Monday, 30 April 2018

Esther? I hardly know 'er

(Oh yes, we have progressed into Dad Joke titles, lovely readers.)

I wasn't sure I was even going to post about these.

Having been not the remotest bit interested in wearing trousers for the past few years, I've suddenly found myself wanting to wear them all the time and getting increasingly annoyed that I don't have any. Trouser fitting is still a scary thing for me, because I've made so few. I don't really understand all the ins and outs of adjusting for certain issues so it's still a matter of luck whether my trousers fit or they do that thing (everyone has a different that thing, but mine is either a gaping waistband that sinks dangerously low when I sit down, or fabric settling in below my belly making me look like I'm wearing a nappy. Or just trousers that won't go over my thighs).

I will start to get a grip on this fitting thing. But first, some actual wearable trousers. I thought the Victory Patterns Esther looked like just the thing - loose and comfortable, but interesting and cool at the same time.

The pattern is very well drafted, as you might expect, and came together quite easily. The trouser front is made up of two pieces per leg, which are pleated and overlapped at the waist making a kind of triangle shape at the thigh (it's really hard to see in this dark fabric, sorry). This is the reason I thought I didn't like these trousers. If those pleats aren't knife-sharp and lying as flat as they possibly can, they're not pretty. In a super-light fabric like this, the inside of the pleats can fall out and form what my boyfriend referred to as "pubic flaps". Don't have extra pubic flaps.

This fabric is from Walthamstow, and unless all my toiles go drastically wrong you'll be seeing a lot more of it. Sometimes I buy ten metres of something just because I can.

My intention was to install a press stud for the fastening rather than a button as directed or a sew-on stud as I would normally do, but after my first practice go (I got everything installed properly but then the whole thing just ripped straight out of the fabric as soon as I tried to use it) I gave up and went back to the sew-on method. I really dislike hand-sewn fastenings, but clearly I have not found my way around that yet.

Having got the pleats sitting properly, I really like the silhouette that these trousers give. They sit at the natural waist, there's enough room for my hips without sizing up, and because the pleats fall straight down they don't give me that pot-bellied silhouette from the side. I wasn't sure about the shape of the legs at first (I was expecting them to be a bit wider at the bottom), but it's definitely grown on me. 

I'm in two minds as to whether or not to make another pair of these. I definitely want more lightweight spring/summer trousers, but this is quite a specific shape and I don't know if I want to faff about with all the pleat pressing for a second time. I'm considering trying to mash this pattern up with the Megan Nielsen Flint trousers - I love the shape of those but I can't see the ties holding up in the kind of lightweight fabric I would want to use. I don't think I'd ever use the Esther for colder weather trousers - wool is one of the recommended fabrics, but it seems like an awful lot of bulk and volume for winter weight fabric. Maybe that's just me and my preferences, though. 

All in all, I'm quite pleased with these and glad I managed to rescue them from the brink of failure. Yay!

Next up: finally getting on with spring and some workout gear! 

Monday, 23 April 2018

My First Burda: a paisley velour hoodie

For the first almost-three-years of my sewing journey, I never touched a Burda pattern. Two main reasons for this: one, I am awkwardly sized so that my top half fits into their regular range but my hips are well into their plus range; and two, the tracing. Oh God, the tracing. I rarely trace my patterns at the best of times (unless I'm forced to or know I won't be able to replace it) and just looking at the mass of overlapping lines gives me a headache. I will have to deal with this soon, because the only leather jacket pattern I like is Burda and is in the one issue of the magazine I have. I could buy it again separately, but I'm pretty sure that my £5.99 could be better spent elsewhere.

What I've done here is neatly sidestepped both those problems by acquiring a men's paper pattern.

I don't make a lot of handmade stuff for my boyfriend. I don't want to be making stuff for the sake of it and he's picky enough that it's fairly rare to find something he really wants which is also within my skill set. But when something does fall in the middle of that Venn diagram, it usually requires a bunch of new techniques that I wouldn't have got round to for years if making stuff for myself and I come out the other side marginally stressed (because it matters more if it goes wrong) but with a pile of shiny new knowledge that opens up doors to a new variety of Jen-shaped patterns.

New technique number one: use of paisley velour.

I've never got round to using velvet or velour for myself because the one time I tried to cut into some it started shedding all over everything like an over-enthusiastic sheepdog and I decided I didn't need that kind of negativity in my life. But then I said "paisley velour hoodie" to my boyfriend and he started gently glowing from the inside, so I powered through and got it done. The shedding was nowhere near as bad with this fabric (another Abakhan purchase) thanks to its shorter pile and its print, so rather than a blue floor I just had some slightly furry scissors by the end.

The hoodie has raglan sleeves and a typical hoodie front pocket, and it went together very easily. It's a very well-drafted pattern (which I was expecting given how many Burda fans there are out there) with fairly sparse instructions. It's not a complicated pattern so that wasn't an issue, though I do think they called for an unnecessary amount of basting. I got as far as sewing the hood sections together, and then I had some more learning to do.


This was my first foray into installing hardware on clothes. It was one of the goals I set myself for the year and it was nice to have an impetus to get on with it already. I'd bought a starter kit but not bothered to read the instructions, so five minutes after I sat down to get learning, I had to stand up again and go and buy a hammer. Why did it not occur to me I'd need a hammer? Who knows. Apparently the idea is to punch a hole in the fabric using the hammer and eyelet tool, but the fabric would not be punched, so I just cut a hole instead. I don't know whether this was my fault, the fabric's fault, or the tool's fault. I had one practice go at installing an eyelet on a piece of scrap fabric and it... went in fine and looked like an actual eyelet, which I was not expecting. I put the next two straight into the garment, and they also went in fine and looked like actual eyelets. I spent the next couple of hours feeling incredibly smug.

(This is as close as a representation as we'll get of me looking smug after installing eyelets correctly for the first time.)

The pattern calls for ribbing on the cuffs and waistband, but the ribbing I ordered turned out to be a horrible colour mismatch and I didn't have time to get any more. I used the self fabric and I think it's fine. The drawstring I bought matches the fabric exactly, so weird dusky blue ribbing would have looked extra wrong.

This has been an exceptionally well-appreciated present. Patrick wears it almost every day at home, and when we have people over he insists on going to put it on and modelling it for them. Sometimes he just says "paisley velour hoodie" for no reason at all. I'm very proud of it - it couldn't be more perfect for him, and beyond a couple of slightly wonky stitches I think I've done really good work here. I would definitely make this pattern again, and it's really making me want a hoodie of my very own. 

 I'm not sure what will be next up. I've been struggling for motivation over the last few weeks, and the things I have finished I hate too much to ever photograph on my body ever. Hopefully things will pick up a bit this week and I'll be able to get some finished garments and nice photos before we head to my in-laws at the weekend. Though I have my FIFTH dental operation this week (apparently two of my teeth died inside and my dentist can find absolutely no explanation for it! What a joy it is), so we can't count on it. Fingers crossed one of my experiments actually works out for me.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

sewing plans: spring 2018

Planning! I was considering skipping a seasonal plan this time round to see if going with the flow would work better for me, but it turns out that no, it doesn't. It just leaves me with a ton of ideas and no clue where to start. Here are the things I'm thinking of making, sorted into their various categories.

Holiday Wardrobe

Patrick and I have booked a trip to New York at the beginning of June. Ostensibly we're going to visit friends, but by what is definitely a coincidence NYC also holds a ton of stuff we get very excited about (him: fancy dining and art galleries; me: dancing and fabric shopping; both of us: booze). I've been to New York once before, but it was before I started sewing (and also was with a friend who didn't budget for seeing anything or doing anything, and spent a full eighteen hours of the trip not speaking to me because I insisted we go for a proper meal instead of surviving off breadsticks from the 7/11), so I am determined to pay a visit to Mood. Since I cannot imagine a world in which I go to Mood and don't want to buy anything, I need to pack lightly to leave space for my future hypothetical fabric. I'm not going to make an entire wardrobe for this trip but there are a few gaps I can think of:

A jumpsuit or two. I think jumpsuits will be perfect for day-to-day wandering around and hitting up bars, and I bought a few patterns last month. They're all different styles of woven jumpsuit, and one of them is the most hilariously ugly sample garment I've seen in a while:
What IS this shiny green one-shouldered culotted monstrosity? I swear I can hear the static ripping when I look at this picture. Why would you force another human being into that thing, and why wouldn't somebody stop you? EESH. Despite the Jolly Green Giant getup, I bought the pattern because the two-shouldered version with full-length trousers could be very nice. This one is dressier than the other two, but ideally I'd like to make wearable toiles of all three. Possibly a tall order, and I might not get that far, but in my head at the moment that's the plan. 

A pair of trousers. I talked about wanting a pair of swishy high-waisted trousers in my dream projects post, and lately I've been shooting my wardrobe really dirty looks because those trousers don't exist yet. The time is right. I still don't know what pattern to use - I can't find anything that looks exactly right. If the jumpsuit above works well I might knock together a waistband and use the trousers from that. 

A Wanted top. I don't have a lot of T-shirts, so a short-sleeved Wanted top that works with a denim skirt and whatever the above trousers turn out to be would be just the thing.

A fancy-ass dress. I don't know yet whether I need to make anything new for this (my weight has been all over the place and I have no idea what currently fits me), but since New York restaurant dress codes seem to be stricter than London ones, I will need something I can wear to whatever swanky dinner Patrick decides we're going to. 

Workout Gear

For the past five years my only form of exercise, when I have exercised at all, has been partnered dance classes and socials where everyone rocks up in their regular clothes, so I've never needed activewear. However, in a bid to get fitter and remind myself that I actually really love dancing, I'm currently signed up to a couple of more intense street dance-type classes (the thigh burn, OH GOD THE THIGH BURN). We record ourselves at the end of each class, and I'm kind of over watching videos of myself wearing the few pieces of ancient ratty RTW that I haven't thrown out yet. I only want a couple of things for now, so this is what I'm starting with:

Simplicity 8424. I've made a start on the vest top and wrap top already, and if I can find a suitable fabric I want to try the leggings as well. They'll be the full length ones - I like the look of the calf length ones with the ties, but if you think I'm going to wax my legs just so that I can look slightly fancier when I exercise then you've got another think coming.

A few T-shirts. This is tricky because I need to get the amount of ease right. I don't like doing dance classes in baggy clothes because it obscures my body positioning and makes it hard to tell if I'm doing the moves right, but if everything I'm wearing is skintight I get self-conscious and end up not committing to the dance properly. So this will probably take a bit of experimenting with style and ease and length. I'm going to try the Named Selja T-shirt, and I'm in the market for one or two other patterns as well.

This Would Be Cool But I Haven't Thought It Through Yet

A cropped stripy hoodie. I have never been remotely interested in owning a hoodie, but I have some really nice stripy ponte in my stash that's suddenly insisting on being made into one. Now that I've had the idea I really want it, but I'm aware that if the finished garment is even slightly wrong then I'm going to hate it. I don't have a pattern yet and will probably need to make a toile before I cut into my good fabric.

A Goth dress. Last month Teen Goth Jen insisted on buying some bright red tartan stretch cotton from Fabric Land, and since the only way to de-Gothify it would be to make weird Rupert the Bear trousers, I'm going to lean into it. My initial thought was to make another Anna/Hollyburn mash-up, but I've managed to lose both the Hollyburn pocket piece and my altered Anna bodice. I printed out the bodice and altered it again, but it doesn't look the same for some reason, so I need to toile that and try to reverse engineer the Hollyburn pocket. These are both really annoying jobs, so I might well end up making something else entirely.

This isn't everything I've got in mind, but even this much is a pretty tall order (and almost certainly won't all get done), so I'm going to leave it here for now. If anyone who knows NYC has any fabric shopping/eating/drinking recommendations, please do let me know!

(This was not as quick and dirty a post as I'd anticipated. Oops.)

Monday, 9 April 2018

a really late winter sewing wrap-up

For obvious reasons my winter plan was a bit of a misfire. My original intention when trying to get my sewjo back was to just cut my losses, forget the whole thing and move on. Then I decided I'd make a few of the projects I wanted the most, but leave it off the blog so I didn't get bogged down in it. I got those things done at the beginning of March and tried to put it to one side, but since then there's been this bizarre creeping dread when I come to post, like I haven't handed in my homework and the teacher's about to find out. Who is the teacher in this scenario? I have no clue. Nevertheless, we must give in to the invisible boogeyman and do a wrap-up post.

Overall I managed seven things from my original list; two during the actual season they were meant for,and another five at the beginning of last month. The rest have been jettisoned for now - I might come back to some of them at a later date, but for now I've given myself permission to ignore them. Results for the five I did make are... mixed, as you're about to find out.

(Also, my dental work has been extended into at least three separate operations, so THAT's a joy.)

Deer & Doe Lupin jacket

This was absolutely a success. I don't have much more to say about the pattern; it's still great, I still love it, I will still probably make it again. This kind of minky-pink suede wouldn't normally be my thing, but it's a perfect colour for a jacket - it goes with almost everything while still looking a bit more imaginative than a true neutral. I lined it with the leftover bird lining from my Rumana coat so it'll be nice and soft to wear over short-sleeved tops and dresses once spring bothers to turn up. It's living in the wardrobe for now because it's too cold to abandon my big coat and too wet to risk going out in suede.

Vogue 8888 dressing gown

This one probably does warrant its own post, but I just feel so uncomfortable in it that I can't bring myself to take a load of photos. I'm not sure my assessment of the pattern would be accurate anyway, because I just hate this. It's too small at the hips so it won't stay closed (as I'm sure you can see), the fabric was a nightmare to sew and press, and even though I spent quite a long time French seaming everything and making it pretty inside, once it was done I said, "oh, thank God for that", threw it on the floor and put my boyfriend's old towelling robe back on. I will have another go at a dressing gown, but not this pattern and not for a while. Turns out I really hate sewing shawl collars, and doing it four times in the last few months has done zero to desensitise me. Shawl collars can bite it, as far as I'm concerned. 

Jersey pyjamas

I LOVE these. They're the trouser part of the Closet Case Patterns Sallie jumpsuit with an added elasticated rectangle for the waistband,and they're the best item of loungewear I've ever made. I wear them constantly at home, and I take them with me whenever I go away, even if it's only for a night. I will definitely make more, and possibly also make a pair I can wear outside. Fabric was an impulse buy from a Sew Over It remnant sale that I really didn't know what to do with once I got it home, but it's perfect for this. (The top here is part of a continued experiment to come up with a knit top sloper -  still a work in progress.)

Simplicity 1370 skirt

I tried this twice and I don't think it's right for me, simply because of the way I'm shaped. This one was way too big and fell down when I walked...

...and this one looked perfect but rode up at the back when I walked, to the point where a stranger had to tell me my ass was hanging out. I think the pattern itself is really nice, but it's not for my small-waisted giant-assed self. I'm currently working on adapting another pattern, which I'll post about when I've finished my second attempt. 

That's everything from my winter plan that I intend to make for now, except the Victory Patterns Esther trousers which I will do a separate post about. I hated them when I put them on, but they somehow look really good in all the photos I've taken, so I'm going to mess about with the pleating and see if I can make myself like them more in person. I'm going to do a quick and dirty planning post on Thursday, which will hopefully lead up to a proper pattern review next week. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 2 April 2018

an experimental Simplicity 8380

Happy Easter, humans! I am still two days away from my horrible dental work and still hurting, but on the plus side the swelling has gone, RuPaul's Drag Race is back (Team MonĂ©t) and I have finished my course of super-strength antibiotics so I can drink again. Yay! 

Here's a dress I had no plans to make whatsoever:

This is a Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern that I bought on a whim and decided to experiment with. I'm not 100% sure about it as a finished garment, but there are so many really great elements to this dress and I'm really impressed with the way it's been designed. I haven't used a Cynthia Rowley before, but if they're all like this then I'm definitely getting more (I was going to write "I'm buying all of them" but then I Googled and half of them appear to be tents, so no. There's definitely a couple I could try, though).

I got this fabric from The Textile Centre well over a year ago, and as soon as it arrived I thought, "Wow, I have literally no idea what to do with this" and put it at the back of my stash. I've had a few half-hearted ideas for it, but basically I'd decided to get rid of it and was just trying to work out how. Then I bought some really nice fabric of a similar weight and texture that I really didn't want to screw up on an untested pattern, and figured this would make a decent toile. 

In "For Fuck's Sake" news, the really nice fabric died in the pre-wash. 

The biggest mistake I made with this dress was to glance at the instructions, see that they wanted me to put a zip in, laugh at the incompetence and not read through the rest of the instructions. I was correct that there's zero need for a zip, but half the construction of the bodice is based around the idea that there will be a zip, and I needed to read ahead and correct for that, which I did not. I managed to fudge it and it's fine, but it would have been a lot easier if I'd constructed the whole bodice before sewing the remaining side seam up.

I LOVE the pockets on this dress. I thought they were just standard side seam pockets (and thus had to do a bunch of unpicking because I yet again hadn't bothered to read the instructions), but they're anchored into the waist seam so that the pocket isn't dragged down when you put something in it, and they're huge but with a much smaller opening, so there's lots of room to hold stuff and much less chance that anything will fall out. It's a little bit genius. I haven't quite got the construction down on this one, but I will be taking these pockets and putting them into basically everything that isn't super-fitted. SO MUCH ROOM. 

My overall impression of this pattern is very positive, but as yet I have no idea whether or not this dress will get worn. On the one hand, this is accidentally an amazing fabric/pattern match and I legitimately did not think I could ever get this fabric to look this good. The skirt is a good shape, I really like the pockets, and the large broken bust darts work fantastically for me. On the other hand, it is slightly too short (it's unhemmed here) to be worn without tights, and I don't like how it looks with tights or have sufficient extra fabric to alter it. I'm also not completely sure about sleeveless on me (while I'm not the biggest fan of my arms, it's not that - I just think there's something about a shoulder that ends where this one does, especially combined with a slightly higher neck, that looks a bit odd to me proportionally). I may never make this exact dress again, but there is a TON for me to steal and repurpose here, and I guarantee you will see bits of this reused in a bunch of different ways. 

I'm not sure if there'll be a post next week. My infected face has seriously impeded my sewing motivation, and the garment I'd planned to post about (the Victory Patterns Esther trousers) looks TERRIBLE on me so I need to rethink how I do that. If I can get something done, I will!