Monday 30 December 2019

sewing resolutions for 2020

Christmas is done! It was extra chill this year - Patrick's sister is heavily pregnant and we had his grandpa's funeral during our visit, so nobody was feeling especially bouncy. It's still exhausting to be in someone else's house for a week, so we're currently decompressing ready to start the new year. I did start writing a "sewing year in review" sort of post, but it just ended up being me ranting about the stupid Sierra jumpsuit pattern again so we're skipping that this year and moving straight on to the resolutions.

I went about 50/50 on my 2019 list. At the beginning of the year I assumed the one I would definitely do was the ballgown toile, but when I actually got the pattern out and looked at it I realised I don't actually like the style lines that much. What I liked was the general vibe and the idea of having a swanky red ballgown. I also didn't make the jeans (couldn't find the denim) and didn't take any fitting classes. Money was a bit of a thing this year and my back-up plan of Craftsy classes got a bit scuppered when Craftsy rebranded and became much worse. However, the resolution is not dead! Patrick has very kindly bought me a couple of sloper-making classes for Christmas, so I'll be doing a bodice block in two weeks' time and a trouser block in February. I'm interested to see how this goes and I'll be doing a class review here.

What I did manage to do this year was make an acceptable shirt (!), improve my twin needle stitching and get much better about planning and purchasing. Most of the fabric I bought has already been used, and I've not bought a random pattern without a plan in ages. This is solid progress.

On to 2020!

1. I will either use or get rid of everything that's currently in my stash.

With the exception of my aubergine silk double crepe, which needs to wait for the right pattern and occasion, I want everything in my stash to be used or donated by the end of the year. Even the expensive stuff. I really hate having a massive stash and would much prefer to just keep fabric for my upcoming seasonal plans and maybe one or two other pieces (sometimes Abakhan has amazing swimsuit fabric in October and you just have to buy it and wait). I've been trying to work on this over the past year and the number of metres in my stash has definitely reduced, but I don't think I'll feel like it's really working until all the old stuff is out of there. I'm currently working on pairing every piece to a pattern, or at least a type of garment.

2. I will make a good quality swimsuit.

I've tried and failed at this several times now, but I am determined to make it actually work. I probably want two swimsuits - a bikini with proper underwired cups, and a one-piece swimsuit because I have stripy multicoloured fabric that I don't think will work as a bikini. Sewing pattern designers thus have a year (six months?) to come up with a swimsuit pattern I don't hate! Yay!

3. Following on from last year, I will pick some more areas that bug me about my sewing and work on them.

This worked pretty well as a resolution last year and I think I could benefit from making it a permanent fixture. My number one goal is to be able to sew a lined/faced woven V neck that actually looks like a V. I don't know what I'm doing wrong here - I clip my seam allowances extensively - but I want to work it out and have one nice V neck garment by the end of the year. I'd also like to be able to improve my topstitching to the point that I'm happy to do it in a contrasting colour and make it a feature. During the year I'm planning to remake my Cashmerette Ellis skirt (there was a flat fell failure) and I want to put the proper topstitching on.

4. I will try out some of the patterns I've acquired but never used.

My hard drive is full of PDF patterns I've never had a go at. Most of them aren't ones I've paid full price for, but if I downloaded them I must have liked something about them (a free pattern you hate is still a pattern you hate) and it would make sense to start working through them. I'd particularly like to get to the Sew Over It patterns I harvested, and some of the other patterns from the Named book that I've been putting off because of the neckline modifications I'll need to do. I've also got a bunch of printed patterns I've never used that I'd like to either work through or get rid of.

5. I will make the swanky red ballgown.

I think not making the actual 1920s pattern was a smart move but I also think I should have a ridiculous red gown. What I specifically don't want is to end the year saying "well, I made a long red dress at one point, so that totally counts." It does NOT. I want to make something that I haven't made before, and I don't want the fabric to be doing all the heavy lifting. Usually the ballgown factor comes from the dress being big and poofy, but I don't like big poofy dresses so I need to find another way. I want this to involve me learning at least one new technique and possibly even trying embellishments. Where I find my starting point pattern for this I have NO idea, but I'm dreaming big on this one.

6. I will learn to use all the different sewing machine feet I have.

I have a box of different feet I got when I first started sewing, but I only ever really use a couple of them (standard foot, regular and invisible zip feet, walking foot, and recently buttonhole/button feet). I'd like to know that I can, should I require it, use the rest of the feet I have. I want to make sure I know what they all are and what I'm supposed to do with them, work with them until I can reliably make them to the thing they're supposed to do, and integrate the useful ones into my regular sewing. I'm sure I'll mostly continue to use the same half dozen feet, but I'm also sure that it would add to the quality of my sewing life if I were able to, say, do a nice blind stitch or rolled hem.

7. I will wear everything I make at least twice before I post my review.

Something I've noticed over the past year is that I sometimes make something I like, get very excited, post a glowing review immediately, and then over the next few days of wear I start to notice things that make me like it less. Then several months later I'll get a blog comment that says "thanks for the review, I'm definitely going to check this out based on your recommendation!" and I worry that I've accidentally misled said commenter by not including things I discovered when wearing the item out and about. Obviously I'm not going to stick by this so rigidly that I can't post my ballgown until it's had a few trips on the 344 bus, but for everyday clothes I'm going to test run them for a week or two until I'm sure I'm able to give a complete picture.

That's a fairly well-rounded set of resolutions, I think. Fewer than I usually make, but the stash-clearing one in particular is enormous and I don't want to overwhelm myself. My hope is that 2020 is going to be a year of change and upheaval for me, where I have to work very hard whilst also protecting my health, and my sewing needs to serve that this year and not end up being an extra chore and source of guilt.

Happy 2020, everyone! Good things for all of you!

Monday 23 December 2019

winter sewing: McCalls 6713

Hands up who's surprised that the thing I motivated myself to sew was the fancy velvet dress?

I finished this dress over a week ago, got up the next morning with the full intention of taking photos and making a post... and then got hit with a random vomiting bug that left me in an unphotographable state until two days ago. Merry Christmas to me, indeed. 

As I mentioned in my planning post, this pattern was intended to be my first ever velvet dress. The velvet I had at the time was this ridiculous extra-long-pile cheap stuff that shed all over me like an overenthusiastic husky as soon as I touched it and I gave up before I'd even got the first piece fully cut out. I've thought about that velvet dress fairly regularly over the intervening three years (HOW has the past three years somehow also been nineteen decades, ugh), and my current velvet kick seemed like the right time to revisit it. My original velvet was red, but my guy at Walthamstow had this dark purple which I just couldn't say no to. I went for view D, with the long sleeves and straight skirt.

So. First of all, I really like the end result. This dress looks exactly the way I'd imagined it would; the bodice fits nicely, the skirt isn't overly clingy, the drape is cool, the sleeves fit well. It was also exactly the right length straight out of the packet, which is super rare for me. And I always love this colour on me. In terms of the final dress, this was a success. However, I changed many, many things to get here.

I got this pattern free with a magazine (or more accurately, I got some patterns packaged up together with a magazine I didn't read) and it's not technically my size. That's very rarely a problem I have with McCalls, but this one randomly stopped at size 16. I believe there is a separate plus size envelope, but the magazine wasn't giving that one out and I wasn't going to buy the same pattern again. I managed to get a really good fit by cutting the size 16 bodice and just grading out the hips and upper arms by a size or two. Based on the pieces that were already cut out my original plan was to skip over the hip issue by cutting the full skirt, but I am certain I wouldn't have liked this dress anywhere near as much if I'd done that.

This dress is supposed to have a lined bodice. I didn't do that because the bulk would have been beyond my sewing machine's capabilities. Even without a lining it was a bit of a struggle. The drape on the skirt is two layers sewn together, which are then pleated and folded forward on top of the seam line between the two front skirt pieces, and then sewn to the two layers of the front bodice. It's a giant lump of fabric, and had there been another two lining pieces in there I think my machine would have thrown a stomping tantrum. I used facing pieces instead. (Also, if I'd lined with the velvet as I originally thought I would before reading further down the instructions, this would be the heaviest dress in the entire world.)

The pattern also calls for shoulder pads and waist elastic, neither of which I used. Maybe an elastic casing wouldn't look weird in a viscose jersey version of this dress but it would sure as hell look weird in a velvet one. It's possible that this dress fits me so well despite being clearly too small by the sizing chart because there's a ton of ease in there intended to be gathered into elastic, and again I would not like this dress nearly as much if that had been the case. Whenever I see a pattern call for shoulder pads, I keep hoping they're going to be the tiny little cloth things I had in a couple of my jumpers back in 2009-ish, which didn't really look like shoulder pads but did correct my very round shoulders a bit. It never is, it's always ridiculous 80s nonsense and I'm not sure why pattern companies are still doing this. I want my tiny shoulder pads, dammit!

I will probably not wear this for my first Christmas with the in-laws. They are extraordinarily practical people and velvet dresses when you have no intention of leaving the house just aren't the thing. NYE might be its time, though; last year my friend insisted I wear my green velvet Magnolia dress to her low-key house party, and now I've accidentally started a tradition. This will be slightly easier to exist in, at least.

I was hoping I'd like this pattern enough to make it again because there's a maxi length version and I am dying for a non-fancy maxi dress I can wear in the winter, but the chances are extremely slim. I love this version but I feel like getting to it was too much of an accident. It looks like the picture but not very much like the measurements or instructions. For similar reasons I don't feel I can recommend the pattern either; it's a really lovely design but I just don't know what you'd get. You might get something that looks like this or you might get a weird blousy thing with 80s power shoulders.

Next up: A year-end wrap up post or two, followed by my many thoughts on a jacket pattern with many issues. Grumpy Jen incoming!

McCalls 7613

Fabric: Purple stretch velvet from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £9
Pattern details: Mock-wrap dress with lined bodice, dropped shoulders, optional long sleeves, straight or full (in two lengths) skirt options, and side drape
Size: 16 bodice, graded out beyond pattern sizing in the hips and bicep
Alterations: Swapped out lining for facings, omitted shoulder pads and waist elastic
Would make again/would recommend:  No/No

Tuesday 10 December 2019

sewing plans: winter 2019/20

Sewing has been a bit of a struggle recently. Patrick and I both got ill simultaneously with slightly different things, then somehow SWAPPED bugs just as we'd started to recover, and the two back-to-back illnesses combined with the sudden cold weather has really done a number on my lungs. On top of that, my baste fit of the yellow cords shows that they are doing the exact thing I was worried they were going to do, and lack of ideas on how to fix it has killed my sewjo dead.

(We're taking a break from the RPDR gifs because I am currently overrelating to The Good Place in a way that probably isn't healthy.)

I wrote this plan over a month ago and honestly in my current state I really don't know how successful it'll be. But things are always worse when I don't have a plan out there, so I'm going to go ahead and post it anyway. I may only get half of it done if things don't improve, but that will still be something.

One of the major motivations behind this plan is to cut down on the size of my stash. We're short on space so I keep my fabric in a wooden box, which is currently massively overflowing and I don't like it. I also don't really like having a massive stash; it's rarely useful to me and I much prefer buying fabric when I already have a plan in mind for it. We're hoping to be able to move house soon, and when we leave here I want to have about half the amount of fabric I currently do, and I want it to fit in the box.

There are a couple of things here I will have to buy fabric for, but for the most part it's me going through my fabric catalogue and working out what the hell to do with everything. Here we go:

A second Rumana coat

I really love my original Rumana and I'd like to make another one in a brighter colour, possibly a slightly shorter length, with a tie belt. I've found some really lovely bright red melton wool (an ex Karen Millen according to my guy at Walthamstow) which I'm excited about, and now I just need to decide what kind of lining I'm going for and whether I do belt loops or sandwich the ties in the back seam.

A fancy pyjama set

I bought McCalls 7875 at the beginning of the year and I've been avoiding putting it on my plans until I actually had the fabric for it. I'm trying to be realistic about which fabrics I'm likely to be able to find without too much hassle, and this didn't seem to be one of them. However, I've now found this amazing silky blue stuff which I'm told is viscose but feels way more substantial, and it's going to be my pyjama jacket and bottoms. I'm slightly nervous that I don't quite have enough fabric, but I'm sure I can work something out. I'm also going to do a test run of the bottoms (to check for the butt/thigh issues I've historically had with woven pyjama bottoms) using some cream tartan wool mix I inherited from my friend's mother's stash.

A fancy Liberty shirt for Patrick

March is a Significant Birthday for Patrick, so I want to make him a proper fancy Liberty shirt. This is one of the few fabrics I'll have to buy and it's not going to be cheap. A quick glance suggests that Shaukat is a better place for the kind of prints he likes than the actual Liberty store right now, so I'll be picking something and making another Sew Over It Hackney shirt (possibly with a double cuff grafted on; I haven't decided yet). This is definitely not happening until I get Christmas and all its accompanying shopping obligations out of the way.

Some black leggings

This is one of those things that isn't strictly necessary right now, but I bought 4m of leggings fabric and using it up would go a long way to freeing up some space. I'm hoping to make two pairs of Jalie Clara leggings and possibly also a pair of shorts from it.

A bag set

OK, I said I'd catch up with this and then I didn't, so I'm putting it back on the official list. Portside travel set, in tapestry fabric (which I do have) and navy canvas or faux leather (which I don't), I will do it before my birthday next year goddammit. I also want to make a few tote bags; my original learn-to-sew tote bag is falling apart from constant use, so I'd like to use the heavier bits of cotton in my stash to make some replacements.

Another pair of Pietra trousers

Something I've been thinking about for a while is making a second pair of slimmed-down Pietra trousers in a fabric with a bit of stretch. I've now made several pairs and I vastly prefer the slimmer silhouette of my blue ones, but my thighs do spread out a LOT when I sit so they're not comfortable if I'm going to be sitting in them all day. I have a couple of pieces of stretch crepe that I bought for other, now-abandoned, purposes, and I'd like to turn one or both of them into slim-fit Pietras suitable for vegging out a bit in.

A Christmas dress

Guess what? More velvet! The first and almost permanently off-putting velvet dress I planned to make was McCalls 6713, and now that I know velvet isn't terrifying I want to have another go at actually making it. My fabric is Dairy Milk purple, which isn't necessarily a traditional Christmas colour, but it's one of my favourites. I don't get to wear it much (it's oddly difficult to pair with other colours and thus not much use to me as a top) and it looks really good on me, so Christmas is its time.

One or two cropped jacket toiles

I know I'm not going to be able to persuade myself to put actual light jackets on this winter post, but I might be able to argue for toiles that aren't really intended to be worn and will set me up for an easier spring. Especially if it clears out a couple of fabrics I haven't been able to work out what to do with. I have the Kwik Sew moto jacket and Sew Over It Amelia jacket, and I'd like to toile one or both depending on time and motivation.

A cape

I LOVE the new McCalls 8029 cape. I do not remotely need it and couldn't justify buying a second lot of wool in one season, but then yesterday Minerva agreed to send me 4m of purple wool blend coating for a blog post, so the cape will be mine! I'm very pleased.

I'm trying not to put a huge amount of pressure on myself to get all of this done. I just want to have several options to pull from so that when I feel the slightest bit of motivation to get going again, I can start with whatever kind of thing I'm in the mood for right then. Fingers crossed for me (and my poor beleaguered lungs, it really hurts to go outside right now), and hopefully I'll have something new to show you soon!

Monday 11 November 2019

Butterick 6621 (twist version)

When I first made Butterick 6621 a couple of months ago, I'd already decided that I wanted to experiment with making the twist version. It's something I've always wanted to try, but on the assumption that it would either be very good or very bad for a large of stomach person like me, had never been willing to take the risk of a twist-specific pattern. Now that I already owned it, it was a different story.

It worked! It's really cute!

As I mentioned last week, this is the exact same fabric as my jumpsuit. I'd not originally thought of making my trial version this fancy, but realised that I don't actually have a standard-issue black evening dress (I have my Trina, which I love, but it's quite a specific look and not necessarily as versatile as a black evening dress ought to be) and if it worked there was a niche in my wardrobe it could fill.

Construction was actually fairly simple, once I got past the roadblock of my own making, where I accidentally put the instructions in with a different pattern and could only find the diagramless French instructions. I tried to go with it, realised that my French is terrible (I got an A* in GCSE French, but I'm also absolutely certain I've never known more than fourteen words of it), and put the whole thing on pause until I could find the English sheet.

The dress is made up of two front pieces, and one wraps over and round the other to create the twist. You're then left with a couple of darts to sew up, and the front is complete. It's not a difficult thing to do at all, but I wouldn't have got there from the pattern pieces and sparse French instructions. The whole thing was maybe a couple of hours' work

In terms of adjustments, I cut on a cheat FBA, ignored the neck binding piece to do my own thing, and shortened the sleeves by about an inch. I don't think I've ever had a short sleeve be the right length out of the packet; they're all a bit too long and cut my arm at a weird place. I didn't want to shorten the skirt too much as it messes with the proportion of the twist. 

This version is obviously a snugger fit than my sweater knit version, and for this view I think it's better that way. I think if it were a looser dress it would just feel like unpleasant bulk sitting on top of my stomach, but when it's tight like this the twist just eliminates the stomach cling I hate so much. I'm aware that's why they do this sort of thing for maternity dresses, but I am not wearing a maternity dress and let's not go there, please.

I'm also surprised by how much I like this neckline. I tend to shy away from V necks because they look horrific on me if the proportions are even slightly wrong (especially if it's not a very deep V), but this is really nice and balanced.

The one thing that does disappoint me a bit is that I was hoping this would be a good dress to go dancing in, and for me it's not. I have a super-wide high hip (almost the exact same measurement as my lower hip) and a few enthusiastic dance moves is enough to push the entire twist directly under my bust and make everything else unflattering and precarious. It's completely fine for a more sedate evening, though, and I'll definitely get plenty of wear out of it in dinner-and-cocktails situations.

Overall I'm super pleased with this dress and would cheerfully make another one. I originally thought that if this version worked I would make another in cotton jersey, but now I'm not so sure about that. For me and my body shape, this works perfectly in a heavier, super-stretchy fabric that allows me to wear the whole thing a little tighter, and I think I'd be looking for a fabric with similar properties were I to make a second one. It's actually entirely possible that I'll make another one in velvet; I'm a bit obsessed at the moment (you may have noticed), and I feel like I'm racing to catch up on all the velvet clothes I didn't make when I thought the fabric was too hard to work with. Not any more! All the shiny strokeable clothes! 

I'm not exactly sure what will be up next. I really want to get the stupid yellow cords done but also I've screwed this up THREE times already, so I'm weighing the pros and cons or either the time and expense it would take to make a test pair of whatever pattern I choose (I think it's going to be the CCP Jenny, just because I've been struck with the awful fascination of trying out a pair of overalls later), or the possibly of ruining my yellow trouser fabric for the fourth time. One way or another I WILL make a decision before the end of the month, goddammit. 

Monday 4 November 2019

autumn sewing: why not have a black velvet jumpsuit

I think when I put a second version of the Deer & Doe Sirocco jumpsuit on my autumn plans, I was imagining a garment I might be able to wear on a day to day basis. I've seen several people on Instagram just wearing theirs to the shops and so forth and looking great doing it, but when looking for the right kind of fabric to copy the vibe I always come up short. The bright colours I'm normally drawn to would probably lift this pattern slightly too far out of the casual zone, and the muted burgundy/navy/olive tones I've liked on others just don't suit me. If there's no richness to a colour I just end up looking sallow and depressed.

I'm going to mull on that for a while and hopefully find a solution, but in the meantime I did this:

Black velvet jumpsuit!

This is not a replacement for the high quality black jersey jumpsuit I keep talking about; I will make that when I come across black jersey I'm really happy with. This one is fun and fancy and warm for going out in the autumn and I'm really pleased with it.

The fabric is from my favourite guy in Walthamstow (I think you can just assume this now unless I specify otherwise) and it's very narrow stripes of velvet on a sheer background. You can only tell there are sheer bits if you put your hand under it. I whacked the lightness up on these photos so you could see some of the pattern details, but couldn't get it light enough to show fabric texture. It's super stretchy and incredibly comfortable. I actually bought an extra metre and a half of this fabric to make an extra dress, which you will see next week.

You may recall that last time I made this, I had a bit of trouble working out what size to cut and how to fit it. After two versions I still wasn't sure. The black one is the only one I've worn and it sits much better on me now than when I first made it, so I went back to my original size picks. The only changes I made were to cut the front bodice pieces a centimetre higher, overlap them further across each other than specified, and lengthen and widen the lower legs slightly (they're still pretty narrow but not quite as close fitting around the ankle). I made sure to get fabric with the right amount of stretch this time, and it makes SO much difference. No popping stitches, no awkwardness, it just does what it's supposed to do.

The one thing I should have considered and didn't is that velvet pockets are stupid and pull themselves inside out whenever you try to use them. I should have made the pocket facing from a normal cotton jersey.

From the point of cutting this out to trying it on for the first time, I was at least 80% convinced it wasn't going to work. It was going to be too clingy, I needed to do more alterations to the bodice, what did I really think I was going to do with a velvet jumpsuit anyway. But I was wrong; the bodice is now a perfect fit, I'm not at all uncomfortable with the negative ease, and while I probably won't be wearing this to the shops I think it'll work really well for date nights, any dance things I decide to go to, and whatever last minute Christmas things might crop up. 

Next up: same fabric, different garment!

Deer and Doe Sirocco jumpsuit

Fabric: Black striped velvet from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £9
Pattern details: Pull-on knit jumpsuit or playsuit with mock wrap neckline, short sleeves, waistband and slash pockets
Size: Various, from 44 in the shoulders to 50 in the hips
Alterations: Bodice altered to wrap over further in front, legs lengthened by 2in and widened slightly
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday 28 October 2019

autumn sewing: a wedding guest dress

OK, OK. I can explain.

I know I said in my plans that I was definitely not going to do an Anna bodice this time, and this is... clearly an Anna bodice. However, this wasn't what I originally intended to do. This is what I originally intended to do:

This is a Cashmerette Upton bodice/Sew Over It tulip skirt mash-up, the second unpublished garment I made for the Minerva blog last month. I was really happy with the way it turned out and very pleased with the fit of the bodice. I fully intended to make another one of these to wear to the wedding, but my search for a mid-weight woven fabric that was both appropriate for an October wedding and something I actually liked was long, frustrating and fruitless. Eventually I bought a piece of stretch velvet, still intending to make this UpTulip, but then realised that a) it would need to be lined, b) I had no idea how to install the lining with no back seam, and c) I was absolutely not prepared to put a zip into stretch velvet. Not necessarily because I thought it would be difficult, but just on principle. What's even the point of knit fabrics if you have to put a zip in them?

So, I went back to my old faithful. Obviously I then realised I was going to have to line that too, and managed to do so easily enough that I probably could have managed the Upton. Sigh. 

(I'm aware that the bust pleats are behaving very strangely in these photos. I promise it doesn't look like that in real life.)

Because of my fabric issues I made this fairly last minute, and when I realised I would need to line it I didn't have time to go and find a lining-weight navy blue jersey. So I used the only even vaguely appropriate thing I had to hand, which is the mustard yellow I was intending to use to make a bodysuit. I've since come to terms with the fact that it's terrible bodysuit fabric, and if I really want a yellow one I'll need to find something a little less... well, a little less likely to scream "THIS IS WHAT BRA I'M WEARING TODAY", put it that way. Mustard yellow is not the ideal lining colour for this dress; you can see it a little at the shoulder seams here, and the combination of shades does remind me somewhat of the five terms I spent in Catholic school (after the nuns stopped running it, but recently enough that other kids still remembered being taught by said nuns), but I did what I had to do. 

It was pretty easy to line this top without needing a back seam - I sewed the necklines together first, then closed up the armhole seams with a proto-burrito method, and then the side seams. I cut about 5cm off the neckline and armholes of the lining so it would sit on the inside, which has mostly worked except for that bit on the shoulder there. Rest assured I went back in and did some hand stitching on the neckline to keep the lining hidden for the actual wedding. 

I didn't put pockets in the skirt this time. I thought it would be more trouble than it was worth, and much as I like the idea of having my phone on me for stupid dancefloor photos, I also know I'd have been paranoid about it falling out and would end up dancing with hands in pockets. That's a tough look to pull off. 

The front pleats on this skirt are much bigger than on the pattern as I accidentally cut the front skirt too big. D'oh. 

For the wedding itself I wore the dress with my ancient ice blue pashmina that seems to work with many more colours than it should. I love mixing blues. It was probably too cold for a short sleeved dress and pashmina, but one thing I just do not own is a wedding-appropriate jacket. I don't go to a lot of winter weddings and it didn't occur to me that I might need one until my mum asked me about it four days prior. This should spur me on to put "wedding-appropriate jacket" on my to-sew list, but chances are it will do no such thing. I also wore my silver and navy shoes, which I did not put on for these photos as I was rushing to get the pictures taken in between rainstorms. The full look from the day itself is on my Instagram if you're curious. 

The wedding itself was really lovely. I actually ended up being grateful for the stretch fabric as the wedding breakfast was IMMENSE and they were incredibly generous with the wine. (I really appreciate large amounts of carb at weddings, so that I can be less ill the next morning.) We were all bussed out to a barn in the middle of the countryside, where we found cava and lollipops and a fire pit with marshmallows on sticks and fancy gins and an evening hog roast and both regular cake AND a cheese wheel cake. And dancing. Lots of dancing.

Here is my best visual representation of me at a middle-class wedding disco:

I'm currently in the process of slightly reworking my sewing plans for the rest of the autumn. The yellow bodysuit probably isn't going to happen now (as I mentioned above), and since deciding to make a brightly-coloured leopard print maxi skirt suddenly every third person in London seems to be wearing a brightly-coloured leopard print maxi or midi skirt, so my enthusiasm has dimmed somewhat. I still want to make that fabric into something, but I'm less sure about what it should be now. I also think I've missed the window where a light autumn jacket would have been useful. I want to finish my Sirocco this month and then see how much inspiration and energy I have left.

Up next: more velvet! In jumpsuit form!  

Monday 21 October 2019

autumn sewing: hoodie dress

For years now I've had a vision in my mind of a fitted hoodie dress. It's the kind of thing you think shouldn't be too hard to get hold of, until you start clicking on images and realise that all of the fitted hoodies are in fact skintight hoodies stretched thin over women with perfect bodies. I eventually decided that what I wanted just wasn't available, and that bled through to my trying to find a sewing pattern. The things I had in mind to try were all oversized, and I was crossing my fingers that one of them might accidentally suit me.

Before I go through all that, let me show you what I have:

I got my dream! My fitted but not tight extra-cosy hoodie dress! I am so pleased with this I can't even tell you. I basically live in it now. 

What it isn't, however, is a straight pattern you can buy. I had to bodge this together.

My first attempt at a hoodie dress was a toile of the Kommatia Patterns Mysig (I'm going to keep calling it Kommatia since the old patterns seem to be excluded from the rebrand) and was... not exactly successful. The dropped shoulders looked okay in the line drawings, but on me it just looked like I'd made a huge fitting mistake. Also it kind of looked like I was wearing a pillowcase. It did not, however, diminish my desire for an actual hoodie dress, so I started thinking about other options. Extensively alter the Mysig? Lengthen the Jalie hoodie I've made in the past? Go and buy McCalls 7634? (I still might try that last one, the lace-up bit looks cool.) Eventually, I realised I could get my perfect fitted hoodie if I took a dress pattern I already know works and grafted a hood onto it.

So this is actually a Named Clothing Ruska dress (from their book). I've made this a few times and my favourite version by far is the long-sleeved one I made in super-thick fabric. It's super comfy and my go-to dress to wear when it's cold. I added the kangaroo pocket from the Jalie pattern and cut rectangles as large as the remaining scraps of fabric would allow to make cuffs. For the hood, I stole from the Burda men's pattern I used to make Patrick's velour hoodie, which I've also used for myself once before:

This is the Jalie hoodie (cropped a little and minus pocket/cuffs/hem band) with a slightly scooped out neck and the Burda hood attached. It's one of two things I made last month for Minerva, but I don't think either post is live yet. At first I was intending to just replace the Jalie neckline with the Burda one, but then realised the Burda is a raglan, so I just vaguely scooped it in unscientific ways (until it looked the way tight necklines usually do when I unscientifically scoop them; it usually seems to work) and hoped the hood would fit. It did! I really love this hoodie, way more than I thought I would, so when I'd decided that hood on a Ruska was the way I wanted to go, the natural choice was to do this same thing again. The Ruska neckline is also very tight, so more unscientific scooping!

I got this very thick, very soft, reversible wool jersey from my favourite guy at Walthamstow. He rarely has much jersey so I was pleased to find this. It is AMAZING. I think it's two layers of sweatshirting grafted together, so it's incredibly warm and incredibly heavy - every time I pick the dress up I'm amazed that an item of clothing can weigh that much - and I cannot tell you how snuggly I am. It's so comforting. I was sitting on the sofa wearing this for the first time when Patrick came and sat next to me, and within about forty-five seconds he was wrapped around me like a happy sleepy koala on a tree. I am officially the perfect comfortable eucalyptus.

I went for the contrast pocket because a) it's nice to be able to take advantage of reversible fabric and b) I thought it would be more cohesive since the inside of the hood is visibly a different colour. When I tried on the almost finished dress I thought that just the pocket wasn't quite enough to make it all look deliberate, so I decided to make the cuffs in the lighter colour too. I made them deliberately a tiny bit too long to add to general cosiness. I had planned to put in a cord - and did install eyelets for it - but the couple of people I asked told me it looked better without. It's still an option if I change my mind, though.

This is one of my favourite things ever. It's definitely a house dress - I tried photographing it outside and it looked super weird, hence why we're back in the stairwell with all the houseplants that have materialised since last time I took photos in the stairwell - but if I needed to answer the door or run down the road, I could easily do so. I feel so much better about winter now that I have it, and if the right fabric came my way I'd be more than happy to make a second one. 

Next up: what I wore to the wedding!

(I'm not going to do my usual summary here as it's such a mash-up I don't think it would be useful. You can find my Ruska review here, Jalie hoodie here and Burda men's hoodie here)

Monday 7 October 2019

actual shirt attempt two: Sew Over It Hackney (plus Stitch School experience)

Hey, everyone, look what I did!

The glow up is real. I'm amazed at how much better this is than the first one. I enjoyed the process way more this time and I'm actually happy for him to wear it in public and claim it as my work. It's been a while since I've felt this strong a sense of accomplishment after making something. 

I would never have started on a second shirt so quickly if I hadn't got the no-minimum-period Stitch School membership, but I thought it might be helpful to make a second attempt while I had access to videos of the skills that aren't really in my repertoire yet (and I wasn't going to pay for a second month of access). If I'm honest, the slightly more in-depth written instructions were helpful to me but the videos weren't really. I'll go into a bit more detail on this further down.

I cut an XS in the shoulders and lower sleeve, and an S everywhere else. Patrick tends to wear his shirts very slim fitting and the finished chest measurement of the XS is about the measurement of his normal shirts, but the Hackney pattern isn't specifically slim fit and I was worried it might look weird. These sizes were largely guesswork but fortunately it's spot on. I think the XS would have been too small through the chest, but the S would have been too big in the shoulders. He says it actually fits better than most of his regular shirts because the shoulder seam sits in the right place rather than hanging slightly off the edge of his arm. So yay me!

This fabric was an Abakhan order and it's a really nice cotton lawn. It became clear to me very soon after starting this shirt that my biggest mistake last time was using the viscose. I was only thinking about print and breathability at the time, but I very quickly realised how much more I was enjoying sewing this version because the fabric wasn't being a git. Also, having the extra stability in the fabric means it looks way more like I was expecting a shirt to look. After a full day of sewing I hung up the cuffless, buttonless, unhemmed shirt and had a feeling I can only describe as pride. And then, of course, fear that I'd screw it up.

I'm still not completely sure about the placement of buttons and buttonholes. They do align properly this time (I put the shirt on him after making the buttonholes and poked a pen through each one for placement) but I think the horizontal placement is a tiny bit off. I'm probably hyper-aware of it because I think the rest of the shirt is so good and it won't be a thing most people will notice. BUT I KNOW.

Patrick is very happy with it. So happy with it, in fact, that he refused to take it off after we checked the fit for the final time and promptly spilt curry on it. So if you can see small yellow stains in these pictures, that's why. Running it through the wash didn't help and we're now on a stain remover mission. Sigh.

He's lucky he's cute. 

Here's a couple of detail shots:

I did also watch all the Stitch School videos that accompanied the pattern. Beyond a couple of handy tips I'm not sure I got much out of it. That's probably to be expected given my experience level, but after watching a video over my shoulder Patrick pointed out that they don't use anywhere near enough camera angles of the actual process. He worried I wouldn't be able to do the cuffs properly because the video hadn't really shown the actual cuff-making process (as opposed to Lisa talking about the cuff-making process). The written instructions explain everything in what I think is plenty of detail, but if you couldn't get what you're supposed to be doing from that I really can't imagine the video would have been much help.

(I also watched one of the fitting videos they did with Julie, one of their teachers who I've taken classes with in the past and is a genuinely awesome font of knowledge, and they... didn't make a properly fitting toile in advance? I assumed they'd show the fit of an unaltered bodice first, talk through some adjustments and then show the final version, but instead of making a final version together they got their subject to bring a bodice with an FBA and just recorded Julie telling her she'd done the FBA wrong and probably needed to start again. It was very strange.)

I also have to say that the platform itself isn't fantastic. It's not like Craftsy where the whole tutorial will play through if you let it; each individual step of the construction is its own separate unlisted Vimeo video and you have to click on each one to go through. It's also pretty slow and clunky; it feels like the server is overloaded at all times. It's very new and of course they won't yet know how popular it's going to be, so I hope that if it's profitable for them it can be optimised to be a bit smoother and more user-friendly. £15 for a dozen patterns was an excellent deal for me though, and I definitely plan to have a go at the vast majority of them.

I will share with you the couple of useful shirtmaking tips I got from the videos:

In order to get a neat triangle for topstitching the tower plackets, they advise using Pritt Stick to hold everything in place, so I went out and bought the first Pritt Stick I've owned in 25 years. It does the job and I will probably continue to do this in future. I am astounded at the leap in quality of my tower plackets and the construction makes a LOT more sense to me now.

The other useful thing I learned was to press 5mm of fabric to the right side of the sleeve cap before sewing it to make it easier to flat fell the seam, and it's a really good idea. Once the sleeve is sewn to the armhole the flat fell is basically just ready to go and all you have to do is pin it down. I do love a good flat fell but curved seams are a bit of a pain; this made it so much easier and I'm going to do it forever.

Nothing about this experience has made me want to make any shirts for myself, but I do think I'll continue to make them occasionally for Patrick, most likely using this pattern with double cuffs grafted on sometimes. Not just because he'd appreciate it, but also because it offers me opportunities I don't usually get in making things for myself. For example, it's nice to actually work with cotton. I don't tend to use it because I don't really wear it, but damn is it nice to sew. It just sits there and does what you tell it to do. It's nice to be able to do more precise sewing and produce something that looks the way this does. I'm also interested to start playing around with detailing a bit; Patrick has shirts that use a contrast fabric for the inner collar band or inner cuffs, different colour stitching on one or two buttonholes only, and various other subtle or hidden things that he's really into and would be a great way for me to use up scraps. I think between us we could come up with some really cool stuff.

(Approximate visual representation of me finishing an accomplished piece of sewing without having to deal with body issues once.)

I realise I've posted two men's shirts pretty close together and that's not what people generally come here for, but it's not going to be a regular feature (I will make maybe a couple of shirts per year, depending on how often I stumble across really Patricky fabric) and I was just so proud of how fast my skills improved. Next up will be something for me!

Sew Over It Hackney shirt

Fabric: Cotton lawn from Abakhan
Cost: £12
Pattern details: Classic shirt with collar and collar stand, tower plackets and cuffs, back yoke and box pleat, and chest pocket
Size: S with XS shoulders and forearms
Alterations: Chest pocket omitted
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes