Monday 26 November 2018

sewing plans: winter 2018/19

Alright, it's winter! Everything's cold! I am nowhere near as enthused about this as I sound!

I am very glad to be done with autumn, and glad to be done with my autumn plan, which I kept thinking I wasn't doing very well with but actually got almost completely finished. The only exception was the loungewear outfit, because I put something on my list without having either the fabric or the patterns and I KNOW that never works. The most recent McCalls collection has a pattern that I think might work, so I might try and do that over the next few months if I have time.

On to my winter plans. I'm still not back to my normal rate of productivity, so I've planned fewer things to give me a greater chance of getting them all done. I'm intending to make more fancy things than usual, and I've ended up with an accidental green and black theme, so that's what we're running with.

Christmas presents

A hooded scarf

A couple of weeks ago I made this for myself:

It's the Named Clothing Nuna scarf, and I made it because I keep getting caught in rain that's not heavy enough for an umbrella but still plays havoc with my hair. Two days after I finished it my parents came up to visit and Mum requested I make one for her as well. She wants a dark neutral colour and longer scarf ends, so I need to work out how best to do that - either cut on the cross-grain or sewing an extra piece on.

Pyjama bottoms

Unless I'm struck by a bolt of inspiration, all three of the men I buy Christmas presents for will be getting pyjama bottoms this year. Patrick will get paisley velvet or the nearest equivalent I can find, Dad will get something reasonably tasteful and my little brother will get (at his specific request) the absolute ugliest and most ridiculous print I can find. 

Fancy stuff

A stretch velvet Magnolia dress

First things first, my Christmas dress. We've decided to do Christmas alone this year, and my extra-fancy boyfriend has booked us an extra-fancy Christmas lunch. In France, because why not. I feel this is reason enough to respond with OTT fanciness of my own, so I'm going to make an emerald green velvet version of the Deer&Doe Magnolia (with a few alterations to accommodate the stretch fabric, such as leaving the zip out and swapping out the sleeves for the Givre sleeves). I fully intend to wear this to Christmas lunch despite the fact that everyone else in the restaurant will probably be wearing sensible trousers. I also intend to go for a stroll along the beach in it afterwards, if I can work out what shoes are in the middle of the long dress/beach/cold Venn diagram.

A black Trina dress

I made my first experimental Trina more than two years ago, with the full intention of making it into a proper dress if I liked it. I did like it, but then I couldn't picture what I would want the proper version to look like. Recently I've been thinking about cocktail dresses and a black Trina would do the job for that quite nicely. I'm either looking for a fabric with a bit of texture or a plain fabric plus a really nice gold trim. How easy that will be to find I'm not sure.

A black eveningwear jumpsuit

This was one of my dream projects for this year and I thought it wasn't going to happen. There seemed to be no such thing out there as a fancy jumpsuit pattern that wasn't also backless or halterneck or something else precluding normal undergarments, and I just don't have time for that. However, right at the end of the year, Papercut Patterns released the Sierra jumpsuit. They've styled it very casually, but made up in plain black I think it could be just the thing I'm looking for.

Practical stuff

A denim mini skirt

So I have never used or even considered a Tilly and the Buttons pattern before because they all seem super basic for the price (or extremely not for my body type), but I have just bought the Ness skirt. Sure, it's a very basic idea, but have I been able to find it in the eighteen months I've been looking for this exact thing? No, I have not. I've made several attempts at a denim skirt, all of which I've hated too much to even photograph, so I'm hoping this will be the one.

A black Nettie bodysuit

I've been going back and forth on this pattern forever and I think now is the time. A combination of small waist, large high hip and genetic scruffiness means that my tops often ride up over the course of the day and leave unexpected patches of exposed skin, which is super distracting and contributes fairly heavily to me feeling uncomfortable with what I'm wearing. I've never worn a bodysuit in my life, but it might be the answer to a long-standing problem and I'm going to give it a go.

A pair of Palisades trousers

I really liked two out of six of Papercut's new collection, and this is the other. I've tended to steer clear of elastic waist trousers but I think these have enough design to them that I could get away with it. I went to my first London Stitchers' Meetup last month (was fun, would recommend) and came away with almost four metres of olive green fabric that I can't quite identify but looks very much like trouser fabric to me, and I'm going to use half of it to try this pattern.

A pair of M7626 trousers

One of the things I've been considering doing in my search for an acceptable trouser wardrobe is making the McCalls 7626 jumpsuit pattern into a standalone pair of trousers. I'm planning to draft (or steal from another pattern) a curved waistband, lengthen the crotch depth a bit, and alter the legs to be a bit longer and narrower. I've got some black and white tartan suiting to try this with; I keep trying to make patterned trousers and they keep looking too much like pyjamas, but I'm going to try again nevertheless.

A hat

A few weeks ago I accidentally left my favourite knitted hat on the 87 bus. I also had a REALLY STRONG premonition beforehand that I was going to leave my hat on the bus, made special note not leave my hat on the bus, then left my hat on the bus. Amazing. Fortunately the same wool is still available, so I'm going to remake it. We're not having a great time with our knitted creations at the moment - Patrick is currently borrowing my massive blanket scarf that matches my lost hat because he has lost his massive blanket scarf... somewhere in our one-bedroom flat. We cannot find it. It's all very confusing.

I'm hopeful for a stronger winter, mental health wise. It's been a truly awful year for my anxiety and depression, punctuated by tiny spots of feeling OK so that I could have four or five full-on crashes within ten months (thanks, brain). I have a new therapist who I'm optimistic about and enough social plans to feel festive and busy without feeling overwhelmed, and that should translate into more productive sewing time and a happier Jen. Fingers crossed!

Monday 19 November 2018

autumn sewing: M7516 robe

It's mid-November, the worst possible time of the year except for all of January, so what we need now is comfort clothing!

I love my Asaka kimono, but it's not ideal for really cold evenings, so I've been continuing to wear Patrick's ancient fleece one, despite three failed attempts before, during and after making his fancy new robe to make a replacement for myself. My criteria were simple: I wanted a pattern designed to make a stretchy, cosy garment, and also I never wanted to sew a shawl collar ever again in my life. M7516 came up in my searches and I decided it was the one. Since it came with a hood, I could have the shawl collar effect without having to... do all that stuff I never got the hang of. Yay!

All in all, the pattern turned out not to be ideal and I had to make several alterations to it. It came with neither pockets nor belt loops (WHY do so many patterns of this type not come with belt loops?? I WILL LOSE THE BELT WITHIN MINUTES, GUYS), and I also changed the length quite significantly. The fabric requirements specify 2.5m of the main fabric, and I bought 3m with the intention of also getting patch pockets, the belt, and as much extra length as possible out of it. Which I did. My robe is approximately 11 inches longer than the pattern and I think it's about right for what I pictured. I also added a bit of length to the sleeves. OK, I added waaaay too much length to the sleeves, ended up with some kind of weird Slenderman thing, and cut them back again. This is still definitely longer than the pattern but I'm not sure by how much. I really hate too-short sleeves in dressing gowns.

My main fabric is a French terry I bought from Girl Charlee. I've only bought from them once before and my experience was mixed - both fabrics looked and felt lovely, but the cotton spandex blend washed very poorly and didn't have great recovery. The sweater knit, though, is still going strong, so I thought I'd take a punt on a third substrate. This one is lighter weight than I expected but very soft and snuggly, and I don't have any complaints about its quality so far. I'm tempted to order a few swatches to try and get a better overall read on what I can expect from them in general.

The black floral I used for the lining isn't the perfectly contrasting jersey I might have chosen, but I had this in my stash and figured that barely any of it would show so why not. The pattern instructs you to cut the belt out of the contrast fabric as well, but I don't like the way that looks and never intended to do it. I think I assumed that there would be some kind of facing along the dressing gown's opening to be made in the contrast fabric, and I thought maybe I would be able to squeeze it out of my main fabric. However, there is not a facing. You just cut the entire front piece again. The dressing gown is therefore two-thirds lined, which I find... weird. I suppose it does make it a bit warmer.

Construction was pretty simple, and if we discount the time I took to unpick a seam I'd sewn between two edges that weren't meant to go together, it only took me about three hours. I put the belt loops in at the smallest point of the waist and added the pockets about an inch below that (one of them is a bit wonky, but it's not repair day yet so correcting it is going to have to wait). Pocket-wise I just cut two squares from the largest scrap I had left over after cutting everything else, so I'm not actually sure how big they are. Big enough for my phone and a bunch of tissues, which is all they'll ever need to hold anyway.

I also made another So Zo cami from the same material, which I'm wearing here because it matches and I think it's cute. I am also wearing an old pair of capri-length exercise leggings, which are much less cute. I don't have masses of this floral fabric left, but I am considering using it to make a pair of shorts. I've never had a desire for lounge shorts before, but all my full-length pyjama bottoms look weird under this dressing gown (probably in part because the patterns and colours don't go at all) and a matching black shorts-and-cami set would probably be a nice (and space-economical) idea for weekends away.

For what I wanted - a cosy dressing gown that's much more attractive and presentable than the one I've been using for the last few years - this does the job very nicely. The slightly incongruous lining fabric bothers me less the more I wear it, it's SUPER comfortable, and the longer length makes it a bit more sophisticated than it would otherwise be. I'm not going to put it on to greet guests or anything, but I wouldn't be embarrassed to answer the door in it. I'm calling that a win.

Up next: trousers! I'm genuinely concerned I'm going to wear thigh-holes in my red ones if I don't introduce a bit of variety 

(I don't generally wear giant orange chandelier earrings with my dressing gown, they're just the earrings I put on for the day, but I have to say I don't hate it. For some reason the idea of wearing a tiny bit of a colour that doesn't go at all with the rest of the outfit appeals to me tremendously. Great, now I'm going to need loungewear earrings.)

Monday 12 November 2018

autumn sewing: Simplicity 1613 twist top

I had this one cut out for nearly two months before I actually persuaded myself to sew it up, because I just did not want to do it. But finally, I got it done!

(We're back in the stairwell for these photos, because it's November and it's too cold to go outside without a coat on.)

Last time I made this top I remember being super frustrated by the instructions, to the point that I was delving super deep into Youtube for "fourteen views and one solitary like" videos of someone making this top while filming themselves on their phone. And because it was a year and a half ago, I couldn't remember how it was actually done. And also I'd lost both the band facing piece and the sleeve piece. And now the pattern is out of print. So we're off to an excellent start here.

I remembered enough about how it was supposed to look not to have the main problem I had last time (general bafflement over wtf was going on and not enough information in the instructions to help me power through it), but the bit where I had to attach the band to the front panel and then to the front facing still confused me and I did it wrong. Unpicking a stretch stitch sewn in black thread into black jersey is not fun and I do not recommend it. I made more than one accidental hole in the fabric that had to be patched up, and that's not the nicest thing in the world either. I ended up getting it right almost by accident, and I have no idea if I'd be able to recreate it again on purpose. The end result is still a little bit wonky as the neckband hasn't been incorporated far enough into the seam on one side, but if you think I'm doing any more horrendous unpicking to tidy it up, then you must be new around here.

Because I didn't have the sleeve piece I altered all the armscyes to the one from the Deer&Doe Givre top, which fits my shoulders perfectly, and used that sleeve. I was convinced it wasn't going to work but it's actually completely fine. Part of me wonders if I should have extended the sleeves to full length, but I'm not actually sure I had enough fabric to do that. Since it's a slightly fancier top I think it should be fine.

This is a much more successful version than my previous one (though the whole detail bit looked better last time). This jersey is much stretchier and has better recovery so it fits in a way I much prefer, and also will actually go with other clothes I own. And as a handy bonus, because the facings come about halfway down the torso it's much warmer than a standard light sweater knit top. I bought several metres of this fabric last year intending to turn it into a winter Kielo, but instead I've just gradually cut bits off to make black jersey tops in slightly different styles. It's all gone now and I have three successful tops, so the black jersey top portion of my wardrobe is now very much full. The Simplicity 1613 portion of my wardrobe... is also probably full, let's be real. Though I've been suddenly possessed by stupider ideas before, so who knows.

Up next: dressing gown time! And I have much to say about it...

Sassy side-eye! 

Monday 5 November 2018

motivational sewing: skinny M7726 and a cropped sweater

Hey! Not wanting jinx anything, but getting that damn jacket done and off my sewing pile does seem to have loosened the blockage in my sewjo and I'm actually getting things done again! Bookending it with a couple of cool and/or simple motivational projects worked really well, and I have two of them to show you today. I've worn the shit out of my wide-leg McCalls 7726 trousers and I really wanted to make another pair. Given that it's November it's bound to start being wet and unpleasant soon, and wide leg trousers aren't the most practical for that, I went for the slim leg version. I haven't worn slim leg trousers in years so this was a bit of an experiment for me.

I'm still not 100% sure about how flattering these are, but they're so easy and comfortable that I straight up do not care. I've been gravitating to trousers way more than tights recently (though this may just be because I'm lacking in cold weather dresses) and I've been quite happily wearing these multiple times a week since I made them. The fabric is a crepe I bought from my favourite stall in Walthamstow Market, and it's got a really nice balance between weighty and drapey. It's also a great autumn/winter colour.

When I decided to make a different view of the same trouser pattern, I assumed that the only change would be using the slimmer leg pattern piece and the construction would remain fundamentally the same. For some reason, that is not the case. There's a whole separate sheet of instructions for the slim leg version, and they create the same effect quite differently. For the wide leg trousers, you make the pleats very early on in the construction process, then fold down the waist facing and slipstitch it down at the end. For the slim leg, you don't make the pleats until the trousers are basically completely finished, and you incorporate the facing into the pleats. I'm not sure why this is so different, nor do I know which version I prefer. On the one hand, sewing the facing into the pleats means no time-consuming slipstitching, but on the other, it's much easier to tweak the fit when you can flip the facing up and it's actually kind of confusing sewing the pleats last. When do you ever sew the pleats last?

I also discovered that the problem I had with the pockets on my last version was my own fault - I hadn't basted the pocket to the side seam in the right place, meaning that the opening was much longer than it should have been. My phone sits quite happily concealed in these pockets. These trousers just close with a zip and no fastening at the top, because I wasn't feeling well and completely spaced out on what I was meant to be doing, so there's nothing holding the fly closed at the top. That's not great, but again the sash covers a multitude.

After I finished these I didn't think I'd want a third pair. It's such a specific style and silhouette that I thought three pairs might be overkill, but since then I've worn these so often that I'm starting to think another slim leg pair might be a good idea. I quite like that I can't just whack on any old top with these - putting effort into my outfits is part of what helps me stay on top of my depression. I actually went back to Walthamstow this past weekend with the intention of buying this same fabric in a different colour, but the only other colour they had was bright-ass emerald green which is not the most versatile for trousers. Though obviously I bought a bunch of it anyway. You know me and bright-ass emerald green.

 I also made another one of the items of my sewjo-boost list:

This is another cropped sweater from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. This is basically the only pattern I use from that book, but at the same time I've never found a better pattern for casual sweater knit tops. The combination of length, shape and neckline just works for me. Tops with multiple neutral colours have always been my go-to, but I haven't made any for a while because I've been so focused on making one-piece outfits (also I put myself off making jersey tops because I kept trying to combine multiple patterns and not doing it right). I'm definitely having a trousers moment, though, so this will be incredibly useful.

 I made a few changes from the original pattern. I added a bit of shaping into the bust as a very lazy FBA, I extended the sleeves freehand, and I added some wide cuffs (a detail I always like). I did keep the original hand-sewn neckline and I think I always will - I know it's not the strongest finish but I like that it's free of visible stitching, especially in a fabric like this where you'd be able to see the colour of the thread every other stripe. I've tried putting a neckband into this pattern more than once, and it always changes the shape of the neckline which always results in me hating it.

(I also made another of these, but since it's exactly the same except plain black with short sleeves, I figured we don't really need photos of that as well. Also it's cold and I don't want to go outside with my arms out.)

Two things in one post and I'm still ahead of myself! Yay! Next up will probably be my Simplicity 1613 twist top, which is finished but also has two surprise holes in it, so I'll either have to fix them or buy an ostentatious brooch before I photograph it...