Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013: A Review

I was going to post this at the weekend, but then I had an unscheduled and most undesirable health situation and ended up in hospital again on Sunday. Pretty much sick of this being-sick thing now. At any rate, I'm at home again now and not entirely dead, so on with the sewing content!

At the beginning of 2013, I set myself a rather modest goal:
In 2013, I want to keep my goals simple: plan well and sew carefully... I'd really like it if, when I look back at 2013, I decided that on balance I'd sewn useful additions to my wardrobe. I'd like to feel that sewing was a hobby that made me happy, not stressed. I'd also like to feel like I'd improved my skills levels and could see that I could do more at the end of the year than at the beginning, and that the bags and clothes I've made reflect that I've taken the time and trouble to sew them to the best of my abilities.
That seems to have worked out pretty well for me! Certainly I made some really useful things that I've worn to death. I actually also had a little post-it note of some other smaller goals that I wanted to hit.

My year in brief:
  • I spent 112% of the budget I set myself for crafty endeavours this year. (Oops.)
  • I used or disposed of 71.5m of fabric (I donated about 6.5m of this total). Unfortunately, I bought 100.5m and since my goal was to use more than I bought, um, oops? I really have to do better on this one.
  • I sewed 22 wearable items of clothing, plus 1 UFO, plus 4 unwearables.
  • I made 7 bags.
  • I knitted 10 scarves/cowls plus 1 UFO jumper.
  • I made a dress and a jacket, but didn't quite crack the collared blouse I wanted to try this year.
  • I managed to make the whole outfit for the wedding I went to in June.
  • I entered 2 PR competitions.
  • I kept my Etsy shop in my preferred stock range.
  • I enjoyed myself!
And in photos:


Jackets: Embroidered beige linen (New Look 6911); Turquoise Linen (New Look 6911)

Even though I'm not very enthusiastic about either of these jackets any more (the beige one in particular suffers from being a colour that doesn't look nearly as good on me in reality as it did in my head) I consider these jackets to have been absolutely invaluable learning experience and I'm so glad I made them. They kind of exemplify what I wanted at the beginning of 2013 -- no way would I have thought that I could make a jacket, even a simple one, at the beginning of the year, and I did!

Tops. From left to right, top row: Black and white patterned 1 and 2 (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Red and white patterned (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Pink and green floral (New Look 6025). Bottom row: White with lace yoke (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Pale blue (Ottobre 02-2013-13); Blue polka dot (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Shades of blue raglan (Ottobre 05-2013-04).

As evidenced by the fact that I made seven of the Ottobre 02-2013-02 'Summer Basics Tee' in total (one never photographed as it was a muslin, which I now wear as a PJ top) this year, I absolutely love this pattern. The advantage of making the same thing over and over is that I can also actually SEE my progression in working with knits from the first version I made in spring to the one I made in late autumn. :D I have worn all of the tops constantly since I made them and plan to make replacements next year. I really like the other two tops and have worn them a lot a well.

Dresses. Grey with birds (Made by Rae Washi dress); Cream with birds (Made by Rae Washi dress, maxi variation); Black ditsy (Deer and Doe Sureau).

The left-most and centre dresses were my first ever dresses! Big skill boost: adjusting the Washi dress bodice into a princess seamed bodice! I love princess seams so much and will probably make this adjustment again some day.

Skirts. Top row: Brown crocodile (McCall 5431); Turquoise feathers (Ottobre 05-2007-03); Layered white and turquoise floral (McCall's 5431). Bottom row: Khaki "safari" skirt (Ottobre 02-2010-15) Border print maxi skirt (Lorenna Buck Maxi Tutorial); Pieced denim (My Image M1103)

I've recapped my skirts before. I really like all these skirts, though they got different amounts of wear. I'm actually really proud of the denim one I made most recently because the pieced sections came out beautifully.

PJs. Border print and non-border print PJ shorts (Ottobre 05-2011-02); PJ tops (New Look 6321); PJ bottoms (Butterick 5704)

PJs are always the most successful of my makes. Nothing has to match, look good, fit particularly well or co-ordinate with anything else in my wardrobe! It just has to be soft against my skin and survive the washing machine intact. (I do love these though, especially my border print version.)


From left to right: Raglan sleeved top (Burda Plus 01-2013-433); "Rose tee" (Ottobre 02-2007-05); Black and white blouse (Burda 05-2012-135); The Saddest Stripy top (Patrones 298-07). Muslins that didn't go anywhere, failed experiments and the boxiest blouse in the world. They have all gone to the great wardrobe in the sky, peace be with them.

I also have a UFO, the disappointing cape (Woodland Stroll Cape), which may or may not be salvaged in the spring and which I am therefore categorising as a UFO rather than an unwearable for the time being. 

Bags & Clutches

From left to right: Top row: Half-moon handbags. Middle row: Owl & Stripe Bag; Seafarers Satchel; Hollyhock tote. Bottom row: High Tea Clutch; Wedding clutch.

Most of these, with the exception of the Seafarer's satchel (middle row in the middle) which I gave away to a raffle and the wedding clutch (bottom right) which, as the name would suggest, was for the June wedding I attended, were made for my Etsy shop, which I then took offline for most of the year. I still like them all though! I plan to make more, more interesting bags this year, in addition to run-of-the-mill shop inventory.


From left to right (links go to related blog post): Top row: Skinny Beginner's scarf; Kit scarf 1; Kit scarf 2; Gaptastic Cowl; Kit scarf 3. Bottom row: Super Chunky Cowl 1; Super Chunky Cowl 2; Firefly scarf; Kit scarf 4; Taffeta Scarf

My knitting this year was basically a WALL OF SCARVES. My favourite is the purple and grey super-chunky (bottom, second from left), which I adore beyond all reason. I should definitely not make any more scarves for the foreseeable future though. I have one knitting UFO, the purple jumper of doom, which is now probably too big in addition to being dreadful.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The state of the fabric stash

Since I leave for the UK tomorrow, my sewing year is effectively over. This led me this morning, during a fit of procrastination when I should have been getting my apartment ready to go, to play with my fabric spreadsheet and try to figure out the state of my fabric stash. I already know that I totally flunked in my attempt to use more fabric than I bought in 2013 -- actually, I added about 30m total to the stash. Oops!

In 2013 I mainly just tracked total metres. This year I am going for slightly more detail in my tracking. The actual numbers below are of zero interest to anyone but me, but actually it was quite revealing as a way to look at my stash.

- A good 45m or 20% of my ~215m total is lining or muslin.
- I think you CAN see the effect of me trying to fabric fast in 2013, insofar as I clearly stashed much less than in 2012 (I didn't track use vs. buy in 2012).
- My ambitions have clearly always been greater than my talents, because I have a good 30m of fabric stashed for jackets or coats in spite of the fact that it's going to be a real challenge to my sewing skills to make even one.
- On the other hand, given my lifestyle, I'm pretty happy to see that although I've succumbed to the temptation to buy a few pieces of fancy fabric for evening wear I really don't have all that much. There's just 15m in stash, and all the rest is every day fabric for my normal life.

Strangely, seeing that list makes me excited to just start sewing my stash. I already have it! It's a sunk cost at this point, so I might as well use it. Plus, if I make mistakes with this fabric, I get to eventually go buy new fabric because there will always be more fabric. Plus it reminds me how much I LIKE my stash. My problem is more overcoming that novice sewers reluctance to "waste" nice fabric on inferior beginner outcomes than buyer's remorse.

The other thing that pleases me is that actually, I know what I want to do with most of this fabric. I have a little note on what I want to use the fabric for -- it's not hard and fast, in any way, right up until the moment I cut out the pattern, but it's an idea. I only have 18m of fabric where I have really no idea what to do with it, and most of those fabrics are decently sized remnants of fabrics I have already used once.

Total metres at 1-Jan-2014: 213.45m (89 fabrics)

By type:
Knits: 37.2m

Woven: 129.55m*
of which
Everyday: 86.05m
Outerwear: 29.95m
Fancy: 13.95m

Muslin: 30.0m
Lining: 16.7m

By length:
<1.5m: 20.8m (21 fabrics)
1.5-2.9m: 77.3m (36 fabrics)
3m+: 115.m (32 fabrics)

By age:
Bought in 2012: 150.75m
Bought in 2013: 62.7m

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Things that I Do Not Want

OK, here's the thing. When the whole kerfuffle about Cake patterns happened over at Debbie Cook's journal, I was mainly very amused.

Then I posted a negative-to-neutral critique of another indie pattern, the Liesl + Co Woodland Stroll Cape on PR myself, and AT THE TIME I said that I hope this pattern author isn't running all over the web responding individually to critique, because ugh, nobody wants that.Woke up this morning to discover that lo, the pattern author is running all over PR responding individually to critique. Her comment to me was short, and I am disproportionately annoyed by it. She said:

"Oh, I'm so sorry it didn't work for you! Our model was 5'8", and I'm 5'8" as well, so I'm surprised that it wasn't long enough. Our testers were all very happy with the length as well. I wonder if the larger size would have been better? Best wishes."

So, on the surface, nice enough, except it basically is saying "your experience of the pattern was wrong". I should have made a bigger size! Well, DUH, except my measurements, which I took SPECIFICALLY FOR THE PATTERN because my measurements are in flux ARE EXACTLY IN THE L SIZE RANGE and there's bugger all I can do at this stage to make it bigger. Other people my height think the length is fine! Well, the length isn't fine and I don't care how many people who claim to be the same height as me are happy with it, I am not. Her saying that is not going to make me go oh, no, you're right, it IS the right length, I was CONFUSED before about how long it was before. My cape is not the perfect length just because you are telling me it is. (Never mind that I already lengthened it 5cm and it's STILL too short on me.)

Here's my suggestion, should any indie pattern makers be reading (like, three people read this blog, so no, they are not reading): IF YOU ARE TALKING BACK TO REVIEWERS YOU HAVE NOT PAID, YOU NEED TO CHOOSE YOUR WORDS VERY CAREFULLY. Did she say ANYTHING remotely constructive to me? No. I think I can guess on my own that it's not the right size, thanks. I'd go make this point on the PR forums but it would open a massive flame war and I've spent the last week in a miserable heap for various reasons and haven't got the mental strength.

Honestly, all this has made me do is decide pretty much not to review any indie patterns ever, because they're all clearly unable to cope with customers with a neutral-to-negative experience of their product. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Another quick sample of sashiko

This design is usually supposed to evoke fish scales or ocean waves. I decided to try out a two colour combination for this one. I feel like I am getting the hang of the stitching technique now. This is about 16cm square and it took just a touch over two hours last night.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


The other day the people at Colette posted about Sashiko embroidery. Mostly, this seemed to be about them flogging their sashiko kits, which were way too expensive for me at $40 for a set and sold out within 24 hours anyway.

However, what really grabbed my attention was the image of a blouse embroidered with a sashiko design:

Sashiko blouse by mina perhonen

Now, I am not normally into embroidery, or embellishment or ANYTHING of that ilk, but you know when something is a sort of coup de foudre and you have to try it out? So, lacking the money to buy a pre-made kit, I went wandering around the internet to see if I could find enough resources to enable me to at least try it out. Between random stuff I googled and a couple of pages in a book I have about quilting, I managed to figure out most of the basics (I think) and draw a pattern on graph paper that is more or less a traditional design. I had a go first with a couple of simpler patterns and some thread, and then last night I sat down and tried a small square of the pattern. This is what it looks like:

Obviously, it has some flaws! You aren't supposed to allow the threads to cross each other or touch and I kind of screwed up some of the places where a lot of points meet -- the best one is the centre of the star on the bottom left, which is probably most like it's supposed to look. You're also supposed to be really consistent with the size of your stitches, which I was not, and the spaces between stitches are meant to be half the length of the stitch itself, which I also clearly got wrong. However, I think this is pretty good for a first real attempt! I'm not sure I'd want to do anything this complicated over a whole blouse though -- maybe something like this would be better.

It took a while to create the tissue paper pattern, which I placed on top of two layers of random scrap white cotton and then pinned into place. At first it's a bit awkward because even pinned it shifts a bit, but after you do the first long rows of stitching it stays mostly in place. My square is about 12cm by 12cm and it took me a total of about 2.5 hours to embroider -- an hour last night, about an hour this afternoon while I sat waiting for a hospital appointment, and a half hour once I got home just to finish off two lines of stitching. Actually, embroidering in public was an interesting experience. Normally nobody speaks to me at all in hospital waiting rooms but today two separate people asked me about what I was doing.