage my current projects are at and what I need to do to finish them, what I'm considering doing next, what I buy versus what I use.

I post on Mondays and/or Thursdays (and occasionally Saturdays) depending on how much I have, with a minimum of one post per week. I post about my planned projects every two months, giving me a commitment I'm forced to keep to because I put it out there. I review things I made previously, analyse the gaps in my wardrobe, and keep track of the new skills I've learned already and want to learn in the future. As a result, not only do I have a much more coherent wardrobe, but keeping on top of my hobby doesn't feel like a challenge anymore because my planning and posting habits are so ingrained. This is literally the most organised I've ever been about anything and I really hope these skills are transferable.

2. How to fix things.

My clothes, and the clothes of people around me, now have a much longer shelf life because I'm able to fix them. I can mend holes and reattach things that fell off and hem things and take in seams. This is super handy for me because I've always been a "find something you really like and wear it til it falls apart" person rather than a "wear it twice and chuck it out" person, even when my shopping habits would have suggested otherwise.

3. How to get away from disposable fashion.

I've written fairly extensively about this before, so I won't go into it again. I will just say that I'm sticking quite firmly to my resolution; I rarely buy clothes on the high street now other than undergarments and jeans and I don't miss the giant Primark bags full of things I'm "meh" about at best one little bit.

4. How to support small independent companies.

I genuinely didn't think this was a thing I cared about. It had never occurred to me to worry about it in the past, because with big multinational chain places you know what you're getting, right? But home sewing is still a pretty niche hobby and it's almost inevitable that you will use an indie company at some point. Classes, fabric shops, patterns and pattern distributors... most of the ones I have used have been small and independent, and it turns out I love it. Indie sewing companies are the best; they do so much more for you. They put up free guides on how to alter their patterns for fit or for style, they send hand-signed compliments slips with your orders, they write tutorials and make videos, they do probably completely unnecessary series of posts which change your life in a small but significant way (see point one re: Wardrobe Architect series). I have found people and companies I actively want to give my money to, and I like it so much better this way.

5. How to dress myself.

Yeah, I know, I know. I've spent fairly significant portions of my life going "oh God, I don't know, I don't want to be going out, scratty jeans and whatever jumper I find first will have to do because I can't be bothered to think". For seven years I worked somewhere without a dress code, so I used to go into work scratted up and nobody said anything (except that one time when I showed my department head a photo of me dancing in a blue lace dress and she said "why don't you wear that to work?" and I didn't know what to say that wouldn't sound rude or sarcastic). Taking up dressmaking and having to think so much about clothes means that I now own very few scratty clothes and have started forcing myself to think of my wardrobe in terms of outfits, so that when I don't know what to wear I have several default outfits that I know work together.

6. How to accept a failure.

This is definitely still a work in progress, but I'm much better at it than I was. I started out looking at subpar projects with a combination of "it's... probably fine? probably nobody will notice that it's not fine?" and "OH GOD I FUCKED IT UP I AM TERRIBLE AT EVERYTHING", but after several failures and several more successes, I feel much more able to look at a thing and go, "Hmmm, that didn't work quite the way I wanted it to" without it meaning that I've wasted my time making it or that I am terrible at making things. I can (most of the time) note that the thing didn't work, have a decent idea as to why it didn't work, take that as a lesson and move on. Sometimes I can take the thing that doesn't work and remake it into something that does work, sometimes that's not possible. But I can be zen about it as I'll have learned something from the process either way.

7. Ironing is a thing.

I had literally not ironed one single thing in my life before last year. I didn't see the point. It was a waste of time, nobody cares if your clothes are wrinkled, it's all just going to end up back in the floordrobe again anyway. But ironing is necessary for sewing. I admit to still doing a LOT less than recommended, but I have an ironing board set up in my room for when I need to iron on a piece of interfacing or flatten a lining to the inside of a dress or press a dart or what have you. To begin with it was just for construction purposes, until I started looking at myself in the mirror and thinking "If I tell people I made this skirt, they're going to look at all the wrinkles and assume I'm not very good at it." I don't iron everything I wear (I still think it's unnecessary for stuff that doesn't really wrinkle), but my cotton skirts and dresses? They get ironed now.

Here's to more learning, more fucking up, more success, more clothes, and more unnecessarily long blog posts. Cheers!

Thursday 19 May 2016

Creative Sewing: Look, ma, no pattern!

I could, were I feeling particularly generous/mendacious, have called this "first adventures in drafting", because I made this skirt without any pattern at all. 

I wanted a basic miniskirt, but didn't have a pattern for one. I balked at the idea of paying £10 upwards for a pattern as basic as I wanted, and also the piece of leftover stretch denim I cut this skirt from was tiny and awkwardly shaped, so I took matters into my own hands. 

I'm still bigging this up unreasonably. This is essentially just a really stretchy tube. The tube is smaller at the top but not by much; I made it to fit my hips and not my waist (this is as short as I'm prepared to go, and there was literally no more material to make it a higher rise). I say "made it to fit", I mean "vaguely took my hip size into account while cutting three rectangles". 

Originally I put a zip in this, but after trying it on I took it out again. This denim is stretchy enough that the skirt doesn't need closures, and frankly why waste a zip? The fabric is heavy enough, despite its stretch, not to cling to every lump and bump, which is what happened when I tried making a pull-on miniskirt in ponte jersey (you will never see that here, it is deeply unpleasant and I have already thrown it away). 

The skirt also has a scanty and extremely pieced-together facing at the waist, which I have topstitched down because flappy facings can all go and find a corner to die in together, frankly. 

I'm only including this picture because of the shoe. My mum was having a clear out and found this pair of purple suede ruffly T-bar shoes, and I'm trying them out to see if there was a reason they ended up under a bed instead of on my feet CONSTANTLY. From initial test runs it seems that I need an insole cushion but they don't rub or hurt my feet in any way, and I am very excited to reintroduce them to my wardrobe. 

This skirt was pretty haphazardly constructed and how long it will survive I don't know, but I will sure as hell be a) wearing it and b) working out how to draft an actual miniskirt pattern with this kind of shape. I'd got it into my head that I wasn't comfortable with short skirts anymore, probably because everything I'd been trying was full or flared and gave me exposed-pants panic, but I really like the way this looks. I am very much not a lover of my hips, stomach and thighs, and being able to look at these photos and think "I look good in this form-fitting miniskirt" is pretty sweet. Note to self: purchase more extremely stretchy denim as soon as the opportunity arises. 

Tuesday 17 May 2016

The Great British Sewing Beecap, Series 4 Ep 1

Oh yeah, we're doing this. Even if it does mean I end up posting three or four times a week. I've always wanted to have an excuse to recap a TV show, because I am nothing if not an enormous dork.


Incredibly twee opening over and we see our new state of affairs, with Claudia still Claudia in bright orange nail varnish that I WANT, Patrick as Patricky as he ever was, and May having mutated into EsMay, which I am going to call her for the duration of my recapping life because I can. EsMay is utterly terrifying. She seems like she could cast a disapproving glance at some wonky stitching and have it sheepishly realign itself, and then cast that very same glance at the person who sewed it and have them burst into flames. Also her ring looked like it would break your face. I approve.

As usual we meet our ten contestants as they begin their pattern challenge - this time a sleeveless bias-cut top with chevrons down the centre. A couple of them claim never to have worked with bias binding before, and I wonder the same thing I always wonder - are some of them told by producers to pretend they don't know what this fairly basic thing is, or are there actually people who've applied successfully to a nationally televised show about sewing without knowing how to do simple and necessary stuff?

In reverse order of ranking (I may have got one or two of these the wrong way round), we have:

10. Rumana, the junior doctor - front and back panels of different lengths, not quite matched stripes, unfinished armholes and bad bias binding. Fail on ALL the levels.
9. Josh, the footballer who apparently does tracksuit bottom fittings - popcorn box-looking top with upside down chevrons.
8. Duncan, with the Jedward hair - good pattern-matching, bad bias binding, fabric that was upsetting to me personally.
7. Ghislaine, who had to restart the whole thing because the judges who weren't telling her what to do told her to do so and make another popcorn-box top - again, good pattern matching and bad bias binding
6. Joyce, the grandmother sewing for 60 years - misshapen top due to overhandling fabric
5. Tracy, who my viewing companion took an instant dislike to - not quite matched and not quite chevrons, but points for originality
4. Jade, who puts tutus on her dogs and possibly everything else as well - fairly well-executed top
3. Angeline, who lives on a farm - picked a stripe covered in busy florals so it was really hard to tell if it matched up, which is an excellent tactic
2. Charlotte, who I have absolutely no notes on - must have done well to come in second, but I have no notes on that either
1. Jamie, who inspired Terrifying EsMay to say "Good luck. With that" in the world's most withering tone when he picked georgette to sew with - really well-constructed top from difficult fabric. Deserving winner.

The contestants talk about how pleased they are while Claudia wanders about in a coat that I WANT. I was not expecting this to take a detour into Style Icon Claudia Winkleman territory, I tell you.

For the refashion, everyone is given a fully-lined maternity dress in the exact wrong shade of blue - a slight alteration in tone in literally any direction and it would be lovely, but as it is it's that dress that sits on the sale rail and you walk up going, "Oh, that's a nice bl - nope" as you get within touching distance. I have feelings about fabric colour.

The segment starts with Patrick saying "There is so much material here, you could do anything", which of course is the cue for six out of ten people to produce dull-as-shit skirts, and the cue for Terrifying EsMay to intone that she is "really disappointed" in a way that makes my soul squirm. Terrifying EsMay also sets about proving that she can do both the terrifying AND the innuendo by telling us that, were she given this challenge, she would "stick a hole here and, you know, play." I am definitely Team Terrifying EsMay.

I'm not going to run through all the refashions, because this challenge sucked. Tracy's net curtain top comes last and then the next six are all slight variations on Dull Skirt which I could not possibly tell apart for you. The top three are Rumana, with some interesting orange strapwork, Joyce, with sequin godets, and Jamie winning again with his contrast bust panel dress which is actually a bit ugly and weird but also probably deserving of the win because at least he, you know, DID SOMETHING. I really hope this challenge picks up a bit next week.

For the final challenge they have to make a skirt to fit their model. Three of them pick circle skirts and I get a bit cross because that is literally the easiest thing you can do and it's fairly easy to predict that none of them are going to produce some perfectly executed circle of beauty so DO SOMETHING INTERESTING AT LEAST.

Some assorted opinions:

Josh's skirt is actually my favourite in terms of Thing I Might Wear.

Jade apparently really likes tutus, given the intro clip of the bulldogs, but it was quite a pretty tutu and people said "boning" a lot, so I have nothing to criticise.

Ghislaine's skirt is super wrinkled and sloppy-looking and I'm surprised that it's basically glossed over. I'm one to talk, I know.

Angeline is the rightful and deserved winner of Garment of the Week, making something that a) needed to be fitted, b) actually fit, and c) looked pretty.

Sir Duncan of Jedward Hair rightfully earns his place at the first evictee by somehow managing to create a fucking circle skirt that doesn't fit. With a wonky hem. And is ugly. Which is some kind of achievement, at least. HOW do you make an ill-fitting circle skirt? HOW?? He seems sweet though, and I hope he and his hair are very happy together.

All in all a pretty good first episode except for the refashioning bit where everything everybody made was terrible. I don't have any favourites yet, but since I generally have a "should win on talent" person and a "yes I know they're not very good but if they're sent home I will CRY" person in any reality show I watch I'll probably get overly attached to someone who makes a terrible pun next week or something.

Monday 16 May 2016

Me Made May week two

Week two collage:

(Left to right and top to bottom I am wearing: By Hand London Anna dress; Gertie Sews Vintage Casual cropped sweater and Sew Over It kimono jacket; Colette Moneta dress; Sew Over It Doris dress; Sew Over It tulip skirt; Sew Over It 1940s tea dress; Gertie Sews Vintage Casual cropped sweater with extended sleeves and Sew Over It tulip skirt)

I feel like "collage" isn't the right word. I need some kind of portmanteau or pun which indicates that this is both a collage AND complete crap.

Yesterday I repeated a garment for the first time. I basically made myself wear that skirt again so that I didn't get it into my head that I couldn't do that, though I'm still determined not to repeat an entire look this month. I had a couple of days when I couldn't decide what to wear because a) I wanted to wear an outfit I'd already worn or b) I was worried about "using up" a particular dress too soon, and I'm not sure whether this means I don't have enough stuff or I'm just being a bit silly.

Observations Week Two:

1. This week gives a better overall impression of my style than last week.
2. I don't see the unexpected level of traditional femininity here this time.
3. Holy crap, I have a LOT of Sew Over It stuff.
4. Leaving my camera set up on the tripod pointing at a clean corner of my room made the picture taking way easier.
5. More than once I REALLY wished I had some loungewear - a handmade pair of PJs or a dressing gown.
6. I am close to a point where I could wear different combinations of cropped sweaters and tulip skirts for a whole month and never wear the same outfit twice.
7. At the halfway point I have still not exhausted all my "better made" things, which is encouraging.

So far so good. Still enjoying it, still Instagramming, still excited for all the tedious analysis at the end.

Thursday 12 May 2016

taking leaf of my senses

(I don't know how much sense that even makes, but I don't care)

I knew I wanted to make another Sew Over It 1940s tea dress. I really liked my first one and I wear it all the time, but the fit isn't quite right and I wanted to see if I could improve it.

When the time came to buy fabric for it, I for some reason gravitated to this extremely traditionally feminine floral, which isn't me at all. I think I liked the colour combination and convinced myself it would be fine.

Verdict? I'm not quite sure yet.

I took these photos last week. Look how sunny it was! That better not have been our allotted summer already. 

I made this version a size smaller than last time, mostly. It's a UK 12 in the shoulders, 16 in the bodice cups, 14 in the midsection panels and skirt. I also added about an inch to the bottom of the bodice cup piece, because my first version doesn't sit under my bust the way it should. Having made these changes the fit is definitely a lot better, and I'm way more likely to make more now.


I tried the dress on before binding the neckline and hemming it (I hated the neck facing on my first dress and I've since taken it off and replaced it with binding), and I didn't like it. The neckline didn't look right on me at all - the opening was too small and narrow, made my shoulders look enormous and gave the whole thing a feeling of frump that I really didn't care for. However, I happened to glance in the mirror as I was undoing the zip, and when the zip was just above my bra strap the neckline opened a bit and I liked it SO much better. I knew I wouldn't get any wear out of the dress as it was, so the sensible thing to do would be to redo the back with a V neckline, right?

Yeah, I tried to do a bodge job on it, and I do not recommend that approach. It looked terrible, and I knew I wouldn't wear it. I sighed, and sat down with my unpicker.

This is how the back looks now. It's a bit gapey because I was making adjustments to a basically finished dress, and when I make another one of these I'll edit the back pattern piece first. Actually, looking at these photos now I'd be tempted to go down another size in the back. Changing the back was a fairly simple edit - I took the zip out, marked where I wanted the centre back to be and cut a V down the back panels. I'd already done a bias-bound hem and didn't have of the binding left over, so the back doesn't match the front. I'm pretending it's a design feature.

With the change in neckline I feel a lot better about this dress. It's not going to herald a turnaround in my style or be a gateway drug to a load of delicate pastelly florals, but I will definitely wear it. The fit is great, it's super comfortable and it's versatile enough for me to wear anywhere. Mind you, it's still a pretty far cry from my normal style and I will probably end up wearing it with massive silver jewellery and boots more than with pretty sandals.

Please come back, sunshine, we miss you.

Monday 9 May 2016

Me Made May week one

Here is an extremely cobbled-together collage of what I wore on days 1-8 of Me Made May:

(For reference, reading left to right and top to bottom I am wearing: Cake Patterns Tiramisu dress; Gertie Sews Vintage Casual cropped sweater and Sew Over It tulip skirt; Cashmerette Appleton dress; Sew Over It 1940s tea dress (blog post on this coming on Thursday); Sew Over It circle skirt; Sew Over It tulip skirt; Butterick #4443 dress; Sew Over It cowl neck top)

I got a bunch of different assumptions and restrictions into my head this first week, such as:

- I should try not to wear anything shop-bought at all
- I should never repeat a full outfit
- I should never wear the same thing twice in any context
- I should not wear a shop-bought piece that becomes the focal point of the outfit

Trying not to repeat a full outfit is probably a good additional restriction. I have a few default combinations but it would be nice to come up with some more, and this seems to be as good a time as any to experiment. The others are all active hindrances to what I'm trying to achieve with this and I need to get rid of them.

Week One observations:

1. London weather was oddly sunny and pleasant and this confused me.
2. I don't really own any spring clothes. All my clothes are either "summer" or "Britain", and when it came to choosing things to wear for sunny but not especially hot days I was a bit stumped.
3. Having to pose for a selfie every day is actually really annoying, but also useful as it counteracts my tendency towards scrattiness.
4. I definitely prioritised the things that were better made, which I don't normally do.
5. I wore a LOT more prints and traditionally feminine stuff than I ordinarily would, but I'm not sure how much of that is related to point 4.
6. I am going to struggle to get to the end of the month without a pair of self-made trousers, but also I really don't want to make trousers right now.
7. I would really like to be dressing like the bottom left picture more than I do.

So far this has been a pretty good experiment, and I look forward to seeing what I've learned at the end of the month. I can guarantee you that I'll be entirely sick of the daily selfies by then, though.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Creative Sewing: refashioning

I finally took the plunge and hacked up some of my precious me-made clothes. I took some of the dresses that I had never worn (or worn once and felt incredibly uncomfortable in) and turned them into skirts. This would serve the dual purpose of:

1. Allowing me to get some actual wear out of things I spent time and money on
2. Giving me new skirts and thus possibly slowing down the All The Tulip Skirts train

Here are the first two!

Refashion number one: Green Butterick 4443



I took the top off the dress, drafted a waistband (and by "drafted a waistband" I mean "drew a rectangle"), and inserted a concealed zip. One of the reasons I never wore this dress was that I considered my zip work to be extremely shoddy, so it was good to have a chance to correct it. I still had a ton of leftover fabric from this dress to make a waistband, which I'd meant to get rid of and never bothered. Yay laziness!

I'd forgotten that I was still being overly cautious with my sizing when I made the dress originally, so I'd taken in the side seams quite some way. For the skirt I decided to make two little pleats in the front instead, which I much prefer to my previous technique of "haphazardly taking an inch off the seams at the waist then veering outwards wildly at the hip point".

I'm really glad to get some life into this one, because I love the colour so much (my camera is still refusing to record the actual colour of this material - I swear it's bright emerald green in real life). In dress form it always felt simultaneously too dressed up (because style and colour) and too casual (because bog standard cotton) for any occasion I might want to wear it. It's much less of a problem in skirt form and has already made its way into regular rotation. Success!

Refashion number two: 80s Wren



Didn't bother changing my top, because a) favourite top and b) lazy. Not ideal for an actual sunny day, I'll admit.

This one was basically always going to end up this way. When I put the skirt together and tried it on (I made the skirt part first because I was worried it would be terrible) I thought "hey, this is a really great skirt. Maybe I should stop here and just have this skirt." There was never going to be room in my life for this kind of pink and black sleeveless thing, particularly not with all the trial-run fit issues in the bust, so it's good to have returned it to a wearable state.

Basically all I did was unpick the top, fold in the raw edges and topstitch under the elastic, and it's now a perfect work/being presentable skirt. Very pleased.

This was a really good project to do. As well as helping me realise that I have the skills to make separates out of any dress I choose, it's also made me a little less pointlessly sentimental about things I make. I am wearing my new green skirt as I type this, which just wouldn't be happening if it was still a dress. I have another refashion currently in the works and will be keeping it in mind for the next time I sort through my less-worn handmade stuff (which is happening more or less on a monthly basis at the moment as I struggle to cut down on the amount of shit I own prior to boxing it all up and transporting it across London).

I'd like to leave you with the most inexplicable photo I took yesterday, where I am apparently rather shocked at what I can see in my own house and also have my head on backwards.

Monday 2 May 2016

Stashbusting Spring/Summer Haberdashery Haul (SSSHH)

So I made a lot in March and April. Like, a LOT. Over a dozen things, some of which you have seen and some of which you have not. That's kind of insane, and yet I don't know if I can promise that things will be different in May and June. I'm suddenly very aware of how much I have to get through, as we will see.

Also, yes, I know the title makes no sense, but I really wanted to call it SSSHH. Remember when I said not to get used to the acronyms being almost-words? Forget that. All of the acronyms will now be words or almost-words, but the expanded titles will cease to mean anything.

Since only one of these patterns has a physical cover that I can photograph, I'm just going to dispense with that entirely and give you a Simpsons gif with every project plan because we all like those and I'm not interested in hearing any contradictory opinions.

Here we go!

1. Wool jersey kimono jacket

My first project is - gasp - for someone else. My grandmother has always appreciated homemade gifts much more than bought ones, to the extent that my brother and I have just made her biscuits and marzipan fruit for every Christmas and birthday for the last twenty years (seriously, I cannot draw, paint, sculpt. or anything else that might be called artistic, but my marzipan fruits are now untouchable). On her last birthday I broke with tradition and made her a cushion, because new skill, and I'd like to employ that skill again. She's turning 95 this year, and she's decided to make a bit of a thing out of it, so I want to make something a bit more special than "another cushion". I'm going to make her a Sew Over It jersey kimono jacket out of this lovely dark rose wool jersey, which seems like it would be of use to her wardrobe.

2. A wedding guest dress

My partner's sister is getting married in June and I want to make my dress. I want something that feels special but also isn't going to feel like a chore to wear. It's almost certainly going to be an Anna bodice, but I haven't decided whether to make a straight midi-length Anna or try a different skirt. I want it to be a good colour and have some amazing rainbow viscose challis, though I may decide that's a bit much for an early summer wedding in north Wales. Decisions!

3. Sew Over It Doris dress

New pattern! I bought this the day it came out, because it seems like the perfect thing for just throwing on and still looking put together - not overly fitted but still shape-defining, simple bodice with a couple of nice details, skirt with some volume but no bulk at the waist. I'm going to modify it slightly because I have no interest in a button-up bodice (or a button-up anything), and if this version works I'm hoping to figure out how to add sleeves. It's going to be made from aqua feather-print rayon, unless I decide I need that for the dress above...

4. Some stashbusting

Rather than try to pick a fourth pattern (which I could definitely do), I want to make the goal for this one slightly different - to use up some of the metre-length pieces of fabric sitting in my stash. I'll be moving during my next pattern haul (eek!) so I'd like to start using things up now. I have a few ideas as to what they could become, but I'm going to let Me Made May show me what I actually need instead of assigning fabric to pattern randomly in advance. I will, however, commit to making at least one top and one skirt.

Also in this two-month period, I want to:

a) actually get rid of some of my homemade stuff (i.e. out of my house and not just loitering in a bag)
b) get rid of the patterns I'll never make, or never make again
c) work out how to store my printed PDFs, which don't like being folded up

The Have Less Stuff By August mission continues apace, by which I mean hasn't got very far at all and I really need to get a move on. Adulting!