Monday 27 September 2021

autumn sewing: a Fumeterre (ish) maxi skirt

 Check me out, getting on with my plan.

I knew this skirt was going to be one of the first projects I made, mostly because I already had the fabric and pattern in mind and thus wouldn't have to do any more thinking, but also partly because I actively need it. This is proving to be a very stupid September that is neither summer nor autumn, and I've been sorely lacking transition pieces. Also I've been trying to get maxi skirts into my wardrobe for years and never really succeeded, so it was long past time to try again. 

(I am once again asking you to please excuse the wildly inconsistent lighting in my photos.)

I made the Deer&Doe Fumeterre skirt three times last year, and you've seen two of them. For these two I made the pattern up as it was, and it's turned out to be... not really what I want out of my skirts. I love the shape of it, but I've not been keen at all on the front fly or elasticated back, both of which seem to actively work against the way my body moves. I then made a third. I was still doing the Minerva thing at the time and this was a project for them, but it looks like this:

For this one I cut the fly extension pieces off the pattern and turned it into a zipped back with a faced waistline. I normally can't stand facings, but I couldn't work out how to cut a waistband so that the diagonal stripes looked aesthetically pleasing. I also ditched the patch pockets, which I've found to be not terribly useful, and replaced them with the S8380 pockets I keep banging on about. I cut one pocket piece out of the wool and one out of lining fabric, which works very nicely. This is unquestionably the version I've got the most wear out of, but it's limited by two things: one, the fabric is a fairly hefty wool and so only nice to wear when it's very cold, and two, I was incredibly stressed at the time and didn't think through my alterations. I didn't compensate for there not being elastic in the back and consequently it's a little too big. Not unwearably so, but noticeable. I wanted another version, without these problems.

For Fumeterre Version 4 (which, by the way, I am delighted with and will be making multiple times more) I kept the back zip and change of pockets from version three, but reinstated the waistband. I could more or less use the original pattern pieces, with the back waistband piece now used as the front. I shaved off a couple of centimetres from the back seam and the now back waistband pieces to compensate for the removal of the elastic and it fits beautifully. I put a press stud closure in the back waistband. All four versions have the hem facing, which I still love. 

I ended up not putting a lining in this one (still a little gun shy from version two, where the lining arguably fucked it up) and I have yet to determine whether I'll regret it. I was hoping to have done some test runs by now, but instead I have been isolating because Patrick has raging Covid. There was a "reconnection event" at his company last Thursday that turned out to be extremely poorly ventilated and someone showed up with the rona, so now half the office is out sick. He's been really ill with it all week and it's horrible. He's never had a virus worse than this in his life. Miraculously I seem to have not caught it, despite living in a very small house with him and having an immune system that's basically one old man with a blunt stick. I do have an intermittent cough, but the tests aren't showing anything, so a round of applause to AstraZeneca, I guess. He's still not well and won't be going anywhere for a while, but technically his isolation period ends tomorrow so I can leave the house again. 

All of which is to say, I don't know how the skirt works with tights and anti-chafe shorts yet. If it turns out to be unworkable I might try to make a skirt slip. It's not something I've really considered before but if I'm going to make several other maxi skirts anyway I should get a decent amount of use out of it. 

This was a pretty simple project, but for some reason it made me feel really accomplished. I'm really pleased with the modifications, the fit, and the finishing. I'm especially pleased with the way the waistband turned out; it's something I often have trouble with, but this one lined up nicely and pressed into placed with minimal faffing. I think this skirt is going to serve me really well as a transitional piece, and I got excited enough after finishing it to cut out another version immediately thereafter. 

I've had a fair amount of time for cutting and sewing this past week since Patrick hasn't been using the workspace we share. I finished the pyjamas but I don't like them - I will probably wear them around the house anyway but there's something about the fabric that's kind of uniquely unflattering when it's on my body and I couldn't get any decent photos. They will definitely not be the "nice pyjamas that I wear to stay at someone else's house" that I was hoping for. I have a couple of other things at the "almost finished" stage and next week you'll see whichever one I finished first. Assuming, of course, that my cabin-fevered ass doesn't leave the house on Tuesday morning and spend a full week running around fields in wider and wider circles, shouting at the air. I'm not promising anything. 

Monday 20 September 2021

extremely delayed spring sewing: upton maxi dress

You may recall that I showed you this fabric in April and stated my intention to make a spring maxi dress with it that I wasn't sure I was going to like.  Well, now it's autumn and I have an autumn maxi dress I'm not sure if I like! OK, that's not fair. It's more that I have an autumn maxi dress that I like but I'm not sure if I'll wear. Let's talk about it!

As you see, this is a super romantic dress. I knew it would be - the pairing of this fabric and this kind of pattern was only going to end up in one place - and I knew it was going to be a bit of a risk to make. Unsurprisingly I'm not yet sure how comfortable I am in it, but I do think it's a very pretty dress that I would like to be comfortable in. 

The pattern is the expanded version of the Cashmerette Upton dress. I don't love the trend towards paid pattern expansions, particularly since it usually seems to be "one extra sleeve type" or "a neckline change that could definitely just have been a blog post", but the Upton pack seemed to have a lot of different options that could make it worth it to me. In fact, when I came to print and cut out, I found that all I needed from the original pattern were the waistband and pocket pieces. I used the princess seam bodice, fitted sleeve with ready-made full bicep adjustment, and the maxi length gored skirt.

I knew I wanted to make a square neck, but I also thought the square neck on the pattern was too small and would look a bit frumpy on me. I was already concerned that a long-sleeved maxi amount of pale pink would be too much and I was keen to have less of it next to my face. Cutting it this much wider and lower presents a whole different set of challenges, but I had been watching a bunch of period dramas and wanted this look specifically. Since the whole thing was a bit of a punt anyway, I decided I might as well go for it and work out how to deal with the issues as I went.

Obviously, the main problem with this neckline in a woven fabric is that it doesn't especially want to stay on the shoulders. I attempted to get round this by attaching narrow lengths of elastic into the seam allowance around each shoulder and across the front. This mostly worked - it does create a tiny bit of a puff at the shoulders but fortunately I think that's quite pretty. 

The fitted sleeve with the built-in full bicep adjustment works really nicely for me, which I'm pleased about because that was a decent chunk of my motivation to make this dress. 

If I were to do this again I'd cut a high neckline on the back bodice rather than the V. I think it would help the shoulders sit better (and also I think the V is too high up to be aesthetically pleasing on this version, though I'm not sure if that's the pattern or something I did accidentally while fiddling with things). I would also probably change the pocket situation. The gored skirt sits a bit too close to my hips for the pockets to be as useful as I'd like, so I'd most likely not bother with them at all in future. If I thought they were really necessary I'd switch out the pocket that comes with the pattern for the Simplicity 8380, my favourite pocket, which anchors into the waist seam and doesn't get in the way so much. 

I suspect the biggest issue I'll have with actually integrating this into my wardrobe is its heft. The fabric is a really beautiful heavy crepe that makes a beautiful dress, but with the long skirt and long sleeves it does weigh me down a little bit and I'll have to be careful what sort of weather I wear it in. This is not a dress I can just sling a jacket over, so it's also harder to make more casual. I'm currently in the process of making a shorter dress from the remnants of this fabric, and if that works it'll probably be a little easier to wear regularly. I'm not at all sad that I made this version, though. I don't have anything with this kind of "English country garden" vibe and it's really nice to be able to dress up in other aesthetics sometimes. 

Up next will hopefully be the first completed project from my autumn plan! I'm working on three of them at once because that's where my brain is right now (she says, with plans to cut out another three today) and they're all coming on very nicely. I'm quite excited about actually being able to follow a plan again. Until then!

Cashmerette Upton expansion pack

Fabric: Floral heavy crepe with slight stretch from Walthamstow Market
Cost: approx. £20
Pattern details: Fitted dress with cup sizes - darted and princess seam bodice options, multiple necklines, flutter and fitted sleeves (the latter with a choice of regular or full bicep), pleated and gored skirts in different lengths, and a waistband piece to make a standalone skirt
Size: 12 G/H in the bodice, blending out to 16 in the hips
Alterations: Change of neckline to be wider and deeper
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday 13 September 2021

two easy kielo dresses

Hello! Today we have something you've seen a million times before and will see a million times again! 

Yet more Kielo dresses! What can I say, they work for me. I'd always intended to make more this year; I reluctantly put my first two into fabric recycling and I wanted to recreate the exact same things in better quality fabric, but those have been pushed back because a) that better quality fabric was nowhere to be found and b) there were maybe seventeen minutes all summer where I would have considered wearing a sleeveless dress. So I turned to some slightly more versatile versions. 

Standard Kielo is standard: free sleeve add-on from the Named blog, fabric from Walthamstow, scooped-out neckline because I wanted a little less of the print near my face. The only thing I did differently from usual was to not put the back darts in, and then wondered why on earth I'd spent so many years putting slim contour darts in jersey. It makes not one whit of difference and I'll never go back. 

This has been a surprisingly useful dinner dress; it's both dressed up and not at the same time, which I like. It's been far too muggy to try it with tights but hopefully that will work out too. I have zero idea how I'll pair that with shoes, mind you. Patrick and I both went trainers-only at the beginning of the first lockdown because the only thing we were doing was going to nine million house viewings on foot, and then we sort of forgot to go back again and now my feet react with indignance and fury any time I try to put them into proper shoes. 

(I took these photos on one of the very few sunny days we had and of course it was far too sunny and all posing had to be based around averting my eyes. This will not be a problem for the second set of photos.)

The second version I made was an answer to this summer specifically. Too warm and muggy to be wearing clothes intended for colder months, but also too grey and unseasonable to be comfortable in my usual summer fare. Bright dresses and jumpsuits have just felt like a lie. 

(Yeah, this is what it really looks like out here.)

This fabric is from Fabric Land and is a very narrow black, grey and pale pink stripe. Design-wise it's absolutely perfect for a not-summer maxi, but the actual substrate is kind of weird. The only way I can find to describe it is that it seems to forget that it's stretchy. The whole bodice likes to shift upwards and push the neckline away from my body, and I have to keep rearranging myself. The fabric especially does not like being a neckband and if I ever come across a fabric that won't look like ass with this dress, I really think I'll cut it off and redo it. I don't know how often people who read this blog are influenced to buy or not buy fabric from what I write, but just in case: do not recommend. 

Even with that inconvenience, the dress is just the perfect thing and I've been wearing it all the time, usually with trainers and a denim jacket. This will keep me going through spring and autumn and I'm definitely going to make another one with a similar vibe (though I probably won't make it the subject of a post). Finding the right fabric is going to be a challenge for me as I'm not often drawn to the everyday prints above the eyecatching ones or the bright solids, but the maxi dress is my spiritual home and I'd really like to spend a larger proportion of the year wearing them. 

Me: [decides to take a short break from writing this post to look for suitable fabric]
Also me: [finds bright-ass yellow tiger print jersey instead and wonders if the definition of "everyday print" can be stretched that far]

I don't have much more to say about this pattern or either dress I made from it, so instead I'll share with you a small triumph from my month so far: after literal years of writer's block that hasn't been helped by any of the methods I've tried to get through it, I have managed to write a small amount of fiction every day of September so far. It doesn't sound huge when it's put like that, but it is. A plot hasn't really emerged yet but I do have the beginnings of a set of characters that feel real to me and have relationships that I understand, which has always been the best point for me to start from. I'm really looking forward to seeing what I have at the end of the month and I'm genuinely impressed that I managed to make myself do the thing with absolutely zero outside impetus to do so. 

I'm not sure what will be up next. I have several things completed and waiting to be photographed, as well as the first few things from my autumn plan in progress, so I'm a bit spoilt for choice. We'll see which one proves easiest to write about, I think!

Monday 6 September 2021

sewing plan: autumn 2021

 Alright! We're going to have another go at this. I haven't made a functional plan since this time last year (I think we can all agree the spring one didn't count), but once I'd got on top of things a little I knew I needed some kind of structure for autumn so I didn't just flail and make, like, a seven-foot viscose jersey mediaeval cape or something. 

I bought three new pieces of fabric at the market on Thursday, and everything else is pulled from my stash. Because I've not been sewing much my stash is getting to the point where it's bigger than I'm comfortable with (i.e. two mostly full shelves where I can't immediately see everything I've got) and I'd like to use this time to whittle it back down again. The perfectly curated and themed mini-collection can wait. 

What I've done this time, and what I hope to continue to do, is photograph all the fabrics so you can more easily see what I'm talking about. I really hate photographing fabric because it's so difficult to get it looking nice, but slightly crap pictures and a handy visual aid is better than nothing at all, I've decided. 

My plans, divided into three vague categories:

Dinner dresses

I keep having the issue of booking a dinner out with Patrick or with some friends, thinking it would be quite nice to dress up a bit, going to my wardrobe, and realising everything in there is either very casual or very fancy. It's always tough for me to decide against the floor-length version of any given pattern, but I also generally don't want to wear said gowns to the local seafood place. So my plan this month is to make myself a small collection of shorter, semi-fancy dresses that let me feel like it's a special occasion without going overboard. This is what I have:

a piece of dark sea green viscose with bright orange flowers

This is one of my Walthamstow picks from last week. It's a little bit outside my usual realm but I really love the combination of muted sea green and bright-ass orange, and I could instantly picture it as a just-above-the-knee wrap dress. I haven't yet decided if this is going to be my first attempt at a shorter Elodie or if I want something with flutter sleeves. 

pink, grey and black hazy floral viscose

You might remember this from my April fabric haul. I've used most of it on a maxi dress (which is almost finished), but I think there's enough left to squeeze out an Anna bodice/Butterick 4443 skirt dress, like this one. I think that would be super useful for spontaneous date night-type things. 

dusty blue linen-mix fabric with abstract navy squares

Yep, still haven't cut into this. I've been holding out for a giant maxi dress, but am now thinking it's not meant to be. I've made nothing but maxis these past couple of months, and this has gone untouched because I can't come up with a maxi dress pattern that makes sense for it. So I'm going to set my mind to a shorter, more casual evening dress (date night at the gastropub sort of thing) and then work out what to do with the other two or three metres of it. 

a piece of black fabric with an extremely large cream and teal floral border print

This fabric is effing beautiful in person, and making it into a dress depends on my working out what to do with that print. As you see it's enormous - each panel is about two feet long - and I don't want to chop it up (it was, for me, fairly pricey and I couldn't afford enough of it to do multi-panel pattern matching), but it's also not a fabric that I think would lend itself well to heavy gathering. I would love any suggestions!

Useful stuff

A pair of somewhat slimmer-leg trousers

I have been wearing wide leg trousers almost exclusively for several years. I've made a few pairs of slimmer leg ones, and I've always run into problems with them. Usually the issue is that if I make what looks like a well-fitting pair when I'm standing up they strain over my thighs when I sit down, and if I make them with enough room to sit down comfortably in they look like they're the wrong size when I stand up.  I want to try again and see if I can get there. In an ideal world I'd be working with the block I made in class last January, but I've been struggling to get my head round that so if I see a random pattern I like I'll run with it. I've got the below weighty paisley viscose to toile them with; I bought it in a panic a while ago when I wasn't sure I was going to find what I was looking for and I'm more than happy for it to become toile fodder. 

a piece of navy and cream paisley viscose

A pair of cords

This is the one thing I don't have fabric for. and thus may not happen. I have been wanting a pair of cords for years but every pair I make sits in under my belly in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I still want them. If I manage to make the above trousers work I will order myself some corduroy and have another go. 

A pyjama set

Now that we're in a place to be able to travel long enough distances to stay overnight with friends, I need something a little bit more co-ordinated to take with me to sleep in. I have three metres of this grey floral jersey (this is a particularly bad photo and I apologise) and I'm going to make two of my TNTs - the trousers of the Closet Core Sallie and the Gertie cropped sweater as a T-shirt. 

a piece of grey jersey with a small black floral print

An autumn maxi skirt

In London at the moment it's both definitely not summer anymore but not really the colder months either, and I've had no idea what to wear. So I've been wearing the same two things on rotation, which never makes me feel good. I bought this bright yellow midweight viscose with a pseudo-animal print on my most recent trip, and I'm going to make an altered version of the Deer&Doe Fumeterre, probably with a lining so it won't stick to tights. 

yellow viscose with animal print-like spots

Things I do not need but am making anyway

A corset

Baby's First Corset was on my resolutions list for this year and I still really want to give it a go. Because I've had trouble getting my head around it my intention is to just buy a kit - Sew Curvy has a kit for a simple black underbust corset with all the materials included (including extra stuff to make a toile with, which is a great idea), and my plan is to acquire and make that. I'm hoping to get a sense of how difficult it is to fit a corset, how easy/annoying the process is, and whether this is something I'd like to continue. 

A dress for my lizard brain

Walthamstow also had this on Thursday:

bright raspberry leopard print velvet!

That is raspberry leopard velvet and I absolutely do not need it but my lizard brain screamed until I bought it. I'm not a hundred percent sure what it will be yet; options include the Anna/tulip skirt dress I used to make all the time, a cowl neck version of the Named Ruska dress, Simplicity 8380 or some version of Butterick 6621. Essentially I want something I could conceivably wear to drink whisky at a burlesque night. Edit: after I wrote this whole plan I actually booked myself into a burlesque night so the dress will have both an occasion and a deadline. End of September for the leopard dress!

Whatever I can work out to do with this

heavy blue fabric of unknown makeup with a slight sheen to it

I would really like to use this, because I love the substrate and the colour so much. I was pretty sure I was going to end up caving and making a full-length evening dress, but then I realised that the combination of solid colour and slight satin-like sheen to the fabric would make me look like a bridesmaid. And now I can't work out what it becomes instead. Do I make a shorter dress? Is it weird to have slightly satiny trousers? Would it work as a maxi skirt or would that still look like I'd removed the top from a bridesmaid's dress? I want this to be in my wardrobe and not my cupboard, so I WILL find the solution to this over the next couple of months. 

This plan is, I will accept, slightly more chaotic than usual. I don't usually allow myself so many "well, I don't know which pattern yet, but..." projects, and I can only submit that I have a few definites to get me started and then a bunch of things I'm actually quite excited about. I'm excited to wear all these fabrics, and by all these fabrics I don't just mean the raspberry leopard velvet but the raspberry leopard velvet will get much higher priority than it should. It's sitting opposite me as I write and I just keep... looking at it. Ahem. Anyway. 

Up next: a few miscellaneous jersey projects!