Monday 30 August 2021

some Lucille trousers and a bonus Hepburn top

I did not make it to Walthamstow last week. I was not feeling well and stressful things were happening (until Thursday we still had a level of obligation to the horrible old Flat of Doom, which have now finally been dispensed with. Much to our amusement, the landlord apparently thought he could just... sell it? As it was, with the warped floorboards and illegal wiring and massive amounts of obvious mould and water damage? And was astonished to hear that he couldn't charge the best part of a million pounds for that? Both a cheapskate AND a dumbass, it turns out), and I wasn't feeling up to it. You need a certain amount of resilience for a busy local market in times where all restrictions have been lifted but you'd still rather not get Covid. So here instead are some finished things! 

I joined Gertie's Patreon for a few months this year, thinking it would probably be worth it because historically I've got on very well with her drafting and sizing, and I downloaded several patterns I'm planning to try out (I've since unsubscribed because I found the Charm Scout thing insufferable - it's entirely valid to like that kind of branding, but I can't stand it. I was a Girl Guide, and I was extraordinarily bad at it). I started with the pattern I was most interested in, the Lucille Trousers:

I was fully taken in by the original photos, which had several models wearing the trousers in a variety of solid jewel tones paired with black T-shirts, which is extremely my aesthetic, so I just... copied it. You might recognise this crepe from my last fabric haul post, and it makes a cracking pair of trousers. It's soft, it's drapey, it doesn't wrinkle when I sit down, it wasn't an absolute bastard to press. If he'd had this in other colours I would have bought every single one. 

I will confess I had to go back to the market and buy more of this, because I cannot describe to you how incompetent my first attempt at this pattern was. I was deeply unfocused and things kept going wrong in ways I couldn't even parse. It's happened enough times now that I need to make it a rule: if I fuse the interfacing to the visible side of the fabric, I am not in the right mindspace to be sewing and should stop immediately. This second attempt went much more smoothly and I had a nice wearable pair of trousers after a day's work. Once again I found that Gertie's draft works pretty well for my shape, and because the trousers are so roomy I was able to just make a straight size instead of blending out. 

I've worn these a looooot over the past few months. They fit well, they're comfortable, I'm as happy to wear them around the house as I am outside, they have excellent deep pockets, and they're a bit less stupidly wide leg than the 7726 trousers I've been wearing for years (and still do, don't get me wrong, I'm wearing them right now). And yet I'm still not sure if I think they look good on me? The waist is very, very high, which I sometimes think looks cool and sometimes think looks ridiculous. It's less the actual trousers and more that my visual instinct is very sure there should be more space between waistband and boobs. Something I'd quite like to do is to experiment with making a facing for these trousers, so they just hit at the natural waist. I'd need to change the lapped zip to an invisible, but that's not a huge alteration. 

I also made a second Hepburn T-shirt from my spring haul fabric, and while I have been wearing this I don't love it anywhere near as much as my black ones. The standard pontes I buy don't seem to quite work for this pattern as well as I might like, so next time I think I'll find myself a thicker French terry. 

(Please excuse scenery change. There were very weird things going on with the light when I was taking these pictures.)

I definitely want to have another go at the trousers once I find a suitable fabric. After three months of extremely consistent wear I still don't know how I feel about the waist, so I'd like to try additional pairs both made up as is and also with the waistline brought down a little. I'm also planning to continue trying the Patreon patterns I downloaded - I'll definitely be making the knit tops and the shorts, and I'm currently trying to determine whether I like the Swing Coat as a pattern or if I'm just taken in by the photos of the bright red version with the dramatic lining. It's probably the latter, if I'm honest. 

Up next: an actual seasonal sewing plan! Unless I don't make it to Walthamstow again! In which case it will have to wait! 

Charm Patterns Lucille trousers (Patreon)

Fabric: Violet crepe from Walthamstow Market
Cost: £9
Pattern details: Wide-leg, super high waisted trousers with deep pockets, front pleats, a back lapped zip, and a choice of straight waistband or shaped one with fisheye darts
Size: 14
Alterations: None
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday 23 August 2021

sewing room part two: progress

Many months later, I haven't forgotten about this! It's taken a while because, frankly, it's been a tip since we moved in. We made everywhere else look nice and then had a load of boxes and other stuff left undealt with, so it all ended up in here until I randomly hyperfocused and cleared it all up at the beginning of August. 

We haven't done a huge amount to it, honestly. Patrick and I had very little furniture when we moved in and all our money went on things like a decent bed and sofas and dining set, so we've really not been able to afford any new kit for either of our halves of the room. (Patrick bought the cheapest desk that Argos had to offer for his half, on the understanding that when money was less tight he'd upgrade it, and it is truly wretched and he complains about it every time he looks at it. Do not buy the cheapest Argos desk, the ball bearings will somehow fall out of the drawer runners and you will be finding them FOREVER even though there weren't many in there to begin with.) And of course, we don't have any intention of redecorating and getting rid of the flamingos. But I have set everything up as I think I'll be wanting it, and here are a couple of pictures:

As it stands: iron and ironing board permanently set up by the window. I haven't yet bought a new ironing board - I assumed I would be getting the exact same one my mum has, as I mentioned in the first post, but not only does it not have a brand name or any other identifying marks on it, it's also apparently deleted itself from her purchase history. I'm still salty about it. My interim scraps bin (otherwise known as Patrick's old disintegrating laundry basket) is underneath it, and that will be replaced asap because it is literally falling to sharp spiky wicker pieces and I've injured myself multiple times already. Next to that are my notions drawers and a small basket for escaped pattern pieces, and my sewing desk itself is against the wall next to the door:

 This desk is also in line to be replaced when we can afford it - it's increasingly rickety and because of the drawer on the right side, doesn't really lend itself to sewing on two machines. It's not unworkable, so that will probably be one of the last things that happens. Ideally I would like a corner desk, so that I can switch between machines easily but also have drawer space, then I can repurpose the plastic ones. I'm really keen to get some art up in this corner so I'm not looking at a blank wall. I bought a print that I thought really encapsulated everything I wanted, but when it arrived the actual print wasn't very good (it was never meant to be that large and it looked wrong blown up) and now of course my brain has decided that all the art should be stuff I've made, so I have to either pick or take the right photo, and then possibly get into cross-stitch so there are some smaller things to hang up. Patrick has no such ideas for his half and has declared his intention to just have a Kraftwerk poster and a Carly Rae Jepsen poster.

The one thing I have bought is a full-length mirror, which was very difficult to photograph so this will have to do (it's a WIP shot of last week's dress I took a little while ago, so you can still see evidence of the Box Dump. The hat is a whole other story). I find it basically impossible to sew without a proper mirror and the house otherwise doesn't have one, so we prioritised this (after, y'know, the bed and the fridge and stuff). It's next to the desk, which is the best place I can find to put it for now. 

I've also acquired some storage boxes for my patterns and I've put them away categorised by frequency of use, as I planned. I thought about taking photos of the inside of my cupboard, but you wouldn't like it. Workable storage for me isn't very pretty and I'm certain it would upset people. If you are prone to your eye twitching when you see things that are a bit off, I assure you your eye would twitch. But it works, all my patterns are actually put away rather than randomly stuffed out of sight, I know where to find everything, and it's generally much easier to sew now. 

Updated list of possible changes and acquisitions, now in some sort of priority order:

- some art for the walls. I know this is an odd choice for highest priority, but I have everything that's actively and immediately necessary. What I think will make the biggest difference to my creativity and motivation to be in the sewing room is being able to see colour and joy rather than just blank cream walls when I'm sat at the desk. As I said above, I'm currently going through my past photography to see if I have anything that would suit. 

- a magnetic whiteboard to keep track of projects currently on the go, ideas I've had, and any supplies I'm running low on. That will probably go next to the window. 

- a replacement scraps bin for the wicker liability I'm currently using. (I made a small fabric basket for bits of thread and overlocker offcuts, which is on the drawers in the pictures above but is also dark grey so not especially visible.)

- a smart speaker. This is Patrick's insistence - I like to listen to music while I sew and it doesn't bother me to use my phone for that, but the inferior sound quality stresses him out whenever he comes into the room (music nerds gonna music nerd). We have Sonos speakers downstairs - we're not into digital assistant or voice-activated ones - and we'd get the same again for this room. 

- a new ironing board when I can find one that meets my particular specifications.

- a small table for whatever my current work-in-progress is, so that it doesn't live on the ironing board and set a dangerous precedent. 

- corner desk and office chair, which are some way off but I'm looking forward to them. 

There are other, bigger things I also want, but they won't fit in the room while we're sharing it and I don't want to start planning for them until I know if and when we're getting Patrick's garden office. Basically I want a large fold-out cutting table and a dress form in my measurements, the latter especially. It would make a huge difference to my amateurish attempts to learn to fit things if I could experiment on a replica me, and I would definitely hate hemming less if I could hang the garment on something my shape while I pinned it. Also there's a part of me that's convinced the acquisition of a Jen-shaped dress form would open up a whole new world of creativity and I'd be making all sorts of cool shit. This will almost certainly not happen, but I have been enjoying watching YouTube videos of garment draping and pretending I could totally do that too if only I had the equipment. 

My plan is to do another post in this series in the winter, when all the things are on the walls, possibly one when the whole list is done if the room looks appreciably different, and if/when I take over the whole room I'll do another couple of posts about plans and acquisitions for the extra space. I don't want to beat this succession of posts into the ground but I do think it'll be useful - mostly for me, but hopefully also others, especially those with neurodivergence to accommodate - to have a record of what I thought I needed vs what it turns out I actually need once I've been working in this space for a while. 

Up next will either be my autumn sewing plan or a a pair of trousers, depending on whether or not I'm able to make it to Walthamstow this week. I think it's going to be a bit of a stressful one, and it's 50/50 whether my stress manifests as extravagant fabric purchases or hiding inside with a pint of ice cream. We shall see! 

Monday 16 August 2021

an Anna dress and some feelings

 I'll be frank here: this dress makes me a bit sad. 

This is a By Hand London Anna dress that I made to wear as a bridesmaid's dress to the wedding of one of my oldest friends. On the week of the wedding, I finished the dress on the Tuesday... and the following day got pinged by bloody Test and Trace and had to self-isolate until the Friday after the wedding. I had to FaceTime into the wedding, which was half an hour down the road from me, feeling absolutely physically fine (PCR tests confirmed no Covid for me) and it made me so, so sad. I took these photos on the day of her wedding in the hope of being awkwardly photoshopped into the actual wedding photos later on, so fair warning they are mostly very stupid. And now I have this dress, and I really don't know if I'll be able to wear it. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that it's got feelings stuck to it now. 

The fabric is a viscose I ordered from The Textile Centre (she'd asked us to wear blue and suddenly I could not find blue fabric anywhere) and it worked really well for the pattern. Not super thin, plenty of drape, none of that weird plastic-type feel you can sometimes get with cheap stuff labelled viscose. I used my original Anna pattern with FBA rather than the newer one with the built-in D cup because the shoulders of the largest size were too big for me. I went up 1.5 sizes in the waist on the assumption I'd be eating a big dinner and drinking a lot, and put some ties in at the side seams so that it would be somewhat adjustable depending on what portion of the day we were in. If I decide I can get over my feelings and wear this again, I'll probably take it in a bit because it's not massively flattering when not cinched. The neckline is finished with a bias facing because we all know I hate the facing that comes with this pattern. 

Honestly, that's about as much as I have to say about the dress itself. This is the kind of thing that under normal circumstances I either would not bother blogging or shove in at the bottom of a different post as a bonus. But I have not made much recently, and I have a bunch of photos of me being a dork and pretending I'm at a wedding, so I'm going to put some of them here and chat for a bit instead. 

(I would not have worn these yellow suede heels to the actual wedding, despite them being the shoes I most often wear to weddings, because it was chucking it down for most of the day and they would not have survived. You'd think you'd be fairly free from that sort of thing booking your wedding for early August, but NOPE.)

I also FaceTimed into the toasts. We tend to keep half-bottles of fizz for when we want to celebrate something but aren't up for ploughing our way through a full bottle, which was especially fortunate that day because Patrick, though he was also confirmed Covid-negative, was sick as the proverbial and absolutely not up for joining me in a glass of mediocre Cremant. I also had a tiny wedding disco, all by myself. Spotify wedding party playlists are atrocious, by the way. I know the party isn't the first dance and it's not particularly important that lyrics be wedding-appropriate and such, but who is playing Pony by Ginuwine at their wedding? And is there footage of it? 

[general representation of me at a wedding. I hope they just photoshop this into the background of every single crowd shot]

All of which is to say, it's been a weird time inside of a weird time, ten days of not leaving the house was NOT good for me and the fate of this dress remains uncertain. For now I've put it away, and maybe in a month or two I'll have a look at it again. If summer suddenly happens in September like it did a few years ago, I might even try to wear it. I hope I can make peace with it, because I do think it's very pretty. We shall see. 

[also general representation of me at a wedding]

I'm extremely looking forward to my family coming to visit this weekend (and also terrified that it will be prevented by threatened or actual Covid). We've booked Sunday lunch for my mum's birthday but otherwise keeping things fairly low-key, staying away from London's biggest crowds and having a good time with the wine cabinet. Before that happens I'm hoping to get some sewing done; I have a bright red Sallie jumpsuit cut out that I'd really like to complete this week. Not that we'll have the weather for it, but I would still like to own that jumpsuit now. 

Up next: finally an update on the sewing room! What's done, what's to come, general fantasies about owning a dress form and becoming some kind of draping genius running away with me! 

Monday 9 August 2021

re-emerging from the darkness with an Elodie dress

Four months later, I'm back. I've learned my lesson about stating definitively that I'm totally back for real this time you guys - I'm still not well, I can't rely on my health or motivation, and making promises about things I don't end up being able to deliver stresses me right out. But I have actually completed several garments that don't suck, and I have multiple posts written and ready to go, so this is a much more sensible attempt at a return to regular blogging than the previous ones. So with that in mind, here's a dress!

I've been thinking about the Closet Core Patterns Elodie dress since it was released, trying to decide if I wanted to make it or not. My recollection is that they released it at the very end of summer last year, and I didn't buy it then because I wouldn't get any use out of it for the best part of a year. I'd bought some fabric that I thought would be an amazing full-length wrap dress, and I went back and forth for months wondering whether it would work with the Elodie pattern. That fabric continues to sit in my cupboard (it's one I'm very keen to actually wear and I do not want to mess it up by pairing it incorrectly), but I did, finally, get round to a test run of the pattern itself. 

Here it is! The fabric is a viscose from Fabric Land; it was part of a small haul my mum gave me as a belated birthday present. (The rest of said haul is cut out but not sewn yet and I hope you'll be seeing it over the next month or two.) I picked this piece specifically to be a test run of the Elodie, because I liked it and would be happy to wear it but wouldn't feel the need to be precious about it, and I knew the pattern would work in this type of light, drapey fabric. I thought a functional version would help me decide whether my intended fabric would be too thick. 

First off, I like this fabric so much more as a dress than I did on the roll. It makes a really amazing - and very me - dramatic summer wrap dress that I honestly wasn't expecting to be as taken by as I am. It's not remotely outside of my comfort zone or current style arena, but also I don't really have anything else like this, which is exactly what I need at a point when I'm struggling a fair bit. It's an unexpectedly vintage sort of vibe, which I haven't dabbled with in a while and I'm rather enjoying. Shame it's been raining all summer, eh. This dress has had exactly three outings, one of which barely counts because I wore it downstairs to dinner at the hotel I was staying in while a storm raged on outside. 

Construction was fairly simple, and I was pleased that the hole for the wrap was in the middle of the waistband so it didn't get in the way of me French seaming everything. I cut a size 12 in the shoulders and a 16 everywhere else (the skirt is sufficiently flared that I didn't need to bother sizing up in the hips). I didn't put the patch pockets on because frankly I have zero use for a viscose patch pocket, but I otherwise made the pattern up entirely as directed. 

My one complaint with this pattern is the neckline finishing. I will freely admit to being biased against facings in general, but I especially hate them on wrap styles. The wrap on this is high enough that things are basically fine when standing, but it does gape noticeably when I sit down unless I'm keeping a very close eye on things. Woven wraps are tricky in general, I think, and the only finishing method I've ever really liked is the Victory Patterns Trina, which is finished with bias binding and all three of my versions stay very firmly put whenever I wear them. 

I find that the skirt fronts overlap sufficiently as to be pretty secure unless there's a serious wind blowing (which did happen!) and in taking these photos I had to do a full runway stomp towards the camera to get my lower leg to show. I feel very covered up in this dress. While talking about the skirt it's probably worth mentioned that there was a ton of bias drop and I would strongly recommend hanging it up for a couple of days before hemming it. 

I don't think I will be making another using my originally intended fabric - having worn this version around a bit, I do think it would be too thick. What I do plan to try is a shorter version, to see if I like it. This full length version is incredibly fabric-hungry (it has to be cut on a single layer because the skirt pieces are super wide) and so I won't want to make it that often if I need to buy five metres every time. I haven't historically liked a shorter, fuller skirt on me, but I do want to give it a try and see what I think. For a long time now I've been missing a "dinner dress", something relatively non-restrictive that I can wear when Patrick and I go out that's not something I wear day-to-day (so that I can feel like I'm dressing up) but also isn't particularly OTT (so I don't feel self-conscious), and this is exactly the kind of style that might work, so I'm keen for a test run. On any future versions I'm going to swap out the neckline finishing, probably for the Trina's bias binding method. 

(For these photos I went for the "literally just standing on the deck" view of our garden, which is basically the only way to get OK light when it's sunny. You'll observe a ton of greenery behind me, and there's actually a secret extra part of the garden behind that, which will be an excellent photo location when I can get to it again. The previous owners had planted a load of insidious bamboo, and Patrick spent a full day chopping it down then promptly had a massive health crash, so there's currently giant piles of dead bamboo blocking the path. I tried to clamber over it to take some pictures once, and I fell over and cut my hands in three places, so I'm not doing that again until the dead bamboo is gone.)

I'm glad to have written and posted again. This blog is incredibly important for me because writing things down is the only way I can remember what I've done and what I'm intending to do and the fact that I haven't been blogging is a huge part of the reason I haven't been sewing, but this year has been hard. Fingers crossed that this autumn will bring some proper medication and a slightly easier-to-navigate world. 

Next week's post is already scheduled, so I'll see you then! 

Closet Core Patterns Elodie dress

Fabric: Tropical print viscose from Fabric Land
Cost: £30
Pattern details: Woven wrap dress in three skirt lengths and two sleeve lengths, with waistband, faced neckline, and optional patch pockets
Size: 12 in the shoulders, 16 everywhere else
Alterations: None
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes