Monday 30 July 2018

summer sewing: McCalls 7789 is a SURPRISE WIN

When I put M7789 on my summer plans, I had literally no concept at all of it being any good. I mean, look at it:
When I first saw that blue thing, I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was so hilarious I called my boyfriend over to laugh at it too. The giant trousers and basically non-existent top look so unbalanced together, and I just couldn't imagine where anyone would wear this or how they'd get it to stay up when they got there. And if it looks that ridiculous on this tiny beautiful woman, what chance do the rest of us have? But then I was thinking about high-waisted trousers and scrolling through Sew Direct, and I found myself looking at this pattern again thinking "actually the trousers themselves might be exactly what I'm after". Then I thought "hey, the view with the higher coverage top is actually not that bad" and before you could say "stupid unnecessary cut-out" I'd put the pattern in my basket. And instead of just leaving it to disintegrate in my pattern drawer, I got on with it pretty swiftly, with the full expectation of writing a hilarious comedy post about it afterwards.


Look at it! This is actually fucking great. There is nothing I don't like about it. It's swishy and easy and comfortable and glamorous and I am one hundred per cent here for it. I'm still amazed. That blue thing! Can become this!

Originally I did make the jumpsuit with the cutout, but a combination of extremely large boobs and an extremely short waist means that I literally do not have sufficient space there for a cutout that size. There was a LOT of underboob (well, underbra, which is possibly worse). I filled the gap in with a piece of self fabric and topstitched it down, which works fine. I also had to put some fairly hefty darts into the bodice - I did a kind of cheat's FBA which ended up putting more space horizonally than vertically, which it turns out is not what I need. I also shortened the straps by several inches, which is pretty standard for me. What I did not have to do is size up in the hips. There is a ton of volume in these trousers.

Look at that EXACT bra coverage. This has never happened to me before in the whole course of my life. 

The top and waistband are lined, and I French seamed the trousers (including the pockets, which I haven't done before and which worked like a charm, to my surprise), meaning that I have a pretty clean finish on this everywhere except the zip tape. What's an attractive way to finish fabric there without adding a ton of bulk to it? The pattern instructions call for the waistband lining to be slipstitched in place and then topstitched, which is way more work than I am prepared to put into a casual summer garment. Why slipstitch if you're going to immediately topstitch anyway? I stitched in the ditch and it's fine.

I will be making another one of these ASAP. I love it, and more than one person has basically ordered me to make myself a second version, so the black viscose I was planning to use for a maxi dress will probably become this jumpsuit instead. I am going to attempt making a pattern piece the size of the cut-out and putting that in from the beginning this time. 

I will probably not post next week. This week is going to be stupid busy and my next project is likely to be... complicated. I've been trying to force myself to get on with making the cotton moto jacket I wrote into my summer plan, and realised a few days ago that the reason I wasn't getting on with it was because I couldn't visualise ANY outfit it would work with. So I'm abandoning that idea and replacing it with something much stupider - making a toile of the leather jacket I've been talking about making all year. I will need to trace my very first Burda magazine pattern, get to grips with cutting and working with leather, and learn all the new techniques I will have to use to make a biker jacket! Solid plan, Jen. 

Monday 23 July 2018

summer sewing: red Kielo and bonus Wanted hack

I don't think the internet needs any more Kielo posts, but hey:

Meet the new Kielo, same as the old Kielo. Actually that's not true; making a pattern a few times allows one to refine things and this is the best finish I've achieved on this dress. When I made my first one I put neck and armbands in with extreme incompetence and ended up folding them underneath and topstitching them down with yet more incompetence. My second Kielo was finished by turning and stitching, and it's kind of OK for that one because the jersey isn't that stretchy. This jersey (another Rolls and Rems purchase), however, is extremely stretchy and wouldn't have lasted five minutes with a turned-under neck hem, so with some trepidation I decided to try bands again. It turns out my sewing is much better now, so the bands went in nicely, laid flat and were as simple and unobtrusive as you could wish for. It's funny how unaware you can be of your own progress. 

I also experimented with using water-soluble tape in the hem to get nicer twin needle stitching. It's definitely a huge improvement and something I'll be doing all the time with awkward fabrics from now on, but it's still not as nice as I'd like and I think I'm going to have to start experimenting with tension settings more. Ugh. 

The one issue I have with this version is that in person, the fabric is kind of see-through. It didn't look see-through when I was checking the fabric, but made up into a garment and on my body, it is very possible to tell what colour my underwear is. It's easily fixable by wearing a vest top and bike shorts underneath (although not right now because it is 32 bollocking degrees and extra clothing is deeply uncomfortable and WE ARE NOT SET UP FOR THIS there is no aircon in this country and we're all dying), but I didn't realise that when I took the photos. It hasn't photographed too badly from the front, but let's just say there's a reason I haven't posted a back view of this one. 

I also have another jersey maxi dress to share, and it may well be the last one of the summer. I'd planned to make a Butterick 5181 woven maxi, but I finished my toile this weekend and I hate it. The back is too low, the skirt is too bulky, and the waist is just weird. I still want my fancy black viscose to become something, but it won't be that. (I now have a couple of toiles that look horrendous on me and I'm considering putting them into one "fail post" so that the information is out there but I don't have to spend too much time looking at terrible pictures of myself.)


This is another Vanessa Pouzet Wanted top hacked into a maxi. When I made my first one back in May I loved it and had immediate plans to make a second... except none of my fabric was right for it and I didn't want to make a "maybe" dress. Then a couple of weeks ago I went to Walthamstow looking for toile fabric and this was just sitting there. Perfect maxi fabric that also happened to be in my summer colours. Win!

Originally I thought I would make the top in horizontal stripes and the skirt in vertical stripes, but after making the top part (which I had to do twice because I hadn't fully anticipated how much more annoying these stripes would be to match than regular stripes) I did some experimenting and realised it didn't look quite right. I think the variation in stripe width and unequal amounts of colour made it look unbalanced. So I just did the whole thing horizontally, which looks better but was way more annoying because I had to match these stripes all the way round. In most cases I'm not overly concerned about pattern matching, but I HATE when stripes are off. 

My first version of this dress has stretched out quite a bit at the neck from heavy use, so I made the back neckband a little smaller on this version. I also haven't elasticated the waist (just gathered the skirt fabric), though I still might go back in and do that depending on how its first week in my wardrobe goes. 

I'm super pleased with this dress. The fabric is somehow classically summery without having any of the traditional summer prints or colours, and the dress is a statement piece while also being super-casual and comfortable. With these two done I now have six maxi dresses I love, which I'm pretty sure will be enough to get me through the summer. I'm not saying I'm definitely done, just that if I don't get any more fabric/pattern inspiration, I'll probably be fine.

Up next: the jacket, hopefully? Maybe better not to plan for that during a week where the heatwave is having a heatwave...

Monday 16 July 2018

Butterick 6051, or a Dairy Milk dress

Hey! How's your heatwave? This isn't the hottest summer I can remember, but it's definitely the longest. We've already had three months of straight summer weather (if you exclude that one day of rain and one random seven-minute hailstorm at the end of May) and we're only halfway into actual summer. What this means is that I need more maxi dresses.

I never wore maxi dresses before I started sewing because shops sold exactly two types: tank top-style jersey ones that had zero shaping or volume and clung to every single lump and bump; or ones with actual shaping that were far too bare on top to wear any kind of comfortable bra with. I got a fair amount of use out of my Kielos last year, but this year I have been wearing them non-stop. I am wearing nothing but maxi dresses and the occasional jumpsuit to stave off this heat. Only putting two more maxis on my summer plan was a mistake, as I discovered when I realised I had nothing to wear while my week's worth of laundry was drying. So here's Extra Maxi #1:

 This is Butterick 6051, made in a Dairy Milk purple viscose jersey I bought at Rolls and Rems (my go-to for solid-coloured jersey). It has a bunch of views: this surplice bodice with or without sleeves, a much looser version with kimono sleeves, and a tank style, with three skirt options. I made a combination of views A and B, with the short sleeves, back ties, and straight hem. 

This fit is mostly straight out of the packet. I cut the smallest size in the shoulders and the largest size in the hips, and I'm glad I did because this jersey is CLINGY. I didn't do an FBA and had plenty of space (I'm not sure I agree with their classification of this bodice as "fitted" because the back was pretty loose too), leaving me with only one issue: gaping. SO much gaping. The neckline is finished with a turn-and-hem job, which rarely works for me and certainly didn't this time. This was the major change I made: I took the piece of elastic I was meant to put in the waist and put it through the neckline instead. I'm not sure I quite got the length of elastic right but it's good enough: everything now sits exactly where I like it to sit and there's no danger of a wardrobe malfunction. This is pretty much my ideal surplice neckline proportion now that I've taken 1.5cm off to enclose the elastic.

For me, adding elastic to the waistline on this dress was unnecessary. It works perfectly fine without. The ties keep everything looking nicely fitted, and I just felt that an elastic channel might look a bit... odd? The line drawings for this view don't appear to show an elasticised waist, but it is in the instructions, and they tell you to make the channel using the seam allowance as normal. I can only picture that looking weird underneath the waist inset (which is only at the front of the dress), especially on me and my super-short waist. It might also be worth noting that the illustrations and line drawings for the looser bodice/gathered skirt views show a flat front and elasticated back, but the instructions are for a fully elasticated waist, so if you want the flat front look you've got some alterations to make. 

Overall I'm really pleased with this. It fits perfectly into my summer style, aka "as crazy glamorous as possible while also still basically wearing pyjamas" (this would be my style at all times if I could work out how to appropriately transfer it to colder temperatures, grrr) and I do love a good purple dress. This is definitely something I'd make again; if I extended the sleeves and swapped in a shorter skirt, it could be a great staple for autumn. I may or may not faff about with neckline finishing in the future, but for me and my oversized boobs some kind of elastic or neckband or similar is a must. 

Up next will probably be another round of maxi dresses. I'd really like to get on with the jacket, but I'm hesitant to commit to any such thing while I'm getting dramatically ill for several days after every weightlifting class. My body is seriously pathetic. "You made me lift 50lb over my head! How dare you! Here's MORE FLU!" Joke's on you, body. You're going to get strong, goddammit. 

Glamorous power pose! 

Monday 9 July 2018

SWAY! so hypnotic! SWAY! so hypnotic!

(Alright, we've gone a bit left field with the song lyric titling today. Let's see what the Venn diagram of "people interested in sewing patterns" and "teenage Goths in the late 90s" looks like.)

As I mentioned in my summer plans, my original intention was to make the Papercut Sway dress using the raspberry linen I bought on my trip to Mood last month. Being that it was a memento of a lovely holiday and as such not replaceable, I didn't want to just cut into it without checking the pattern would actually work for me, so I went out for toile fabric. I came back with some light pink floral crepe and a very confused face. Why did I buy light pink floral? Did something terrible happen to Teen Goth Jen?

It turns out that I actually don't hate it. I think the print is bold and saturated enough to take the attention away from the pink (which is a much brighter candyfloss sort of colour IRL, when the sun isn't misbehaving like this). It's another Fabric Store in Walthamstow find; lightweight with a slight crepey texture, and also a borderline confusing lack of fraying. I haven't hemmed it yet in these pictures, I've worn it out of the house unhemmed, and after more than a week there's maybe one visible loose thread. What kind of wizardry this is, I do not know.

As you might imagine, this pattern is super-easy to construct. The main body of the dress is made up of four pieces, plus an all-in-one facing, side seam pockets and a waist tie. It was a couple of hours' work at most. The bias on this one drops like WHOA, though, so it needs a fair amount of time to hang before being levelled off and hemmed. I'm actually not sure I'm going to level this off - I didn't compensate for my boobs when cutting it out, and though the shorter length at the front is fine for me, the same length at the back would be way less comfortable. I think I'll just make sure the sides are even and pretend it's an intentional high-low hem.

So, the fit. For me personally, the shoulder fit and neckline style on this dress isn't quite right. The dress is meant to be reversible, but I tried it on with the round neck at the front and it's so uncomfortable that I can't even wear it that way for a photo. I'm not sure why this is. The V neck side is fine, but also I am really not keen on the proportions. I feel like it needs to be either lower or wider or both. Not in a cleavagey way, either, just... this is too small. I think the Cashmerette Webster (which might be what my linen ends up as), for example, has a lovely size and shape of V neck without entering into the whole boob question at all. If I were ever to try making this dress again, I'd probably try and put that neckline on it.

Also, this is a bit more of a quibble, but I found the length of the waist tie slightly weird. It comfortably wraps my waist one and a half times, meaning it's too long for a normal tie and too short for a double wrap. When I wear this dress I put the waist tie in backwards, so that it wraps at the back and comes back round to tie in the front.

The combination of my exaggerated body shape and the excess of fabric means it doesn't look quite as relaxed on me as I would have liked. It's almost a circle skirt vibe, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but also isn't really what I was after. This fabric is lighter weight than my linen, and I really think it would look too bulky on me. So I'm glad I made this test version first, but also annoyed because I now have zero idea of what the linen should become. I'm considering the Webster, but worried that's too far in the other direction volume-wise. Easy unfitted summer dress pattern that works with waist ties? Help me out here? 

(It has to be said, though, that I've been very grateful for this dress during our current stupid heatwave.)

I'm not sure what's up next. I haven't sewn very much this past week; a combination of the heatwave, a fabric order not being what I expected when it turned up and an exceptionally brutal beginner weightlifting class which replaced my quads with metal rods have meant that my sewjo is sitting in the corner weeping into a motorised fan. Fingers crossed this week will be less designed to hurt me!

Monday 2 July 2018

summer sewing: Asaka kimono

July is here, and so is the first project from my summer plan!

(Please excuse my weird glowing photos. I've been trying to get them done for over a week and I never wake up early enough to avoid the glaring sun. What is going on?? This is a goddamn weird actual summerlike summer we're having here.)

I made this one first because it was the one I was most excited about. The Asaka kimono was the first Named pattern I ever wanted to buy, but I was suffering from a weird kind of sewing imposter syndrome at the time (along the lines of "everything you make is bad, even you think so but you force yourself to wear this shit anyway so you can keep deluding yourself") so I talked myself out of it. Totally impractical, I said. You'll never wear it, I said.

When I found this fabric (an Italian crepe-type from my perennial favourite, Fabric Store in Walthamstow) I immediately had visions of the Phryne Fisher loungewear I used to promise myself I'd make but then never did, and realised that the Asaka really isn't that impractical. Since I'd be wearing it as a dressing gown most practicality concerns don't apply, and there's not much I could make that would get more wear than a fancy black floral robe. It may be the height of summer but still nobody is going to persuade me that what I want is a light floral.

Look at these sleeves! They're actually much less of a pain to wear than you'd think - since the vent sits above the elbow, when you bend your arm the material just quietly drapes out of the way. I'm not saying I'd make pancakes in them, but for general day-to-day activities they're pretty well-behaved. 

Named no longer sells the paper pattern for this design and I couldn't be bothered to track it down even though I know I could have, so I bought the PDF. Thankfully this one wasn't an overlapping layout like some of the Named PDFs I've bought before. I understand tracing paper patterns (even though I don't tend to do it myself) but I cannot fathom why anyone would create a PDF that you had to trace. I've found a couple of old reviews mentioning that the pattern only gives you two sizes nested together, and that's not the case anymore; this one has been updated to match their current releases and all sizes are nested into one. The seam allowance is still 1cm, so I added a tiny bit extra to allow me to do French seams the way I'm already comfortable with.

The insides are all French-seamed, including the seam that splits into the sleeve vent. That took me a while to work out (and tutorials aren't plentiful, though there are approximately one shitbillion telling me how to sew a straight French seam), but it turned out to be a fairly simple "clip into the seam allowance and tuck under" job. I also lengthened the whole thing by about 10 inches, and I'm glad I did. I'm not normally one for this kind of length, but for loungewear it's perfect. It gives me both coverage and swank factor without creating any kind of tripping risk. After experimenting with the tie belt I decided to double the length, using four pieces instead of two, which lets me wrap it twice round and tie a big long bow at the front. Overall it's a pretty simple project which took me about a day start to finish, with no major difficulties beyond trying to press this fabric, which was so bouncy I probably could have hosted a four-year-old's birthday party on it. I've forgiven it, though, because damn it is pretty. 

This is one of my favourite things I've made in a while. I'm not sure if I'll make it again - there's a fairly limited amount of space in my wardrobe for kimonos, especially given that I still want to make a proper version of the Victory Patterns Trina - but if the right fabric came along I don't think I'd protest very hard. I've tried several times to make a dressing gown for myself and each one has been a colossal failure, so this feels like an achievement that's been a long time coming. I shall bask in this feeling until it gets cold and I decide I need a winter dressing gown as well. 

Next up: an incredibly uncharacteristic pink dress!