Friday, 12 February 2016

Several small problems solved

This week has not, overall, been a good or easy week. In order to keep my mind off larger and mostly intractable problems I decided to try to try to solve some smaller and more manageable sewing problems, which turned out to be a surprisingly good way to occupy myself. The other way I occupied myself was with stress buying fabric, so I was also keen to shuttle some of my stash out the door as garments to make up for my sudden attack of retail therapy!

Problem #1: What on earth shall I do with this green and white linen blend I've owned for 4 years?

Solution: Buy a box of Dylon dye in Navy and throw it & the fabric in my washing machine.

Outcome: Outstanding!

The original fabric
The long version of the story:

I bought this linen blend fabric during my initial series of Bad Fabric Decisions back in early 2012 and when it arrived I didn't like the yellow-y green colour of it AT ALL. It wasn't crazy expensive, but it cost enough that I have been resisting the idea of donating it, using it for muslins or trying to sell it. I kept thinking surely I would think of something I could do with it, but with very little actual success in thinking of anything. However, I have had some success with washing machine dying using Dylon dyes. I woke up the other day and had the lighbulb moment that I should try dying this fabric as well, even though all I knew about fibre content was "linen blend", which could mean anything.

Fabric after dye and in close up
Obviously the green threads in this linen blend were pure polyester or something that entirely resisted the dye. The overall colour is lighter than I expected as well, so I think the poly content of the white threads was also pretty high. However, overall I LOVE LOVE LOVE how this came out. The light is very poor at the moment so I struggled to get a photo (even with my good camera) of how nice this fabric looks, but the denim blue it ended up as is a great colour, and the threads of green make it really visually interesting. It's a huge improvement on the starting fabric, anyway. My current thinking is to make an unlined linen jacket for summer with it. I just need to work up the courage to work on a shoulder princess FBA.

Problem #2: What to do with 2m of semi-opaque white tactel (a nylon knit)?
Solution: Make vest tops to wear under blouses etc.
Outcome: Pretty good, for a definition of good that includes going into this knowing the neck bindings would not come out well.

The long story: I bought a pile black and white tactel at the very end of 2014 and it was a mistake. Tactel is a nylon knit, and when I was thinking about buying it I read somewhere that it was extensively used in activewear because it wicks moisture away from the body. Well, I don't know if it's used in activewear but after making a few things with it I can tell you it absolutely DOES NOT wick. Instead the synthetic fibre content just makes you sweaty and then traps the sweat against your body. Yuck. Plus, the fabric scorches horribly at anything above a lukewarm iron which makes it difficult to get a really good press or finish on my bindings and hems no matter what method I tried.

I have attempted a few garments with these fabrics, and in the end I have gotten some wear out the two plain tees I made mainly by using them as insulating bottom layers on cold/inactive days. As I knew the bindings and hems would end up being ugly, I decided making sleeveless tops to go under blouses and shirts that won't be visible to anyone else seemed ideal. In the end I managed to squeeze three tops out of the 2m of fabric, but two of them are identical so I didn't bother with a third photo.
Two of three white vest tops in tactel, using a pattern from Diane Moden 66 (Spring 2008)
I traced out this sleeveless top pattern from the single random issue of Diana Moden (yet another German pattern magazine) that I own. The original pattern is on the left -- you might be able to tell that the neckline has a subtle sort of squared shape. I then traced the front bodice piece again and drew in a scoop neck instead for the other two versions. I spent what felt like AGES on the bindings, but alas, they did indeed come out badly, even on the much-easier-to-bind scoop necklines.

Despite the fabric and the binding problems, I'm sure these will get quite a lot of wear as layering garments, I got rid of my 2m of fabric and I have learned my lesson: no more nylon knits under any circumstances!

Problem #3: The knit trouser patterns I have been using are very loungewear/casual and I'd like something a little smarter.
Solution: Try out the StyleArc Barb pattern.
Outcome: Needs some work.

I like knit trousers and I wear them all the time on days when I am not leaving the house. They are are warm and much more comfortable to sit around the house in than jeans or cords with fixed waistbands. However if I am going out in public I don't really like to wear the sort of baggy knit half-a-step-away-from-pyjamas trousers I've made in the past. I also dislike getting changed in the middle of the day if I realize I need to go out somewhere unexpectedly. I decided recently to see if I could find a more refined looking knit trouser pattern that I could wear around the house but that would also look OK out in public.

StyleArc Barb

Enter StyleArc Barb. The description claims they are ideal for work which I am not 100% in agreement with (but I am also not Australian and I haven't generally worked in very casual or even 'business casual' environments, so who am I to say). Regardless of work suitability, however, they are clearly much less pyjama like than the patterns I have previously used. I made StyleArc size 12 straight from the envelope in 2m of a micro-striped black ponte knit.

Note: I ramped the light all the way up to try to show the stripes and fit on the photos, so my bare arms are an alarming shade of white. Be assured I am not actually a ghost. Readers of a sensitive disposition should look away now, as the rear-of-body fit straight out of the envelope is truly appalling. Also, I should really have put shoes on for this shot because (a) I hemmed them for shoes and they look stupid when I'm in socks and (b) I am wearing socks with yellow toes.

Front of trousers: not bad. Back of trousers: EEEEK.
The front fit is pretty good! There's actually a weird little vertical fold thing going on at the crotch which is really not super attractive, but which I think I know how to fix. The back is a whole other issue: GIANT MASS OF BUTT WRINKLES. There's a lot going on there, fitting wise, but I think most of the problem is caused by my very flat behind in StyleArc's very curved crotch seam. I NEVER go out the house in knit trousers with my butt on show like that, so I am not actually overly concerned that it's unflattering and I'll still wear this pair, but there is definitely some fitting adjustment to be done before I make this pattern again! Realizing this caused me to fall down a rabbit hole of re-reading my collection of trouser fitting books, so maybe I will do more with this soon. However, assuming I can figure out the butt problem, I will definitely make these again. I really like how they look and they are a perfect match to my requirement for a smarter but still comfortable knit trouser.

Next up: Problem solving session complete, I am now working on a Knipmode blouse.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Bits and pieces

  • I replaced the blades on my overlocker today and the fabric chewing problem I have recently experienced ~~~magically went away. Score one for reading the manual and actually doing what it told me! /o\ To be fair, it doesn't give any indication of how often the blades might need to be changed. That said, I've had the machine for almost 4 years and I bought it second-hand, so I probably should have realized that the blades needed changing before I panicked about the mess it made of the seams of my green tee. At any rate: non-fabric-chewing overlocker = progress on my next garment!
  • My next garment is a pair of StyleArc Barb trousers in ponte. I cut them out the other day and today I zipped along with construction right up to the point of putting the elastic in the waistband... and realized the elastic I ordered for them hadn't actually arrived in the post yet. So there'll be a slight pause before they are finished. I tried them on without the benefit of a waistband and, eh, they're all right I guess? They seem to be designed for someone with rather more butt than I possess, so I may have to do some surgery on the back before I finish them.
  • I am making grand plans for spring/summer sewing, I think mainly because I am so sick of winter. This is unfortunate since it's only 9 February and there's some way to go before it's even spring, really. It's not been a bad winter by most standards, insofar as so far at least it's not been particularly cold and we have had only one day with a merest hint of snow, but it has been extremely EXTREMELY wet. I am very tired of grey skies and rain. We could do with a long dry summer to make up for it, but probably it will just be slightly warmer and still extremely wet. I have a raincoat in my plans, is all I'm saying. (But also shorts and tees and various other more summery things.)
The Ottobre 02-2016 technical drawings

  • The other reason for planning summer sewing is that the Ottobre spring/summer issue preview went up recently and put me in mind of it. I was initially pretty pleased with the new issue, but I feel like I need to walk back my opinion on further thought. I think I was just happy it wasn't doing a Burda (I have to admit that most issues of Burda have still been mostly unappealing to me so far this year) or even compared to Ottobre last year, where I felt tepid at best about both issues. However, several people pointed out on the PR thread, there's a lot of re-treading of patterns Ottobre have done before. Just how many A-line side-dart dress patterns are they going to do? Though, there have also been loads in Burda too lately, and they are in all the shops, so I guess they are reflecting that trend pretty accurately. I'm not so sure about the peplum tops though -- I haven't seen nearly so many of them about this year and I am not a big fan of the look anyway. And heaven preserve me from jumpsuits, ugh, I am so ready for that trend to be OVER. However, all that said: I am happy for a woven kimono tee with a dart (13) -- so much easier to FBA than creating a new dart! I like the look of the shorts (3) and the shirt with the concealed button placket (4). I also kind of like dresses 7 (the crossover bodice) and 19 (the maxi princess seamed dress). Overall, I am probably a slightly warmer level of tepid about this issue. However, I will almost certainly at least muslin the shorts because I can't find a fly-front pattern I like in my Burda collection.
Vogue 8805: an option for my ponte remnants?
  • I spent some time today going through my scrap bags and deciding whether I could cull much of it. I really struggle with what to keep and what to throw away when I finish garments. I ended up keeping a handful of wovens if they are in pieces that are large enough to cut e.g. waistband facings, pocket bags, contrast cuffs etc, plus a small bag of pieces suitable for patchwork (cotton prints, mainly) plus some larger knit remnants. I have four pieces of ponte that are 70-80cm long. I feel like that should be enough to make something but I am not entirely sure what. Straight knit skirts, I guess, or if I could find some that went together maybe I could make Vogue 8805. I hate colour blocking, though, not because I don't like how it looks but because I am rubbish at picking colours that look good together! Any other suggestions for remnants?
  • I also went through all the fabric I had designated for muslins to see if it was worth keeping all of it. Sadly, I made a lot of fabric buying mistakes when I first started garment sewing and I therefore have a LOT of fabric that eventually got shoved in a box marked "nothing made from this fabric would be wearable outside the house". I didn't end up getting rid of anything today but I do feel like I have a better grasp on what I actually have and how I might use it. One thing I did decide was to try a dye experiment on one piece of (allegedly) linen fabric to see if I can move it into a more useful category as well. I say "allegedly" though because the more I look at the fabric the more I wonder if it's linen at all and whether it has any poly content. I guess I'll see when it comes out the dye! (I am waiting on that in the post as well.)

Saturday, 6 February 2016

A very green t-shirt

Last time I posted it was all doom and woe. I can't say I've really had a much better week this week -- the lingering effects of this head cold are proving hard to shake and there was all kinds of bad news delivered from many different sources -- but despite that I don't feel quite so fed up. I have spent an inordinate amount of my leisure time this week thinking about sewing and suddenly feel very enthusiastic about it again. In fact, my attitude today could best be summed up as I want to make all of the things! ALL OF THEM! I have a big list of plans and ideas about what I want to sew over the next few months and I'm not done thinking of things yet. :D

In the meantime this week I also nibbled away at a small project just to get going with some actual sewing again. Normally I can make a knit top in one sewing session, but I spread this one out over several days. This was mainly because I didn't feel very well most of the week and couldn't really spend hours on anything, but also because I wanted to just ease myself gently back into the habit of working on something every day. The outcome of this effort is this very bright green t-shirt:

Three quarter sleeved NL6150 tee with Ottobre 02-2007-05 'Rose Tee' neckline
I started with my (extremely boring by this point) New Look 6150-based t-shirt pattern with elbow length sleeves, but decided to experiment with a new neck line. I do like the scoop I usually use, but I had a yen for a V-neck. I therefore grafted the neckline from a popular Ottobre pattern, 02-2007-05, known as the Rose Tee, on to my basic tee pattern.

Ottobre Rose Tee drawing and picture
Alas, I did a completely rubbish job attaching the neck band and mine turned very oval and not pointy or V-neck shaped AT ALL, IN ANY WAY. In fact, I had no end of problems attaching the neckline and getting the fabric to behave, to the point that I wondered if I was going to have to give up on the top altogether at one point. I feel like the finished product passes muster from a safe 1m distance (and in the photo )but up close it is very clearly not the best top I have ever produced.

This is the fourth top I have made with this kind of double-layered shaped neckline (previously I've made up another Ottobre pattern , as well as the HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine which I made twice which have similar neckline treatements), and my conclusion after these four attempts is that I just don't LIKE this type of neckline. I don't like sewing them for sure, but I also don't really like them just in general. I find the shaped pieces add bulk through the neck and shoulder seams, and there's a rigidity to the neckline that I dislike. I don't like to say "never again!" but I'll probably give any future patterns with similar necklines a miss.

I don't hate my new green tee or anything, but it's definitely not my favourite. I've found an alternative pattern that I'll use next time I want a V-neck, which will hopefully be more to my taste and also, an actual V!

Up next on my sewing table: some easy StyleArc trousers in ponte knit. I'll probably cut out the fabric today but I can't get started sewing because I'm waiting for (a) some waistband elastic and (b) new blades for my overlocker to arrive in the post. One of my (many) problems with the green tee was that my overlocker was chewing most unhappily through the fabric at times. I think new blades might help.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Can January be over already?

I don't know about anyone else, but my January seems to have been about three million years long. Plus, most of it was rubbish despite starting reasonably well. Most recently I've spent the last 8-10 days first feeling distinctly under the weather, and then succumbing entirely to an absolute monster of a winter bug. I abandoned any hope of doing anything that wasn't sleeping or coughing for a full week and I'm only just starting to pick the threads of normal life again now.

Any summary of this month's activities is therefore going to be very feeble. I only managed to finish one thing, a cardigan for my mum, which on the plus side she likes very much and which used up 2m of otherwise unlikely-to-be-used fabric. I did make some small progress on my knitting as well, and I'm probably half way through the first sleeve of my Wanderling jumper. Sleeves are so boring though, I really have to MAKE myself keep knitting.

As I mentioned in that cardigan post, my other sewing project for January was to make some kind of progress on my winter jacket. I actually did start! I traced out all the pattern pieces in size 42 (my normal Burda upper body size starting point), did various little adjustments I knew I'd need but not the big FBA I thought would be likely (because I was struggling to get a sense of how it would fit from the flat pattern), cut a muslin and sewed it together.
Jacket muslin and an attempt at a flat pattern FBA that went wrong, wrong, so very very wrong
My first realization was that the size 42 is the wrong size. There are two really big problems I already knew I was going to have: it doesn't fit at the bust, and the dart placement is totally wrong because my bust is so low. For the rest of it though -- shoulder, back, waist & hip, it actually doesn't fit too badly... over a t-shirt.This is a winter jacket, however, so I need to be able to wear it on top of at least a couple of layers including a sweater. Over a more typical-for-me winter outfit, the muslin fit across the shoulders and back was very tight and of course the bust fit, already bad, got much worse. I let out a few seams in my muslin, looked at the flat pattern again and concluded that the easiest thing to do would just be to go up a size and start again with a size 44 before I did anything else. Unfortunately this means re-tracing the entire pattern from the Burda pattern sheet, which, ugh, tracing is not my favourite thing to start with, let alone tracing the same pattern twice.

Rather than jump back into tracing, I decided to have a go at getting the size 42 to fit at the bust. This might sound like a waste of time, but I have never worked with french darts before and I figured it would be useful to get the flat pattern practice. So off I went, normal FBA procedure that I've done a million times now: 4cm (1.5") FBA, opening a side dart, then closed it, rotating the extra into the existing French dart and ... holy CRAP, somehow, I ended up with a dart approximately the size of Mars. I mean, seriously, the dart take-up went from about 6cm to 30cm. I have NO FREAKING IDEA what I did wrong. I obviously screwed up somewhere because I've done a lot of 4cm darts before and I've never ended up with anything quite as ridiculous as that!

Overall, I definitely feel very discouraged by this experience: I have no idea how to fix the FBA, and I am not convinced that I know how to fix the dart placement problem with this french dart either. Since then have made no progress at all apart from a very half-hearted start at tracing at size 44.

Maybe it's just being even more ill than usual talking, but working on this jacket sent me into a real slump as far as sewing confidence and inspiration is concerned. About the middle of this week, when I was in the depths of this winter bug thing, I convinced myself I was completely useless at sewing and would never be able to make even one of the things that I had admired on Instagram/blogs/whatever that day. I wailed to myself self-pityingly about how I never wear or make or own anything interesting or fun, and so I should just sell up all my sewing stuff and go back to buying RTW.

It was mostly the fever and nose-blowing misery talking, but still: slump of EPIC proportions. A lot of it, if I'm honest, is also just misery and impatience with my long-term illness situation. 99% of the reason I don't get to make or wear anything "interesting" is that even when not hacking and wheezing with a winter bug, I am still not well enough to work or have a normal life and there's still no end in sight. In fact, I am not even well enough to leave the house very often at the moment, which, as I have mentioned before, makes for a very restricted set of wardrobe needs. My sewing slump is indicative of a much bigger slump.

However, I am not going to let it beat me. For now I've decided to mothball the whole question of the winter jacket. I'm not going to pursue a project that's making my miserable right now so I'm not even going to think about it in February. Realistically, there's no point in making a winter coat once we're into March, so really, I'm pushing the whole idea of my moleskin jacket to next autumn. I'm not giving up on outerwear for the year, but, whatever, it's not worth making myself unhappy over this particular jacket for a minute longer.

For February itself, I've got some nice easy little knit top projects lined up that should hopefully restore some of my confidence, and I've got a couple of slightly harder woven top patterns in mind that should still be well within my capabilities. I'm toying with half a dozen other possibilities as well, several of them non-garment (mainly bags). Plus I'm determined to keep making progress on my Wandering sweater, even though sleeves are dull. So, hopefully I'll have more cheerful and productive sewing and/or knitting news to report here over the next few weeks.

I can end on a BIT of a cheerful note, because even while I've been really struggling with sewing, I do think I have made some progress with drawing, which I mentioned I recently took up in a further attempt to fill the empty hours stuck at home while I'm sick. In the last month I've worked through another "learn to draw" type book, (if you want to you can read all about it on my other blog). I guess I'm far enough into the experience of learning to sew that I can't see progress as clearly any more, but since I'm right back at "absolute beginner" in drawing, I really can see what difference my efforts at learning and practicing have on my skill set. To prove it, here is the difference between the "pre-test" self-portrait I drew on 20 December 2015, and the self-portrait I drew on 19 January 2016 when I finished the book:

Maybe it's ridiculous, but I do think seeing evidence that yes, working on a skill by practicing and trying to learn new things DOES WORK really helps keep me on a more even keel about my sewing, mid-week drama notwithstanding. I know I'll get better at making the things I want to make if I just keep plugging away at it and trying my best. Sure, I'm never going to be an artist. I'm never going to be a designer or even probably more than a competent seamstress. But I can get to a point where I can do the things I want to do, for sure.

I've been taking a break from drawing too while I've been coughing and sneezing my way through this week, but when I'm being rational I'm looking forward to putting both sewing and drawing back into my daily routine --- just as soon as my daily routine stops including blowing my nose every 2.3 seconds!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A quick repeat and the return of Operation: Outerwear

I have kicked off my sewing this year with an easy project made as a gift. The fabric for this was a total purchasing error on my part. Suffice to say that to my dismay in December I accidentally ended up with 2m of very light, slubby knit in a shade of pinky-peach that I despise and never wear. However, my mum does like and wear this colour, so when I was whining to her about my fabric-buying idiocy, she said she really liked it and I should make something for her with it for her birthday later in January.

I decided to use a pattern I've made up a couple of times before, the free Swoon Scarf Neck Cardigan, as my mum always liked the two previous versions I made in late 2014 (one for me, one as a gift for my sister-in-law). My own version of it is still in rotation, although I wore it so much the first 6 months I owned it that it looks a little shabby these days.

Pale pink Swoon Scarf Neck Cardigan. It's a little oversized on Flossie and therefore doesn't hang too well.
Inevitably, my mum needed a different size than the two previous versions I've cut so I had to print out the pattern and stick it together again, which was no more fun than the previous two times I've done it. I also glanced over the instructions because I wanted to double check the order of construction and was reminded all over again of the hilarity of the pattern creator thinking I am going to French seam a knit. Just. What? Why would anyone ever do that?

It's so weird that the actual cardigan is so great but the pattern instructions and some of the details of the pattern pieces are so peculiar. Why is the crosswise grainline given and not, you know, a grainline I can actually use? Why would you EVER suggest French seaming a knit?! Why are you given a half a sleeve piece and told to cut it on the fold? (Not that I put the sleeves on the fold, I've made an actual sleeve pattern piece every time.) And other burning questions.

At any rate I do like the outcome, it's a free pattern so I am not going to bitch all that much about the peculiarities of it all, and more importantly my mum really liked it once I took 8cm off the length of the sleeve, which I hemmed on myself in her absence, for her little short T-Rex arms. (Her interpretation of the same requirement: I have monkey-like long arms and hers are the normal length! :D) In fact she liked it so much she told me I could make her several more, which, no. I love my mum very much and I was happy to make her a gift but I am not a cardigan factory. D:

Burda 08-2010-110
Meanwhile I would currently describe myself, rather cautiously, as being in a reasonable state of health. Also, the weather here has swung from unseasonably warm in December to record-breaking levels of wet over Xmas, and now, finally, to something approaching normal for the time of the year, which is to say, moderately cold and wet. This inevitably leads me to the thorny problem that I STILL don't own a casual winter jacket. Thus, since I am well enough to get things done at present, I have kicked off Operation: Outerwear, and started tracing the pattern today. Hopefully I'll get to the point of a muslin over the weekend.

The pattern I'll be working on is this lined, rather boxy jacket from Burda 08-2010, pattern number 110. My biggest concerns at the moment are doing my normal bust size manipulations (FBA and also lowering the bust point) on that French dart as I've not worked with one before. I need to check with my fitting books on how best to proceed. Other than that I'm mostly trying to convince myself that making a jacket like this is really not that much worse than making a woven shirt. If I can make a decent shirt, I can make a jacket, right? And three of my favourite and arguably most successful things I've ever made for myself have been woven shirts! So it'll all be fine, right? :D? :D? D:

The other thing I keep telling myself is that it really doesn't matter if the fit is only mediocre. Sadly, my existing RTW coats are all varying degrees of appalling in how they fit me, so nearly anything is going to be an improvement on the worst of them, and I don't have to achieve very good fit to have produced something that is about as good as the best of them. I realize this is a rather low bar to aim for -- "not worse than a really terrible thing" -- but it's a starting point!

My last line of internal pep talk is to remind myself if I'm going to start sewing the things I really want to sew (more structured clothes, more fitted clothes, outerwear, blazers, fewer easy knits) then I just need to start somewhere. Best case scenario: I end up with a jacket for whatever remains of winter! Worst case scenario: I never manage to make a wearable jacket, I'm down by some fabric and other bits and pieces but have learned lots of really useful things. That is not a great outcome, but I could live with it.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 in Review: Goals; and 2016 Goals

Last, and by far the shortest of my 2015 review posts (previously: How I Spent My Money and Things That I Made) is this one about goals last year and this year.

My goals and ambitions for 2015 and the outcomes I actually achieved are as follows:
  • Stick to my 2015 budget. This includes a resolution to spend less on patterns as a % of total than in 2014. DONE and DONE. \o/ (See the Money post for more details)
  • Use more fabric that I buy, and reduce my overall garment stash by 50m and my bag stash by 20m by the end of the year.  Partial \o/! I did use more fabric than I bought and my total stash decreased. However, this was by a rather more modest total of -33.1m, with the majority being a reduction in my bag stash (-28.55m) rather than garment stash (-4.55m). I need to do better on the garment side of things this year.
  • Reduce my yarn stash by at least half. DONE \o/ My yarn stash reduction is a definite win. I sold a lot of yarn I was never going to use, used a bunch and refrained from buying too much. Not only is my yarn stash considerably less than half what it was before, it also presently conforms to my ideal stash: it contains only my current projects, some defined future projects and a small amount of scrap.
  • Maintain and stick to my wardrobe plan. DONE \o/. I am very happy with my wardrobe planning efforts.
Sadly, I didn't achieve even one of my new technique/new garment type ambitions in 2015, mainly due to illness making it very difficult for me to start or complete complex projects. However, they all hold true as things I want to do so I've just copy & pasted for 2016.

More pleasingly, I also aimed to:
  • Finish the Slowest Quilt In The World. \o/ DONE!
  • Make 6 knitted items (1 sock = 1 item) and increase the complexity of patterns I'm using. DONE \o/. I actually made 7 items and none of them were socks, and I significantly increased the complexity of my knitting during the year from only ever knitting simple scarves to trying out lace and successfully completing a sweater.
A couple of little blog plans:
  • Continue to try to improve my photos. Well, I tried? I'll give myself a \o/ for trying.
  • Finish the wardrobe planning series of posts. I didn't finish, but I did write one more and I have another half done. \o/
 As for 2016, these are my practical goals:
  • Stick to my 2016 budget and reduce my spending on patterns compared to 2015
  • Reduce garment stash to less than 150m (from ~193m at the end of 2015).
  • Use at least two thirds of 2016 fabric purchases within 2016.
Some specific ambitions:
  • Make: woven trousers (with or without fly); a woven dress; a piece of outerwear; a lined tailored blazer
  • Try: welt pockets; bound buttonholes; contrast top-stitching; fly fronts
  • Make: 2-3 really great bags
  • Make: an Alabama Chanin style embellished item
  • Complete: 6 knitted items completed
  • Sew and buy according to my wardrobe plan -- two-thirds of new clothes handmade vs RTW, half of new RTW thrifted.
And as always, my biggest goal is to enjoy my sewing! :D

Monday, 21 December 2015

2015 In Review: Things That I Made

This is part of my 2015 in review posts, which started with How I Spent My Money.


First up, some numbers, because it wouldn't be me if I didn't lead with the numbers.

This year I acquired 57 garments in total (compared to 78 in 2014). I discarded 86 garments, so overall my wardrobe shrank by just over 10% compared to 01/01/15.

Of the 57 garments added to my wardrobe, I sewed 34, knitted 1 and bought 22. My goal this year was to make (rather than buy) about two thirds of my wardrobe acquisitions, and I am going to call it good enough that I made just over 60% of them. This is about the same proportions as last year, and I am quite satisfied that that is a sewing/RTW mix that suits me for now

My RTW purchases were mainly trousers -- linen trousers for summer, cords and jeans for winter --  a handful of knit tops in styles I don't want to sew or fabrics that I can't source (especially wicking fabric for active wear), plus a couple of other random things, plus also lingerie.

Of these, the thing I'd at least like to have the option of making is trousers. I haven't really worked on fitting trousers yet though and a major fitting project like that is outside of my capabilities at my current level of health, so for the time being RTW is really my best option. Luckily, I don't find it overly challenging to buy stuff that fits at least reasonably well and this year I was also able to get some new-with-the-labels-still-on thrift buys that worked out really well. I did discard one thing I bought this year due to poor fit.

Of the 35 things I made over the course of the year, I discarded 4 more or less immediately due to poor fit (2) or poor fabric choice (2), and another 2 after about 6 months worth of wear. I'm not super excited by my attrition rate among my hand-made garments, but on the other hand I'm not going to keep something in my wardrobe if it doesn't work for me or looks ragged just because I made it.

Patterns used

I used 24 different sewing patterns to make my 34 sewn garments this year. Of those, 18 patterns were completely new to me this year, and I made 23 garments from them. The remaining 6 patterns (11 garments) I had used in previous years.

My 24 patterns came from 10 different pattern sources. Half my patterns came from issues of my two favourite sewing magazines: Ottobre (7 patterns) and Burda (5 patterns). I made up 7 traditional envelope patterns (3 New Look, 2 Butterick, 1 Kwik Sew, 1 Burda envelope. (I also produced a total wadder with a Simplicity pattern). From the indies, I made 2 StyleArc, 1 HotPatterns and 1 Wiksten. I also drew up one (extremely simple) pattern based on a RTW garment. This distribution between the types of pattern sources is pretty consistent to last year.

Garment outcomes

You can see everything I made in 2015 by category here on my completed project page for the year.

FAVOURITES: 3 garments
Favourites: Burda 03-2014-124, StyleArc Estelle, Burda Classics 2013 005B

My absolute favourite thing I made in 2015 is my Burda 03-2014-124 rolled-cuff blue gingham summer blouse. If I regret anything it's that I didn't have enough fabric or the foresight to make proper long sleeves with cuffs so I could wear it year round. I love it partly because I really like the fabric (an inexpensive but extremely nice 100% cotton gingham) and partly because I really like the design, especially the shape and fit of the collar and the spiffy button placement. I plan to use this pattern again for sure. This was my most-worn woven top this summer.

I also really love my black and white lace print StyleArc Estelle cardigan. I made a blue one as well that I also like but overall I like the black and white fabric more. This was the first StyleArc pattern I tried and it went together beautifully and it is very easy to wear as a layering piece.

My third favourite garment is another Burda pattern, this time the only skirt I made this year: Burda Classics 2013 005B. I had SO many problems sewing the hem on this full skirted maxi and it's very far from perfect if you look at it critically, but it's still lovely to wear. I made it from a very lightweight green paisley fabric that floats and twirls perfectly. I wore this skirt frequently through the summer months.


StyleArc Issy, Ottobre 05-2011-11, Ottobre 02-2006-04: Good, but not quite favourites

The black and blue StyleArc Issy top might not have a huge longevity -- after a few washes the inexpensive viscose fabric is already not looking great, which is why it's not in the favourites section -- but it's a lovely top to wear and I love the cowl neck design, which I think is highly flattering.

I've worn the blue and white blobby Ottobre 05-2011-11 top less because it's not such a great layering piece, though I'll get more wear out of it in spring I hope. It misses on being a favourite because of the problems with the facings that persist in wear (they tend to pull just a little), but it's still a really great top.

Another top I really liked was a red sleeveless blouse I made using Ottobre 02-2006-04. I only wore this twice because we didn't get the weather for sleeveless shirts after I made it, which is why it's not in favourites -- it hasn't quite stood the test of time or washing yet. However, I really like the way it turned out and the fit is surprisingly flattering for a shirt that looks so boxy on my tailor's dummy.


Three of my five uses of a modified pattern based on New Look 6150 this year
A lot of people say they can't be arsed to make t-shirt type knit tops, and I can definitely see that if you can buy inexpensive, moderately good quality tees that fit you then it's probably pointless to make them. However, I like my tees a very specific length and shape that I find difficult to find in shops at a good price. Thus, I have made my t-shirt sloper based on New Look 6150 (link to tag) eight times now, including making five this year, and it comes out perfectly every time. I wear these tops constantly and I love them. Tragically my favourite from this year, the navy stripe in the middle above, has gone saggy and sad as the fabric was poor quality and I washed it a LOT this summer.

Also boring but incredibly useful: I made a TON of pyjamas this year with various patterns, but most notably Butterick 5704 (PJ trousers), Burda 8271 (PJ capris), and Ottobre 05-2011-02 (PJ shorts). These are all workhorse patterns for me that I will continue to use every time I need PJs. None of them are at all glamorous but they work really well and I love them.

I also made a couple of pairs of loungewear type knit trousers using Burda 11-2005-127 that I've worn and washed to the point of extinction. I actually don't know if I'll make the pattern again because I fancy using a different pattern when I make some replacements early next year, but these have been wardrobe staples for days at home in cool weather.


Butterick 5826, New Look 6407, Ottobre 02-2010-17, Kwik Sew 3555
I really wanted to like my blue and brown paisley pullover top made with Butterick 5826, and I actually did wear it several times early in the year because I liked the fabric so much. However, I fought with the pattern the whole time I was making it and would never voluntarily make it up again. It's also really not great to wear: the fit is off and the sewing problems I had with the neckline don't look any better for the top having been washed a few times. It did not survive the most recent wardrobe cull.

New Look 6407 was another disaster throughout when making it. I struggled with the vertical darts, fit and facings. I tried wearing it once only and halfway through the day I ripped it off and put something else on because I hated it so much. It went straight in the bin and I have no plans to revisit this pattern.

Another 'I wore it, but..." garment is this white pin-tucked blouse I made using Ottobre 02-2010-17. I really liked the idea of this but the pattern was much more oversized than I anticipated and although I wore it a few times I never liked how it fit. The fabric is so very sheer and lightweight that it doesn't hold the shape of the shirt at all and after a couple of washes it turned into a rag. It too went in the recycling when I last reviewed my wardrobe.

Most disappointing of all though is the short-sleeved shirt I made with Kwik Sew 3555 in green checked linen. Earlier in 2015 I had made the long-sleeved version of the shirt in blue polycotton quite successfully, although the high poly content of the fabric makes it sweaty to wear. For this version I used this (very expensive) fabric that I bought while I was living in Ireland. I really thought it would make a great shirt. However, the hand of the linen turned out not to be ideal for a shirt and after I first wore it, it shrank in the wash despite two pre-washes. Even more disastrously, one of the yoke seams unravelled horribly as well and I had to do a very ham-fisted patch job. I am so reluctant to discard this shirt after only wearing it a couple of times because I loved this fabric, but I am not sure I will ever wear it much as it's too short and the yoke seam is a mess. I've left it in my wardrobe for now but I may well discard it when summer 2016 rolls around.


A selection of indifference, failures and other stuff
Unwearable muslin, then wearable but indifferent version 2: I made two versions of the HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine Tee. The first, a turquoise "wearable muslin" was, in fact, an unwearable muslin as it was entirely too low cut. I think I wore it twice before I discarded it. However, the second version, in grey animal print, while still lower in the neckline than I like, turned out much better and I wore it a good number of times through the summer. The neckline is too chilly for me in the autumn and winter though.

Indifferent: Boob vortex tee (Ottobre 05-2012-11) -  I wore this a reasonable number of times this summer but the fabric shrank a bit in the wash despite pre-treatment and the pattern never 100% worked for me. I'll replace it next year. Also indifferent: New Look 6890 nightdress.

My choices are baffling: Backshore sweater (knitted). But WHY did I knit a 3/4 sleeve DK sweater? If it's cold enough for a DK weight sweater then it is cold enough to need warm arms! I did wear it a few times in the autumn but it's a sweater of limited use.

Why did I make this?: Wiksten tank in green cotton voile. I hate tank tops and can't think why I made one, especially of this nearly see through cotton voile. It is no longer in my wardrobe. 

Worst fabric ever: Green flames top - surely the itchiest fabric in the world. I wore this Ottobre "Summer Basics" top once and then got rid of it after spending the whole day feeling like I was wearing a hair shirt. Dreadful.

Adventures in Extreme Wadders: I reviewed, even though it was never finished or added to my wardrobe, a dreadful knit top wadder made with Simplicity 1063.

OVERALL, I'm not sure if it was it a good year or a bad year for sewing outcomes. I (mostly) enjoyed myself making everything that I made, which included some other random things as well on top of the garments described here -- I sewed a quilt, blinds, some tote bags and a handbag, and I knitted scarves, shawls and a hat. I very often think that the pleasure I usually get from the process of sewing outweighs the outcomes anyway. So I am willing to call 2015 a good year for sewing, even if not everything turned out well, and nothing at all turned out perfectly (not that it ever will). :D