Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Nobody does rectangles like Burda does rectangles

I'm having a frustrating week where nothing is quite turning out as I hoped it would. Nevertheless, I've ticked a couple more things on my summer sewing list, even if they're not quite sewn quite the way I would have liked.

First up, absolutely positively my last knit top of the summer, from Burda 06-2016, number 101. This pattern caused some amusement on the PR message board when the previews came out, where it was described as "a square with a rectangle on top". I kept my mouth shut while all around me agreed it was ridiculous because I had a weird yen to make it and was determined to do so as soon as my magazine arrived. Now that I look at the images, I'm wondering if it caught my attention because my fabric was the same colour as the sample in the magazine!
Burda 06-2016-101A, images from Burdastyle
The only significant change I made was the shorten the sleeves. I really didn't like the strange below-the-elbow length on the pattern as written, so I chopped off 12cm before I ever put the pattern on the fabric. I also added just a little bit of length to the lower part of the body, around 5cm in total. This was easy to do because #101C is a mini-dress version of the same top, so I just followed the shape of the pattern for an extra few cm when tracing. Otherwise, it's a size 44 straight off the pattern sheet.

Burda 06-2016-101, my version... yes, also in bright pink!
On Flossie, it really doesn't look all that interesting, but I actually really love the way this hangs on an actual person. I was too lazy (and not feeling well enough) today to take better shots on me, so I'm afraid I'll have to demonstrate with a shoddy iPhone photo from my Instagram. I was a bit concerned that the horizontal seam would run right across my bust apex (because I have a low bust and/or am longer through the upper torso than Burda's standard draft, I've never entirely worked out which), but it actually runs below the bust and I think looks OK.

Burda 06-2016-101 on me
In my very drapey viscose knit (unlike the scuba and weird furry stuff used by Burda in their sample images) I absolutely love the way the sleeves hang and drape. Also, you can see from the photo on me how very curvy the lower part of the bodice is, making it rather nicely shaped -- much more shaped than you'd think from the technical drawing. As usual, too, the pattern is really nicely put together -- as you expect from a Burda pattern, stack of basic geometric shapes or not!

The very curved side seams
Overall I am quite pleased with this top. I'd be even more pleased if it weren't for some fabric/sewing problems. It REFUSED to take a hem on my coverstitch. Like, nothing in the way of changing settings worked to make it stop pulling and gathering and tunnelling. In the end I gave up and left the edges of the hem and sleeves raw. It's really not the finish I like, but if the fabric doesn't want to play, what can you do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In conclusion: Simple little tee in bright pink: DONE. I'd absolutely make this pattern again, and I actually think it would look great as a really simple evening top in a slinky knit.

Next up I decided to make some more skirts. I started with a Knipmode skirt from the most recent issue that I went nuts for as soon as I opened the magazine. The sewing was all going really well, and I was super in love with it... and then I had an actual conversation with myself where I went: I am feeling really tired and not very well. I should stop and carry on tomorrow! No, wait, I will just run my overlocker along these seams to finish them and THEN I will stop.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that decision? It's not like my overlocker has a giant blade on it ready to punish any inattention due to tiredness or anything. /o\

Three minutes later, of course, I'd cut a giant fuck-off hole in my skirt. I haven't made that mistake in ages and now I've done it on two skirts in a row. With the blue polka dot skirt the cut was pretty small and right down at the hem. I was annoyed but I knew straight away it was going to be possible to patch. With this one, it was an absolute disaster of a hole: massive, impossible to patch, and I didn't have enough fabric to recut the panel I'd wrecked. I was SO ANGRY. Like, absolutely furious with myself, flung the skirt across the room and went to go pout somewhere over my own idiocy. Eventually I got over myself and after thinking about it and pinning the skirt, hole and all, together to a point where I could try it on and see how it looked when worn, I decided to order another 1m of fabric so I could finish it. I'm just waiting for it to arrive in the post now.

Meanwhile, I decided to make my third skirt for the summer, in a rather wild red and white stretch cotton sateen. As the print is quite busy and I didn't have a lot of it -- a scant 1m piece with a corner cut out I bought as a remnant --  I decided to go for a very simple skirt pattern.

Ottobre 05-2013-11 "On Trend" Skirt (from Ottobre magazine)
This is from the Ottobre Woman 05-2013 issue and it is indeed a very simple skirt. I have been in search of my platonic ideal of a semi-casual straight skirt pattern with pockets and a minimum number of seams for a while now, but this is not it, either, unfortunately!

Ottobre 05-2013-10 in stretch cotton sateen on Flossie
This is a size 40 straight from the pattern sheet. I made only one change, which was to omit the lining. I didn't have even remotely enough fabric to match properly along the side or centre back seam -- I barely had enough fabric to cut the actual skirt! I settled for matching the horizontal motifs as well as I could at the side seams and not trying to match the actual shapes with any accuracy. However, to get the side seams to match even moderately well, I then struggled a bit at the centre back (as you can see) because the print was just slightly off grain. I never know which you should prioritize when it comes to pattern matching, the side or the back seam, when you can't get them both to work.
Side and back view of red and white skirt
I put a cotton reel in my pocket in the side so you can see where it is. I like these pockets, but I don't love them. I am never overly fond of pockets that open diagonally over the hip like this, I think it's ripe for them bulging open when you sit down. I also deeply disliked the (straight, folded) waistband and the way it was applied to the skirt. It doesn't fit me super well and it's a very skinny sort of waistband by the time you've sewn it on. It doesn't help I did a rotten job of the little foldover bit at the centre back of the waistband as well. It looks really dodgy. I mean, nobody will see it, so I'm not in despair over it or anything, but ugh, I need to do better on those sort of details. On the plus side, my invisible zip, while not TOTALLY invisible, is considerably less visible than the last couple I did, so that's a win.

Another dodgy iPhone shot for my modelled shot
Overall, again, I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. I might not make this skirt pattern up again but it's given me further ideas of what I do (and don't) want from my eventual TNT easy straight skirt with pockets and minimal seams that I can get out of 1m of a a 150cm wide fabric. That sounds really specific, I guess, but it's all because I like the idea of being able to add a colour/print "bottom" to my wardrobe really cheaply and easily. I think it would be a great way to add diversity to my wardrobe if I could just pick up a single metre of a wild print or a bright/different colour and make a pattern I like to wear without having to spend 3 hours trying to pattern match across multiple seams.

Next up: When the fabric arrives, I'm planning to crack on with my Knipmode skirt. In the meantime I am also making a no pattern gathered maxi, and then I will also be done with skirt sewing for the summer and can think about what to make next.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Done at last: Wanderling sweater

I cast this sweater on on 31/08/2015 and today it is FINALLY (and wholly unseasonably) finished!

Wanderling sweater in Drops Alpaca (colourway: Dark Grey): front view
It did not really take me the better part of nine months to knit this. I knitted the body in 20 days, finishing it on 19 September 2015. After some initial false starts, I really enjoyed knitting the body of the jumper and thought I would finish quickly. But then I just... stalled. Every so often I'd pick it up and force myself to knit a little bit more of the very boring stocking stitch sleeves, but then I'd get fed up and stop again. I started knitting again with about a third of one sleeve done on 1 May 2016, and I finished knitting on the 17th. So, in fact, this jumper took me about 40 days, give or take a day or two, they were just rather spread out over nine months! It's meant I've finished the jumper just in time for me to put it away for at least 3-4 months until the weather cools down, but at least it's not lurking about unfinished in my knitting bag any more. \o/

Wanderling sweater in Drops Alpaca (colourway: Dark Grey): back view
The pattern is Wanderling by Isabell Kraemer (Ravelry link), and I found it to be an excellent pattern. I'd definitely knit more of this pattern writer's creations based on this experience. I am very far from an experienced knitter of jumpers, but my finished jumper looks surprisingly good to me. Although I really struggled with the neckline at the start and had to rip back to nothing four separate times, that was all due to my novice knitting rather than the pattern.

I was particularly attracted to the pattern by the panel of sort of faux cabling at the back that also runs in bands along the raglan sleeve and down the side of the jumper.

Close up of the back panel. My hairy yarn means the stitch definition isn't that great, but it still looks nice!

It was very easy to learn the stitches for the panel and I don't have too many mistakes in it!

You can maybe just about make out the lines of the same stitch pattern down the side of the jumper
I used Drops Alpaca, which is a relatively inexpensive 100% Alpaca 4-ply yarn, in the Dark Grey colourway. I like the finished garment a lot in this yarn and found it very easy to knit with, but the stitch definition is probably not the greatest if you're looking for those mock cables to show up really clearly. It remains to be seen whether it's a bit itchy to wear. It was very hairy and shed all over everything while I was making it, and presumably will continue to shed all over everything forever.

Neckline detail
I also really liked the neckline which is a sort of henley neck thing with two buttons (which are just BARELY visible in my photo).

I ramped the exposure all the way up to be visible on this shot, I don't actually glow
Size wise, I made a size L. I quite like the bust fit, but I wish I had made the jumper just a little bit longer, and the sleeves a little bit shorter (they grew more on blocking that I anticipated). Neither of these problems will prevent me from wearing the sweater, for sure. I did a horrible job blocking the sweater -- I realized too late I'd pinned it wrong, which is why the back looks like it drags to one side. It'll probably sort itself out when I wear it a bit more and it relaxes back into shape.

In conclusion: Yay! Finished sweater!

Next up on my needles: I already have another WIP which I cast on last year. It's a very simple scarf, but I decided to try out lace weight yarn so it's taking approximately forever to make any progress at all! Once that is done, I am not sure at all what I'll knit next. I'm pretty sure I'll be going through my Ravelry queue quite a lot over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

More polka dots (Ottobre 05-2008-02 buttoned denim skirt)

For various reasons I have some summer skirt shaped gaps in my wardrobe at present, so over the next few weeks I am going to make a few replacements.

Ottobre 05-2008-02 Buttoned denim skirt, image on the left from Ottobre
The first skirt I've made is a just-above-the knee, button-fronted a-line skirt. I saw this style a lot in shops over the autumn and winter, and it seems pretty popular this summer too. It's also a style that comes back into fashion pretty frequently, so when I dug through my pattern collection I found several possibilities. I settled eventually on Ottobre 05-2008-02. I knew from the modelled image that it was going to be too short for me as drafted and I therefore had to adjust 6 pattern pieces (centre and side front, centre and side back, and the front and back hem bands) in order to make it less knicker-revealing.
My polka dot version of Ottobre 05-2008-02 - front view
I ended up adding 10cm (4") to the length and since it's an A-line skirt, this also made the pattern pieces rather wider at the hem. In order to get the revised pattern out of my 1m piece of lightweight blue polka dot denim fabric I had to leave off one set of pockets (I chose to put the pair I could make on the front) and the weird self-belt thingy (which I actually never planned to cut out because: what, why?). I had only the tiniest pile of scraps left over when I was done and this came back to bite me later. I made the waistband facing from some blue elephant cotton lawn left over from making PJs last summer.

My polka dot version of Ottobre 05-2008-02 - back view
After what seemed like a lot of playing Tetris to get all the pattern pieces on the fabric, actual construction was mainly very easy. The most time-consuming thing was all the top-stitching, which, much like bias binding every seam, seems like a good idea before you start and after you finish, but not so much when you are swapping out needles and threads for the eight millionth time during construction. This was my first time top-stitching with actual Gutermann topstitch thread, and I wasn't wholly excited by the experience, I have to admit. It ravelled, it was hard to thread even with proper topstitch needles, and it broke on several occasions going over lumpy bits of seam. On the other hand, it does look much more striking than using regular thread. I used hammer-on jeans buttons for the front button band and these turned out to be quite easy to install once I broke out my big hammer rather than smacking at them feebly with my little craft hammer.

My polka dot version of Ottobre 05-2008-02 - internal view. My vertical seams are BARELY visible because I flat-felled them
Overall, I was really happy with the construction -- I didn't like the thread, but I do love the finished look of the top-stitching details, and a combination of following the Ottobre instructions and deciding to flat-fell the vertical seams and overlock the long curved hem band seams produced a nice clean finish both inside and out.

Close-up of buttons and top-stitching
 I would in fact say this was my best-finished garment of the year so far, if it weren't for the Big Horrible Flaw that I introduced into it, which caused a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The place where I cut into it with my overlocker and had to patch :( :(
Ironically the other day I was reading a blog post on Mistakes Every Garment Sewer Will Make and thought to myself that despite many errors with my overlocker I hadn't actually cut into my fabric with it recently (#3 on the list) .... only to immediately do so on my next garment. It was a tiny hole but right in the middle of one of the largest pattern pieces, the rear hem band. I barely had enough scraps to test my buttonholes, let alone re-cut the hem band. I ended up patching it as best I could but if you know it's there, it's far from inconspicuous. That said, it's on the rear hem band where I'll never see it, and I feel that it passes the can-you-see-it-from-1m-away flaw test. I don't know, am I kidding myself and it's actually really awful? Should I have abandoned it the way the author of that blog post says she does? It's definitely not ideal but I feel like I can live with it.

I decided it wasn't noticeable unless you KNOW it's there.
I spent a lot of time while making this skirt nervous about fit because this is a new size for me. I've always historically found Ottobre to be pretty true to size based on their measurement table, and luckily this turned out to be the case again. I am pretty happy with how it fits overall. This is a size 40 straight off the pattern sheet with no adjustments except for length as described above. In a non-stretch woven I'll need to give myself some extra room at the waist compared to their draft, but in this stretch denim it's fine. My biggest concern now about this skirt is that with the length and the polka dots and the top-stitching, it's an order of magnitude more twee than the rest of my wardrobe. I mean, I think it's very cute, but I'm not 100% sure that "very cute" is wholly my thing, or really works on my 40 year old self. I'll guess I'll see how much I wear it!

As modelled by me. I will likely never again wear anything tucked in like this.
Next up: I am in the process of tracing out one of the more ridiculous patterns from the very latest Burda, 06-2016, which arrived on Saturday. I feel there is a lack of Giant Rectangles in my life, and only Burda can help me with that.  I am also tracing the pattern I have finally (FINALLY) settled on for my blue/green linen jacket. It's about 20 pieces though, so tracing alone may take some time!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Small things

Sometimes it's really satisfying to just whip up a pile of easy little things. In the last few days I've made:

1. PJ shorts (using larger scraps)

Ottobre 05-2011-02 'Sweet Dreams' PJ shorts made with remnants
These pyjama shorts are repeats of an easy-peasy pattern (Ottobre 05-2011-02 'Sweet Dreams') that I've now made 8 times including these versions. Rather boring, but necessary as I just got rid of a couple of pairs and I operate on a one-out-one-in rule with PJs. I'm always happy too to use up some of the bigger scraps lurking in my basket.

2. Simple woven slips

I made some half slips to go under skirts/dresses I have either already made or that I'm planning to make in the next few weeks. To make these I more or less followed Gertie's half-slip tutorial, without the lace or the bow. They're just single seam rectangles with a hem and a lingerie elastic waist -- dead simple stuff. I did add a side vent on the green one for extra movement ease. I didn't think of this in time to do so on the navy one, but it's short enough (due to fabric constraints) that my stride isn't restricted. This was also partly a scrap busting exercise as the navy viscose slip was made with the remnants of the (difficult to sew) fabric I used very recently to make a shirt.

I don't know why, but my camera REFUSED to take a decent photo of either of these, maybe in protest over how boring it was?
The green cotton one came out all right but the navy one is definitely not the prettiest or best made thing ever. My experience with the shifty, shreddy viscose was not particularly any easier this time around for all that I was just sewing it into a tube. On the plus side, that particular fabric is now all gone and I never have to sew with it again. I really don't care overly about the flaws given the function of a slip precludes it being seen by anyone but me!

3. Another Jasmin tee
Cozy Little World Jasmin tee in white
I could tell you a long boring version of why I needed to make a white t-shirt this week, but suffice to say: my decision to buy an inexpensive white tee in order to "free up time to sew more interesting things" turned out to be nothing like a good plan. Anyway, I've been wearing both of my two previous Jasmin tees in the recent spell of hot weather (!!) we've been having in England and I really love them. I didn't even hesitate to pull this pattern out again for another version this week. For a knit, this fabric is awfully prone to crease! You'd never know I pressed this specially to take the photo!

4. Wanderling progress

Another thing I've been doing is forcing myself to really just get on with finishing my Wanderling jumper. It's been lurking around in my knitting bag for months sans sleeves and I was almost entirely sans enthusiasm for finishing it. I'd pick it up every few weeks and knit a centimetre or two and then grind to a halt again. It wasn't that I don't like the jumper, I was just being bored/lazy/unmotivated/all of the above about it.

Wanderling jumper progress as of this morning (11th May): body and one sleeve done, just about 5cm into the second sleeve
Even though it's now totally unseasonal, I've decided this is going to be the month when I just hammer my way through the tedious stocking stitch that I have left to do and finish it already. I am thus happy to report that the Wanderling current status is: one sleeve done, second sleeve underway! I can't see any reason why I won't finish this month provided I keep plugging way.

Next up: I'm mired in pattern indecision on my summer outerwear project (a linen jacket). I keep thinking I've made a decision and then backtracking. In the meantime, I've got some other less paralyzing projects to start on, including a couple of summer skirts.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Dotty (about this) top

Just in time for a mini heatwave to hit the UK (!!) my first piece of summer sewing, a new top, is done. (And I'm wearing it today and it is perfect for our suddenly-summer weather :D).

I've been wanting to try sewing with double gauze for a really long time, ever since I ran across Nani Iro double gauze prints back when I first started sewing and read about how amazing this fabric is to wear. I've still never bought any Nani Iro because my credit card screams and cringes away from me at the mere thought. However, back in February I ran across some (marginally) more affordable double gauze and splurged on it (and it WAS a splurge: £9/m and it's only 110cm wide! D:). The colourway I picked is a faded dark blue with white polka dots on one side and white with blue polka dots on the other.

The two sides of the fabric
When you read about sewing with double gauze, all the pattern advice seemed to be not to make anything that needed enormous precision as the fabric distorts easily when you sew. This was uppermost in my mind when I was looking for a pattern. My other criterion was that I wanted to make something that would take some advantage of the fabric having two usable sides, but I didn't particularly want to colour block.

I spotted this simple top in Burda 03-2016 right about the same time I bought the fabric, and the dipping rear hem seemed like a perfect use of a two sided fabric. All I had to do was wait a couple of months for my summer sewing season to roll around. You'll notice I declared it was summer sewing season on like, 1 May, and I finished this top on the 4th, so, you know, not that I was at all impatient to make it or anything! :D
Burda 03-2016-104: images from Burdastyle
The pattern itself, Burda 03-2016-104 (which has various variations -- #103-107 are all different top and dress options on the same theme) is really simple -- it's just a darted woven tee with a split at the neckline and three quarter sleeves, and a big inverted pleat in the back.

Burda 03-2016-104 in polka dot double gauze front view

I made a straight 44, as is my wont at the moment with Burda patterns, with my usual minor fit alterations (square shoulder adjustment, lowered the bust point) and a pretty substantial length alteration. I am not at all into crop tops as a look for me personally so I added 6cm to the length at the waistline. I also cut a 3cm hem allowance as instructed by Burda, but when it came to it I really loved the length before I finished the hem and didn't want to lose 3cm, plus turning up a 3cm hem on such a curvy hemline: ugh! I ended up just overlocking the edge and turned up the width of the overlocking, about 8mm. Overall, therefore, I added just over 8cm to the length.

Burda 03-2016-104 in polka dot double gauze  - side view -- you an actually see the hi-lo hem in this shot!
As far as construction goes, Burda rate this as a one and a half dot pattern for difficulty, and it is in fact exactly as straightforward to make as this suggests. My main difficulty was the bias binding/facing around the neckline. It took me a little while to visualize how the finished neckline was going to go together at all, though once I worked it out I couldn't understand why I'd been confused. I always find that if you can work out what it is Burda want you to do, the finish is usually lovely. It's just that it sometimes takes me longer than it should to figure it out in the first place!

Burda 03-2016-104 in polka dot double gauze -- rear view -- that inverted pleat is ENORMOUS
However, although in theory once I worked out what I was meant to do the neckline made perfect sense, in practice it was still a bit tricky. Although the double gauze fabric is very light it soon stacks up in bulk. In places, like the back neck, where I had layers of fabric for the inverted pleat, the amount of fabric to go under the neckline binding was quite substantial and took some effort to enclose neatly.

Burda 03-2016-104 in polka dot double gauze -- inside out view -- this is how the neckline looks internally when finished, which I think is really neat. Also I did ALL of the french seaming including the armholes for a change.
For my own construction choices, I basically French seamed the crap out of this shirt. I do tend to French seam or flat fell almost all my woven tops at this point, especially when the fabric is shreddy (this double gauze shed threads like mad) but I've not done too many proper French seams on armholes. In fact, I think I've only done it once before -- normally even if I flat fell/French seam everywhere else I just overlock the armhole. This is because when I first started making woven tops about 18 months ago, I had such problems setting in sleeves that I always dreaded that part of construction. There was no way I was going to seam them twice! More recently though I've had such a run of good experiences setting sleeves in that I have more or less lost my fear of it altogether. I decided this time to have another stab at French seaming the armhole on this top... and it came out perfectly! I'll probably do it more often now.

As modelled by me. Sorry if I look a bit crumpled, by the time I took these I'd already gone out to do my grocery shopping and come back again. It is a LITTLE wide at the neck, as you can see from the fact that the straps of my white tank top beneath just show.
The big question is, did the double gauze live up to my expectations? Overall, yes! It's lovely to sew once you get used to the way it's both bulkier and more fragile than regular cotton lawn or poplin, and I love the way it feels to wear. One thing I am a bit surprised by is how much body the fabric has -- I sort of thought it might be a bit drapier because the fabric is so soft, but it stands away from your body more like the way a crisper fabric might. I definitely agree with the advice I read about avoiding construction that requires tremendous precision. The fabric isn't shifty like last week's navy viscose -- in fact it was lovely to cut out -- but if you're off the straight grain at all it stretches like c-r-a-z-y. The bias binding for the neckline was probably the stretchiest bias binding I've ever made. For me personally, at my level of sewing expertise (lol, 'expertise'), I'd hate to try to sew e.g. shirt pocket corners or something where I would want perfect angles because I think it would get very ugly, very fast.

In conclusion: I'm basically in love with this top and the fabric. I had been planning to buy some white linen for another top to sew later this summer, but I've managed to squeeze another 2m piece of double gauze in plain white out of my budget instead, so look out for that some time in the next few weeks. :D

Up next: I have a whole slew of little easy things up next in my queue -- all of them are not-very-interesting-but-wholly-necessary summer wardrobe needs and I want to just plough through them so that I have everything on hand.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

April round-up, Summer sewing ahead

I am mostly pleased with my sewing this month! I made a bodywarmer (vest), a whole pile of t-shirts, a pink boucle jacket, and an extremely frustrating navy viscose button-front shirt.

Stash reduction-wise, I actually used quite a lot of fabric this month, but alas, the fabric buying gremlins were awake and active and I have ended April more or less at parity for where I started on the first of January. Still, I have plenty of year left to do some stash reduction and lots of sewing plans for fabric I already own, so I am not giving up on the idea that one day I could have less. Yet. /o\

One thing I am managing to do is whittle down my bag fabric stash a little. Over the last couple of days I made further strides in this direction of having less bag fabric by making two simple bags. The first, in blue paisley with a plain blue lining, is literally just some rectangles of pretty fabric sewed together with a boxed bottom -- truly the simplest of bags! I made a little zippered pouch for it to get stuffed in when not in use, and both are going to my mum as a gift as she has unfortunately misplaced the previous version of the same bag & pouch combo that I made for her.

The second bag I made is a pink tote -- because I already made a pink jacket this month, so why not? This is (very) slightly more interesting bag, from a construction perspective. I used a pattern called the LilyBeth Tote (Etsy link, I am not affiliated in any way). It turned out pretty well! The lining of the pink bag is just a plain cream. I've had the pattern for years but never used it, though I've made up pretty much all of the pattern writer's other patterns at one point or another. I really like the LilyBeth and might make some more, as it's a really nice size. It's fun to do a little bit of fussy cutting for the fabric panels as well.
Some tote bags I made over the last couple of days
So that's April all done, and with it all of the sewing I'd earmarked to make and wear this spring that I'm going to get done.

Since it's May tomorrow, it's time to move on to sewing for the summer! :D This seems really optimistic when the temperature is like 8C, it keeps pouring with rain and there's snow on the hills. However, the defining characteristics of the British summer are that it is often short and always unpredictable. You have to have your warm weather wear READY, in case the sudden week of sunshine and warmth in like, mid-June, turns out to be the only summer you get. This is why I like to sew a few weeks ahead of the actual weather, even though then I get all impatient for opportunities to actually wear things!

At any rate, I am pretty well supplied for the essentials of my summer wardrobe (linen trousers, lightweight cardigans, t-shirts since I made a pile of them this month, etc). What I haven't got even one of is summer dresses, mainly because of my continued ambivalence about wearing summer dresses. However, I am determined to make an attempt to both make and wear some summer weight dresses, including shirtdresses which, if you have followed this blog for a while, you will understand appeal to me a LOT since I do love both making and wearing button-front shirts. I also want one more pair of shorts and some summer skirts, some woven short-sleeved tops and blouses, and at least one lightweight jacket.

The first thing up on my sewing table next week though will be a three-quarter sleeve top using a recent Burda pattern, 03-2016-104.
Burda 03-2016-104, images from
The reason I am making a hi-lo hem top is that I will be using a new-to-me fabric, double gauze, and I want something that will show off the inside colour of the fabric as well as the outside. This swingy top seemed just the right thing, though I've had to lengthen it a little because I am very much of the just say no to crop tops opinion for my own body. After my experience with my Ottobre shirt I am also paranoid about the sleeves and must double check it will fit before I cut anything out!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

My shirtmaking frustration (or, Deja Vu with Ottobre 05-2012-07)

So, back in September 2014 I made my first button-fronted shirt using Ottobre 05-2012-07 in a navy fabric. And here it is again! Well, not quite, this is my new April 2016 version.
Finished shirt before sleeve surgery. The exposure of this photo is ramped all the way up to show the details in the dark navy colour.
I really loved the original 2014 shirt and wore it loads and loads despite the fact it was very far from perfectly made. I am pleased to say that the actual sewing survived hard wear and frequent wash over the last 18 months. The inexpensive fabric, however, not so much. When it came out of the wash last it was looking really rough, especially around the cuffs, so I decided to replace it. I thought hard about whether I wanted to make up a new pattern, but the fact is that this shirt and the chambray shirt I made from the same pattern in October 2014 (which is still going strong despite even more frequent wear than the navy version) are among my favourite and most frequently worn things I've ever made. Why mess with success, was my thinking... except it kind of didn't work out that way.

My starting point then was Ottobre 05-2012-07, without the pockets or the colour blocking options provided by the pattern. (I do not like pockets over my bust at all and always leave them off everything.)

Ottobre 05-2012-07 "Gardener shirt"

The big change between the October 2014 version and this version is the fabric. The 2014 shirt was made in an easy-to-sew, stable cotton, and this new one is a very soft viscose. I love this new fabric in the abstract: it drapes and hangs absolutely beautifully and it's very nice to wear. On the other hand, wow, I really did not like making a fiddly detailed shirt with it.

Collar points made with new-to-me "thread pull" method, which I like a lot
Let me lead with the one construction thing that I was really pleased with: I tried out the "thread pull" method described in this tutorial for my collar points. I have always tried quite hard to get good points on my collars, but my success in the past with achieving good pointiness has varied and it's always been quite a time-consuming task. I absolutely loved this new-to-me method -- my collar points on this shirt are about as pointy as I've ever managed and it really took no time at all. Definitely a technique I'll use again! That is literally the only detail of the shirt I would say I was 100% happy with, however.

Many of my issues came from struggling with the fabric.

Here you can see the problem I had with my button bands -- yes, my "straight lines" really are THAT wobbly
Problem 1:  The viscose was very shifty when I was cutting and although the larger pattern pieces turned out okay, the smaller pieces like the collar, cuffs and button band were really difficult to cut well. I had to re-cut the collar stand three times. I should also have cut the button bands again because I just couldn't seem to get good rectangles, but I didn't have enough fabric. I really really regretted this later. Although I tried really hard to compensate for the imperfect shape of the fabric pieces, my button bands turned out absolutely shitty, to be frank. They make it look like I can't sew a straight line. It's the sort of thing that I don't think is too noticeable from 1m away, but still, ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I hate when things like this go wrong because I think it makes the things I make look really Becky-Home-Ecky and cheap. For next time, I think a cut-on-and-folded button band would be much easier to work with if I want to make a button-front shirt with a drapey fabric.

Problem 2: The difference in texture and stretchiness under the presser foot between the fabric on its own and the fabric fused to interfacing was extremely pronounced. I really don't like at all how heavy the interfaced button band turned out as a result, although fortunately the collar and collar stand, despite being interfaced just the same, turned out quite well. I'm not sure fusible interfacing was overall a good idea though -- maybe self-fabric as interfacing next time?

Problem 3: The fabric shredded like mad at the cut lines and barely holds a crease. Ordinarily I flat-fell shirt construction seams -- I just like how this looks and I've found it has really good laundry longevity. However, there was no way in hell I was going to flat fell this slippery viscose, especially when I realized it really doesn't take a crease well, so I French seamed it instead. This is fine, I don't mind french seaming, but because the fabric was super shreddy no matter how carefully I trimmed and seamed, I still ended up with hairy French seams, which, ugh. I might have been better off just overlocking even if I don't find that it lasts as well for wovens in the wash.

Problem 4: The fabric puckered when I sewed any line that wasn't either straight along the grain line or perpendicular to it, which is to say, almost every seam and the darts. The bust darts and shoulder seams in particular are hideous. I need to look up how to improve my stitching on this type of shifty fabric so I don't continue to have this problem.

Finished shirt after sleeve surgery
The biggest problem though, I can't blame on the fabric, because it's down to fit. I didn't do as many adjustments to this version as the last as since I last made the shirt my measurements have changed a bit to be slightly smaller. So, the last time I made the shirt in Octobre 2014 I made a 44 with, among other adjustments, an FBA. This time I made a 44 without an FBA, because my bust measurement has decreased but I felt that the original shirt still fit well at the neck and shoulders. However, last time I also did a small upper back adjustment, and I also omitted that this time. This turned out to be a mistake -- the shirt is just a little tighter through the upper back than I like.

I could probably have lived with it not being a great fit at the back, but it's exacerbated by the bigger fit problem around my upper arm. Last time I did an overly large bicep adjustment and then had all sorts of problems with the sleeves twisting. This time, I used the pattern as written as, according to the Ottobre size chart, a size 44 uses a measurement of 31.4cm for the upper arm and my actual current upper arm is 31cm. However, the full length sleeves on this shirt were just not at all comfortable. This cements my opinion that the Ottobre sleeve draft is overall just slimmer than I prefer to wear, no matter whether I am allegedly the right measurement or not. I've had this problem before with knits and wovens alike in Ottobre. They tend to bind all the way down the bicep to just below the elbow on me.

Finished shirt as modelled by me -- I really had to mess with the colour settings to get anything to show
Anyway, between the back being a little tight and the upper arms being too tight, the fit felt miles off, definitely enough for me to feel really fed-up with it as a long-sleeved shirt. I decided to cut the sleeves down to short sleeves and that really improved the situation a lot, as it turned out. It's not the best fit across the back I've ever worn, but it's entirely wearable now that my arms don't feel constricted from shoulder to below the elbow.

As far as the rest of the shirt goes, button band horror notwithstanding, the fit is generally good, I love how the collar turned out, and how the bodice hangs at my hips. I am a size 40 hip in Ottobre but I didn't taper from the size 44 I used at the bust -- I rarely do taper unless something has to actually fit at the hip and I definitely wasn't interested in doing so with this shirt. The extra space gives the hem a nice full, floaty feel to it and I like how it fits a lot.

In conclusion: Well, I didn't particularly set out out to end up with a short sleeved navy shirt, but I am pretty sure I will wear this one a lot over the summer. Overall, the experience was extremely frustrating though -- mainly because I feel like I should be getting better outcomes in the details of shirtmaking at this point than I am. Quite a lot of my problems were down to the fabric/pattern combination. I'll know next time I use a very drapey viscose that I need to pick a different sort of pattern, or at least be more prepared for the problems I'll have in construction!

Next up: I have no idea. I mean, I have a list, but I am really not sure where to start with it at all! Since May begins this weekend I am going to be fully into summer sewing in the next month, despite the forecast for snow overnight tonight! D: