Monday, 14 April 2014

Works in progress

I have a finished thing! But this is not a review because it's officially just a wearable muslin.
Purple spotty Trifecta Top

This is a wearable muslin of the Kitschy Koo Trifecta Top, which is a raglan top/tee pattern released recently by the pattern maker who made the Lady Skater Dress pattern, which you may remember I made an explosion/floral black/white/red dress from quite successfully. I REALLY don't have any excuse for buying this because I have, conservatively, three million raglan tee patterns between my various magazines and whatnot and really didn't need another. However, the fit I got from the Lady Skater bodice was so good with only minimal adjustment, I decided when the Trifecta Top came out that since her drafting seems to work so well for me it was worth buying (I have her other grown-up sized pattern, which is a princess seamed knit top/tunic/dress, for the same reason).

Despite the appearance in the photo (and why do I never notice when I am taking the photos, only afterwards?) my hem on this tee is actually straight and not wildly asymmetrical, honestly. I used this 1m piece of spotty purple jersey because it's one of my last pieces of cotton jersey with poor recovery, which I've now swore off buying any more of after multiple failures. I sort of expected it to turn out badly, and to have my usual problems with the neckline. Ironically, however, the whole tee turned out really really well -- I got the best neckline finish I've managed in ages, the best coverstitch finish I've managed so far, my very basic adjustments to the bodice worked out perfectly, and in fact, the only thing wrong with this "wearable muslin" is that the sleeves are just a bit too tight so I get a lot of drag marks around the biceps and underarm. Not worse than many a RTW tee I have bought though.  So, it's worked out not so much as a wearable muslin, but a pretty good finished garment.

The reason for making this wearable muslin was because one of my next projects is a knock-off of this INSANELY expensive JCrew top (cost to buy in Euros: €113 + p&p. FOR A LITTLE RAGLAN TOP. OK, admittedly, it's silk and wool, but STILL. €113 + postage? No.) :

Very expensive JCrew top
I wanted a blue and white (rather than ecru) top, so I've bought a really nice white jersey, and then I bought a blue and white print for the front panel. I don't love huge florals so I went with something described by Tissu as a "Japanese Garden" print. Other changes: I don't love horizontal contrast bands across my hips like that, so I am going to have the front panel run to hem length, and I'm going to make the top have elbow length sleeves in order to be more useful to me for immediate spring/summer wear. I just have to work out the best way to adjust the sleeves for additional width and I will be making that forthwith. (I have sort of thought about putting it in for the current PR comp, which is, idk, Bargainista something or other, but I doubt I can be bothered.)

Meanwhile, my other WIP is a purple skirt to go with my surprise!not-muslin purple dotty top. It is my feeble Burda challenge item for April, and I am using Burda 02-2014-109 (mostly -- I am adding some details like the topstitching and belt-loops from the variations on a theme of this skirt that appeared in the same magazine). The big thing here is the fly front. I feel like it's probably useful to do a fly front on a skirt before I try to do a fly front on a pair of trousers, so this is my practice fly front project! The fabric for this is kind of both awesome and not awesome. It's a purple sateen and it's SUCH a great colour, but it wrinkles like CRAZY so I bet it's going to be a pain in the ass when I wear it.

Burda 02-2014-109

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

GBSB and Any chance to talk about myself

First, to avoid spoilers in the main body of the text, I will just say: the Great British Sewing Bee finale! What did you think?

Second, Michelle at Happily Caffeinated and Nakisha at Sew Crafty Chemist both named me for a Liebster Award! Thank you both, ladies! :D I am not super excited about naming additional bloggers, because, frankly, most people whose blogs I read do not read mine and I have no way of knowing how many followers they have anyway. However, since I never pass up an opportunity to talk about myself, here are some answers to their questions (there was some overlap between them).

1. How long have you been sewing and what was the first garment you made?/How did you start sewing?

I did the usual Home Economics classes at secondary school from age 11 to 13, but I have an odd learning quirk. Overall, I've always been really comfortable in traditional classroom environments, as my academic record and four degrees attest. However, I really REALLY don't enjoy learning hands-on skills in classroom settings at all, and never have. The pace is never right, or we get too much time to work on our own or too little, or there's either too much instructor led content or not enough. So, I really didn't like home economics, despite the fact that 2/3rds of the curriculum was cookery and I already liked to cook before I started classes. I ended up giving it up as soon as I could (after 2 years) and that was pretty much it for any kind of formal sewing lessons (and it's also the reason why I've not done any since. It just doesn't work for me as a way to learn).

However, both before and after that, I watched my mum sew for pretty much my whole life. She's a former home economics teacher herself, and although she didn't do all that much sewing after my childhood, she did enough that it was a pretty familiar activity, and she would always answer questions and explain what she was doing if I asked (and I am the sort of person whose every question starts with "why..."). I know watching isn't the same as doing, but there are a lot of things you learn from years of just observing that I am not even totally able to articulate. I never wondered, for example, how best to feed fabric through the machine, or how to thread the machine, because I had watched my mum do it a million times.

I didn't personally really sew again until August 2011, an interval of... well, really a lot of years. What started me off was really a combination of things. First, I'd been on a kind of interior design kick for at least a year, in terms of blogs and websites I was spending time reading, and books I was buying. I was really into thinking about mixing fabrics and colours, and yet I had no real outlet for any of this because I wasn't living somewhere that I could redecorate and didn't really have any financial resources for interior design anyway. Second, though, I am interested in issues around feminism and body image, and one thing that kept coming up was about how people whose images we see in media have all their clothes tailored, and this is why everything fits them in ways that clothes do not fit us plebeian types who buy and wear straight off the rack. I don't think the intended outcome of these articles was ever to make people want to sew, but I kept thinking well, if the fit they get is so amazing from tailoring off-the-rack clothes, why don't I do that for myself?

 And yet, once I took the plunge and bought a machine and some fabric, I did something completely different again, and started out by sewing bags and accessories exclusively. I then branched out into garments after about 9 months. The first garment I made was this black and white top using New Look 6025, which I think I maybe wore once. The progression from bags and accessories to clothes was really about need (I don't need a million bags and though I have an Etsy shop and do sell some, I don't turn over enough bags that I could keep sewing at the rate I was sewing at the time without stockpiling epic numbers) and the desire to keep learning. The reality of bags is that you hit a point on a learning curve and then there's really nowhere else to go without getting into leather, which is difficult for multiple reasons as a home sewer. Starting to sew clothes is a whole new learning curve, and a much steeper one, particularly if, like me, your ambitions frequently outrun your abilities.

2. Lately, it seems like everyone has been starting their own pattern company. If you launched your own indie pattern company, what would your focus(es) be?

Plus size! I've talked about this a lot before. If I won the lottery and could do anything I wanted, I'd start two businesses: a plus-size boutique in my home city, with really beautiful, high-quality clothes for younger plus-sized women, and a pattern company that produced similar patterns. In my life, I've been every size between a UK 10 and a UK 26, and although most recently I've settled more or less into the generally well-served UK 14-16 range, I know perfectly well what it is like to try to shop when you're in the full-on plus size range. As a young, plus-size career woman, I really REALLY struggled to find clothes, especially for work, because what was on offer was so often either overly casual (from places like Evans) or else it was too matronly (from Elvi or Ann Harvey). I think there's a huge market for the younger (say 20s/30s), professional plus-size woman who has a decent income but is struggling to find the kind of high quality clothes that she wants to invest in, especially tailoring and coats. Plus, she wants cute, trendy pieces to go with her work basics (pretty blouses and tops for example) plus she wants to be able to walk into a shop and have choices for going out on the weekend. On the pattern side, I'd definitely want to stick to that model too: a mix of classic tailoring pieces like blazers -- you'd have to do several kinds of jackets to suit the different kinds of figures that "plus-size" includes -- and things like trousers and skirts, flattering tops that aren't sacks or tents, and so on.

As you can tell, I've given this a lot of thought. Sadly, where it all falls down is that (a) I know nothing about clothes retailing; (b) I can't draw a stick man without a ruler and have zero pattern drafting knowledge; and (c) I do not have all the money in the world. But yes, if I did win the lottery, I really would do this, because I would hire people to do the parts I can't who were just as passionate about serving the plus-size market and want to serve it well and positively. And I *am* passionate about it, which is why I talk a lot about plus-size patterns in the magazines and so on even when I am not, myself, at present in that size range.

3. What are your favorite projects that you've sewn?

I made this grey denim bag as a gift for my sister-in-law in December 2012. It took FOREVER, at least 25 hours, and it was incredibly hard work because the fabric was so thick. It's probably, in terms of sheer number of pieces (over 60, including interfacing), the most complicated thing I've made, even though none of the sewing was particularly complicated. I very nearly didn't give it to her because I loved it so much when I was finished. It's probably my favourite thing that I've made, although some of my other handbags from my first year of sewing run a close second in the bag category.

Garment-wise, I don't know that I have a favourite! I feel like I am such a beginner still that everything has too many flaws to really love it to the point of saying it's a favourite. That said, I'm loving the finish I'm getting on my most recent makes, particularly the Paula Pleat skirt and arched-top godet skirt I made recently.

4. What do you like the most and the least about blogging?/What do you enjoy most about blogging?

I like that blogging gives me an outlet for the things I want to talk about. The fact is that I have pretty much no real-life friends or acquaintances with whom I can talk about sewing as much as I want to talk about sewing. I do have several crafty friends, but their interests differ from mine in a lot of ways and they are perhaps not quite as INTENSELY interested in sewing as I can be. Blogging allows me to talk about sewing never-endingly and in as much detail as I want because, with all due respect to the people who read this, I don't really write for other people. And yet, that's also what I don't like about blogging: talking to the void. I'm terrible at leaving replies on other people's blogs, but at the same time I love talking to the people who comment on mine.

5. Do you have any random talents that your blog readers wouldn't know about?

I'm actually a good cook! I'm thoroughly domesticated really.
6. Stash Containment: Do you (fabric) stash and if so, how is it contained?
I do! I am a terrible fabric stasher. At the moment, I keep my stash in big plastic tubs in my spare room/sewing room, which you can see in this photo. I waver never-endingly between wanting to have a very small stash and wanting to buy more and more and more lovely fabric, just in case there is ever a fabricpocalypse and all I am left with is my stash.
7. Are you a planner or do you sew whatever strikes your fancy?
More of a planner. I spend a lot of time planning my sewing and thinking about what I want to make and do, with all sorts of criteria in mind (increasing my skills, managing my wardrobe, using particular patterns and fabrics, etc). I'm really utilitarian in some ways and that nudges me towards planning. I want to make things that I want and need, that can become a part of my daily wardrobe or fulfill some specific purpose if not a daily one (e.g I made that outfit for a wedding, and even though I never wore the skirt or jacket again, I feel like they were moderately successful). Last year, I tried out making co-ordinated mini-wardrobes, and there's a part of me that still loves that idea as well as the SWAP thing for sewing. However, I also make things occasionally on a whim, even if I do tend to post-rationalize and figure out a way that I 'needed' a particular thing I decided to make. On the other hand, sometimes I make and dismantle plans over and over and over without ever allowing needle to touch fabric.
8. Are you a "selfish seamstress" or do you sew for others?

Mainly selfish! I've made gifts, like the denim bag, in the past, but didn't find it super rewarding. I feel like I appreciate my own sewing more than other people do, and given the time constraints I operate under I'd rather sew for my most appreciative audience: myself. To be fair, I also don't come under a lot of pressure to sew for others, so I am free to be as selfish as I choose.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Stuff, and also, things

I appear to be recovering somewhat after I finally managed to get my specialist on the phone for medical advice, which is pleasing. Work is still rubbish, though, and I am fed up to the back teeth with everything and want my normal life back. In the meantime, keeping myself occupied with some general craftiness seems to be just about the only thing keeping me going.

1. Following the discussion on my post about the purple knitted monstrosity, I took the advice of several enabling enablers and crept out of my apartment to go buy yarn for a new project. I ended up with Colinette Jitterbug sock yarn in Cinnamon, and as the next few days will be composed of various amounts of tedious sitting around in places that provide little inherent entertainment I shall probably get underway with a new pair of socks before the end of the week.

2. My sewing plans for April are quite varied. Some things are easy enough (knit PJs!), but I am also contemplating my first ever fly front skirt, and hopefully, if I start to feel better, going back to trying to fit a woven top muslin (again) so that I can make a simple woven tee. Not that I want a million simple woven tees, but I figure if I can get some kind of basic block sorted out, I can start applying it to more complicated top patterns thereafter. As always, it is my bust that is the problem. Why so troublesome, boobs? >:(

3. As if upper body fitting wasn't enough, I'm starting to think things to myself like "well, maybe it would be worth trying..." about making trousers. Up to now I've kept away because it's all terrifying scooping out this and fish-eye darts that whenever anyone talks about it. However, as I switched over from long PJs (mainly RTW) to PJ shorts (mostly hand-made) this week as the weather warmed up overnight, I realized that I have actually already made some trouser-type objects. Now, I know PJ shorts are hardly the most challenging or fitted of sewing projects, but I also know my Ottobre PJ shorts actually fit exactly the way I like PJ shorts to fit. I found myself thinking that maybe I should trace the proper woven shorts pattern from the most recent Ottobre Woman and give them a try. Or maybe I'll just ignore that little voice going "how hard can it be, really?" in my head, it's a toss up.

4. My copy of Burda Easy S/S 2014 arrived. I cannot for the life of me recall why I bought it. On the other hand, defying all previously held convictions, so far I am tentatively impressed by regular Burda 05/2014, based on the preview. As always, I await technical drawings because god knows Burda's fashion shots are almost indecipherable as to what the pattern actually is, but I will say that for a May issue, it's an unusually encouraging preview, so far.

5. One day, when I am rich and better at sewing, I am going to go on one of those Susan Khalje couture sewing weeks in the US and make a Marfy coat of such supreme loveliness that people will faint in the street at the sight of it. I'll just be over here, waiting for my untold riches to fall from the sky that will enable me to do all that.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Reviewed: Burda 02-2007-113 Skirt with round-top godets

This took me far longer than it should have because my Mystery Illness intervened and it therefore hung about with only the finishing touches left to do. Still, even though it's now (just barely) April it was mostly finished in March and I am therefore chalking it up as my feeble self-directed Burda challenge garment of the month. (All I'm doing really for this Burda challenge is trying to make 12 Burda patterns up this year, one per month.)

As we're sneaking towards spring (I hope, since I am so very over winter already! And we haven't even had it all that bad here in Ireland this year, at least compared to other countries, I'm just ready to be done with it) I decided I would make my first sort of transition item for my wardrobe. It's the sort of skirt that I can totally wear now with tights and shoes but that I hope I can wear right through summer with bare legs and sandals. It's from an older issue of Burda -- 02/2007 -- and it caught my eye originally mainly because the sample happened made up in a very similar fabric to the one I wanted to use, teeny tiny polka dots and all. It's not the most rational reason to choose a pattern, but there you have it.

Burda 02-2007-113 "Skirt with round-topped godets"
Pattern Description: From the magazine:"... inserted godets add swirl to the airy knee length skirt."

Pattern Sizing: Burda sizes 38-46. Based on my measurements I made a 42 and graded out to about halfway between a 42 and a 44 at the waist. I found the fit true to size.

Left: Skirt on Flossie; Right: My legs are not actually half-invisble or quite that white, I had to lighten the shot because of the sunshine

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, just like it, especially since I used a very similar fabric to the sample in the magazine.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, they were fine, if terse -- pretty normal for Burda. I've made several similar skirts before and didn't need more, instruction-wise, than the pattern provided.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the twirly fullness of the skirt and the seaming interest provided by the large godets with the arched tops. Apart from the godets themselves, it was a very straightforward pattern to make up. Unfortunately my fabric really wasn't ideal for sewing the curves of the godets. There was a fair amount of unpicking involved in a few places to get the seams to lie flat and without puckering, and this involved a certain amount of patience as well. Better behaved fabrics would probably be less problematic! The actual pattern pieces fit together perfectly, as I have come to expect from Burda, so the problem was entirely down to fabric choice. The lining is a simple bias cut a-line skirt. I worried this would not be full enough with the very twirly main layer, but it's fine.

Not sure why I didn't either (a) straighten out the skirt in the shot on the left or (b) press the lining as I was showing it off on the right. Not that there is anything to show off with a blue polycotton lining..
Fabric Used: Mystery blue synthetic with white pin dots. It looks like a woven and it has absolutely zero stretch, but it's actually a knit. I have loads of it because it came cheap in a big piece, and apart from not wanting to ease around curves the main problem with it is that it does NOT want to take a crease at all, which made the hem and darts annoying. It is 155cm wide and I used 1.5m. The lining is a plain blue 110cm wide polycotton and I used 1.6m.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Other than grading the waist up a half size, my only change was to do a hook and bar fastening at the waist rather than a button because the fabric I used did NOT want to take a buttonhole.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I am unlikely to make another skirt just the same while this one is in my wardrobe, but there's certainly nothing about the pattern that would stop me from making another. I would recommend it to others, but with the caveat that beginners or near-beginners might find those curves at the top of the godets frustrating. They weren't terrible -- in fact they are quite straightforward if you are used to sewing curves because the pattern pieces are so well-drafted and fit together sweetly -- but they definitely need to look right for the skirt to be a success.

Conclusion: I'm very happy with this twirly skirt! 

Additional wibblings

Fabric: The outer fabric was yet another buy from the lady who was liquidating her late mother's stash on eBay in 2012. It's not actually the nicest of fabric because it's awfully synthetic. Luckily, because it's at best semi-opaque and quite thin, it's the sort of thing you'd want to line anyway. I am not overly fussy about linings and went for an inexpensive polycotton on this occasion. Despite being a bit plasticky and not wanting to sew nicely through the curves, the fabric was mostly fine to handle. I did use my walking foot on a lot of the bias curves and that seemed to help. I am not sure I did the best job handling the directionality of the pindots. I like how it turned out, but I sort of feel like I didn't spend enough time thinking about what would happen when I cut the godets in various directions on the bias. It's kind of an optical illusion skirt, however, and if you stare at it for any length of time you just go cross-eyed anyway, which hides many flaws. Unexpected bonus! :D

Cost: I got 6m of the pindot fabric (I fear I will be using it up for YEARS) for £3/m including postage and packing. I used 1.5m, so about £4.50 for the polka dots. The lining fabric was Tissu's basic quality polycotton and cost £2.25/m, for a total of around £3.50. So, plus overheads and a hook and bar fastening, my total costs were approximately £9 for this skirt.

Sewing: The most time consuming parts of this skirt were sewing the godets and the hem. I am really pleased with how the godets came out, and I don't think you can tell at all that I had to unpick and sew again a few times to take out little puckers. The fabric was very forgiving of unpicking and frankly, it was worth the effort to get those seams nice and flat and smooth. There are a couple of places where I didn't get the fabric to ease in absolutely perfectly, but it's the sort of flaw that is really only noticeable if you absolutely stare at the skirt forever, and as previously mentioned, then you'll go cross eyed from the polka dots anyway!

The hem was a whole different trauma. The fabric did NOT want to take a crease at all. I ended up sewing a line of thread right around the hem to get a fold line and then using about 3 million pins, top stitching it and then trying to press it really hard without melting the plasticky fabric. Ugh. I think it turned out OK but it took what felt like hours.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

This is what I do while sick (or, The Fantasy Summer Wardrobe)

Still pretty much sick and miserable. I had to cancel the class I teach Saturday mornings because while I can just about manage moving around my apartment, there was no way I could stand and lecture for 2 hours yesterday. I can't really work on my PhD because the side effects of the medication make me mentally fuzzy, and all the sewing projects I have are up to a point where I would have to do something strenuous like stand around and fit bust darts or press hems into fabric that REALLY doesn't want to take a crease of any description. I've been reduced to inventing fantasy wardrobes and thinking about sewing as a result.

I've borrowed a little bit from all over the place for my fantasy wardrobe. It's a little bit based on Project 333, which I tried a modified form of last September but didn't really love. It's a little bit based on some ideas from The Vivienne Files, who also does a version of P333, but also posts capsule wardrobes. And it's a little bit based on some ideas from around the sewing community about how to put together capsule wardrobe and a couple of style bloggers I follow who seem marginally more like me and post marginally less content I would categorize as "utter bollocks" compared to other style bloggers (I shall name no names, since "you write less bullshit than most!" is hardly an endorsement).

It's still too cold and wet here in Ireland to really break out the spring clothes, so my imaginary wardrobe is for an imaginary life between May 1 and say about mid-September -- the exact date when summer ends is more determined by weather than anything. I say it's an imaginary life because in fact I finish my teaching contract, bar my marking requirements, at the end of April and I have literally no idea what will happen to me then. Certainly I won't need the kind of everyday work wardrobe I've laid out here. I also don't own these clothes and, because I chose to go looking for a lot of them on sites where I like to snoop window-shop the clothes rather than sites where I actually buy things, I definitely couldn't afford to buy them all in one year, and couldn't afford some of them at all, ever. (There's a dress on here that costs £650. There are bags that cost £2000. I don't even WANT to buy clothes or accessories that are that expensive.) Money and actual practical use this summer aside, this actually is a pretty good description of how I want to dress. These are my favourite summer colours (white, blue, turquoise, navy, green) and my preferred styles.

This is REALLY MASSIVE, so click on it to see in more detail
The split is approximately 45 items that are mainly for work and 15 that are mainly for casual and weekend wear, although in reality in my experience a lot of tops do double duty for casual and work, depending on what you wear them with. I have never actually owned that many pairs of shoes in my life, I just threw a bunch on that I would LIKE (Though, that's the other thing I can't afford. There's a ton of Fluevogs on there, at like, US$250 a pair. HAHA, as IF.)

That all seemed like fun, so then I made an example four weeks of outfits:

Example four weeks of outfits
Some of the outfits look kind of weird because I can't get the images to line up or like, a knit top that would be fitted in real life looks unfitted here, so you just have to kind of hand-wave that and accept the fact that I actually wouldn't go out in anything that appears to make me look like a brick with no waist. I didn't bother to try to put the blazers/cardigans on because it got too complicated from a Pixelmator point of view (the photoshop equivalent that I use on my Mac). Also, I would probably attempt to wear accessories with some of these outfits but again: too complicated, pictures too small.

Some points to make about the difference between my imaginary wardrobe and my actual real wardrobe:

1. In real life, I carry the same ugly brown and black bag with every outfit and pair of shoes that I have for the last 5-6 years. I don't even like it, but it refuses to wear out and it was (a) a gift; and (b) expensive, so I carry on using it. I have sometimes briefly carried my own bags that I've made, but I actually don't love fabric bags because in the UK/Ireland they get wet and then so do the contents.
2. In real life, I'm not sure I own this many nice clothes.
3. In real life, I probably have normally worn trousers more often in summer despite finding them too hot, mainly because I have always historically been uncomfortable wearing skirts and haven't been able to wear dresses because buying them is such a trial given my body shape (1-2 sizes larger on top than bottom, depending on my weight at the time of purchase). More recently I've been wearing skirts a lot more for work and am growing more comfortable with it.

On the other hand, this is a reasonably good reflection of how I'd like to dress for work both in terms of overall style and level of formality suitable for my work environment (our dress code is "business casual" but the women dress much less informally than the men. The men wear jeans to work on days when they are not lecturing but none of the women are EVER in jeans). It's also a pretty good example of how many prints I'd like to own vs. solids -- which is to say, mainly solids with a few pretty prints in the mix here and there.

I have to be honest, I'd kind of love this wardrobe. If it all arrived magically in my apartment, in my size, with the fit the way I imagine it, I would be thrilled.

The more interesting question is though: if I really wanted this wardrobe, how much of it could I reasonably expect to sew for myself? How much would I WANT to sew for myself? I figure that ultimately, probably about two thirds of this I would want to sew for myself: in the work section, I'd have no concerns about making all of the tops, dresses and the non-suit skirts (although I'm handwaving the part where I've not yet got that much experience making a lot of the TYPES of tops in question, like button-down shirts. Those are skills I am actively working towards acquiring, so if next summer this were a less imaginary plan and more one that I wanted to put into action, I'd hope to be able to). Similarly in the casual section, I'd be happy to make shorts, skirts, a dress, and some tops.

Where I'd rely on RTW is: cardigans and other knitted items; suits (because I feel like I am YEARS away from having the skill level I need to make a really beautiful suit); trousers; jeans; polo t-shirts. I'm not saying never with trousers, and actually if I were going to make ANY of the trousers in my imaginary wardrobe, I'd probably start with a relatively easy type of trouser like a pair with a relaxed style in cotton/linen like I have included in the picture. Similarly, I am not saying never to making my own jeans, but definitely not any time soon. Then there are some marginal items that I think would be exciting and hugely challenging projects. For example, I have this amazing ex-Burberry shower-proof cotton fabric with which to make a trenchcoat, which I bought before I quite understood what I would be asking of myself with that project. I REALLY want to make one, but yeah, that would be a step up for me.

So there you have it: this is what I do when I am home sick.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Purple monstrosity update

About a year ago I was highly enthusiastic at the prospect of knitting my own jumpers. It amuses me that the last time I posted an actual photo of my first ever jumper was 11 March 2013, so, as you can tell, my jumper knitting has been going well! In the interim, to be fair, I did make a seemingly endless array of scarves and cowls, as well as a pair of socks, so it's not like when I periodically abandoned this particular project I didn't knit at all. I just didn't make the progress I expected on the jumper. Or any progress at all, for long periods of time, if I'm honest.

So, here it is as of today. It's been this level of complete for about 10 days now but I've been struggling with a return of my Medical Mystery illness and so I haven't really felt like taking photos and writing blog posts, other than to laugh at Burda earlier this week.

As you can see, the body is complete and I've picked up the stitches for one of the sleeves ready to knit. The distance of the camera hides many flaws, and it's really pretty terrible if you get at all close to looking at it. Even more problematically, it's basically a TERRIBLE fit. It's long enough, but my weight has changed enough since I started knitting a year ago that it's not at all the right size, plus it's really not the right shape for my body. I've more or less decided to knit short sleeves and an inch of ribbing, then do the ribbing at the neckline and call it done just so I can "finish" it, rather than knitting proper long sleeves. My reasons for this decision are based on:

Things That I Have Learned From Knitting My First Jumper (So Far)

  1. Cheap yarn is a waste of money and effort. It's taken me forever to knit this jumper and the single biggest problem with it is that the inexpensive acrylic yarn I used that felt so soft as a yarn ball quickly starts to acquire a plastic-like texture as you knit and, worse, actually started pilling while I was knitting. I still love the colour of the jumper, but I hate the texture and clearly, if it's already pilling now, it's not going to improve any with wearing and washing. All this time and effort, and at the end of it a sweater that already looks shabby? Ugh.
  2. Don't start to knit a long project on cheap needles. I bought a very inexpensive set of circulars to try them out and they haven't been all bad, but I knit about a quarter of the body with sellotape holding the needles together and eventually had to replace them. The original needles were so cheap that I don't consider them to be a bad buy, irrespective of this failure, because if you're just doing a small part of a project on a different needle size, and you're just starting out, it doesn't make sense to buy expensive needles in a dozen sizes. But I wouldn't start a major project on a cheap set again.
  3. The trade-off between time spent knitting and yarn weight is way more critical than I realized. The problem is, basically, I really only like wearing fine gauge knits and almost all my RTW jumpers are fine gauge. That's mainly because I'm a big fan of layers and would rather add warmth through many thin layers than one thick layer. I do have a couple of RTW jumpers that edge into DK weight, but I tend to wear them less often and I would probably never wear a sweater made in e.g. chunky weight, because I just don't like them (and, to be honest, they're just too bulky on me, given that I am top heavy to start with). However, just the thought of how long it would take to knit anything substantial in e.g. 4-ply or lace weight fills me with horror. I kind of knew this intellectually before I started, but it's taken actually making a sweater in DK for the real force of this trade-off to become apparent to me: I haven't got the crafty stamina to knit in the weights I like to wear best; I hate the idea of knitting in heavier weights where I'm more likely to finish before I get fed-up because I'm much less likely to use the output. I'm such a utilitarian with my sewing, and it's clearly also the case with my knitting. If I make something, I expect to use it, I WANT to use it, and I will consider my project a failure if I don't.
  4. Whereas with sewing I feel an urge to learn about technique and improve how I do things, I feel a bit impatient with knitting intricacies. I can see why people are into it, and why it could potentially be fun to get into all the ins and outs of patterns and fitting and technique but... I don't really feel like I want to. Basically, what I'm saying is that I am happy doing basic, easy knitting and I feel lazy and unmotivated to achieve a higher skill level. I'm actually OK with that.
  5. I really really hate WIPs and wasting time and resources making things that I don't want to wear or use. This jumper hanging about in a bag for a YEAR has actually been like a rock in my shoe -- a tiny but highly irritating nuisance. I feel like I am probably better off with shorter, smaller projects, and also with putting my money into better materials so that I WANT the thing I finish.
Funnily enough, not all that long ago I wrote a post about the things I do and don't want to sew and knit for myself, and on the knitting side I've had a complete reversal of opinion. At the time I did really want to knit jumpers (despite the fact that my purple monstrosity was already proving problematic) and I was TOTALLY opposed to the idea of knitting socks. It turns out my Socks Of Terribleness improved 100% when they were washed and dried, in terms of the knit tightening up and the flaws becoming less apparent. They're still terrible, of course, but I love them to absolute pieces and can't wait to make more. Maybe I'll just become a really really good sock knitter. :D?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Burda 04/2014

My copy of Burda arrived just today, although of course thanks to the wonder of that one Russian blogger, we've all known what's in it for weeks.

I think this is the first real love-it-or-hate-it issue that there's been for a while. I actually think quite a lot of the pieces are amazing (not always in a GOOD way, but amazing) but I'm not really sure how much of it I would ever wear if I made it, given how incredibly boring my actual dress sense is.

Nevertheless, I am pretty excited by this issue and therefore give you:

The Good

This (#126) is one of those things where I've not seen a single other person reviewing this issue even MENTION this blazer, and I am CRAZY about it. I am crazy generally for interesting blazers, and while Burda produce a ton of blazer patterns they don't tend to be super interesting. This is AWESOME, though, but I wouldn't make it in oatmeal.

 Half of me thinks this dress (#108) is amazing, half of me goes off on a mental tangent thinking about ladybirds (no, really, don't the sort of wing things put anyone else in mind of them? If the dress were black with the overskirt in red you could be the classiest ladybird cosplayer/Hallowe'en costume wearer EVER).

This dress (#108) is also really unusual, but I also think in a good way. I am not sure I could wear it because of all the volume over the bust, but I can't wait to see it made up by one or more people.

Another really great blazer (#102) -- I really love the curved front on this and think it would look nice. This one is apparently a stable knit, but I am pretty sure it could be made with a woven as well, based on the patterns that are just variations on a theme. However, I could so very much have done without the multiple pages of Burda going LOOK AT HOW MANY PEOPLE IT FITS which I thought was excessive.

Honourable mentions also for the petite dress this month, which is classy as anything. Yet another petite pattern than makes me wonder how how hard it really would be to de-petite and add a bit (I am, notionally, somewhere between regular and tall sizes in Burda, although in practice I find regular Burda quite long enough for the most part). If I were ever to make a jumpsuit (unlikely) I would make this (also ultra classy) pattern, though it goes to show the role fabric plays, because the same pattern in a nauseating print just makes me recoil in horror. I think this split front wrap blouse is gorgeous, but it wouldn't suit my body shape AT ALL. If you're petite in the bust and off to garden parties or weddings this summer, this polka dot dress is adorable although probably too twee overall for me and my upper body. Meanwhile, the ONLY Plus pattern I like this month is this twist front top, which looks a lot like a regular sized version that Burda did last year, except with darts and sleeves.

The Bad

I diagreed with loads of people who thought the Plus patterns this month were great and lamented that they were not available in regular sizes. Let me put it this way: there is no way I'd wear trousers with a seam line horizontally across the widest part of my hip, or ultra high necked sack blouses. Plus, I REALLY just don't get the silhouette of the coat (#130) and am literally unable to understand all the people I saw squealing about how flattering it is. Is it? I mean, I ALWAYS wear my coats fit and flare because (a) I'm a drama queen and love the way the skirt flaps about (no, really, my ability to flap about dramatically in coats has always historically been a major element of my buying decisions, I'm not even joking); and (b) I like how it looks on my figure. I emphatically do not like coats or anything with the general silhouette of a beachball, and I will have to see it on someone before I can be convinced. Other than the baffling coat, though, and that one twist top, everything else in Plus was a total snooze: a sack blouse, and yet another hairdresser gown wrap cardi thing. The tee is sort of interesting, at the neckline, but the model seems to have so many fit issues I find it hard to get enthusiastic about the pattern.

There's not really a lot else really terrible. I am overall mainly disinterested in the "Southern" themed section, with the sort of vintage-y dresses and what-not. It's not my look and I wouldn't ever wear them. However, one stand out is this dress (#142) which is just really an unfortunate shape in the upper body and sleeve. Maybe it looks all right if you stand still, but the way the model is standing shows off how weird the sleeve is and how shapeless the bodice. It looks a mess.

The Weird

No It's A Giant Rectangle this month, thank goodness, but there IS this dress and top (#112 and #111 respectively) that people have raved over and that I can't help just endlessly side-eying. It looks weird enough on the model, but once you see the line drawing, well. It's a dress for Quasimodo's little sister maybe? It's kind of got everything in the world going on:  massive weird cowl thing, asymmetric sleeves, random hip ruching, asymmetric hem, no really, let's go back to the sleeves for a minute, what the ABSOLUTE fuck is going on with that? Can she raise the arm that is set in at a weird angle? I'm not going to lie, this is another thing I just don't GET, and I will definitely need to see it in action before I decide whether it's the fun kind of crazy or just crazy.

And on that note, I will just point out that historically, the next three months are the months in which I have the least interest, pattern wise. Already, the early previews of Burda 05/2014 (which were posted today by the same Russian blogger) will tell you why: it's all beachwear and sundresses, for which I have little use. Still, it could be entertaining, if only because the preview at the back of THIS month tells me it is inspired by "nomadic people". I wonder if they mean any particular nomadic people, or just, you know, NOMADS, OK, WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO PICKY. Nothing like one of Burda's painful and weirdly non-specific cultural appropriation moments to make me laugh!