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