Monday 15 April 2019

two versions of the Sirocco jumpsuit

Last month Deer and Doe got in touch to ask if I'd be interested in an advance copy of one of their patterns in exchange for a review. I've done this with them once before and it was really interesting for me; I got to try a pattern that I never would have purchased, and though I rarely make the full dress these days I do use bits and pieces of that pattern almost every time I make a knit project. So I was excited to do it again. Then I scrolled down to the photo of the garment they were offering to send and I realised this was a whole other kettle of fish - a pattern I would have fallen out of my chair and purchased within seven seconds of first seeing it. I sat gently bouncing for about forty-five minutes then told them I'd love to.

You know I love a jumpsuit. If you were here in January, you might also be thinking, "My, that looks a lot like a faux-wrap black jumpsuit that could be worn for evening occasions and probably won't have upsetting pocket situations". And yes, I thought that too. It's a knit rather than a woven, but that doesn't remotely bother me. My longtime favourite RTW black jumpsuit was also a knit and I loved it.

While my endgame garment is made of plain black, high quality jersey, I will never just cut straight into expensive fabric for a new pattern. I went to Walthamstow (because of course I did) and bought this soft medium weight jersey with the amount of stretch dictated by the pattern instructions. White paisley outlines are not my usual jam, largely because paisley is so much Patrick's thing that I feel a bit weird wearing it, but the actual substrate was so nice that I decided to deal with it.

The pattern is a faux wrap, pull-on jumpsuit with a waistband panel, set-in sleeves and slash pockets. The bodice and trousers both have front pleats, and the trouser pleats are diagonal to mimic the shape of the pockets, which you can't really see in black printed fabric but is a really nice touch. I cut a 44 in the shoulders, 48 bust, 46 waist, 50 hip and 52 bicep. This is not what I'd cut next time, as I'll detail a bit further down. I also added two inches to the length of the legs, which is fairly standard for me.

First things first: this is a really fabulous jumpsuit and the shape is great. I've never made a narrow-leg jumpsuit before and I was a bit concerned that it would be too body-con without extra fabric in the legs, but it's not a problem at all (full disclosure: it kind of is a problem right now because I've been stress-eating for the last month and I'm pretty bloated, but in these photos from a few weeks ago it's not a problem, so I think I'll be fine once things stop going wrong). I think it would be really easy to make this either casual or fancy depending on fabric or even just styling.

Usually with knit patterns like this there's a piece of elastic at the waist do all the fitting work, but not here; the pattern uses pleats and darts (darts on the back trousers, pleats everywhere else) to give proper shape on both the bodice and trousers going into the waistband. It's great to have a jumpsuit with a sleek "this has been fitted to me personally" effect but also still made of knit so it's super comfortable, doesn't need a zip and glosses over any little bumps. It's unlike anything else I've seen and I think it's awesome. Also worth noting: the pockets are functional, stable, and roomy. Finally!

(SCENE CHANGE, surprise. I thought it made sense to do both so you could get a better view of the top while also being able to see some proper front-on shots.)

For people with similar body shape to me, there are a couple of things to be aware of. First of all, spend a bit of time baste-fitting the bodice and getting the surplice to lie correctly. I don't tend to do this with knit projects as the stretch usually glosses over any fitting issues, but my first attempt at this pattern had the entire middle of my bra visible. I think this is at least in part a result of my cutting too big a bodice. I don't normally add boob room with Deer&Doe, particularly not in knit patterns, and I'm not quite sure why I did this time. I should have just let the stretch do the work and maybe raised the neckline a small amount. I unpicked it to try and cross the wrap over more, but I reached the point where I was just making holes (unpicking black stretch stitches from black fabric, ugh) so I added as much to the crossover as I could and then added a couple of tiny poppers at the bust. Ordinarily I would just sew it closed at the right point, but you can't do that here as the wrap fronts being unconnected to each other is what provides enough room to get in and out of the jumpsuit.

Also on getting in and out of the jumpsuit: there is no zip, and the waist is not elasticated. Additionally, the earlier version of the pattern I was sent called for 30-40% stretch, which has since been corrected to 60% stretch. The first time I tried this jumpsuit on, I definitely heard a few stitches pop. It's entirely possible that I'd still have the same issue with the corrected amount of stretch, since my hips are a few sizes bigger than my waist and the waist is drafted with negative ease, so before I make my third version I'll do some calculations and report back on how the extremely pear-shaped might fare with this! If you're worried, go up a size in the waist - it'll give you an extra couple of inches and still fit with negative ease. I did this with my second version, which you'll see in a moment, and the fit was much the same.

Having produced a garment I really liked but needed some adjustments, I decided that it would be worthwhile to make a second attempt, so that I could test the alterations I thought would be necessary and give a better and more comprehensive review. I'd never made a playsuit before and I thought this was as good a time as any to experiment.

This time I cut a straight 44 bodice, with a little extra room at the upper edge of the wrap and an inch of extra length at the waist edge to give me more leeway overlap the front pieces further. I went up one size to a 48 waist to give a bit more room to stretch over my hips; I was still working to the 40% guideline on this one and so in the future, with a properly stretchy fabric, I might not do this. As I said, I'll do some maths before the next one! I also cut way more length than I thought I'd need on the shorts; I do this basically every time I cut shorts because my fabulous monster fabric-eating thighs are not what people tend to draft for. I marked the cut point on the fabric so that I would be able to see how much I'd added at the end, and it was about 2.5 inches, so that's what I'll be working to in future. I kept everything else the same. Were I to make this playsuit again I would definitely widen the legs - I am not loving this overall effect. I'm not 100% sure if this is another monster-thigh problem or not. The photos on the website show wider legs, which would imply that it is, but previous trouser patterns I've owned that have both a short and full-length version are drafted to be wider at the cut-off point on the shorts than the equivalent point on the trousers, and these aren't. Something to bear in mind!

Attempt two is definitely a much better fit. There is a small amount of bra showing in these photos, but I am standing right at the bottom of the stairs with the camera pointing downwards, so it doesn't normally look like this. However, I really doubt I will be wearing this version. The colours and print of the fabric just aren't me at all, and I don't like how tight the legs are. The fabric also clings way more than in my other version and I'm not a fan. I will almost certainly have another go, however; I really like the idea of this playsuit and I don't think it'll be too hard to adjust it into something I'll love.

Overall, this has been a rousing success for me and I will definitely be making more of both versions. Aside from the plain black jumpsuit of my dreams, I'm also thinking about both a playsuit and a jumpsuit for generally existing in during the summer. I like the idea of electric blue for the playsuit and possibly some kind of leaf print for the jumpsuit, depending on whether I can find a fabric that fits the nebulous idea in my mind. There are definitely a couple of body shape issues at play but they're fairly simple to work around, I think, and having made these two versions I'm pretty confident that I know what I'm doing. I'm thrilled I got to review this pattern and I'm excited to have it in my wardrobe!

Deer and Doe Sirocco jumpsuit

Fabric: Printed jersey from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £5 for the jumpsuit, £4 for the playsuit
Pattern details: Pull-on knit jumpsuit or playsuit with mock wrap neckline, short sleeves, waistband and slash pockets; gifted to me by Deer&Doe in exchange for a review
Size: Graded from 44 bodice to 50 hips
Alterations: Bodice altered to wrap over further in front, legs lengthened by 2in
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

I can't really tell you what might be up next because I am kind of broken. The last month has been absolutely horrific (multiple family illnesses and horrible diagnoses, the resurgence of some old and very unwelcome trauma, and also our bathroom literally flooding with sewage) and my motivation to sew has been almost non-existent. I'm hopeful that when the bedroom ceiling repair is finally finished and we can have our flat to ourselves again I can go through my stash and find a bit of excitement to make something, but my mental health is precarious right now and I don't know how it's going to shake out. Fingers crossed that things will stabilise and I'll be back with something next week!

Monday 1 April 2019

spring sewing: Ellis skirt (and bonus Nettie)

As I've mentioned a couple of times now, I keep making denim skirts and they keep sucking. Most of them are so terrible they don't make it to being photographed. I've put my Ness skirt back on a few times since making it, and concluded every time that it's really not wearable and the fit around my waist and hips is just too weird. I had been planning to have another go at it, but put that idea to the side when I realised I'd be making eleven different adjustments for an outcome that was by no means guaranteed. I also briefly considered making a standard mini skirt out of denim and dramatically reshaping the back to be more of a tulip, but eventually went for the Cashmerette Ellis. I said in my sewing plans that I was a bit sceptical about the apple/pear differential, but went ahead and purchased it on two grounds: one, I wasn't sure I could take any more failures and Cashmerette has always fit me fairly reliably; and two, the line art showed the skirt noticeably tapering in towards the hem, which seemed like it would go some way to curing my butt-cape issue.

And look! It's wearable! That sounds like damning with faint praise, but every other denim skirt I have made has been worn out of the house once and then thrown away when I get back. There are certainly a couple of adjustments that I could make to this pattern, but they're quite minor and, crucially, won't stop me wearing this version as part of my normal wardrobe.

I normally make a size 12 waist in Cashmerette, but went for a 14 this time. My smallest part is very high on my waist, higher up than I would normally wear a skirt, so I thought it'd be safer to size up. For future versions (which I will make) I would size down in the back but not the front as I have a tiny bit of gaping at my back waist. I cut between 16 and 18 in the hips, and that was too big (you can see it's giving me wrinkles). Next time I'll go to 16 or a bit smaller. I bought 2m of this denim and the skirt uses 1m of it, so I'm going to make a second version with the fit adjustments I've detailed here and report back on how it works.

I also shortened the skirt by about an inch and a half, which is pretty standard for me; I think I'm an inch or two taller than the height Cashmerette drafts for but I tend to prefer my mini skirts to be a little shorter.

This skirt does not give me butt-cape (finally!) but I would prefer it to taper in slightly more. On future versions I'll either taper the back panels in more, or just size down and do a full butt adjustment. I've never done one before but I probably ought to start. Also next time I will use a slightly shorter zip. The pattern calls for a 7" zip but I had a good inch or so of my zip hanging outside the fly extension. I would probably use a 6" in the future, as that's what the fly extension measures.

You will notice that I did not do the contrast topstitching. I did some of the topstitching in navy, but I am not precise enough for nice-looking topstitching and the denim was super bulky (I thought I'd bought the same stuff I used for my last attempt, but this was both darker and bulkier) so it definitely wasn't the best time to start. It's on my list of things to practice, though, and I will make a topstitched version at some point. Almost all of my seams are flat-felled (the pocket lining is French seamed); the pattern calls for a zig-zag stitch or overlocking to finish, but I'm really not interested in a denim garment that's not flat-felled.

I'm wearing it with the Closet Case Patterns Nettie bodysuit from my spring plans. Normally I make a separate post for all my planned garments even if they're repeats, but I genuinely can't think of anything else I could possibly say about this. I wasn't convinced about this fabric as it isn't what I thought it was going to be when I ordered it, but I actually don't hate the way this looks on me and I've worn it a fair bit over the few weeks since I made it.

In conclusion: yes, something has FINALLY worked. I will definitely make more of these, probably in some form of needlecord. I saw a really pretty gold printed one last week that I've been struggling not to buy ever since, but I really need to clear another 20 metres or so out of my stash before I buy anything else. Ugh, the trials of living in London and having zero space to put anything. Our ceiling repair is finally getting finished this week and I'm going to attempt to use all the moving stuff around as an opportunity to KonMari my living space a bit. Possibly my sewing patterns also. I've definitely got at least a dozen that need to go but I never get round to it because we don't have any charity shops (or shops in general) anywhere within easy walking distance. I need to get a grip, though, because I'm not going to stop buying shiny new patterns any time soon! 

Ellis skirt

Fabric: Indigo stretch denim from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £10
Pattern details: Straight/slightly tapered skirt with two views: classic jean skirt with topstitching and front slit, and simpler mini skirt with diagonal pockets
Size: 14 waist, between 16-18 hip
Alterations: Hem shortened slightly, contrast topstitching omitted
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes