Monday 30 September 2019

autumn sewing: Pietra trousers

I'm back! We had a fabulous and very chill time in France, once again managing to get through quite a lot of wine without getting drunk once even though we were in an AirBnB this time with no actual French people to supervise us. Within the past couple of months my body has suddenly and firmly decided that it can't cope with alcohol at all unless it's been properly fed, so perhaps I'm learning to be French by necessity.

Over the past year or so I've got much more into wearing trousers, but my fitting skills are still rudimentary and my shape isn't really a pattern company standard. In order to not have weird stomach things happening, I've tended to stick with wide-legged, swishy trousers which drop straight down from the waist and avoid most of the fitting issues. I really like this style and would happily just stick with it, except that it's now the end of September and British weather (aka drizzle and meh) is back in force. In such conditions, wide leg trousers are out of the question. Unless of course you like dragging through puddles and having wet trouser hems for the rest of the day, in which case get out of my office.

So I made some Closet Case Patterns Pietra pants. Let's start with the toile.

I decided to use this piece of vaguely shitty neon salmon-coloured denim to make a toile, because I couldn't imagine when else I might be able to use said vaguely shitty salmon denim and get it the hell out of my stash (I ordered it online and it claimed to be "Fire Red". Seriously). I had hoped that it would miraculously transform into a wearable pair of trousers, but nope. I don't 100% hate the way they look and I would definitely wear trousers this colour, but I haaaaate the way they feel. This fabric claims to be denim but feels like a cross between cardboard and wax. It's been through the wash twice now, so I don't think it's a treatment that's doing it. It's also incredibly quick to wrinkle and incredibly stubborn to press, which strikes me as quite unfair. After having worked with it, I upgraded it from "vaguely shitty" to "proper shitty".

These trousers are pretty similar to the Papercut Palisades. If you have the Palisades and they work for you, you almost certainly don't need these as well. I was pretty into the idea of the Palisades and I really did like them at first, but over the course of several months I started finding things that weren't quite right. I made four pairs (including one pair of shorts) and two survive, but I am very aware of twisty elastic, bulky pockets, not quite enough thigh room and an extremely unflattering midsection during times of period bloat.

Basically, these are the differences between the Pietra and the Palisades:

 - both have a similar side pocket situation, but the Pietra is a single diagonal slash made up of one pattern piece (two if you count the actual side panel itself) and the Palisades has two crossover diagonal slashes made up of three pattern pieces (four with the side panel). The latter looks cooler but is also bulkier, which is a problem in one of the pairs I made where I used a slightly heavier fabric.

- The Palisades has a full waistband (in two parts) where the Pietra only has a waistband at the back and a facing at the front. I normally really hate facings, but this one is secured in the side seam and also stitched down through all the front seams, so it actually stays in place rather than flapping around and infuriating me. It also acts as a waist stay, which is nice.

- In terms of elastic, the Palisades has a small interfaced section at the front and the rest of the waistband is elasticated. The Pietra has only the back elasticated, and proportionally it's a much smaller piece of elastic.

- The elastic on the Pietra is topstitched in place which MAKES SUCH A DIFFERENCE OMG. It looks better, the fit is closer, and it doesn't do awkward twisting things when I sit down and spread on top of it.

- In terms of fit on me personally (which may not be useful to the rest of you but is handy for me to note), the Pietra gives me a much better fit around the waist, doesn't do that weird thing over my abdomen and actually has enough room for my thighs, but I prefer the fit of the Palisades around the lower leg, and the length is a better one for me. I really dislike cropped trousers.

Having made my toile, I came to the following conclusions:

1. The waist is a really, really nice fit.
2. I would prefer slightly slimmer lower legs.
3. I could do with another inch or so added to the length in addition to the 2in I added already.
4. Holy shirtballs, this fabric is fucking terrible. I wish I could remember where I ordered it from so that I could never shop there again.

I decided I liked the pattern enough to move on to the cupro, so I did.

(Apologies for the sudden mid-shin crop - my camera battery died and I apparently knocked my tripod slightly out of position when changing it over. I didn't realise until I came to edit them.)

I'm much happier with the fit and feel of this pair. The change in fabric makes a huge difference and even though there's not much room for the cupro to drape, the fact that it could makes for a much nicer pair of trousers. Admittedly, anything would be an improvement on cardboard wax, but even if we take out the faint praise element this is very close to exactly what I wanted.

On this version I both lengthened and narrowed the lower legs. I thought I'd avoided taking any width out of the thighs, but obviously I must have because these are a tiny bit tight when I sit down. I really like this silhouette but I could have done with maybe a tiny bit less narrowing. I think as this fabric is a bit swishier I maybe didn't need to take them in as dramatically as I did. I would absolutely be tempted to make this width again in a stretch woven, though.

As the cupro is fairly lightweight, I French seamed everywhere that I could and finished the inner facing with bias binding in bright yellow. I have one giant roll of bright yellow bias binding and I use it almost every time I need to bias bind a hidden edge as it's a nice secret contrast with most of the colours I regularly use. The only colour I don't use it with is bright red as I don't fancy being a secret McDonald's logo.

This fabric is SUPER soft (I'm very strokeable, like a baby goat) but it was more annoying to sew than I'd anticipated. My seams were definitely a little bit wobbly and could probably have benefited from some form of stabilising. It also wrinkles like gangbusters, holy shit. I left the trousers on the floor one night after going to bed and in the morning there was a pile of solid wrinkle that had to be hung up in the bathroom through several days' worth of showers to look wearable again. However, this fabric is also kind of what I was hoping my purple coat would be, and I'm currently trying to talk myself out of buying a load more of it to remake that coat with. Then I could wear it with these trousers and look absolutely ridiculous (and like a harbinger of the wrinklepocalypse), but also be the softest person in the world.

I will definitely make this pattern again. I'm very excited about having narrow leg trousers that don't do that thing round my stomach. I have some weird wool mix fabric that also looks like denim, so I think I'm going to make another pair of these for a pair of autumnal fake jeans (I don't really want jeans right now, but blue denim goes with every single colour in the world for some reason, and I do want some of that).

Up next: men's shirt, round two!

Closet Case Patterns Pietra Pants

Fabric: Blue-purple cupro from Walthamstow
Cost: £7.50
Pattern details: High-waisted trousers/shorts with side leg pockets, elasticated back, and options for different lengths and widths
Size: 16 waist, 20 hips
Alterations: Lengthened and narrowed the legs on pair 2
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday 16 September 2019

autumn sewing: Butterick 6621

Hi! I have had a hell of a week. We were without hot water for ten days (TEN) thanks to a series of increasingly farcical engineering misadventures that left me waiting at home every day for a phone call or unexpected visit that never came. It was rubbish. But on the plus side, I got a LOT of sewing done. Not only did I get both the dress and the trousers done, I also made an entire other shirt for Patrick. It's a lot better than the first one. But for now, dress time!

I've been considering B6621 for ages. I saw several awesome versions on other people and was waiting for the pattern to come out here, which is how I discovered that Americans get Big 4 patterns in smaller collections on a regular basis while we just get a giant pattern dump a few times a year. By the time it was available here it was getting too warm for this kind of dress, so I decided to put it off til the autumn. I was really excited about it though - three different variations on waist details without actually having a waist seam, and sometimes no waist seam is exactly what I want.

For my first attempt I decided to go with View B in the black and pink sweater knit from my Walthamstow post. The sweater knit is so soft and snuggly that I wanted to maximise my chances of at least being able to wear it around the house if I wasn't keen on the finished dress. Fortunately it turns out I am keen on it, and it's going to be a real workhorse dress as the days get colder.

I cut a 16 on the top (with a 2.5cm cut-on FBA) and a 20 in the skirt, and this is perfect for me. It doesn't cling but it's still nicely close-fitting. Obviously I also hacked five inches off the skirt because it's me and I do that. I didn't hate it full-length but I definitely wouldn't have worn it very often. I also cut the back as one piece because I didn't want to chop up the print. I'm really into how the back looks in this fabric and I'm glad I chose to do it this way.

The waist ties are single-layer and just hemmed, so the wrong side of the fabric can be visible. I considered doubling up but decided it would be too heavy. In future I absolutely would double them up as it's basically impossible to arrange the ties so that the entire wrong side is hidden. However, going for the single layer did mean I could copy the extremely wang-like diagrams.

Pictured: wang diagram. It amused me more than it should.

Next time I make this dress I'll probably substitute a different neckline. I don't hate the way it looks but I really don't like things touching my neck. If I have enough scraps left over I might even cut this neckband out and scoop the whole thing a little bit. Not much, just enough that I won't be able to feel it on my throat when I'm slouching around on the sofa.

I will be making more of these, and unusually I will probably try all of the views in the envelope. I definitely want to have a go at the twist version, as it's a detail I've seen in a few patterns but never had the confidence to go for (it's about a fifty-fifty shot of whether it would conceal or highlight my stomach). Now that I own it I'd like to try it out!

Next up: I'll be in France next week with some friends, so the Pietra post will come in two weeks' time. I really want to write about the shirt but I think I need to space out the Patrick posts a little. 

Butterick 6621 dress

Fabric: Sweater knit from Fabric Store in Walthamstow (possibly RIP? It was looking very depleted and sad last time I went there)
Cost: £4
Pattern details: Pullover jersey dresses with twist front, faux wrap or waist ties
Size: 16 top with FBA, 20 hips
Alterations: Back panel cut on the fold, 1 inch FBA, five inches taken off the skirt
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday 9 September 2019

actual shirt attempt: Vogue 9220

I said when I started sewing, and for the three years following, that I would never make a shirt. I haven't worn a single item of clothing with buttons on it since I took my school uniform off for the last time and I don't intend to ever do so again (I fully recognise that this is really weird, but I've hated buttons since I was a small child and my vibe is not the button-up vibe anyway), so I didn't really ever expect to revisit the point.

Last year, however, Patrick made a couple of pouty comments about my resolve to never make him a shirt. He may have been kidding - he would certainly say now that he was - but I do feel a bit bad that I don't make much for him, and the kinds of shirts that he likes seem to have been completely out of production recently. At first I said I'd make him a shirt if he paid for me to do a shirtmaking class, but then nobody seemed to be running them. When I thought about it in a bit more detail, I realised that it wasn't actually that many new techniques - I've sewn collars before, I know how to flat-fell a seam - and it probably wasn't worth paying a couple of hundred quid to get someone to show me how to make sleeve plackets and then talk me down from my buttonhole anxiety. So I resolved to give it a try on my own.

Look at it! It's a shirt!

The pattern we went for was Vogue 9220. Patrick is very particular about his shirts and didn't want front pockets or floppy collars or fake anything anywhere, which narrowed it down considerably, and this pattern had both fit options and cuff options. I haven't seen another pattern for double cuffs, and it's one of his favourite things. I initially said I would start off with regular cuffs and work up to the fancier ones, but decided as I was cutting it out that these weren't appreciably more difficult so I may as well just dive in head first. The shirt comes in standard, tailored, or slim fit, and this is (allegedly) the latter.

The main reason Patrick hasn't been able to find shirts lately is that the prints have been wrong. Again, he's got very particular taste - he likes loud prints, but stylish loud. He wouldn't look twice at a novelty shirt. He's very into Liberty prints, mostly florals and paisleys, and his colour palette is quite specific. While I could find several fabrics that fit the criteria, they were all £16 per metre and up, and I wasn't prepared to spend that on something that was an experiment and could very well be unwearable. I also didn't want to just buy a plain cotton and make him a work shirt, because that's no fun at all (also they're covered by a suit jacket all day and it would feel like a giant waste of effort). I searched for a little while before coming across this viscose at my favourite stall in Walthamstow. Seriously, they have everything. While orange is not one of Patrick's colours, it's sparing enough to work, and though it isn't cotton it also doesn't have any polyester in it, so shouldn't be too sweaty. And at £6 for two metres, I wouldn't cry if (when???) I messed it up. Viscose is very much not the ideal fabric for this kind of shirt, structure-wise, but it was good enough for a trial run.

I got everything cut out and interfaced, then it sat around for a couple of months while I had nerves at it. Finally, in mid-June, I decided enough was enough and got the shirt finished up to the point of making holes in it in a few sessions over the course of a week. And really? It wasn't that hard. The only place I really had difficulty was making the plackets, which was totally new to me and not the easiest thing to comprehend from the brief instructions. With the help of a couple of tutorials I got them to be functional if not especially pretty, and I'll now have a better idea of what I'm doing when I try again. What I should have done was poked about on the inside of one of the many shirts already in the house, but I didn't. Next time. But the yoke, the collar, the sleeves, the flat felling, and the double cuffs all went pretty smoothly. Even my topstitching wasn't too hideous.

At this point I got him to try it on. We decided it was too big in the shoulders and WAY too long in both the body and the arms ("oh, by the way" said Patrick as we were doing this, "I have incredibly short arms"), but that it was still wearable so I should carry on and finish it. You can see the huge folds of fabric on the sleeves in all the photos above, and witness the utter ridiculousness that is the back length:

Look how long that is. It's practically down to his knees. I think it's partly that this pattern runs long and partly that we're using a dress shirt pattern to make a regular shirt because there's no such thing as a regular shirt pattern with double cuffs. Sigh. The shirt then sat almost finished for AGES while I panicked about the whole button/buttonhole situation. I was pretty sure that I'd get the alignment of buttons to buttonholes wrong (spoiler: yep) and that would make the whole thing look like shit. It was well over a month, if not two, before I leapt on a random trailing thread of motivation and got everything finished.

In terms of my first attempt at buttons and buttonholes, it's not hideous, but I did mess up the alignment on the top and bottom buttons. The bottom one I was able to cut off and redo, the top one not so much. We decided it wasn't that big a deal as he never uses the top button on his non-work shirts anyway. I also bought a pack of bog-standard buttons and I really don't like them. Solid white next time.

Me: I mean, you're probably not going to wear this one so I -
Him: [affronted] I will.
Me: But it's way too big.
Him: I will wear it and I will look styling.
Me: But...
Him: I. Will look. Styling.

Once I realised he wasn't budging on this point, I insisted we shorten the shirt to a less ridiculous length. I didn't want to force him into two separate photo sessions, so what you see above is the shirt pinned into place (I have since hemmed it properly, don't worry). Though the sleeves are still obviously too long, it's much better like this.  Look how much less ridiculous the back is now:

This did not go as badly as I feared for a first attempt, but there's a lot of work to be done here. For a start, while this isn't necessarily a bad fit for a shirt to have, it's not how Patrick wears his shirts. This is supposed to be the slim fit cut but there's still a LOT of ease in here. Patrick has narrow shoulders so I always thought there might be a need to go down a size in the shoulders, but a smaller size overall will probably get us closer to the fit he likes. Having done some measuring of his normal shirts compared to this one, I think a decent chunk of the sleeve problem would be resolved if the shoulder seam sat in the right place, but I would still take a couple of centimetres off the sleeve length next time. Patrick also thinks the double cuffs are a bit skimpy and would like more length taken out of the sleeve then added back in at the cuff. I think for this I'm just going to measure the cuffs on his regular shirts and make them that size.

My guess is we'd be adding an extra centimetre to these. Also, say hi to either Alphonse or Ernie (I'm not sure who lives on which side), the massive bejewelled lizard cufflinks I got him for Christmas last year. 

For my own ease of reference, the adjustments I'll make next time:

- size down to a 38, possibly even a 36
- shorten the sleeves by 2cm
- reduce size of dip in back of shirt
- shorten hem by 2cm at the front, 5cm at the back
- increase the size of the cuff by 1cm
- ignore the bit where it asks for different sizes of button for no real reason
- burrito the yoke instead of slipstitching then topstitching and wasting a lot of time

He's pleased, though, so it's okay. 

As I mentioned in my autumn plans, before I make another one of these I want to have a go at the Sew Over It Hackney shirt (sans front pocket, because Patrick thinks shirt pockets are for dweebs). Partly because I downloaded the pattern in my mass Stitch School harvesting session and it would be nice to use it, but also because - unusually for Sew Over It - they provide a full range of finished measurements upfront. Chest, waist, hem, collar, shoulder width, back length, sleeve length, underarm seam. I think that will be really useful in trying to get the fit right. My hope is that eventually I can merge the two into some kind of Patrick Frankenpattern and be able to create the perfect Liberty print shirt by his 40th birthday in March. Which might be a bit of a tall order as Liberty is not looking especially Patricky at the moment. We've had a bit of back and forth over whether a shirt in the same print as my Minoru would work, and he has concluded that he just won't know until there's a shirt of it in front of him. This is not a risk I am prepared to take. For now I've got a navy and white cotton lawn with stripy background and floral foreground (which has now arrived and is eminently shirtable) from Abakhan, and we're going to see how that goes.

Up next: either Pietra trousers or B6621 dress, depending on what I finish first!

Vogue 9220 shirt attempt

Fabric: Japanese viscose from Walthamstow
Cost: £6
Pattern details: Men's formal shirt in standard, tailored or slim fit, with collar and collar stand, sleeve plackets, and regular or double cuff options.
Size: 40
Alterations: None for the first try
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday 2 September 2019

sewing plans: autumn 2019

I didn't intend to neglect my blog for the entire month of August, but I've just been completely uninspired to sew. Mostly that's due to the weather; it's been too dull and grey for me to want to make bright summer dresses, but also so sweaty and sticky that I've not wanted to make warmer clothes either. Plus it's really demotivating when you know you're going to have to put the brand new thing you just made in the wash after two hours of wearing it because it's sweatlogged. Eugh. I know a few people on Instagram who are doing Sew Every Day September, so I'm joining in with that to try and help get me going again.

For this season I want to work mainly from a palette of sunset colours; yellows, oranges, corals, blue-violets. Obviously if I see a nice bright green all bets are off, and I'll probably make the odd neutral/stashbusting piece, but I'm going to try to stick to that colour range. I still have a ton of leggings to finish from my last plan (and it's becoming increasingly urgent as my old RTW ones are starting to show signs of going threadbare round the thighs) so this plan is slightly shorter and doesn't have a massive challenging project on it. My original intention was to make black jeans this autumn, but I really think I might never sew again if I set myself that challenge right now. For winter, perhaps.


A pair of tapered-leg trousers

The thing I most often find myself missing in the autumn is a pair of trousers that won't drag through puddles. I made three pairs of the Papercut Palisades in the hopes of solving this problem, but I've found that the elastic gets really awkwardly twisted at the sides when I wear them and it puts me off taking them out of the drawer in the morning. I'm going to have a go at the Closet Case Patterns Pietra trousers, which look similar but have a much smaller elasticated section. I'm going to make a toile with a piece of slightly crappy denim I have in my stash (I ordered it when I was planning a red denim dress, and it arrived about as far away from red as it could be without becoming a completely different primary colour), and if they work I'm going to make my real pair from blue-violet cupro.

A pair of mustard cords

How many lists has this been on now? It's driving me mad. I MUST have my yellow trousers! I have the fabric but I still don't have the pattern. All the patterns I own seem to be designed for lighter or drapier fabric and I've so far not seen anything that looks right. Please give me your recommendations!

An autumn maxi skirt

This is something I keep going back and forth on. I really love the idea, but I'm just not sure if the visions in my head will work out in practical terms. For example, I really love the Deer&Doe Fumeterre skirt but there's a high chance of running into the aforementioned puddle issues. I've also considered an asymmetric skirt that gives the impression of being maxi without really being so, and the idea is great but in practice it could so easily look wrong on me. I went to Walthamstow last week looking for inspiration and found what I can only describe as orange leopard print hairy viscose, which I think would be a cool maxi skirt if I can find the right pattern. It'll need to be one I can easily add a lining to so the hairy viscose doesn't stick to my tights. What a sentence that is.


A yellow bodysuit

Several months ago I bought three pieces of viscose jersey in blue, yellow and grey to make bodysuits with. I only got as far as the blue one because the fabric was such a pain to work with, but if I arm myself with enough Wonder Tape I think I can do it. It's either going to be another Nettie or a Kommatia Patterns Ferri, depending on what my wardrobe demands. (Incidentally, I am so confused by Kommatia's rebrand. The old patterns apparently aren't coming under the new name and if you search the new name Google literally assumes you mistyped and shows you results for something else instead. This seems... not well thought out.) If I have time I'm also going to make a second black Nettie because I wear my first version constantly when it's cool enough to do so.

A hoodie

Last year (I think) I made a cropped Jalie hoodie, which I really like but don't tend to reach for when lounging because the neck is too restrictive. I want to make a second one using the same body pattern but the hood from the Burda men's pattern I used to make Patrick's velour one. We had a long discussion about matching Liberty sweatshirt fleece hoodies, but ultimately that's £80 I do not have, so it's going to be something a little more subdued.

A jacket

I considered putting my fourth attempt at a leather jacket on this list, but as soon as I wrote it down all my will to live spontaneously exited my body, so I took it back off. What I'm going to try instead is making the red fabric from my Walthamstow post into a lighter autumn jacket. I bought a Kwik Sew moto jacket pattern a little while ago which I think I'm going to try, even though it's unlined and I'm not sure that's a great idea. How easy is it to add a lining to a jacket pattern?

One pieces

An autumn dress

One of my main goals for this season's sewing is to make transitioning into darker days as easy as possible. I'm not great at autumn and winter despite SAD lamps and vitamin D and what have you, so it's often the case that I just curl up into an anxious little ball that can't leave the house. If I'm able to leap on the faintest whiff of energy or motivation things go a lot better for me, so I want to make several things that I would happily wear around the house if I wasn't planning to go anywhere, but also could conceivably wear on a walk round the block should I suddenly get a passing fancy to go outside. I'm going to try Butterick 6621, in one of the several pieces of printed sweater knit I have in my stash.

A hoodie dress

On a similar note, I really, really want a hoodie dress. I've kept putting it off because it's not really something that's "my style" so much, but on colder days I've been known to root through my drawers looking for the hoodie dress that I know isn't in there, so it must happen. I might need a couple of goes to get it right (I do want it to be a dress and not just an elongated hoodie), so I'm going to start with the Kommatia Patterns Mysig pattern and see how that goes.

A second Sirocco jumpsuit

I kept meaning to get round to making another Sirocco, but I hadn't put it on any lists and no fabric leapt out at me in particular. I still don't have any fabric, but I do think a solid colour Sirocco, probably blue, would be pretty useful. I'd like to have more autumnal jumpsuits in general, but my past attempts haven't gone very well and I'm not sure what I'd need to do to get the kind of fit and look that I want. I'll keep my eye out.

A wedding guest dress

Two of our friends are getting married next month in what I expect to be a full-scale princess extravaganza, and I want to make something to wear. I want something that will be suitably fancy but not so fancy that it precludes me wearing it to a restaurant on a random Thursday, and I want to challenge myself by NOT making an Anna dress this time. What will it be instead? I have no clue. I probably have some frustrating bust-fitting times ahead of me.

If I have time and the fabric I ordered is OK when it turns up, I'm going to have a go at making Patrick another shirt. I finally, finally finished the one I put on my spring plan, and you can read all about that next week, but I'd like to try out the fit of a different pattern and it's going to be the Sew Over It Hackney shirt. They did a thing last weekend where they waived the three-month minimum sign-up period for their Stitch School, so I paid £15 for one month and downloaded about a dozen patterns, which you really can't knock as far as value goes. Their men's shirt pattern is intended to be more of a day-to-day one and also comes with all the finished measurements easily accessible, so I think it might be helpful for me to have a go at. This is very much fabric contingent, though!

Up next: the finished shirt, at least three months late!