Monday 25 March 2019

those things from Walthamstow: fabric haul and plea for suggestions

Hi! I had every intention of putting this post up last week, but then our flat developed a leak directly over the bed, which our landlord was confusingly reluctant to fix. So rather than writing posts and taking photos, the whole week was rather consumed with plumbers, arguing, and trying to find ways to get some sleep. Fortunately my new favourite person the Really Pushy Maintenance Guy found a way to bypass our letting agency and browbeat the landlord directly, so we now have a brand new pipe, a temporary ceiling, and the mental space to think about lovely shiny fabrics. Yay!

In my spring plans I talked about Those Things from Walthamstow, fabric I'd bought because it was bargainous and beautiful without any real idea what I was going to do with it, and more than one person suggested to me that maybe I could actually share what Those Things are. Which is obviously an excellent idea because then I can crib suggestions off of helpful passers-by.

I've photographed all the fabrics to the best of my ability, and I've made notes on fibre, weight, drape etc, as well as colour when the photo isn't quite accurate. I've also included a couple of non-Walthamstow (i.e. much more expensive) fabrics at the end because they've been hanging around for ages and I'd love to get some ideas.


(Please excuse wrinkles. Because of my storage constraints everything in my stash gets wrinkled; I promise I'm going to iron it all before I use it.)

This is a wool twill, it's beautiful, and it's the piece that's been in my stash the longest. When I bought it I think I intended it to become another bomber jacket or similar cropped unlined thing for summer, but quickly realised that this brick/terracotta colour, gorgeous though it is, matches literally none of the things I might have paired it with. That was over a year ago, and though I pick up and think about this fabric regularly, I haven't been able to think of a single alternative. All I know is that it deserves to be a cool, everyday statement-type piece. I'm a bit concerned about making a dress with it as I think it could go twee quite easily, and I can't pull off twee. I have 2m of it 140cm wide.


This is a crepe, somewhere between emerald and forest green (much greener and more saturated in real life but my camera, as ever, refuses to accurately record any shade of green in existence), and it's definitely less precious than everything else. It probably wouldn't be on the list at all except that it's an actually nice green and WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO FIND. I was actually looking for a much darker green crepe to make a pair of trousers, but I bought this anyway because I will always buy fabric in a nice shade of green unless it feels really awful. It's quite a spongy crepe; not quite right for trousers and definitely not right for a dress, so the only thing I can think of is a jumpsuit. Which jumpsuit I have no idea; I don't have any patterns appropriate for mid-weight wovens. I have 2.5m, 140cm wide.


This is a really lovely mustard and bronze viscose with a good bit of weight to it, and it's the second lot of it I've bought. I used the first bit trying to make a pair of Victory Patterns Esther/Megan Nielsen Flint mash-up trousers, somehow got it super wrong, and ended up with ones that are completely skintight over my backside. No idea how I managed that. The guy still had some more so I bought another piece, which has sat there ever since. Admittedly a large part of the problem here is that I'm paralysed by the fear of messing this same fabric up a second time, but also I legitimately don't know how this print would work best on me. I feel like I'd prefer a maxidress or jumpsuit to just remaking a pair of drapey trousers, but I'm worried the colour and print would be overwhelming on me head to toe. Maybe if I could find a sufficiently streamlined but not tight maxi pattern. I have 3m, 140cm wide.


This is a viscose twill and it's not my usual style at all, but it feels beautiful. I went over my budget to buy it because I just couldn't stop touching it. I can't even describe how perfect it is, it's one of the loveliest substrates I've ever encountered. I know it needs to be a skirt, but I cannot get any further than that. I can see it working for almost any style of skirt, which doesn't really help me to narrow it down. I have 2.5m, 140cm wide.


This is a sweater knit and it is bonkers. It's two metre-long panels of poppies and turquoise, and I couldn't just leave it in the shop but equally I don't have the first clue what to make from this. How would cutting this even work? I will take literally any suggestions on this one, including "there is absolutely no garment you can reasonably make with this, here's a link to a tutorial on turning sweater knit into a wall hanging".


This is the same sweater knit in a different print, and I can't work out what to do with this either. I thought this one would be easy, but the flowers are just SO HUGE that I can't get past potential pattern placement issues. I think it should be a dress because the flowers would be disproportionate on a top, but as to what dress... no idea.

And two bonus items I thought I'd sneak in:


This is a 3m cut of silk I bought in Shaukat the one time I went there. I still think it's absolutely gorgeous, but it is also a) see-through, b) very narrow, and c) definitely brown. That combination of things rules out almost anything I might think to do with the fabric. People usually suggest some variation of kimono-sleeve jacket when I ask them about this, and I get why but please trust me when I say that a long-sleeved brown garment is horrific on me 100% of the time. I've thought of a skirt but it would need a shorter opaque underlayer, and that's hard to do without it looking weird. Maybe I should just make a fully-lined Anna dress and be done with it.


This is a really amazing quality barkcloth and it's one of the few pieces of fabric I actively regret buying. I bought it because I loved this fabric so much and wanted to make another dress in the same stuff, but this was the only other print they did and in retrospect I did not love it enough to pay £50 for two metres. I intended this to be a Yoyo dress, and I know now that it will never be a Yoyo dress (partly because I can't get the fit right enough to make into a dress that expensive, partly because I've just gone off the idea of a Yoyo dress in this fabric). I haven't had one single other good idea for what to do with it. Help? I have 2m, in one 1.5m piece and one 50cm piece.

Please do share any thoughts you have on any of these. I'm not going to make anything that buttons up or anything with the word "blouse" in it, but beyond that I would be really grateful for any ideas anyone might have. I don't like having an overflowing stash and I really want all of these pieces to become clothes I actually wear and like, preferably within the year. I'm excited to hear what you think!

Since my last post I've managed to complete several new patterns to a standard I'm comfortable sharing, so I just have to decide what order I'm going to post them. I'm in a bit of a strange place both health and sewing-wise at the moment, so apologies in advance if I get all rambling and introspective on you!

Monday 11 March 2019

spring sewing: the wrap skirt wardrobe malfunction test

The idea of making a wrap skirt has been rattling around in the back of my head for a while. In the summer I wear maxi length almost exclusively and you all know I love a wrap anything, so it seemed like a no-brainer, especially when I realised I was sitting on four pieces of fabric that all wanted to be wrap skirts. But I kept putting it off, because I wanted to find an actually interesting pattern. I know I could cut some rectangles, add some ties to the end and be done, but that's not what I wanted. I wanted something with a bit of actual design to it, and nobody seemed to be making those. 

This is McCalls 7606, and I'm not sure it's the one. 

This pattern is for an off-the-shoulder or cold-shoulder bodysuit (which I may make if I'm bored one day) and this shaped wrap skirt, with or without hem ruffles. I wasn't sure this was what I wanted but it was literally the only one I could find with any interest to it whatsoever. Everything else looked like it came from a WikiHow article using only two measurements and a ruler, which I'm not saying is a bad look but I am saying I wouldn't pay eight quid for. 

The fabric is a viscose from Fabric Land, a gift from my mother. I love the colours (I think I actually look better in red and purple but I'd much rather wear peacock shades) but I didn't spend enough time with the fabric before I decided it had to be a wrap skirt. When I came to cut it out, I realised that a) the print went vertically and not horizontally as I'd originally thought and b) it was super narrow so I couldn't just cut the whole thing on the cross-grain. As a result it doesn't look quite like I'd envisioned it and it definitely suffers from that. I wanted a fairly sleek skirt but I'm now wondering if I should have added the ruffles anyway just to make it a bit more interesting. 

The most important thing, obviously, was the obligatory Wardrobe Malfunction Test. So I broke out my favourite pair of chub rub shorts, which I got in Sainsbury's about ten years ago and have never been able to replace. They're falling apart now, so I really need to start working on making some myself, but they won't be as perfect as these ones GAAAAHHH. Anyway, I put them on and went for the briefest walk I could possibly plan, bearing in mind what happened last time I did one of these tests. 

And... yes, malfunctions occurred. I think it's a combination of how light and easily disturbed this fabric is, the small amount of overlap at the waist and the curve at the front. Any two out of the three and it might have been alright, but as it was things definitely got precarious every time there was a slight breeze. If I were going to remake this skirt I'd definitely go up a few sizes to get more overlap at the front; due to the way the curve is cut I wouldn't even lose that much leg, I don't think. 

(This top is the black Nettie bodysuit I'd originally intended to make for my winter plans. It is one of the best and most useful things I have ever made and I have worn it to goddamn death this last two months. Not having to worry about tops riding up makes getting dressed so much easier and it's enabled me to get wear out of clothes that had just been sitting sadly in my wardrobe for months. I love it. I'm seriously considering buying more fabric and making two more identical ones so that wearing it as often as I do is a bit less gross.)

I will probably not be wearing this skirt, which is a shame. For an easy summer skirt I'm not that bothered about it not looking quite how I'd imagined (the colours carry it sufficently, I think), but the potential for malfunction is too great. I'd just never be able to relax. Maybe if we end up going on a beach or beach-adjacent holiday this year I'll take it with me as a swimsuit cover-up, and it'll probably be useful around the house if we get another super-hot summer. What I definitely will not be doing is making the three further versions I'd intended on if this one worked. I have three fabrics currently in my stash that have decided they want to be wrap skirts, and I don't know what I'm going to do with them now. Someone must have an interesting take on a wrap skirt, surely?

Up next: probably a Walthamstow fabric post. I've had a run of failures lately and it's been super demotivating (and unhelpfully timed). I will eventually get round to taking photos and posting about them, but I'm not in that place yet. Fabric talk and crowd sourcing ideas it is!

Monday 4 March 2019

sewing plans: spring 2019

My winter plan went surprisingly smoothly. There were a couple of failures, sure, but everything I planned for at least got attempted and I was finished by the end of January. My only annoyance is that the M7626 trousers didn't work well enough for me to finally get my yellow pair. Sigh.

I've been worrying about this post basically since December. Historically my spring plans have been the least cohesive and had the least stuff made from them, and dressing for spring is such a headache. It's cold enough for tights but it feels weird to wear them, traditional "spring colours" don't suit me at all, and my summer clothes don't really lend themselves to being layered up. I really hate that Me Made May is in spring because I'm sure my clothes look much better the other three seasons of the year (though maybe I just think that because I'm not taking outfit photos every day and can ignore that I'm wearing the same five things on a loop, who knows). Looking at last year's photos I seem to have four spring modes: wearing autumn clothes and feeling unseasonal, wearing autumn clothes without tights and feeling uncomfortable, wearing summer clothes and feeling self-conscious (and/or cold) and wearing summer clothes with awkwardly-matched layers. This year I would like to not do that, so I'm going to plan with that in mind.

Colour-wise, my wardrobe needs a bit of variety. Last year I made a lot of black basics to wear with bolder pieces, but my Instagram almost-daily outfit photos show that I'm not doing that and am just living in black, blue and grey. They're nice outfits, but they are colour-limited in a way that I don't wish to be. So this time I have mostly green and yellow fabrics, and most of my plans are for separates.

Also I recently did a fabric inventory and YIKES I have way too much fabric relative to the space I have to keep it in. There are a couple of things I really want for spring that I don't have the fabric for, so I left those on here, but I removed several things from my original draft that would have required me to buy more stuff. Ideally I'd like to reduce my fabric stash by about a quarter over the next three months, with the eventual goal of getting everything to fit in the box, so I've divided my plans based on fabric acquisition and dedicated the last part to stashbusting.

Let's go!

Plans I have the fabric for

A maxi wrap skirt

I've often thought about making a maxi skirt but never actually done it (assuming we aren't counting that time I bought a piece of pre-shirred fabric, sewed the two cut edges together and called it a skirt). A long skirt that I could wear with long-sleeved tops would grant me a lot more versatility than just putting my suede Lupin jacket on over every summer outfit I own and repeating "pale pink suede goes with everything" on a loop. I mean, don't get me wrong, it kind of does go with everything, but that gets a little dull after a while. My mother bought me a piece of yellow/green/blue printed viscose (when in doubt, return to the peacock colours) and I'd like to make it into a wrap skirt. I've bought McCalls 7606 and I'm going to give that a try. Actually I got slightly ahead of myself, so I finished the skirt before I made the post... tune in next week for more exciting "did this wrap cause a wardrobe malfunction?" content!

An olive Nettie bodysuit

The Nettie pattern 100% won me over. Tops ride up on me so easily and it's made a huge difference to my comfort levels not having to think about that. I ordered fabric for a third one a few months ago, then put it aside because it looked very different from the photo and I was disappointed. On the website it looked like an antique gold with an embossed-effect leaf and sunflower print, but in person it's definitely a very yellow olive and the sunflowers are clearly brown tie dye. It's still not my favourite (I've seen it used in a few Instagram posts encouraging people to join in with 1970s week on the Great British Sewing Bee and the 70s are far from my usual jam) but now that a bit of time has passed I think I'm going to make it anyway; it's a very unusual colour for me but since I don't already know I hate it I might as well try it, right?

A pair of green trousers

I bought the Sew Over It Sara dungarees pattern when it came out, not because I had the remotest interest in making the dungarees but because the trouser portion looked like the exact most flattering shape for my body. It's not the most fashionable shape but sometimes I just want to feel like my legs are nine feet long. Also I remember the Ultimate Trousers being a fairly good fit once I modified the darts and I'm hoping these will be the same except with an actual waistband and therefore much less annoying. My trial version is going to be made of a moss green crepe, which I like enough to wear a lot if it works but not enough to cry if they're unwearable.

A mustard jersey dress

I debated delaying this one because it feels like more of an autumn thing, but I am in sore need of long-sleeved jersey dresses and it's definitely going to be cold for a while yet. I haven't picked a pattern yet; my original plan was to try and turn the Deer&Doe Magnolia into more of a day dress, but I'm less certain of that right now. I feel like it shouldn't be that difficult to find a go-to pullover jersey dress, and yet I don't have any patterns with both sleeves and a waist seam that I care to remake. Somewhere within the next three months I will find a solution to this.

A sports bra

This is going to be a bit of a punt. I'd sworn off the idea of bra-making because it's so fiddly and needs so many specialist supplies (and a bra that fits even a tiny bit wrong just takes over my whole day and makes me extra grumpy), but a sports bra seems way less fiddly and also would let me wear something with cool straps. Also I only have one sports bra and Patrick calls it "Jen's unattractive sports bra", so there's that. I got some blue-purple spandex in Abakhan that I'm going to use for the first go, possibly with a grey contrast if I feel like it, and following a recommendation on the Curvy Sewing Collective I'm going to try the Greenstyle Creations power sports bra (one of the strappy versions).

A denim skirt

I am going to have yet another go at this, and what I'm thinking of doing this time is picking a straight or A line skirt pattern and reshaping the side seams to be a little more tulip-shaped (or, possibly, just grafting the back panel of my tulip skirt onto the front panel of something without waist pleats). I haven't settled on a pattern yet, but I don't think it will be the Ness again as that fits me very strangely and would need a fair bit of alteration before we even get to reshaping the skirt. I might try the Cashmerette Ellis skirt, which seems like it should be just the thing but I'm a bit sceptical of the 1 inch difference between the apple and the pear fits.

Plans I don't have the fabric for but are quite important

A weekend bag

Last year I said I wanted to try making a weekend bag, but then I looked at some proper handbag patterns and freaked out about how much hardware they all seemed to take. A few people I follow have made the Grainline Portside travel set recently and I think I'll be doing the same. I've never used Grainline before (all the garment patterns seem pretty shapeless for quite a lot of money, though when I mentioned this at a sewing meet-up I had four women simultaneously give me dirty looks and yell BUT THE DRAFTING IS REALLY GOOD at me, which frankly didn't endear me) but it's a nice-looking set of bags and doesn't appear to need more than a few extraneous bits. I think I know one of the fabrics I want, but haven't settled on a colour to match it yet.

A light knee-length spring coat

I considered jettisoning this from my list, but it really is the thing that would make the biggest difference to my spring wardrobe. Once it gets too warm for my big wool coat I get a bit lost and end up trying to coordinate most of my outfits around a cropped jacket, and it would be nice to have something I could just throw on instead. Unless I get a better idea it's going to be the Victory Patterns Ulysses trench coat, and I'm still undecided about colour. In my head it's quite a bright blue-green, but I know how annoying that is to find, so I might be persuaded in any direction that isn't dark or neutral.

A first-ever shirt experiment

I want to plan in one big 2019 project per season and this is where I'm going to start. I think it's the best one to begin with because it's not for me and doesn't have any body image or fitting-related baggage to accompany it, so I can just focus on the techniques. I'm going to seek out a very classic shirt pattern for my first try before I attempt all the double-cuffed fancy stuff Patrick eventually wants (cufflinks are to him what earrings are to me). Any recommendations gratefully received!


Jersey offcuts

I have a bunch of different jerseys between 0.7m and 1.5m in length that I either picked up at remnant sales or had left over from a previous garment (why is it that when I buy 2m of a fabric I don't have any patterns that will fit on it, but when I buy 3m I have a bunch left over? Grrr). By the end of the season I want to have used or donated all of them, and I don't want to panic and end up making a dozen cropped sweaters. Only one of them is at all precious to me - a black and grey swirled sweater knit that I know will be my favourite thing in the world if I can find the right shaped top - so I may as well experiment with everything else. T-shirts, weird bodysuits, underwear, whatever I feel like trying. There will be at least one cropped sweater, though, I'm still me.

Those things from Walthamstow

This may seem like a vague category, but it's actually very specific. I always go to Walthamstow Market with a very defined list of what I need, and I always come back with about half that stuff and something else that I don't have a clue what to do with, but was really cool and also only £6 so it would have been a crime to just leave it there. I'm currently sitting on more than half a dozen of these, because I like them too much to accidentally use them for the wrong garment. I don't think I'm going to get through all of them, but I'm aiming to use two and have plans for the others (even if that plan is to give it to someone else).

This felt like a small plan when I was writing it, but having added the stashbusting stuff it's probably bigger than usual. The success of my winter sewing and the fact that my therapist asks if I've sewn and what I've made every single week gives me hope that I can do it.