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!