Monday, 24 June 2019

summer sewing: emerald green Esther trousers

I made a pair of Esther trousers in April last year, and I thought I probably wouldn't make the pattern again. The shape is too distinctive to merit too many pairs, trying to get the pleats to lie flat was a huge faff, and try as I might I could not find a top to wear them with beyond the one in the blog photos. I tried a bunch of different lengths and shapes and colours and every time I looked like the doorbell had rung unexpectedly when I was chilling on the sofa in my underwear and had to scramble to put the closest things on. Pyjama realness. However, as spring progressed and I found myself severely lacking in trousers, I began to reconsider.

When I decided to make a second pair, I knew I wanted something slightly heavier in weight than last time and also a solid colour, to hopefully minimise the pyjama vibes I kept getting from my first pair. I had every intention of buying a neutral-ish colour for versatility, but it shouldn't have been any surprise to me that I came away with bright emerald green. Once again my camera refuses to accurately record any shade of green but it's much brighter than this in real life. The fabric is some form of crepe and has a little raised cross-hatch texture all over it. It's really nice.

Making these trousers in a heavier fabric was an entirely different experience. I will say that this crepe is probably too heavy; you'd be fine with a lighter crepe but this was definitely a tad too thick. Last time I said I wouldn't use a heavier fabric because of the bulk and volume of fabric around the thighs; I take that back. The reason not to use a heavier fabric is that sewing on the waistband is giant bulky pain in the arse. There are certain points on the waistline where you have the seam for the two front pieces, two large overlapping pleats, the pocket bag, and both sides of the waistband meeting in one place, and when you're trying to secure the waistband you're sewing through almost a dozen layers of fabric. I had every intention of French seaming it, too, which would have made everything worse.

On the plus side, I didn't have any of the same issues with the pleats here. I now think the fabric I used last time was too light, and it actually does need a bit of weight in order to naturally drape and fall nicely. You can see that this fabric is doing exactly what it's supposed to and there's nothing remotely prolapsed about it. Which is good, because it wasn't the easiest to press and it'll take a few more rounds with the iron before the seams lie exactly the way they should. I probably won't go back in for the pleats, though, I think they look fine.

Another thing to note that I don't think I mentioned last time is that the pockets are ENORMOUS. Almost my entire forearm can fit in there. I don't tend to carry a ton of stuff in my pockets but I really appreciate that they're there. Though I did once freak out on the Tube last week because I thought I'd lost my phone, having only reached in as far as I assumed a pocket would go instead of to the actual bottom of the pocket. Your stuff will be safe, is what I'm saying, and I don't think I really felt the benefit of them in the last pair because the fabric was so light and not really able to support the weight of much stuff.

The pattern comes with an optional sash, which I decided I did want to make this time. I prefer the look of these with the sash but want the option to wear them without, which leads to a small drawback: the sash doesn't attach to the trousers in any way, and the style of both really doesn't lend itself to belt loops. It's not a huge deal, and wearing the sash loosely double-knotted like this seems to keep it from falling off, but it does add a layer of minor annoyance to going to the loo. Especially in public. I have now found myself awkwardly wearing the sash around my neck in pub toilets multiple times.

Please excuse my face here, it turns out I only took one solitary no-sash picture. I'm not sure why that was. 

Despite the bright green, these will definitely be much more versatile and wearable than my first pair. I've tried them on with a few different things and they do not look like pyjamas with any of them. It does have to be said that the emerald green limits my colour pairings somewhat, so I'm thinking of making a couple of tops to go with them and also be useful elsewhere; depending on availability of appropriate fabric I'm planning for grey, blush and possibly some shade of blue or yellow if I can find the right one. I LOVE yellow and green but I'm not sure I love yellow tops with green trousers, so we'll see.

 (The weather is ridiculous and all over the place and unsummer-like at the moment, so the white balance of these photos is all over the place and I was occasionally forced to turn into a cat when the sun came out. I decided not to include all the grumpy windswept ones.)

Overall I'm much more positive about this pattern than I was last time, and I think I probably would make another pair if I could find the right weight and colour of fabric. I've got a much better understanding of what works and what I'd be looking for now, so finding the colour would probably be a much bigger pain than finding the weight. I don't want bright and I don't want true neutral, which basically takes it right out of my wheelhouse. What colour would you make these trousers in?

Next up: leggings! It's head-to-toe galaxy time!

Victory Patterns Esther trousers

Fabric: Emerald green textured crepe from Walthamstow
Cost: £9
Pattern details: Pleat-front trousers in two lengths, with waistband, back zip and button, and optional sash
Size: 16
Alterations: None to the pattern itself; substituted back button for press stud
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

swanky loungewear: a second Asaka robe

When I was struggling to start sewing again last month, I put my plans to one side to make a few simple, fun things. This was one of them:

I've been trying to put together a coherent loungewear wardrobe for a while, and you can consider this the first instalment of a vague series. I think it's something you either care about or you don't - a lot of people have no idea why you'd bother spending time and money on something you'll never wear outside, and I entirely understand that. I just enjoy being unnecessarily fancy at all times. On my list is a few different pyjama sets, a couple of outfits that are mostly pyjamas but I could also wear to take the bins out (we have a super weird rubbish collection set up so taking the bins out requires walking much further away from our flat than I would be prepared to do in pyjamas. Basically my rule is that if I have to cross a road I need to have something resembling actual clothes on), and a summer robe. Which is what this is. 

I made an Asaka once before (when the pattern was still called a "kimono") and though I love it, the fabric isn't as breathable as I would like. It's fine for the autumn, but on hot days I just die in it instantly. When I decided to make a second one I went out looking for pretty much this exact fabric - black background, leaf print viscose - and found it in one of the shops at Walthamstow. I bought four and a half metres, and sort of expected to have more fabric left over than I did. Based on how much fabric I used last time I was planning a cami and shorts set to go under it and possibly a slip dress as well, but looking at my offcuts it'll be a pair of shorts at most. 

Last time I lengthened the robe substantially, this time I didn't. I was initially planning to bring it to knee-length, but in the end I wasn't a fan of the way that looked. I did scoop it down a bit lower at the back to keep some kind of barrier between my bare legs and our leather sofa. I also lengthened the belt so that it wraps as many times as I want it to. 

Construction was exactly the same as last time - I French seamed the whole thing so it's lovely and clean on the insides. It's an incredibly easy project once you get the whole "French seam into two hems" thing on the sleeves figured out, and this fabric is MUCH easier to press than the last lot. However, the interfacing I used was way worse. I ordered interfacing from some site once upon a time and ended up with twice as much as I bought (the original order went missing, they replaced it, and then six months later the first one showed up, slightly scarred from its many travels), and it's horrific. It's such a loose weave that the glue always ends up stuck to the iron, meaning there's barely any left to adhere to the actual fabric. GAH. I'm trying to use it up in places where it won't matter as much and I will be so glad when it's all gone. 

In terms of appearance, my first Asaka looks better than this one. The length, the weight of the fabric, and the style and saturation of the print were all perfect, whereas this one is more of a "does the job" sort of thing. But that's OK. What I need for the next few months is a shorter, more breathable robe that will let me exist fairly comfortably in our stupid greenhouse of a living room, and this will absolutely do that. I will also get round to a pair of matching shorts and a black jersey T-shirt or vest top within the next month; it's just occurred to me as I'm writing this that a decent chunk of our holiday is going to be spent in a shared AirBnB with Patrick's family and thus I am actually going to need some warm weather sleepwear pretty sharpish.

I wouldn't rule out making a third one of these, but it would definitely only be a "this fabric DEMANDS it" sort of thing and I won't be actively seeking it out. Three exaggerated-sleeve dressing gowns is a tad excessive when you live in a one-bedroom flat, unless maybe I made one for Patrick in place of the velvet smoking jacket we agreed on ages ago but have been unable to find a decent pattern for. Fair substitute? 

I'm delaying the leggings post until I make the matching top and can go full galaxy nightmare on you, so next up will be my bright green Esther trousers. I had a completely different experience with the pattern this time and ended up with a very different-looking pair of trousers, so I'm quite looking forward to sharing!

Asaka robe dress

Fabric: Printed viscose from Walthamstow
Cost: £8
Pattern details: Wrap robe/dress (or, indeed, robe dress) with wide vented two-piece sleeves, flat collar and long tie belt
Size: UK18
Alterations: Back lengthened by 3in, tie belt extended
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday, 10 June 2019

summer sewing: a jade green maxi dress

I got it done on time!

I haven't made a BHL Anna dress since late 2017, when I made several of them in quick succession the decided that I'd reached saturation point and really needed to find a new go-to woven bodice. What happened instead, as you may have noticed, is that I've barely made a woven dress since. It just feels like too much work. I've made a few attempts in the past to fit a princess seam bodice properly and it's REALLY annoying. Trying to get the neckline to lie properly, the waist to hit where the waist is supposed to hit, and most awkward of all the fabric to sit in properly under the bust instead of creating a weird slope from the apex to the waist was super frustrating and I just gave up. Maybe I'll try again soon.

With the Anna, however, you just make a couple of pleats and you're good to go.

When I bought this fabric - viscose crepe, beautiful texture, swishy rather than floaty if you want to get technical - I'd intended on trying a new strappy maxi dress pattern with it. I saw a pattern in Sew Today that looked like just the thing, but they didn't provide a photo of the back and when I went to buy it, I discovered it wasn't remotely bra-friendly. I had a look for something else I liked, came up short. Everything was either not suitable for wearing with a bra or was button-front, which I just don't like. I was going to hold on to the fabric to see what else would be released in the summer before I realised I had to attend a wedding on the 7th and didn't have anything to wear. I'd known about the wedding for a while but hadn't got clarity on the dress code (i.e. whether visible lower leg was acceptable for the temple or not), and by the time I realised the bride was going to be way too rushed off her feet and stressed to answer my nitpicky questions I barely had a week left to make the dress.

I played it safe and made the full-length version, and I'm glad I did. I'm still not exactly sure what the temple rules are; there was a woman there in a shorter dress and they didn't kick her out or anything, but everybody else was covered to the ankles, so I felt much more comfortable in a maxi (even though it was raining all day and I had to be on full puddle avoidance alert). I omitted the front slit for obvious reasons. At first I thought I might unpick it later to put the slit in after the wedding, but after wearing it for both days of the wedding I think I'll keep it like this. It's slightly less fancy-glam with no slit, and while I'm a big fan of fancy-glam it's not always the most versatile thing.

This is a size bigger than I usually make because stress-eating has consequences. I'm trying to work on that now (in conjunction with my therapist, no diets, slow progress, all the good stuff) but in the meantime I do need a little bit more room. The fabric also has a very slight stretch to it, meaning that the dress is super mega comfortable and I would be quite happy to wear it for eating giant meals. In fact, that's likely to be its main use over the summer. Other than that it's my standard altered Anna with a 2.5in FBA and no neckline facing. I have never used the included facing on any of my Annas after hating it so much on my original trial bodice, but I use a different alternative finishing method almost every time. For this one I used bias binding and topstitched it down to the inside.

Here's a photo we took outside the wedding venue. I wore a pashmina to cover my upper arms (I didn't make it, I bought it in Spain at least fifteen years ago) and I borrowed a pink and green headscarf when we got inside. The two-scarves thing was a bit unwieldy and I would have been better off with a shrug or jacket or similar, but I don't have anything that a) is formal enough, b) can be reasonably worn indoors, and c) doesn't look like ass with a full-length dress. I definitely didn't have enough time to conceive, buy supplies for and make such a garment, so unwieldy double-scarf action it was. For the reception the following evening I just stuck one of my Lupin jackets over the top to get me to the venue then wore it as is. Much curry was eaten. Many open bar cocktails were had. Much dancing was done to Uptown Funk, which seems to have finally dethroned Billie Jean as the opening wedding disco song of choice, and joyous techno-bhangra. Despite the dress being full length and me being drunk, I had zero issue dancing in it. Bonus!

I'm very pleased with this and I think it'll work just as well for standard summer days as for fancier occasions. I really like it with my denim Lupin. I'm particularly looking forward to wearing it during our holiday to San Sebastian next month, where we will just be eating constantly, as far as I can tell (it's my father-in-law's birthday and he's been planning this trip for at least a decade) and it's always good to look fancy as you fill your face with seafood. I won't make another Anna for a while but it's really nice to revisit an old favourite every now and then. 

Next up: either leggings or summer robe, depending on how photography goes this week!

 By Hand London Anna dress

Fabric: Viscose crepe from Walthamstow
Cost: £9
Pattern details: (as if you need these) Kimono sleeve dress with boat or V neck variations, underbust pleats, seven-panel skirt with maxi or knee-length variations
Size: UK 18
Alterations: 2.5 inch FBA, facing swapped out for bias facing
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday, 3 June 2019

sewing plans: summer 2019

My spring plan was much less successful than I might have hoped. Part of that was the dip in my mental health that stopped me sewing for more than a month, but also most of the things I made just didn't work. I only really liked the denim skirt and the Nettie; everything else was on a sliding scale of fail from "I suppose I don't hate it but it's not really what I want" to "get this demon thing away from me immediately" (let's just say you will not be seeing any Sara trousers on this blog any time soon). I didn't get to everything; I still intend to make the bag set once I find all the hardware, and the shirt is all cut out and interfaced but I'm too chicken to start sewing it. I will do it. I will. Who's determined to do the scary thing?

Generally I find my summer plans much easier because summer clothes are what I'm most comfortable in. For the most part I've figured out what works for me and if I wasn't allowed to sew anything all summer I'd mostly be completely fine. There are a couple of actual wardrobe gaps, which I will fill, but mostly my plan is focused around two things: the practical sewing that I keep putting off because it seems hard/scary/annoying; and using up fabric from my stash. I've changed my approach to fabric this year, making a point of tracking my purchases and keeping a record of how much I have vs how much I've used, and it's made me realise how freaked out I get when I have too much stuff in. I know this isn't a common problem, but I don't have much space to hoard fabric, and when it starts to build up it generally means I'm panic buying because I'm not inspired to sew. I've now set myself a maximum number of metres I can keep at any one time, and I'd like to take it a fair bit below that this summer so that I'm not playing fabric chicken when I'm stressed. While I will need to buy a few things for this plan, I want to keep my shopping quite restrained for the next few months and work through some of the pieces I already have.

With that in mind, here's what I'm thinking:

Wardrobe gaps

Multiple pairs of summer trousers

The one thing I really noticed during this year's Me Made May is that I only have one pair of trousers I can wear this time of year (I broke out winter trousers twice and I really didn't like it). Over the past year or so I've become much more inclined to wear trousers again, having abandoned them almost entirely when I started sewing, but I've struggled to get them right. What I think I want is two pairs of slightly more structured trousers to get me through the days when we don't have any weather at all, and one super-light pair for when it's actually hot, though I might bump that up to two if we have a really hot summer again. I definitely want to have a second go at the Victory Patterns Esther trousers; I ended up really liking my first pair apart from the bit where they looked like pyjamas with every single top I own besides the one I wore in the photos. Gah. I went out to get fabric, spent some time deliberating between light navy and neutral stone, came away with bright emerald green because I'm an idiot.

For the super-light trousers I'm thinking of trying the Rae pants from Breaking the Pattern. I wasn't sure about these at first because of the leg slits, but now I think they might be fun and I can either put more effort into remembering to de-hair my legs or I can not.

A pair of shorts

During the summer I tend to be most comfortable in maxi dresses or full-length jumpsuits; I do have a couple of shorter dresses but they don't get that much wear. I'm not sure how much of this is due to chafing issues and how much is due to my aforementioned lack of interest in dealing with leg hair, so I'd like to experiment and try out a pair of shorts. It'll probably be either the Thurlows or M7726 (or both), probably lengthened a bit because my thighs can and will still rub below the hemlines of most short shorts.

Activewear and underthings

Some anti-chafing shorts

This is the thing I need the most and also the thing I least want to make. I have been trying for years to not make anti-chafing shorts, but sadly I think the time has come. Many years ago I found my ideal pair in Sainsbury's - I think they're meant to be shapewear but the compression is very light, meaning that it's not especially restrictive but also they don't ride up my legs (or down my torso). I have worn these to death and soon I won't be able to lie to myself about how much they're falling apart anymore. I have looked for something similar every single time I've gone anywhere near an underwear section and I haven't found them. I've bought several different pairs of actual anti-chafing shorts and they just don't work. Either they're too short (apparently my bit-that-chafes covers a lot more area than most) or they ride up within minutes and sit unhelpfully in my crotch. I'm going to start off trying a shorts version of the Jalie Clara leggings,which I really like (review incoming soon), but I do not know where I'm going to find the right fabric. Basically all my hopes are resting on my trip to Abakhan in a few weeks.

Some leggings

I also want to use the Jalie Clara for more actual leggings this summer. I absolutely need at least one black pair and again I'm worried about finding a fabric that will work (fingers crossed for the Abakhan activewear bin), but one thing I can definitely get on with is cutting into the absolutely ridiculous galaxy print spandex I bought for precisely this occasion. I'm hoping to have enough left over for a matching crop top so that I can achieve maximum ridiculousness.

A bikini

I tried making a bikini once before, and honestly both the pattern and the fabric were terrible. I had to throw it away when I got back from holiday. I've been wanting to try another one ever since but it's been completely impossible to find a pattern I like. I don't know if this is just me (it may well be), but I get really excited every time a company announces a new swimwear release and every time I'm disappointed at how ugly it is. Why so many monoboob crop tops? Why so many GIANT bikini bottoms? I say this as someone who will never be persuaded into low rise anything and likes to feel nicely enclosed: bikini bottoms that pull up over the belly button are really tough to balance proportionally and nobody is doing it right. Finally I came across the Jalie Gigi bikini, where the bottoms sit nicely just below the belly button like I wanted. I have some grey and pink fabric that I really like, but I'll probably need to work out how to put a bit more support into the top.

What's in the stash

A red linen jumpsuit

I bought this piece of raspberry linen on my trip to New York a year ago. I don't want to hold onto it any longer because I don't want it to become too precious to cut, and also I'd quite like to actually wear it. I think it's going to be a Paper Theory Zadie jumpsuit, but I still haven't worked out what to do about the length. I might dig out some toile fabric and see if I like the way it looks as a playsuit, or see if I can eke out more length by making the binding/inside pocket etc out of a different fabric.

A floral wrap skirt

This twill viscose I talked about in my Walthamstow post is going to become a wrap skirt this summer. I'm thinking of trying M7813 (haven't decided which view yet) or possibly the Vanessa Pouzet Boheme if I can be bothered to grade up the hips. I also want to make a short-sleeved navy bodysuit to go with it.

Some ridiculous bronze thing

It's utterly stupid that I'm still sitting terrified on this £9 piece of viscose, and I'm definitely going to use it in the next couple of months. When I talked about it in my Walthamstow post I said I was worried it would be overwhelming head to toe, and frankly I'm starting to think that my best option is just to lean into it. The idea of a matching two-piece has popped into my head, but whether that becomes a reality mostly depends on whether I can find a summer top pattern for wovens that isn't a) super loose or b) button back. Button back tops look lovely on other people, but they're too much faff for me to put on and I can't be arsed. There's also the possibility that it'll become a maxi dress, or the aforementioned Rae trousers.

A palm print maxi dress

I couldn't take a proper photo of this fabric as I've cut it out already - I'm going to a wedding this Friday and I need something to wear. I do have a couple of standby "one of Patrick's friends is getting married" dresses, but this one is in a Sikh temple and I'm not quite sure what the rules are about knees, so I'm just going to make a full-length Anna dress with no slit and side-step that whole thing entirely. I think the dress is going to be great and I'm very excited about it.

This needs to be something

I'd love some suggestions on what to do with this. It's two layers of cotton sandwiched together, is completely reversible, and is also apparently Karen Millen fabric (though I've not been able to find any photos of it in use). I don't use a lot of cotton and because it's double layered it's thicker and more structured than I'm used to, so I'm not really sure what its best use would be. I really want to take advantage of using both sides of the fabric; possibly a mostly black jumpsuit with one white crossover piece or waistband? Two piece where the top is one colour and the bottom is another? Panelled dress?  I have about three and a half metres (I asked for three but he definitely gave me extra) and I feel like I ought to be able to get a really awesome statement outfit out of it. Please let me know what you think!

For the most part, I think this is a fairly easy plan. It doesn't require me to buy too much fabric (or many patterns or notions, for that matter) and should be convenient enough for me to just get on with. Fingers crossed for my motivation and a successful trip to Abakhan!