Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bits and pieces

I'm sick, lazy and busy, three things that really don't go together, so this is a bullet point post.

  • This is Flossie! She belongs to my mother, who bought a dressform for herself in 1965 when she started at teacher training college (my mum was a home economics teacher before she retrained to teach primary school, so she had to learn to teach sewing, and then for the longest time she made all her own clothes). Flossie came to me pre-named and slightly beaten up and I love her. Flossie has been around in our house forever -- in more recent years up in the attic or in the garage because my mum doesn't use her but couldn't bear to part with her. She is actually, even fully extended as shown in this picture, a little bit too small to duplicate my figure, but she's not a million miles away. My mum gave her to me because she's thrilled someone will get some use out of her after all this time, and I am thrilled to have her because I love the continuity of using her. (Also, a new one is £100 minimum!)

  •  I buy a lot of my fabric at the moment from eBay and I realized suddenly that I was buying a lot of fabrics I wanted to use for clothes to wear and nothing that I could really just go, OK, this is a muslin and I don't care if it doesn't work out. I went looking for cheap bundles of fabric that I could get for under £2 per metre. I have scored some AMAZINGLY DREADFUL fabric in the process, it's kind of awe-inspiring, but I've got some of it from as little as £1.15/m, which is excellent for learning on.
  • I have a Cunning Plan for my next garment project. I was going to make this amazing twirly skirt from Ottobre, but I thought I knew what I was doing cutting out my sizes, made a little muslin of the waistband and realized I'd traced one size too big. So, back to the drawing board (literally -- I have to retrace) on that. In the meantime I am going to try something else, with an eye to learning some particular skills that I'll need. I sound very cryptic here >.> <.< but it's actually because I haven't got the pattern I want yet and I am worried about jinxing my eBay-fu by talking about it!
  • In free moments and while watching TV, I've been busily making a million (or, you know, 50) yoyos, also for a Cunning Plan project, although this one is a bag.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Reviewed: New Look 6025 (short-sleeved top). Stripy Goodness!

Last week I was all "all I need to do is take a photo and write a review! easy peasy!" so that I could  but it took until today to do it. Here's what the package looks like again:

And here is my version:

And below is my (expanded, because I don't inflict ALL my ramblings on patternreview) review of making it. Original review on PR is here.

Pattern Description: Misses' Tunic or Tops with sleeve variations and tie belt. I made the shorter length (as in view C) but with the shorter sleeves (as in view A), and as I loathe tops that belt or tie at the waist, I left it loose. In actual fact, I started out making B, with the cuffed sleeves, but then (a) view B was INCREDIBLY long and I wasn't excited by it, and (b) as discussed below, I screwed up my FBA and somehow made the sleeves go wonky. The only fix was to crop the length of the sleeve and make it like view A (which fortunately worked).

Pattern Sizing: 8-18. I made an 18 with some adjustments. In retrospect, I should have made a 16 and made a larger bust adjustment as it would have reduced the width at the hip.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Given that I didn't precisely make any of the views, it was nevertheless still in the spirit of the drawings/photo.

Were the instructions easy to follow? This is an exceptionally easy garment to make, with only three seams and three hems. The only time I checked the instructions at all was to confirm the order in which to sew the seams as this is the first top I've ever made.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was attempting to recreate a much loved RTW top and this pattern matched very well. I like simple woven tops of this type because they are as easy to wear as a t-shirt but can be made in fabrics that lift it into something a little more formal.

However, I do NOT love the neckline on this top as it is too wide and too deep, even after I adjusted it.  I also do not love the width at the hem, but that is a sizing issue and one that I can fix.

Fabric Used: Mystery microfibre purchased from eBay. I fell in love with the swirly cream/black stripes fabric so I paid more than I usually would for it at £6/m. This top used about 150cm plus this bias binding, so it cost me about £10 all told.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I actually muslined this top in a revolting puke green alas-my-dye-experiment-has-failed cotton that I got in the Big Bag Of Fabric. Straight out of the package, the size 18 had three problems: the fit wasn't TERRIBLE at the bust -- I have worn many more terrible RTW garments -- but it could have been improved. The neckline was EPICALLY boobtacular, dropping at least an inch lower than I was comfortable with, and the sleeves were way too deep so anybody could look up my shirt. My fixes were:

1. An FBA, which, as I am a novice, was not entirely successful. I used the Zieman "pivot and slide" method and, okay, it sort of worked, in so far as it did add some extra space, but it wasn't quite in the right place because I screwed up the shoulder fix. And because I screwed up the shoulder fix, the FBA went wrong and the sleeve went wrong. So I have ended up with a top that almost has a bust adjustment, and then had to have shorter sleeves than I liked.

2. Based on a review by littlebetty I pulled the blouse up by about 1" at the shoulder seams. This definitely improved the neckline and the fact that the sleeve gaped and provided a great view of my bra. However, for me personally the neckline is still too wide and too low even after this adjustment. (Plus, I didn't do it right, so overall it was problematic.

3. I used purchased rather than self-fabric bias binding. This was solely because the fabric I used shredded like crazy and was a horror when I tried to handle narrow bias strips.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would, and I probably will sew it again. This is the sort of top that I always have 2 or 3 RTW versions of hanging in my work wardrobe, so I was very keen to find a similar pattern to make for myself. However, it still needs work before I'll consider it a TNT pattern.

Conclusion: Ultra simple top, but needs to work to make it work for me.

 Next up: this skirt, in green linen. I am on a weird skirt kick. I have so many plans, mainly for producing stuff that I can wear to work in due course, should my PhD ever be finished.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Works in progress

I actually like to finish everything I start and I haven't been sewing very long, so I haven't got a lot of WIPs. I do have a few to confess to though:

1: I am the kind of person who likes to start my To Do list with "1. Complete To Do list" so that I can cross it off as soon as I start work. This first entry is therefore a cheat, since the thing is already done and all I need to do is take a photo of me wearing it and post my review to Pattern Review. 

My main project this week (working very slowly due to the combination of my PhD thesis, Grave's Disease and general uselessness) has been to make one of the tops from New Look 6025.

2. I have all the pieces cut out for a Bonsai Bag.

The centre of my bag is a pair of sparkly shoes and the outside is stripy pink and purple and white. Sparkly shoes are kind of a theme in my bags. I really don't know when I'll make this -- maybe not until I've moved. It's going to be cute when it's done though.

3. I have the pattern pieces traced and sorted out for a Sunshine Top by HotPatterns. I've not cut anything out though, mainly because I can't get it clear in my mind whether I need to do a Full Bust Adjustment or not. I have some lovely red jersey to make it in, but I think I need to muslin it first. I do have the ugliest jersey in the world to muslin it with, but no matching overlocker thread.

4. I do not love patchwork. I mean, I see some quilts and love them, but most of the time I am pretty indifferent to them. Plus, what do you DO with more than one quilt, other than give them away? I can see myself making a baby quilt as a gift, but other than the one quilt I am making I don't think I'm going to get into quilting. But I am making one, in order to have it as a snuggle-under-the-blankie-on-the-sofa quilt. It's going to be an ULTRA SIMPLE quilt, using the Turning Twenty block, which only has three pieces. I am making mine using a William Morris print for the square, hand quilted to match the design, and then co-ordinating blue and green for the two rectangles.

So far, I haven't even bought the backing or the blue and green fabric (once my PhD is done, I'll go shopping for it. Everything in the world is being put off until my PhD is done) I have bought the print (from the factory shop for £1), and the batting, and cut out the Wm. Morris print squares. I also did a mini sized version of Turning Twenty using some (hideous) charm squares sent to me with my last Sew magazine. This whole piece is the size of one block of my actual quilt. I also hand-quilted two spare squares of the Morris print to see how it looked.

Abandoned: The other thing to talk about is my abandoned project. The May challenge on Pattern Review is the One Yard challenge, where you have to make an item with one yard of fabric. I got all excited and was going to make two things that made up an outfit: a basic straight skirt in black linen (which I might still do) and a crossover front top from Ottobre Woman 2008/2 in black with white tattoo roses.

I traced out the pattern (OW uses spirograph-like pattern sheets) in size 48, made it up into a muslin (in hideous puke green dye-experiment-gone-wrong muslin that I acquired in a bag of fabric), and went: oh, this doesn't fit. So then I tried again, in size 44 (theoretically I should be a size 42 using top bust measurements in Ottobre Woman stuff, but I thought I would want to wear something under the top so I sized up.

Then I attemped an FBA. Then I tried again. And then again. Then I went OKAY, GOOD ENOUGH, and made it up in a random piece of white polycotton, and the fit was STILL terrible. Why are there great cups of fabric under the arm, for a start? Why was it tight across my bust and then huge acres of fabric under the bust? Before I could fix it, I really started to think about how low cut this top is versus how, um, well-endowed I am, and I realized I would never ever wear it because I would just be too uncomfortable with how boobtacular it was.

Luckily, my new top (see point 1) is also black and would go nicely with a straight skirt, so I will still make my skirt (though not for the challenge) and have an outfit out of my efforts, if not the outfit I expected. And I still have my 1m piece of tattoo roses that I can use for something else.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

An introduction

Once upon a time, in a home economics class in a high school near Manchester in the UK, I got to the end of my second ever sewing project, an A-line skirt (the first project was a patchwork cushion that didn't have a single square corner) and once it had been graded, I flung it into the darkest corner of my wardrobe and swore that NEVER AGAIN would I try to sew anything.

That resolution lasted another 24 years before out of the blue I decided that what I really, truly wanted to do was learn to sew.

I came around to the idea that it would be fun to sew for myself very very gradually. It started out because I'd been dabbling in reading about interior design and found myself drawn to the fabrics. My mother, who is a very accomplished sewist who once upon a time sewed everything she wore, asked me one day what I would do when she wasn't around to help make minor alterations to my clothes. Three friends of mine took up knitting and talked endlessly about how much they loved making things for themselves, even if they didn't turn out very well.

Suddenly, in August 2011, the bug bit for real. I bought a sewing machine, just a basic one, and started a fabric stash. I started making bags, which I LOVED. Then I realized one woman does not need a half a million bags, and I opened an Etsy shop to sell my surplus. Over the course of those 9 months, I have come around to the idea that actually, it would also be really amazing if I could make my own clothes as well as bags. I'm eager to learn more sewing and you do tend to hit a plateau with bags where they do not get any more complex or interesting. I want the things I make to be useful. All roads led to making clothes.

The story of making clothes so far:

1. Mostly fear and confusion. I don't know where to start! When I started sewing bags I made an unlined tote bag first, but I don't know what the equivalent is in clothes. I've been sewing every day for 9 months, but I actually don't know what I don't know. Bag sewing is very DIY oriented, the blogs I follow are mainly people who are self taught and, frankly, there really is a limit to how complex bags can get.

2. Armed with encouragement from patternreview sewists, I risked a first project: a pair of pyjama shorts. With hippos on them, of course.

3. Since then, I've been consumed with looking at fabrics, blogs, sewing books and magazines. I managed to acquire all 12 back issues of Ottobre Woman, which I'm in love with. I have a sampling of other patterns from other companies. I look at what other people have made. And I'm building up my clothing fabric stash (my bag-making stash being mainly composed of home decor fabrics). One day soon (when my PhD is submitted, probably) I will actually begin sewing in earnest. This blog will chronicle the continuing adventures!