Monday 29 October 2018

autumn sewing: the triumphant completion of my white leather jacket (and bonus Vogue 9199)


I'm not going to lie, when I got to mid-October and still hadn't even started this I thought it just wasn't going to happen. The test version was super-draining to my sewjo in general, particularly when I realised that it was too uncomfortable to actually wear, and I still haven't quite recovered (as my much less frequent posting has probably given away). When I put it on the list in the first place I knew that making a second jacket so soon would either clear away all the residual YARGH and let me get on with things normally again, or would stall me completely and utterly. And for ages, it was the latter. I made plans for getting everything going again nearly a month ago, made the Magnolia dress and then stopped. A week later I spent the entirety of Monday sitting on the kitchen floor cutting out a dozen things. Two dresses, a pair of trousers, a HUGE pile of jersey tops... and two versions of this stupid Burda jacket. Two. What is wrong with me? But it turned out to be motivation enough to get on with it.

Thankfully, this version is WAY better than the test one. The fabric is much thinner and softer, so it's comfortable to wear and isn't such a pain to do up, the hem isn't wonky, the sleeve heads aren't huge and puffy, and the zip is the right length. Also, all the zips match this time. I bought the front and sleeve zips from the same eBay shop I used last time, but bought the pocket zips in person to make sure the teeth were the right colour.

I bought this fabric from I'd been dreaming about it for a few months before I bought it, but I misunderstood the description and thought it was actually embroidered. It's not, it's just a pattern printed on. It's very different from my first fabric - it's a super thin, super soft plastic-like sheet bonded to backing fabric, which seems to be more the norm than the other faux leather, which was just SOLID. Much to my immense confusion, though, the backing fabric is 100% unresponsive to Superglue. It absorbs and dries the glue literally instantly, leaving you with a small hard crusty spot that won't bend. This was a problem I just hadn't anticipated. No glue, no pins, no tacking stitches. I just about managed to get round that for attaching the zips, but for the hem I literally had to resort to tit tape, and I don't think it's worked that well. My third piece of faux leather, also a thin sheet on backing fabric, has no such issues with Superglue, so I don't know what the hell this stuff is made of.

So, having now made this jacket again with some idea of what I was doing and only one major fabric issue to deal with, I feel more confident in saying that Burda instructions really aren't very good. Certainly these ones weren't. Everything I've read prior to this suggested that the biggest Burda point of contention was the lack of seam allowances on the pattern pieces (I get both sides of the argument - my biggest problem is that I cut out/trace on autopilot and always forget I have to add stuff), and instructions were only mentioned as being "sparse". I don't feel like I'm in a position where I need too much hand-holding, so I wasn't concerned. If I get stuck on a thing, there's usually a more in-depth tutorial lurking around somewhere. However, these instructions weren't so much "sparse" as they were "confusing and occasionally outright wrong". At one point it instructs "sew lining to jacket" when what they mean is "sew lining to facing" and they absolutely do not want you to sew the lining to the jacket, because you haven't done the collar yet. I'm also really not a fan of the way they put about three hours' worth of work under a single bullet point. It means things that sorely need diagrams don't get them, and it's really easy to miss out a step. I didn't topstitch the collar and lapels when I was supposed to because it was under the "Hems" bullet point and I'd finished all the hemming. Luckily that wasn't too hard to correct after the fact.

I'm much happier with the overall construction of this jacket, but a lot of the finicky details still aren't great. I don't have a ton of pocket lining showing this time, but you can see way too much zip tape. The stitching line on the lapel isn't quite where it should be because I wasn't sure how to effectively work round the zip stop. The lining is right at the bottom edge of the jacket, presumably because I don't fully understand the hem instructions. Or possibly it's just that the tape didn't work. I've nearly finished version three and I'm planning to put a leather-look ribbed waistband on that one instead of wrangling with the hem again, but there's a horrible, horrible part of me that wants to try making a fourth version, out of a cotton I don't really care about, so that I can work on the techniques in a fabric that will allow me to pin stuff and potentially work out where I'm going wrong.

This is not the most practical thing I've ever made, but I think it's great. I've got a lot of neutral stuff I can throw this over, and also because there are so many colours in the print it actually ties in well with a ton of other colours. I enjoy having the occasional piece of statement outerwear (see also this) and it brightens up the "black top and silver jewellery" phase I seem to be going through at the moment. I do need to make a different style of trousers to wear it with, though, because it doesn't work so well with giant waist sashes.

Also, what I'm wearing underneath:

This is the remade version of the black Vogue 9199 I made last year (I never blogged that one, but here is my original dress), which was super useful but also made of terrible fabric. It got to the point where I was putting it on and taking it straight back off again several times per week because I so badly wanted to wear a simple black dress that would be a good backdrop for accessories, but the actual garment hung so unattractively that I couldn't face wearing it outside. It lost shape within a couple of months and then just became a giant hole in my wardrobe. I've been looking for the right fabric to remake it ever since, and nothing had presented itself until I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show a few weeks ago and found Stoff & Stil selling precut lengths of very black, very substantial ponte. So I bought one. In hindsight I wish I'd bought three.

Full disclosure: the fabric is not 100% perfect for this dress. It's got the thickness, the colour and the stretch, but not quite the drape. It's a quibble not a dealbreaker, but it does mean I'm not going to buy the fabric in every colour it comes in to buy more. (I am, however, almost certainly going to buy more of this exact stuff to make some smart-looking slim fit jersey trousers, which I didn't know I wanted until I saw this fabric.) I adore this pattern, but fabric choice is absolutely key to making it work. I've made more than one version of this dress which were totally unwearable because the fabric was a tiny bit wrong. Not quite enough stretch, not quite enough thickness, not quite good enough recovery. 

You can see above that I ended up doing a vaguely high-low hem on the skirt. I feel like this dress needs to be mini-length on me - more than once I've cut the pattern pieces longer to make a more versatile dress, and every single time I've cut it right back off again because it just looks frumpy. However, if a skirt has any amount of flare or fullness whatsoever I need to be careful about how short I make the back, because I have got a LOT of ass. In a fabric like this that doesn't have a ton of drape, if I made the skirt mini-length all the way round (even making it longer in the back so that the hem looks even when it's on) there's not enough fabric to cover my bum and then drop down straight again, so it just kind of stays sticking outwards, resting precariously on a bum-shelf that then opens the door to a world of potential wardrobe malfunctions and embarrassments. So after a couple of hours of pinning and re-pinning the hem to see if there was a happy medium place, I just gave up and went for the look I wanted in the front and the coverage I wanted in the back. It's a tough world for a super-curvy woman who actually really likes the shape of her thighs. 

I think I'm going to get year-round wear out of this dress. It's a great shape for me, it goes with everything, and I can wear it with bare legs or extra thick black tights and boots. It does make me want a bunch of really long silver necklaces, which I now don't feel like I can go out and buy because I can make simple silver jewellery myself. Maybe if I get a few different lengths of chain and work out a set of themed pendants? I don't think I have enough time left in my current intermediate class but I could probably book a studio day at some point. 

Next up: for the first time in ages, I'm actually a week ahead of myself in posts, so I'll have a pair of trousers and a top to show you next week! Hopefully I can keep the momentum up now that the stupid jackets aren't hanging over my head. 

Monday 15 October 2018

Magnolia the mojo dress

Success was had!

First and most important point on the new Deer and Doe Magnolia dress: this is exactly what a mojo-recovering dress looks like for me. It's super sexy without being tight or skimpy or difficult to sit down in, it was a pretty simple make that was easy to finish cleanly (thus giving me 'good construction' vibes) and it means I can do this pose, which I really enjoy doing but looks a bit silly with everyday clothes. So it's very much a winning garment. Amber Moon has finally returned!

Also, welcome to a different corner of my garden. There was random and confusing October sun and this was the only direction which didn't cast gigantic awkward shadows. No, I didn't bother to pick the chair up first. 

The dress comes with two versions: version A, which is maxi-length and super low-cut (it precludes wearing a bra by design) with long billowy sleeves cuffed at the wrist; and version B, which has a more modest neckline, flutter sleeves, and a knee-length skirt. This looks very much like a straight version A, but it's not quite. I wanted to get somewhere in between the two necklines so I could have the effect of a low-cut top without having to go without a bra, so I cut the bodice for version B, basted the rest of the top together, and adjusted the front pieces so that they crossed just slightly higher than the centre front of my bra. I had to cut the front waistband a fair bit longer to make that work, but it's actually turned out for the best since my back is way narrower than my front anyway. I should probably do this more. 

I also left off the elasticated sleeve cuffs, which was more necessity than choice. We'll get to that. 

The fabric is a textured viscose that I got from a stall at Walthamstow Market. It was £5 per metre but he let me have it for £3.50 since I was buying quite a bit of it and I'm there regularly enough for the dude to recognise me. It's really nice stuff; it feels and drapes like silk but sews up like viscose, so it's really easy to work with. I bought five metres; I probably could have squeezed it out of four, but I wanted to have enough to recut the bodice if I needed to and to be able to make bias binding. I've never done that before but I really couldn't see how this neckline and fabric would work with the purchased stuff. It was time-consuming but it worked pretty well, and I ended up making more to bind the left-hand seam with the zip in it as well. All the other seams are French seamed, leaving me with lovely clean innards. 

I do have a few points to note. Firstly, you may be able to see that the dress comes up a little bit short on me. I do sometimes have this problem, but I equally often have the "giant pools of fabric around my feet" problem, so I can't give you a useful indication of how much I differ from pattern norms. I'm so helpful. Check the length if you're tall, I guess is what I'm saying. 

Secondly, I was fully intending to do the cuffed sleeves, but the sleeves are both too short and too tight in the upper arm for me to do that. I do have disproportionately large upper arms (muscle on the top, fat underneath, yeah!) and have had several projects fail because long woven sleeves made my arms sad, but I hadn't expected to have this issue with what looked like billowy sleeves. It may be that my arms are just that big (I have ACTUAL BICEPS now, thank you), but I'd advise measuring if you too are a member of the Bicep Sisterhood. I took a bit of volume out of the sleeves below the elbow - maybe two inches - and hemmed them where they fell. I really like them like this and am not at all disappointed at the lack of billowing, which I have never tried before and could very easily fall into Teen Goth Jen Looking Sarcastic territory.

The dress also has a side zip, which is not my favourite thing. It's a very well-designed side zip, but I'm just not a fan in general. I find them awkward to do up and would prefer not to have to. I'm not sure what I'd replace it with, though, since I don't think a back zip would look very nice (especially with the waist ties). It's one of those necessary evils and I don't think it would put me off making the dress again.

I am very pleased to have another slightly over-the-top cocktail bar dress. I don't know how many versions of this pattern I'll make in the future - this is quite a specific look and I don't think the more casual version is very me. What I am considering is another one like this in stretch velvet. I think it would be an amazing winter party dress and would also allow me to dispense with the side zip. I'd probably need to change up the sleeves, but that's easily doable.

Dramatic walking!

I'm hoping to have a more motivated week of making simple things, since I'm actually quite lacking in autumn/winter clothes. I didn't make that much last winter due to health, and the more basic pieces I made in the autumn haven't lasted that well (mostly because I was struggling to do anything and thus not putting the effort into fit and construction, but also slightly because I made a bunch of short full-skirted pieces that are now riding up somewhat in a potentially embarrassing fashion). The Knitting and Stitching show was last week and while I didn't buy much, I did find what I think might be my Holy Grail black ponte, and if nothing else I'd like to make the Vogue 9199 that I had planned for this past summer. Fingers crossed! 


Monday 8 October 2018

a rethink and an Olivia dress

As I predicted, just getting on with a second leather jacket in much more precious fabric hasn't been so simple. My anxiety is in a very unhelpful place right now (while I'm lucky enough to be able to get therapy on the NHS, they're very short blocks of sessions and the waiting list for escalated therapy is LOOOOONG) and I'm not doing myself any favours by insisting that my next project has to be complicated and time-consuming.

What I want to do for now is to give myself a shorter list of fun things I can use to give myself a kick-start. I still intend to make everything from my autumn list, even if I carry some of it over into December, but for right now I need some easy and/or fun things that don't have to be perfect and won't feel like the end of the world if I mess up. Here's what I'm thinking:

1. Deer and Doe Magnolia dress. I wasn't huge on D&D's last collection (I think I'm the only person in the entire sewing world who didn't like the look of the Myosotis), but I LOVE both their new patterns. I've got too many coat patterns in the queue to justify another one, but I can absolutely find room for a winter maxi evening dress. I'd make view A with the neckline from view B because lol no bra, in a navy textured silk-like viscose I got at a substantial discount from a stall in Walthamstow Market. It's nice to be a regular.

2. A simple sweater knit top. Simplicity 1613 is on my list, but I keep putting it off because while I recall exactly how frustrating it was trying to work out what to do, I do not recall what I eventually did. Yay! So I'm going to make one of my favourites - either a long-sleeved Wanted top or a cropped sweater, or possibly both -out of black and white striped sweater knit.

3. A Yoyo dress. A red denim Yoyo was on my list for summer, and I did make it, but it's not really wearable. It's tighter than my previous version (I accidentally closed up too much of the dart when doing an FBA, didn't realise, was confused when the skirt didn't match the top and put an extra pleat into the skirt. Which actually looks good, but it's not in any way a comfortable dress) and SUPER short at the zip. The instructions call for a 24" zip, I lengthened it by two and it's still kind of crotchy. I'm going to try again, using the red Mood linen I couldn't find a use for, and extending the skirt by another four inches. It's not especially seasonal, but hey, maybe I can layer it up.

Those are the three I have the ideas and all the elements for currently. It's the Knitting and Stitching show this weekend, so I may find a sparkly new project there too. Fingers crossed that this works as a sewjo-boosting method...

While we're here, a few weeks ago I made another Olivia dress!

I'd made six of these prior to this one, four of which survive (I was sadly right to be concerned about the longevity of the black fabric, and the purple one just made me cross every time I wore it because it wasn't purple enough), but the only one I was wearing with any regularity was the original orange version. I wondered about this for a while before concluding that there were two problems: all the others are longer with full-length sleeves, which makes them feel more formal and less appropriate for everyday running around; and they're made out of thinner, clingier viscose jersey which a) is more annoying and b) doesn't lend itself to being cut shorter. So the obvious conclusion was: more Olivias!

I got the idea for a sweater knit Olivia when I saw this fabric at Fabric Land in Bristol. (Every time I go and visit my parents I take less and less with me, so that it'll be easier to bring 12+ metres of fabric back with me on the train if Fabric Land is having a good day.) Fabric Land's sweater knit varies hugely in quality, but this is really nice, soft and super comfortable, with no horrible static rips when I try to take it off. I had it in my head that the print was more abstract than this and didn't realise until I was pinning the side seams that the lack of stripe matching was going to look really off. I managed to fudge it to a partial match, which I think is OK. 

I've already worn this a ton and it's going to be great for when it starts getting colder. This is exactly the right length and though I think I'd prefer the overall look with shorter sleeves, I don't want to cut them down any more for fear of messing with Future Jen's comfort and winter warmth. (I did take a few inches off, though - for anyone who hasn't read about my extensive history with this pattern, the sleeves as provided are full-length and cover the wrists.)

My plan is to get started on the D&D Magnolia today, so barring some huge disaster I should have that ready to post by next week. Wish me (and my douchey anxiety brain) luck! 

Monday 1 October 2018

autumn sewing: McCalls 7726 and some bonus tops

So a combination of holiday and having completely unphotographable hair means I've gone the best part of a month without posting again, well done Jen. This is the price you pay when you wait two weeks past the last possible moment to go to the hairdresser. We had a really lovely holiday, though - two days in a hotel/vineyard/spa/extremely fancy restaurant in Bordeaux, and then a few days in the town. We've managed to have quite a lot of wine without getting drunk once (the French are SO SENSIBLE with this stuff, we were never even offered dessert wine), which is... a new experience for us, if nothing else.

Anyway, trousers!

(Better hair, right?)

I bought McCalls 7726 on a bit of a punt. They looked a bit weird, which usually means the pattern has a roughly equal chance of being awesome or awful. They're high-waisted, with no waistband and shaping created by multiple pleats in the front and back, what I can only describe as very long pockets, and options for either wide or tapered legs. I finished them nearly three weeks ago and I've worn them a ton since then. However, I do have a lot of feelings about various aspects of the pattern. 

Pro: These are hella comfortable, and ridiculously easy to fit. The waist has a large grown-on facing that isn't tacked down until right at the end, so you can try on the finished trousers and then take the waist in or out as needed. For someone like me with a small waist and massive arse this was a godsend - the trousers gaped very noticeably at the back when I first tried them on, but flipping up the facing and taking a wedge out of the back was the work of seconds, and they now fit incredibly well. Frankly, that alone makes it worth a second pair. 

Con: Some of the construction is pretty weird. I couldn't really use any of my existing trouser construction knowledge on these; the pockets are unlike anything I've ever seen (but we'll get to that) and the front fly is grown on with identical pieces on both sides. Now, this does work, but it confused the hell out of me looking at these four tiny diagrams with sparse explanation trying to work out what it wanted me to do. I think I almost got it, but I didn't quite get the stitching line in the right place so it bulges a bit at the top, as you can see below. Since it's covered by the belt most of the time, I'm not that bothered by it, but it would have been nice to do it properly. 

(If I had a deep scientific understanding of pattern construction this wouldn't have been a problem, but I'm still working on that one.)

Pro: Suddenly a bunch of my tops have found an outfit! I made this Wanted top months ago with a leftover scrap from my Givre dress, and I've never worn it because it's too short to tuck into most of my clothes and it doesn't look right sitting out. However, it got several wears last month because it looks really good like this. I've got at least two other tops I've struggled to work into outfits that go with these trousers, and I think they'll go with my cropped sweaters too. 

Con: While I really like the way the pockets look, they're not the most practical shape. The bottom of the pocket is quite thin, almost triangular, so the corner of my phone ends up sticking out if I try to store it there. That doesn't happen even with my tiny wrap dress pockets, and I'm really not a fan. I'm not sure how easy they'll be to alter (as I said above, the pocket pieces are shaped very strangely), but I could definitely do with an extra couple of inches' width at the bottom. 

I haven't yet decided if the overall shape is a pro or a con yet. I really wanted the super high waist, but I haven't worked out if I'm just not used to this proportion yet or if it doesn't quite suit me. It doesn't do any of the things I hate in trouser fitting, though, and I'd like to know if that will carry over to the slim leg version. I'll definitely try making at least one more pair, probably two. 

While we're here, I haven't shared this top yet. I've been missing cami tops in my wardrobe for ages (beyond one really old one that I should have thrown away but sometimes you REALLY NEED a cami top), but the patterns haven't crossed my path. Most of the ones I've seen have been for floaty wovens, which I don't have a use for, and the cami in Simplicity 8424 was completely the wrong shape for me. I eventually found this free pattern from So, Zo and I think it's going to be incredibly useful. I do wish there was an actual shop that sold fold-over elastic so I could see it and stretch it before buying, but this stuff is fine. Getting the straps the right length and positioned correctly without a helper was a giant pain in the arse, and I think next time I'll make them an inch shorter. I'm going to make a black one for maximum usefulness (and also because that's the other colour of elastic I have. I am nothing if not practical). 

Up next: depends on how well my ill-advised second leather jacket is progressing! Also I went to Abakhan with my mother-in-law a couple of weeks ago and they had a 2m piece of super-soft thin black faux leather for £7, so I'm possibly making TWO more ill-advised jackets. What is wrong with me??