Thursday, 22 December 2016

2016 reviews: resolutions

Last up in my mini review series is my list of resolutions for next year. I did this last year and they were pretty successful (I'm not going to go over them line by line, but I either achieved or made a start on everything I set out to do), so I'm going to do it again. Traditionally I've always made ten resolutions, but I could only think of seven this time, so seven it is.

My resolutions for 2017 are as follows:

1. I will sew fewer things.

I made an insane amount this year. Many dozens of things. There are a lot of reasons why I sew as much as I do - it's my main hobby at the moment, it's helping me fight my depression, my wardrobe was a weird disjointed piece of shit up until this year - and I'm definitely not going to slow down to four perfectly sewn couture pieces per year or anything like that, but I've got quite a few decent things now and I definitely don't need to add sixty more pieces to the mix in 2017 (or, indeed, to make sixty more pieces and throw 30-40 of them away by the end of the year because they're not right). I could stand to downsize my output a bit, both in terms of number of garments and number of blog posts. As a companion to this...

2. I will sew a greater variety of more complicated things.

This year I made a lot of tulip skirts, Anna dresses, and pullover jersey things, which are quick and straightforward to sew. I get a lot of wear out of them and I'm not going to stop that completely, but I want to be slightly more ambitious next year. Trousers, coats, dresses with more complicated construction and seaming, to make my wardrobe a bit more varied and interesting. It'll be good for my skill level, too.

3. I will work out how to fit the shoulder/bust/underarm area.

Last year I resolved to learn how to fit properly, and instead I learned that I'm not going to become an expert in fitting within a year or two. However, I can certainly work on it, and the area I most often notice problems is the awkward underarm region. I don't have a plan for how I'll go about this yet - whether it's attempting to draft a block, trying loads of different patterns until I find one that fits perfectly, getting some lessons, futzing about randomly until things just work - but by this time next year I want to have achieved a noticeably better fit in the top half of my garments. If I can achieve a decent fit in long-sleeved woven dresses, I will be extremely pleased with myself.

4. I will try some things that might not work.

As I've said, I didn't have a functional wardrobe to speak of before this year, so making a ton of practical basics was a good idea. But now I have those, and it might be nice to occasionally experiment with patterns and silhouettes that might feasibly look ridiculous on me. A 1920s evening gown might be the literal worst thing for my shape. I might never feel comfortable leaving the house in a pair of fitted cross-back overalls. But equally, I might discover something.

5. I will try working from sources of inspiration.

I was all excited about doing this last year and then I sort of forgot about it. I want to make a specific effort to do it this year because I think the process of finding inspiration, picking out what I like about it, finding a pattern and adapting it to my needs, will do me a lot of good. I'm not going to do this all the time, but I want to have at least two or three by the end of the year, not all of which can be Miss Fisher. One of them will definitely be Miss Fisher.

6. I will trust my own experience with patterns more.

This one is related to one of my personal resolutions. I've always had a habit of prioritising other people's opinions over my own (this reviewer has the opposite opinion to me so I must have missed something fundamental, if person X doesn't like me then I must empirically suck, a stranger on the internet said everyone looks bad in this pattern therefore I must be wrong in liking the way I look in mine), and this year I'd like to stop that. So if I have a bad experience with a pattern, I'm just going to say so, rather than drowning it in "oh, it's probably silly me doing it wrong" disclaimers. This blog is clearly and obviously the personal learning experiences of a beginner and it's not going to break the internet if I say a pattern is rubbish.

7. I will work on my finishing skills.

I would say that finishing my projects nicely is the thing I'm worst at. Seam allowances, waistbands, fastenings and hems all feel less integral to a finished garment than the main construction, so I tend to rush to get it over with. This year I'd like to put a bit more time and effort into that so that a) my skills improve, b) my clothes look better and last longer, and c) I feel comfortable donating things I don't want to a charity shop rather than throwing them away.

Since it's Christmas this weekend, I'm going to take a blogging break until January. I'm spending Christmas with my family, and then Patrick and I will have to work out what we're doing for New Year - we usually go away for a few days, but having gone to the Caribbean last month we're not exactly rolling in spare cash. Going out in London on NYE is invariably horrific, so it's entirely possible that we'll just sit on the floor and drink whisky. See you next year!

Monday, 19 December 2016

2016 reviews: my least favourites

I know a lot of sewing bloggers do these end-of-year wrap up things, and I have to admit that I'm always much more interested in the failures. As much as I like to see beautiful things that people have made, sometimes I just really want to hear someone punch through the barrage of sunshine that is sewing blogger pattern reviews and say, "You know what, this was rubbish." And in the spirit of being the change I want to see, here is some stuff that was rubbish.

Sew Over It 1940s wrap dress

BLEUGH. You all know I hate this. This ill-fitting frumpy static thing upsets me on a visceral level. The second version I made was much nicer, but honestly the pattern felt like it was still in the stages of being developed and definitely wasn't worth me pining over it for two years. 

Colette Wren dress

Ugh, I felt so goddamn uncomfortable the one time I wore this out of the house. It's now a skirt that I like and get wear out of, but that doesn't excuse the dress version. I made up the Wren pattern three times, which produced one dress I really like, but I almost feel like that was blind luck and a fortunate fabric choice. I will definitely not be making this pattern again and am in the market for a better version. 

By Hand London Holly trousers

I was trying to be nice about these at the time, but I think they survived maybe three weeks after I took these photos before I threw them away. I just hated everything about them and I wish I'd used this nice stretchy suiting to make something different. They straight-up don't fit. As much as I love my Anna dress, BHL's sizing is super weird to me and I think maybe they don't intend their clothes to go on a body type like mine. 

Cropped sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

I don't know what this even was. Why did I think I'd want to wear this? This fabric looks like a skin disease. I had a strange two-week period of being interested in incredibly girly florals, and as soon as those two weeks were over I hated everything I'd made. Even setting fabric aesthetics aside, the pattern really did need sweater knit and just doesn't work in viscose jersey. It is truly awful and ugly as hell and probably my worst garment of the year. Even worse than the static travel agent dress that made my thighs look like an elephant's face. (You can't see the elephant's face? Scroll up and LOOK AGAIN.)

Cashmerette Washington dress

This one is just a bit of a WTF, to be honest. I never wore it. I think I saw one really nice version somewhere on the internet and bought it because of that, but this really wasn't the way to go about it. I do really like the fit of the bodice, though, and it's since been unpicked and is waiting for me to find another skirt to attach it to. I also might make a tartan skirt, now that I think about it. All the elements are OK, it's just a terrible dress. 

McCall's Archive Collection 7259

SO MUCH FAIL. It didn't fit, I didn't understand the instructions, it didn't look anything like the envelope photo, and everything about it was bad and discouraging and frustrating. I hope my next coat-making experience goes a little more smoothly.

Up on Thursday: resolutions!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

2016 reviews: my favourites

Review time! I had a bunch of options for post categories - favourite patterns, biggest accomplishments, stuff I learned, everything I've got rid of this year - and any or all of those could have some value. But I don't want to beat this thing to death, so I'm doing favourites, least favourites, and a 2017 resolutions post. I'm going to start with my favourites, listed chronologically so that I don't spend too much time trying to get everything in the exact right order. 

Cake Patterns Tiramisu Dress

Having said that, this Tiramisu is probably my overall favourite garment of the year. This is my go-to dress - there is nowhere I can't wear it. I've been to dance events, gin bars, family parties, swanky restaurants, hair appointments, supermarkets, and never have I been over or under dressed in this. And it's incredibly comfortable. This is the winning dress, right here. I was all set to buy a couple more patterns from Cake, but searching for reviews turned up way more negative feedback than positive, so I refrained. Shame. 

Cropped sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

From the leftovers of my Tiramisu, I made this Gertie cropped sweater which is my most-worn item of the year, without a doubt. This is in large part due to the fabric - because it's grey and black it goes with almost everything else I own, but as it's also a (simple) print it makes the outfits overall look more interesting. Finding fabric this versatile has been the main roadblock in my attempts to make more tops this year, and I need to work on that. 

By Hand London Anna dress

Admittedly I've not got much wear out of my burlesque dress, but it absolutely deserves to be on the list. Whenever I see it in my wardrobe it makes me smile. Being Amber Moon for a night made a huge difference to me, and that's at least partly down to the fact that I made the dress myself. The sewing isn't perfect - it's not even good, really, since I made it in a blind panic - but I do not care. I had an effing AMAZING time in this dress, and getting out of this dress. 

Closet Case Files Sallie jumpsuit

This was SO GREAT in the summer. Comfortable, practical, and pretty. It was just as good for lounging around in as it was for going dancing. My second attempt didn't work quite so well, but I may make another next summer and it's definitely sold me on the whole jumpsuit thing. 

Sew Over It tulip skirt

This is the tulip skirt I wore the most this year, but it's kind of a stand-in for all tulip skirts. There's really nothing more I can say - I've made eleven tulip skirts this year (not all blogged) plus used it to make two dresses, clearly I love it and it's the best. I won't be bashing them out next year like I was this year since my skirt wardrobe is now quite extensive, but I imagine it will remain my favourite thing to do with a remnant. 

By Hand London Anna/Butterick 4443 dress

This mash-up is the most expensive thing I've made (Cloud Nine barkcloth at £25 per metre - eep) and I'm so glad it was worth it. I want to keep it as a special occasion dress, but I've broken it out for weddings, anniversaries and particularly swanky dinners. I love the colour, I think the bodice and skirt work really well together, and I'm proud of having bias bound every single one of my seams. 

By Hand London Anna/random gathered skirt dress

Honestly, when I made this particular mash-up it was a bit of a bodge (since I'd been planning to make a straight Anna without realising how much I'd underestimated the fabric requirements) and I thought it might not work, but I wore it to death. If I'd had the time and fabric to make two or three more I would have, and it's at the top of my list for next summer. I much prefer to have my shoulders and legs covered in the summer because my skin is so pale, but having so much movement in the skirt from the side slit made walking feel like an event, and I loved that. Yes, I know that's a completely twattish thing to say. 

Victory Patterns Trina dress

This thing is bonkers and I love it. I wore it a lot on holiday, and as a dressing gown around the house before it got too cold, but I wouldn't rule out wearing it as a dress next year. It's not going to be a pattern I make a lot, but I really liked the way it went together and might well make another one if I can find an affordable fabric.

Cashmerette Turner dress

This one is a bit recent to be putting on a "favourites of the year" list, but I get upset when I have to put it in the wash, and that's usually a sign of a good one. I feel much less upset about winter in this dress. 

Honourable mentions to a couple of things I really enjoyed making:

Deer and Doe Centauree dress

I haven't worn this much at all, but in terms of pure sewing experience this is my favourite thing I've ever made. It was a complete joy, and frankly I will probably do it again just for the hell of it. 

Simplicity 1647 jacket (for Mum)

I got to try a lot of new techniques making this jacket, and it was really great to be able to give a vaguely accomplished piece of sewing to someone else. It's given me a bit of a taste for it, and I am now seriously considering making some quite complicated things for my fuss-pants boyfriend next year. 

Up on Monday: the fails. Everyone loves failure!

Monday, 12 December 2016

winter sewing: pyjama time

We've got a quick one today. I made a couple of pairs of pyjama bottoms for other people last year but kept putting off making any for me; partly because I couldn't find the right fabric, partly because it just wasn't very interesting. But it's now December, it's getting pretty damn cold, and though I do have trousers to wear around the house, I just feel better if I'm wearing something I made. Plus I already made a blog post promising that I would. So I bought a Sew Over It Ultimate Pyjamas kit - pattern, fabric and elastic, something I could knock up in a couple of hours.

I've made a judgement call on photos - they're coming inside until the weather is less horrible. Taking photos in the living room really isn't the issue it used to be since our living room is 50% glass and full of natural light, but after two years of living in a place I can only describe as Gloomy As Fuck, I haven't fully accepted this yet. 

This was a super quick and easy project. I made a couple of changes - flat felling the seams, omitting the ribbon bow at the front because I am not a ribbon bow woman, and changing the waistband construction. The pattern instructions tell you to sew up the waistband separately then attach it to the trousers and overlock the seam allowances on the inside, but I'm not sure why I would do that when I could attach the bottom of the waistband to the trousers, fold it over and sew it up with all the seam allowances enclosed. I am all about enclosing my seams. I wasn't intending to bother pattern matching but then it turned out that my cut pieces almost matched up, so I aligned it properly to stop any future eye-twitching. 

In terms of fit, these are comfortable but not especially loose on me. I watched the video that Sew Over It put out when they released the kits, which was all "oh, these are actually incredibly super-loose and if you don't like incredibly super-loose you might want to size down", and for my thighs that was not true. (I put them on my boyfriend for comparison/amusement, and while we have the same waist size his legs were just swimming in these, so I imagine that if you're not as exaggerated as either of us you'll be somewhere in the middle fit-wise.)

Incidentally, I'm not sure I'll bother doing the kit thing again. I did it this time because I only wanted a pair of traditional tartan PJs, but normally I don't care for having the fabric already selected for me, and also there was a lot of waste paper from the pattern. Next time I'll just buy my printer a new ink cartridge instead. 

This top isn't really a pyjama top per se. It's another Concord sweater thing, and it's my favourite. It's so soft and so easy to throw on and I'm wearing it to death. I often do wear it with these pyjama bottoms around the house, but when I change to go out I often put the jumper straight back on. I didn't want to give it its own post, even though I love it, because I have absolutely nothing new to say about it. I made it exactly the same way as my leaf version, but it's somewhat looser because this knit is stretchier, and I didn't put a band on the bottom.

Added bonus of bringing the photography indoors: doing photoshoots sitting down. Also it means you get to see that our Christmas tree is currently a coffee plant with some tinsel on it. We tried decorating him properly last year, but he wasn't strong enough for it and got all upset and droopy. Welcome to life in our house. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Turner round, bright eyes


I've been trying to find a long-sleeved knit dress pattern for a while now. I have the Wren and the Moneta, both of which can be long-sleeved, but neither of them were right. The Wren seems to need extremely specific fabric to work well for me, and while I like and wear my Moneta, it's not quite enough to make me want any more of them. When the Cashmerette Turner pattern was released I bought it more or less immediately; I would have preferred it to have another neckline option but I was swayed by the built-in FBA.

This fabric is another one from The Textile Centre. It's a light sweater knit-type fabric and it's super soft. Also it was on sale for £2 per metre, and you can't knock that. I got the whole dress out of two metres, including the lining (though I did have to piece that together rather than cutting it on the fold).

The dress was super easy to put together. I cut it out one evening and made it up in a couple of hours the next morning. The bodice is lined, which means no awkward neckline finishing and makes it warmer for winter, and the skirt has a bit of volume without any gathering at the waist. I like both these things.

I really like the fit in the bodice. Doing an FBA on a knit bodice always seems like more trouble than it's worth (unless it's a surplice or some such), so I never do, but this fits so much better. It's been a while since I've worn anything this low cut and while I don't hate it, I am still occasionally surprised by the visible cleavage when I look down. However, for future versions I will definitely lengthen the bodice by an inch or two. This is SUPER short and I don't quite like the way it makes the skirt hang. That's an easy fix, though.

This is my new favourite winter dress for sure. I was all set to make another one immediately afterwards, and sitting all cut out and ready on my sewing table is a blue version which barely stretches at all and will be unpleasantly constricting if I ever try to make it into a dress. Hmph. But another version is definitely coming soon. Two more of these and that's winter sorted. 

Still not doing so well at pretending it's not balls cold. I might have to put a temporary stop to outdoor photos.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Concord pun goes here

(Couldn't immediately think of a pun, so generic pun placeholder it is. Sorry.)

I never thought I'd find myself paying £14 for a T-shirt pattern, but here we are.

When the Concord was first released, I took one look at it, scoffed quietly to myself," said "£14? I don't even spend that on actual T-shirts" and closed the tab. But then I started to see people (people who are often quite critical, at that) saying that they'd made it and it was the best T-shirt pattern they'd ever tried. I'd been wondering about my extreme lack of tops and whether the lack of a decent base was a problem. Sure, I could futz about with my Gertie cropped sweater pattern until it was a perfect fit, but a) that would take ages because I'm not very good at this yet, and b) I would probably end up not bothering because too much hassle. Over the course of a month or so, the prospect of spending £14 on a decent knit block that I could modify into other things seemed less and less outrageous until I finally gave in and bought it.

I used some fuchsia jersey that I bought on Goldhawk Road a little while ago. It was a massive pain in the bum to cut, which is especially irritating as I bought it in four different colours. It was also way narrower than any other jersey I've ever bought - it didn't occur to me to check because I've never seen jersey less than 140cm wide - so I don't have enough of the other three to make the things I was planning, and I am absolutely not going to buy any more of this. Ugh. I'll try to work something out.

My plan was to make the long-sleeved version, but as this jersey was unexpectedly super narrow I could only get the short sleeves out of it. Since the main purpose of this first one was to get a sense of the sizing and what else I could do with it, that didn't bother me too much. In most patterns I've made with a top part the necklines have been too wide and the backs have been too baggy, so I brought the neckline in a bit at the shoulder and took a wedge out at the upper back when cutting out. I cut the 12 E/F cup, which is my usual Cashmerette size. I was really short on fabric so the sleeves are hemmed rather than cuffed.

Cashmerette continues to produce some of the most user-friendly patterns I've ever worked with. They just... work. I knocked this up in about an hour while feeling sick, and it was fine. I made the cropped version, which is slightly longer than I expected, but then I am incredibly short in the waist. For use as a block, I'll need to shorten it a bit for the inevitable cropped sweaters that will be coming your way very soon. I'm so dull, I'm sorry. I keep looking for more interesting tops but I almost never see ones I would actually wear.

(Also tulip skirt, made it, is crepe, has orange zip, like it, made three at once because knee-length tulip skirts and black tights doesn't look right for autumn/winter, more to come, sorry about that also, won't have their own posts I promise.)

Shortly afterwards, I decided to have a go at adapting the pattern into a sweater. 

This fabric is a faux angora knit from The Textile Centre, which I recently discovered and is one of my new favourite places. I love browsing online but the fabric is usually much more expensive at places which offer that, so it's nice to be able to get stuff at Walthamstow Market prices without always having to drag myself up to Walthamstow. And they do sweater knit-type stuff, which I am currently obsessed with but can't find very much of.

Using a wider width fabric it was easy to get a long-sleeved top out of 1m of fabric, even with accidentally cutting the back piece the wrong way initially (though thanks to that I did end up having to make the sleeves a couple of inches shorter). I cut the high neck bodice, sized up and went up a cup size to give me room to wear things underneath, and cut a band for the waist as well as the neck and sleeves. It went together as easily as the T-shirt, though in future I'll take a bit more out of the back neckline and neckband as it has a tendency to stand slightly away from my body.

I am going to talk about this tulip skirt for a minute. This was what I planned for my third ever tulip skirt back in March - bright red stretch cotton, contrast pockets, added lining. I got it almost finished but then discovered it didn't fit, and I have never been able to work out why. All my other skirts have been fine, but the zip just would not close on that one. I got super frustrated, took it apart, made it up with a smaller seam allowance, still too small, got extra frustrated and threw it away. I picked up a piece of similar if not identical red stretch cotton in a remnant bin a little while ago, repurposed some lilac/mushroom polycotton from my stash into a lining, and my red skirt is finally a reality. Also it goes really nicely with this top.

My wardrobe has been suffering from a huge overdose of grey and black tops, so this is exactly what it needs. I hate winter slightly less in this jumper. I will make more colourful jumpers when I can find the right fabric (damn you, pretty coloured but rubbish jersey sitting in my stash). The search is on.

(I tried my best to look like I was okay standing outside without a coat in this bastard cold weather we're having, but it seems my best isn't good enough. Sorry about the misery faces.)

Thursday, 1 December 2016

sewing plans: winter 2016/17

I didn't do a project plan at the beginning of November. I sat down to write it and had a bit of a freak out - I wouldn't be able to start any sewing til mid-November due to holiday, I had to make at least two Christmas presents, the list of things I wanted/needed to make for myself was growing at an alarming rate, I still hadn't made the trousers from my autumn plan, I wanted to make a coat which seemed like a way bigger project than I had time for, and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. After mildly stressing about it for a few days, I decided to restructure my plans and do one per season instead.

So here is my winter plan. To celebrate, we're switching gif families:

1. A winter coat

I'll make clear at the outset that this may or may not happen. I am in genuine need of a big winter coat and was all set to make a Leanne Marshall for Simplicity pattern with a massive collar that turned into a hood. I was very excited about it. But then I stumbled across a review, which led to more reviews, which led to the very sad conclusion that the collar/hood thing just looks terrible in every single real version I've seen. I tried looking for other patterns and I can't find a single one that I like. I want something a bit different, preferably with a hood, at least knee length, which isn't going to take twenty-eight miles of fabric. Such a thing does not seem to exist. But if I can find fabric and pattern, I will be prioritising this.

2. A colour blocked skirt

Yes, I am planning to make a skirt that isn't a tulip skirt. I can't really believe it either. I bought two different colours of suedette on Goldhawk Road - one aubergine, one a mink colour - and I think they'll work well together on a skirt. I'm not 100% sure what pattern to use yet; ideally I'd like to find one which has colour block options already, but if not I might dig out my Hollyburn pattern and see if I can get anything out of that.

3. A little black dress

A couple of months ago I bought some kind of fake silk-type fabric from Sew Over It, for the sole reason that it had a large, sparse floral print. It's the only kind of floral I really like and it seems impossible to find, so I snapped up two metres immediately. I want to make a dress for wearing to nice dinners and Christmas parties and such, and my plan - though it might change - is to go back to Butterick 4443 and try that again, possibly with cap or flutter sleeves.

4. A jersey day dress

I've made a couple of these in November and will be posting about them soon, but what I'd really like to do now is make a slightly more complicated one. I have some mottled grey ribbed sweater knit and I'd like to try Vogue 8685 - the long sleeved version with the fuller skirt. Historically I've found Vogue patterns a bit overwhelming and backed out of making them, but I've accumulated several and I AM going to do it this time, dammit.

5. Some pyjamas

It is cold and I really could do with some warmer bedclothes. I'm planning to make some pyjama bottoms from navy and green check, and a top to go with it (though I haven't decided on pattern or fabric for that yet). Again, something I keep meaning to do and then forgetting about, so I'm writing it down this time and making it official.

I will probably be doing various end-of-year review posts this month, because a) it's the time for it and b) you know me, I love that stuff. Reviews and plans and analysis and project photos with incongruous Santa hats ahoy!