Thursday 30 June 2016

SSSHH part two point one: Stashbusting

Here's some more!

I'd had a metre of this Liberty stuff sitting in my cupboard waiting for me to make a top out of it, and I thought I'd make something similar to the black and white in the last stashbust, except with a slightly narrower neckline and longer sleeves. That is not what that is, and I'm not entirely sure why. I think I misremembered what I did for the last one. When I cut it out I cropped it at what I thought was the same point I cropped it last time, only to end up with something that barely covered my boobs. I put an extra-wide hem band on to compensate, then decided to finish the neck and sleeves with bands as well since I was already doing that. I also made the hem band a bit too big, so I'll be taking that in a bit during my next alterations blitz.

The problem with this top is that it goes with precisely nothing. I'd had a couple of skirts in mind, and nope, neither of them work. I really do want to wear this top but I'm a bit stumped as to what colours it might go with. If anyone has any recommendations, please pass them on; I'd like to work it into my next fabric purchase.

I debated back and forth whether or not to give this next one its own post. It's not stashbusting because I bought the fabric the same day I made it, and since it's a material I'd never worked with before I would ordinarily default to "stand-alone post." But I can't really justify that, because there's absolutely nothing to it.

This is a T-shirt. It's more or less the same as my bodice block top from April, except I've changed the neckline, lengthened the sleeves a bit, taken it in at the sides and introduced a bit of shaping at the waist. Not enough to make much visible difference, because this thing is still pretty large. I was a bit limited in terms of length, so this only really works tucked into something high-waisted, but I can and have got plenty of wear out of it that way. The fabric is a remnant of felton silk I bought on impulse at Sew Over It, and it was a nice low-pressure way of working with silk for the first time. I don't have too much to say on that front either; it was really nice to work with and didn't misbehave nearly as much as I thought it would, but it frays like gangbusters. It didn't occur to me to French seam it, but that's what I'll be doing to any and all future light silk garments.

I've got a fair amount of wear out of this already. Yay silk T-shirts!

...yeah, sorry.

This is my first mini tulip skirt, and I really like it. The fabric is a moss crepe, another piece from my friend Micky. There was only about half a metre of it, so I could only get a miniskirt out of it and there wasn't enough for a matching waistband, but I LOVE this colour and I actually really like this length (though for subsequent minis I'll probably cut it slightly longer so I can have a wider hem). The one thing I don't like about this skirt is that the waistband is somehow too big at the top. Can you put darts in a waistband? Is that weird?

(Also, having learned about neutral patterned tops + bright bottoms from Me Made May, I have enthusiastically adopted that as a thing.)

My stash is still much bigger than I'd like one month before moving day. so I'm planning another round of quick makes in the next few weeks. I'm going to end up getting rid of more stuff than I'd like, I suspect, but I don't want to encourage this stash-full-of-bits attitude in myself. Hanging onto tons of fabric isn't the right thing for me, and in future I'd like to have no more than a shelf of stuff at any one time (apart from anything else, I'm going to be sharing space now and I don't want to upset my boyfriend with massive fabric stashes slowly encroaching on the rest of the flat and multiplying like Tribbles). So I'll be doing that as well as my July/August projects, which I'll post about on Monday. Hooray for more things! 

Tuesday 28 June 2016

The Great British Sewing Beecap, Series 4 Ep 7

Semi final week! Also, I know I haven't posted any non-Sewing Bee content for a week but my country got screwed over by its own citizens and I just haven't been in the mood to take pictures of myself. Normal service will resume shortly, promise.

The judges have a little bitch about the top four, and conclude that Joyce lacks flair, Charlotte gets too easily thrown by screwing up, Tracey can't fit things, and Jade is a child. Nice.

For the pattern challenge, everyone has to make an asymmetric skirt inspired by Japanese techniques. It's actually gorgeous, and I want to try it, even though it looks like a complete bastard to sew. Everyone chooses wool except Joyce, who chooses neoprene. She suggests that she might steal the pattern, and Claudia offers her whatever she wants from the room, including Patrick, who goes home with anyone. "He's like a party bag that never starts giving."

Tracey snips her notches, and Charlotte appears over her shoulder to tell her not to do that. This is the great thing about the Sewing Bee; nobody is even remotely adversarial and people want to do well for their own sake, not because someone else screwed up. It gives me warm fuzzy feelings about humanity.

"It's the semi final, give them something hard" says EsMay, and I snigger because I, like Jade, am a child. Except old.

"So many notches. Buenas notches," says Charlotte, who is giving Joyce a last minute run for her money for Slapdash Favourite. That is an excellent terrible joke and I will say that when cutting out my patterns forever more.

Lots of shots of the contestants looking at their weird-ass pattern pieces in confusion. The judges attempt to tell us that if they've cut out accurately and marked all their buenas notches it should be fine, but then Jade sews the top of her skirt on the wrong way. Oops.

The entire ridiculous seam has to be evenly topstitched, and it's clearly a horrible thing to have to do. There is a lot of sighing and unpicking. I still kind of want to make this skirt (assuming someone can tell me what pattern it is) but I also have visions of reaching terminal frustration with the thing and ripping the skirt, my sewing machine, my place of residence and the borough of Haringey apart. Tune in next week!

The skirts are finished! Tracey's isn't quite draping right, and her zip isn't inserted very well, so she comes last. Third is Jade, who has strange bulges, and second is Joyce, whose fabric works well but her topstitching is off. This leaves Charlotte as the winner, with a nice drape and even topstitching on her skirt. I'm pleased that Buenas Notches brought her success.

For the alteration challenge, everyone is asked to make a well-shaped garment from a child's duvet cover. The criteria are a) imagination, b) structure, and c) absolutely zero waste fabric. It all sounds horrendous, but then they're all given a pillowcase and a mini-mannequin to try a practice version, and I am mollified because I like things that are mini versions of other things.

After a small flurry of activity, the four ex-duvet covers are put on the mannequins and everything is astonishingly ugly. I just hate all of it. Charlotte wins again with a piece that I can understand having an appeal to design people, but that doesn't make it any less unattractive. I have really not been on board with the alterations challenges this year.

The final challenge is a fitted day dress from a self-drafted pattern. Everyone has been given a basic block to work from and adapt, and I watch this segment with interest because this is what I really want to be able to do. All four dresses go in quite different directions, except that both Tracey and Joyce go for the massive contrast collar. Bleugh.

Jade and Tracey make toiles, which seems like it would eat up a lot of the time, but then Tracey's bodice is so comically small it doesn't even reach the top of her model's bust. Sensible decision to toile on her part. Joyce says she refuses to toile anything that isn't a wedding dress, and Claudia gives her a back massage. It's slightly weird.

Charlotte has made a drapey cowl neck dress that the judges think is delightful. They like everything apart from her sleeves, which could have been shaped a bit more.

Tracey has made a full circle skirt tea dress that's certainly an improvement on her previous attempts to fit things, but she's got excess fabric above the bust and the judges aren't sure about her collar.

Joyce has turned her block into an eight-panelled dress, which the judges are impressed with but wish she'd fitted it slightly more at the waist.

Jade's dress has a flared skirt and a complicated cut-out back. The judges like the fabric and the fit of the bodice, but the skirt needs to be fitted better at the back and her pattern matching isn't quite there.

After much deliberation, Charlotte wins Garment of the Week... for her duvet cover thing. I was saying the other week that I really wanted one of the garments from the first two rounds to win and it is nice to see that, but I still think they were all ugly. Tracey is sent home, and she's really upset about it. Everyone is very sad. I'm not sure how I feel; I liked her more by the end than I thought I would at the beginning but she was still probably my least favourite. I'm always sad when I see people in tears, though. I would be the worst reality show contestant. I would cry at literally EVERYTHING and all the viewers would hate me. I would be unable to stop myself looking up strangers' opinions of me online and would end up giving up on civilisation and running away to live in a tree and start a new life as a squirrel. I'm only partially kidding.

Next week is Grand Final week! I will be a day late with my recap because Monday is our anniversary and I intended to be drinking copious amounts of pretentious cocktails during Sewing Bee time, but never fear, the recap will come. As will other content. Honest.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

The Great British Sewing Beecap, Series 4 Episode 6

Quarter finals!

This week is all about activewear, which reminds me of exercise, so I'm not starting this in a great mood. For the pattern challenge, everyone is asked to make a men's cycling top. Patrick and EsMay point out all the potential difficult bits on a green sample version which looks like it would be precisely nobody's colour (though it looks even worse in the book, it has to be said).

Rumana reminds us that she hasn't won anything yet, which always means "I'm about to win" or "I'm about to stuff up royally". She is SUPER stressed and down on herself throughout the whole challenge, which doesn't suggest that the former is too likely. In amongst the cuts of Sad Rumana, we have Claudia being completely amazing:

Charlotte: This fabric wants to go out of shape and wibbly. That's what it wants to do. It's like it's designed to upset you.
Claudia: Yes. Like weird boyfriends.

Rumana: My husband has been asking me to fix a button on his coat for three years and I still haven't done it.
Claudia: What?! ...Mind you, I've never knowingly done anything for my husband.

Claudia: You know what you need? DRUGS.

I want Claudia to narrate my life. How do I go about getting that?

EsMay and Patrick have taken to standing on a balcony looking down on everyone in a slightly sinister way. I assume this is an attempt to make them seem scarier and more intimidating, but I'm not sure this is an improvement on having them slink up to the contestants and undermine their confidence. This is one of the things the Sewing Bee is really good at; being able to point out or direct people away from an unfortunate choice without doing that stupid Paul Hollywood thing of staring at them for eight years in a way that he clearly thinks is both scary and oddly sexual and it just makes me want to hurl lemons at him. Sorry. Sewing show. We are talking about a sewing show.

Everyone is given a coverstitch machine, which none of them have used before, to finish their cycling tops. There is a lot of frustration directed at these machines, especially from poor Rumana. Predictably she comes last with a stretched out collar and understitching on the wrong side. She is followed by Jade's similarly stretched out collar and messed up coverstitching, Charlotte's not-quite-right collar and Joyce's not-quite-right zip. Tracey, who has done basically nothing wrong, is once again the winner of the pattern challenge, which she must be getting pretty used to by now.

For the alterations challenge, it's 1980s ski suits. Jesus. They want everyone to produce a piece of outerwear for a child. ALL of the ski suits on offer are horrible, horrible colours. "WHY would I find it fun?" Joyce demands as she cuts into a jacket the colour of sadness and disease.

Our concession to history and education this time is a short lecture on the history of ski jackets, which I just do not care about in the slightest I'm sorry. Let us return to Claudia, who is on exceptional form this episode. She has changed into the one remaining ski suit and... yikes. It is pale banana yellow with busy pink print, and it is astonishing to me that people with eyes put that thing together. While using a ruler as a ski, she assures us she is taking this seriously. "You'll all be glad to know," she calls, "that my legs are sweating". I love her so much.

As everyone brings their mannequins up for judging, let us take a break here to sing Cold As Ice as loudly as we can and do some air drumming, as our viewing party did.

Tracey drops to the bottom for this challenge as her coat was too tight on the mannequin, followed by Charlotte's fur-trimmed jacket (Patrick has basically docked her points because he's "not a huge fur fan". Get over it, Patrick, fur is natural and wonderful), Joyce's embroidered disease-orange bomber, Rumana's FLAMINGO jacket which should have won and the judges are nuts, and Jade wins with an exceptionally puffy jacket that I think Patrick is going to try and steal despite it being made for a six-year-old. He seems dangerously close to squeeing when he talks about it, while EsMay just says "very 80s" over and over again in the tone of a woman who thinks her grandson is a tiresome waste of space but still really wants him to be happy. Imagine having EsMay as a grandmother. She would have the best dressing-up box.

For the final challenge, everyone has to make a yoga outfit, which I also just don't care about. I've tried to do yoga and it bores the stretchy two-piece activewear off me. In many ways this is not my episode. Joyce says that her favourite yoga position is where you lie down at the end, because Slapdash Favourite. Though saying that, Joyce may well be having the same problem with the week's theme as I am, because she is in a really strange mood this episode. I think she's starting to get sick of it, which is sad. I enjoy laissez-faire Joyce, but irritated and slightly bitter Joyce is not so much fun. Maybe she hasn't had enough wine. Let's all send wine to Joyce.

Rumana is in similarly unenthusiastic form and seems committed to having a super stressed week. She talks herself down a lot during this challenge, saying that she picked a simple pattern because she'd mess up a more complicated one, refuses to sew her elastic with the overlocker because she's tired of trying to do things she's no good at, and generally walks round looking like she'd rather be anywhere else at all. I want to give her a hug.

To lighten proceedings, EsMay slinks up to Charlotte and talks to her about her use of the coverstitch machine. "The other option was to turn it over and zig zag it, which would have looked a bit amateur hour" says Charlotte, to which EsMay pauses, deepens her voice and intones, "I agree." This is not the same kind of terrifying she was in the first episode, but terrifying it is nonetheless. I approve.

Joyce randomly decides to make a matching cardigan to go with her already quite overpowering matching T-shirt and leggings. I'm not sure that's a good idea. Apart from anything else, there's only so much of that colour blue one body can take before it drowns. "It's not very good, but who cares at this stage" she says. I care, Joyce! Be ON the show, dammit! Your defiance was fun when it was gleeful, not defeated! Why is everyone so down this week? Maybe that's why Claudia is working overtime with the delightful battiness. Joyce takes an angry swig of coffee as judgement time approaches.

Patrick and EsMay think Charlotte's looser leggings and drapey top work well, and she's proved she can get the fit right by making a built-in bra that they can't criticise at all.

Joyce's outfit...doesn't really work. She's sewn it well, but the judges don't like the fit or proportions. I hate the colours and the fit of the raglan sleeves is distractingly bad. Dammit, Joyce!

Jade has done really well, apart from the unevenly-spaced straps. Her fabric is awesome and I kind of want it, except that would mean wearing activewear and no thank you.

Tracey has a bit of weirdness at the crotch and her top doesn't quite fit. The judges seem to throw a lot of criticism at her here but then don't mention her as a contender for elimination, so I'm not really sure what they think of it. What I am sure of is that Tracey and I have basically opposite taste in fabrics. Yeesh.

Rumana has chosen good fabrics and her leggings fit well. Patrick accidentally tickles the model when he pulls at the waistband and she leaps away from him, which is precisely what you should do if a strange man starts pawing at your midriff. Rumana's bias binding isn't very well done, though, and because she's chosen to do it in bright red on a black top, it's very obvious.

Jade wins Garment of the Week again, which is the right call given everything else. Jade is turning out to be something of a dark horse. The judges suggest that Joyce could be up for the chop, but the clear eliminee was Rumana, who's been in a defeated funk all episode. She gets emotional and says that sewing let her have her own style and taught her that she could like herself, which strikes a chord with me and I find myself almost tearing up at the goddamn Sewing Bee. I am such a dork.

Next week: the semi-final and "technically challenging" garments that aren't specified. I am excited nevertheless. Let us hope for some really weird garments and a happier Joyce.

Monday 20 June 2016

Betty dress, or ARGH

I've had the Betty pattern for ages. I bought it intending to make a dress out of the cotton that eventually became my orange circle skirt, but there wasn't quite enough (having made this version, I think there probably was enough and I was doing it wrong), so it just sat there. Until a couple of months ago, when Sew Over It released an expansion pack with new necklines and sleeves. Sleeves! I bought it, picked up four metres of red cotton viscose-y stuff from Walthamstow Market, and set to work. This shape isn't so much my shape these days, but it was £8 for a trial run and I thought that if it worked, the Betty bodice might be a good one to Frankenstein onto less fabric-hungry skirts.

Long story short, it was a fail, but I think for the sake of my own learning it's important for me to document my failures as well as my successes.

Looks OK, right? Well, there are multiple problems with it.

a) Where the hell am I going to wear this? It's appropriate for literally none of things I regularly do.
b) I'm not sure why I decided I had to make it up as is for a first go, because I don't actually want a massive floofy circle skirt dress and I already knew that.
c) It's not me. At all. I want to be wearing more red, and this is a nice print, but made up like this it's just overwhelming.
d) It's not actually sewn up under the arms.


I've used a lot of Sew Over It patterns with minimal problems, so I assumed that once I'd done the full bust adjustment everything would be fine, but I tried the dress on about 90% of the way through construction and realised I couldn't lift my arms. The sleeves were way too tight - not a problem I'd ever had with their patterns before - and the old Extendo-Boob situation was happening around the armpits. I've stood in a changing room many a time looking at a pretty dress and wondering whether I could live with the restricted arm movement (generally I would buy the dress and it would sit in the wardrobe until I threw it out two years later) and I was determined not to do that again. I felt quite virtuous about my decision to try and fix it, without really confronting the bald fact that I have no idea how one fixes something like this.

The dress sat on my table for a while as I considered my options. I didn't have enough fabric left to do any recutting, but I did have a few remnants I could piece into the underarms. Was that a thing? Would that work? How would I go about it? Would it look ridiculous? Was that even the right adjustment? The sleeve was definitely too small at the upper arm, but when disconnected from the sleeve the bodice fit me perfectly well, so putting extra fabric in there probably wasn't the best idea. I went back and forth on this for ages, before coming to the conclusion that actually, it didn't really matter. Because I am never going to wear this dress. It's a nice idea and a nice colour, but a long-sleeved full circle skirt dress? It's got no place whatsoever in my wardrobe and even if I did manage to fix it, all it would do is take up space and gather dust. I took these photos for posterity, rescued the zip and put the fabric in my recycling bag.

Honesty is all well and good, but active learning would be better. What I'd really like to do now is pick up some cheap fabric, make a couple of toiles of this bodice and see if I can get it to fit. If I can work out how to alter it for my shape it'll do my skills a lot of good, I think.

Bye, Betty dress. You were not for me. 

Thursday 16 June 2016

Creative Sewing: a jersey Anna

Knit dress from woven pattern ahoy!

I bought this fabric back in January with a dozen ideas of what to do with it, which is basically the same as having no idea what to do with it. Once I'd made my first Anna I more or less knew that this fabric wanted to be a jersey version, but I kept putting it off because this fabric cost £12 per metre, which is four times as much as I'm usually willing to spend on an experiment. I almost made a wrap dress with this several times, ignoring the bit where I really don't want a wrap dress in this kind of print. With my August deadline looming large I eventually said "eh, screw it" and cut it up.


I cut the back bodice on the fold since there was no need for a zip, and I should have cut the centre back skirt piece on the fold as well, but it didn't occur to me, so there's a seam on the skirt which doesn't match up with the top. Eh. It's not going to bother me, it's behind me. It can bother someone else. Beyond that, construction was the same - I made the same size I do in the woven, which was basically fine, though it could maybe stand to be taken in very slightly.

Honest Review: This dress is super comfy and I will wear it for dancing, for hot days, and for running around London playing a murder mystery treasure hunt game, which was its first outing. However, I don't expect it to last very long. This jersey doesn't have great recovery (annoying, for the price) and the midsection is already behaving slightly strangely. I will get what wear I can out of it and then dispose of it. I still really like the idea of a jersey Anna, but I will need to rethink construction before I have another go - possibly using a slightly weightier jersey, lining it and elasticating the waist might help. I am considering an Anna/Sallie mash-up, but I've no idea which bits I'd be mashing together yet.

In conclusion, not an entirely successful dress, but a worthwhile experiment and a good first step.

I was in one of those moods. Sorry. 

Tuesday 14 June 2016

The Great British Sewing Beecap, Series 4 Ep 5

Halfway through and it's 1960s week! To celebrate, the producers have replaced all the sewing machines with vintage models. Slower, more fiddly, and can only do two different stitches. This causes grief for everyone except Joyce, who was merrily sewing up miniskirts when these machines were new.

For the pattern challenge, everyone has to make a YSL-style colour blocked Mondrian shift dress. I've been arguing with myself about this since I saw a photo of the pattern in a review of the latest GBSB book; I would LOVE to make one of these but it will almost certainly look ridiculous on my disproportionately-shaped self. Neither side has yet won this internal debate. A fashion historian tells us that Yves St Laurent released a pattern for the Mondrian dress in the 60s, complete with sew-in labels. I wish more designers would do this. The Vogue designer collections of late have been pretty limited.

The judges talk about the need for accurate sewing of the panels and lapped zip, and EsMay even gets a touch terrifying again, though not enough to get her moniker back. Incidentally, this week EsMay is wearing what looks like a giant embellished sports jumper that's been through the wash a few too many times and then attacked by a shark, but I'm sure it's actually fashion and super impressive and I'm just uncool and rubbish. The accuracy will be enforced by Patrick and his ruler, or "grabbing his stick", as he puts it. This phrasing earns a snort from Charlotte, who gets Slapdash Points for openly sniggering at innuendo.

"They want precision? They'll get precision," says Joyce in a vaguely threatening way, and makes good on her word. Patrick's stick can't find a single thing wrong with Joyce's finished dress. She wins, followed by Charlotte's great use of colour blocking, Rumana's pastel concoction, Angeline's back-to-front panels, Jade's wonky monochrome, and finally Tracey's ugly-ass colour combination and badly-inserted zip with unacceptable contrast topstitching.

For the alterations challenge, everyone is shown an unusually hideous transparent PVC mac. Charlotte takes this mac off the mannequin rather than any of the other ones on the rack, because "if you're going to make something ridiculous, why not make it see-through?" I've not really had an opinion on Charlotte up til now, but she is winning me over this episode. Claudia stares at the leftover macs in sadness and disgust, as well she should. I'd love to know what Josh would have done with this thing.

In a nutshell, all the finished garments are varying degrees of hideous (and they play Je t'aime as the judges return, which I just can't stand. There's something about enunciated whispering that makes me want to drop-kick something). Angeline's polka dot dress with enormous front cut-out comes last, as the judges question its ability to stay on the wearer's boobs. I don't like the dress but I also don't think anyone has the right to be talking about the wearability of all this see-through shit. Next is Charlotte's see-through halter top and skirt, Jade's see-through crop top and skirt, Tracey's see-through shift dress with circles (spotting a theme?), and Rumana's one-shoulder red dress. Joyce wins again with a smock top that Patrick calls "nerdy sailor in neon pink". Joyce is going to celebrate her two wins with two Chardonnays, because Slapdash Favourite.

The final challenge, and everyone will be making jackets from 1960s vintage patterns. It's a complicated enough ask for them to be allowed to pre-cut their fabric, so we can assume they're expecting something pretty spectacular.

Angeline's main fabric is ORANGE in an effort to win me over, and she trims it all with paisley because she's trying to win over my boyfriend at the same time. He's not watching, Angeline, it's no good. She mentions her plans to add yellow and orange fur to the bottom, and Claudia starts retching. I'm with Claudia, as usual. The judges manage to persuade her away from the fur, mostly through looks of sheer horror.

Everyone compares bagging their jacket linings to giving birth, which is not the metaphor I would have used, but then I have had exactly no babies. Claudia acts as Charlotte's doula and sings Enya for her. "What are you going to call it??" exclaims Claudia with what seems like genuine delight and excitement as the garment is turned the right way out. Charlotte looks nonplussed and replies "...jacket," which does nothing to dampen Claudia's enthusiasm as she welcomes little Jacket into the world.

Tracey has made a tweed jacket with grown-on sleeves. Grown-on sleeves on a tailored jacket seems like a weird idea. It must be hard to fit them well enough to allow arm movement. EsMay likes the sleeves for their 60s quality, but there are a fair few nitpicks to be had in the construction. Tracey has made the jacket in tribute to her mum, and she is super-teary about it.

Patrick likes Charlotte's boxy Jackie Kennedy jacket more on the model than on the mannequin. Lots of good points but Charlotte and EsMay get into what passes for a fight on this show about the bottom edges not quite lining up at the front. Charlotte has made a matching hat out of a cereal box, which gains her yet more Slapdash points.

Rumana has made a red A-line coat, and has mostly done it well, except for the too-small lining pulling her hem out of shape and the buttons, which don't line up with the buttonholes. D'oh.

Patrick doesn't think Joyce's Elvis-inspired pea coat looks very 60s, and she is FURIOUS. She begrudgingly agrees with EsMay that there's a slight issue with her collar, though. Her furious flinching blink at the end of the judging is kind of hilarious.

Angeline's bright orange and paisley coat looks "soft and lumpy" because she hasn't interfaced the front. And because of her too-small lining her hem is INSANE, even by my standards. Angeline suggests that perhaps she should have kept the hem-fur after all.

EsMay and Patrick LOVE Jade's cropped tweed jacket. It's a much simpler pattern than the others but she has put time into the execution and her pattern-matching is impeccable, even across the buttons.

Jade wins, which I'm slightly annoyed about only because the other contender was apparently Joyce's Mondrian dress and I'd really like to see something from one of the other rounds win for a change. After a lot of deliberation, the judges opt to send Angeline home, the second surprise elimination of the series. But really, after coming last in the alteration challenge and producing that shitshow of a coat, there wasn't a lot of choice.

Next week: activewear! Meh.

Monday 13 June 2016

Refashioning and honesty

You may remember I made this a few months ago:

This is a Colette Wren dress that I was in deep denial about. I loved this fabric, loved the idea of it all, was so pleased to have managed to squeeze an entire dress, including sleeves, out of 1.2m of fabric, and I wasn't prepared to entertain the notion that this dress was anything other than a success. Even though it's clearly, clearly not. 

This dress doesn't work. The fabric doesn't want to be doing what I was trying to make it do, the colours don't look good next to my face, this is WAY too much print for me to be wearing all over. The one time I wore it out I felt hideously self-conscious and was actually relieved that the restaurant was cold enough for my boyfriend to insist I wear his jacket. Yet still I wrote the post all "well, it's not as successful as the last one, but once I do a bit of altering I will totally wear it" even though I knew there was nothing I could do to make the thing work the way I wanted it to.

Here is what it looks like now:

It's a miniskirt! I took the top part of the dress off, made an elasticated facing and lopped several inches off the hem. All the weird bits have gone, it's way more versatile, and most importantly I can wear it with a load of black so I don't feel overwhelmed. 

Even having acknowledged that I was never going to wear the dress as it was, I was still stubborn about it. I unpicked the top but refused to cut into the skirt for ages because that would be a waste of material and what was the point in having gone to all that trouble with the layout if I was just going to end up with a miniskirt. It took me nearly a month to get my head round it, I think, and even then I was basically pushed into it by the fear of running out of clothes before the end of Me Made May. I'm really glad I did it, because now I get to wear this fabric and still feel like me in it.

I mentioned in my Me Made May lessons post that I would be trying to write more honestly about the outcomes of my projects, and this is the first step in that direction. The second one will be coming next week, and the photos for that are MUCH worse. So this should be fun, then. 

Thursday 9 June 2016

Jump(suit) for my love

For quite a long time, I thought that jumpsuits were the most hideously unflattering thing that one could put on one's body. I mocked them and everyone who wore one, because why? Why would you? When you could be wearing literally anything else? The wearer of the jumpsuit was a person simply unfathomable to me.

The first seeds of doubt were sewn in my mind several years ago, when I was going through a phase I like to call my Try On All the Ugliest Shit in the Shop Because That Will Be Funny period. I recommend it as a game, it's great fun. On one such occasion I was in (I think) Warehouse and I saw a dark denim-look jumpsuit with a little white flower print, skinny legs, a round neck and elbow-length sleeves. I thought it was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. I took it to the changing room and tried it on, and I was... surprised. While it wasn't something I could have bought - it sported the shoulder/boob/underarm problem which is the bane of my high street shopping experience - it also didn't look anywhere near as bad as I'd imagined. Below the problem area I actually really liked it. "Huh," I said, as I put it back on the rail.

My first jumpsuit purchase came a little later, and I currently own two, both basically evening wear. When I started sewing I had in my head that I could potentially make myself a couple more, particularly for wearing in summer during the day, but I didn't do anything about it until last month when my boyfriend bought me some fabric specifically to make into a jumpsuit because he a) wins at being a boyfriend and b) is a particular fan of the ones I already own. The fabric he bought me was about 50% more expensive than I usually pay, so I was terrified about using it on an untested pattern and messing it up.

As you can see, I did not mess it up.

(Incidentally, I am aware that all these photos are slightly crotchy. That's not the jumpsuit's fault; it's getting stuck to what's underneath. I was taking a bunch of photos at once and decided not to take my tights off before putting the jumpsuit on. I do not recommend this approach.)

This is the Closet Case Files Sallie pattern. I hadn't made any CCF patterns before (I bought the Clare but the weather stopped being cold enough to warrant it as soon as I bought fabric for it), so I had no idea about their drafting or fit or anything. I did a search for photos, but most of the versions I could find were on very thin women which didn't give me much of an idea about how it would sit on my body. I panicked about it for a few days, then bit the bullet and just cut into the damn fabric.

This fabric is an Art Gallery cotton jersey we got from Ray Stitch. I hadn't been to Ray Stitch before because I had no idea where it was, but we accidentally stumbled across it on a Sunday afternoon wander round Islington. It's definitely more expensive than I'm used to but it was also very clear that the fabrics were quality, and I will definitely be going back when I want a treat or fabric for a special occasion. My boyfriend was impressed to be treated like an actual customer rather than a non-sentient pile of beardy reluctance (basically unheard of in fabric shops and haberdasheries, sadly), so I felt a little less guilty than I otherwise would have about the amount he was spending on me. This fabric is well worth the money, by the way; it's the best jersey I've ever worked with by quite some way and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to go back to cheaper knits. I LOVED working with this stuff. Apart from a bit of rolling at the edges, it didn't do anything I didn't want it to do and it holds shape beautifully. It's quite possibly going to spark a revolution in my fabric-buying habits, actually. Post on this forthcoming once I work out exactly what that revolution is going to look like.

I cut a 14 in the top and an 18 in the trousers, then took a honking great dart out at the waist, which I think was the right call fit-wise. Besides the honking great dart, the only other change I made was to sew one end of the neck ties closed and give myself a slightly more difficult job turning them the right way out rather than slip stitching them closed at the end.

The top is lined with the self fabric, so it's a completely clean finish. As someone who is still crap at finishing, I appreciate this very deeply. I also appreciate that the legs were the perfect length straight out of the (figurative) packet, which never happens.

This is SO COMFORTABLE to wear. I'm sitting here in it now and I keep forgetting I've got anything on. It's completely non-restrictive and it's going to be the perfect thing to wear to dance events in the summer. In fact, I am possibly planning to throw out all my clothes and replace them with jumpsuits. Forty jumpsuits! Well, OK, maybe not. But four, at least.

And now, to demonstrate ease of movement and also because I gave this post a Pointer Sisters title and now it's stuck in my head, a dance party:

(There is a block of flats facing my garden with a continuous balcony all the way around. There's never anyone there when I take normal photos, but as soon as I start bouncing around these little faces start popping up like Whack-a-Moles. I'm not sure whether to take this personally.)

Tuesday 7 June 2016

The Great British Sewing Beecap, Series 4 Ep 4

It's International Week! On any other show "international week" would involve at least a modicum of travel, on this one it just means "a bit more colour." Even Claudia is wearing colour; a bright orange jumper, because she and I understand each other.

For the pattern challenge, everyone has to make a qipao top. They all pick their brocades and I get fabric envy because I LOVE those colours and I can never find any fabric with colours like this. Stupid wishy-washy fabric industry. Patrick and EsMay talk about the excellent fit they want to see, while pointing at a sample garment that... isn't really showcasing that great a fit, if I'm honest. Nearly all of the contestants' finished tops fitted better than that one.

Indirect Josh Moment of the week:

Claudia: Is this bias binding?
Joyce: Yes.
Claudia: You're brilliant, Joyce! I've just been over to Josh's station and he has LITERALLY just opened the pattern.

Oh, Josh.

On the subject of Slapdash Favourite Joyce and the bias binding, she chooses to hand-stitch it all into place before realising that the bias binding isn't actually going to be on show. She's so pleased with how well she's done it that she decides to rejig the pattern so that it's on show. She says, "I'll be marked down, but..." and then gives this fantastic elaborate shrug. SLAPDASH FAVOURITE.

The finished tops are all pretty well done, with a couple of slightly misplaced zips and marginally gaping necklines. Joyce comes last because even though it looks perfect she didn't follow the pattern. Patrick calls her infuriating, which does nothing to shake my love for her. Josh actually manages to come second, and Tracey wins.

For the alterations challenge, everyone is asked to turn a sari into something "eastern inspired". This results in a LOT of pairs of harem pants and a Hammertime moment from Claudia. Patrick and EsMay are delighted that people have been creative enough to make trousers instead of rolling their eyes at this roomful of white people thinking that Eastern = belly dancer or Princess Jasmine, but maybe if we hadn't started this series with that dull-ass parade of skirts their standards would be a bit higher.

Jade makes her trousers way too small and has to insert (not terribly well) a panel on one side, and Joyce sews her trousers closed on the mannequin. They come seventh and sixth respectively, and I start to get a bit worried. Josh makes a belly dancing outfit by lengthening the top for some reason, Rumana makes a dress quite similar to what EsMay is already wearing, and Charlotte makes trousers that Patrick wants. He does not end the episode wearing said trousers, which I feel is a grievous oversight on the part of the producers. Tracey wins for the second time in a row with an interestingly detailed pink caftan.

For the final challenge, everyone is asked to make an African wax-print dress, which needs to be fitted but exaggerated and dramatic. I am very excited to see actual fitting as opposed to capes and dressing gowns and goddamn circle skirts. As well as the fitting, we will be seeing pattern matching and peplums. ALL of the peplums.

Tracey makes a knee-length peplum dress but messes up her episode-long streak by not really fitting it to her model. In an episode where the standards were pretty high, I think she could have gone home for this had she not done so well in the rest of the episode.

Josh makes a full-length dress but didn't quite think his pattern placement through properly. He also gives his model one accidentally pointy hip, which is totally a thing I've done before when grading out for my massive hips.

Charlotte makes a ruffle dress out of a big circular print, and is commended for avoiding the Target Boobs look. Patrick is very against the gathering at the waist, EsMay is more concerned that the fit isn't quite there.

Angeline makes a strapless peplum dress and choker; she creates the most effective peplum out of anyone (having it slightly longer than the skirt in the back), but the bodice of the dress is too long for the model.

Joyce makes a peplum dress very similar to Tracey's, except hers fits perfectly. She does it all properly, calls herself "biddable", basically daring Patrick to dive into the innuendo pool. Which he does not, because he is a giant fraidy cat.

Jade makes a fitted dress with boning, because Jade likes boning (wa-hey). The effect is good, except that it's slightly too tight. Based on the fact that this was the dress they used in the previews, I assume she's safe.

Rumana decides that she doesn't want to jump on the peplum train with everyone else, so she makes a sheath dress and a giant cape, which is super interesting and dramatic and awesome, and also well fitted. Well done Rumana. Claudia puts on the cape and channels her inner superhero by sweeping down the room, sticking her foot up on Josh's desk and saying hi to him. Claudia would be the best superhero.

The judges deliberate, and Garment of the Week goes to... "the infuriating Joyce". Yay! She will celebrate by drinking DOUBLE YAY GO JOYCE. Going home this week is, finally, Josh, in the one week where he didn't really screw anything up, which seems both unfair and quite fitting. I will miss Josh's cluelessness and complete inability to understand the themes for the alteration challenges, and I will miss his hat considerably less.

Next week: vintage patterns! This should be fun.

Monday 6 June 2016

SNYPH review

January and February, it's your turn!

1. Cordova

I cannot wear this jacket with anything except this pair of jeans. It really annoys me, because I love the black and white with the bright blue SO MUCH, but I hate the way it looks with everything because it's so boxy. I do get a decent amount of wear out of it with this one pair of jeans, though. 

2. 1940s wrap dress

Love the idea, dress is too static to wear. 

3. Appleton

This is so goddamn useful and I love it. The one problem I have is that it doesn't wrap over quite far enough because my hips are so much bigger than my waist, so next time (and there will be a next time) I'll probably change the shape of the skirt a little. 

4. Holly

I'll be honest with you, I've already got rid of these - for some reason they never quite felt right when I tried to put them on. I don't think this is my wide leg trouser pattern. 

Best: Appleton
Worst: Actually difficult to say; a case could be made for any of the other three (Cordova: pattern, 1940s dress: unwearable fabric, Holly: already thrown out)
Remake? Definitely the Appleton, probably the 1940s dress, almost certainly not the other two
Biggest problem: Fit and finishing

Saturday 4 June 2016

Me Made May analysis post: goals, plans, and glorious lists

Here it is YAY I'm so excited even if you're not. I've managed to cull it down from all the ramblings in the world, strange rankings, and speculations on I don't even know what, to a list of five things I learned in the last month and their attendant goals, plus a list of one-line observations for me to bear in mind in the future. I feel I should get credit for this.

What I Learned From Me Made May

Lesson One: If it's not terrifyingly practical, it had better be stunning.

I've learned that the wearable portion of my wardrobe basically splits into two categories: the Super Practical (requires no complicated underwear arrangements, doesn't wrinkle badly, easy to go out or slob around in, doesn't need constant readjusting) or the Certain Level of Impressive (not great for slobbing around in and requires a little more care, but is made of stunning fabric and fits well and people will say nice things about it when I wear it). Very occasionally stuff is both, but that is a very long term goal.

Goal: When planning a project, work out which category it will fit into and pick fabric and pattern accordingly. In the longer term I want to increase the overlap between Practical and Impressive, but I'll write a more detailed post on this during the summer.

Lesson Two: The three things I most wished I had were loungewear, layering, and pullover knit dresses.

Over the course of the month I found the absence of these three categories to be the most limiting. There were several days when I wasn't feeling great, and while I put on me-made stuff to take a photo and go to the shop (to meet the "I have to leave the house in it for it to count" rule that I secretly came up with somewhere along the line), but then came home and took it all off again because I couldn't lie in bed wearing it. Similarly, my Colette knit dresses actually got worn multiple times because I often changed into them in the evening to go dancing. The dancing has taken a back seat over the past year, but now that I'm getting back into it a bit more I do need to prioritise sewing stuff made for movement. The lack of layering pieces was the most restrictive overall because it meant I couldn't wear any of my dresses more than once, and that got seriously annoying by the end of the month.

Goal: Locate three suitable patterns for each category (loungewear: pyjamas, dressing gown, something to wear indoors on hot days; layering: cropped cardigan, cropped jacket, some kind of cardi/scarf hybrid if possible; knit dresses: three variations on short sleeved, fitted bodice, non-fitted skirt without gathers) and make between one and three patterns in each category. Follow progress on this as a project.

Lesson Three: I already know in my gut what works and what doesn't.

I spend a lot of time inside my own head by trying to talk myself out of opinions I hold. When it comes to, say, ethical issues I think this is one of my better qualities, because I will have attempted looking at the question through every viewpoint I can come up with. When it comes to my clothes it's just a waste of energy. Planning is good. Taking a critical eye to my sewing and style is also good. Trying to talk myself into or out of liking something I've made is not good. I have all the information I need when I stand in front of the mirror and my brain goes "ooh!" or "well..." and I need to start paying more attention to that going forward. There were things I already knew I wasn't going to wear when the month started, and they should have already been gone.

Goal: This is the hardest one to come up with a defined, practical goal for, since there's no real way to quantify "I will try to be more honest". I think the best I can do right now is to commit to regular once-per-season checks on my wardrobe for things I don't wear and/or don't feel good in, and to post about projects I've recognised as being unsuccessful.

Lesson Four: I have my default silhouette now, which needs to not become a rut.

Over the course of thirty-one days, I wore a Sew Over It tulip skirt with a short fitted top nine times, which is actually great - because of the "no repeat outfits" rule I now have a ton of combinations that I can just throw on when I want to look pulled together but my brain isn't working. That was exactly what I wanted; getting dressed stresses me out sometimes. However, I don't want to get stuck compulsively making tulip skirts forever. There are other silhouettes in this world and it won't kill me to try them.

Goal: Make a skirt and top outfit which comprises neither of my TNT patterns. Conversely, source better fabrics for TNT patterns and put more time and effort into their construction and finishing.

Lesson Five: I need to actively work on my tendency to hide away.

This is not completely sewing-related, but extremely relevant nevertheless. For most of my life I've tried to be as invisible as possible because if people don't know you're there they can't be unpleasant to you. It's something I became aware of several years ago, but awareness isn't the cure for the problem. More than once this month I put red lipstick on to make my daily photo look better then took it off before going outside because red lipstick is visible. When I don't feel great I try to attract as little attention as possible, and it works the other way round too. During my first major purge I got rid of something I can only think of as my Anonymity Top, because it was what I wore when I wanted to look absolutely unremarkable. I knew that even when I was wearing it regularly, and so every time I put it on I was painfully aware of my own shitty self-esteem for the whole day. Towards the end of the month I stopped taking the lipstick off and I felt better for it, but the need to fade away is something I need to actively and deliberately work against if I'm going to start feeling better.

Goal: Wear red lipstick a lot. Wear colour. Wear crazy earrings. Try shit that I'm not sure is going to work. Keep posting pictures (maybe not every day, but multiple times a week), because it helps. Dress in vintage drag occasionally. Make some clothes for Amber Moon. Be pretty, if it helps, or strange, if that helps more, whatever I need to do to be comfortable with being visible.

Some shorter observations

1. Streamlined vaguely vintage feminine = yes, flouncy feminine = no
2. Neutral pattern + bright solid colour is a thing worth exploring further
3. I like feeling put together and should focus on this
4. I am lacking accessories because I am so picky about them
5. Really thin jerseys end up making me sad even when they're pretty
6. Accentuating my actual body shape is better for both my style and my self-esteem
7. There doesn't always have to be number seven.

(Also, this didn't really belong in any of the other sections, but when I look back on my month's worth of photos, how much I like any given picture appears to be dependent upon how well my fringe is behaving. It's genuinely all I can see in some photos. My Cambie was the third most popular thing I posted all month, and I sat there watching it get liked going, "but why? My fringe is INSANE in this picture!" as though that's what people are looking at. Tiny extra goal: pay special attention to fringe.)

Thursday 2 June 2016

Me Made May week four

Final collage!

(I am wearing, left to right and top to bottom: Colette Wren skirt; Liberty jersey mash-up top; Gertie cropped sweater and Sew Over It tulip skirt; Cake Patterns Tiramisu dress; self-drafted (ish) silk T-shirt and Sew Over It tulip skirt; By Hand London Anna dress; silk T-shirt and slightly different Sew Over It London tulip skirt; Gertie cropped sweater and patternless miniskirt; Jennifer Lauren Vintage Bronte top and Sew Over It tulip skirt)

Me Made May is finally over, and I'm actually quite sad about it. Much as trying to find something to wear and make myself look presentable enough for a photo stressed me out some days, I found it a super useful and enjoyable exercise and I'm going to miss doing it. I think I'm going to attempt to keep Instagramming makes/outfits a few times a week so I don't forget how to put myself together, and also because I have actual Instagram followers now and I'd like to keep sharing with them.

Week four observations:

1. A large proportion of things I wore here were made in the past two weeks.
2. I suddenly skewed massively vintage - and also massively blue - and I'm not quite sure why.
3. More dresses would have been really helpful.
4. I got way more ruthless and threw several things away before I'd finished making them.
5. Running out of garments meant a LOT more mixing and matching.
6. At the beginning of the month I apportioned some clothes as my "back-up" items and I have worn exactly none of them.
7. I'm genuinely not sure how I'll get dressed now that the challenge restrictions have been lifted.

There is YET ANOTHER post to come with all my long-winded analysis and planning in it, because I'm not ready to let go yet. Hooray for Me Made May, and I hope I'm able to do more challenge things like this.