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:


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. 


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!