Monday 18 January 2021

sewing room part one: plans

 This Friday we are finally moving house, and I will be graduating from a wildly messy corner of a one-big-room flat to an actual sewing room! Half a sewing room to begin with, until we build a little home office for Patrick in the garden. 

sewing room with flamingo wallpaper

Obviously I am very excited about this, and I thought it might be interesting to document what I'm doing with the room and how I'm setting my sewing space up. We're not planning to redecorate other than putting up some art, so the flamingo-and-fireplace wall will be staying as it is. 

My main goal is not to make it Pinterest-worthy but to set it up so that it works for me. I can be motivationally challenged, I spontaneously generate mess, and my logic does not always resemble actual logic. Rather than continue to shout at myself that I should be a different person, I want to remove as many barriers as I can in advance. 

window and floor-to-ceiling cupboard

This cupboard will be my main source of storage. It's way more storage than I currently have - it looks quite shallow in these photos but it's built into an alcove so it goes a fair way back - and I want it to be, as far as possible, enough. At the moment I'm pretty sure all the fabric I own will fit on a single shelf (I've moved most of it across already because it's easy to take a bagful with me every time I go to do an errand there) and I don't ever want to need more than two. Optimal stash size is such a personal thing and for me, huge amounts of fabric feel like the piling up of unmet obligations and I get very stressed and stop being able to sew. Similarly, I want to reserve 1-2 shelves for patterns, one for mid-sized equipment and one for works in progress. 

(The other cupboard, incidentally, is reserved for Patrick's niche culinary equipment which there won't be space for in the kitchen.)

I do not want to have to buy a lot of extra cupboards and cabinets, mostly for reasons of space. Eventually I would love to be able to have a cutting table, a dressmaker's dummy, a separate desk for my overlocker, and that just won't be possible if I have too much crap that needs a home. Those things aren't in my immediate plans because money is very much a thing, but there are a few things I'd like to get my hands on asap:

- a new ironing board. I bought mine for £12.99 from Sainsbury's when we moved in to the last flat and I discovered there wasn't one already, and I really don't like it. It's flimsy and slightly the wrong height. Last time I went to visit my parents my mum had just bought herself a new one that was everything an ironing board should be, and I keep thinking about it (much to my supreme embarrassment). 

- a full-length mirror. Being without one since ours exploded (this fucking flat) has made sewing so much more difficult. I'm so looking forward to easily seeing if something fits properly or not. 

- a set-up where I can take basic photos, i.e. a bit of blank wall I can point the camera at. I still intend to take most of my photos outside, but sometimes blogging would be so much easier if I could just photograph a top against a white wall instead of going through all the rigmarole. 

- some different sized scraps bins. I could do with a "bits of thread and overlocker offcuts" container to sit on my desk, a decent size scraps bin for the larger but still not big enough to sew with bits, and a dedicated place in the cupboard for scraps I can still sew with.

- pattern storage. I know, in my heart of hearts, that just throwing all my patterns onto a shelf isn't going to work, and I'll need to find some non-hideous boxes for them to live in and a way of categorising them (probably frequency of use, that's historically been the most useful way for me to put things away). 

- some kind of magnetic whiteboard, or somewhere else to place visual reminders. One of the things I'm really hoping for this year is to get an ADHD diagnosis and treatment, but while I languish on a waiting list I see no harm in adopting ADHD coping techniques. I'm excellent at recalling facts but my short-term memory is garbage, so being able to see a list of current projects without having to go looking for it and have a place to write notes that I won't immediately lose will, I think, be super helpful to me. 

- a small wall-mounted bookshelf for my sewing books. I don't have a ton of these but I could do with not needing to keep space for them in the cupboard. 

- curtains. What there is currently is a pink blind, and I hate it much more than it warrants. I've never made curtains before; I'm planning to make all of the ones we need for this house (we've had to buy temporary bedroom curtains, which are the only ones we have an active need for) and it feels like quite a mammoth task. Fortunately there is no real pressure other than my hatred for this blind. 

These are my stage one plans, and realistically it'll probably take me a good few months to get all of it together (for reasons of money, time, general pickiness). My first priority is making sure everything has a place to live, so pattern storage and scraps bins are where I'll start. I want to be able to unpack my patterns and put them straight into semi-organised boxes, and if I can do that in the week following the move, I should be in a place to start sewing again at the beginning of February. Not a huge amount of point in making myself a birthday dress this year, but that's not necessarily going to stop me! 

Monday 4 January 2021

autumn sewing: Hepburn tops and Plausible Deniability Trousers

 2021 is here! So far I've been alternately very sad and angry that we've Brexited, scared about how fast the new Covid variant is spreading in London and how poorly the response to it is being managed, and also somehow riding on a very small wave of motivation to get stuff done. The decorators are starting work on our green parrots bedroom today, I've drawn up approximately ninety lists and spreadsheets to manage our move and my health and general survival, and this week's plan is to get sewing again. 

Today I'm going to talk about a couple of things I made towards the tail end of last year and struggled to formulate useful thoughts on:

To begin, the Charm Patterns Hepburn top. The pattern is a mix-and-match one fairly typical of the company's style, and so far I've only made this one variant - basic dolman sleeve round-neck top. I have, however, made it four times, and three of them are made from this exact fabric. I bought two metres of it, ended up with closer to three metres because there was a big hole cut in it and he gave me that bit for free, and I thought I'd make a full loungewear set out of it. Instead I made three of these (two short sleeve, one long) because it is my perfect T-shirt. The pattern has French darts that create cup sizes up to G-H, thus allowing me to use a snuggly low-stretch knit and have it fit comfortably. The fabric and pattern together make up the nicest T-shirt I have ever owned, just beating out the Betty Boop T-shirt I bought from New Look in 1998 that was good enough quality to survive on heavy rotation for a full decade. 

However - and this is the reason the review took so long - I don't want this to come across as an unconditional recommendation for the pattern. I love the end product, I will make it again, I may even make some of the other versions. But I feel like this is one of the most "if you like that sort of thing" patterns I've ever used, and if you'd already dismissed it I wouldn't recommend you change your mind. If you don't like dolman sleeves or are bothered by any excess fabric near the armpit, if you don't like turned and stitched necklines... there are many reasons you might not like this. 

For me, it's amazing. My style in separates is very much black on top/colour on the bottom (I actually wish I had more colourful tops but I've never found a way to style them that I like) so this goes with every single thing I might ever need to wear it with. I love the neckline, I like that the back is a tiny bit different, and miraculously, it fits me in a way that doesn't ride up. I will wear these three identical tops to death, and if the fabric is still for sale at the market when we get out of lockdown (sob), I will buy a bunch more of it because it's perfect. I'm even looking forward to picking up some velvet and making the version with billowy sleeves!

One thing I would say even to people who don't have any misgivings about the style or construction is that this pattern really, really shows up mediocre fabric. Allow me to demonstrate:

This fabric is a ponte from Fabric Land that I've used before, and thought it was... fine. Nothing special, nothing terrible. I was happy to buy it again for this colour, which I really like on me. But in this pattern every single one of the fabric's weak points is really, really obvious. It's not thick enough to smooth nor thin enough to drape, it's a little too synthetic and a little too shiny (in an unintentional way), it clings oddly, and having a seam in this fabric running down the top of your arm is not something I would recommend. I will probably not keep this version, which is a shame because the colour is SO good. 

While we're here, I'm going to tell you a little bit about my Plausible Deniability Trousers. These were on my autumn sewing plans and also one of my Minerva projects. I tend to prefer not to mix the two so that I can keep my Minerva projects separate and not have a hole in my documentation here, but there was good quality black jersey on offer and I couldn't say no. 

I debated using an actual trouser pattern, but I didn't want to rush into that untested and had no back-up ponte lying around, so I made the pyjama bottoms from McCalls 7875. I've already made these twice in thicker jerseys and so I knew the fit would be OK. Rather than make the hem bands I just lengthened the pattern. I overcompensated in length slightly and I've taken them up a bit since I took these photos. They look fine here with wedge sandals, but... I am not wearing these with wedge sandals. I am wearing these with multiple pairs of furry slipper socks shoved inside an ankle boot. 

I'm really happy with my PDTs. They fulfil the "I don't want to go out today, but I could" niche perfectly. I don't know how many more pairs I want - it would be very easy to just switch to a wardrobe full of tracksuit bottoms and I know that wouldn't be great for my self-esteem - but I'm so pleased to have these. They have enabled me to leave the house more than once since I made them. 

Actual finished garment posts might be a bit sporadic for the next month or so while we get ready to move and get settled in the new place, but I do intend to carry on posting. I'm still working on a write-up of my most common fitting adjustments and I'm also going to do before/after posts on my new sewing space. Plus hopefully more! One of my non-sewing resolutions for 2021 is to finally unstick my writer's block and I want to be able to put together text posts that don't require the super-specific scope of you have to review this thing you made. Writing! I can do it! 

Charm Patterns Hepburn top

Fabric: French terry-type black ponte from Walthamstow
Cost: £6
Pattern details: Knit top with a V back, French darts and many different sleeve, neckline, and collar variations
Size: 10 G/H, blending out to 14 in the hips
Alterations: None
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Maybe