Tuesday 31 January 2017

fake wrap fun times

So last week was a bit shit and I didn't post anything. Not because I didn't have anything to post; I had several. I photographed three dresses then wasn't prepared to post any of them because I couldn't deal with the way any of the photos looked. Reasons ranged from "this looks nice in person but photographs badly" to "I don't think I can pull off this much orange" to "...I don't even know, it's fine, but I don't like it." I will, at some point, post all of them, but with my mental health being the way it currently is I had a minor crisis and decided everything was terrible and had to be talked through making a different dress and now I'm posting on a Tuesday afternoon like a weirdo. But anyway. Here is a dress I just finished that I actually like.

This is Simplicity Amazing Fit 1653, which I got free with a sewing magazine. Or more accurately, this is a pattern I saw and liked which happened to come attached to a magazine I'm never going to read. It seemed like the perfect thing - not tight but not remotely floofy, a wrap detail which would satisfy my current obsession with such things without the issue of wrap skirts on windy days, versatile enough to wear pretty much anywhere, including dance socials.

Pictured: Me being extremely elegant and thus very much in demand at dance socials, where nobody thinks I'm a huge dork. 

I got this sweater knit in Walthamstow Market. I asked for two and a half metres, and as she rolled it out, it became apparent that someone had cut two large circles set a fair distance apart smack in the middle of the fabric. So she measured what I'd asked for from the intact fabric and offered me that plus the bit with the holes for £7, which I took. I managed to cut this dress, a jumper and a cardigan from that £7 worth of fabric, which may be my best value to date. (Photos of these will also be forthcoming, as the cardigan especially is a really nice pattern, but the last thing I want to do right now is photograph myself in a giant grey cardigan. Give me time.)

The wrap is meant to be the other way round, but I cut it out backwards because I wasn't paying attention. It doesn't bother me too much.

Since one of the main selling points of the pattern is that it tells you how to fit it, the instructions call for a lot of tacking stitches, trying things on, moving things around and leaving things unstitched while you fit. I did all this, tried it on and it seemed to fit perfectly, which was both gratifying and slightly annoying. Then I tried to close up the underarm seam and everything went wrong. It wasn't working at all, the whole fit was suddenly off, weird bits of fabric were poking out everywhere. I found myself Googling things like "is it possible to have disproportionately fat armpits" before I realised that the dress had raglan sleeves and didn't close up that way. I went to bed that night feeling somewhat sheepish.

The pattern allows for an optional back zip (which obviously I wasn't going to use) and also calls for a package of double fold bias binding for the neckline. I'm not sure if using woven bias binding on knit necklines is a thing that people do and I'm just a beginner who doesn't know about these things, but I didn't want to use woven bias binding on my knit neckline, so I just cut a couple of strips of jersey and used them as facings. Next time I make this dress I'll make them a bit shorter - the front gapes a bit when I sit down. I went for short sleeves even though long ones would have made the dress more versatile for this weather, because I didn't want to be wearing that much of this mid-grey colour. The next one I make will probably be leopard print, and I haven't decided which sleeves would be best for that yet.

All in all, I'm feeling somewhat better about things now and can hopefully get back into a proper posting schedule (I know I don't strictly need a posting schedule, but it helps me stay on top of things). Coming next: a bunch more wrap things, probably. I bought another wrap top pattern to try based on recommendations in my last post, and also some incredibly 70s fabric which is demanding to be a wrap dress. I'll try not to get too repetitive, promise.

(New things in our house: a cinnamon tree ordered off the internet which turned out to be a cinnamon twig, which we have planted in a giant pot anyway and named Miguel, and also a portable outdoor pizza oven which required my accident-prone beardy boyfriend to buy a full-on plumber's blowtorch. So far he's managed not to set fire to anything except the wood chips and one of the pizzas, but this cannot last.)

Monday 16 January 2017

Butterick 6285, or nobody likes boob webbing

So, I can tell you right now (if the title didn't give it away) that this project was not a success. I knew it wasn't going to be a success about twenty minutes into sewing it up and I contemplated just throwing it out there and then without wasting any more of my time. But there aren't many reviews of this pattern that I could find, so I thought it would be worthwhile to get it finished and contribute my thoughts, even if I throw it away as soon as the post goes up. I didn't hem the sleeves, though, because I'm never going to wear it and who cares.

Looks OK, right? WRONG. 

IMMENSE BOOB WEBBING. Also, the fact that I have voluntarily put this completely horrendous photo on the internet should be proof enough of my commitment to truth in all its forms. 

Butterick 6285 is one of the Gertie patterns, which I haven't tried before (outside of the Vintage Casual book, which is a different kettle of aardvarks). The main body of the top is made from a single pattern piece, duplicated to make the left and right sides of the top, so this one piece forms the front, the back, and the sleeve. It's possible that on women without G cups, this construction does not result in boobweb, and I have seen pictures in other reviews that would indicate as such, though I think all the photos I've seen have been more Pose One than Pose Two.  

The fit on me altogether is very strange: I made a 16 and it's big round the chest, really tight round the arms (and the top is fully lined, which makes it worse), and flapping loose at the waist. Well, at the ribcage, if we're being honest; this top is SUPER short. Because of the construction, I'm not quite sure how you alter for a longer length. This is almost a shrug in the back, and every review I've read talks about a similar problem.

If I pull down hard on the back, I can almost get it to reach my natural waist. Almost. For picture-taking purposes the top was really hard to pair with anything I own; it's too short to wear with even a high-waisted skirt, too tight to accommodate any kind of sleeve, and looks weird if you can see the dress fabric at the neckline. This is literally the only dress I have that works. 

I like that this top has interesting construction. I'm a nerd, I think that's cool. But I also don't see what purpose it serves here. Yes, there's no shoulder seam, but is there any benefit to having no shoulder seam? Is it to allow for especially tight grown-on sleeves? Why? Were people asking for that? Maybe it's just so that the pattern will be different from standard wrap tops and again, I can appreciate that. It's just that I would have preferred a less interesting pattern that didn't give me boobweb. Picky, picky, picky.

So, to sum up, this a bad top and I don't like it. I still really want a wrap top, though. I want something that reaches my waist, can be used as a layering piece and has a shoulder seam instead of immense boob webbing. Since I seem to have acquired some actual readers over the last month or so, I'll try asking: has anyone used a wrap top pattern that they liked and would be prepared to recommend?

Monday 9 January 2017

winter sewing: Vogue 9132

For most of last year I kept meaning to make something that wasn't a tulip skirt, but I would panic about wasting fabric and another tulip skirt would somehow mysteriously appear in my wardrobe. After I made number eleven I had to acknowledge that it was getting a bit stupid, and I bought two complementary colours of suedette with the express purpose of making a colour-blocked skirt. I could make a colour-blocked tulip skirt, but I can guarantee you that I won't.

My original thought was to see if I could do something with the Sewaholic Hollyburn, but I'm not 100% sure that's my shape and I didn't want to spend ages futzing about with the pattern only to decide it was too much skirt and I wouldn't wear it. At some point this year I will try the pattern one more time (in something that isn't way too heavy or way too light like my first two attempts), but it wasn't right for this. I ended up buying Vogue 9132 on three grounds: it was a good non-floofy shape, it was easy to colour block, and it would probably be decent evidence that Vogue patterns aren't as hard to make as I think they are.

Here it is! I really like it. This is the first skirt without a waistband that I've liked, probably because it's lined and doesn't have any stupid flappy facings. The lining stays nicely on the inside at all times, the finish is good, and the construction was pretty straightforward. There are a couple of slightly awkward curves, but nothing beyond the wit of The Gnome. Note to self: Vogue Patterns are not that hard. No, you didn't know what to do with them when you first bought a couple because they said "Easy Options" on the packet (hahahahaha), but that was literally a year and a half ago and none of these things are scary anymore.

The skirt takes barely any fabric. I bought a metre of each colour and I still have most of the lighter and a fair amount of the darker left over. I could definitely make another one of these skirts with the colours reversed were I so inclined (I'm not, but still). I had some lining in my stash that matched the light colour almost perfectly, and I was feeling very smug about this until I tried to cut it out and realised I didn't have enough. The lining is now a not entirely fetching combination of light mauve and incredibly bright turquoise, because that's the only other thing I could find. Sure, I could have waited and gone shopping for something that matched beautifully, but I didn't, because of course I didn't.

I did take inside-out pictures, but I took them on my phone which then died for the second time in two months and has been sent back to the good people at Virgin Mobile who claimed they fixed it last time. So no lining pictures. Sigh. Honestly, you're not missing much; the colours are, as you might imagine, weird-looking, and I haven't yet got over my tendency to do massive hems on linings because I'm paranoid it'll be visible when I walk.

I used a regular zip in this skirt, which felt like a huge novelty. I haven't used a regular zip in a skirt or dress since I learned how to put in a concealed zip, and I probably ought to use them occasionally seeing as I have a giant bag of them in the cupboard.

(Also, yes, the back of this skirt is quite wrinkly. Such things happen when you spend nearly an hour on a bus.)

I really like the shape of this skirt and I'm sure I'll make more of them. The pattern comes with another view that looks basically like this one would if you wore it with the side seam at the front, but I'm less keen on that. I'm tempted to have a go at making one up in a single colour to see if that works; either it'll look like interesting detail or it'll just look a bit weird, and I'm honestly not sure which.

To finish, here is me giving a really haughty look to my footstool for some reason:

How dare you, footstool. This is my shot.

Monday 2 January 2017

the Heather dress, and other Christmas presents

Happy New Year to everyone! Let's hope 2017 has slightly less of a stench of death on it. I was going to write a long rambling paragraph about mortality and so forth (in the midst of all the celebrity deaths that happened last week a friend of mine died very unexpectedly, so it's been on my mind rather a lot), but I decided against it. This is not the place for that. This is the place for tulip skirts and mild sarcasm, and I'm all out of tulip skirts. (What? Don't write posts at 1am, Jen.)

This year I made my family's Christmas presents, which wasn't my initial intention. I'd only planned to make something for my dad, and that was because he made a direct request. He has literally never asked me for anything except names of young famous people to put in his charity quizzes and the reason why X piece of technology is doing Y weird thing, so I thought he ought to get it. Then I happened to walk past some fabric which seemed to have been designed for my mother, so I worked that into my plans, and then three days before Christmas I found myself sewing up something for my brother as well. This is what's known as Too Much Pressure.

For my mum, I made the Sew Over It Heather dress. I'd bought the pattern for myself during a sale, even though I wasn't completely sure it would suit me, and I made it up about a month ago. When I tried it on, I thought, "Wow, that's huge." I find Sew Over It patterns are usually true to size and don't have secret extra ease built in, so I was a bit confused. I took it in substantially at the sides and made a dart in the back neck, which improved things a bit, but it still wasn't right. I decided to have another go after seeing the fabric for Mum because it was a perfect match and this style is exactly the sort of thing she likes. When I got the pattern out again I realised I hadn't finished cutting out the centre back piece and had been using the edge of the paper rather than the edge of the pattern to cut out, adding several extraneous inches to the back. I have NO IDEA why I didn't spot that, but I felt exceptionally stupid for some time afterwards.

Here's my version. See how wide that back panel is? Yeah, it's not meant to do that. I don't have a photo of the back before I took it in, but I can assure you that it was hilarious. When I was adjusting things I also shortened it into a mini because the knee-length version (on me, at least) was a direct train to Frump Central. Much as this is still not quite right, I've been quite happily wearing it anyway. I'm wearing it now. It's ridiculously comfortable.

Version number two, thankfully, looked much more like it was supposed to. Apologies for the impending drop in photo quality - I only had my phone with me and we were two bottles of prosecco down already.

Genuine reaction shot right here. Without an unnecessary four inches in the back panel, it fits very nicely (she was, as you can see, quite surprised about this, even though we've been periodically borrowing clothes from each other since my Goth phase ended and I have a pretty good idea of how things will fit on her now).

I was definitely going to try making another version for myself until I saw this on Mum, and now I'm not so sure. This is so clearly her dress. This her length, her neckline, her fit. It has pockets, which she loves, but not at the hips, which she hates. I still might try it, but it's never going to suit me as well as it suits her.

This year I also made her something else (more a favour than a present). Every year she likes to wear a Santa jacket and trousers on Christmas Day, because why not. Last year the trousers suffered an unfortunate splitting incident and she asked me to make her a replacement pair, preferably not out of paper thin felt this time.

Stylish, I'm sure you'll agree. These were very simple - I traced round a pair of pyjamas for the pattern, made a separate waistband and constructed them in exactly the same way as the pyjamas I made for myself last month. They're not beautifully fitted, but they're soft and elasticated and festive, which is all they have to be.

My brother's last-minute homemade present was a similarly-constructed pair of pyjama bottoms. We were in town shopping, and I got him to come into Fabric Land with me to pick up some haberdashery bits. While we were in there, we walked past this:

LOOK AT THAT. That is the most gloriously awful fabric I've ever seen. They've had it in stock for over a year, in about eight different colours, all of which spell "Elvis" as "Elivs". ELIVS. It's so utterly shitty that it never fails to make me smile.

Me: Look at that. ELIVS. I wanted to make you pyjamas out of this last year, but Mum said that was a silly idea and I should get fabric that feels nicer.
Brother: [eyes widening] I would LOVE to have pyjamas made out of that!
Me: [picks up roll] Right then.
Brother: I'm so happy this is happening.

And it did.

Yes, they are ugly as all hell (and part of a truly ridiculous ensemble - the camera cuts it off but he actually has four hats on), but he has a deep-seated love for terrible things and he's happy with them. Construction was the same again, except that I had to piece together the lower legs because the fabric was much narrower than I thought. I'm calling it a seam detail.

And finally, my dad. My dad has historically been a huge pain to buy presents for because he doesn't really want anything. He says, "Woo, thanks" and puts everything on a shelf forever. Turning him into a whisky person has helped, but I can't just buy him whisky for every occasion here on out because I prefer my father to come with a functioning liver. So I set myself the mission of making the requested black silk bow tie, which was a truly gigantic pain in the bum. Actually sewing it was fine (I had to go carefully so the silk wouldn't pucker, but it's not like there's a lot to sew), but making it look like an actual bow tie instead of the deflated balloon thing you get when you turn it the right way out took me over a week. Pressing, pressing again, leaving it under a series of heavy books, pressing some more, shaking my fist at it, a bit more pressing, a couple of days' break and repeat from the beginning. It was fiddly and time consuming and I wasn't even sure that what I ended up with would be functional.

These photos are the worst, but that is a bow tie that functions as a bow tie and I am incredibly pleased with myself. I did that! Somehow.

I also thought I'd share something I rediscovered recently. At the end of 2014, my incredibly talented artist friend Linzie asked people for their New Year's resolutions so she could draw them. I responded, and she drew mine:

I was reminded of this because she's now made some of them into a calendar, which one can purchase if one desires to do so. This one isn't in there. Apparently it's too specific. However, I am considering asking if I can buy a print of it to hang above my sewing machine.