Monday 28 August 2017

summer sewing: birthday dresses of varying success levels

My mum's two dresses were the last things I made this summer. That's partly because her birthday is towards the end of August and I didn't want to have the dresses just hanging around for months for me to obsess over and poke at, and partly because I had VERY SPECIFIC visions and was afraid of not being able to live up to them. In the end, I sort of did and sort of didn't, as I'm about to show you.

I'm going to start with the successful one:

This, obviously, is the Named Kielo, which I've made twice before (and worn constantly this summer). Mum asked for one of these after seeing mine, and I agreed on the proviso that I got to choose the colour. I love the way she looks in rich autumnal colours, but they're quite hard to find so she rarely wears them. I, because I am very smart, didn't properly realise that because these colours are hard to find, they were also going to be hard for me to find, and I searched for the right fabric for more than three months. This led to a ton of empty-handed fabric shop trips, stressing out, and panic-buying the wrong colours (and in one case, panic-buying the wrong colour online late at night, only to discover in the morning that I hadn't actually bought anything at all. I don't quite know how that happened). I finally found this one in A-One Fabrics on Goldhawk Road about two weeks before her birthday, and I legitimately gasped out loud, "Oh my God, it's my vision!" I am such a twat. 

I think this colour is absolutely perfect on her and I'm so pleased. The fabric has a slight crepey texture to it and doesn't wrinkle at all, so it's going to be a really useful travel dress (she's off to Las Vegas in a couple of months with some friends she's known since school, as a "we've all reached this milestone birthday this year, we're still alive and still like each other" celebration). I don't know whether it will carry over seasonally with cardigans and boots and so forth, but we shall see. 

At Mum's request I shortened the dress to below-knee length as an anti-tripping measure, and since that brought it to maybe a couple of inches below the start of the back vent, I didn't bother putting that in. I also put the secret pockets in this one, for tissue-stashing. 

I'm super happy with the way this came out, and I'm so glad I found the right colour. She looks exactly as fabulous as I thought she would. 

Now for dress number two, which I don't think is a success (and is also wrinkly because transport):

This is the Cashmerette Webster dress, and I don't like this version at all. I just don't think this fabric was intended for this kind of dress, and I don't know what I could have done to it that would have made it look good and fit Mum's requirements. Left to my own devices I probably would have made something like the Deer and Doe Centauree (the only cotton sundress I have), but it has a gathered skirt and Mum doesn't like any extra volume at her hips. The fabric feels lovely, but it just doesn't have the drape. She looked great when she tried my navy version on, but in the stiffer fabric it's really obvious that I didn't fit it on her. 

On the plus side, the neckline looks really nice. I also hemmed it with a narrow bias facing, and it's the neatest hem I have ever done in my entire life. Hems are the bane of my life, so I was very pleased with myself. The dress is very comfortable and breathable, but if it just ends up as house dress for hot days I won't be at all surprised or offended. 

Overall I'm quite OK with these outcomes. The first dress is great, so she's got a nice birthday present that she can get a lot of wear out of, and the second was a learning experience which led to me finally making an actually neat hem. I'll make her something else for Christmas to make up for it.

Monday 21 August 2017

sewing plans: autumn 2017 (peacock edition)

I'm posting this slightly early because I want to go about it slightly differently this time. I've found my last couple of planning posts haven't been that helpful; I commit to things I don't have the patterns or fabric for and get stressed out when I can't find them, or I write the plan in a panic and realise a few weeks later that I don't particularly want or need any of the things I talked about.

I didn't sew anything at all in July this year, and I wondered for a couple of weeks what the problem was and where my sewjo had gone. Partly it's because I wasn't home that much - we were on holiday, then I spent nearly a week with my parents and several days with Patrick's parents - but once I started planning for autumn and got all excited, I realised that I didn't want to sew any more summer clothes because I was happy with what I had. I was done. My Kielo dresses, Sallie jumpsuits, Webster dress, Lupin jacket and Vogue T-shirt dress carried me quite nicely through the summer, everything was cute, coherent and put together, and I didn't need or want any more summer clothes. It was refreshing.

What I want to do for autumn is come up with something a bit more defined and a bit more thorough. I'm going to work to a theme, have as many pieces work together as possible, and plan a lot more things than I usually do. I already have the fabric and patterns for almost everything in the list (besides the maybe pile, which is why it's the maybe pile), and I'm running with a peacock theme for the season. I have two pieces of actual peacock feather print fabric, but mostly I'm looking at a blue-gold-green jewel tones palette with navy and black neutrals.

This is what I'm planning between now and the end of November:

Statement pieces, AKA Literal Peacock:

- A peacock print raincoat. I bought some amazing Liberty laminated cotton from Dragonfly Fabrics, and I'm going to make a Sewaholic Minoru from it. I've never had a bright or printed coat in my entire adult life, but I'm really excited to make this one.

- A peacock print fitted skirt. My mum bought me a piece of peacock print stretch cotton, and the colours are saturated and beautiful in a way I can very rarely find. I have a Butterick skirt pattern with a high waist and back princess seams, and if my toile works that's what this fabric will become.

Wardrobe staples

- A pair of trousers. Since I made my Flint trousers I've found that I'd quite like to be wearing trousers more, but they're the only day-to-day pair I have. I'm planning to make the Sewaholic Thurlows, but this is the only planned item I don't yet have fabric for. Ideally I want a deep mustard-gold colour, but I will go with olive or burgundy if I can't find that.

- A long-sleeved top. I recently found the Kittenish Behaviour vlogs on Youtube, and she made the Vanessa Pouzet Wanted top. When I saw it I bounced up and down and bought the pattern immediately, even though my French is rubbish and I can't really read the instructions. Fitted jersey tops that don't just look like regular T-shirts seem to be almost impossible to find, so I really hope this one works for me. If it does, I'm planning two - a black sweater knit one and a green one.

- A navy jumper. Almost all the jumpers I currently have are very close-fitting, and I really need a jumper I can use for layering over dresses and tops in colder weather. I have some navy anchor print sweater knit and I'm going to try sizing up the Concord and putting the neckline from my favourite RTW jumper on it.


- A Shakespeare print dress. With some of the money my grandmother left me I bought two metres of amazing blue Liberty fabric. The standard Liberty prints aren't my thing at all, but this one is a waves-and-constellations design with Shakespeare verse imposed on top of it (the fabric is called Tempest but the verse is clearly from Romeo and Juliet, which honestly kind of annoys me. It's good job the fabric is so beautiful). I'm thinking it's going to be a Sewaholic Cambie dress, since I keep meaning to make another.


- A wedding guest dress. I have a wedding coming up in October, and I promised the happy couple I'd make a new dress for the occasion. I'm going to use this an opportunity to force myself to cut into some really expensive purple silk double crepe I've been hoarding for a while, but I haven't decided which pattern to use. I'd like the dress to have a bit of flow to it, but the fabric is really narrow, so I might need to experiment a little bit. I'm certain I must have an appropriate pattern somewhere in my stash.


- A winter jumpsuit. This has the potential to look completely horrendous on me, but also I really want it, so I'm giving myself permission to spend money on something that might be terrible. I'm going to try the jumpsuit version of Vogue 7626 in teal corduroy, and if it works it's going to be the best thing ever. If it doesn't, I'm going to hate it. We shall see.

- A lace dress. This is going to be experimental in two ways: one, I've never worked with lace before; and two, I have my doubts about the pattern. I bought the Papercut Patterns Kobe dress as soon as it came out based on the sample photos, but the more I look at the sample, the line drawing, and other people's finished photos, the more suspicious I become that that pattern can be used to make that sample dress. But as an experiment, I'm going to try, and I'm going to try in semi-sheer fabric just in case that's what reveals all the beautiful layers in the sample. I don't think it will, but I'm doing this for science.


- A dressing gown. After over a year of talking about making one for my boyfriend, I've finally bought the fabric. We gave up on finding silk in a print he loved, so it's going to be Tana lawn. I've bought four metres of multicoloured paisley on a cream background -  it's entirely insane and it's perfect for him. I have a Butterick pattern to use but I'm not willing to cut into £90+ of fabric for an untested pattern, so I'm going to make a toile out of Patrick's old duvet cover and make sure I can do it justice.

If I have time

- A knee-length coat. I like the coat I made in January, but with the clothes I'm currently wearing most I could really use a longer one. I'm thinking about attempting the Leanne Marshall Simplicity pattern I discounted last time, since I don't particularly need this one to have a functional hood. Ideally it'll be bright blue.

- Some lingerie. I'd like a couple of slips and to attempt making a pair of knickers just to see how easy it is, but this is right at the bottom of the pile.

That's about a dozen things, which isn't unrealistic but also might take me well into December and January to complete, which is fine. I'm going to seize this moment of being inspired to make lots of things and temporarily able to afford a lot of nice fabric, plan a lot of things, and take as long as I need to do them. My plan is to update monthly on how things are going, and once I've got through most of it decide whether this worked as a strategy (and move to a twice-a-year collections kinds of thing) or whether I need to come up with something else. Time will tell!

This time we're ending with the gif:

Monday 14 August 2017

the very mild experimentation series: a chiffon kimono jacket

(I thought I'd scheduled this for last week, but apparently I didn't. Oops.)

Learning to work with chiffon has been on my mind since I started sewing. I actually bought a piece on one of my very first raids of the remnant bin, but got rid of it six months later when I realised I didn't know what the eff to do with it. Not in the sense of "oh God, I can't work with chiffon, I'm rubbish", more "oh God, why did I buy this print that would only look right on a Masonic wife tightly sipping a glass of sherry and glaring at anybody under 45" (I'm a Mason's daughter, just trust me on this). I didn't buy any more to replace it because by that point I'd stopped remnant bin raids and started looking for stuff I might actually wear, and that rarely includes chiffon.

But then June hit, and temperatures of up to 34 degrees were mentioned.

I bought this particular piece of chiffon from The Textile Centre at the end of last summer. I had grand visions of a flowing layered maxi dress, and only recently admitted to myself that a) I didn't have anywhere near enough fabric and b) the dress in my head would almost certainly require complicated underwear arrangements, meaning I just wouldn't wear it. Fuck strapless bras. The idea of the kimono came to me when I was trying to find something to throw over my shoulders that wouldn't also cause me to sweat to death, and I realised I had a gap in my wardrobe.

The pattern is the Sew Over It kimono jacket, which I've made several times before. I still have and get tons of wear out of one of the two I made for myself, and I've made several more as presents since. It seemed like a good first-chiffon project because it's just a bunch of straight lines. I wanted a little bit more flow to this one, so I cut it longer (I'm not sure how much longer, just as much as the fabric would allow). The insides are French-seamed, and the hems are scratty. Next on my to-do list: learn how to do a half-decent rolled hem.

(I call this the "holding arms out awkwardly" series.)

I had very definite ideas about how I wanted to position the flowers, and due to the way the flowers were laid out on the fabric it wasn't all possible. The most important thing for me was to get a large flower cluster slightly off-centre on my back, and the way I had to fold the fabric to do that meant there wasn't as much choice as I'd have liked for the rest. I wanted flowers on the front pieces, but not in identical layout, and a plain black collar piece, so I did that as best I could and then the sleeves just had to be cut from whatever was left. 

I think this is cute. However, I wasn't getting quite as much wear out of it as I'd hoped, so I bought a semi-acceptable black jersey from Fabric Land and made another V9199.

I really like the way this looks over an all-black outfit, and it's making me want to make some black shorts (which I'm not going to do unless it's a pair of tailored wool shorts to wear over tights in the winter, and there's no way on earth I'll be wearing chiffon in the winter). The dress is only a couple of weeks old, but I've worn it like this a couple of times when the weather allowed, i.e. when it wasn't pissing down with rain in the middle of bloody August WHY IS THIS A THING, and it's cool and breezy and stops my arms sticking to themselves, so it does the job. 

This is the dress on its own. I don't like it as much as my stripy one, mostly because the fabric isn't quite right. Also it's too big in the back, but I'll take that in next time I have black thread in my machine. I screwed up my first attempt at the neckband, so I just cut it out, meaning that the neckline is a little bit wider. It doesn't bother me at all, but I won't go out of my way to do it again. 

The dress is okay, and I will get some wear out of it. The kimono is also okay, but very much for hot days and holidays, so I probably won't wear it a huge amount, but will keep it for next summer. Chiffon was exactly as annoying to work with as everyone says it is, and I probably won't be using it again in a hurry. I will if I'm inspired to, but for something I'm not bouncing around with excitement about, I don't think it's worth the faff. 

Next week I'm doing my autumn sewing plan a little early, to give me time to give Mum her dresses and photograph them on her properly. I'm a bit nervous about the fit, but mostly I'm just happy I got them done with time to spare.