Monday 29 May 2017

spring sewing: a red Named Olivia, and a bonus 70s version

So this is the only other thing from my spring plan that I actually managed to do, and it's really not very spring-like at all. It's been a difficult few months; I've been ill, I didn't cope with bereavement well and nothing's been going to plan. The fact that I managed to keep sewing and making things is quite an achievement, even if I didn't make what I thought I was going to make. Now that a bit of time has passed, I have a much better doctor and a more encouraging treatment plan, I think things are starting to move in the right direction again. Yay.

With that out of the way, here's what my red fabric became.

I completely thought I was going to make a summer dress, but instead this happened. Two main reasons: one, this fabric is actually quite snuggly, and there's a very limited temperature window to wear snuggly summer dresses; and two, I love this fabric so much and didn't want to waste it on something I wasn't sure was going to work. I decided to make another Named Olivia, because after having a minor crisis about my first one, it's now my absolute favourite dress and I wear it as often as I can get away with. So I wanted more. 

This fabric is effing BEAUTIFUL. It's so difficult to find the bright saturated colours I like, and this is not only a perfect shade of red, it's also a secret rainbow. You see red first, then purple and yellow, but if you look closely you can also see tiny amounts of bright blue and bright green. I could just stare at it forever. 

Construction was more or less the same as last time, except the front is actually the right way round because I was paying attention. I shortened it a little bit from the original length because it hits at a funny place on my leg, but not as much as last time. I really didn't want to cut any of this fabric off. 

In conclusion, I love it and this was definitely the right thing to make. It's currently too warm to wear it, but given that this is England, that's not going to last too long. A few degrees cooler and I think I'll be able to wear this pretty much anywhere. 

I was so excited about the idea of making a wrap dress when I first started dressmaking. My second ever post on this blog was about how much I wanted ALL THE WRAP DRESSES but was terrified of jersey (oh, Past Jen. You had much to learn, but not in the way you thought you did), then I learned how to sew knits and... really didn't make very many wrap dresses. I've wondered about this on and off, because both my Ultimate Wrap Dress and my Appleton are still in my wardrobe and get worn semi-regularly, and yet I've never been inspired to make more. Turns out it's because the patterns aren't quite right. Who'd have thought? For everyday wear I don't want a dress where I have to keep checking on my cleavage or wear a vest top underneath (I literally cannot wear the Sew Over It dress without a top underneath; it doesn't stop me because I still love it, but it doesn't encourage me to make another one). The Olivia feels like my dress; the wrap is high but not frumpy, the shape is right, the skirt feels secure, and it has pockets. I have found the elusive TNT.

The red dress was actually my third Olivia; to save us a whole other post saying basically the same things, here's the second one. 

This jersey is another one that turned up in a package from The Textile Centre that I'd ordered at stupid o'clock in the morning. I didn't have any plans for it, and I only worked out what to do with it once I'd made my leopard print dress and discovered I really liked the 70s vibe (I may have just bought another four metres of that leopard fabric. I LOVE IT). 70s print wrap dress? Why not?

This is a bit muted for my normal style and I won't wear it as much as the other two, but I do think it's cute. It's definitely the best thing I could have done with this fabric. Sometimes it's nice to wear something that has a bit of a different vibe; it reminds me that I'm not locked into a look and can try out anything that takes my fancy. 

This will not be my last Olivia - I fully intend to live in them come the autumn - but I'll try not to bore you by repeating myself too much.

One day I will be able to smile naturally in a photo. One day. 

Thursday 25 May 2017

sewing plans: summer 2017

My last seasonal plan didn't work very well, so I'm going to try to be a little more realistic with this one. These are, for the most part, things I have the fabrics and patterns for and have been thinking about making for a while. I will make more than this, obviously, but everything else will depend on finding the right fabric and being able to pair it with a pattern. Right now I only want to commit to things I know I can do. Otherwise I'd be planning this:

(I love Violet Chachki.)

1. Birthday presents

My mother has a significant birthday in August, and she wants me to make her two dresses. For the first one, she's given me some fabric (a beige geometric cotton lawn) and asked for an unfussy summer shift dress. I know literally nothing about shift dress patterns, so it's going to take some experimenting. Can anyone recommend a shift dress for a curvy woman?

Mum also wants a Kielo after trying mine on. I've agreed to make both dresses under the proviso that I get to pick the colour for the Kielo. When she picks fabric she tends to default to grey and beige, and I want to put her in burnt orange or olive green, both of which look amazing on her. 

2. A grey marl T-shirt style maxi dress

My priority project for myself this summer is to recreate a dress I saw a woman wearing on the Tube about six years ago. I spent years looking for something similar in the shops, and it just occurred to me that I can make it myself now. It was a super simple dress with no tricky bits, so I'm going to try making the Concord into a maxi dress with a gathered skirt.

3. A light jacket

During Me Made May I've been wearing the hell out of my Lupin. Dark green goes with more of my things than I'd have thought, but not everything, so I want to make another short jacket (whether another Lupin or a new pattern I'm not sure) in either navy blue or a light minky-mauve colour. Or both, if I have the time and the inclination.

4. A denim dress

I'd like to continue experimenting with patterns and styles that I like the look of but am unsure whether or not they'll suit me. With that in mind, I'm going to try making the Papercut Patterns Yoyo dress, which I've only seen on very thin women so far. I'm expecting to either think it's amazing or hate it with the fire of a thousand suns, so I've set my expectations to low and am prepared to have spent £10 and a few hours on something I don't like in the name of science.

Other things that might happen if I can find the fabric/pattern/fabric and pattern: black or polka dot pedal pushers, orange Flint shorts, a Sew Over It Eve dress, and a Named Anneli dress. Also probably some short-sleeved T-shirts if I do find myself making and wearing shorts all the time. That's actually quite a lot of things. I'm going to stop there. 

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Megan Nielsen Flint, or experimenting with trousers

In terms of woven garments, so far this year I've made a coat (which went well), a skirt (which seemed like a great idea but in practice I don't actually like), and part of a dress (which was a disaster and is now sitting waiting for me to work out if I can save it). Everything else has been jersey dresses and a couple of tops. Since that is what I tend to wear most often it's not a problem, but it has left me feeling like I'm in a bit of a rut. So it was time to mix things up a bit.

These are the Flint trousers by Megan Nielsen, a pattern I loved as soon as I saw it. When she had a 20% off sale I ordered it directly from her website, reasoning that even with shipping it was still slightly cheaper... and then I got charged £12 customs, making this the most expensive pattern I've ever bought. Sigh. I don't know how common the customs thing is (I got charged the one time I ordered Decades of Style patterns too, though my boyfriend insists that low-value items like this aren't meant to be subject to customs charges), but it can't have helped that the pattern shipped out in a massive box packed with cardboard bubble wrap type stuff. "Hmmm, a box. Looks valuable. Better charge for it."

Since my trouser-making experience is limited, I wanted to make a toile first.

Here is my toile, made of the worst fabric in the entire world. Try as I might I could not capture its full hideousness on camera, but please be assured that it looks MUCH worse than this in real life. The place I ordered it from called it "terracotta", which I presume is a typo for "paper church decorations constructed by Brownie Guides for the harvest festival service". I used to be that Brownie Guide, and these shorts give me flashbacks. There are so many colours this could be that I would like - burnt orange, mustard, tan, the terracotta I thought I'd ordered - but instead I have this. Pumpkin sugar paper from the back of the art cupboard realness. It's also horrible fabric - scratchy and stiff, yet also wrinkles as soon as it senses you looking at it. It is the very worst of all linen qualities. I wore them for a day to make sure all was OK with the fit, and then I threw them away.

Having got over the mild fabric trauma, I decided to move on to a proper pair of trousers. The pattern is for shorts and cropped trousers, but my wardrobe can't really accommodate wide-leg cropped trousers right now, so I lengthened them (and graded them out slightly, because too much hip for the size range). This fabric is a really soft suiting I bought at Walthamstow Market - yes, it's black, which is super hard to photograph, but also I do actually need some black basics and I'm going to put a bit of effort into making them over the next several months. I've tried to lighten the pictures so the details aren't completely obscured.

The pattern is well-drafted, quite simple, and really rewarding. Because they're loose the pain of fitting trousers is much reduced (I'm still planning on a properly fitting pair but I am having body image issues right now and can't face it), and they can easily be made up in an afternoon. And the design is fantastic - it works as a basic item in a normal wardrobe, but it's also detailed and different. The waistband wraps over at the left side, and the left pocket is half-open to allow you to get them on. There's an internal button (or press stud, in my case) holding them closed, and then they tie together at the top of the pocket. It's stuff like this that makes me not resent making basics, and I need more patterns like this in my life.

I almost never wear trousers these days, so I'm going to see how much wear I get out of these before I decide if I make another pair. I hope I do, because I enjoyed the process of making them so much that the eventual outcome was almost beside the point. It was one "oh, that's cool!" after another. I do really like these, though, and I think they'll be useful. I can wear them at the weekend without feeling like I'm dressed for temping, but equally I could wear them to work and they wouldn't look weird or out of place.

One thing I would like to do is remake my toile. A pair of orange shorts would actually be a great addition to my wardrobe if I could find orange shorts-appropriate fabric that didn't upset me down to my very soul. My new mission will be to find some, and banish the memory of that harvest festival tablecloth stuff for ever and ever. It's possible I'm being a touch dramatic, but it's really nasty fabric, OK?

But these I like. Applause to Megan Nielsen! And now back to your regularly scheduled dresses. 

Monday 15 May 2017

Kielo part 2, and a bonus Concord

I wasn't intending to make another Kielo so soon after my first one, but the three metres of stripy Fabric Land jersey sitting in my stash started looking at me, and when fabric tells me what it wants to be instead of making me guess, I just roll with it. 

Kielo the second, very similar to Kielo the first. This one has the extra-special addition of secret pockets, an idea I stole from Catherine Daze. Every time I don't put pockets in a dress or skirt I regret it, and to be able to have them in a dress like this is amazing. I made the pockets big enough to fit my phone and not much else, and that's as much as I need. The first time I wore this outside was to an interactive theatre production of Alice in Wonderland, and having secret pockets to squirrel away all the random shit they give you on the way round was a blessing. (Which reminds me, the 6 of Spades is still in one of the pockets and needs to be removed before I wash it.)

HAHAHA what is this face, Jen. This is where the pockets are, as demonstrated by my phone. 

Pattern matching is slightly askew on the back bodice, but the skirt lines up pretty well. 

I did bias facing instead of bands on the neck and armholes this time, and that worked much better. The fabric is less annoying to work with than the green jersey was, so the twin needle stitching looks better too (though not good enough for me to want to share a close-up. I WILL master you, various types of topstitching). 

This dress is distinctive enough that I don't really want to make one in every colour, so unless we have a crazy hot summer and I want to be in maxi dresses all the time, I probably won't make any more for myself. I am going to make another for my mum, who has requested I make her one for her birthday this year (by which I mean I showed her a picture and she said "Ah, I'll have one of those then" then bought fabric for an entirely different dress so now I'm making her two birthday dresses. She is literally the only person in the world who is allowed to do this.)

I had a bit of leftover fabric, and I decided to try making another Concord. I'm glad I did; this is the best-fitting one I've made so far. 

The fabric was extra wide, so I managed to squeeze this out of a half-metre remnant. Between the Concord for jersey and the tulip skirt for wovens, I barely have any remnants at all anymore. Which is nice, because it was getting to the point where I was hoarding awkwardly-sized remnants that I didn't want to throw out, sitting on top of them in a cave like some sort of fabric dragon. I made a 14 G/H instead of a 12 for this one, because I don't like my T-shirt tops as close-fitting as I like my sweater knit. There's not much else to say about this; it's a Concord, I like it, I will make more Concords.

I'm unsure whether this counts towards my "tops that aren't grey or black" goal. On the one hand, it's still half black. On the other, it will introduce a bit of lightness to my outfits and I will definitely feel less like a secretary wearing this than I do wearing a black skirt with a grey top or vice versa. And it's already proving incredibly useful for Me Made May (I'm not doing roundups here this time, though I will do some kind of post at the end. My outfits are on Instagram @the_slapdash if you're not following me and would like to). Eh, we'll call it a pass on the basis that I do have two actual bright tops cut out and waiting for me to sew them up this week so I'm not wussing out of colour altogether. 

Up next: I'm not sure. If I can get my trousers done by next week, that's what it'll be. If not, probably more wrap dresses. Not even sorry. 

Thursday 4 May 2017

spring sewing: a vaguely spring-like dress, two ways

So it's probably fair to say at this point that most of the things in my spring plan aren't getting made. I've not been in the right frame of mind to start an enormous time-suck project, and anything requiring me to buy new fabric has been shunted to the back of the queue. It's not that I haven't been making things; I have. But I've been making jersey dresses with fabric I already own, and here are two of them:

It's a white dress. This hasn't happened since primary school.

My original intention was to make the fuller-skirted version of Vogue 8972, and I got as far as cutting the pattern out before I realised just how flouncy the skirt was. If I'd tried to make that in white I fear I would have awoken Teen Goth Jen from her slumber and then I'd have to spend the next eight months putting flowing black lace sleeves on everything to calm her down again. Which I think we can all do without. I'd still like to try V8972, but it's going to need to wait for a different fabric.

The pattern I ended up using for dress #1 is Vogue 8724, which I bought online after seeing a ton of positive reviews on the site (not so common an occurrence). It's a mock-wrap bust with overlapping pleats at centre front and back princess seams, and comes with cup size options (YAY). The fabric is white ponte from John Lewis that my mother gave me for my birthday. It's SO soft I would happily just sit there and stroke it, but apparently people don't like it when you do that. Of course, they don't like it when you make it into a dress and then sit there and stroke your thighs either, but hey.

I knocked this up in a couple of hours and I really like it. The fit is great. The fit on the back is PERFECT and the only change I had to make to the front was to wrap the bust panels over a little further for modesty's sake. I sewed the panels together at the front along the neckline hem to guard against gapping, which seems to have worked pretty well and doesn't make any noticeable difference to the overall look of the thing. 

The pattern is a yay, and I recommend it if you like the style. After a couple of wears I even got used to the extreme white. My main concern with this dress is its versatility. I would consider this to be a 'nice' dress (i.e. not slobbing around at home and running errands), and my 'nice' dresses are usually worn to weddings, dinners and dances. Wearing white to a wedding is still a faux pas, and if I wore white while eating literally anything or even existing in the same room as food I would become one giant stain within seconds. I also don't think I'd ever wear this dress dancing - I strongly prefer to have cleavage covered up while doing full body contact dance. With this last point in mind, I made a second dress with the leftover fabric.

This dress is the same By Hand London Anna/Sew Over It tulip skirt mash-up as my tropical print dress from October. That dress is one of my current favourites for dancing in, so I thought I'd make another. I made a couple of changes, both of which were ill-advised: I added a bit more length to the sleeves, which I don't think I like, and I added pockets, which are somehow too small to fit my hands in even though I used the same pattern I normally do. Sigh. This is the problem with sewing as therapy. 

The first dress is much nicer, and I'll be looking for excuses to wear it. The second dress is a better fit for my wardrobe. I am counting both as successes.

On spring sewing: I'm still going to do the red dress, and rather than making trousers I'm making a pair of shorts to try out a different pattern. I'll make better plans for summer, honest.