Monday, 27 June 2022

spring sewing: a wedding guest dress (and bonus very similar dress)

I said in my last post that I'd had a pretty heavy week, and the week following was somehow even worse. I have a massive amount of shit to sort out and I feel incredibly lucky that I happen to be in a place where I'm healthy enough to advocate for myself right now. I don't want to think about what might have happened to Past Jen in this situation. (I'm being vague on purpose, but please be assured that I'm going to be OK, my partner and family are supporting me, nobody else has died since last Friday.) Things are pretty tough, there's a lot of work to do, the news from the US is utterly horrifying, and I just have not had the mental space for sewing. Fortunately I'd already written the rest of this post, so here it is. 

This dress was made for the wedding of a relative of mine (I think the technical term is first cousin once removed, but we've always spent a lot of time with them). They are not well off at all and were determined to only invite people who were a genuine presence in their lives regardless of what etiquette would normally dictate about inviting person X and not person Y. I honestly didn't expect to be invited at first and wanted to show that I appreciated the significance of it. When I put the project into my plans, I had no fabric and no real idea of what I was looking for. I don't normally allow myself to do that because it usually leads to never finding anything and not even getting started, but the fact of having an occasion and a deadline, I thought, would add enough pressure to make sure things actually happened. For once, I was correct.

As soon as I saw this fabric in one of the Walthamstow shops I knew it was right. It's not something I would have otherwise bought (this is extremely not my usual style of print) but it has the exact vibe I had in mind for this wedding and is also vibrant enough to still feel somewhat like me. The substrate is viscose, light enough for a summer wedding but not so light as to be see-through. 

I also knew as soon as I saw the fabric that it called for something a little... swooshier than I'm used to making. I haven't made a skirt fuller than an A-line in five years and had fully assumed I never would again. If a quick scroll back through my blog post list is to be believed, I've only made one woven dress that wasn't either a maxi or a wrap (or both) in the last four years and I didn't even like that one. I think my assumption when I wrote my plan was that I would use the knee-length version of the Anna skirt, but I was extremely uninspired by the idea of an Anna dress in this fabric. So I went trawling through my pattern boxes and found the Sew Over It Doris dress, which I made exactly once in my first year of sewing and never wore. The skirt pattern has more exaggerated gores than any other I've owned, so it's quite fitted over the hips but provides a decent amount of swish at the hem. I ran up a quick toile (which you will see shortly) to make sure I didn't hate it, and decided to pair it with the Cashmerette Upton bodice. 

Originally I had intended the sleeves to be flutter sleeves, and that's what I cut, but I ended up chopping them right back when I tried the dress on. Every now and then I have another go at flutter sleeves and I always end up cutting them back because they look really matronly on me. I went somewhere in between the two skirt lengths the pattern provides to get it to hit just above my knees (I'm just over 5'8", for reference). I put in my standard side seam pockets and they worked amazingly well. My phone stayed securely in my pocket all night despite many hours of overly enthusiastic wedding disco dancing. 

There is one problem, and it's the back. It was fine when I finished it, but it's now bagged out of shape around the zip. I'm not fully sure why this is or how I would fix it, but the biggest obstacle to my keeping this dress for future family events is that it now looks quite unsightly from this angle and I would need some kind of cover-up for it. If I had any leftover fabric I would just recut the back panels, but because of the fuller skirt I had to do some quite complicated pattern Tetris to get this dress out of 3m of fabric and there are only the tiniest scraps left. 

Having not made or worn this type of skirt since 2016 I wanted to make sure that it would work first, so I decided to make a wearable toile out of another piece of viscose I bought at the same time. I ran out of time to get it completely finished before needing to start work on the real one, so I got it to the stage where the skirt was attached to the bodice and I could pin it onto myself and make sure I liked the style enough and then put it aside to be finished after the wedding. 

This one is the darted Upton bodice rather than the princess seam one I ended up using for the blue dress, and there's not much reasoning behind that other than that I'd decided I wanted sleeves on the actual dress and couldn't be bothered printing out the darted bodice with sleeved armscye when I had the princess seam one ready to go already. Other than that it's the same - same skirt, same pockets, same neckline. I did topstitch the neckline here to try and make it feel a little more casual. The way that I want to wear this dress is as an everyday no-thought-required sundress and not as something that needs an occasion. 

This quite standard summer dress is way out of my comfort zone these days. Almost all of my skirts are maxi length and the few outliers are all autumn/winter dresses designed to be worn with thick tights. I never pick sleeveless if there's an option for a short sleeve and I tend to prefer a higher neckline for summer. I just don't own anything remotely like this and up until now hadn't missed its absence. But to my pleasant surprise, I've been really enjoying wearing this one over the past couple of weeks. It's easy to wear, the skirt length works perfectly, I don't feel particularly dressed-up in it even though it's bright red. I feel comfortable. 

On both dresses I took the time to do the hems properly, and on the red one I did a narrow hem, which I'm honestly not sure I've ever done before. The skirts I make rarely have much of a curve to the hem so I've never really thought it necessary, but I gave it a go here and I'm pleased with how it came out. I would certainly do it again on any curved-hem skirts I make in the future, and time will tell how often that might be. At present, I'm really not sure. As I've said many times recently, I'm a bit bored with my current limited range of silhouettes, and I've been surprised by how much I like these two dresses. I think I'll want to spend a bit more time reflecting on whether it's the garments themselves or simply the fact that they're different before I go making any more, but it's not out of the question that this could become a more prominent style in my wardrobe. Hemming remains my very least favourite sewing task, so there will probably always be a bit of reluctance towards massive skirts that take large amounts of time and effort to achieve a nice finish for, but I do now know that I can and it's not a guaranteed waste of said time and effort. And that might help. 

(The back has not bagged out on this one.)

That's everything from my spring plans posted! I've made a start on my summer projects already, though nothing is actually finished yet, and I've also cut out several quite unseasonal experiments in an attempt to get some remnants out of my stash. So those may or may not be coming your way depending on how they turn out. I'm obviously expecting that my sewing will slow down until I can get all my life shit sorted, but I am hoping that I won't need to stop entirely and that I can continue to blog regularly. I quite like having this Monday morning anchor point and I would like to keep it up if I can. 

Up next: trousers! For real this time. 

Monday, 20 June 2022

spring sewing: that modified Fumeterre again

So I lied last week when I said this would be a trousers post. I do have a trousers post waiting but I've decided to get all of my spring projects posted first (I know my spring plan was much shorter than usual but I'm not sure I've ever fully completed one before, and I'm trying to celebrate my productivity and new-found ability to make my brain do stuff). This one is number four of five, and finally, finally, I have used all of that damn blue linen. 

I think this was a much better way to use it all than one giant maxi dress. I can't imagine when or how I would have worn it. Though the last time I went to Walthamstow he still had some of this in stock and there was a horrible part of me that wanted to buy another metre to make a matching crop top. I know it's a bad idea because either it would have to be big and boxy or have a zip in it and I doubt I'd like either of those things, but the vision persists. 

Construction was the same as last time. When I put this project on my spring plan I said I'd need to change up the waistband because my yellow one was too tight to eat dinner in, but that is not at all the case anymore. In fact the other version of this (as yet unphotographed) which I mentioned at the time as looking worse but being much more comfortable is totally unwearable now. It's currently waiting for me to take the waistband off and cut several inches off it. 

(I wrote the above paragraph over a month ago, and as things stand now I actually need to take in every single one of my maxi skirts, including this one and the yellow one. That's going to be a very boring and annoying day, and I'm trying to work out the best way to bribe myself to do it that isn't another fabric shopping trip already.)




Having shown you the pictures I honestly don't have much else to say about this one - I've talked about this exact mish-mash of patterns and this exact fabric recently, and combining the two didn't really give me anything to add. I like to give the projects from my seasonal plans their own respective posts (just in case I ever decide to go in and link all the finished posts in the original plans for ease of reference, like I keep telling myself I'm going to do), but this one probably didn't need it. I do think I might be able to get some interesting colour combinations going when I wear this skirt, since it's a slightly unusual shade of blue but still basically a neutral. 


It's been a pretty heavy week. My GP is being actively negligent as regards my meds (a doctor at the practice who has never met me and has not spoken to me once through any of this is putting all sorts of vague obstructions in the way that I then have to actively chase up, while emails and letters mysteriously go missing and I have to walk physical copies into their office) and my aunt, who has been in and out of remission for years, finally passed away on Friday night. So I'm not at my shiniest. But I have been sewing, and one of my summer projects is almost finished. I also got distracted and cut out a bunch of extremely unseasonal remnant-busting random shit, so look forward to surprise posts of things I won't be able to wear for months!

Up next: my final spring project! The dress I made for the wedding, plus a bonus sort-of toile. 

Monday, 13 June 2022

spring sewing: a giant green bathrobe

 Well, this turned out even less seasonally appropriate than I expected. 

As I said in my plan, I've been thinking for a while about replacing the dressing gown I made in 2018. There is so much wrong with it. My review of it was mixed even at the time, but the garment has aged really badly on all fronts. The fabric had zero recovery and looked like shit after six months. The shoulder seams are halfway down my arms now. The pockets are especially unsightly even though I stopped using them years ago. I mentioned in my review that the "facing" was actually just the entire front piece cut again, but I left out the bit where you were supposed to hand sew the entire thing to the side seams, and 2018 Jen's hand sewing has not held up well. I also went on a weird journey with the fabric combination where I started off unsure, made my peace with it the first few times I wore it, and then took violently against it. So when I started looking to replace it, I wanted something very different. 

I purchased the fabric from Fabric Godmother, and it's listed as "velvet bamboo towelling". It's extremely uncommon, almost unheard of, for me to spend £70 on one piece of fabric, but I couldn't get the vision of a giant full-length hooded bathrobe in pale sage green out of my mind. I thought about it for a month, and the vision did not lessen its appeal, so I went for it. The fabric is lovely - the right side feels and behaves like velvet and the wrong side is regular towelling, so it's both super soft and fine to put on directly out of the bath. The one thing I will say is that the shedding while cutting and working with it is something else. By the time I was done making it I was entirely covered in fluff and thanking Past Jen profusely for not bothering to change out of her pyjamas yet. 

The pattern I used is Burda 6740, which was the only one I could find designed for a regular towelling bathrobe rather than floaty silky things. It's fine. It worked well enough. Would neither warn against nor actively recommend. I added about four inches to the longer length to get it to hit my ankles like I wanted. If I were to make it again I would draft myself an extra pattern piece for the facing; the facing as designed just stops at the shoulder seams and you have to hand sew it to the seam allowance there, and I would have much preferred to have an additional piece to cover the back neckline as well. I think it looks weird as is. I added a hanging loop and belt loops as the pattern does not include these. The instructions direct you to make a thread chain to serve as belt loops but this never works for me. I don't know if it's my substandard thread chain making skills or just our overly aggressive washing machine, but they're always gone by the third wear. 

You may notice the facing in some of these pictures. I haven't anchored it down at the free edge yet because I can't decide how to do it. The pattern instructs to topstitch it down, and I would have been happy to do that on regular towelling but I don't think it would look good on this velvet stuff. Stitching on the right side for the pockets and hem was a fucking task, I tell you. But I also really don't want to have hand sewing on my dressing gown again. So it's still flapping free right now until I work out the best way to make it behave itself. 

Minor quibbles aside, this is exactly what I wanted and I'm very pleased with it. It's probably too warm and snuggly to get much use during the summer months, though rest assured that if it's another crap summer I will be wearing this as much as possible. I will be soft but furious. I don't have need for more than one bathrobe so I suspect it's unlikely I'll use this pattern again unless a close family member asks for one for Christmas (I'm not going to offer, they'll have to ask unprompted), but I will be keeping it just in case. 


Up next: more trousers, most likely!

Burda 6740 dressing gown

Fabric: Velvet bamboo towelling from Fabric Godmother
Cost: £70
Pattern details: Unisex bathrobe in three lengths, with either hood or shawl collar, tie belt, and patch pockets
Size: L at the shoulders blended out to XL in the hips
Alterations: Several inches of length added to View B
Would make again/would recommend: No/Eh

Monday, 6 June 2022

sewing plan: summer 2022

Hello! Things are a little bit tough at the moment. The current phase of the clinical trial I'm in has me taking something with a side effect of extreme fatigue (and an added bonus of needing the loo more frequently so not being able to sleep through the night), so it's a much harder slog to do things than it has been for the past few months. I have an appointment tomorrow and I'm hoping they might cut this phase short. My spring projects are all finished bar evening out and hemming the skirt on my dress for the wedding, but boy am I glad I only committed to five.

My plan for summer is slightly longer, though still not the dozen projects I used to come up with. It's based largely on things I discovered during Me Made May (which I ended up really enjoying this year, despite the change in the Instagram algorithm), which were as follows:

1. I need more tops in a greater variety of colours and styles
2. I would like to try some different silhouettes for my clothes
3. I get extremely grumpy when the weather won't let me dress in a way I consider seasonally appropriate

I've grouped my planned projects into these categories, and I'm also hoping to bear them in mind when it comes to my impulse projects too. If there's any season my wardrobe is already well-equipped for it's summer, so I can afford to have a little more fun and think a bit more out of the box this time. 

This is what I'm thinking:

Tops

For years now I have chosen to make almost exclusively brightly-coloured skirts and trousers, and my preference has always been to style them with very simple close-fitting jersey tops in black or grey. I still enjoy this combination, but I'm also getting increasingly bored with the fact that I'm not able to switch it up when I have an impulse to do so. What I would like to do is to make a couple of tops that will each work with at least two bottoms I already have, are not black or grey, and in at least one case is a pattern I'm not currently wearing regularly. 

A cami top

I've never made a woven cami before but all the 1m cuts of silk in my sewing room are suggesting to me that this might be the time. I'm not sure which pattern to use - I definitely want thinner straps and the Ogden cami is the closest I've seen so far, but I don't quite like the shape of the front. 

A bodysuit

A couple of weeks ago I bought some bright yellow tiger print jersey and I would like to make a short-sleeved Nettie bodysuit with it. I fully intended to start off the non-neutral tops thing with, like, a tasteful shell pink or something, but nope. Yellow tiger print. 

A wrap top

I'm going back and forth on this one. I really like the Named Sisko top - I prefer my tops close-fitting and it's very rare to see something genuinely interesting and different in that category - but I've not yet worked out whether I'm likely to actually wear it. I have a bunch of wrap cardigans that were my favourite things five years but barely get worn at all now. I would like to give it a try if I can find the right kind of toile-price jersey. I will not be trying the dress version, which I fully understand as maternity wear but looks really strange on the non-pregnant model. 


Experiments

Technically about 50% of my planned projects could fit into this category, so these are just the ones that aren't also a top or a Not Summer Summer outfit. I'm particularly interested in changing up my dress silhouettes a little - almost everything I make is fitted but not tight-fitting, nipped in at the waist, skirts neither full nor bodycon, with a very limited range of different necklines and sleeves. I'm fully expecting to find that's still what I like best and want to wear most of the time, but the opportunity to change things up occasionally would be very welcome and I want to know what that would look like. 

A slip dress

I've been talking about this for ages and I'm really going to do it this time. I've bought the Closet Core Simone pattern, I'm going to do a test run with the lilac silk (if there's enough of it, I'll use the blue if not) before I move on to the green I really want to use. I have a full plan now and it is going to happen. 

A vaguely 1920s dress

Several years ago I bought Vogue 8814 and I've never touched it, probably because it has a very high chance of not suiting me. I estimate there's a 95% chance I won't like the silhouette on me. But there's also a 5% chance that it works, and I would like to know for sure, so I've decided to go for it and use up some weird blue fabric I can't work out what to do with. 


Clothes for a potential Rubbish Summer

As I write this it's grey and about to rain. For over a month now my weather app has been predicting summer weather in a week's time and revising it down to "cloudy and damp" as the days approach. Last summer was terrible and it really got to me - there was the odd nice day but you couldn't make plans for outdoor events in advance, it was rarely warm enough to wear my actual summer clothes, and I spent most of the time wearing winter clothes and being grumpy. So this year I'd like to prepare for the worst and make a couple of things that feel like summer but aren't super impractical for the cloudy and damp times I'm expecting. 

A pair of summer trousers

I have a couple of different options in mind here, and I'm not sure if I'll pick one or try both. The easier option is wide leg floaty trousers in a viscose-type fabric, either a lighter solid colour or a pattern that's vibrant but not explicitly summer themed (ie no tropical island prints). The harder option is a pair of more fitted trousers in a bright stretch denim, probably bright blue or bright yellow. If I can manage that, it'll count for the experimental category too. I'm considering having a go at the Charm Patterns Marilyn jeans if I get into the right kind of groove. 

A more subdued maxi dress

Last year I made a short-sleeved maxi for this exact situation, and I wear it a lot despite my utter loathing for the fabric because I simply don't have anything else that works as well for days which are grey but not actively cold. So I would like to make a similar thing in a fabric I hate less. I haven't completely decided on the fabric yet but my local shop has some navy William Morris print that I'm tempted by. 


That's seven or eight projects depending on what I decide about the trousers. I do have a couple more projects vaguely in mind; there are a few pieces of fabric that I really want to get out of my stash and into my wardrobe, but I'm not prepared to put them on a plan until I have ideas firmer than "some sort of dress". I do hope I can get at least some of these vague extra projects done, because my stash is currently much bigger than I'd like. I'm a small-stash person and my preference is to have one shelf in my sewing cupboard for fabric and one for overspill, but my overspill shelf is currently also full and that stresses me out. I will need to buy fabric for my Rubbish Summer projects, so ideally I'd like to institute a "two out, one in" rule until autumn. Which may or may not work. 

We're off to the wedding this weekend, and when I'm back I'll start posting the rest of my spring projects!

Monday, 30 May 2022

spring sewing: a lemon dress

I did not get this dress finished in time for our holiday, but I did get it done before the time came to make a new seasonal plan, so that's something. Honestly it wasn't summery enough for this dress when we were away anyway. 


This is a Cashmerette Upton/Sew Over It tulip skirt, as I originally planned. I bought two metres of the fabric (which is a stretch cotton sateen) and ended up with more left over than I expected. Do I pretend I'm going to make a skirt out of it even though I absolutely would not wear a lemon skirt? Do I continue with the pleasant fiction that I'm definitely going to take up bag-making at some point? Who can say. 


I didn't run into any issues during construction and the dress came out looking more or less the way I expected. I like the way it looks on me but I'm not certain yet if it's right for me, or if I'll wear it. I thought my biggest hurdle would be the novelty print, but it's not (though I'm not a hundred per cent sold on it, honestly); it's the cotton sateen itself. I'm so unused to wearing fabric like this and it's weird. I wear cotton so rarely anyway, and I was mistaken in my belief that this fabric was similar to the fabric I used the first time I used this combination of patterns. That fabric is cotton, and it's not as light as lawn, but it's much lighter than this. I may get used to it, but at the moment it feels quite odd to wear. 


I did end up topstitching the dress neckline as the lining would occasionally peek out if I moved too vigorously (and it's white so it was very noticeable to me). I generally prefer not to do that but it doesn't bother me at all here. 

Something that does bother me is that the pockets aren't sitting right. I'm not sure why; it's not a problem I normally have with this skirt. 



I'm going to reserve judgement and see how much wear this dress gets over the summer. I do suspect it might not be much. I was prepared for the possibility that I wouldn't want to wear a lemon dress unless it was really high summer, not a cloud in the sky, twenty-eight degrees plus, but I hadn't factored in the heaviness of the fabric itself. On super-hot days (super-hot to me, a pasty Brit, anyway), I tend to favour floaty trousers and long skirts in light fabrics, which allows for breathability while also minimising the amount of exposed skin I have to reapply sunscreen to. I'm not sure that I'm going to reach for something this stiff with this many different areas of bare skin to keep track of when my feelings towards the garment are generally positive but not overwhelmingly so. On the other hand, I do think this style was the best way for me to go in terms of trying the print out. Anything with more coverage than a sleeveless scoop neck fitted minidress would just be... way too many lemons. 


Up next will be my summer sewing plans, followed by the rest of my projects from spring. Having struggled so hard to sew and write and take pictures, I now have about six weeks' worth of posts queued up and I'm starting to get concerned about my blogging being way out of step with the seasons. But I'll work something out!

Monday, 23 May 2022

two trouser block experiments (and failures)

My shortened spring plan is going very well. Four out of five are done, and I've decided to make the fifth (the dress for the wedding) way more complicated by trying several different things out first. There's not much time left to go, so we'll see whether that pans out for me or whether I panic-sew yet another Anna dress the week before. Here's the first of the completed projects, which is a fail but a useful fail. 

About a month before the pandemic first hit, I went to a "make your own blocks" weekender at Ray Stitch. I was really excited for it, but in the end not super enthused by the results I got. The bodice toile fit worse than most standard bodices plus FBA I've used (when I asked how to adjust it so there wasn't a large diagonal indent between the boobs, the instructor told me that bodices would just always look like that on me), the sleeve block was literally useless, and she rushed through a knit block with us, telling me I would never be able to have one that fit properly because of my waist-hip ratio. She used a particular system that she claimed would work for any set of measurements, but either it didn't or she didn't want to bother. Every time I was outside of an expected measurement ratio she would say "oh, just use the closest one, it'll look better" and she was absolutely wrong every time. (Also there was a woman there who kept loudly saying "wow, I thought I was going to be the one with the largest hips" every time I had to say a measurement out loud and also kept looking at my thirty-five-year-old ass and talking about the young people with no work ethic, but that bit isn't the class's fault.) I came away with four blocks, and the only one I thought might be OK was the trouser block, so that was the one I committed to trying out properly. And then didn't for two years. But now I have!


This is attempt number one, made out of a paisley viscose I knew I wasn't actually going to wear. I sewed them up pretty quickly, looked in the mirror, and thought "oh great, I've made a pair of great-fitting trousers and they're paisley with no pockets". My main desire for the trousers was for them to not sit in under my belly and create the impression I was wearing a nappy, and attempt number one had a perfectly smooth front. I was both pleased and annoyed. 


The fit at the back was also great, if we ignore the fact that I cut a waistband using a form of logic I'd then completely forgotten about by the time I came to sew it, so it's a bit weird at the overlap. They're too short to wear with heels, but that was never going to matter. I was happy enough to move on to the corduroy version, which you will see in a moment. I was happy with the fit when I made them, but I then put them aside because I didn't want to wear them before I'd photographed them and couldn't get my head around photography for several months. And when I did get round to it, things had changed. 

I tried the cords on a couple of weeks ago and was much less happy with the fit. I thought to myself "these trousers have grown. That's weird. Corduroy shouldn't do that." A few days later I went to the next appointment for the clinical trial I'm doing, where they weighed me as they usually do. And that's when I found out I'd lost 17lb since making these trousers. It's been so long since I lost any weight - and I haven't been working on it - that it just didn't occur to me, which now feels deeply stupid. "Ooh, maybe the corduroy grew" indeed. 


So here they are as they fit now, and as you see, it's not great. Not only are there four surplus inches in the waistband, but it's also weirdly bagged out across the abdomen. I don't really know why this is because I'm certain I haven't lost that much belly, and the viscose version isn't doing this (which may be attributable to relative drape in the fabric, I suppose). Regardless, it is incredibly unattractive and renders these trousers unwearable even if I could alter the size of the waist to fit again. 


The back still looks like it fits OK, if you ignore the fact that standing this way created enough of a gap in the front waistband for me to be able to look down the front of my trousers and see my bare thighs. I think if I were to try this same block again I would need to alter the front much more than the back. 




I've not yet decided whether to alter the block and give it another go, or to go through my stash and try a different pre-made pattern. Since I don't know what's going to happen to my weight over the next year or so, I don't want to put huge amounts of effort into getting a perfectly-fitting anything yet. 

Something that I really would like to figure out is trouser leg width. I have always had very large thighs that spread a lot when I sat down, but I'm certain that back in my trouser-buying days I was always able to find ones that looked more fitted without straining over the thighs when I sat down. I have attempted a few times when making trousers to alter the legs to get this, and it has never worked. (It's the reason I stopped making Pietra pants - I could never get the legs to look exactly the way I wanted without compromising thigh room, and for some reason even trying stretch fabric didn't seem to help.) Apparently bootcut is coming back, so I might give that a try. 


While I'm glad I did this, it hasn't left me with any more trousers to wear. Though I have discovered I can now fit into the navy Esther trousers from my autumn 2020 sewing plan, which you have never seen because they really, really didn't fit. I held onto them stubbornly because I thought I'd done a really nice job on the construction and I'm now very glad I did. I am going to be wanting more trousers, and I'm also going to be wanting a greater range of tops. My number one takeaway from this year's Me Made May is that I am extremely bored of my array of plain black short-sleeved tops and I'm dying for a bit more variety. But more on that when I post my summer plan! 

Up next: the lemon dress! Apologies in advance that I'm not currently replying to comments - for some reason Google is insisting I'm not signed in, but also won't let me sign in, so I can't actually comment on my own blog at the moment. Deeply stupid. But I'm still reading and appreciating every single one! 

Monday, 16 May 2022

a mash-up dress: when you just feel cute

I'm back! We had a really nice but quite strange holiday in C√≥rdoba, which is beautiful and unusually introverted for a Spanish town, and we found it almost impossible to get our hands on any of the stuff the place is famous for. Pastries? Nope. Pottery and tiling? Barely. Leatherwork? Nope. Russian salad out the wazoo, though, for some reason. But there was sunshine and balmy temperatures and amazing food (if you don't order the Russian salad) and a really great spa in our hotel, so we returned relaxed but confused. Glad we went, would recommend going to Seville instead. 

It's taken me a long time to get my head around photo-taking for a variety of reasons, but I did a whole bunch this weekend and have about half a dozen new things to share with you over the next month or two (by which point, hopefully, I will have made and photographed more stuff! We'll see how momentum goes). Let's start with the one that's been waiting the longest. 


You know sometimes you just feel cute? I just felt cute in these pictures. Which I actually wasn't expecting, because I wasn't at all sure about the dress when I finished it. This is what I managed to squeeze out of the 1.2m of fabric I had left over from my birthday dress and it's a Vanessa Pouzet Wanted top and Sew Over It tulip skirt mashed together. Given how often I mix and match both of these patterns with other bodices and skirts, I was surprised by how different this particular finished result felt. "Cute" is the first word that comes to mind, and that's very rarely true for me. 


I don't have a huge amount to say about the construction of this - you've seen me make Wanted tops and tulip skirts dozens of times. If I hadn't been so surprised by how much I liked the photos I probably wouldn't have bothered making a standalone post for it. But there's a bit of a disconnect in my feelings about this dress that I think it's worth going a bit deeper into. 



The first issue I had when I tried it on is that it's ended up as an empire waist. This is partly because of fabric constraints and partly because I didn't take into account the kind of fabric I was using. Every other time I've turned the Wanted top into a dress it's been a viscose jersey maxi dress, and I've needed to make the bodice very short so that it sits at my actual waist when it's pulled down by the maxi skirt. So when I saw how much fabric I had to cut the bodice from I thought it would be fine, without realising that a thicker double jersey and a shorter skirt wouldn't create the same level of pull. I think the empire waist is what's giving the "cute" vibe and in photos I don't hate it (it's on the same spectrum as the Selkie dress thing, which I have occasionally wished I could pull off), but in real life people seem to be trained to think that empire waist = maternity dress. Especially when the skirt has big front pleats to create space in that area. So I worry I wouldn't actually wear it anywhere for fear of giving the wrong impression (particularly given the extremely gossipy nature of a subset of my wider social acquaintance). There's also the back view:


To me, this feels like a completely different dress and I honestly find it a little jarring. So cute from the front, but almost... office-y? from the back. Just in shape, not in colour or print, but I do find it weird. Obviously this one is easier to ignore because I almost never see myself from the back. I am aware of it nevertheless. 


On the other hand, now that I'm starting to feel better I am really craving things that are even a little bit different in my wardrobe. I still love my sleeved Kielo dresses, Hepburn tops and wide leg trousers, but it is literally all I wore all winter and I'm bored. I'm not quite ready to to start making earth-toned skinny jeans or anything like that, and I'm not sure I ever will be; I still like my style overall and am looking to expand rather than change. So if I could persuade myself to wear this kind of thing outside, I think it would be very good for me. 


So as yet, I'm undecided and will be interested to see how my relationship with this dress progresses. I'll definitely be trying it on regularly. If nothing else I hope it spurs me on to take some more small risks with the styles and silhouettes I choose for my projects. It's been such a year of change for me so far and it would be good to include my sewing in that to some extent. 

(I've been doing Me Made May again to try and work on said variety thing, and it feels so strange now that Instagram is trying to discourage posting photos. I know "I'm getting very little engagement" sounds like such a stupid thing to say, but it's so different from the way I'm used to MMM going that it's bound to feel a little discouraging. I'm going to carry on because this is for me and not the algorithm, but I thought I'd share my irrational feelings with you anyway.)

Up next: I think I'll be posting my first two attempts at making trousers from my block, which were unsuccessful for reasons I hadn't anticipated at all! 

Monday, 11 April 2022

a special inherited fabric haul

Look! Free fabric!

I think I might have mentioned once or twice that a few years ago I came into an unexpected fabric bonanza courtesy of my friend Emily's late mother. She made couture wedding dresses as a profession, and when going through her things after she died, my friend offered to let me pick through any bits of fabric that might be left over. I think we were both expecting some bits of white lace and maybe the remainder of a bolt of ivory satin. What I ended up with was a giant box (I could comfortably sit in it and pull it closed over my head) full of mostly silks, some linen and wool, and a few other miscellaneous bits, a combination of leftovers from bridesmaid/groomsman outfits and things Emily's mum had bought to make clothes for herself. It was a little treasure trove. 

I took a couple of pieces back with me at the time, distributed some of it to other people, and the rest stayed at my parents' house where Emily had dropped it off. The box went missing for a while, as things tend to do when you put them in the attic, and was found again a month or so ago during a clear-out. I've now brought most of it back with me (though there's still another trip or two to go, including some more dupioni remnants and some sequinned Art Deco nonsense), and I thought it might be nice to share with you. Small disclaimer: all of this came up in two trips, and only the stuff from the first trip has been ironed as of yet. I promise the rest of it will get done before I put it away. 

Here, then, are 25 pieces of fabric, divided up into vague categories: 

seven pieces of silk satin in cream, two pinks, ivory, lilac, lemon, baby blue

Here we have seven pieces of silk satin. I've arranged them here based on how much I have of each, going from least (the white rose-print silk, 1m) to most (the baby blue, 2.3m). I will freely admit that these pieces are, in general, not my colour, and I'm also a bit nervous about the super shiny stuff because it seems to be impossible to work with. If A list celebrities are turning up to the Oscars in custom designer gowns made of satin that's more wrinkles than fabric and hems that look like ass, what chance do I have? I imagine that at least half of these will end up as lining fabric, which is fine. 

four pieces of silk in red, yellow, green, and navy floral print

Here we have the non-satin silks, the category I'm most hopeful to be able to make into wearable things. So far I've established that the green is going to be a slip and the red, if there's enough of it, will be a party dress. I have 2m but it's quite narrow. The floral isn't really me at all, but I'm going to try to find a pattern that will let me do a 90s baby Goth Winona Ryder thing in the hopes that might vaguely coincide with my style wheelhouse. 

two pieces of silk dupioni in baby blue and green with burgundy shift

Two 1m remnants of silk dupioni. I also have a piece in lilac that's nearly 2m that will come to me in the next trip. I have no idea what to do with these and I really wish there was more of the green one with the burgundy shift. 

a piece of grey georgette and a piece of grey habotai

Chiffon and silk habotai. These two are both labelled "slate" and both from the same place, so I'm assuming they were bought to go together. My plan is to stick with that. I don't have enough for a dress (there's around a metre of each), so it'll have to be a top, and I'm honestly not sure I own any woven top patterns. 

two pieces of chiffon, one plain black and one colourful patterns on a black base

Two chiffons. The black (underneath) is basically going to be used as a practice piece before I use either the printed one or the grey above. The other is one I'm really excited about - according to the selvedge it's Liberty, and I have three and a half metres of it (the final half metre is a separate length). What I want, obviously, is a maxi dress, but that's fully contingent on my being able to semi-competently insert a zip into chiffon. We'll see. 

two pieces of black lace with a piece of black silk on top

Two pieces of lace and a remnant of black silk. I'm assuming the black silk will be used in conjunction with one of these pieces, though it might turn out to be too short. On the left we have a piece of quite thick lace that I'm hoping to be able to cobble into a maxi skirt, and on the right an absolutely stunning piece of silk lace that might be one of the most beautiful things I've ever touched. I'm dying for it to be a dress, but I'm not sure there's enough (there's 2.5m but it's not an even width as something has been cut from one side). If I can't make a dress, I think I'll most likely try an oversized cropped sweater. 

two pieces of linen in mint and white

Two pieces of linen. The mint piece is just over a metre, and when I first got hold of it I was sure it would be a tulip skirt, but I've not been wearing those so much these past couple of years. I have two metres of the white and if it didn't feel so lovely I honestly would have left it behind. I don't wear white ever and also absolutely cannot be trusted with dye of any kind. I might end up using both pieces in the same garment if I can think of any mint-and-white outfit I might conceivably wear. 

a piece of faux fur and a piece of coral wool

One remnant of coral wool and one remnant of amazing faux fur (there's no reason for these two to be grouped together other than they didn't fit with anything else and didn't seem to deserve a separate picture each). I'm hoping to use the fur to trim a winter coat at some point, but I don't have any ideas for the 1m of wool, given the "maybe I'm not going to wear a bunch of tulip skirts anymore" caveat above. 

Finally, this deckchair-looking monstrosity, which of course I have more of than anything else in the haul (nearly 4m). It's quite a heavy cotton twill, though not heavy enough to actually use for a deckchair. I asked people about this on my Instagram stories because I was stumped, and the responses I got were overwhelmingly either dungarees or a jumpsuit. I can absolutely see the dungaree thing but would also absolutely never wear stripy orange ones, so a jumpsuit seems like the most likely bet. I don't even know if I'd wear that, to be honest. I'm going to ponder on this one a little longer. 

I think it's going to take me a while to get started on this lot. Apart from the need to come up with actual project ideas and potential patterns, the sentimental and irreplaceable nature of it means I'm more reticent than I would normally be. I also know that it does no good to anyone just sitting in my cupboard, so I fully intend to get through all of it in good time. I would love any recommendations for what to do with any of the 1m cuts, or suggestions of dress patterns I might be able to fit on two metres of narrow silk or lace. 

I'm still sewing pretty consistently, but also still having difficulty with the whole picture-taking thing. I have about half a dozen finished projects waiting for me to get it together. Hopefully I can manage it before we go on holiday - if not, I'll come up with something else to post!