Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Bits and pieces

  • Knitting update: I am CRAZY proud of my sweater so far! I had to take a brief hiatus from my Knit Every Day In July plan for reasons of (same old, same old) illness, but happily I managed to get the whole body done and cast off before I downed tools. \o/ I started again yesterday and so far I have picked up the first sleeve but I have yet to start knitting it. I am not anticipating the sleeves taking all that long given how quickly I progressed through the main body of the jumper.
The jumper before I knitted the hem band; close up of the pretty woven stitch hem band; trying on the finished body section
  • The summer dress thing: I have such ~~~issues about wearing dresses, it's nuts. I wear skirts a lot more often these days than I was ever comfortable with before but dresses, I don't know, somehow I just can't wrap my mind around wearing them or even making them despite owning, at a conservative estimate, a million dress patterns. This summer, in an effort to get over myself I promised myself I would make and wear a summery dress, but... yeah, not so far. I have traced a pattern out of an old issue of Burda but then, fatally, I paused, unsure if this was really the right dress/fabric combination and promptly stalled out entirely. If I want to get any use at all out of a summer dress I need to make it soon, so, I don't know, a swift kick up the backside is required I guess.

The dress I may or may not be making (from Burda 05-2011) although definitely not ever in orange
  • One of these days I will make a coat: I am also inching towards making my first muslin of piece of outerwear, mainly as a result of finding the actual perfect pattern for a coat I want to make, Burda 6772. The only thing I am not sure about is the side panel/Dior dart thing, because I can find only minimal information on where the seam is supposed to fall if it's not a princess seam (beyond "to the side of the bust"). More on this eventually, I am sure.
Burda 6772
  •  Bias binding the edges of sleeves/armholes has to be one of my least favourite things to do. This realization is brought to you by three separate (as yet unblogged) garments that required bias binding and how little I enjoyed the process for each of them.
  •  I just recently received a plaintive message from a former colleague, enquiring what I thought a suitable outfit would be for the social event at the academic conference I would normally (if I weren't sick, out of work and otherwise exiled from my chosen profession) be attending with her later in the year. The conference is in Texas and the social event is at "the world's largest honky tonk bar", which, no offence to any Texans reading this, sounds like a living nightmare when combined with several hundred academics from my field of study.  At any rate, I e-mailed her back and suggested jeans were the safest option, and we got into a 10 e-mail discussion about the ridiculous double standards for dress for male vs. female academics, her loathing of the conference's stated "anything goes" dress code as it provides no actual useful indication about what she should wear, and the fact that the men in her department (which is to say, fairly typically for our field, everyone in the department that isn't her) compete over how little luggage they are taking, as if the size of their carry-on bag is inversely proportional to the size of their dick. This was all very amusing, but I was also relieved to find that my very erudite former colleague also has similar concerns to me, because I was starting to think I was the only one!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Longevity and sewing my wardrobe

The other day as I was wandering around the sewing blog world I read something, somewhere (and I genuinely can't recall where it was) where someone was talking about how their goal is make clothes that have the potential to last for 5+ years. From what I recall, she seemed to be making an argument, as many people do, for using higher quality fabrics, sewing more slowly and using good finishing techniques in order for things to last even if they're in regular high rotation.

This came to mind again yesterday evening because I spent the day wearing a blouse I made last month (with New Look 6407). I felt at the time of writing about the shirt in question that my finished item was exceedingly mediocre at best and since then I've only worn in twice, including yesterday. At the end of yesterday, however, I almost ripped it off my body, cut off the buttons and flung the remains in my bag to go to fabric recycling because NO. AWFUL. GET RID OF IT. NOTHING about it worked for me except for, for once, the fit through the bust. Other than that, the shoulders pulled, the lower back was tight, the various little sewing flaws bothered me, and that gaping neckline that didn't seem to come near my neck drove me more and more insane as the day went on. Life is too short to wear clothes that drive you mad (unless you HAVE to, of course, because it's a work uniform or something) so: death to the navy blouse of doom!

Of course, the reality is that this was always a "wearable wadder" (TM on this term to L, who as it happens coined it as a result of an experience with the same pattern although I know she ordinarily really likes it) and really never should have made it into my wardrobe. It's still rather annoying to me to discard something I made after only a month and two wears. Certainly I've failed to reach that forgotten blogger's lofty aims of making things that last half a decade!

It then occurred to me to wonder how much of a change it would be for me to own the same clothes for five years. As is well-documented, I am a data nerd. One of my more nerdish endeavours is that I keep a spreadsheet with my entire wardrobe listed on it, along with when I bought it and how much it cost to buy or make. (You can think what you like of my spreadsheets; I long ago learned to accept my obsessive data gathering habits.)

I've mentioned before that for three years from 2008-2011 I bought almost no new clothes and just wore what I already owned to the point of extinction. I then did a fairly epic wardrobe purge in 2012 just before I started sewing. Since 2012 I've gone through multiple size changes both up and down from where I started (my weight, never stable, has been wildly volatile for the last 3 years for reasons related to my various health issues and medications/treatment) and I started sewing for myself. So, I went into this exercise fully aware that most of my wardrobe is of very recent date, which is in fact the case: almost half my clothes (46%) were made or bought in the last 18 months.

However, despite size changes and ruthless culls of the worn out, decrepit or badly fitting, about a third of my clothes (35%) are 5+ years old. Of those, I have a handful of things that are truly elderly (about 5% of my clothes are 10+ years old, with the oldest thing I own dating from 1986). The more interesting part I suppose is what those clothes actually are:
  • Jeans;
  • "Investment buys", e.g. my winter coat, which cost me me much more than I usually spend and which I have looked after pretty carefully;
  • Sentimental clothes, a.k.a. "I don't care what this looks like, I love it/wear it anyway" (e.g. ancient t-shirts with peeling logos, threadbare along every seam, that I wear to sleep and do yoga in at home);
  • Rugged/hard-wearing garments that are intended to survive a lot of abuse (e.g. my Gore-tex anorak);
  • Things that hardly ever get worn (e.g. a beach cover-up, which I've owned since 2000 and worn about a half a dozen times. I don't do beaches that often, but when I do, I need a cover-up);
  • Things that probably wouldn't have survived this long if they'd been in high rotation, but they fell out of rotation because my size changed and they therefore spent some of those 5+ years in a storage box under my bed. Noticeably, however, there's nothing really sentimental or special about these clothes. They are mainly just things I think of as wardrobe staples -- I have one pair of black work trousers in each of 3 different sizes that don't currently fit me, plus a pair in my current actual size on my spreadsheet, for example.
It's all RTW, of course, since I only started making clothes in 2012. Noticeably NOT on this list: any tops, any sweaters or other knitwear, any non-jeans trousers unless they've been in store. In a way, this is a relief. I've been kind of annoyed with myself over the last three years of making clothes that so many of them haven't really lasted that long (some of this is due to poor sewing and fit, but a lot due to fabric deterioration), but then clearly the same categories of RTW clothes didn't survive either.
There aren't too many knit or woven tops in my wardrobe that are more than three years old, and those that are older are on their last legs.

I'm not saying that RTW longevity is anything to aim for, at all, but at least I don't seem to be doing worse than my pre-sewing RTW purchases. Realistically, unless I radically change my laundry habits (unlikely) the fact is that lightweight cotton and knit clothes just won't survive the kind of wear/wash/tumble dry abuse I put them through, whether I make them myself or buy them. I'm not saying I won't continue to try to make better fabric choices and use better sewing and finishing techniques to give them as long a life as possible, but I think it's reasonable to assume that I'm going to discard and replace those type of items more frequently than others.

When it comes to the things that clearly do survive, and that, on reflection, I would expect to survive, I can definitely see myself replacing the "investment buy" with the "investment sew" in the future. For sure any outerwear at all is on that list of both "spend more to get a good outcome" and "it should last a really long time if I take care of it appropriately", whether it's RTW or hand-made. I do plan to start sewing some coats and outerwear so that fits in well. On the other hand, it's almost impossible to source specialist fabrics for things like Gore-tex jackets, so I'll probably continue to buy those. I'll also probably keep buying jeans, at least for the time being, for various reasons. On the other hand, if I need any random one-off items like a beach cover-up, I'd be reaching for my pattern collection first, not a RTW catalogue.

My big conclusion though is that what I really need to do is learn to make my wardrobe staples really well, and consider them to be investment sews, even though a lot of my wardrobe staples depend on good fit. If I'm honest, I haven't delved into making some things because my weight has been so incredibly up and down the last three years that it hasn't seemed "worth it" to work on e.g, fitting tailored trousers when it's quite likely that I'll be in a different size 6-12 months later. I am annoyed to realize that I've been embracing this off-shoot of the irritating "I'll deserve this when I'm thinner!" thing that I so very much dislike and heartily enjoin others to ignore. In reality, clearly even if I do size out of clothes, if I like them and they're in good shape I can just put them away until I need them again.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Epic paisley twirl (a.k.a. Burda Classics 2013 005B maxi skirt)

Sorry about the colour/lighting. I thought "yay, summer! outside photo!" and didn't realize it would wash everything out.
I seem to have been working on this skirt forever, and yet the results are... not that spectacular.

On the plus side, I legitimately really like this skirt. It's made from a light, crinkly cotton/viscose blend and it is the most floaty, most twirly, most rippling-gently-as-you-walk kind of maxi skirt imaginable. The shot above was taken with the slightest of breeze making my skirt move. I love that about it. I also like the paisley-ness of the fabric. I had some ridiculous quantity of it bought from eBay in 2012. I used a metre or so previously to make a woven tee last summer, which I have not worn that much (for no very good reason as I do like it). Why I bought such a huge piece of fabric when I don't wear prints all that much , I do not know. At any rate, it was cheap and I had a lot of it, which is just as well because this pattern, from Burda Style Special: Classics 2013, is a fabric hog of epic proportions.

Burda Classics 2013 005B -- images from Burda.ru
I don't think it's immediately apparent from the technical drawing or the modelled image that this is actually a full circle skirt below the yoke. To get a maxi length skirt I therefore needed every centimetre of 3m of fabric, although if I'd got the length right (i.e. hacked a great deal off the hem at the point of using the pattern) I might have gotten away with a smidgeon less. As it was, I had to move all my furniture around in my living room so that I had a big enough floor space on which to lay out 3m of fabric as a single layer and cut out it out.

Alas, this would be the point at which things sort of went a bit wrong, and thus, the minus points:

Problem 1: Quite a lot of time elapsed between me tracing the pattern pieces and making the skirt and I sort of thought I'd checked the things I normally check. Not so much. As a result, although I am more or less a perfect match for a Burda size 42 waist and hips right now according to the magazine measurements ... the yoke did NOT fit at all. The magazine image clearly shows that the model is wearing the skirt somewhere below the waist, but this was not so much "below the waist" as "clinging very very precariously to my hips". I ended up taking about 6cm out of the yoke and to be honest it's still kind of loose. Unfortunately, my belated fix of the width means that the yoke seam match up is dismal. Also, I don't know quite what to blame for this but the yoke ends up tilting on my body and being lower at the front than the back. My suspicion is that this is my fault, but I couldn't tell you what I did. The upshot of all of which is: the yoke was FAR too big and I really should have caught this at the pattern stage. That said, I find this discrepancy between size and fit unusual for Burda, which if anything errs towards less ease than more, but there you have it. If I made this again, I'd probably end up cutting 2 sizes smaller at least.

Problem 2: The length. Right, so, in Burda magazines it always says that their straight sized patterns are intended for people who are 168cm. I am 172.5cm (that's 5'8"). I always check the length, or I guess I should say that I USUALLY check, since evidently I didn't check properly this time at all, but, you know, I would assume on that basis that straight size patterns should generally be at or around a sane length for someone my height. Right?

WRONG. Here is the unaltered length -- to which I had not, through oversight, even added a hem allowance -- in a photo I posted to my shiny new instagram account. Not clear from this photo -- I am wearing 7cm heels underneath the skirt. D:

I can only assume therefore, as I said at the time, that when Burda say "168cm tall" they mean "168cm tall and wearing GIGANTIC HEELS OF GIGANTICNESS", because no. This is too long. More importantly, it doesn't even REMOTELY match what the magazine instructions say is the length of the finished garment, which was much closer to other maxi skirts I already own that DON'T drag along the floor like I'm a child playing dress up.

The real problem is that taking up a circle skirt is an absolute nightmare. I let this hang off and on for a few days to let the bias stretch out. When I then had to hack a lot off the bottom, the "easy" way of shortening it, simply measuring some amount from the hem and cutting it down the whole way round didn't work. Instead I got a ridiculous wavy edge because of course it had stretched out unevenly, and then I got frustrated and hacked at it, and then it was an epic mess and I almost gave up.

The side view demonstrates the hideously uneven hem AND the tilted yoke
However, I tried it on again last night and although the horrible uneven hem does bother me because it looks so very VERY Becky Home-Ecky, I decided I could live with it because (a) it's a casual garment that I'll mostly wear around the house and on errands, and thus I can live with amateur hour sewing levels; and (b) there's SO MUCH fullness and movement to the skirt when I'm actually wearing it and behaving like a normal person, as opposed to just standing still frowning critically at my hems, that it's actually pretty much impossible to tell that my hems are a complete uneven disaster.

For completeness, a back view, which I have to tell you was taken mid-sneeze due to the flowering plant in front of me
In conclusion: I do, genuinely, like this skirt but I'll not be making this pattern up again any time soon!

Next up: I am halfway through a wearable muslin of the Wiksten Tank (which I bought for some unfathomable reason, since I already have SEVERAL similar patterns, but whatever, too late to lament that) and will probably whizz through the finishing touches on that in the next 24 hours. After that, through the kindest of offices I have acquired Simplicity 1063 well in advance of it being available in the UK and am champing at the bit to sew it up after it arrived this weekend. :D And I am in the process of adjusting an Ottobre sleeveless top pattern and a Burda dress.

And finally, I decided at the end of last month that I wanted to get on with my next knitting project, and that in order to do so I would try to knit at least a little every day in July.

Photos taken at the end of every day 1-5 July
I started on on 1 July with literally just the cast on stitches, and as of last night (on the right) I am into the main part of the body. I think I have to grind through about 5cm of body per day this week, which will be probably kind of dull. Also, wow, lighting has a crazy effect on the colour of this yarn when I take the photos. The actual real colour is probably closest to the second on the left. (It is Drops Cotton Merino DK in Storm Blue and the pattern is Backshore (but without stripes) (link is to Ravelry).

Sunday, 28 June 2015

An end-of-June, halfway-through-the-year, good-grief-where-has-the-time-gone post

Ah, the end of another month in which I totally ignored any plans I made at the start, spent money I didn't intend to spend, bought fabric that I didn't mean to buy, and sewed things I didn't know I wanted or needed until I was actually making them. You know, I often wonder whether my incessant goal setting is more stressful than useful a lot of the time. How fortunate there are no resolution police or sewing police to take issue with me when I inevitably fail to achieve any of the things I claim I want to do!

At any rate, I did get two woven tops made this month -- one very mediocre New Look 6407 (which did not improve with the closer acquaintance of wear, but isn't so bad that I have flung it out the window (yet)) and one more successful Kwik Sew 3555. In the latter case, I must admit to the calamity that followed the first wear: one of the yoke seams shredded in the wash and I have had to cobble it back together in a very messy way. I think I was over-enthusiastic in my seam grading which, combined with highly-prone-to-shred linen and my viciously efficient washing machine spin cycle resulted in disaster. :( I am very disheartened because it was such expensive fabric and I really liked my shirt when it was done. I have fixed it for now but I am concerned that more seams will come apart in future washes.

This month I also made some PJs and some striped tops, both of which, thankfully, have survived wash & wear with my previous good opinion of them intact. I also finished (!!) my Roman blinds, except for a little bit of hand-sewing for the stringing process, but I haven't put them up yet so no photo. Not that anyone cares because, no, really, it's a Giant Rectangle. Even I'm not interested in them and I made them.

HP Weekender Sunshine mark 2. That is the residue of my recent sunburn on my neck/chest, honest, I am not just really grubby. Also, for some reason I decided to twist and stare off into the middle distance to one side when the timer went off, hence the strange diagonal lines. Model error rather than fit error, promise!
I did make one other quick repeat this month: I went back to the HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine tee, which I previously made in April. At the time I said that it was a wearable muslin, despite the very low, very wide neckline, but actually, after I wore it the first time: LOL NO, it was a TOTALLY unwearable muslin unless I wanted to flash everyone my bra ALL THE TIME. So, that got pitched. However, I still liked the idea of the pattern and this weekend I used 1m of a grey and black animal print (a bit of a departure for me, I am not very much into animal prints in the normal run of things) to make a second version.

Neckline comparison, new and old tops. They look remarkably similar, given the size of my adjustment, but through conscientious freckle location comparison (no, really) I can confirm that the grey one IS higher and less wide, but just... not high enough to not show off my bra. :|
On the plus side, though very hard to tell from photos because of the print fabric, I did about a 3000% better job with the front gathering this time. \o/ Minus side: .... everything else. I raised the neckline by 6cm (by chopping off the upper part of the bodice, redrawing new armholes and making sure the side-seams still worked). My unfortunate (and lop-sided) sunburn/tan line on the image above, while stupid looking, actually helps because it shows where one of my current favourite scoop-neck tops, with the neckline depth I prefer, lies compared to this HP Sunshine top. As you can see, despite my adjustment it's still wide and it's still pretty low.  If I bend over even a little bit: bra, fully on show.

Overall, this is frustrating. Looking at the fit of the grey one up close, I wonder if I could do with also dropping a size (from a 12 to a 10) through the shoulder, as the seam is over the point of my shoulder. I'm not sure whether I will try AGAIN to fix the pattern, however. I do really like the idea of neckline, but I don't know if I love it enough to go through round three when there are so many other knit patterns in the world.

Since it's also the middle of the year, a tiny update on my 2015 sewing goals:
  • Stick to my 2015 budget. /o\ I am about 10% over for the first 6 months.
  • Sew more fabric than I buy, reduce garment stash by 50m, bag stash by 20m. /o\ I've bought way too much garment fabric already this year, so much that in fact I am +5m compared to where I was on January 1st. There's still time to improve on this though, and, tiny positive point (very tiny) I am -2m on bag stash.
  • Reduce my yarn stash by half (by weight). \o/ Definite progress here: I am down from 4000g of yarn to 3225g, even though I bought 450g new for my current project.
  • My favourite thing so far this year!
  • Maintain and stick to my wardrobe plan. \o/ It probably doesn't LOOK like it, because my blog only shows the new things I make, not the larger wardrobe it fits into. As a result it probably looks kind of scattershot overall. However, I haven't made a single thing this year that wasn't already in my wardrobe plan and that I hadn't consciously thought about how I would wear it in multiple different outfits. As a result, apart from the handful of things where the sewing/fit has let me down, everything I've made so far this year has gone into medium-to-high rotation in my wardrobe and been genuinely useful. Not everything is equally successful or heavily worn, of course. My absolute best/favourite/highest rotation thing so far (other than PJs) is the blue gingham shirt I made at the start of May using Burda 03-2013-124. I LOVE this shirt and since I made it it has basically never actually been in my closet: I'm either wearing it, or it's in the wash.
I had some more specific skill-building sort of goals in my list as well, but I haven't made any real progress on any of them since my last update at the end of March.

A lot of the non-goal-meeting going on in my life is to do with illness, again. It's been very up and down the last three months: April was pretty good, May I went through a short-lived but unfortunate flare-up, and June I've mainly been recovering from the relapse and coping with going back on a high dose of the medication with all the side effects. Meanwhile, my case is stuck in some kind of committee hell where, because what I have is super rare and expensive to treat, and because I am not actively dying or hospitalized, I keep getting pushed to the end of the queue for consideration. Then the committee has questions and has to wait for a response from the one doctor in the UK who is an expert in my condition, and then it's another month before the committee meets again, and then it gets passed to the NEXT committee.... and so on and so on, until now when it's just a week short of 6 months from between being told what I need to have prescribed and today, and I still haven't got the prescription. I mean, I won't hear a word against the NHS, and of course I do entirely agree that of course sicker people who ARE actively dying should have their cases reviewed first, but in practice it's hard not to get frustrated and fed-up about the whole situation. Obviously, what I talk about here on my blog is my sewing, but I'm also not able to work, or continue with writing up my PhD, and I'm rarely well enough to leave my house for more than a couple of hours at a time, and some weeks not even that.

So, that's all pretty depressing stuff, but also it's my reason why I haven't made too much progress on the stuff on my skills-building list that needs e.g. a lot of fitting work or concentration/effort. Once I get better -- and I am determinedly optimistic that something will happen SOON on the committee side of things, and that I will get better once treated -- then the sky is the limit! Though, er, also I do need to finish my PhD as a serious matter of urgency, and find a job and all that kind of normal-life-again stuff. But sewing will be a part of that too. Although I'm all \o/ and /o\ about my goals, in reality I know that at the moment I can only do what I can do, and I don't let any of it really stress me out. I do hope that I will eventually make a bit more consistent and interesting progress in my sewing, though. I follow a lot of blogs of sewers who consistently make so many gorgeous, beautifully executed complex garments and I'm like /o\ /o\ ahaha, why do people even READ my blog (hello, all 190 of you who read my blog on Bloglovin' alone, why are you here) when all I make is like, shirts and t-shirts and endless pyjamas. (I do know ~200 readers is not really very many, but it's about 199 more than I ever thought would bother, and the 1 loyal reader I expected is a long-suffering RL friend of mine.)

This is what a HEATWAVE OMG! weather forecast looks like if you live in Manchester, UK :D I know, I know, I've lived places with a proper changeable climate too, I know how funny our HEATWAVE OMG!! thing is. :D
Finally, next up on my sewing table for July: I have a maxi skirt all cut out and waiting to be sewed up. I am hoping to make some more summery woven tops and will be tracing patterns for that this week while we have a (British) HEATWAVE. (Note for people from actually hot places: you can stop laughing now.) I still have some simple dresses on my list of things to make for summer. I am waiting on a knit top pattern from the new Simplicity collection arriving in the post that I will be making the MINUTE it arrives. I have started a new knitting project and have decided to try to knit a small amount each day this month in order to make some consistent progress. And I have some minor bag-making plans. No doubt I will start next month having made precisely none of these planned objects and lamenting it, but why break the habit of my blog lifetime? :D

Friday, 26 June 2015

Bits and pieces

  • I have been quiet here because I am STILL sewing Giant Rectangles in the name of home decor (specifically, roman blinds for my hall and landing windows). Truly, this is the most boring of all sewing activities. I am also mildly allergic to something the fabric manufacturer has put on the fabric (probably chloroform, which is widely used to stop creasing) so after I've been sewing for an half an hour or so I start to come out in hives. This does not make getting on with an already-tedious sewing task any more appealing, let me tell you. At any rate, I am done with the first blind and the second should be faster because it is smaller and also, I know what I am doing. Although, once it's done I still have to sew on rings and string them and hang them and oh, lord, it'll be Christmas before I have window coverings, won't it.
  • I have succumbed to Instagram. At the moment I have not actually posted anything but you should tell me your account name so I can follow you and ogle your sewing creations & other photos. Also I will start taking photos myself forthwith, now that I have a regular data plan for my phone, although I can't claim that the content will be in any way exciting or visually spectacular. (In fact, the likelihood that it will be exciting or visually spectacular approaches nil, if I'm honest.)
  • I did manage to cut out a quick project -- another knit top -- and hope to sew it up this weekend. However, my last planned June project, a maxi skirt from Burda, has been somewhat stymied by (a) boringly, my long-running, wish-it-would-just-go-away illness, which I can't even discuss without wanting to scream with frustration; (b) the aforementioned blinds taking all my sewing time; and (c) the enormousness of the pattern pieces, which are proving challenging to trace. I think I might have to clear off my dining room table in order to trace it properly, and you know, when you start adding in even one more little thing you have to do before you can get started on something it all suddenly starts to seem like a lot of effort. Or maybe I am just extremely lazy. One of the two.
  •  I came to the realization, as I paged through my "summer sewing inspiration" Pinterest board, that my major stumbling block is that apparently I am strongly drawn to an aesthetic best suited to someone with an A/B-cup bust. This is unfortunate, since I don't think my G-cup bust is going anywhere. Boobs are a trial, seriously.
  • Also, wow, browsing Pinterest is depressing after a while. It is 90% different women who are basically the same archetype over and over: very thin, young, white affluent (or affluent-faking) Americans with long "beachy waves" hair and Michael Kors bags. The other 10% is "everyone else", which is kind of a shitty level of representation for anyone let along the diversity of "everyone else". There are some images of plus-sized women, but Pinterest is a study of extremes: there are images of lots of women who are like, a size 0, and a smattering of women who are a size 20+, and nobody much in between. And if you intersect any two of the less represented groups -- let's say, you're over 25 and a woman of colour -- then you could look for HOURS and not see any images that even remotely resemble you. Which, you could argue that maybe Pinterest reflects the user base, except that the sheer size of the user base precludes that. Also depressing: how many of the photos are annotated with glum little comments: "I don't know that I could wear this"; "I couldn't pull this off but it's so cute"; "Maybe if I were 20lbs lighter!"; "#fitspo dress!" and so on. I wish we were kinder to ourselves, fellow women.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Although I have never quite got the hang of fashion, I apparently absorbed one particular fashion "rule" like it was divine law. At some point in my life, I became convinced that horizontal stripes were a privilege accorded only to the few whose figures were most suited to wearing of them, of whom I was not one. I could actually say a lot about the underlying rhetoric of "stripes make you look fat!", not least about how annoyed I am by any suggestion that every woman's goal when dressing should at all times be to take up as little visual space as possible. However, I will refrain, mainly because you've heard all my ranting on the subject before. I will say, however, that even as I blindly and unthinkingly obeyed the No Stripes, Because Fatness! rule for lo, these many years, I regretted the necessity of doing so. I LIKE stripes. I am a big fan of geometrics in general, actually, and it's always a major disappointment to me that there are relatively few interesting geometric prints in the world in amidst an endless sea of florals and animal prints.

All of which is a (inevitably long-winded) way of saying that when I found myself wistfully examining stripy fabric the other day, I had a sudden epiphany. I decided that damn it, I really like stripes and moreover it really ISN'T my job in life to carefully calibrate everything I wear to make sure I look as small as possible at all times. And thus, I bought some stripes, and I will doubtless buy and make up some more stripy garments in the future, and overall, yes: let there be stripy goodness all round.

Navy striped NL 6150 - I swear to you that the sleeves are actually the same length in person!!
First up was this navy and white striped top, my 6th rendition of a much-revised version of New Look 6150 View D. I am now thoroughly sick of making this pattern, but I do like the shape and fit of it that I've achieved through these multiple versions. There is nothing much interesting to say about this except that the stripe matching on this wobbly 4-way stretch fabric was rather a pain and I am a couple of mm out on the side seams (which I cunningly forgot to photograph, and since my shirt is now in the wash, cannot show you. Feel free to imagine it being utterly perfect!). As far as I can tell this is due to the way my overlocker feeds, as no matter how carefully I pinned and basted I couldn't keep it lining up once I started sewing. The only thing I didn't try was glue (suggested by a helpful commenter recently, thank you) because when I tested my glue on this particular fabric it didn't seem to want to come out again in the wash. D: Overall, it's not a very exciting top, but I love it because I love the fabric/stripes.

Here is a terrible bedroom mirror selfie of me wearing my navy top
Since I am utterly fed-up of NL6150 now, I have decreed that my next few knit tops should all be, as far as possible within the constraints of what I need/want in my wardrobe, more interesting than the very basic tees I've been turning out.

Line drawing, Ottobre 05-2012-11"Stormy Grey"
My second stripy top therefore used a new-to-me pattern: Ottobre 05-2012-11 "Stormy Grey", with the minor change that I attached short rather than long sleeves to it. I previously made up the minor variation (Ottobre 05-2012-13, which is gathered horizontally at the centre front of the necline) and it was an epic disaster (mainly because I made it about 3 sizes too big, I now realize). This time I picked my size using my knit sloper and ended up with something like a 40 through the shoulder, 44-ish through the bust, 42-ish through the waist and hips.

I didn't change much in the pattern. Short sleeves, obviously. Also, for reasons, I used a small piece of black cotton to cover my gathering (the pattern calls for you to use a self fabric strip). I am in two minds about how this looks. I was originally intent on putting a couple of little buttons on this placket, but I haven't decided yet whether to do so. Other than that I did my standard adjustment for square shoulders and made sure it was the right length on me.

Ottobre 05-2012-11 made up in black and white stripes

The main feature of the top is the gathered section at centre front. Once I started sewing, I realized I had to extend this lower down the top than suggested in the instructions because I have a low bust and it looked completely ridiculous to have the gathering perched on the upper slopes of my boobs. I don't like gathering ordinarily, but this was, for me, a rather good gathering outcome. However, because I gathered rather extensively and for a longer section than the pattern called for: (a) I ended up with a kind of stripe vortex over my bust, like a Boob Optical Illusion. (If we are all sucked into a black hole as a result of this vortex, I will take full responsibility, I promise); and (b) more pragmatically, it yanked up the hem at centre front. Since part of the reason I love stripes is the possibility of manipulating them in interesting ways, I find I very much like the Boob Optical Illusion effect. I can live with the hem problem it produced on this version. However, if I were making this top again I'd have to fix it.

The side view -- on the plus side, only look at my beee-yoo-ti-ful stripe matching at the side seam! On the minus side, yikes, the centre front!
Overall, I quite like this top and it IS a tiny bit different to the interminable parade of scoop neck tees I've been making, so I'm glad I tried this pattern out.

As modelled by yours truly. Observe my horrible neckline sunburn, which is what happens when someone as pasty white and pale as me remembers to put sunscreen everywhere EXCEPT  in the scoop neckline of her new stripy navy and white top and sits outside for 30 minutes.
For the next few days I will very tediously be sewing blinds for my hallway. I don't dislike the idea of home dec sewing, but in practice it's not very interesting to sew giant rectangles. Still, I've been living here almost a year and still have no blinds for my hall and landing so something must be done!

PS. I am sorry I am such a terrible replier-to-comments this week. I very much appreciated everyone's helpful suggestions for how to fix my New Look 6407 blouse and have formulated a Plan to try it again some time soon :D

Thursday, 11 June 2015

More mediocrity (New Look 6407)

This is one of those projects where I have gone back and forth between: this is going well! No, wait, this is going really badly! Argh, this a total wadder! No, maybe I CAN finish it and get something useful out of this! Oh, no, maybe I can't... etc, ad nauseum.

New Look 6407 in navy cotton

In the end, I think this particular garment is mediocre at best. I still like a lot of things about the pattern, but I'm just not sure how to fix the problems I've encountered if I were to make it again.

The pattern is New Look 6407, which is one of those patterns that's (a) been very widely reviewed; (b) been around a long time; and (c) is legitimately a shape and style I have bought and worn a million times in my life. I like the fitted shape, the V shaped neckline and (some of) the sleeve options. What put me off buying it for ages was the way it is fitted (waist and bust darts) since all my previous attempts at this kind of shaping have ended up with weird and profoundly unflattering kangaroo pouches where my bust is supposed to go. This is not due to any particular special snowflake-ness of my body shape, or only like 5% that at the most. It is 95% due my inability to figure out the right length, width and positioning of the vertical darts to work with my figure.

However, despite these qualms eventually I succumbed, bought the pattern in a New Look sale, and, in my current quest to make summer-y woven tops, dug it out to muslin and make up this month. I had a piece of cotton just big enough to make view E, in yellow in the pattern illustration above, with a neckband (no collar) and cap sleeves.

New Look 6407 back view
The fabric in question was actually a freebie. It turned up with some fabric I had ordered, having been included in my package by mistake. The vendor didn't want it back when I asked, so this shirt was mine for the cost of the thread and buttons in the end. This is probably just as well as it would have been a shame to use something nice on mediocrity. Sadly, the fabric did not cope well with the extensive amount of handling it received when I was making this (mainly my own fault -- lots of unpicking) and it creases like you wouldn't believe. I pressed this shirt for AGES before I took the photos and it still looks like a rag.

New Look 6407 on me
Fit-wise the muslin seemed to go quite well. I messed about with the darts endlessly, but I thought I had it all figured out and transferred back to the pattern. However, when I sewed the darts and put the bodice together: kangaroo pouches. Again. Argh. Every time I go through this I think to myself that I should make a fitting shell and get this figured out once and for all, and then I contemplate the actual effort involved in making a fitting shell and get no further with the process.

New Look 6407 rear view on me
At any rate, at the kangaroo pouch discovery point I decided this navy shirt was going to be a wadder, folded it all up and put it away. Last week it occurred to me that it might be worth seeing what would happen if I unpicked and pressed out the problematic vertical darts on the front bodice. This produced something MUCH more wearable, with no kangaroo pouch effect! I was very pleased for about 3 minutes, but then I proceeded to make an absolute pig's ear of the neckband (NOBODY else reports problems putting the neckband on, so I can only assume I am stupid because I could not even remotely understand what the pattern wanted me to do, at all, in any way for what felt like HOURS), and the facings (which I dislike anyway), prompting yet more time frowning at this garment. Eventually, though I pulled myself together enough to get the thing finished, which is much more than I ever though I would achieve.
Even on Flossie the neckline is too wide and splays outward at the top. IDK how to fix that.
There are, however, so many problems with this particular garment:
  • The fit at the neck is WAY off. It's way off on Flossie too, (see above) so I think it's some combination of body shape and maybe also overworking the neckline so significantly when I was trying to put the neckband on.
  • The bust darts did not come out well. I feel like I maybe stretched the fabric weirdly somehow when I was sewing and/or pressing the bust area? Or maybe it's the result of how I pressed the (now removed) vertical darts I sewed in? Whatever I did wrong, there's something weird and unpleasant going on with the darts.
  • There's so much visible bad sewing ugh. I didn't think it was too bad when I was actually making it, but wow, yuck, there's a lot of bad sewing here.
  • The neckband is not set evenly on the neckline. It's out by no more than 3-4mm but it's enough to annoy me. By the time I realized how bad it was I was in danger of shredding the neck/collar altogether due to all the unpicking I'd already done, so I had to live with it.
  • I do not love this sleeve length on me. 
  • I do not love the facings because I never like facings
I don't know if/when I will make this pattern again. On the one hand, I really do like the idea of the neckline very much indeed. On the other hand, there are just so many fitting problems with this version and some of them I just don't know how to fix at the moment.

In conclusion: boo! I wanted so much to like this pattern and this shirt, but I just don't think I can say it was successful at all.

I am going to take a break from shirts for my next few projects. I still want to add a couple more to my summer wardrobe, but I have other fish to fry as well. Next up, some very boring t-shirts, and then maybe a maxi skirt if I can summon up the mental fortitude to cut out the massive amounts of fabric needed!