Saturday, 1 October 2016

Under the wire

As usual I am keeping track of my goals for the year as each month goes by, but really the less said about my "achievements" in September compared to those goals, the better! For various reasons, September was really stressful and I coped with this in two ways: EAT ALL THE THINGS! and BUY ALL THE FABRIC! The result of this is (a) a lot of stomach ache; (b) my fabric shelves overfloweth; and (c) my budget and stash busting plans are in severe disarray. Ah well, I am sure there are worse coping mechanisms!

Luckily for the structural integrity of my fabric shelves, I did also made a bunch of things. Some of them even turned out really well. My cobalt blue Jalie jeans were by far the best thing I made in September, and possibly even the best thing I've made all year so far despite the sewing flaws. I absolutely LOVE them and have worn them a lot this month already. I also really like my Grainline Linden sweater with the lace overlay  and I'm glad I thought to make it.

However, I was definitely protesting too much in my last entry about the wearability as it stood of my Butterick 6388 sweater dress. In the end I took scissors to it and trimmed the size. I took about 8cm out of the width from just below the bust and then, because I was being lazy and didn't want to re-do the hem, I tapered back out to the original width at the hem. This makes it rather A-line, but I'm OK with that. The moral of this story is: I should definitely have bought the smaller sized pattern envelope, alas. I want to use this pattern again, but I am going to have to grade it down in order to do so, or else suck it up and buy a second copy in the right size.

Before and after of B6388 as modelled by me
I also started and finished making a super easy StyleArc Estelle yesterday. This is a pattern I made twice in September 2015. I really like and still wear both of the versions I made then and so the possibility of making it again came to mind when I wanted to add a draped/open cardigan in black to my wardrobe this month. As usual I sort of dithered about repeating a pattern rather than trying something new: on the one hand, novelty! On the other the certainty of knowing a pattern really works and goes together easily! This time, easy repeat won. I do love the Estelle pattern: just three pattern pieces, four if you use the optional pocket (which I never do), and it all just fits together so nicely and looks great when finished. The fabric in this case is a textured black ponte knit. I could maybe wish it weren't quite so polyester-y but it'll be fine.

StyleArc Estelle in black textured ponte knit
So that was September! As far as October goes, I've got big big plans, as always. Three things I definitely want to do: (a) finish my current knitting project, which has stalled, as usual, at the sleeve stage. Why am I so reluctant to knit sleeves?!; (b) work on my twisty sleeve/shoulder width fitting problems and see if I can make a bit of progress there; and (c) outerwear! outerwear! outerwear! We're having an unusually mild autumn, but I really am going to need a jacket at some point!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A pair of knit dresses (Ottobre 05-2016-16 and Butterick 6388)

I'm not going to lie, I really liked both of these dresses and was dead pleased with how they looked in the mirror. Then I took photos in order to review the patterns here and when I looked at the photos I was like... oh. These look terrible, just deeply unflattering and sack like both on Flossie and on me. Since then I've wound my way back round to "I still really like these, they're great for the purpose I made them, and I don't really care if they don't look good in photos". Still, it's a thing to note.

Left: Ottobre 05-2016-16; Right: Butterick 6388 (View D)
The purpose part is important. I had a sort of gap in my wardrobe in the category I like to call Not Entirely Unlike Pyjamas. These are soft and comfortable clothes suitable for those days where my sole intention is to spend my time lying around the house, but that are still perfectly respectable to wear if I have to answer the door or run into the local shop for thirty seconds. Until recently, I've mostly worn some kind of tracky bottom/knit top combination on those days, but this autumn I decided to add some knit leggings & long knit tunic/short knit dress combinations into rotation. I bought a couple of pairs of RTW leggings on this occasion -- I am not entirely convinced sewing my own leggings is worth the effort, though I daresay I'll end up giving it a try one of these days.
Ottobre 05-2016-16

I decided to make two blue dresses to go with navy leggings first. The first is from the most recent issue of Ottobre Woman, pattern 05-2016-16. I can't say this leapt out at me from the magazine when it arrived. It was, in fact, only when another blogger -- Dawn at Two On Two Off -- made a really great version that my attention was drawn to the pattern. Once alerted to it though I added it quickly to my sewing queue. For my version I used a grey and blue knit of unknown fibre composition that, while rather thin, was quite well behaved overall. It has a sort of paisley pattern on it but didn't sweat the pattern matching (by which I mean, I cut out all the pieces from my fabric and THEN suddenly thought oh! pattern matching! that's a thing people do, I guess!) and the whole thing therefore came together in no time at all.

Various view of my actual dress -- front, side and droopy pocket

One disappointment is the droopy pocket, which I don't think the other reviewer experienced. It's impossible to tell if the version in the magazine has droopy pockets like mine because the model has her hands in them. My suspicion is probably not, and that it's caused in my dress by a combination of my fabric being very lightweight and drooping under the weight of the double facing, compared to the stiffer knits used both by Dawn and by the magazine, and also it not being pulled straight/flat by my body because of the size I used.

Ottobre 05-2016-16 on me
I made a 44, more or less straight from the pattern sheet. Ordinarily, I make a square shoulder adjustment but with batwing tops this becomes rather complicated so I decided to try this version without. The fit through the shoulder/bust is pretty much what I would expect from a non-square-shoulder-adjusted batwing to look on me. It all comes unstuck, of course, at the waist and hip. Ordinarily, when making separates, I use a size 44 upper body, size 40 lower body in Ottobre patterns. Often I don't attempt to grade down through the hips at all because I don't generally choose to emphasize the relative narrowness of my hips vs my shoulders/bust. In this case though, I really should have graded at least one size down over the hips as I think that might have helped with the droopy pocket problem. Also, you can just about tell from the technical drawing that the skirt is pegged somewhat. Unfortunately, it turns out that a too large pegged skirt will hang a little oddly, with some peculiar droopy lines over the hip. That said, it's a very comfortable dress.

My second dress is from this recent Butterick pattern, B6388.

Butterick 6388
For sure I am not the only person who glanced through the recent Butterick release and pounced on Butterick 6388 as a pattern I really needed in my life, mainly because of that lapped collar on views B, C and D. I have been waiting patiently ever since for it to first arrive and then go on sale here in the UK, which it finally did last week, allowing me to scoop it up for £4 instead of the usual £8.

However, there was a problem: the sizing. First up, let me just say that my full bust allegedly puts me in a Size 18 according to the McVogueRick size chart. I have never ever made a size 18 in anything. I use either a 14 or a 16 or something between the two for upper body garments, and a 12/14 for lower body. With this pattern, however, the sizing has been done in XS/S/M, and L/XL/XXL, where M is 12-14, and L is 16-18.

I've not made any Butterick knits before so I had no previous experience to work from. Looking at the measurements, I just couldn't decide at all which to pick. The finished garment sizes on the Medium are almost exactly the same as my actual measurements, which means they would have had almost zero ease. That's fine in a knit normally, but this pattern called for a knit with minimal stretch. Also, I really wanted to make view D as a sweater dress, a top layer that I can wear in winter over leggings and a t-shirt so I wanted a little bit of room for layering. On the other hand, the size Large has a whopping 10cm extra space in it. Ordinarily I would have just merrily made up an imaginary size half way between the two but M and L are in different envelopes, so I had to decide what size to start with. I eventually went for the larger of the two envelope sets, L/XL/XXL, sacrificing the possibility of ever making View E, the trousers, as the smallest size is too large for me.

All of which is to say: this is a size Large, straight off the envelope. The pattern says it is "semi-fitted" which, no. My version is not quite as shapelessly sack-like in person as it appears in my uninspiring, standing still photo, but it is definitely also not semi-fitted. I guess I can just say that the Large is too big on me and I should have bought/made a size Medium. If I had wanted a cute little dress to wear with boots and scarf to wear out the house, this is a disaster and I would have ended up taking inches out of the entire side seam. As Nearly But Not Quite Pyjamas, I'm actually fine with it as is, though if I make it again -- and I will almost certainly make it again -- I will be taking out quite a lot of that extra ease (and also, dear god, look at the twisty sleeve problem, AGAIN!)

Butterick 6388 on me
More pertinently, the real draw of this pattern is in fact the neckline, and this turned out so well, just like the pattern image:
Butterick 6388 neckline
My fabric is a very very soft, floppy knit. It has probably more stretch than the pattern really calls for and the collar is a little prone to falling down as I wear it, but the shape and construction of the collar is actually great. If I were making this again in such a soft, loose knit, I might consider adding a lightweight knit interfacing, just to make it hold the shape more neatly. In a firmer knit, the sort the pattern actually recommends, I think it would hold the shape better to start with. Although I am very happy with how it turned out, construction was not wholly unproblematic. My fabric was quite thick and my overlocker is quite basic/lightweight. The section at the front has 7 layers and the overlocker chewed through it only very reluctantly. I was glad that I actually sewed it with my regular machine before I finished the neckline on the overlocker, because I think going straight to overlocking it would have been a disaster.

B6388 back view
The back of the dress is also seamed -- there's an (unshaped) centre back seam, and a circular yoke seam. In the larger sizes, the centre back seam seems to be there in order to fit the pattern on the fabric, but in smaller sizes you don't need to. If I made it again and decreased the size, I might also cut the back on the fold, since that seam adds nothing and I don't ordinarily do any kind of centre back adjustment (obviously, if you do, the existence of a seam is a plus!)

The pattern calls for 2.2m of fabric for view D in size L, which I blithely ignored. I could have gotten the whole pattern out of 2m without any problem at all, but it slipped my mind that I needed to cut 4 pocket pieces and I only cut 2 by mistake. As it turned out, I had cut round my pattern pieces in such a way that all the scraps I had were almost, but not quite big enough to cut the second pair of pocket pieces, which was aggravating. In the end I just left the pockets off. I also decided not to do the top stitching, partly because it didn't show up on my fabric at all when I tested it and therefore it seemed like a waste of time, and partly because this fabric distorted like crazy with every additional line of stitching.

One major issue I have with the pattern is that it seems to have been written as if the person sewing it will have fallen through a time warp to 1973 before she does so. I understand that not everyone sewing knits has an overlocker/serger, but some of the advice was just bizarre, old-fashioned and/or written as if the garment was going to be made in a woven. I also really REALLY dislike a 5/8ths seam allowance on a knit garment. This is my umpteenth knit garment so I just tra-la-la'd my way through a lot of the instructions and only paid any close attention to how to put the lapped collar together. Still, ugh, McCall's need to get it together with their knit pattern instructions.

In conclusion: I am not a picture of sartorial elegance in these photos, but I don't need to be to be pleased with my dresses. I really want to make the Butterick pattern again -- I might make a view C length jumper with some ponte knit I have -- but I need to think about how to adjust the size. There's a part of me wonders whether it would be worth picking up the smaller envelope, even though that's an expensive thing to do.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


I haven't made much progress on anything significant the last week or so, like my outerwear plans or making more tunics. I did, however, start and finish two little projects, both of which made use of more embellishment than I usually do.

First of all, another Grainline Linden sweater. Late in the summer, I made a green and white raglan top and at the time I mentioned I'd noticed that mixed fabric/embellished raglan tops seemed to be something I was pinning a lot on Pinterest. I used this image to show the sort of thing I had been interested in:

Some raglan tops from my Pinterest collection (again)
This time, I used the photo in the upper left for inspiration, with the mix of knit and lace. My top is made with a very fine black knit (the same knit I used on last week's Ottobre top) with an extra layer of a stretch black crochet/lace knit in the front and back bodice only.

Is there anything less rewarding than taking photos of black clothes? (Grainline Linden with crochet lace overlay and black knit -- if you click on the image the lace detail will actually be visible when the image is larger!)
It seemed like most RTW I glanced at with a similar design just put the lace on the front, presumably in an effort to decrease their fabric use. I didn't have anything in mind for the rest of the fabric and I thought it would look nicer on both sides. I made the top exactly as usual, and just treated a layer of the black knit and the lace as a single piece of fabric when I was sewing. This was unproblematic except that it made for an interesting experience sewing the band at the bottom since I had quite the sandwich of fabric layers going on. I had to recut the bottom band and try again because it went a bit wrong the first time, but my struggles are not evident in the finished product. Overall, I'm really pleased with how this turned out.

My second embellishment project was also fairly straightforward. If you've read this blog for a while you'll know I've been passingly interested in the Alabama Chanin books/techniques. I keep meaning to make an actual AC knit garment just to see how I like it. (I have to be honest, I have major doubts that I don't think I'll clear up until I actually give making a wearable garment a fair shot.) One of the things the book tells you to do is stencil in your design onto the fabric with fabric paint before you start sewing/embroidering/whatever. Stencilling is not something I have ever done before, so I decided to do a mini stencilling-only project first.

Things I used on my scarf
Thus: One pot of grey fabric paint. One cosmetic sponge (from a large bag of them from the £1 shop). One large black fabric scarf purchased from eBay direct from China for 99p. One simple stencil from the first Alabama Chanin book, transferred onto template plastic because I thought the cardboard would go soggy if I used the one in the book.

I quickly hit on a technique for splodging the paint through the template. I decided to do a sort of border print along the short edges of the scarf, but other than that I made no attempt to plan out the actual layout of the stencil. I just tried to fit it the stencil in at different angles somewhat organically as I was going along.

Finished stencil painted scarf
And here is the finished product! I definitely learned some things about stenciling from doing this that I plan to carry over to an actual AC garment, and I like my finished scarf as well.

Next up: the weather having finally become somewhat autumnal this week, I am in a hurry to make more tunic length tops so I can actually start using the jeggings I bought. I will probably be focusing on that over the next couple of weeks. On the plus side, that means lots of fun new patterns for me. On the minus side, lots of fun new patterns means lots of my least favourite sewing job: tracing and/or cutting out patterns.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

In which I sew A Look (Butterick 6270 & Ottobre 02-2016-05)

Today's "Look": Butterick 6270 tunic (left) and Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" (right). Put together in centre!
I have mostly, up to now, avoided the skinny jean look. I did buy a pair of skinny jeans once a couple of years ago but I was stymied by the problem of how do I wear these? I always found myself feeling weirdly exposed and under-dressed if I wore skinny jeans with the same tops I wore with bootcut jeans. This is, of course, ludicrous because in actual fact the only place they fit differently/more snugly than my bootcut jeans was below the knee. No matter how silly, though, the fact was I couldn't get comfortable with wearing skinny jeans and eventually got rid of them.

This time around, I decided that if I was going to try out the skinny trousers look, I needed more of a "make some outfits" strategy. Rather than skinny jeans, I bought two pairs of RTW "jeggings" in my two main autumn/winter neutrals, black and navy. I use scare quotes because "jeggings" seem to be defined differently by every shop that sells them, meaning everything from extra stretchy skinny jeans to knit leggings with a fake jeans-style fly and topstitch printed down the outer leg. My two pairs are a mid-to-lightweight stretch woven with a faux fly and front pockets, some jeans-type topstitching details and an elasticated waist. If I decide I like this look and need more, I would probably make rather than buy next time. Based on my recent extremely positive experience with Jalie 2908, I have been thinking about getting Jalie 3461 if I decide to try making some.

By the time I bought the trousers I had also spent some quality middle-of-the-night-insomnia-sucks time on Pinterest combing through for ideas for tops, and then trying to match them up with fabric & patterns in my stash. I'm not going to lie: this was very entertaining and made being awake at 3:30am significantly more bearable. :D

Skinny black trousers and layers, all by Eileen Fisher
My first outfit is based on various photos of outfits from Eileen Fisher. Eileen Fisher is not a brand with which I am really that familiar. If they have shops here in the UK I am not aware of it, and frankly the prices would be waaaaay out of my range even if they did (e.g. ~£200 for their basic black trousers like in these photos. Hahaha, no, I don't think so.) At any rate, the actual shop notwithstanding, in the photos I pinned what I picked out specifically that I wanted to try to achieve was a relatively streamlined tunic, with another shorter and differently shaped lightweight layer over the top.

My version of the outfit therefore includes (a) black RTW jeggings; (b) a tunic length top in black and ivory patterned viscose made with Butterick 6270; and (c) Ottobre 02-2016-05, a curved hem knit top in a very lightweight, semi-opaque black knit.

Butterick 6270

The Butterick pattern, despite having a very uninspiring pattern cover, is really rather nice. As you most likely know, See & Sew patterns are a cut-down, reduced-price version of a pre-existing Butterick, McCall's or Vogue pattern, usually just one view or with a very limited variation compared to the original. I looked for the original pattern but couldn't figure out what it was*, and nobody seems to have reviewed this See & Sew version so far. I chose it for this project because my fabric, with the diagonal check design, really needed something without a lot of style lines. As it is, let us gloss gently over the question of whether I managed to match the diagonal lines at the side seams in any way (answer: no, I did not, it is a mess of disconnected lines).

* Edited to add: With thanks to SewCraftyChemist, the original pattern is Butterick 5997, which has an additional view with pintucks and some more sleeve variations.

Butterick 6270 tunic: front, back and innards showing the large facing and clean finished shoulder yoke
I made version B, with a long sleeve with a continuous lap cuff, but without a pocket or the collar, in a size 16 which is the largest size in the package. I made no changes except for my essential square shoulder adjustment.

You can see on the white version on the pattern illustration and in my version above that there is a wide facing to finish the neckline. I expected, as I cordially loathe all facings, to hate this one too. However, it actually all comes together quite well, albeit with a little bit of hand sewing of the facings to the front yoke seams. It also asks you to slip-stitch the front shoulder yokes by hand. I did not do that, preferring the burrito method for a clean finish yoke despite having to squeeze quite a lot of shirt into a very small space between the yoke pieces. I also ignored the instruction to hand-stitch the collar stand closed. I stitched in the ditch, but it must be said I don't get such a nice finish from that no matter how slow and careful I am. Probably I would prefer the outcome of hand-stitching it, even if I don't particularly enjoy the process.

Fit-wise, for straight out of the envelope except for my straight shoulder fix, it's all right I guess. The usual problems cropped up: the width of the shoulders, which are not just out but MILES out, and that annoying twisty sleeve problem. The shoulder width thing is a real pain because the effect of all those criss-crossing lines on the extra width of the fabric makes it look like I'm wearing Dynasty style shoulderpads, which is annoying. Both shoulder width and twisty sleeve issues are on my list of Things To Figure Out Sooner Rather Than Later, but eh, too late for this garment I guess! I'm still experimenting a bit with what the perfect length of top is for me with skinny trousers. This top is 76cm long and I feel like it might have been better just a little bit longer, maybe 80cm.

Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" sweater front, side and back to show the curved hem
Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog", from the Ottobre pattern sheet

The top layer of my outfit is from a recent issue of Ottobre. The pattern, 02-2016-05, is a typical simple Ottobre knit pattern with three pattern pieces and a binding. The appeal for me was the shaped front and back hem. The original pattern has invisible zips set into the two side seams. I have seen this top made up on someone's blog, though I'm sorry to say I forget who, and I ear-marked the pattern at the time because I liked how it looked on her. She did it properly with the zips and everything, and it looked great. However, I couldn't actually imagine any circumstance in which I would ever unzip those zips, plus my knit fabric is absolutely featherweight and the thought of inserting two zips in it filled me with horror, so I left them off. And that's all there is to say about this pattern, really.

As modelled by me, with RTW black "jeggings". I got my collar stuck in my sweater in the rear view -- oops!
So that's my first top (or tops, in the case) to wear with my new jeggings made. I think I'm pleased with it -- I like it better in the mirror than in the photos but that's pretty typical for me. I have more similar projects planned to sew over the next few weeks to make these trousers functional in my wardrobe for autumn (though, there's been no actual sign of autumn here yet -- we're sweltering through the hottest September in decades here right now. It's meant to start being more normal temperatures from this weekend but still probably too warm for this outfit!) I'm also slowly creeping through the preparations to start making that camel coloured jacket, though, so most likely the start of that will be up next.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Trouser Chronicles, Chapter 3: Faking It (Jalie 2908)

The story of my efforts at trouser fitting so far:

Chapter 1: The Trouble with Trousers (February) In which I made many many muslins and took many many photos of my butt, and yet achieved very little in the way of improvement in fitting moderately close fitting non-stretch woven trousers.
Chapter 2: Imperfect Trousers Are Better Than No Trousers (July) In which I continued to attempt to fit moderately close fitting woven trouser patterns, and ended up with one pair of not-completely-awful-but-not-good-either trousers.

This is my attempt to stand around looking "casual" in a photo in my new Jalie 2908 trousers. Er. Maybe I'll just go back to starting straight ahead.

This week, I embarked upon round three of Me vs. The Trouser, and this time I decided that there might be An Ultimate Answer to all my problems, and that Ultimate Answer might well be: Lycra! The fact of the matter is that a nice stretchy fabric disguises many a fitting flaw, and I decided it was time to try out "faking better fit through stretchiness" as a strategy. This turned out to be a winner, and, although I've yet to subject them to the test of a full day of wear, these cobalt blue trousers definitely have the potential to be at the top of my list of Favourite Things I've Made In 2016 based on current evidence.

Jalie 2908

Today's story starts with the choice of Jalie 2908, a.k.a That Stretch Woven Bootcut Jeans Pattern Everyone Raved About In 2009/2010. It's extremely widely reviewed -- about 200 times on PR -- and any Google Image search of it produces lo, the largest collection of Butts In Jeans that you could ever want to see.

I made up the pattern as is, straight from the envelope, using the higher of the two rises supplied (view B). This seems ridiculous after I spent SO LONG figuring out adjustments the last two times I worked on trousers. However, when I compared my much-altered basic woven pant pattern with this Jalie pattern, it turned out that a lot of the changes I'd made seemed to be already built into the shape of Jalie's pattern.

Despite this encouraging discovery, I was prepared for this to be (yet another) fitting disaster and this affected my construction decisions. You have to get almost to the end of all of the construction before you can try the trousers on for the first time. Since I was kind of skeptical about the outcome, I wasn't willing to put in hours on the top-stitching and embellishment in case it turned out to be a waste of time. I did topstitch where it was required but just minimally and in my construction thread, and though I always try to sew precisely I didn't sweat the details too much. This pair of trousers is therefore probably sort of "wearable muslin" quality rather than "this is my best work, hurrah" quality. This is is also reflected in the fabric, which was at the more inexpensive end of the stretch wovens I considered, a stretch cotton twill. It's marginally stretchier than called for by the pattern and rather light weight -- fine for the autumn but I wouldn't want to wear these trousers in mid-winter. One problem is that it CREASES OMG. I pressed these trousers for the photo, but dear god, you can barely tell.

Front fit, highly over-exposed to show the details. Too tight at my thighs and upper hip due to making a size too small, but wearable, especially if the fabric grows during the day.
I made a size U from Jalie's size list. This was actually a mistake -- I am between a U and a V in the size range, and I meant to pick the larger size. Somehow in time period between choosing the size and tracing the pattern I got mixed up and ended up tracing the size U. All my fit shots below are therefore a set of variations on a theme of "just a bit too tight". That said, I'm actually OK with how it fits, especially since this fabric is already showing signs that it will grow as you wear it. For one, does anyone else think their trousers look much worse in photos than in the flesh? I definitely don't think the whiskering at the front crotch is anywhere near so obvious or concerning when I look in the mirror vs. looking at the photo. Secondly, I never wear anything tucked in. These shots are the first and last time anyone will ever see the waistband of my jeans, and very often nothing will be visible above my upper thigh because of my shirt/sweater length. So, you know, since it's not so tight that it's uncomfortable to wear, I can live with it.

Rear fit, also a little too tight. Otherwise looks like every pair of RTW jeans I have ever owned in terms of the wrinkling size and location
Overall, the best things about these finished trousers:
  • I love, love, love the colour of this fabric.  LOVE.
Bootcut flare and the teeny tiny hem I had to turn. This is probably closest to the real colour.
  • I like the shape and flare of the bootcut very much. I know bootcut is not super fashionable, despite a recent uptick in popularity, but I've always loved bootcut and how it looks on me. This pattern really works for me in terms of hem width and where the flare starts. It's only JUST long enough out of the envelope though -- I could only turn up only the teeniest, tiniest hem as I wanted to keep as much length as possible.
 To improve on next time:
  • The fit, obviously. I will probably try going up a size next time to a V. Separately, I am becoming more and more convinced, based on some reading I've been doing, that I need to learn a knock knee alteration. This would hopefully improve both the inner thigh fit and the way that trousers/jeans hang below the knees. I'll look at this when I come back to trouser fitting in the next few weeks.

Fly front. Looks okay in this shot, but actually not great.

  • The fly. I did better with the instructions I used from Burda for my last pair of trousers than I did with the Jalie instructions This sounds very unlikely, given the usual state of Burda instructions, but the pattern I used was one of their special "sewing course" patterns and the fly front instructions were great. I might just use them in future for all fly fronts. I don't like how close to the lap edge the zip is in this pair of trousers.
I didn't do anything fancy with the back pockets. I wish I had done at least a little minimal bit of a pattern! I will next time for sure.

  • Some of the finishing, because it is pretty shoddy in places, to be honest, to the point where I was all maybe I'll just try not to capture that particular detail in my photos because it looks rough, tra la la. /o\ That's for fellow sewist consumption of course. In real life, nobody is going to notice, or if they do I would be side-eyeing them pretty hard for looking that closely at my crotch to begin with, but still, ugh, not my best work!
Left: Attempt 1 at a (bias) waistband, with horrible distortion after I topstitched; Right: Attempt 2, on the cross-grain, pieced from scraps. The upper edge is still a LITTLE wavy, but it's still 100% better than Attempt 1!
  • The waistband. This version actually took two attempts. I cut the bias waistband required by the pattern instructions without much enthusiasm because I couldn't see how, without interfacing, it wasn't going to stretch and warp horribly when I sewed it. Since then, I have discovered most people who used the bias waistband HAVE interfaced it, so score one for my instincts, I guess, but minus one for not actually following them in any way. I tried the bias waistband without interfacing, and it was sort of OK right up until I started topstitching, and then NOPE! the hideous mess I expected ensued. In the end I had to piece a second, cross-grain waistband from my (very limited) scraps. I had so little fabric left I couldn't even piece in such a way as to put the piecing seam to match the side seam! However, again, nobody will notice  -- even I can barely see my piecing seams in this photo -- so it was worth the time spent unpicking and piecing for sure.
In conclusion: Faking it with stretch was a success. Yes, I picked the wrong size and no, my sewing was not brilliant. However, this is a perfectly wearable pair of trousers, albeit on the tighter end of the spectrum of what I'm willing to wear. Overall these trousers, while imperfect, are much less imperfect than the last pair, and I'm all about progression, not perfection. \o/

Next up in the Trouser Chronicles: I will definitely make this pattern again although not immediately. I am just bummed that Jalie don't have a non-stretch pattern that I could try! However, I was re-reading an old blog entry for some reason and was reminded that Simplicity actually do a whole range of "Amazing Fit" patterns for non-stretch trousers. Since Burda doesn't seem to be working well for me as a starting point, I decided it couldn't hurt to give one of those a try. Who knows, maybe it really will be amazing :D

For now, due to having more pressing wardrobe needs, I'm probably going to take a little break from trousers again and work on other things. Next up on my sewing table is this combination of pattern, fabric and lining:

Next: Outerwear! Outerwear! Outerwear! :D

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Finshing up August

After my fit of the dismals in my last two posts, I am finally more cheerful! So here is a roundup of August and some thoughts on what I want to sew next.

This month I made up a couple of TNTs (PJ shorts, a t-shirt) and that had the usual pleasing outcome.  I also made a white and green raglan woven top, and I've enjoyed wearing that although I don't think I'll make that pattern again. One good thing is that the top I thought was a disaster at the time (the one I made using a Silhouette pattern) has surprisingly turned out to be pretty wearable overall, so that has been cheering.

Just under the wire for the end of the month I also finished up one more TNT knit top. I squeezed it on to a little remnant piece of fabric I bought recently. It's not very exciting, I know, but I really wanted a striped black and white top for this autumn, and I liked this weird barcode like knit a lot from the moment I saw it.

TNT t-shirt with three quarter sleeves in a "barcode" striped knit
Overall, though, I guess August wasn't what you might call a super productive month. Also, I bought a whole pile of fabric so I'm not even going to TOUCH the question of how I did against either my budget or my planned stash reduction except to say: dismally! On the other hand the pile of fabric I bought mostly has very specific Autumn plans assigned to it, so I refuse to angst over it.

Earlier this year, I decided I needed to do a really ruthless edit of my patterns, magazines and books and also catalogue it all more thoroughly. I got started on that in the last week or so. (I have to be in the mood to be ruthless, and it's taken until now to get to the point where I feel like I want to cull my sewing possessions like this!) I've ended up putting a bunch of stuff up on eBay that I've decided just isn't anything I need. A lot of what I'm selling is envelope patterns I bought in the early phases of my sewing career before I really figured out what I wanted to sew. I feel like I bought a lot of "everyone else loves this" patterns but a lot of them really weren't me at all, stylistically speaking, so I've cut my losses with those.

One mini-success I can report is that I also decided at the beginning of the year to only add envelope patterns (which are very expensive here in the UK) to my collection when they offer something unique or that appeals to me very strongly. So far I've done a pretty good job of that! I've only bought four envelope patterns overall to date this year. I've also bought about dozen PDF patterns, but a lot of those are Lekala and at £1.35 a pop I am not too bothered by that. My major pattern supply of course comes from having three magazine subs (Burda, Knipmode and Ottobre) so I am not exactly starving for pattern stimulation!

That said, the most recent Big4 collections have included some really interesting patterns. I have five envelopes in total on my wishlist:

Butterick 6388; McCall's 7433; New Look 6481; Burda 6578 and Vogue 8805

Of these four are from the most recent collections, and one is old, old, old (Vogue 8805) and has been lurking on my wishlist a long time. I want the New Look 6481 pattern only for that blazer, especially after seeing the gorgeous version Ms. SewCraftyChemist made already. The Butterick 6388 I want just because of that neckline -- definitely an interesting knit top variation. It's really weird for me to want an Archive Collection or vintage style pattern but that McCall's 7433 shirtdress has some really pretty and unique details. The Burda 6578 pattern is in essence an ordinary buttoned shirt but I'm in love with that pleating detail on the pink version on the cover and think it would be fun to sew.

I'll wait to buy all of these when they're on sale in the UK because I am cheap I am not in any special hurry to make any of them. I hope I can pick up the Butterick knit pattern sooner rather than later though as I love it and want to make it up before winter if I can.

As for September, well, my list of things to do this month looks something like this:

1. Outerwear! Outerwear! Outerwear!
2. Semi-intense fitting session to improve woven shirt fit (especially that sleeve twist I keep getting and tightness through the upper back) and then making a couple.
3. Stuff to wear in autumn to laze around the house.
4. Finish the sweater I'm knitting.
5. No, really: Outerwear! Outerwear! Outerwear!

All that said, before I embark on any of these exciting plans I have two WIPs to finish up: another quick TNT knit top, and the pair of Jalie 2908 bootcut jeans I have cut out waiting for me to summon the mental strength to work on a fly front. For sure I'll get the top finished by the end of the weekend. Who can say whether I'll feel up to sewing the fly front in the next few days!

Monday, 29 August 2016

What is actually wrong with me (a non-sewing post)

I guess we're all all too aware these days of how many scammers there are on the internet, lying about fake illnesses that they have out of some desire to feel special or to get money or something. So, I feel like I should say first and up front that I didn't write this post to scrounge for sympathy or anything else. I've never really tried to hide the fact of my illness on this blog, and obviously (as seen yesterday) I do whine about the impact of my illness quite regularly, but in general I don't want this to become a blog about being sick. Recently, however, I've had a couple of questions about why I am stuck at home/unable to work/talk about being sick so much, and so just out of the knowledge that it's irritating to be cryptic all the time, here is a brief explanation. I imagine most people will just skip the rest of the post, and that's perfectly OK with me.

Over the last few years I've been struggling with an illness that I came to realize I had had for a while. From 2012 -- oddly enough, from right about the same time I took up sewing -- onward it escalated significantly but it wasn't correctly diagnosed until after I ended up in hospital a couple of times in mid-to-late 2013. I bounced around a lot of different specialists until finally I was told that I have a very rare genetic condition of a type known as an auto-inflammatory disease. The type I have (not listed on that website) causes acute pain by causing chronic inflammation of my major internal organs (heart, lungs, liver, stomach). Sadly, I don't respond to the main drug that works for many people in my situation, and I have been trapped in bureaucratic wrangling with the NHS for over eighteen months now trying to access an alternative (expensive) treatment instead, which may or may not help if I should ever be given permission to try it. This situation is of course very frustrating.

In the meantime, I take steroids, which prevents about 90-95% of the inflammation. Like most people I get heavy duty side effects to go along with my heavy duty steroid dose. Over the last two years or so I've mainly learned to ride the line between how much pain I am able to tolerate and how many of the steroid side effects I am able to tolerate. When I have bad weeks, it tends to be because one or other of these (pain or side effects) slipped past the toleration point. In general, I've found the best way to keep myself stable is not to try to do too much. Sadly, "avoiding doing too much" has turned out to include avoiding doing almost everything I previously took for granted about leading a normal life. I am very very fortunate that my family have been able to provide endless emotional, financial and practical support to help get me through this period of my life.

To circle back round to my actual sewing: as I've mentioned before, the biggest effect has been that my life is pretty limited -- I don't leave the house much because too much exertion triggers the inflammation -- and so the range of things I sew is a bit limited. The most aggravating thing about my illness from a sewing perspective is the constant weight fluctuations. Many people gain very significant amounts of weight when they are on steroids at my dose level for as long as I have been on them. I have been fortunate to avoid that, although "fortunate" is a funny way to put it because it's partly because I feel so violently ill most days that I don't even want to look at food. However, my weight has bounced up and down quite a lot, and unfortunately when you gain weight on steroids it all goes on (a) your abdomen ("steroid belly"); (b) your upper back ("buffalo hump") and (c) your face and chin ("moon face" or chipmunk face) and then it STICKS THERE, even if you lose weight again! I can't say any of this makes me happy, especially the chipmunk face thing, but there's nothing I can do so I am just... I don't know, working on cultivating something like a zen attitude about it all?

I guess that's my de facto way of dealing with the whole thing, really. Mostly, I just try to get on with whatever facsimile of my life I can have right now. Sewing has been a great plus in my life. When I am well enough to be up and about around my house, it gives me something to do. I'm able to buy almost everything I need on the internet, so the fact that I can't go out to the shops doesn't really matter. When I am less well, it's something think about in the many empty hours that I would otherwise spend staring at the walls. From the outside, I can see it probably looks a little obsessive at times, but in the grand scheme of things I'd rather have a few strangers on the internet think I'm, for example, weirdly over-invested in wardrobe planning than give up on a major source of amusement.