Monday, 30 December 2019

sewing resolutions for 2020

Christmas is done! It was extra chill this year - Patrick's sister is heavily pregnant and we had his grandpa's funeral during our visit, so nobody was feeling especially bouncy. It's still exhausting to be in someone else's house for a week, so we're currently decompressing ready to start the new year. I did start writing a "sewing year in review" sort of post, but it just ended up being me ranting about the stupid Sierra jumpsuit pattern again so we're skipping that this year and moving straight on to the resolutions.

I went about 50/50 on my 2019 list. At the beginning of the year I assumed the one I would definitely do was the ballgown toile, but when I actually got the pattern out and looked at it I realised I don't actually like the style lines that much. What I liked was the general vibe and the idea of having a swanky red ballgown. I also didn't make the jeans (couldn't find the denim) and didn't take any fitting classes. Money was a bit of a thing this year and my back-up plan of Craftsy classes got a bit scuppered when Craftsy rebranded and became much worse. However, the resolution is not dead! Patrick has very kindly bought me a couple of sloper-making classes for Christmas, so I'll be doing a bodice block in two weeks' time and a trouser block in February. I'm interested to see how this goes and I'll be doing a class review here.

What I did manage to do this year was make an acceptable shirt (!), improve my twin needle stitching and get much better about planning and purchasing. Most of the fabric I bought has already been used, and I've not bought a random pattern without a plan in ages. This is solid progress.

On to 2020!

1. I will either use or get rid of everything that's currently in my stash.

With the exception of my aubergine silk double crepe, which needs to wait for the right pattern and occasion, I want everything in my stash to be used or donated by the end of the year. Even the expensive stuff. I really hate having a massive stash and would much prefer to just keep fabric for my upcoming seasonal plans and maybe one or two other pieces (sometimes Abakhan has amazing swimsuit fabric in October and you just have to buy it and wait). I've been trying to work on this over the past year and the number of metres in my stash has definitely reduced, but I don't think I'll feel like it's really working until all the old stuff is out of there. I'm currently working on pairing every piece to a pattern, or at least a type of garment.

2. I will make a good quality swimsuit.

I've tried and failed at this several times now, but I am determined to make it actually work. I probably want two swimsuits - a bikini with proper underwired cups, and a one-piece swimsuit because I have stripy multicoloured fabric that I don't think will work as a bikini. Sewing pattern designers thus have a year (six months?) to come up with a swimsuit pattern I don't hate! Yay!

3. Following on from last year, I will pick some more areas that bug me about my sewing and work on them.

This worked pretty well as a resolution last year and I think I could benefit from making it a permanent fixture. My number one goal is to be able to sew a lined/faced woven V neck that actually looks like a V. I don't know what I'm doing wrong here - I clip my seam allowances extensively - but I want to work it out and have one nice V neck garment by the end of the year. I'd also like to be able to improve my topstitching to the point that I'm happy to do it in a contrasting colour and make it a feature. During the year I'm planning to remake my Cashmerette Ellis skirt (there was a flat fell failure) and I want to put the proper topstitching on.

4. I will try out some of the patterns I've acquired but never used.

My hard drive is full of PDF patterns I've never had a go at. Most of them aren't ones I've paid full price for, but if I downloaded them I must have liked something about them (a free pattern you hate is still a pattern you hate) and it would make sense to start working through them. I'd particularly like to get to the Sew Over It patterns I harvested, and some of the other patterns from the Named book that I've been putting off because of the neckline modifications I'll need to do. I've also got a bunch of printed patterns I've never used that I'd like to either work through or get rid of.

5. I will make the swanky red ballgown.

I think not making the actual 1920s pattern was a smart move but I also think I should have a ridiculous red gown. What I specifically don't want is to end the year saying "well, I made a long red dress at one point, so that totally counts." It does NOT. I want to make something that I haven't made before, and I don't want the fabric to be doing all the heavy lifting. Usually the ballgown factor comes from the dress being big and poofy, but I don't like big poofy dresses so I need to find another way. I want this to involve me learning at least one new technique and possibly even trying embellishments. Where I find my starting point pattern for this I have NO idea, but I'm dreaming big on this one.

6. I will learn to use all the different sewing machine feet I have.

I have a box of different feet I got when I first started sewing, but I only ever really use a couple of them (standard foot, regular and invisible zip feet, walking foot, and recently buttonhole/button feet). I'd like to know that I can, should I require it, use the rest of the feet I have. I want to make sure I know what they all are and what I'm supposed to do with them, work with them until I can reliably make them to the thing they're supposed to do, and integrate the useful ones into my regular sewing. I'm sure I'll mostly continue to use the same half dozen feet, but I'm also sure that it would add to the quality of my sewing life if I were able to, say, do a nice blind stitch or rolled hem.

7. I will wear everything I make at least twice before I post my review.

Something I've noticed over the past year is that I sometimes make something I like, get very excited, post a glowing review immediately, and then over the next few days of wear I start to notice things that make me like it less. Then several months later I'll get a blog comment that says "thanks for the review, I'm definitely going to check this out based on your recommendation!" and I worry that I've accidentally misled said commenter by not including things I discovered when wearing the item out and about. Obviously I'm not going to stick by this so rigidly that I can't post my ballgown until it's had a few trips on the 344 bus, but for everyday clothes I'm going to test run them for a week or two until I'm sure I'm able to give a complete picture.

That's a fairly well-rounded set of resolutions, I think. Fewer than I usually make, but the stash-clearing one in particular is enormous and I don't want to overwhelm myself. My hope is that 2020 is going to be a year of change and upheaval for me, where I have to work very hard whilst also protecting my health, and my sewing needs to serve that this year and not end up being an extra chore and source of guilt.

Happy 2020, everyone! Good things for all of you!

Monday, 23 December 2019

winter sewing: McCalls 6713

Hands up who's surprised that the thing I motivated myself to sew was the fancy velvet dress?

I finished this dress over a week ago, got up the next morning with the full intention of taking photos and making a post... and then got hit with a random vomiting bug that left me in an unphotographable state until two days ago. Merry Christmas to me, indeed. 

As I mentioned in my planning post, this pattern was intended to be my first ever velvet dress. The velvet I had at the time was this ridiculous extra-long-pile cheap stuff that shed all over me like an overenthusiastic husky as soon as I touched it and I gave up before I'd even got the first piece fully cut out. I've thought about that velvet dress fairly regularly over the intervening three years (HOW has the past three years somehow also been nineteen decades, ugh), and my current velvet kick seemed like the right time to revisit it. My original velvet was red, but my guy at Walthamstow had this dark purple which I just couldn't say no to. I went for view D, with the long sleeves and straight skirt.

So. First of all, I really like the end result. This dress looks exactly the way I'd imagined it would; the bodice fits nicely, the skirt isn't overly clingy, the drape is cool, the sleeves fit well. It was also exactly the right length straight out of the packet, which is super rare for me. And I always love this colour on me. In terms of the final dress, this was a success. However, I changed many, many things to get here.

I got this pattern free with a magazine (or more accurately, I got some patterns packaged up together with a magazine I didn't read) and it's not technically my size. That's very rarely a problem I have with McCalls, but this one randomly stopped at size 16. I believe there is a separate plus size envelope, but the magazine wasn't giving that one out and I wasn't going to buy the same pattern again. I managed to get a really good fit by cutting the size 16 bodice and just grading out the hips and upper arms by a size or two. Based on the pieces that were already cut out my original plan was to skip over the hip issue by cutting the full skirt, but I am certain I wouldn't have liked this dress anywhere near as much if I'd done that.

This dress is supposed to have a lined bodice. I didn't do that because the bulk would have been beyond my sewing machine's capabilities. Even without a lining it was a bit of a struggle. The drape on the skirt is two layers sewn together, which are then pleated and folded forward on top of the seam line between the two front skirt pieces, and then sewn to the two layers of the front bodice. It's a giant lump of fabric, and had there been another two lining pieces in there I think my machine would have thrown a stomping tantrum. I used facing pieces instead. (Also, if I'd lined with the velvet as I originally thought I would before reading further down the instructions, this would be the heaviest dress in the entire world.)

The pattern also calls for shoulder pads and waist elastic, neither of which I used. Maybe an elastic casing wouldn't look weird in a viscose jersey version of this dress but it would sure as hell look weird in a velvet one. It's possible that this dress fits me so well despite being clearly too small by the sizing chart because there's a ton of ease in there intended to be gathered into elastic, and again I would not like this dress nearly as much if that had been the case. Whenever I see a pattern call for shoulder pads, I keep hoping they're going to be the tiny little cloth things I had in a couple of my jumpers back in 2009-ish, which didn't really look like shoulder pads but did correct my very round shoulders a bit. It never is, it's always ridiculous 80s nonsense and I'm not sure why pattern companies are still doing this. I want my tiny shoulder pads, dammit!

I will probably not wear this for my first Christmas with the in-laws. They are extraordinarily practical people and velvet dresses when you have no intention of leaving the house just aren't the thing. NYE might be its time, though; last year my friend insisted I wear my green velvet Magnolia dress to her low-key house party, and now I've accidentally started a tradition. This will be slightly easier to exist in, at least.

I was hoping I'd like this pattern enough to make it again because there's a maxi length version and I am dying for a non-fancy maxi dress I can wear in the winter, but the chances are extremely slim. I love this version but I feel like getting to it was too much of an accident. It looks like the picture but not very much like the measurements or instructions. For similar reasons I don't feel I can recommend the pattern either; it's a really lovely design but I just don't know what you'd get. You might get something that looks like this or you might get a weird blousy thing with 80s power shoulders.

Next up: A year-end wrap up post or two, followed by my many thoughts on a jacket pattern with many issues. Grumpy Jen incoming!

McCalls 7613

Fabric: Purple stretch velvet from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £9
Pattern details: Mock-wrap dress with lined bodice, dropped shoulders, optional long sleeves, straight or full (in two lengths) skirt options, and side drape
Size: 16 bodice, graded out beyond pattern sizing in the hips and bicep
Alterations: Swapped out lining for facings, omitted shoulder pads and waist elastic
Would make again/would recommend:  No/No

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

sewing plans: winter 2019/20

Sewing has been a bit of a struggle recently. Patrick and I both got ill simultaneously with slightly different things, then somehow SWAPPED bugs just as we'd started to recover, and the two back-to-back illnesses combined with the sudden cold weather has really done a number on my lungs. On top of that, my baste fit of the yellow cords shows that they are doing the exact thing I was worried they were going to do, and lack of ideas on how to fix it has killed my sewjo dead.

(We're taking a break from the RPDR gifs because I am currently overrelating to The Good Place in a way that probably isn't healthy.)

I wrote this plan over a month ago and honestly in my current state I really don't know how successful it'll be. But things are always worse when I don't have a plan out there, so I'm going to go ahead and post it anyway. I may only get half of it done if things don't improve, but that will still be something.

One of the major motivations behind this plan is to cut down on the size of my stash. We're short on space so I keep my fabric in a wooden box, which is currently massively overflowing and I don't like it. I also don't really like having a massive stash; it's rarely useful to me and I much prefer buying fabric when I already have a plan in mind for it. We're hoping to be able to move house soon, and when we leave here I want to have about half the amount of fabric I currently do, and I want it to fit in the box.

There are a couple of things here I will have to buy fabric for, but for the most part it's me going through my fabric catalogue and working out what the hell to do with everything. Here we go:

A second Rumana coat

I really love my original Rumana and I'd like to make another one in a brighter colour, possibly a slightly shorter length, with a tie belt. I've found some really lovely bright red melton wool (an ex Karen Millen according to my guy at Walthamstow) which I'm excited about, and now I just need to decide what kind of lining I'm going for and whether I do belt loops or sandwich the ties in the back seam.

A fancy pyjama set

I bought McCalls 7875 at the beginning of the year and I've been avoiding putting it on my plans until I actually had the fabric for it. I'm trying to be realistic about which fabrics I'm likely to be able to find without too much hassle, and this didn't seem to be one of them. However, I've now found this amazing silky blue stuff which I'm told is viscose but feels way more substantial, and it's going to be my pyjama jacket and bottoms. I'm slightly nervous that I don't quite have enough fabric, but I'm sure I can work something out. I'm also going to do a test run of the bottoms (to check for the butt/thigh issues I've historically had with woven pyjama bottoms) using some cream tartan wool mix I inherited from my friend's mother's stash.

A fancy Liberty shirt for Patrick

March is a Significant Birthday for Patrick, so I want to make him a proper fancy Liberty shirt. This is one of the few fabrics I'll have to buy and it's not going to be cheap. A quick glance suggests that Shaukat is a better place for the kind of prints he likes than the actual Liberty store right now, so I'll be picking something and making another Sew Over It Hackney shirt (possibly with a double cuff grafted on; I haven't decided yet). This is definitely not happening until I get Christmas and all its accompanying shopping obligations out of the way.

Some black leggings

This is one of those things that isn't strictly necessary right now, but I bought 4m of leggings fabric and using it up would go a long way to freeing up some space. I'm hoping to make two pairs of Jalie Clara leggings and possibly also a pair of shorts from it.

A bag set

OK, I said I'd catch up with this and then I didn't, so I'm putting it back on the official list. Portside travel set, in tapestry fabric (which I do have) and navy canvas or faux leather (which I don't), I will do it before my birthday next year goddammit. I also want to make a few tote bags; my original learn-to-sew tote bag is falling apart from constant use, so I'd like to use the heavier bits of cotton in my stash to make some replacements.

Another pair of Pietra trousers

Something I've been thinking about for a while is making a second pair of slimmed-down Pietra trousers in a fabric with a bit of stretch. I've now made several pairs and I vastly prefer the slimmer silhouette of my blue ones, but my thighs do spread out a LOT when I sit so they're not comfortable if I'm going to be sitting in them all day. I have a couple of pieces of stretch crepe that I bought for other, now-abandoned, purposes, and I'd like to turn one or both of them into slim-fit Pietras suitable for vegging out a bit in.

A Christmas dress

Guess what? More velvet! The first and almost permanently off-putting velvet dress I planned to make was McCalls 6713, and now that I know velvet isn't terrifying I want to have another go at actually making it. My fabric is Dairy Milk purple, which isn't necessarily a traditional Christmas colour, but it's one of my favourites. I don't get to wear it much (it's oddly difficult to pair with other colours and thus not much use to me as a top) and it looks really good on me, so Christmas is its time.

One or two cropped jacket toiles

I know I'm not going to be able to persuade myself to put actual light jackets on this winter post, but I might be able to argue for toiles that aren't really intended to be worn and will set me up for an easier spring. Especially if it clears out a couple of fabrics I haven't been able to work out what to do with. I have the Kwik Sew moto jacket and Sew Over It Amelia jacket, and I'd like to toile one or both depending on time and motivation.

A cape

I LOVE the new McCalls 8029 cape. I do not remotely need it and couldn't justify buying a second lot of wool in one season, but then yesterday Minerva agreed to send me 4m of purple wool blend coating for a blog post, so the cape will be mine! I'm very pleased.

I'm trying not to put a huge amount of pressure on myself to get all of this done. I just want to have several options to pull from so that when I feel the slightest bit of motivation to get going again, I can start with whatever kind of thing I'm in the mood for right then. Fingers crossed for me (and my poor beleaguered lungs, it really hurts to go outside right now), and hopefully I'll have something new to show you soon!