Thursday 31 December 2020

2020 wrap up, resolutions and good riddance

 So... it's the last day. It would be stupid to pretend that the nightmare is over, but symbolically it's great to see the back of this godforsaken year. 2020 has been awful to everybody, some much worse than others, and I'm so sorry for all the losses we've collectively suffered. I hope everyone who is able to gets vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, and that we're able to hold the shitty governments of this world to account for how inexcusably they've let their people down this year. In many, many ways. 

But for now, let's not. Fighting the populist menace can wait two days. 

Obviously, my success rate with last year's resolutions was... low. I put all the energy I had into making sure I was sewing at all, and even that didn't work half the time. I did reasonably well in clearing out fabric - I only have 7.5m of what I bought in 2019 left (plus three or four older pieces) and about 15m of what I bought this year. In 2020 I bought less than half of what I bought in 2019. Everything else fell a bit by the wayside. I could not persuade myself to make a swimsuit or a ballgown or anything else that would have to languish in storage for a year or more. 

This year I'm planning five resolutions. None of them will depend on Covid going away, none of them will rely on me becoming a fundamentally different person, only one of them is a specific project. 

1. I will set up my new sewing area to give me the best chance of keeping organised and on top of things.

Patrick and I will probably move into our new house sometime in January. We definitely won't have sofas and might not even have a bed, but we want out of this flat and will most likely book a moving van as soon as the decorating is done. To begin with the second bedroom will be a combined sewing room/office, but eventually Patrick wants to build a garden office so he can work at home without having to keep work in the house. So I'm going to end up with an entire - small, but entire - sewing room, which is amazing but I really need to set it up so it doesn't get out of control. I am incredibly disorganised (just generally, as a human), and sometimes the barrier between me and a productive sewing day is a giant pile of stuff. Basically I need it to be easier to put things away than to leave them out. This is my number one priority for the year and I think its success is key to whether or not I succeed at anything else. I'm thinking I might make a couple of posts about my progress and how I've tried to overcome my massive executive function problems. Niche, but I hope it might be useful to some people. 

2. I will find a way to catalogue my patterns and notions.

In a way this is part of the previous resolution, but it's such a big job that I wanted to make it a point by itself. I already keep a pretty good up-to-date record of what fabric I have, but I really need to expand that to notions too. I keep being surprised by what I do and don't have (e.g. somehow always every length of black zip except the one I need right now). I haven't worked out what format is the best for storing this kind of information, but I want something that's fairly easy to update and to sort through. My plan is to work on this as I move, at the same time as reorganising my storage. 

3. I will watch all of, and complete some of, the Suzy Furrer Craftsy classes.

My 2019 resolutions included making my own sloper, and early this year pre-lockdown I went to a couple of classes claiming to teach just that. They... didn't really. It was very noticeable that the people in the room who got the best fit were the people who were more likely to have success with a standardised draft. I might be able to work with the trouser draft but the bodice draft is basically nonsense. There was a lot of "you'll get a number between X and Y... you got Z? No, nobody's Z, let me measure you... oh, you are Z. Well, just put Y" which I didn't think was really the point. Having got the cheap Craftsy premium deal I'm planning to walk through the Suzy Furrer classes and see if I can come up with something better. My main goal is to get a better idea of how to tweak things; I don't want to try making all my own patterns but knowing how to alter necklines and armscyes and crotch curves and so forth would help me out a lot. 

4. At least once this year, I will make several items that could be considered a collection or a capsule.

A couple of years ago I was very into the idea of having seasonal themes, managed it really well once, then got a bit stymied by actually having to come up with a new theme every few months. I ended up reverting to "a couple of random colours" which wasn't really enough. I don't expect myself to suddenly find enough inspiration to do this four times in 2021, but I reckon I can do it once. I will come up with a theme that suggests a few colours and also a print, silhouette or technique, and I'll do my fabric shopping with that in mind. I don't want to go back to buying masses and masses of fabric, and this might be a good way to keep me focused. 

5. I will make a corset.

So this is something I've always wanted to try but thought would forever be outside my reasonably attainable skill set. It's clearly not, though, and in 2021 I am going to try and make the Ralph Pink Laila waspie (which seems like a good beginner starting point) and if that goes well, a slightly more involved one too. My waist is inside but my hips are outside the Ralph Pink size range, so the waspie will be fine but I'll need to learn to grade corset patterns if I want to make a full one. 

I haven't made a sewing plan for winter and I'm not going to. I still have some stuff from autumn to catch up on, and as my sewing space is being transplanted it feels like a fool's errand to make a list now. I'm going to use the next couple of months to get my UFOs done and my room set up, so hopefully come March I'll be ready to go and full of ideas for the eternally-difficult spring plan. 

Here's to a stronger year. Cheers. 

Monday 14 December 2020

autumn sewing: Fumeterre toile

Hello! Here's an intro!

Here we have the Deer & Doe Fumeterre skirt, which I've considered on and off for several years. I love the idea of a maxi skirt appropriate for cooler weather, and this one seemed to offer a bit of room at the hips without being overly poofy. I always held back, though, because a) I wasn't sure how much of my interest was just Teen Goth Jen reacting to the styling and b) I was concerned about practicality. The samples show a floor-length skirt and I live in quasi-central London where everything is drizzles and puddles and surprise pavement dirt and I just couldn't imagine how or where I would wear that. But the pattern was suggested to me as an option for my beautiful barkcloth, and it made perfect sense to me. The fabric is both expensive and white, meaning I'm not going to want it as an everyday garment, and as much as I like the idea in theory I'm also not going to get much use out of Event Overalls. But a statement maxi skirt for nice dinners (and similar occasions) would be super useful - I get to dress up without feeling overdressed, the fabric gets enough wear to feel worthwhile without getting ruined by overuse, and when I sit down to eat I can cover it with a napkin. Amazing. But I wasn't prepared to just cut into it for an untested pattern, so it was the crap crepe's time to shine.

The crap crepe, incidentally, is the reason I will not be wearing this version. I hate it SO MUCH. No wonder I could never pick a pattern to go with it. I had remembered the texture being a bit odd, but it's way worse than that. This fabric is ass. It is the Itchy and Scratchy show. It's like taking an old-school bathroom sponge with the massive holes, cutting into various misshapen spikes, and hurling it at your own legs as you walk. Accidentally brushing the back of my hand against it genuinely sets my teeth on edge. It is truly nasty and I'm so glad I moved it to the toile pile.

As to the pattern itself, I really like the shape of the skirt. I think it's a perfect cool-weather shape and style, and I'm definitely making plans for a couple more everyday versions. I'd love a wool mix for winter. (The pattern recommends lightweight fabric, but this was absolutely fine and also I am absolutely not making a fly-front rayon skirt.) I was a bit worried by the patch pockets, which I don't normally like for myself, but these are only semi-patched - the pockets are the size and shape of the side front panel, meaning the side seams enclose the pocket sides and only the bottom edge is sewn like a traditional patch pocket. As someone who is Bad At Hems, I always appreciate Deer & Doe's inclusion of hem facings, and I really like what it does to this skirt. On me, this is also the absolute perfect length for a maxi. Ankles more or less covered, but not in danger of trailing on the floor. I'm not actually sure why this is; I'm tall but not super tall (around 5'8" depending on posture), the skirt is floor length in pictures and most reviews say they found the pattern hilariously over-long. My first Magnolia dress also came up way shorter than I expected, so this may be a strange personal idiosyncrasy.

What I really did not like were the instructions. I've never had a problem like this with Deer & Doe before, but I did not get on with these at all. The directions for the fly front literally made me think I was losing my mind. I went from "fairly OK with fly fronts but could use a set of instructions to remind me" to "oh, maybe I'm really not OK with fly fronts" to "WHAT IS LEFT" in the space of three bullet points. There are a few things wrong with them, but the main issue is that they switch the perspective halfway through the instructions from "as worn" to "as it faces you" meaning ALL the instructions are for the left side of the zip. I can't deal with that. I don't care which way round you do left and right, but you cannot tell me everything is left, my brain will melt down. Immediately after I finished this I started working on my biker jacket toile, and that is a very bad idea for someone suddenly insecure in left and right. (Fortunately, it turns out that after several minutes' break to scream at the sky, I could just sit down and work it out myself based on what a fly front logically needs to be able to do.)

The waistband construction was also weird. The instructions have you leave holes in the inner waistband seams for the elastic, then attach the inner waistband to the skirt first. I don't understand that and didn't do it. I sewed it the usual way and attached the elastic to the inner waistband before I stitched it down. They specify "half a yard" of elastic for all the sizes, which was too much for me in a 48 so it's a real waste of elastic for the smaller sizes.

Despite those quibbles, I decided to go ahead and cut into my fancy barkcloth. Which I will show you, but I want to make a small disclaimer: I put a lining in this version, and I did something wrong and it's hitched up at the hem. I didn't notice this until I came to edit my photos because there is no full-length mirror in this flat since the last one exploded (I am SO READY to be gone, can you tell), so I couldn't see it. It's on my mending pile to be corrected, but given how much I've struggled with photos recently I'm not going to take these again. 

The barkcloth is too heavy to flow like the crepe, but I really like the shape it holds. I lined this one, as I said, and I also omitted the back elastic because I didn't want any gathering in a fabric this thick. There's really not that much difference in the fit, if I'm honest. I think it's going to be a great dinner skirt once I've fixed the hitch, and I'm looking forward to dinner being a thing again. 

Up next: Hepburn tops! The Trousers of Plausible Deniability! 

Deer & Doe Fumeterre skirt

Fabric: scratchy green crepe from Walthamstow // Cloud 9 barkcloth from Minerva
Cost: £6 // given to me in exchange for a blog post, but would have been around £90 if I'd bought it
Pattern details: Panelled maxi skirt with a front fly, slightly elasticated back waist, semi-patch pockets and hem facing
Size: 48
Alterations: Added lining and omitted elastic on version two
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes with caveat about the instructions

Monday 7 December 2020

just because: Style Sew Me Lisa lounge set

Hello, I have been gone for a million years, I'm so sorry. I tried several times to write an update post and I just couldn't do it (I don't even know why, it's not like I had terrible news to share), eventually just deciding to let the blog be until some of the stuff was sorted out. I have been sewing off and on, and there have been a lot of fails - I'm especially grumpy about the Esther trousers, which don't fit even though I used the exact same pattern as my other pairs which do fit. The sewing was really good on them as well. Gah. 

Anyway. Last Friday we finally, finally exchanged contracts on our new house, which means that next week it's ours. We're not going to be able to move in immediately - we've both been renters our whole adult lives and don't really have any furniture to speak of, so that needs to be made and delivered first - and we haven't yet decided what kind of timeline we'll be on, but next Tuesday we will go to our new house and I will mark my territory by putting a piece of fabric in my future fabric cupboard, a multipack of loo roll in the bathroom, and Gerald the hideous silver bird water dispenser on the living room shelf. This means that the era of palm tree photos is coming to an end (I am sick to the back teeth of this stupid falling-apart leaky flat but I will miss the palm tree dearly). Not quite yet, though. 

It occurred to me a few days ago that the ridiculous Spice Girl top has been the first post on my blog for about two months straight, so that would have been the first impression for two months of whatever newcomers might have stumbled across it. Probably ought to do something to correct that. 

Check this out. It's utterly ridiculous and I love it. 

This is the Style Sew Me Lisa lounge set, and while it wasn't on my autumn sewing plans it has been on my list for some time. I hadn't heard of the company until a list of Black-owned sewing brands went round over the summer, and I loved this set as soon as I saw it. There are three views: this one (boat-neck top and tapered bottoms), a set with a batwing top and wide leg trousers, and a full long-sleeved hooded jumpsuit, which I am absolutely going to try at the earliest possible opportunity. 

This is actually my second attempt at making this pattern. For my first attempt I'd bought some inexpensive silver-blue velour that I thought was really pretty, but it was disastrous to work with. I haven't experienced shedding that bad in a long time, and I use a fair bit of velvet-type fabric in my projects. Before I could even complete it, Patrick and I had agreed that all trace of the stupid velour needed to be banished from the house immediately as we were in danger of actively having to swim through it. That was a while ago now and I'm still finding the fluff on things. 

For this version I used a sweater knit that I'd bought for a wrap dress. I like this fabric but I would not have liked it in a wrap dress, and had I not been stress-shopping I wouldn't have got it at all. Fortunately it was easy to repurpose for loungewear and it turns out that I actually love this. The bold-patterned head-to-toe faux jumpsuit thing is really working for me. No, I'm probably not going to go to the pub like this (not least because I'm not going to the pub at all, sigh), but this is a piece of loungewear I feel genuinely fucking great in. 

I did make one alteration between the Nightmare Fluff version and this one, and that was to substantially lengthen the front rise. I feel a bit stupid saying this, but it didn't remotely occur to me that any trouser pattern might be low-rise. And some of them should be! It annoys the piss out of me that pattern companies often all make the exact same thing at the same time with no real difference in style or fit to appeal to different customers, and there should be different rises and fits so that more people can find the thing they're looking for. In principle I actively like that these are low-rise. In practice low-rise does not work on me at all, and so I changed it for this version. My first version was low-rise in the front and hit my waist in the back, so I only lengthened the front pattern piece to get the fit I wanted. 

Interestingly, the pattern has you finish everything with bands except the neckline, which is just hemmed. That's what I've done here - I really like the shape of this boat neck and I didn't want to distort it by trying to bodge a neckband in there - but I'm curious to see if holds up to being stretched. 

I will definitely make this again, I think it's great. I'm particularly keen to make the trousers in a less ridiculous fabric and see if I can get away with wearing them outside. I would also like a non-shedding version of the velvet set I planned in the first place. And as I said, that hooded jumpsuit is coming (though probably after we move because I have a very full sewing queue and would rather not get involved in printing new PDFs right now). 

I have managed to finish and photograph a bunch of stuff, so regular posting schedule will resume, at least for a bit. What you will not be seeing is the Named Astrid trousers, which I thought were really nice when I first tried them on, but in all the photos my crotch looks like that time Homer Simpson ate a super sour gumball.  

NOPE. I have absolutely no idea why and I'm not invested enough in the trousers to try and work it out. But I do have my Fumeterre, my Hepburn tops and my Plausible Deniability Trousers to come, and none of them are that upsetting. See you next Monday, one day before I officially become a home owner!

Style Sew Me Lisa lounge set

Fabric: Rose print sweater knit from Fabric Land
Cost: £15
Pattern details: Three different loungewear sets - boat neck top and tapered trousers; dolman top and wide leg trousers; and a long-sleeved hooded jumpsuit
Size: L for the top, XL - 2XL for the trousers
Alterations: Front rise lengthened by 4cm (I think? I didn't write it down at the time)
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Tuesday 8 September 2020

McCalls 8117: Jen is every Spice Girl at once

Category is: things I made because I knew they would look ridiculous and thus would be amusing to me! 

I freely admit I'm helping the All Spice Girls thing along by wearing it with leopard-trimmed tracksuit bottoms (and having vaguely Posh Spice hair all the time), but they happened to be what I was wearing when I tried it on for the first time and looked in the mirror. I tried to find a more appropriate pairing for this top, but there just... isn't one. At least not in my wardrobe. Sadly I own exactly zero pairs of moonboots. 

This is McCalls 8117 (they've also named it Heather, but... no thanks), a release from a few months ago that made me laugh for quite a long time. I don't make a habit of buying patterns because they're stupid-looking (the last time I did it was two years ago, and that doesn't really count because it was secretly a really great pattern) but this one was so hilariously overwrought that I couldn't help it. One shoulder! Asymmetric waist tie! Option for a peplum and/or one single long sleeve! Plus a third view that I thought I might actually like and wear, but we'll get to that. 

First of all, my thoughts on the finished product: I expected to get something so bad it was unphotographable, and instead I got something pretty bad but acceptable to put on the internet. I wouldn't call it a fail, since I was never trying to make something I'd actually wear, and I will probably keep it for comedy purposes/All the Spice Girls Halloween costume. This does not look good, but it is enjoyably amusing, and I do have some thoughts on the pattern that might be useful to anyone considering it.

The fabric I used is a piece of weird glittery rib knit that I got from the Abakhan remnant bins. I bought it thinking I was going to start incorporating shell pink into my wardrobe (which I'm still not opposed to), but I've never used it. It's too glittery for everyday and too dull for evenings. It was also an absolute bastard to work with - if the right sides touch at all they stick and I had to literally rip the pieces apart constantly - and I'm not at all sorry it's ended up as a comedy toile. 

My original intention was to make the single-sleeve view (which I considered the most hilarious) but got view A and view B confused while I was sewing and ended up sewing the armhole and lining shut before getting to the sleeve. In retrospect, I'm quite glad. The top is fully lined so requires no hemming at all unless you put the sleeve on it, and hemming this fabric would have been... a job. 

A piece of very narrow elastic is sewn into the neckline to get a close fit, and that works very nicely. What I would absolutely do if I ever made this again is to sew elastic to the seam under the bust on the left side. You can see very clearly in these photos how it's gaping (and these are the better photos because my underboob does not need to be on the internet) and if I lift my arms without due care and attention the entire thing can end up under my armpit. If I ever have occasion to wear this top out of the house I will definitely bodge a piece of elastic to the back of the seam.

(As I went to take this photo my upstairs neighbours suddenly opened their bedroom window and I'd been really hoping nobody would see me dressed like this. Oh well.)

Would I recommend doing this? I mean, no. Clearly not. But I will say that purely as a sewing project, it was quite enjoyable. Not having to hem or bind necklines and armholes is a really nice change, and if you were prepared to do a bit of topstitching you could make the finish on this version completely clean. If one of my more... rave-inclined friends who fit a similar size asked me to make them one of these, I would do so quite happily. But only because I already own the pattern, I'm not suggesting anyone buy this expecting it to bring them joy. 

 Of course, I also wanted to try what I thought would be the actually nice version that I might get wear out of. You will very quickly see the problem I ran into.

So there is no photograph or drawing of this view on a model, just a disembodied garment. From the disembodied garment illustration I assumed that the finished product would be cropped, but would end at, you know, my waist. Admittedly I have a much larger bust than the pattern calls for, but that's never really been an issue with jersey tops before. The effect you're supposed to get is a nice scallop where the two pattern pieces cross over at the hem, but there's not enough length for that so it just looks a bit like my bra is hanging out. 

As you see, the back does sit further down than the front, but still not long enough to reach the top of my ultra-high-waist leggings. Lengthening the back is a simple enough task, but I'm not at all sure how to go about altering the front. I have no idea how you'd do an FBA on this kind of pattern piece, and I'm pretty sure that wouldn't give me enough length by itself. I'm also concerned that just making the pieces wider will result in weird flaps. I would possibly need to elasticate the lower front edges the same way as I would the first version. I'm not opposed to giving it a go the next time I come upon some non-precious jersey, though. 

I don't mind too much that this version is unwearable. Mostly because this fabric (a super mega cheap jersey I bought to toile a different top) is the worst unbreathable poly I've ever encountered. I'm not a fibre snob, as a rule - I'm fortunate not to have the same level of extreme discomfort in synthetics as some of the people I follow - but this is just gross. It's September, I had this on outside for seven minutes with my entire midriff exposed, and I almost died. Shame, because it's a really lovely colour. More purple! More red! 

I shall leave you with my best Posh Point. I went to a Spice Girls dance class last year, where the instructor exhorted us all to pick which one of the five we were and really embody her... then stopped three minutes later to scold some of us for not smiling. I heard at least two other people in the room making outraged noises and muttering "but I'm Posh! I'm clearly Posh!" 

She's a real lay-dee...

What's up next will depend on how this week goes. I got some sort of bug last week (not that one, we're taking part in a study so we've been tested) and it just wiped me clean out. Something I have been considering is writing something - designed to live in my menu bar for new people, but probably as a regular post first - about my body type and usual adjustments, as a reference point for readers wondering how relevant my experience with a pattern will be for them, so if I don't get a project finished that might be the next post. We'll see!

McCalls 8117 tops

Fabric: Glitter rib knit from Abakhan/purple poly jersey from Walthamstow
Cost: Extremely cheap - probably about £5 for both together
Pattern details: Fully lined jersey tops - one-shoulder side-tied top with single long sleeve or peplum/long sleeved crop top with two overlapped front layers
Size: 16
Alterations: None
Would make again/would recommend: Maybe if feeling experimental/No

Monday 31 August 2020

sewing plan: autumn 2020

Given that I basically went splat for the entirety of the summer, my hit rate for my last plan actually wasn't all that bad. I managed to make everything on my August plan PLUS a hilarious comedy top that makes me look like every single Spice Girl at once (oh, it's coming). I've carried over a couple of my original plans to this one now that I think I'm in a better place to get them done.

My main priority this autumn is trousers. Three of the pairs I currently own have simultaneously decided to bag out weirdly at the top of the thigh (why? I cannot work it out) and that cuts out a full half of them. I'm going to plan for four different patterns and may well try a fifth if I have the time. I want to reach December having multiple pairs of trousers I'm happy to wear on a day-to-day basis. Everything else on my list this time is an experiment, a "cool if it works" sort of thing.

As a bonus, if I manage to get the stashbusting parts of this plan done, that will leave me with only four outstanding pieces of fabric from my original resolution to get rid of everything pre-2020 in my stash. And one of those is a piece of swimwear fabric, which... extenuating circumstances are granting me a year's grace on using that one up.

Here's what I'm thinking:


A pair of jogger/trouser hybrids

As I said last month, this is the only thing I actually need right now. The world may have partially reopened but I'm still at home more often than not, and it would be useful to me to have lounge trousers that I knew I could plausibly run to the shops in if need be. I haven't decided what pattern I'm going to use yet - I'm weighing up whether or not my favourite pyjama patterns will look presentable enough in black ponte to pass for proper trousers.

Wrap trousers

I'm going to use the piece of blue chambray that showed up not quite the right colour to try out the Named Astrid trousers. They will either be my favourite trousers of all time or they will fill me with loathing and disgust, there is no in between.

Esther trousers

On my triumphant return to Walthamstow I bought a piece of navy wool-mix crepe, and I think it's going to become another pair of Victory Patterns Esther trousers. I get a surprising amount of use out of my last pair, considering they're bright green, and a pair of navy ones that could be more easily mixed and matched with colours (I maintain that more things go with navy than go with black) would be really useful right about now.

A test run from my trouser block

I said I'd do this back in spring and then never got round to it, so I'm trying again. I'm not actually sure what fabric I'm using for this as I'm running very low on stuff without a plan attached to it already, but ideally the next time I go fabric shopping I'll find something cheap and buy enough of it for two pairs so that I can make one pair as is with just an added waistband and then alter the second pair based on how the first pair sits.


A cocktail dress toile

I want to try out the Named Kaste dress, but as it's quite fitted and I'm not that familiar with their woven block yet I'm not expecting great things for the first attempt. As with my trouser block, I don't have fabric for this yet and would quite like to pick up enough for two versions so I have the opportunity to alter the shit out of it if I don't like it.

A maxi skirt toile

I'm finally going to use up that green sponge crepe, and I'm going to make a toile of the Deer and Doe Fumeterre (a pattern I've gone back and forth on numerous times in the past four years). If I like the way it looks, I'll make a proper version from my super-expensive barkcloth.

Another go at the stupid jacket WHY

I am carrying this over from my summer plan because I am an idiot. I am going to do a very basic, bare-bones toile of the Nicole Miller cropped biker jacket using a piece of pink, blue and gold fabric with butterflies on it that's been in my stash since 2016. I decided years ago I was never going to use it and it's been the lining of my fabric box ever since. But I did say I wanted to get rid of anything pre-2020, so I'm going to use it for this. Pray for me.

Cowl neck dress, round two

Last month I altered my Named Ruska pattern to have a cowl neck, made the dress, and it doesn't look quite the way I'd wanted. The cowl is incredibly skimpy and barely looks like a cowl at all. I think I need to go back to the pattern and both widen the neckline and lengthen the cowl itself. I'm going to use the white and grey sweater knit remnant in my stash for this - it's been there long enough that I can't be precious about it anymore, and it's not as if I don't still have a whole dress in that fabric.

A Hepburn top

So ordinarily I wouldn't consider spending £14 on a knit top pattern, but the fact remains that most of the tops I wear are That One Cropped Sweater from the second Gertie book. I've tried other things on similar lines, and I always end up going back. A similar draft plus a wide variety of cup sizes might get me to the black ponte dolman T-shirt of my dreams.


A slip dress

This is kind of a toile and kind of not, because I am taking the risk of planning to cut into my green silk. I've been quite precious about it because it belonged to my friend's late mother, but I do think it should be something. The conclusion I've come to is that it's not quite the right green for a general-purpose fancy dress, but it would be a nice weight for a slip-style nightdress. I used to wear those to bed all the time in my early 20s and I still love the idea, but I've always been a bit intimidated by the idea of making my own. I'd love any recommendations for a slip dress pattern designed for a bigger bust.

This needs to be something

I bought this linen mix fabric the other week and now I need to work out what to do with it. I bought five metres thinking I was going to try the new CCP Elodie, but the more I think about it the more it seems a bit rash to make a giant summer maxi dress in September. I put that up for a vote on my Instagram (versus using it to make two smaller pieces) and Team Maxi Dress was winning right up until a few hours before the end, when Team Two Pieces woke up and left me with an end result that was almost 50-50. Plus my mother, who wrote in a third option I didn't ask about. Love you, Mum. I think I'm leaning more towards a shorter dress and one other piece, but whether that dress is a shorter version of the Elodie remains to be seen.

This is a LOT, and I don't for a moment expect to get through all of it. My priorities are the fake trousers, one other successful pair of trousers, the maxi skirt and the stupid jacket toile. Whatever else happens, great. I'm going to attempt to continue daily sewing into September and see how that works for me.

Autumn is going to be hard work. There will almost certainly be an increase in Covid-related restrictions, our house buying isn't going as smoothly as I'd hoped, I possibly need a new diagnosis, the American elections are terrifying and we're barrelling head first into fascism. Over the past couple of months I've been trying to eliminate petty hate-clicking and and all websites that compel me to do it so that I have enough mental real estate for police brutality and TERFs and writing letters for my MP to ignore (sigh, I was so hopeful). I still haven't worked out what to do about Twitter because that's the most plentiful source for all of the above. In short, the likelihood of my dropping out for a month at a time again is fairly high, and I want to set realistic expectations for myself.

Up next: Jen Is Every Single Spice Girl At Once!

Tuesday 25 August 2020

unseasonal summer sewing: a full-length Trina robe

It's been an odd week. Parts of it felt almost normal. My parents came to visit, we made them dinner and took them for a wander round what will hopefully be our new stomping ground if all goes to plan. I braved the tube for the first time to go to Walthamstow, and I'm very pleased to report that the dude was still there (though he gave me a brief fright by having moved to the opposite side of the street), doing very well and remarkably sanguine about the whole thing. But at the same time, second lockdown is looming at some unspecified distance, my life situation is entirely up in the air, it's getting harder and harder to ignore how much this flat is falling to bits, and I had one of those therapy sessions where I go in thinking it'll be a light practical-help session and then she pokes me very slightly and I fall to bits because I'm constructed entirely out of scar tissue. All of which is to say, I didn't do my pressing last week. I finally got to it yesterday, and here's what I made.

This is the Victory Patterns Trina dress, extended to full length and intended to be worn as a robe. I have a couple of robes in rotation (a fancier Named Asaka and a French terry one for when I get out of the bath) but they both have a tendency to shift and slip open which means I don't reach for either as much as I otherwise might. A more fitted one based off a dress pattern, I hoped, would up my chances of not accidentally flashing the postman.

I shared this fabric before back in April. It's from Walthamstow and according to the dude it's viscose, but it's very silky and weighty, almost like a much less annoying satin. He still had some when I went there last week and I had to sternly argue myself out of buying some more (for what? I don't even know. But it was there and my lizard brain wanted more, possibly for me to stare at and wonder what to do with for the next three years). One thing I don't think is quite coming across in these photos is how shiny it is. If I'd made this exact thing in a different fabric it would absolutely be something I'd wear as a regular dress - and I might do that at some point - but the shininess of this viscose keeps it firmly in bathrobe territory.

(I love these sleeves so much.)

My method of lengthening the pattern was a very unscientific "how much length can I add while still being able to fit all the pieces on the fabric" one, which gave me the perfect length in the back right off but the hem edges on the bias ended up needing significant trimming (as you might expect). It's properly floor-length for normal wear and hovering a bit in these photos because I'm still trying to break in my stupid extra-high sandals. The length was the only alteration I made; otherwise the size and construction was much the same as last time. Now I'm on my third version I understand the pattern enough not to be confused by the overly detailed instructions, so I enjoyed the process a lot more this go round.

I'm incredibly pleased with this robe, it's exactly what I was hoping for. It fits like a dress but has the comfort of a robe, and though I mostly intend to wear it on its own like this, I've found I can also wear it over tops without it looking too weird. It's surprisingly warm and also breathable, so it's going to be perfect for autumn. There's the tiniest amount of give in the fabric - nothing close to stretch, but just a faint bit of movement - which makes for a really great-fitting wrap. I love everything about it.

When I planned to make this I had fully expected the end result to be a straight-up Miss Fisher 20s fantasy, but in practice it is extremely 70s in a way I hadn't anticipated. Don't get me wrong, I still love it, but I was very surprised the first time I tried it on in front of the mirror. I think it's a combination of the wrap neckline and the print. I almost never go 70s, but you know what, why not try new things as you stay inside and wash your hands a lot?

Upcoming! While I've definitely been missing more days as the month goes on, having the intention to sew daily has allowed me to get enough done to be finished with my plans a week early. My intention for the final week of August is to make That View Nobody Will Make of a pattern I bought a few months ago, strictly for the comedy value. If it's decent (in the "will contain my boobs" sense rather than the "will look nice on me" sense) we can all have a collective laugh at it, though I want to post my autumn plans before we get to that. Then I'll have to decide if it's worth anybody's time to make a post featuring two Kielo dresses, one of which is plain black and the other of which is a near-exact replica of one I already had. Maybe if I surround it with sewing-related musings and make a large number of really terrible jokes?

Wednesday 12 August 2020

a mini fabric haul

My plans to go to Walthamstow are on hold for a couple of weeks. We are currently experiencing a horrendous heatwave and I am not prepared for my first time back on the Tube to be in 35C weather. It's also slowing down my actual sewing because our flat is unbearable right now and I'm hiding in the bedroom for most of the days. Not great for mental health, but necessary to stay not-fainted. Once the heatwave and subsequent week of rain are out of the way, I'll try again. 

What I can share today is some of the fabric I've been sent by Minerva as part of their blogger partnership (this post is not part of said partnership, by the way - the posts I write for them go on their blog and since they found me through Instagram I'm genuinely not sure they even know this one exists). They had things on pause during lockdown but started up again last month, and I've asked for five things over the course of the past two months. This is way, waaay more than I normally take - up til the pause it averaged out at a bit less than one per month, but fabric is much less accessible to me than time right now. This is what I currently have, and what my plans are for each: 

First and most importantly, there's this one. It's Cloud Nine barkcloth, one of my favourite substrates of all time. I used it to make this and this, and it's truly beautiful stuff. I bought both my previous lengths back in 2016 (even if I only managed to find a project for the second one last Christmas) and I've not really been in a position to afford it since, so when I saw it included on Minerva's list I jumped at it. This is the one I really want some advice on - I have three metres of this and I'd like to use as much of it as possible, but I'm having trouble visualising what it should be. I can see both a mod shift and overalls, but I definitely wouldn't wear a mod shift and I don't really think I'm an overalls woman either. Would love to hear some ideas!

This is a black viscose jersey that I bought myself. I also have a plain black ponte that was sent to me, but I don't think anyone is going to benefit from multiple pictures of plain black fabrics. This one is intended to be a black summer dress, and the ponte is going to be a jogger/trouser hybrid (haven't identified the pattern yet) and a trial version of the Charm Pattern Hepburn top.

This is a bright jade faux leather that was a struggle to photograph correctly. I asked for this thinking I would make a bag out of it (I've always been drawn to handbags this colour), but my bag making experience is minimal and I might switch the plan around if I have a better idea. There is an incredibly stupid part of my brain going, "...leather jacket?" and I cannot let that part win. I can't have a queue of faux leather cuts waiting for me to find an acceptable jacket pattern, that might take years. 

Finally, there's this viscose jersey which I've already used. I ordered it thinking it would be a maxi dress, but realised when it arrived that I already have several other quite specific maxi dresses planned and this one is similar enough that it would end up being redundant, so I made a Sallie jumpsuit instead, something I haven't done for four years because my beginner self had so much trouble with my second one. Turns out it's not that hard anymore. Here it is:

It looks a tad too short in this picture, but that's the fault of the shoes. I ordered what I thought were a similar pair to my apparently-discontinued holy grail Skechers sandals, and when they arrived I discovered there was a very significant heel height difference. I am just over six feet tall here and it's very weird. 

I also have a blue stretch twill coming, which is going to be a pair of trousers (probably CCP Pietra). I really want some slim-fit trousers but it's a struggle with my thighs, so I'm hoping that a stretch fabric might give me what I want.

Sewing every day is still going well. Given the weather, sometimes daily sewing is minimal and sometimes it's prep that can be done outside the main room, but I have been making incremental progress and my robe is finally finished! I am absolutely not prepared to turn on the iron for love nor money right now so it hasn't had its final press, and it's too hot to wear even for a ten-minute photography session anyway, but once the weather breaks I will get it properly photographed and hopefully posted next week. My parents are coming to visit on Monday and Tuesday so it'll probably be mid-week again. Hope everyone is holding up!

Tuesday 4 August 2020

plans: August sewing, fabric acquisition and thinking about autumn already

So, let's try this text post thing! 

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm planning to get a small amount of sewing done every day this month in the hope of getting back into a flow. Four days in it's going fairly well and I'm reminded of how easy it is to turn ten minutes of sewing into an hour, and then how much it's possible to do in an hour. I've gone back over my summer plans and cut out the most complicated things and the ones that need the most supplies, so my revised plans for the rest of the summer are as follows:

Blue floral Trina robe
Green Kielo dress remake
Black Sallie jumpsuit (Minerva project)
Black hoodie made from the remnants of the jumpsuit fabric
Ruska cowl neck pattern, if not the actual dress

I think this is probably about a month's worth of work, especially as the Minerva jumpsuit is almost finished (would be completely finished but I'm out of elastic and there is currently nowhere selling both elastic and even one of the other things I need to order, for some reason). If I make anything else it'll be probably be jersey-top-from-a-remnant level. 

I don't need to buy anything other than notions for the above, but if I'm able to keep daily sewing up this week, I'm planning to treat myself to a trip to Walthamstow. My stash is less than half what it was at the beginning of the year, and I've bought less fabric in the whole of 2020 than I did in December 2019 alone. I've got through all the expensive fabric bar my two sentimental pieces, I've used almost everything I've bought this year, and everything except the pile of lining fabrics now fits in my fabric box. It's now at the point where I only have about four non-lining non-odd-sized-remnant pieces left and I don't know what to do with any of them, so if I want to have an autumn sewing plan I'm going to need to go shopping. I haven't been on the tube since the second week in March so I'm quite nervous about it, but I would really like to go back to the market and see how everything is right now. I know several of the stallholders and shop owners to chat to, and I've spent the last five months worrying if they're OK. It would be nice to know for sure.

Going fabric shopping for my autumn plans means I need to think about what's going to be in said plan, and I'd quite like to use it as an opportunity to do some experimentation. I resolved at the beginning of the year to try out some of the patterns that have been lurking in my stash for years and I really haven't got very far with that, so this might be the time. I don't need anything right now other than a couple of pairs of jersey lounge trousers that can pass for actual trousers if I need to run to the shop, and I have at least a dozen patterns I liked enough to buy or download. I have these six Named patterns, for a start:

(The first four are from the book, the fifth is the recently discontinued Astrid Wrap Pants, and the last is the Anni building block pattern.) I'm definitely not going to get to all of these in the next few months, but eventually I want to try out all six. I particularly want to try more stuff from the book, as making the Ruska dress nine hundred times isn't enough to justify the £25 I spent in the first place. First stop will probably be the V neck cocktail dress, as that doesn't require me to alter the neckline, can easily be mocked up in whatever random fabric I have lying around, and will let me get in some V neck practice. 

The other thing I want to focus on for autumn is getting a really great pair of trousers. The pair I wear the most is my blue McCalls 7726 and I still really like them, but they are a bit limiting in terms of what I can wear them with. If the top isn't form-fitting and either able to be tucked in or super cropped, I'm just swamped. I look like a floating fabric ghost. I want something fairly fitted, with a neat waist, that manages not to restrict my thigh spread. Because I'm basically snowman-shaped (small waist, big hips and bum and belly and thighs), it's hard to find anything that looks right. I want to try some of the patterns I already own and also see if I can do anything with the block I made. 

If all goes well (i.e. I'm able to sew lots this week and Walthamstow still contains a reasonable amount of fabric), I'll be back at some point towards the middle of next week with a progress update and a fabric haul. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday 29 July 2020

an experiment - D cup Anna bodice

I did not mean to go radio silent for two months. My health has been a problem thanks to, you know, everything, and my creativity has been completely shot. I've not even been able to write, which is super unusual and scary for me. And then we decided to start house-hunting, which is even more draining (especially when you're avoiding public transport and you have to walk to every single viewing). But now we've had an offer accepted, so fate and paperwork willing we'll be moving into a place that's actually ours very soon. Our current flat is beautiful and lovely in so many ways but it breaks all the time and it's almost impossible to get them to fix anything. Over the past couple of days our ceiling has started leaking again, in two different rooms, because the guys upstairs got their bathroom redone but for some reason not made waterproof? Why. We are spending our last months here with takeaway containers taped over the light fittings.

Anyway! You're here for sewing.

By Hand London are (finally) expanding their size range and have come up with a D cup bodice block for the larger sizes. I fit into the top end of their original size range, but need a substantial bust adjustment, so I was curious to see what the fit would be like on the new block. BHL sends out updates to their patterns automatically but the new size range was by request, so I asked for it.

You might recall this fabric from a post I made a few months ago, where I said I didn't want it to be a dress because I didn't like the colour next to my face. Most of the suggestions were for a long skirt, which was my original intention, but the longer I put it off the more I realised I'm just never going to wear an ankle-length orange leopard print skirt. It's either too fancy or not fancy enough, and I just couldn't picture where or how it would get any use. When I first thought about testing out the new bodice I was reluctant to order any new fabric (most of the stuff available online is too expensive for a test and since we're now moving very soon I don't want to acquire too much more bulk to transport), and decided that I might as well use the awkward orange leopard print and get it out of my stash rather than hold on to it forever waiting for the mystery perfect pattern to present itself.

I basically never trace my patterns unless forced to, but I had done so with my previous Anna bodice in order to alter it. 2016 Jen had zero interest in a V neck bodice and I never bothered to make that version or copy the cutting line onto my pattern piece. I'd completely forgotten there even was a V neck option until I came to cut this version out. Taking the fabric down further away from my face seemed like a sensible idea.

This version of the bodice is a UK 16. What I probably need is a D cup 14, probably even a 12 in the back. On this one I had to cut down the back panels by about 2.5cm and take in the side seams by a further 1cm each side. I increased the length of the underbust pleats by 1cm as the bust as drafted seems to sit a little lower than mine and it made the whole thing look slightly nightgown-ish on me. For future versions I'd also fold a couple of centimetres out of the front neckline, as it's a little loose. I can't stand facings so I swapped that for bias binding, and also altered the back to a V to cut down on the excess of orange leopard a little more.

When I first tried this on I thought it was a bit frumpy-looking, and ended up taking the slit several centimetres higher to counteract that. I normally keep it as it is but this version really needed the extra bit of skin. 

This fabric is unlike any I've used before - it's a substantial but also shifty viscose with a very silky feel and the fibres sit almost like hide - so before I did any of the finishing I spent some time sewing test stitches into scraps to see how it would look and whether I'd need to hand finish the whole thing to make it wearable. I concluded that it wasn't so bad as to need handstitching everywhere but the neckline would definitely look off if I machined it, so I slipstitched the bias binding down and hemmed everything by machine. In retrospect I should have handstitched the slit as well. 

Having worn this dress to go out into the garden and take photos of it, I'm glad yet again that I didn't make the fabric into a wrap skirt. It turns out that it sticks to everything. Coming down the stairs back into the house I got stuck to the brick wall no less than three separate times, and had it been a wrap skirt there would definitely have been indecency going on. 

Will I wear this? I don't know. Thanks to a combination of quarantine and really weird weather I'm only wearing a very tiny proportion of my clothes anyway. What I am thinking of is wearing this as a housewarming dress. We're obviously not intending to have the big party we would otherwise have had, so assuming things don't go horribly wrong and we're all banned from other people's houses again we're going to have lots of little gatherings in twos and threes. And since we have lots of friends with fun clothes they've not been able to wear in months, I'm considering a fancier dress code. I deliberately didn't over-fit this so it's very comfortable for sitting around in.

I'm hoping to be inspired by the prospect of imminent relocation to get on and get some more fabric out of my stash. My plan is to attempt some sort of "sew every day" challenge next month like I did in September last year, and to write about how that's going if I don't have any finished projects to share. I have some things arriving from Minerva as part of their blogger partnerships and I'm hoping that will be motivating too (I asked for something really expensive and they agreed to send it to me, so I now kind of feel like I scammed them even though it was literally on the list of fabrics to pick from? Anxiety disorders suck).

If all continues to go well I'll be back again next week, probably with text rather than another project unless a miracle happens this weekend. I hope you're all safe and holding up!

Bonus question: does anyone know of a good tutorial for switching out the collar on a jacket pattern? I want to make a heavily modified version of the SOI Amelia jacket and the number one thing I want is to get rid of the pointless flat collar for something that looks better. I've never really altered jacket patterns before and collars aren't my strong point, so I don't really know what I'm doing. Any advice on an easy change or a signpost to a more in-depth walkthrough would be super helpful!

Monday 1 June 2020

spring sewing: Fiore skirt

While I do have a project to share today, and will continue to talk about sewing here, it would be unconscionable of me not to talk first about the fact that the American police have declared war on black people because they weren't allowed to keep murdering them in peace. I'm trying to walk a fine line here because it's black voices that should be front and centre here, not mine, but I know that my silence does more harm than good. I'm not gonna tell black people what to do or how to feel, but to my fellow white people I say: we have to acknowledge that until we speak on this we are Schrodinger's White Supremacist and we sacrifice the safety of black people for the comfort of bigots. I see you, white person rolling your eyes, and I invite you to get permanently lost. It's one thing to have a temporary refuge from the world when what's outside is a pandemic; this is not that. We are responsible, every last one of us.

If you are white and grew up being told to look for the nice policeman when you get lost, the nice policeman will help you, you may well find it jarring to hear Defund the Police and All Cops Are Bastards, but if you think it's "too much" then I urge you to do some reading. While you were being shown pictures of a nice smiling policeman, black people were telling their babies to stay as far away from the police as possible, you are always in danger from them even if you've done every single thing right. And they were correct to do so. If you go looking you will find thousands of stories - some more well-reported than others - that will horrify the shit out of you. Law enforcement in America is so fundamentally corrupted by racism both overt and institutional that it is broken beyond repair. Currently they are using their state funding to escalate peaceful protests, mace literal children, mow protesters down with their squad cars and blind people with rubber bullets. They managed not to do any of this when white people, armed to the back teeth, gathered en masse and screamed in their faces because they wanted to get a haircut. Think about that.

In the UK we can't call representatives to demand defunding of police or release of arrested protesters, but we can donate, we can educate the white people around us as to what's going on and why they, too, need to step up, we can read as much as possible, we can fight the racism inherent in our own system (we have a LOT of work to do). If things continue to get worse, and if we end up at the point where the US government is calling on other countries to provide aid and resources in their fight to subjugate black people, we will be their surest bet. We will need to be prepared to do everything in our power to prevent it.

My monthly fabric budget is going to bail funds. If you're also looking to donate you can find a list here:

I'm going to draw a line under this here, and talk about sewing. I will continue to share resources and ways to help, as I find them, in future posts. I will be keeping a close eye on my comment section.


And now, we have a skirt.

This skirt. It took me over a year to conclusively match it to a pattern and then several months more to get over my fear of actually sewing it. There have been too many times where I've sat on a fabric for ages and then the things I've finally made from it has been disappointing, and that's much worse than making something disappointing immediately. But last week I fixed determination onto my face and raced into the pile of fabric going "aaaaagggghhhh" until it was done.

Before I go any further, I will say that I don't think this photographs especially well. It looks a bit stiff and tubular. In person it looks lovely, especially when it's moving, and will be really useful to me this summer. I'm just not wild about these photos of it. I definitely want to go back in and reposition the press studs (the pattern calls for buttons, but I will never use a button when there's any other option available to me) because the waist is not where the waist should be. I was worried about making it too tight and overcompensated.

(You can kind of see in the back shot where the wind was picking it up a bit that it's actually quite flowy and pretty-looking. Maybe I should have waited for a more blustery day to take the photos.)

After seeing how the test skirt looked, I decided I wanted to try and make this version as long as possible. I wasn't confident about my chances as I only had 2.5m of fabric, but I gave it my best shot thinking I could always shorten it again. In the end I could only get enough length for a strange lower-calf hem, which I didn't like, but I had enough scraps left over to piece together a band to extend it down to my ankles. Not the most elegant solution, but now I have a skirt I'll actually wear. And almost no leftovers!

I really like the pocket on this skirt. There's only one, on the left side, and it's big and deep and secure. I'm sure I've said before that a well-designed functional pocket is a huge plus for me and I will always go for a pattern that includes them over one that doesn't, but little afterthought pockets that don't really hold anything and don't work with the design or fabric of the garment are useless at best and offputting at worst. I truly do get the IT HAS POCKETS thing but demand more from your long-awaited pockets, people.

I think I might well make this skirt again, though I would want to make some changes in the way I went about altering it. Something I would want to do for next time is change the angle of the front wrap - it's supposed to be a very clear diagonal but I couldn't have kept going on that line for this length of skirt, so I have some strange in-between thing which I think is contributing to the weird look in the photos. When I do this again I'll redraw the front wrap line. I think I would also want to change the side seam lines, either to be much more or much less flared. I wouldn't want to get rid of the flare altogether (when I've tried to make a wrap skirt with straight side seams it makes the coverage of the wrap somewhat precarious) but I think either a narrower silhouette or a ridiculous exaggerated thing would look better than this.

I have another maxi dress cut out and I'm hoping to get that done this week. My partner is having a truly awful week so most of my free time will be going to him rather than to sewing, but there's still a chance of me being able to run up a quick knit dress. If not, I will write something. Sending strength to the people who need it most right now. 

Closet Case Patterns Fiore Skirt

Fabric: Viscose twill from Walthamstow market
Cost: £7.50
Pattern details: Flared skirt in two lengths with three views: simple skirt with back zip; wrap skirt with single pocket; button front skirt with large patch pockets
Size: 16
Alterations: Extended to ankle length, buttons replaced with press studs
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes