Monday, 31 July 2017

summer sewing: Webster top and dress

Having promised my mother I'd make her a dress for her birthday, I spent months looking for the right pattern. She had quite specific requirements:  no fullness or flare of any sort in the skirt, comfortable for summer so not tight or restrictive, preferably a pull-over, below knee length, and could be made out of the cotton lawn she'd bought for the purpose. This was remarkably hard to find. I sent her a few patterns and she said "yep, maybe," which means "no, but I don't feel comfortable saying so because you're putting a lot of time and effort into this".

When I got the email about the Cashmerette Webster dress, I sent it to her immediately and she was extra enthusiastic. I bought the PDF (which I rarely do, but the printed pattern wasn't available here yet and I wanted to have plenty of time) and ended up making three versions more or less back to back: a toile top made in cotton which I could use to check the fit and drape on Mum and make sure it would work in the fabric, a dress version for my holiday which I could also try on Mum to check length and so forth, and another top for me because the fabric was there and it would match the lining of my new Lupin and that would be cool. I'm going to start at the end, as I so often do, with my top.

 As drafted, the top is very long; completely covering the backside and not that much shorter in the front. I get why it's drafted that way because that's how a lot of women like to wear their tops, but I do not. I made it straight up to see how it looked, laughed for about five minutes, then hacked several inches off the hem. What you see here is my version of a "long top". I made a size 12 G/H, which fits very nicely. There's a lot of ease at the waist, but that's fine for a viscose summer top.

The back detail is cute, and it's nice to be able to have a bit of strap fun when all your tops need to provide adequate bra cover. I have a pretty narrow back, so I had to shorten the straps by about an inch and a half to get them to lie flat against my skin instead of drooping awkwardly. 

(I find it almost impossible to smile naturally when I'm taking pictures of myself with the remote. I try every time and it almost always looks like someone's just out of shot threatening to kill a bunny. When Patrick takes the pictures it's much easier for me to smile, but also it's a trade-off: he knows almost nothing about photography, and when I'm in my natural state rather than my posey one I have to edit around my natural lumbering posture. Sigh.)

And now the dress: 

While free and floaty and full of ease is fine for a summer top, it is not fine for me for a dress. I made the straight 12 where ordinarily I would size up in the hips, and sandwiched a couple of ties in the back seam. I didn't make any changes to the length and it sits a couple of inches above the knee on me, which is perfect. 

You can see in the picture above that the way the top is made into a dress is by adding a thick band of fabric to the bottom. I do not like this. It basically cuts across the crotch at the front, which is a weird place to have a seam line and makes it look like a mistake rather than a cool detail. I don't think it'll be such a big deal for Mum because of the fabric she has, but it really bothers me on this one. Would it be possible to cut the hem bands onto the main bodice as one piece, or would that screw something else up? 

Having said that, this was the perfect dress for sightseeing. Long enough to cover my longer shorts without being so long that it gets in the way while I'm walking, well-fitting at the top and otherwise nonrestrictive even with my ties, cool and breathable and just the right amount of coverage. Hem band or not, I will be taking this dress on every single holiday I go on. I was walking around on top of this mountain actively feeling grateful for it. 

I just like this photo, really. Look at that view! Madeira is gorgeous.

I took both the dress and the cotton toile with me last time I visited my parents and tried them both on Mum. Overall, it was a success - she was happy with the way the cotton worked (though for a dress, I probably wouldn't go there) and really liked the style of the dress. Interestingly, the dress looks much better unbelted on her. For the final version I'll be making it an inch or two longer so it hits just below her knee like she asked for. I also won't be shortening the straps - they were straining a bit when I tried this version on her, and I think they'll work much better in the original length. 

So, no more Madeira photos. Back to the palm tree next week! 

Monday, 24 July 2017

summer sewing: a denim Lupin

I've been thinking about making another Deer and Doe Lupin jacket since I finished my first one, but for one reason or another - mostly that making a jacket feels like a bigger project than making a dress and it's not quite as easy to find the right fabric - I've never got round to it. I was determined to do it this summer, though, because while my dark green one goes with a lot more than I originally thought it would, it doesn't go with everything.

For this post, we have "randomly wandering around Funchal" photos.

This version is made of dark denim, which I wasn't originally planning to use. The traditional denim jacket has never appealed to me - I've never been into button-up clothes or shirt-type details, and my style isn't really casual enough to pull one off. But I'd decided I wanted a navy jacket and then couldn't find any fabric I liked, which eventually led to me reasoning that a jacket made of denim wasn't the same thing as a denim jacket and it had to be worth a shot.

I made my first Lupin using a heavy crepe, and working with the denim was in some ways easier and in some ways really, really annoying. Gathering denim is not something I'll be doing again in a hurry, and putting the cuffs on was also rather a pain in the bum, but on the plus side there is zero fabric slippage so everything lines up beautifully and nothing odd happens to any of the seams. 

The only difference between this jacket and the previous one is that I decided not to include the shoulder tabs this time. I did cut them out, but when I tried positioning them I realised it looked like an unnecessary trick rather than an interesting design detail, so I left them off. Since it's denim and therefore more casual, I think the simpler lines work better.

I used a viscose lining because I hate acetate. It's fine for a winter coat that will never be touching my skin, but for a lighter jacket that will probably be going over bare arms, I want something soft and breathable which isn't going to cling sweatily to my arm like a drunk guy in a bar.

I'd like to take a moment here to note my welt pocket-making progress. Here are my three attempts in chronological order (first Lupin in August 2016; Thurlows in November 2016; second Lupin in June 2017):

I'm pretty pleased with that, I have to say. I will note, though, that the Deer and Doe instructions leave a couple of things out in the welt pocket-making steps (most notably making diagonal cuts to the corners after you've cut between the welts), so it's not entirely surprising that I didn't get perfect welt pockets using those instructions alone.

This jacket is great and I've been wearing it all the time. The only slight issue I have is that as soon as I put it on to show my boyfriend, he started singing this and now I can't unsee it. It's not going to stop me or anything, but I am going to have it at the back of my mind when deciding what I can and can't wear this with. No double denim, no awkward glitter eyeshadow, no Riverdancing on green-screened grass. Shame.

I don't want to have a shit ton of jackets or anything, but I would like a third Lupin in coloured suede. This won't be any time soon because I have decided that it either needs to be dark berry pink or seagrass, and finding suede in the very specific shades I have in mind probably isn't going to be as easy as wandering in somewhere, proclaiming "Take me to your bright suede" and being led to a roomful of interesting, saturated colours. Which is probably a good thing. Otherwise I'd be even more broke. 

Next up: the last of the Madeira photos and the first step in Mum's various birthday dresses...

Monday, 17 July 2017

Twisted: Simplicity 1613

After I made my Flint trousers, I noticed I wasn't wearing them as much as I thought I would. It wasn't the fault of the trousers themselves; I love them and rank them among my favourite things I've made this year. It was just that they didn't go with anything I had, because despite repeated plans and resolutions on the subject, I still have a total of about six tops, all in varying shades of black and grey. I did try to make a couple of coloured Concords, but I don't actually like them. A basic no-frills top in a solid colour worn with a black skirt or pair of black trousers just feels so uninteresting to me. The other way round - a plain black top and coloured bottoms - is totally fine and I often wear outfits to that effect, but the plain T-shirt and black trousers combo leaves me feeling totally uninspired.

Thus, I need to up my tops game. I've always struggled with this because most sewing patterns seem to be for massive long roomy tops that aren't my style at all, and so everything ends up being a cropped sweater. (You haven't seen the last of them.) So when I saw a fitted top with an interesting-looking neckline free with Make It Today magazine, I picked it up.

For some reason I'd decided, even before going fabric shopping, that the top had to be a very pale mint green. Even with a more interesting design, I still didn't like the thought of a bright solid top with black bottoms. I'm still not exactly sure what I think of this colour on me, and it doesn't herald the beginning of a Pastel Shit onslaught, but it was the right thing to do for this one.

The pattern comes with five views; this twisty-style neckline either sleeveless, short-sleeved or long-sleeved, and a cold-shoulder or off-the-shoulder top that doesn't interest me in the slightest. Though if you're looking for that kind of thing (because you like going braless and/or having extra arm faff), it appears to take about five minutes to make.

The front pattern piece has two extra straps, which create the twist, and there is a separate neckpiece which joins to the front at the shoulders and part of the way down the front neckline. The whole thing is faced and the facings extend halfway down the bodice, so it could be made in a sheerer fabric without causing indecency problems. I found sewing the neckline to be a massive pain in the arse. I didn't understand several steps of the instructions, had to go to Youtube for help, and still don't think I've got it completely right. It looks fine (bar the general wrinkliness - the fabric didn't travel well), but I did need to do a bit of hand-stitching to keep the join in the straps hidden and I don't think I should have had to. Now that I've done it once I can hopefully work out what's going on and what I'd need to do differently next time.

I'm pretty sure I will make another one or two of these. I'd like to see how the sleeves fit, and I'd also like a black one (I have a sudden need for a bunch of black basics to mix in with other things, which is really annoying because black fabric is so often terrible and I hate shopping for it AAArrghh). I'll need to take a bit of fabric out of the back neckline, which I really ought to be doing as standard now, and I need to make sure I know what I'm doing with the twist, but the design is interesting without being convoluted and I think that merits a second make. 

Who's posing? This is definitely how I would normally stand, and I haven't at all cropped out a very confused-looking Portuguese man standing behind me, no sir. 

Monday, 10 July 2017

Potential Holy Grail found: Vogue 9199

I'm back! We had an amazing and predictably boozy time in Madeira, and I took enough unblogged handmade clothes with me for the next few weeks of posts, so we can have a break from me showing off my palm tree to watch me swanning around an island in the sun instead. I got a great setting for the first one, a dress I'm really pleased with.

One of the things I've been looking for for a long time is my jersey dress. I didn't think I was asking for much: a pullover, short-sleeved dress, fitted at the top with an above-the-knee skirt that neither clung nor floofed. (Floofed is a word now.) And yet over the past two years I've tried several and none of them have been right. Three were so awful they never even made it to the blog  - one was quite recent, and I'm still trying to persuade myself to put it on and get a couple of photos in order to warn people - and all the others had something wrong. The Moneta neckline was too big, the Wren was just kind of a terrible pattern, the Anna didn't hold up as well in jersey as I wanted it to, Simplicity 1653 isn't secure enough at the bust for me to dance in. I'd basically given up on finding one.

Lately I've been drawn to pictures of women wearing T-shirt dresses. I love how relaxed and casual but also pulled together it looks, how perfect for summer it is with sandals and a sunhat. I've been staring at photos and pattern envelopes enviously, knowing in my heart of hearts that it wouldn't look that way on me. T-shirt dresses are straight up and down, so they either fit me at the waist but cling to my stomach (my least favourite thing) or they hang straight down from my boobs and make me look shapeless (my second least favourite thing).

Much to my amazement, I think I've found answers to both these problems in one dress.

I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS. Both the dress and São Tiago Fort, which is absolutely stunning. I insisted on spending quite a long time in there and rather got on Patrick's nerves. Oops. Happy anniversary, love. 

The dress is Vogue 9199, one of the Very Easy patterns, and I bought it in a half-price flash sale a few months ago with no real excitement or expectation. The envelope only shows illustrations and I couldn't find a single blogger who'd done a pattern review on it. So it sat there for a little while until one crazy hot day in June when I suddenly decided that the stripy jersey I'd bought for a second attempt at a Bowline sweater really wanted to be a casual T-shirt type dress instead. 

After I'd cut out the front piece, I realised that I was making a princess-seamed dress out of stripy fabric, and that may not have been the best idea. I did my best and managed to get both the skirt and the sleeves matching up decently, but the bust is way off. It's only a casual dress and they'd never bother pattern matching in RTW, so it doesn't bug me too much.

Apart from the pattern matching, this dress is one of the quickest makes I've done in a long time. I cut it and pinned it one evening, then sewed it up in an hour the next morning. I cut a 14 in the shoulders grading out to an 18 at the hips, which seems to have worked perfectly. I made two changes - adding a neckband out of the self fabric instead of the purchased bias tape recommended, and shortening the sleeves by a couple of centimetres. The skirt comes up slightly shorter than the illustration, but not so short that I can't wear my anti-chub rub shorts underneath. 

This dress taps into a style that I normally think of as off-limits to me. T-shirt dresses are for skinny girls, casual yet effortlessly put together is for people much less naturally scruffy than me, etc. But this looks great, and frankly I am tickled pink to know that I can pull this off. It's not that I'm going to remodel my whole style around this, but knowing that I can look good in it and make it work for my body is tremendously satisfying. And encouraging, for next time I want to try something outside my normal wheelhouse. 

I'm hopeful that this will become a TNT, and I'm going to make another one in a solid to see how it works out. I really like the idea of a casual little black dress, and so you'll be seeing that in about 2035 when I finally find some goddamn good quality black jersey. 

(Possibly the reason I liked this fort so much is because there's hardly anybody there and you can just climb all over it, meaning I am able to stand between the battlements of a 17th-century fort overlooking the sea, posing in my handmade T-shirt dress, while my reluctant boyfriend takes pictures. I AM SO SMUG. IT'S GREAT.)