Monday 28 October 2019

autumn sewing: a wedding guest dress

OK, OK. I can explain.

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

This is a Cashmerette Upton bodice/Sew Over It tulip skirt mash-up, the second unpublished garment I made for the Minerva blog last month.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up next: more velvet! In jumpsuit form!  

Monday 21 October 2019

autumn sewing: hoodie dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up: what I wore to the wedding!

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

Monday 7 October 2019

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

Hey, everyone, look what I did!

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

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

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

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

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

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

He's lucky he's cute. 

Here's a couple of detail shots:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sew Over It Hackney shirt

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