Thursday, 30 November 2017

sewing plans: winter 17/18

My autumn sewing plan worked out really well. Excluding the "maybe" list, only the fancy purple dress went unmade - you haven't seen my Shakespeare dress or Patrick's dressing gown yet, but they have been made and will be posted next week and after Christmas respectively. Working to a longer and more ambitious plan was actually way more helpful than my usual five vague things, as was having almost all the fabric and patterns ready and waiting in my stash. Initially I said that if this worked out I might move to twice-a-year planning, but I'm not going to do that. For a start, the dozen things on my autumn list took me almost exactly three months to make and I might as well as accept that as long as I'm ill and have a lot of spare time, I will be sewing a lot of things. So my new approach is going to be to start writing my three-month plans much further in advance to allow me to collect up at least 90% of what I need before the season starts.

This winter plan has more or less written itself, and it's very different from the autumn one. I have a decent selection of easily-paired, richly-coloured pieces and I've got no interest in reworking it all for the next three months. I'm quite happy looking like a peacock. So for this season, rather than coming up with outfits and concepts, I'm focusing on a few specific categories that need beefing up a bit. I will almost certainly make a few simple tops/skirts/dresses over the next few months when fabric leaps out at me, but in terms of planning, I'm looking at three areas: outerwear, loungewear, and toiles.

For visual reference, here is the world's quickest composite of the patterns I already know I'm using:

(given that they're all completely different types of garment, I'm assuming you can tell which is which)


- A vaguely MaxMara-type winter coat. I've wanted something like this ever since I first saw a MaxMara coat, and I've never been able to find the right pattern. For the first time I've seen a couple of things that might be close; I'm waiting to get a proper look at By Hand London's new coat pattern, and I've also seen a Burda I like (though that would require grading and I don't know if I can be arsed). The lack of a longer coat has been the one thing I'm most aware of missing in my wardrobe, so this is my number one priority.

- A cropped jacket made of pale pink suede. I bought the suede ages ago when I realised that some of my outfits really need a lighter-coloured jacket to go with them, but I've been putting off making it because I can't decide what pattern to use. I'm not totally sure the Lupin will look right in this fabric, but also I can find literally no alternatives. I want to get the jacket made, though, so if I'm not struck by inspiration in the next couple of months, a Lupin it will be. I'm open to suggestions, though!

- A ridiculous Vogue cape. I'm not sure that this one will get made because I don't actually know if I'd wear it, but as soon as I saw it in Vogue's new releases, I shouted "Oh my God I want it" at the screen. I think it will depend largely on being able to find the right fabric and buttons (especially buttons, because I am NOT a button person and they'll have to be very specific for me to think about wearing them). I am definitely in the market for some sort of unnecessary flamboyant outerwear, mind you, so if this doesn't happen then something else will.


- A dressing gown for myself. I've made two toiles of a Butterick pattern for Patrick's Christmas present robe so far, and I made the second one using a cheap fabric I really liked so that I could use it as my dressing gown. Except that hasn't worked, because it looks terrible on me. I'm going to have a go at Vogue 8888 and see if a womenswear-specific robe is any better. (It might just be the pattern. I have THOUGHTS about that Butterick pattern, and you're going to hear ALL of them after Christmas.)

- A nightie that matches the dressing gown. This is lower priority, but I quite like the idea of a matching set so I'm planning to get extra fabric for the purpose. I'll probably have a go at one of the two included with Vogue 8888, though I haven't decided which yet.

- A sweater knit cardigan for chilling in. I want to try the Papercut Circle top, which intrigues me; I bought it from Sewbox on the strength of the photos, but it looks very much like Papercut has erased its existence from their actual website, so I'm now wondering what's wrong with it. I'm going to give it a go anyway, but definitely not with anything more expensive than £2 per metre Walthamstow sweater knit.

- Some more pyjamas. I'd like a few pairs of jersey pyjama bottoms, and a couple of tops with different sleeve lengths that I can mix and match with them. I want colourful prints for the bottoms (most of which I have) and solid neutrals for the tops.


- Vogue 8814. I think this is an absolutely beautiful evening dress, and ideally it's what I'd like my expensive silk crepe to be, but there is so much potential for a pattern like this to go wrong. I've basically already decided that it's going to be a disaster, but I own the pattern so I'm going to try it, goddammit. I found some very cheap but very pretty green satin-type stuff so it can be a wearable toile if it works but I won't cry if (when?) it doesn't.

 - Victory Patterns Esther trousers. Similar to above, I think the pattern is stunning but I'm not sure if it'll suit me. I so want it to, though. I want to be that cool.

- A shorter Named Kielo with sleeves. I downloaded the free sleeve add-on ages ago but never got around to trying it out. It would be nice to have a version of this pattern I can wear for more than a few weeks a year.

- Simplicity 1370 skirt. I really need a wider range of skirt patterns I like, and step one is to try out a simple mini. If it works, it'll probably be a good pattern for using up leftover fabric, and if not, I'll try something else. My plan for the next year or so is to find at least three other skirt patterns that work for me.

- A woven T-shirt from a personal block. I have a metre of black silk hanging around and I'd like it to become a super-basic, fairly loose-fitting top, so I'm going to have another go at drafting one myself.

- Pants! I've bought a Jalie PDF of men's and women's underwear, and I'm going to have a go at both. I don't expect to start making all my underwear, but it seems like a reasonable way to use up jersey scraps and I'd like to see if I can do it.

Again, this is about a dozen things, which seems to be a good number. I still need fabric for most of the things in the loungewear section, which I think ought not to be too difficult to find (I also don't have cape fabric, but that's going to be a buttons-first shopping job anyway). I've not had a great week for various reasons up to and including credit card fraud (YAY) so I'm hoping to be able to channel all my feelings of YARGH into some early productiveness.

Monday, 27 November 2017

McCalls 7538, or making dresses because you really need tops

I don't have the best luck when it comes to tops. It's hard to find patterns that fit what I'm looking for - most of the big 4 offerings are loose-fitting hip-length things with ridiculous sleeves, and most indie patterns are super-basic or super-twee. I want mostly knit tops, fairly fitted, with interesting details but not crazy sleeves, that I can cut shorter without losing most of the design of the top. It's tough to find. So when I do see an interesting top pattern, I snap it up.

(Neither of the things I am about to show you are tops. Bear with me.)

This is my first attempt at McCalls 7358, using the same sweater knit I used for my Wanted top. I fully intended to just make the top, but missed the "Cut here for view A" line on the bottom piece and ended up making view C, a bodycon dress. This is not great and I have several problems with it. One, the sleeves are falling off, which I must attribute to the fabric given that my Wanted top did the same thing but subsequent versions of both that top and this one did not. Two, it didn't occur to me to work out how to FBA this one and so the front crossover panels are cutting across my boobs, which looks really weird. Three, I am really into this jersey LBD as a concept, but in practice it just doesn't work for me.

However, the back is gorgeous and I love it. It's cute, interesting, and is exactly the right height to dispense with weird fabric folds in the upper back without straying into complicated underwear territory. I wasn't sure I was up for trying to do a proper FBA on those front pieces, so I decided to have a go at view D, with a round neck at the front and crossover at the back, and a full skirt. I've avoided full skirts for the last couple of years, but I've been experimenting lately.

I went on a bit of a journey with this dress. When I first tried it on I was absolutely convinced I didn't like it, and actually wrote a whole pre-emptive blog post about why it was terrible. After I hemmed it my opinion of it started to improve, and after a week or so I decided that I loved it. 

This jersey is from Fabric Store in Walthamstow, and it's one of the best things I've ever bought there. It's hard to describe it; it's a very soft and stretchy jersey that's very comfortable to wear, and yet I keep forgetting that it's stretchy because it displays zero sign of being stretched when I'm wearing it. This cost me £2 per metre, and if one of the more expensive shops had tried to charge me £12-15 I wouldn't have blinked. It's great stuff. 

Now that we're looking at slightly better photos I'll attempt to explain the pattern a bit more; I don't know how visible the seam lines are in this fabric. Between the bust and hips there's a panel of fabric stretching diagonally one way, and two smaller panels at the opposite corners to create the impression of an X across the body. The pattern comes with round neck and crossover options for both front and back, and you can mix and match them however you choose. 

Look at the back of that! I love it so much.

In terms of alterations, I lengthened the upper front panel by a couple of inches to prevent the whole bisected boob thing, and that seems to have worked well enough, though some of the panels now don't match up at the side seams. In this fabric I don't really care, but if I try making a version in stripes (which I'd like to) I'd need to either change the alteration or work out how to make the back longer too. I also found the shoulders were protruding off my actual shoulders by about an inch, so I took that in. I also cut the long sleeves down to elbow length because the sheer amount of grey was a bit overwhelming. 

I will definitely be making this as a dress again. I made this version because I loved the back neckline, but it turns out this front neckline is a really great one for me as well. It's super comfy and will be a great dance dress, and I'd like another one or two. What I'm not sure is whether I'm going to make this as a top. The fit is great and it would be interesting and different, but also it really does have to end at the hip because of the pattern pieces. I never wear hip length tops and I think this design might look weird if I wore it tucked in to something. I might give it a go, when I'm feeling experimental, but I'm not counting on it. Sigh. Still looking for you, interesting knit tops of the sewing pattern world.

Up next: (hopefully) something I actually planned!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Ghosts of Zombie Hoodie past (Kommatia Patterns J005 bomber jacket)

Hey, remember two years ago when I was desperately trying to replace my Zombie Hoodie?

This may not have been on my autumn list, but this is one of the most peacock things I've ever seen.

I'd never heard of Kommatia Patterns until a few weeks ago. I followed a link to a pattern which on closer inspection wasn't for me, but while I was there I had a bit of a browse and saw the pattern that Jen from two years ago was searching for in vain: a cropped, hooded zip-up jacket. I waited a couple of days to buy it because I've instituted a new rule about not buying sewing shit at 12.30am when I'm delaying going to bed for unknown reasons, but after some reflection I decided this was a sensible purchase. I have nothing like it, it cost about £6, and teenage me was quietly squeeing.

(I've just noticed this dress is covered in fluff. I bought some VERY ill-advised fabric and clearly didn't throw it away fast enough.)

This fabric is from a stall in Walthamstow Market. I'm not exactly sure what it is; the guy said "woollen fabric" but I would say it most resembles a super-light twill. I'd gone out with the intention of buying something black - a black floral, ideally - since I already had some black rib knit and was completely uninterested in complicated colour-matching, but this fabric was an unignorably beautiful colour and also had enough black in it to work quite nicely with black ribbing.

The whole thing took me a couple of hours to make up. I left off the zipped pocket on the arm for many reasons, not least of which my lack of desire to search for a 4-inch zip. I flat-felled all of the main seams since the jacket is unlined.

The jacket is described as "very loose-fitting" but I did not find this to be the case. Sure, it's not tailored or anything, but my understanding of loose-fitting in home sewing terms is that it will have a decent amount of ease in it. My bust is about an inch larger than the Kommatia size L, so I made that assuming it would be fine for a loose-fitting garment. In practice, while it's not uncomfortable to wear or anything it's certainly not what I would describe as "loose". There's also a slight range of motion issue when it comes to folding my arms.

Overall I love this thing. I love the way the black rib and black zip look (and I'm also impressed I managed to identify the correct length of zip on sight from a market stall basket full of unlabelled haberdashery), I think the fabric is great, and it looks like a professional piece of work. My boyfriend, who lives with me and my constant attachment to the sewing machine, saw me in this and actually thought I'd gone clothes shopping. Something this super-casual is going to be really useful, I think, since I tend to make things slightly more formal-looking than my life requires at the moment. This will be great for flinging over jersey dresses when I'm going to dance events, and is a great piece of loungewear too.

I was so pleased with this one that it was mere days before I started thinking about the black floral bomber I originally had in mind. "That'll be great for my winter plan," I thought. "I'll start looking for the fabric now so that it's all ready for December."

I bought the fabric on a Saturday and was wearing the finished jacket by the following Wednesday. Sure, it would have been much more sensible to hold off and make the things that were actually on my autumn plan, but who do you think you're talking to here? Unless the garment in question is super complicated or takes a ton of fabric, my immediate reaction to liking a new pattern is almost always to make a second one RIGHT NOW.

I popped into my local Sew Over It for their monthly remnant sale, where I got quite a lot of nice bits of jersey that are mostly destined to become pyjamas, and they had a huge roll of this floral twill sitting by the door. I decided it was perfect and impulse-bought a metre, assuming that would be enough. It was not. They didn't have any more left (apparently it got promoted on their vlog and EVERYONE ordered it), so I spent a bit of time debating how to work around it. I know that a bomber with contrast sleeves is a classic and I almost cut it out that way, but kept stopping as my scissors were about to cut into the fabric because I didn't really want that. Eventually I decided to make a plain hood using the fabric left over from my Flint trousers, and I'm glad I did because I actually think it works better. The main fabric is kind of burlap-ish on the wrong side, and since the hood is unlined I think it might have looked a bit odd. Yay accidentally improving things! 

I sized up for this one and it's definitely more of a standard bomber jacket fit now. I left off the arm pocket again (I'm never going to use an arm pocket), and flat-felled all the seams. I love a good flat fell, even if it does get really awkward when you get to the wrist or ankle. 

I really like this version. Winter florals are much more my thing than spring/summer florals, with the dark backgrounds and deeper colours, and I like the contrast of the fabric with the style of the jacket. It's super autumnal, but it'll also work for most of the rest of the year if I wear it with different things. I've been getting tons of wear out of both of these, and I'm surprised at how much difference a range of outerwear and layering options makes to getting dressed. Two bombers is quite enough for now, but I think there will be many more jacket-type things in my future. 

Next up: I needed a top, but I made two dresses instead because why wouldn't I

Monday, 13 November 2017

autumn sewing: McCalls M7626 jumpsuit

So this is not exactly what I intended to happen:

I did intend to make McCalls 7626, which is what this is, and I did make McCalls 7626 in a teal babycord, which is not what this is. Let's just say I had some issues. 

Let's start with the good stuff: I really like the shape and fit of these trousers. The neckline works with the Wanted top underneath exactly the way I pictured it. I've been thinking about an olive winter jumpsuit for a while now. It's outside of my wrap-dress-and-tulip-skirt comfort zone, but I do think the end result is cute. 

BUT. I found making it to be kind of a headache. The first and most important reason is that the sizing was not what I expected. Here's attempt one:

Cute, right? I actually like this version much more. The colour is better on me and the fabric isn't as thick, which definitely works better for this pattern. The only problem is that I can't do it up and the back is just flapping open behind me in this photo. I have a small amount of fabric left over, and I would love some advice on where/how to insert extra fabric to make this fit me properly. I'm finding the whole idea a bit intimidating at the moment. 

I was frustrated, but I wanted a wearable jumpsuit. So I bought this olive corduroy on my Goldhawk Road corduroy hunt, and had another go, sizing up basically everywhere except the mid-upper back, which always gapes on me anyway. 

This one fits (and fits comfortably with a top worn underneath it), but it's not perfect. As you can see in the photo above, the height of the back is in exactly the wrong place for a comfortable zipping experience. It's slightly too high to do up in one motion from the bottom, but slightly too low to be able to finish by reaching over the shoulder. It's really annoying. Also the legs could do with a little more length. 

I wouldn't use this kind of thick cord to make this pattern again; it's way too bulky. Putting in the zip was one of the more annoying experiences I've had because there is just so much fabric in the waistband seams. Invisible zips do NOT want to be sewn in straight over four layers of cord and I had to unpick and redo several times. The sample dress on the envelope looks to be made of a corduroy-type fabric, and I don't think it would have ever occurred to me to do this without that picture. It looks great and is a fantastic warm autumn piece, but yeah. Use a thin cord. 

This review is going to come off a lot more negative than I mean it to. I really like this jumpsuit and will make it again (I want to try it in a thinner fabric), but there were just a lot of little annoyances along the way. Sizing off, zip insertion annoying, bulky bits, too short in the legs, slightly odd instructions. I'm convinced there must be a less convoluted way to handle the lining, but I'm too much of a beginner to know what that way might be. Sigh. 

I'm pretty sure I'll get a decent amount of wear out of this, assuming I don't get too hung up on how much of a departure this is for me style-wise (self-esteem is currently a huge problem for me and I am fighting the urge to just disappear. Wearing a corduroy jumpsuit does not boost one's invisibility, it turns out). It'll be especially good for layering as it gets colder. 

My next go at this pattern will definitely be attempting to fix the teal version, and again, advice very gratefully received. I basically need a small amount of extra room in the bum and waist so that it will zip up, and a little bit more ease in the bust so that I can comfortably wear a top underneath it. I WILL do it before the end of the year. I am determined. 

Really restrained Josephine Baker-ing for no reason whatsoever! 

Monday, 6 November 2017

unnecessary sewing: the emerald green evening dress of my dreams

One of the main reasons I started sewing in the first place was because I was almost always going into clothes shops with a very specific idea of what I wanted, and it was almost never there. I might be able to find the right shape but not the right colour, the right colour but in a completely different garment, or more often than is right and proper, the right colour in the right shape but also with a gigantic asymmetrical boob ruffle. Why?? Two and a half years into dressmaking, most of those problems are gone. Unless a) I have an extremely specific plan in mind and I just can't find the exact right pattern for it, or b) I want something green.

I don't know what it is about green fabric, but the colour is almost always wrong. The mossy olive I'm searching for is always muddy, the deep forest green drab and school uniform-ish, and the brilliant emerald just doesn't exist in any form whatsoever. Two winters ago Liberty had a really beautiful emerald green silk, but I couldn't justify £50 per metre, and when I tried to buy some in the sale it had sold out. I still think about that fabric, and the dress I imagined making from it, way more often than I should, but I could never find anything that was even in the same ballpark. Until now.

I saw this satin-back crepe at the Knitting and Stitching show, on the M Rosenberg stand. It was satin side up on the roll, and I'd already decided to buy it just based on the colour. The woman then showed me the crepe side, which feels super expensive and does beautiful things when it moves. (I never realised that was the purpose of satin-back crepe, but consider me thoroughly educated.) The colour isn't quite accurate here - I put an Instagram filter on it and this is much more representative of the actual colour. It is super green and I love it.

I'd already decided this was going to be a straight Anna dress so that the fabric could be the star of the show, but I debated for about a week on length. A knee-length one would be more versatile and I'd probably get a decent amount of wear out of it, but what I wanted was the completely impractical occasionless floor-length version. Patrick told me to make the dress I really wanted, but I was still full of practical doubts, so I let the fabric decide. Turns out, the maxi Anna pattern fits very easily onto three metres of fabric. Oops.

This is about the tenth time I've made this bodice, so I didn't change anything. I did add a couple of small front pleats to the skirt because I wanted it to mirror the pleats on the bodice. It is a skosh tight because everything is a skosh tight on me right now, and this will hopefully be remedied soon.

For this version I decided to line the top of the dress, since I hate the facing that comes with the pattern and stitching or binding round the neck and sleeves would detract from the look I was going for. I found a tutorial for attaching the lining to the zip tape by machine, and I like the way it looks SO much more than slipstitching. I still had to hand stitch the lining at the waist, but anything to cut down on the tedium. I then hand stitched down one side of the split, all along the hem and back up the other side of the split which took FOREVER so well done on cutting down that tedium there, Jen.

(It took me FOUR attempts to get decent photos of this dress. My camera suffered a knocking-over incident during a power cut, and I thought I'd got away with only a slightly damaged tripod, but after getting made up and dressed up three times and coming back with blurry images each time despite messing with ALL the settings, I had to face up to the fact that there was something wrong. My camera doesn't have autofocus in the body so I assumed the damage was in the lens, which turned out to be the case after I tested it with my wide angle. Luckily replacing a kit lens isn't that expensive, so I ordered a new one and normal photo-taking service can resume.)

I don't feel too guilty about having made something this unnecessary. I've been a very restrained dressmaker so far and never made a party dress that wasn't intended for a specific party, so I think I can give myself a pass on this one. The shorter version would have been more versatile, but also would have made me sad because I wanted this. Hopefully someone will throw an obnoxiously formal Christmas party this year, or I can just wear it on Christmas day like a twat. Why not? 

Look at me being all dramatic in the momentarily-cooperative wind. Nice.