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. 

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