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!