Monday 30 October 2017

unblogged projects, part one: a bunch of Olivia dresses

Over the course of this past year I've made more things than I've blogged. A few times the item in question has been too much of a failure to photograph in any state at all (is it useful to people to have text posts about projects like that? Let me know), but most of the time it's because I have nothing left to say. I'm remaking a pattern I've made several times before, I've already got it to fit, everything is the same. My rule these days seems to be that I don't do more than two stand-alone posts on the same pattern, unless there's something substantial to talk about (still working on the fitting, trying a new technique or fabric, the garment in question is amazing and I want to take a million photos of it), but that leaves a lot of stuff unblogged. Since I like my records to be complete, I'm going to start infrequent "here's some stuff I don't have more words for" posts.

To begin, it makes sense to start with my Named Clothing Olivia dresses. When I posted the first one, I didn't think I liked it, but within a month it became my very favourite dress and I wear it far more often than I should. A couple of months later I made another two, raved about the pattern some more, and then decided I had nothing more to say. I have, however, made another three versions, and here they are:

Version 4 here is probably the one I wear the least, because I didn't shorten it at all and so it's usually too formal for my lifestyle. I don't want to alter it, though, because it looks great like this. This jersey was an impulse buy from The Textile Centre in Walthamstow, based almost entirely on how unbelievably soft it is. I really wish I'd bought twice as much and made a set of pyjamas too. 

There's no elastic in the waist of this version. I really liked how it looked and felt without it. 

Having now made a bright red, a bright orange, and a light blue version of the dress, I started thinking about having a rainbow of Olivias. Partly because I like silly gimmicky things sometimes, but mostly because I did some colour analysis on things I've made versus things I actually wear and discovered that I'm not the biggest fan of rainbow-coloured separates. I'm not sure what it is, I just don't like the way they pair with things most of the time and I'm much more comfortable with bright colours that aren't in the rainbow (fuchsia, turquoise, gold and so forth). I do, however, get a ton of wear out of my rainbow-coloured dresses, so this is basically how I'm to decide which fabric becomes which garment from now on. 

I got this green jersey from Sew Over It. I don't shop there as much anymore because it's a LOT of girly floral to sort through, but occasionally they get something like this that's right up my street. I made this one shorter than the blue one but not as short as the orange one, and it's probably the most versatile length. This is my second favourite next to the orange, and I wear it all the time.

(please excuse this photo, my camera lens was dying and I had to do a bunch of weird editing to make the dress look OK. Next week I will have a shiny new lens and then we can all look at some much better pictures.)

Aaaand having gone about the rainbow thing for a whole paragraph, here's a black one. I knew I was in need of another short Olivia, and the right yellow, indigo and violet fabrics still haven't come my way. I got this from Girl Charlee at the Knitting and Stitching Show, and I'm going to be keeping a close eye on it. I haven't seen many reviews of Girl Charlee that don't contain one of two phrases: "Girl Charlee is terrible" or "Girl Charlee got in touch and offered me some free fabric" (I'm not knocking that, fabric is expensive and I'd struggle to turn down a freebie too), but I want to like them. I'd love a decent-quality knit fabric specialist, and they have a whole range of printed sweater knits. And this fabric is SO soft, and the colours in the florals are SO bright. I really want it to work for me. I want to believe that they took the negative reviews to heart and started sourcing much better quality fabric. I WANT TO BELIEVE. This is a very new make so hasn't gone through the wash yet, but this is what I know so far: it took forever to dry after the pre-wash, it was a pain in the bum to sew, it feels really lovely to wear, it is a really terrible fabric for making pockets. I will update when it's been through the machine a few times. 

I made this version super-short and left out the elastic waist. This is probably slightly too short; I think it went a bit haywire during hemming. But it is super comfy and so far I really like it. 

Next week: if all goes well with my new lens, a completely unnecessary evening dress. Yay!

Monday 23 October 2017

autumn sewing: gold Thurlows and a mish-mash top

I'm working my way steadily through my autumn sewing plan, and I've now finished almost all the day-to-day pieces I committed to making (I will be making the coat and have some camel-coloured wool for it, but I've decided against the Leanne Marshall pattern and am waiting for a couple of promising-looking coat patterns to become available here before I start that project). Mostly it's gone very well, and I'm wearing everything I've made on a very regular basis. This one, however, caused me a little more trouble.

Here we have my second-ever pair of Sewaholic Thurlows. My first ones fit well, but because they were grey pinstripe they felt too formal for me to actually get any wear out of. I've been putting off making a second pair because complicated, but now it's officially autumn (I went outside today in a scarf. A SCARF) a pair of comfy trousers is exactly the kind of thing my wardrobe needs. 

So, fabric. Sigh. The fabric I had in my head was an extra-saturated mustard corduroy, and I searched for it for a month. I ordered what claimed to be mustard cord from Minerva Crafts (I hadn't used them before, and yeeaahhh... let's say I was not sold), but what turned up was the most horrendous shade of toddler yellow I've ever seen. That basically killed any drive to find what I was looking for online. Several weeks later I went to Abakhan in North Wales with my partner's mum and found the exact colour I was looking for, except it was wool. Which I bought, along with some cotton to line them. I got them almost completely finished, tried them on to fit the back extension, and they didn't fit at all. I have no idea why, because I used the exact same pattern and size for both the previous and subsequent pairs, and they were fine, but the wool ones were unwearable and unsalvageable. I bought this peachy gold corduroy on Goldhawk Road a few days later, and I do like it, but part of me is still mourning that bright yellow. Grrrr. 

As with my previous attempt at these trousers, I made them up mostly straight out of the envelope. Trying on my first pair revealed that they were slightly too short, so I added about 1.5 inches to the legs, and honestly the length is probably one of the things I'm most pleased with. They neither drag on the ground and get dirty nor do that weird hovering thing that slightly-too-short trousers do. I kept all the details (except the belt loops, because I do not own any belts); I made the back welt pockets and constructed the front fly without any problems whatsoever, then promptly sewed the trousers up as one giant leg with two hip holes because I was apparently high on my own sense of accomplishment and thought I didn't have to pay attention anymore. 

I flat-felled all the major seams and hemmed the trousers by hand. I've been doing a lot more hand hemming since I realised there's no reason to keep the stitches hidden on the inside and a herringbone stitch is actually quite nice to sit and do. 

The biggest problem I have with these is the fastenings. Super-secure, neat-looking hand-sewn fastenings completely elude me, and I'm certain that the hook and/or bar is going to come off sooner rather than later. Is there a trick I'm missing? How do you get poppers and other such notions to go on neatly and stay put? 

The top is a Concord top with added cuffs and a slash neck, and honestly it's not really what I wanted. That doesn't mean I don't like it or won't wear it, but it's not what I had in mind when I planned to make this. I wanted a layering piece, but this is just a very slightly roomier version of what I usually make. I think getting the shape I was imagining is going to be quite tricky - I want something I can throw on over tops and dresses, but I do not want baggy or boxy in any way, and I think it might take me a few goes to get right. I have about a metre of this fabric left, so I might have another go at it. 

I copied the neckline from an old RTW jumper of mine that's about to die, and though I like it I think the neckband needs some work. I've had better success with neckbands since I stopped using the neckband pieces that come with patterns (or using them for width only), but I still don't have that instinctive understanding of fabric that allows my necklines to come out right all the time. This one stands away from my neck a bit at the shoulders, so I probably needed to make the band a little shorter. 

Both these pieces will, I think, serve me well. I'm going to have another go at getting the shape of top I want, and I'm debating whether I want another pair of trousers. When I bought this gold corduroy I bought another two pieces too, one of which is a much finer and thinner piece of burgundy cord. I'm unsure whether I want it to become another pair of Thurlows or a miniskirt. Ah, decisions. 

Monday 16 October 2017

the winter Kathleen dress (McCalls 7350)

I made a few attempts at getting over my inability to sew things, and this dress is another of those:

This is McCalls 7350, which I bought in the last flash sale for this view in particular. I thought it looked like a really versatile silhouette and I'm basically always looking for cute pullover jersey dress patterns. This one has a faux-wrap top and a faux-wrap skirt with a wide gathered waistband in the middle. I'm often drawn to waistbands and waistband detailing but in practice struggle to find ones I would actually wear, so I was quite excited to try this. 

I got this jersey at Walthamstow Market, from my current favourite shop there (helpfully named "Fabric Store"). It's almost the exact opposite of my usual style, what with being white and having the exact kind of brown florals my grandmother used to have on everything, but nevertheless I was drawn to it, and I had this pattern in mind from the beginning. I rarely if ever name the clothes I make, but this reminds me so much of Gran that I've been calling this dress Kathleen without even thinking about it. 

(The fabric is panelled, so the line at the back of the neck is a seam but the line across the back isn't.)

The dress wasn't exactly what I expected. The line drawing seems to imply bands finishing the front neckline, but it's basically just a great big drape with self-facing sections. You will note that it's sitting differently in almost every one of these photos, which in one sense I quite like but I don't know how I'll feel about it after wearing it out for an evening. It's quite easy to end up exposing sternum, which I don't prefer, but I'm also not exactly sure where to stitch it to stop that happening without messing up the drape. 

Also, the skirt claims to be gathered, but as you can see, all the gathering is concentrated to a few inches at the centre back. I don't mind it so much on this version, but as a general rule it's also something I don't prefer, and for any subsequent attempts I'll probably try to alter the pattern to cut down the amount of fabric in the back skirt.

My intention in making this was to wear it to a party at the end of September, but as soon as I tried it on I realised that this was obviously the winteriest dress that ever wintered and it was going to have to wait a couple of months to be appropriate. I think a Christmas party where absolutely nobody drinks any red wine anywhere near me may be in order. (This is why I don't make white clothes.)

I think I probably will make this again. It's turned out very well (my boyfriend was particularly effusive, but then I suppose this kind of fabric is much more his thing than it is mine) and I think it'll be fairly easy to get wear out of it in the winter. I love the waistband and I love the way the skirt looks from the front, but I'd want to get some of the excess fabric out of the front neckline and centre back for future versions. This is one of those patterns that's ripe for mix and match, so you're probably more likely to see bits of it stuck on to other patterns than the whole thing made up like this.  

Even Teen Goth Jen doesn't hate it too much. 

*stares moodily off across the imaginary snow pretending to be C.S. Lewis's White Witch*

Monday 9 October 2017

autumn sewing: peacock skirt (and bonus Givre)

I didn't post last week for two reasons. One, I'd decided to start about five projects at once and so had five half-finished things as opposed to one or two actual wearable garments, and two, I was having an especially bad time with sewing and self-image. I've put on a bit of weight recently so a lot of my clothes fit awkwardly, and I couldn't get my head around picking a size or taking photos of the finished product. But equally, not sewing was making me sad, so on Friday I decided to make my peacock fabric into a Sew Over It tulip skirt. It was in my plan, I've made the pattern over a dozen times and I know it fits, and I had enough fabric that I'd be able to remake the skirt if my size changed drastically any time soon. Also, it takes me about 20 minutes these days.

(In these first three photos I look like I don't have any legs. Please ignore that. I do still have legs.)

I got this fabric from Fabric Land in Bristol, and it was the genesis of the whole peacock theme thing. I usually breeze past the printed cottons and stretch cottons in Fabric Land, but I saw this from the other side of the shop and I knew it had to come home with me. Colour is king in my wardrobe, and the saturated blue and yellow with tiny hints of red and purple is just too perfect. 

Unusually for me, I opted not to put pockets in it. I might regret that somewhere down the line, but I wanted the skirt to be as simple as possible and I didn't have workable pocket fabric immediately to hand. It should fine - it's autumn now, so I'll be wearing this with a jacket more often than not. I used a regular zip instead of an invisible zip, because all the invisible zips currently in my notions box are 22 inches long and bright salmon pink. When did I buy a job lot of salmon pink zips? 

(I took these photos in our stairwell. I'd got myself all geared up for photo-taking, then realised it was raining and the flat was a mess. I think it works and I'll probably do it again - apart from anything else, I look way less murderous making eye contact with the camera from this angle. The struggle with RBF is an enduring one.)

While we're here, let's talk about the top:

I decided to make another Deer and Doe Givre dress, because much to my pleasant surprise I've been wearing the first one all the time. This one isn't quite as successful - the fabric doesn't stretch quite as much so it's a bit restrictive, and also something about the combination of colour, texture and overlocking (my friend Micky fixed my overlocker, and I managed to do this one dress before it did something weird and now I don't know how to fix it again) reminds me of the sleeping bag I used to use as a duvet at my nan's house when I was seven. I don't even think that's a bad thing; it's just that the association is so strong that it's all I can think about when I wear this. I do LOVE the colour, though - this orange-yellow-gold needs a bigger place in my life. 

I'm super into this outfit. It's very "business casual Rainbow Brite" which is an aesthetic I could stand to explore a little more. I've been spending a bit of time on personal style forums lately and there's something tremendously appealing about the pithy little style phrases people come up with. I'm thinking about doing a short series on styling and wearing things differently, because I'm sure my wardrobe could be way more versatile than it is. 

I managed to get a couple of things finished and photographed this weekend, so up next: a dress that has nothing to do with anything I planned. Hooray!