Tuesday 31 January 2023

orage and chataigne

Guess who forgot to schedule this post for yesterday? January has somehow lasted a million years and I'm really not on top of the little stuff right now. It's not all bad, though -  for Christmas my in-laws got us a voucher for a really nice Andalusian restaurant so we had a lovely dinner last week, improv week two was way less nightmarish than improv week one and I actually quite enjoyed myself, and my singing teacher made the rash decision to let me pick a Skunk Anansie song to learn. So I'm having a lot of fun when life isn't being a dreadful slog. 

Anyway, I'd like to introduce you to my new favourite top:

This is the Deer & Doe Orage. I bought both of their most recent releases, and you'll be seeing the other one next week (or on Instagram a couple of weeks ago). I wasn't sure about the Orage as a dress - the skirt is midi length and dips lower at the front and back, which seems like the worst possible style and shape for me - but I thought the top part looked cool and if it didn't work for me, there were two other top variations that almost certainly would. So I tried all three of the tops, of which you will be seeing two because I used the wrong fabric for the third and it looked like ass. 

I got this fabric in the Abakhan remnant bins in September. It's a lightweight textured jersey with a lot of stretch, and I bought it entirely for the colour with zero idea what I was going to do with it. It didn't feel at all like a sacrifice to use it as a toile, even though I was pretty convinced it wasn't going to work. I was absolutely delighted to be wrong. I love this. I don't normally like high necks, but somehow this one really suits me and doesn't itch. The boob window sits nice and flat in exactly the right place and doesn't gape when I bend forward. I'm thrilled with the way the colour looks on me. I'm constantly searching for comfortable jersey tops for daywear with some level of interest to them, and this one ticks every single box for me.

Within the pattern this view is only intended to be the bodice for a dress, so it's quite cropped. I like crop lengths as I'm quite short-waisted and tend to prefer high-waisted trousers, but this was still a tiny bit short so I put a wide hem band on. I will mostly likely do this for future versions too, because I like the symmetry with the wide neck band. I also put cuffs on it, after trying to hem the sleeves and discovering that the fabric really did not want to do that. Again, this is something I will probably repeat in future. 

The trousers are the Victory Patterns Esther Pants, which I think I showed in passing in a post about something else. I made them about three years ago and they didn't fit me then, but I had spent so long getting every single thing right and sewing them as well as I could that I refused to get rid of them. They even survived the house-moving cull, despite me being no closer to fitting into them at the time. I'm now delighted I stubbornly held onto them, as they've been my best-fitting pair of trousers for the past eight months and I wear the shit out of them. This outfit is my current favourite and I wear it constantly. 

In standard fashion, I immediately wanted to make another version of this top and bought some quite pricey bamboo jersey to do so. This turned out to be a mistake. 

Other than the obvious Much Smaller Boob Window, which I don't fully understand and don't like (I think the lower part of the bodice is cut too high), version two looks basically okay in these photos. Let me assure you that it is not. The mock neck is not fitted enough to be made in this kind of jersey, and it looks like shit. Also if I move around too much it gets all distorted and weird-looking around the shoulders. I have thrown this version out, and am on the lookout for a jersey that's less... floppy? I'm not sure what the correct fabric word is here. But I will be making another, as soon as humanly possible.

Before I get on to the shorts, I will quickly mention the scoop neck view, which doesn't really merit much analysis. It's a nice top, it fits me well because Deer & Doe's knit block always fits me well, I will make it again, I have very little to say about it. Here it is:

(Fabric is a remnant from a sweater knit Kielo I made back in the autumn and never got around to posting because I absolutely cannot justify any more standalone posts about the Kielo. There's probably an incoming post of "stuff I have literally nothing more to say about" that's almost entirely pictures, or another story post broken up with pictures of random shit I made.)

The shorts are the Deer & Doe Chataigne. I bought the pattern in 2016, made it once, immediately sized out of the extremely limited range. But I kept the pattern because I liked it, and now I'm within that size range again I thought I'd have another go and see how it was fitting me these days. 

You may recognise the fabric as a leftover from this dress. You also may remember that the fabric is stretchy, so I didn't bother putting a zip in either the dress or these shorts. For the actual pair I eventually make (in a nice wool, to wear over tights) I will put the zip in, but this was only intended as a quick toile. I'm surprised by how much I like them, actually. Under normal circumstances bright blue shorts would never have occurred to me. I made size 46, which is what was already cut out and in retrospect absolutely did not fit me at all at the time. For my current size it works pretty well, though I will probably go down a size in the waist for my real pair. 

I'm also thinking about making another version, in a low-stretch black ponte, to be my new pair of shorts for burlesque classes. The pattern has a second view with a high waist and scalloped hem, which seems like exactly what I want, but I will definitely want to practice the scalloped hem a few times first. 

I'm making the most of a couple of fairly quiet weeks. Once we hit mid-February my schedule is nuts for about two months straight, and I'm both excited about it and dreading it. On the one hand, Things are good. On the other, Things are exhausting. But I'm hoping to still carve out time to sew, and ideally make a proper plan for spring. Not promising anything, of course. But I hope so. 

Up next: a DRAMA SKIRT

Deer&Doe Orage (review of top versions only)

Fabric: Green textured jersey from Abakhan // black bamboo jersey from Fabrics Galore // black and white sweater knit from Fabric Land
Cost: can only meaningfully cost the bamboo jersey, which was £24
Pattern details: tops, dress and skirt. Tops are: long sleeves, mock neck, cutout bodice; squared scoop neck and 3/4 sleeves; short sleeved crop top. Skirt is midi length with curved hem
Size: 44
Alterations:  Cropped the cutout bodice version, added cuffs and hem band
Would make again/would recommend: Yes/Yes

Monday 23 January 2023

very complicated random sewing: style arc ormond designer coat

Over the past month or two, I've been doing quite a lot of sewing. I've not been especially good at sticking to my plans, but I have made a bunch of things from fabric I already had in my stash, and the majority of them turned out surprisingly well. Then they all sat around in my wardrobe because I couldn't be bothered to photograph them. Last week, on the day I finished the project you're about to see, I was suddenly hit with a bolt of motivation and photographed half a dozen things. It was below freezing outside at the time, which was fine for this specific garment but not so much for everything else. But the upshot is, I now have several posts scheduled and will be a slightly more reliable blogging presence for at least the next couple of months. 

With that said, here's a surprisingly complicated project to have made at random:

I made a coat! Which, also unusually for random sewing, is a thing I actually needed. My Rumana coat is now five years old and not holding up as well as I'd like, and though it still functions as a coat it's beginning to feel a bit shapeless and sloppy. In the December round of sub-zero temperatures I became deeply irritated with the fact that I had to hold my winter coat closed and was spurred on to finally make a new one. 

The fabric is a cashmere-effect wool mix that I bought from Fabric Godmother at the end of 2021. I've always wanted a green coat and snapped up the last 3m they had, and then spent months trying to find a pattern. I knew that it had to be at least knee-length (hip-length coats don't suit me and a jacket made in fabric this thick would be functionally useless), and for ages the only pattern I could find that would give me that much length out of 3m or less was the aforementioned Rumana, which I'm pretty sure I'm done with. Eventually I found and bought the Style Arc Ormond Designer Coat, which seemed to tick all the boxes.

I'd never used Style Arc before, and my first impressions were not the strongest. It's mostly silly stuff - the pattern is fine - but there were several things I wasn't a fan of. The layout of the PDF, for a start. The instructions were part of the pattern sheet, meaning that they had to be printed with the A0 file, and also that they come up on the screen sideways. One of the pattern pieces is split into two on the layout and has to be taped together. I don't know enough about things to know if this was unavoidable, but it just irritates me when I pay to have an A0 pattern printed and am then forced to tape shit anyway. The instructions seemed to have not been proofread, which bothers me more than it should. They were fairly minimal, which is not a problem for me personally, but the bits I found most confusing were the bits where they attempted to explain a step in more detail, and that absolutely is a problem for me personally. But as I say, the pattern itself is fine, so overall I would neither gravitate towards nor specifically reject another Style Arc pattern in future. 

(Here's the lining fabric, which is a silky viscose from Walthamstow. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put a plain lining in a coat, unless the outer fabric is crazy.)

The coat is a raglan, and has a front panel, a side panel, and a back made up of three pieces including a waist insert. The ties are sandwiched in between the waist insert and the side panel, which I strongly prefer to a loose belt, but it does mean that the waist is in a very definite place, and on me that place is the wrong place. I have a very high waist and am much wider immediately below it, so in order to get the coat to stay comfortably closed I have to hitch the whole thing up. Were I to make this again I would take an inch off the upper back bodice and add an inch to the lower back, keeping the length but moving the waist to the right place for my body. It also has in-seam pockets. The pockets are between the front and side panels rather than attached to the back panel, so they are in a practical place for a coat, but having worn this coat for a week I still don't like them and would have been better off switching them out for welts. Honestly I still like the Rumana pockets the best and since this coat has a side panel, it might have been worth making a mock-up out of an old duvet cover to see if I could get a similar thing going here. But this was random sewing, and if I'd tried to do something like that I don't believe I would have made anything at all. 

The upper back has a pleated detail into the waist, which I like in theory, but in practice (and certainly with this very thick fabric) it creates a lot of bulk that I'm not here for. The side silhouette especially is quite Notre-Dame. Were I to make this again, which is unlikely, I would definitely want to take some of that volume out. While I'm quibbling, the coat is hand-hemmed (though the sleeves are done by machine, thankfully) and I object to that on principle. Having only made a couple of coats I wasn't sure how to alter things for a machine hem, so I have hemmed it by hand, but a coat is a hard-wearing item and I don't think you should have to do large amounts of hand sewing. I'm also surprised at how little topstitching there was on this pattern - it's basically only the back of the collar, which you don't see. On a hypothetical second coat I would do a lot more, if only because I feel that a pattern specifically called "designer coat" should have a bit more in the way of details. 

In terms of construction, my biggest issue was the sheer amount of bulk my machine had to sew through. Sewing the facing to the coat at the collar area - especially where I'd put in a hanging loop because I don't understand why sewing patterns don't have those - was a proper chore and my machine did not like it at all. Obviously this was exacerbated by my fabric choice, but if your machine isn't a workhorse it's probably going to be a bit of a struggle with any kind of wool. 

My second biggest issue was the lining. Once I'd sewn the lining to the facing I realised there was too much lining, and when trying to cut it down I made a major miscalculation and ended up with not enough lining. So I had to sew about two thirds of the piece I cut off back on again, and as a result there's a horizontal seam line running all the way across the lining. Which is not a big deal, but it is a thing. 

The third issue was that whatever percentage of not-wool there is in this fabric made pressing much more difficult than I'd anticipated. I'm aware that it looks a little off in places and would like to assure everyone that I am regularly going back in with the iron and trying to make it behave itself. 

On the whole, I'm pleased with this coat. I started sewing it just after the first cold snap and mocked myself for my poor timing, but it ended up being ready just in time for the second cold snap, and it is WARM. Once the temperatures go back up at the end of this week I suspect I won't actually be able to wear it closed without overheating (but I can tie the ties behind me and it'll be fine). Is it my favourite thing I've ever done? No. Will I use this pattern next time I want to make a coat? No. Will I wear my new green coat constantly? Absolutely. 

In terms of whether I'd recommend this pattern, I would say that if you're in the situation I was in - need a knee-length coat, only have 3m of fabric and can't get any more of it - this is a decent shout. If you're in a position to be pickier, you can probably do better. There is nothing wrong with this pattern, and it's entirely possible that I was expecting a little too much of it because it's specifically named "designer", but my final impression is definitely "it worked for my specific circumstances" and not "you must all get yourselves one of these". But if it's already in your plans, I certainly wouldn't discourage you. 

As a brief life update, things are still pretty up and down and there doesn't seem to be any logic as to what's making me better or worse. Sewing is happening but not consistently, writing is happening but not consistently. Last week I started an improv course, which is basically my worst nightmare and I signed up for it precisely because it was my worst nightmare, and then went all shocked Pikachu face when I took the first class and found myself in my worst nightmare. I'm determined to continue, though. It will not defeat me. 

Up next: my new favourite top, and a bonus toile or two! 

Style Arc Ormond Designer Coat

Fabric: Cashmere effect wool mix coating from Fabric Godmother // silky viscose from Walthamstow
Cost: £60 for everything
Pattern details: Raglan sleeve lined coat in two lengths, with one-piece front and side panels and waist insert in the back, four pleats in the upper back and inverted pleat in the skirt. In-seam pockets and sewn-in ties
Size: 14
Alterations: Added a hanging loop
Would make again/would recommend: No/Maybe