Monday, 30 June 2014

A mid-year goal update

At the beginning of 2014 I set myself some sewing goals.

The first two goals were the most important:
  • Stick to my sewing budget
    • I am just about 8% under budget for the year so far. \o/
  • Use more fabric than I buy
    • So far this year I've used 42.8m and bought 25m, meaning an overall stash reduction of 17.8m. It's not quite the stash reduction I'd hoped for from the first six months, but it's the first time I've managed ANY kind of reduction, so, go me? :D? I still want overall to use more than I stash for the rest of the year, but I've reached the point in some categories of fabric where I will need to replenish a bit before the end of the year (knits in particular).
  I also came up with some skill stretching challenges:
  • Complicated bags (2 or 3). I've thought about this a lot but haven't quite got my act together to actually make anything yet. I have felt a lot more interested in bag making lately again after a period where I wasn't all that bothered about it, so I will probably come back to this later in the year.
  • Garment sewing challenges: The basic answer to this is that I haven't done any of them. However, I have plans for ALL of them in the second half of the year and I've actually made progress towards them all one way or another. So: collared blouse - definitely in the plan. In fact, in July's plan, if you count the Carme as a collared blouse, but the proper, full-on collared and buttoned and everything shirt I plan to make in August. TNT woven dress pattern: again, no, but The Great Dress Trying-On Experiment was a useful thing to do to work out what I wanted that pattern to be, and again, the fitting work I've done for tops should help when I get there. More likely to be an autumn sort of project. Lined jacket or coat: Lined jacket is in the plan for the autumn. So too are trousers, although I took a huge step in the right direction by making shorts this month, and I also put a fly front into a couple of skirts to try that out. I'm pretty sure all of my garment goals are achievable this year, even though none of them are yet complete.
  • Knitting: Ha, well, at the beginning of the year I said I wanted to make a sweater, and then I decided actually, I DON'T want to make sweaters, or even finish the sad purple monstrosity sweater, and at the moment I just knit socks never-endingly. I'm OK with that. So, my new and revised goal is: Make 6 knitted items this year. So far I've finished two pairs of socks and I'm ready to cast on a third pair.
  • Other: Progress on the World's Slowest Quilt: Actual progress: non-existent. I haven't even opened the bag since I moved in Ireland /o\. Take better photos for this blog: I mean, I don't think there's been a HUGE improvement, but I have been working on getting the lighting better and no blurry shots etc. I am hoping I will have a better photography space in my new place, though, and I want to buy a remote for my camera. Wardrobe planning: Although I haven't talked about it much, except for my imaginary summer wardrobe thing, I have actually been doing LOADS of this, so all the things I've made in the last six months I've deliberately tried to make in colours and styles that mean that e.g. every time I make a new skirt I have 3-4 tops that it will go with, etc. I will probably be boring about this at length at some point.
All in all, I am pretty happy with all that, especially considering how sick I've been for most of the last 6 months! :D

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Stick it in a box marked 'done'

I'm back from a week in the UK and I have a pile of finished things to blog about.

Mainly I was in the UK for hospital appointments (alas, I'm still a medical mystery. My specialist was like "I know it's emotionally and psychologically difficult not to have a diagnosis after all this time and to be told you probably have something very rare" and I was all HAHA OH GOD, DO YOU THINK? DDDD:) but also, more happily, to see where I'll be living (mid-renovation, still doesn't have a kitchen, but otherwise looking A+. Room ear-marked as sewing/spare room has a HUGE window and is light all day). I am moving towards the end of the month but for some reason my belongings are taking several days to get to me, so it'll probably be the first week in August before I am set up to sew in my new place.

In the meantime, though:

Jitterbug socks in Colinette 400 sock yarn
While I was away I finished a pair of socks that I started way back in something like the first week of April. The only reason it took so long to make them really is that I started on bamboo needles and promptly snapped one in half while shoving it in my handbag halfway through the first sock, and then it took FOREVER (well, a month) for my replacement metal needles to arrive in the post. (To be fair, I accidentally ordered them from Bulgaria so it's no wonder it took a while.) At any rate, I had managed to finish the first sock before I left, so I cast on the second sock in Dublin airport on Monday morning and finished all bar the toe grafting by the time I got off the plane back in Dublin Saturday lunchtime. Overall, they're definitely an improvement on my first Socks of Terribleness, although still highly flawed in places. The yarn was lovely: Colinette Jitterbug 400, which is 100% merino wool, in the "Cinnamon" colourway (I don't know why cinnamon, since it's more purple than anything). I made the super simple sock pattern that comes with the yarn and used about 85g of a ~160g ball of yarn, so I should be able to get another pair of short socks out of it if I am careful. (This is good, because it was STUPIDLY expensive for a single pair of socks otherwise!).

"Paintbrush" jersey print and the Ottobre 02-2013-02 tee that I made from it
Since I got home, I've been busy with a couple of other little projects. I took advantage of the cheaper postage in the UK and ordered a couple of pieces of fabric I wanted for my mini-wardrobe thing and while I was at it, I saw this viscose/cotton jersey print in an eBay shop and HAD TO HAVE IT. It was one of those things where the impulse to own it bypassed my brain and went straight to my finger on the button on my mouse to click "buy it now". I bought 1m (£5m + £3 p&p) to make a t-shirt, inevitably using Ottobre 02-2013-02 (yes, that's version number 8 but who's counting them at this point). I don't know that I would have been 100% as excited if I had seen the fabric in person before I bought it, although I love the colours and print just as much in person. I'm less happy that the finish of the fabric is that almost fluffy soft texture that you get on some viscose/cotton blends that will probably pill horribly after a half dozen washes. Still, I do love the t-shirt I made and it goes AMAZINGLY well with my new turquoise shorts.

I also made new cushion covers for the massive 65cm square cushions that live on my bed. I have already bought a purple blind for my new house and a purple striped duvet cover. I was contemplating my current (green) cushion covers and then remembered I had this geometric patterned purple fabric in my bag stash. It's another "eBay seller describes what they are selling very badly" buy, this time from early 2013, and I got like 2.5m for £0.99 plus p&p (£5 in total). The reverse is just some plain white cotton drill bought for £1/m from Standfast. The most expensive thing on this cushion cover are the zips, which I stupidly bought 80cm long (expensive) instead of 65cm long (cheaper) because I wrote it down wrong on my notepad at some point and never corrected it. >:(

Other than all of that, I am READY for the mini-wardrobe thing. I have everything all lined up and waiting to start on Tuesday.  I have a confirmed date for my actual move from Dublin and I worked back from that to when I need to stop sewing and start packing. I concluded I need to make my entire mini-wardrobe by the 14th of July, although worst case scenario I can sew on the 15th/16th a bit if I need to. Just as well everything I picked out is so (relatively) easy and quick to make! I think what I'm going to do is to burn through all the easy stuff first so that I can spend more time on the Carme blouse at the end.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

28 photos of my arse; or Made: Ottobre 02-2014-06 Shorts

My first attempt to make shorts this year was not well-fated, you might recall, as rather than pick an actual shorts pattern like a sane person, I chose a pattern described as culottes, and then was shocked! horrifed! when they turned out like a green linen parachute. However, I want to make a pair of shorts for my mini-wardrobe next month, and that meant trying again. Hey presto: new pattern, new shorts, 28 shots of my arse in shorts on my camera, no dignity, and in the end, shorts whose fit I am not entirely ashamed of!
Ottobre 02-2014-06 "Denim Look" shorts: magazine image and technical drawing
The pattern I chose this time was actually on the very next page after the culottes in the most recent Ottobre magazine (Spring/Summer 2014). Someone, I have no idea who I am sorry to say, gave me the excellent advice in a recent comment that a good first attempt at trousers was to make a pair of shorts without a fly or anything else that could add wrinkles that had nothing to do with fit. Thank you, that person! Given the extra wrinkles that appeared in my (non-fitted) skirts from the flies I tried, I can well believe this. Ergo this very basic and almost design-feature free pair of shorts seemed ideal, if not entirely the most interesting thing ever. You can read my proper, srs bsns pattern review on PR here.

My turquoise shorts, as modelled by... a hanger. And also the innards, which are again probably the best part
Once again, probably the most exciting thing about these from a finished garment perspective are the insides, where I kind of went to town again. My turquoise linen is a remnant from a year ago, when I made a jacket to wear to my friends' wedding. It's gorgeous fabric, I wish I had bought more in other colours. (It is from Fabrix in Lancaster, which stocks this linen as a regular range and which used to have a website that doesn't appear to work anymore. I hope they haven't gone out of business!)

The bias binding is actually left from the same project: Liberty cotton lawn that I made into MILES of bias tape for the inside of the (unlined) jacket. I had to make a bit more, actually, but continuous bias binding making is MAGIC, and just a tiny square of fabric produced a whole extra 4m. At any rate, I flat-felled most of my construction seams, which I think looks great, and then bound the zipper side seam (I found ONE tutorial on flat-felling zipper seams, but couldn't understand a word of it, so: binding). I also bound the edge of the waist facing and the leg opening hem, the latter more because it looks pretty than any other reason (though also, this linen was very shreddy). Is it weird how much I have come to love doing fancy seam finishing? I love how the insides of my last few garments have looked, I think I'm becoming addicted to fancy finishing techniques. That's not a bad thing, though, right?

Overall, I think these shorts cost around £9, including fabric and thread and whatnot, although I actually recycled the invisible zipper from something I made previously and got rid of earlier this summer.

However, you don't care about that, you want to know whether the indignity of taking 28 shots of my butt on a timer paid off. Let me just say before I start that one aspect of the pattern (mentioned in my review) is that they are SUPER HIGH WAISTED, like, right up to my natural waist, hence the ACRES of fabric above the crotch. I pulled my top up so you could see the fit, but, uh, in real life I'd wear my shirt pulled right down over them to mid-hip.

Turquoise shorts as modelled by yours truly
Is the fit perfect? Not it's not. But I'm super happy with how it looks for a FIRST EVER attempt at fitted shorts. If I am going to be picky, I think the biggest remaining problem is at the back, because it's a little too tight and clings rather closely at the crotch. But I also had them pulled up a tiny bit too high, so, eh. (And it's linen, which as we all know will bag out horribly. I imagine by the time I actually wear them for an hour the backside will be round my knees somewhere.) I think the wrinkle on the front shot is from the way I'm standing, because it doesn't do that in the mirror, but whatever, it's not a big deal.

My comedy plaid muslin. ALL of the spare room over my ass!
Of course, this turquoise pair wasn't the ACTUAL first attempt, which I did in a comically awful plaid muslin fabric. I look like some kind of hilarious tacky tourist. All I need is a camera slung around my neck and a little bag buckled around my waist, and I could be one of the hordes "Doing Yurop" this summer.

So, the front was never bad. What you can't tell is that when I moved around the front poofed out in an enormous bubble of fabric right at the curviest part of the crotch curve. I... actually don't have a description for how I fixed it, but basically, I sewed another curve 1.5cm deeper as per Pants For Real People, and hey presto, fixed.

The back view and the side view however demonstrate just how bad the fit was originally from this pattern over my butt. The side seams swung ALL the way forward, I think this photo actually understates it, and there were HUGE DEEP wrinkles at the back, caused by EPIC amounts of excess space. I ended up pulling the waist up at the centre back by 3cm and then ALSO took up to 5cm out of each side of the crotch seam. That means I took TEN CENTIMETRES at one point of the curve. That's FOUR INCHES of extra fabric.

I knew I had a flat butt (because every RTW pair of pants I have ever owned tends to swing forward at the side seam and puddle below my butt cheeks) but WOW. To be fair, at this point I have no idea how far I can generalize from this one Ottobre pattern as to whether I am always going to do such a gargantuan adjustment. I mean, for all I know, Ottobre may draft for the exceedingly ample of posterior, which I am never going to be, and I won't have to make such an extreme alteration on like, Burda, or Vogue (not that I HAVE any Vogue trouser patterns). However, the fact that I always have the same problem in RTW makes me think that maybe my ass is UNUSUALLY FLAT. The things you learn about yourself when you sew!

Luckily, I didn't seem to have any other major problems, so although I did spend an entire evening sewing this muslin, adjusting it, and peering at my own butt in photos, it wasn't NEARLY as painful as the multi-week marathons of fitting I know a lot of people have had to do. But then, maybe I am also just not all that picky, and you are all secretly recoiling from my photos. (Actually, if you think there are huge glaring errors that I have missed, you should tell me. I know it's tight at the back, but other than that.)

At any rate, for the moment I feel pretty happy because it's pretty clear from these photos that even if my turquoise short aren't "perfect", they are a HUGE improvement on the muslin. ALSO, they are actually super comfortable to wear, walk, sit and otherwise move about in. Someone on the PR board just recently pointed out that standing still and sitting actually have very different demands as far as fit is concerned, so the fact that mine feel good and look OK in both positions is very pleasing to me.

In conclusion: SHORTS. I have MADE SOME. Go team me *\o/*

Friday, 20 June 2014

Let's talk Mini-Wardrobe, for real!

The rules went up for the mini-wardrobe competition yesterday! I was immediately sent into a flap because this year it's FIVE items, one of which can be a "wearable accessory" like a scarf or whatever, and it has to make up 6 outfits. I had been banking on it being 4 and 4 outfits again, so I had to revise my half-baked plans. If "wearable accessory" had included a bag I'd have been golden, but it's specifically excluded.

I actually have so many additional constraints it's kind of ludicrous. I'm packing for an international move mid-July. I'm trying not to spend money unduly. I'm too sick at the moment to go into the city and fabric shop. I'm trying to fabric fast and use up things I already own. I'm trying to write my PhD any time I am not sick. I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS. And yet, somehow I will probably end up doing it.

ANYWAY, all revelations of my idiocy aside, here is version 1.0 of my plan:

Ha, this is why I'd never win a competition. Have you ever seen a more boring set of patterns? I don't care though, I am not in it to win.

The skirt should be easy -- I've never made this particular pattern but I've made enough Ottobre skirts up to know it'll fit. The Ottobre top is, of course, just a minor variation on a theme of my absolute favourite made-it-8-times-already, no really, Ottobre 02-2013-02 top. The Wiksten Tank is a pattern I've had in stash a while now. It should be straightforward once I figure out the bust fit. This is the thing I added in response to the 5th item, and the only thing I haven't quite figured out is HOW I want to colour-block it, although I have some ideas. And the Carme, of course, I've talked about a couple of time already. Big first for me because I've never made a shirt, a collar, cuffs, blah blah blah, but I am not particularly worried about any of that. (I may live to regret saying that, of course....)

The big unknown is the shorts, since I've never made anything trouser-like that is more fitted than PJ shorts before and have no idea if I'll get anything like a reasonable fit from the Ottobre pattern. I'm going to muslin them this weekend so I can see if it's workable without EPIC fitting work. If it isn't, I'll swap in... something. (????)

TELL ME YOUR PLANS. :D Anything I've thought of so far is totally subject to change at a moment's notice. I ALSO have a sort of secondary option of doing a whole blue/green mini-wardrobe, but I can't do it all from stash so I would prefer this white/black thing if I can pull it off. Also I need a better name, but I can't think of one.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Sudden (me-made!) summer!

After WEEKS of whining that Dublin was still distressingly cold and non-summery, we suddenly have warm weather and sunshine! It's sufficiently pleasant that I am, in fact, writing this blog post on my apartment balcony in the sun, with factor 30 on to protect my dead-fish-white skin from burning.

More to the sewing-blog-point, I am ALSO suddenly thoroughly enjoying the fact that I started sewing for this weather long before it seemed at all likely to happen. The Met Eireann tweeted "Highs of 24-28C" this morning and I was absolutely spoiled for me-made choices when I reached into my closet to get dressed. Today, I ended up in my purple Burda skirt and purple polka dot Kitschy Coo raglan tee. I've worn the t-shirt a good half dozen times at least since I made it (even though it's a "wearable muslin" and the sleeves are really seriously two sizes too small on me), but this is the first time I've worn the skirt for more than just trying on/photography/fitting purposes. I actually LOVE the skirt now I've worn it most of a day, except that the fabric creases like crazy so now I look like a hobo. At the time I made this I had so many problems getting the back waist and hip to fit that I said I wouldn't make the pattern again, but now I am wondering whether that was a hasty call pre-wear!

Note to self: it's annoying when you can't immediately wear the stuff you've made, but it's awesome when the season you sewed for finally rolls around :D

I've been sort of vaguely planning ahead for the rest of my summer sewing, although in reality it's going to be rather interrupted over the next six weeks. I have a week of hospital appointments in the UK (lucky me, I continue to be a medical mystery, so I get to go and have ever more exotic tests run on me) next week, and then of course I have to get the Great International Move (2014 edition) underway in mid-July so everything will need to get packed up and moved and then unpacked and re-organized in my new place (which yes, will ALSO have a sewing room/spare room set-up, though tbh, mostly sewing room since my hostessing prowess is mostly untested).

However, the big question mark I have is about whether to do the PR mini-wardrobe competition before I leave in July. I REALLY want to, for once, because assuming that when the rules are announced (Which must be soon, surely? This isn't a competition you can do without time to plan!) they are the basic '4 items, 4 outfits' rules like last year, I have SUCH A GREAT IDEA, and also, all the fabric I need for it. This is the only competition where the fact that there's zero chance I'd win and the competitions are mostly pointless doesn't even put me off. I just like the idea of making little collections of clothes, okay, I'm a nerd that way. So yes, if the rules go up and are the normal thing, I have A Plan, and I will no doubt tell you ALL ABOUT IT in excruciating detail when/if the rules go live.

Who else is in for mini-wardrobing? I love seeing people's plans and how they put things together.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A dress, body image woe, and the problem of what to make next

1. I made another Lady Skater dress. I really love my black/white/red floral explosions version and wore it more than I expected this winter. (I have never historically worn a lot of dresses and as a result I always feel weirdly exposed when I do wear them, hence my surprise at how often I wore this one.) I made this new one because I wanted something really comfortable and easy to wear. This dress pattern is basically pyjamas in dress form, so it was the first thing I thought of when I decided I wanted a knit dress. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out too well.
Turquoise Lady Skater Dress as modelled by Flossie and a close-up of the fabric (the actual dress colour is closer to the whole dress photo)
I made no changes to the pattern at all, except I used a cap sleeve rather than an elbow length and did a nice little cuff on the end of it with a spare strip of fabric left over from binding the neckline. The fabric is a pretty nice turquoise colour viscose blend that I bought from Croft Mill a couple of years ago. It's not really got the recovery I prefer overall, but was nice enough to handle (which is just as well, because I've got 1.5m left). I love the colour, but I am not sure that the print -- which was sold to me as cogwheels, but I think is more stylized flowers -- really does me any favours. Tiny ditsy prints are not something I ordinarily wear either. The sewing turned out better, if anything, on this version. I'm on this kick where I am being extra careful with how I sew everything. With knits that's meant trying to get all my seams pressed exactly in the right direction and match up perfectly, etc etc. I mean, not to say there aren't little flaws in the dress, because there are, but there are definitely fewer compared to things I was making even 6 months ago.

The fit, however, eh. Not great. This is the problem with knits though, even if you get a pattern right with one fabric, even a small difference in stretch means that the fit goes haywire. The weird thing on this is that I changed NOTHING about the position of the waist seam, and yet somehow it's way more ugly and awkward where it hits me. I think it's because there's less length-wise stretch (i.e. hardly any, compared to the black dress) and so it's just differently positioned. At the moment I probably wouldn't wear this dress, if I'm honest, because the fit is so unflattering. It's a tiny bit better with a belt but I have stomach pain from my medication and don't want to wear belts at the moment.

2. Despite my cast iron resolution to be better about posting photos of myself, I am really unhappy about my body at the moment and it's a real struggle to do so. This is not said to elicit sympathy or compliments from commenters, even though I think our knee jerk reaction when female friends tell us that they feel bad about their bodies for whatever reason is to tell them they look beautiful. This may be true, and believe me I am a whole-hearted proponent of the argument that not only is beauty not restricted to the increasingly narrow commercial representations of it but that beauty isn't, shouldn't ever be the measure of our worth as women or human beings.  However, it is much easier to SAY it, and even to apply it to the women who surround me, than to apply it to my own life.

The dress as modelled by yours truly
As a result, I look at this photo, and even while I'm trying to be critical of the dress, I find myself being critical of the body inside it. For example, I really don't like the cap sleeve length on me AT ALL, and I really don't like the waist (which I tried to fix by putting a belt on to help pull the dress waist seam up a bit, but I am not sure this helped). Unfortunately, I run out of criticisms of the dress at that point and my analysis devolves into lengthy wailing of why does my bust have to be so huge and prominent, and why are my arms so fat, and why is my stomach so protruding, and so on and so on. It is hard to believe, when I am caught up in this kind of thinking, that it is a good idea to post photos online, but sometimes, like today, I'll make myself do it anyway.

3. I am slowly working my way through minor pattern alterations on the Carme blouse before I cut into fabric. I am making my first version out of black cotton lawn. However, as the turquoise dress is at least temporarily consigned to the Wardrobe of Woe, along with the unfortunate green linen not-a-skirt, where perhaps the passage of time will make me like them more, and I still want a jersey dress. I don't want another turquoise one, because that seems like overkill, and I am actually a bit short on suitable jersey fabrics (which is to say, I have 27.5m of jersey in stash, give or take, but a lot of it is either too heavy, too light or too high in polyester content for summer).

That leaves me with one viable choice: a cotton t-shirt jersey in a gorgeous shade of red that I bought, coincidentally, at the same times as the turquoise one I used above. I have 3m, so there's no real limit on patterns from that perspective, but I am really concerned about the recovery of the fabric. The last time I used a cotton jersey it all went horribly wrong, so I want a pattern that involves minimal fabric handling and that will not look too terrible when in bags out over the course of the day. That suggests a looser fit to me. Also, because I'm in so much stomach pain from my meds, I don't want anything really that binds at the waist like a wrap dress or a dress with a waistband , so I was kind of thinking empire line or high waisted, possibly. (And also, I don't like Colette, so not Moneta). Any pattern suggestions? Alternatively, I suppose I could go for empire waisted, loosely cut woven dress, in which case I have more fabric choices.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Another woven tee (with fit improvement!)

This is Ottobre 02-2014-05, the woven tee that I made the blobby polka dot top from a few days ago.
Ottobre 02-2014-05 "Painted Roses" woven tee
Why do I always end up with the top askew on my body when I take photos? I am cursed! The hem is straight, I swear, it looks crooked because it's sitting a bit off to one side on my shoulders, as you can see. I mean, in normal wear, nobody would even notice that at all, but when I'm posting photos of things I have made I feel like other sewing readers are going HA, HER HEMS ARE SO NOT STRAIGHT. This is in spite of the fact that I have not, myself EVER scrutinized anyone's posted photos to the extent that I would notice whether or not the hems are straight. Note to self: most people don't care.

Lengthy permabulation on the topic of my crappy photo skills aside, the main thing to say about this top is LOL TENTACLES. No, wait, it's not. I mean, also LOL TENTACLES, because halfway through making this top I suddenly worried that the paisley swirly bits were a little more tentacle-like than I was entirely happy with. But actually, the main thing to say is that this is the pattern with a tiny little 1.5cm FBA, and it seems to have made quite a lot of difference. In an attempt to demonstrate the fit improvement, I tried to take a photo in the same position, but ended up with this highly unnatural and uncomfortable looking pose instead. Still, you can kind of almost see, despite the distracting paisley/floral/tentacle pattern: no drag lines! No distortion of the side seam! Hurrah!

I left the width in the waist and hip because as I said in my review of the pattern, I don't find the hip width at all generous in this pattern. However, this does make it really quite boxy and waist-disguising. There's definitely room for a little subtle waist definition.

The fabric by the way, is another highly drapy thing that is only marginally more inclined to take a crease than the polka dot fabric. It's a crinkle cotton mix, very lightweight and barely opaque. It's one of the few things in my stash with a really big, obnoxious pattern and I therefore was highly dubious I'd ever use it even though I have loads. It was actually cut out to go with my new green shorts, but they are in a cupboard waiting to see if time makes me any more fond of them right now, so I had to try on my top with a pair of beige linen trousers from LTS. As before I got this top out of exactly 1m, including the bias tape for the neckline and thus it set me back about £3 in fabric. I fancied up the inside only a little bit: french seams through the body except the sleeves heads again. I probably should learn how to do french seams with sleeves at some point, it would look prettier.

In conclusion: Ottobre 02-2014-05 goes to the top of my hit parade of TNTs, but MORE IMPORTANTLY, I now have the start of a tool I have wanted to develop for myself since I started garment sewing: a basic pattern with a bust dart that fits through the bust and upper shoulder. Expect to see an AWFUL lot of woven tops and shirts as a result of this innovation for the next several weeks! :D

Monday, 9 June 2014

This is my dubious face (or: Made: Ottobre 02-2014-04)

Or, it would be my dubious face if I didn't usually make the executive decision to remove my face from my photos for the good of the world reasons. You'll just have to imagine my dubious expression.

This weekend I decided to take a breather from my woven top issues and make a pair of shorts for the summer we're not in any way having. All the shorts I own just now (other than my actually much beloved, constantly worn PJ shorts made by me to an Ottobre pattern, which are sadly not outside-the-house wear) are dreadful. They are either too small, too big, or represent a highly inadvisable fashion statement that I can't remember wanting to make and thus cannot imagine why I bought them (probably: I was desperate, they were cheap).

Now, as I've mentioned before, the prospect of fitting trousers fills me with great trepidation, although I plan to try it, health and other issues permitting, later this summer. However, on perusing the most recent Ottobre (also the source of my woven tee pattern, so it was already out) I saw what looked like a pattern relatively unfitted baggy shorts, which appealed both from a fitting (i.e. there wouldn't be much) and wear perspective. You can read my sensible srs bsns PR review of the pattern here if you are so inclined.

Ottobre 02-2014-04 image and technical drawing, taken from the Ottobre website
They are called 'Cute Culottes', but when I looked at the image I sort of scoffed. These are not culottes, I said. I remember culottes from the 80s, those great voluminous baggy not-a-skirts! (Sad but true: I loved them in the late 80s. Leave me alone, I was 12 at the time. Although to be fair, it's not like I have any better fashion sense at 38.)

So, I merrily started tracing the pattern, and at this point I started to have some questions and some doubts were starting to creep in. What is this giant inverted pleat thing on the pattern? I heard myself asking. These legs seem AWFULLY wide. ARE YOU REALLY SURE ABOUT THIS?

I persevered nevertheless. For my fabric I had this deepest of stash green linen. I am making a conscious effort to use some of my oldest fabric, and I bought this in my first month of garment sewing, back in 2012. This has been earmarked from the beginning for something summery like a skirt or shorts, but way back in the mists of time I was not sufficiently experienced with buying fabric to understand that some eBay sellers have no idea what they are advertising or to translate their inept descriptions. Thus, I did not quite expect to receive what came when I bought this piece, which was in fact two small 75cm long pieces of a 140cm wide 100% linen, and was therefore stymied as to what to do with it. It has lurked in the bottom of a crate ever since.

As linen goes, it's an unfortunate weight. It's neither top weight nor bottom weight, really, and has a strange stiffness to it even after washing and tumble drying. It's also slubby as anything and shred and otherwise deteriorated rapidly as I handed it. At any rate, I didn't think it was great for anything, but I thought it would make a perfectly serviceable pair of shorts. (I want to disclaim responsibility for my shockingly shoddy t-shirt I am wearing with it, which I bought for €6 from Next a couple of weeks ago. I tend to think it's not worth making little tees like this, and then I buy RTW and remember why I thought I would make them in future. I've only washed it once and the hemline has already twisted horribly in a way my own tees have not.)
Ottobre 02-2014-04 "Cute Culottes" Only... not so much with the cute.

This is what I ended up with. I don't really feel like it's a close match to the Ottobre images AT ALL. For example, OK, so, look back at the model from the Ottobre magazine for a start. As you look at the image, on the right you can JUST see the fold of a pleat on the inside of her leg. Doesn't look too massive, does it? THIS IS DECEPTIVE. There's a GIANT inverted pleat at the front and back of the culottes that you sew together to just above the crotch. I have previously considered buying the Megan Nielson Tania Culotte pattern, which has been very widely and positively reviewed around the internet, which I understand uses a similar construction method to disguise that it is a not-a-skirt. It does so more successfully though, in my opinion from seeing images of other sewists projects, than this Ottobre pattern. GIGANTIC PLEATS ARE GIGANTIC.

The images below probably make this clearer than any wordy description. You can see the pleat on the front in the shot on the left and at the centre back in the inside shot. There are also gathers just next to the hip, as you can see in the technical drawing and also on the detailed shots below.

In other words: SO MUCH VOLUME. SO MUCH. It's slightly like wearing a parachute with a crotch seam. I think the view from the back with the centre pleat is really particularly unflattering,  though luckily I almost never have to see my own arse and I don't care what other people think of my behind so that's of limited concern to me, really.
Construction details: EPIC inverted pleat at front and back, plus my super fancy seam binding
Can we talk about my bee-yoooo-ti-ful sewing though? I went ALL OUT with my finishing on this garment, probably because I worked on it in short bursts over several days, and fiddly tasks like binding and topstitching every single seam are less onerous when you're just doing a couple at a time. Actually the other reason for this is that this fabric SHREDDED. I mean, just fell to pieces every time I handled it in any way. It's quite a coarse weave, so this was inevitable, but my choices were to overlock everything in sight (and I only have white, cream and black thread, none of which matched well with the fabric) or to bind everything, and since I take perverse enjoyment from making bias binding, I bound every thing. The bias binding itself is left over from an old sheet that I dyed olive green in a dying experiment for binding for the World's Slowest Quilt Project.

I am sort of annoyed by how great my sewing processes were and how unfortunate the outcome. All my stitching is lovely and doesn't wander, my invisible zip insertion is A+. If only the shorts were more wearable! However, it did occur to me that actually, I shot myself in the foot. I think one of the reasons that the hang of the culottes at the back is so peculiar is because I bound and top-stitched the seam. It makes for a certain degree of rigidity of the centre back seam that I don't think really helps. So, that's unfortunate.

In conclusion: This not-very-flattering not-a-skirt cost me about £6 and a couple of days work to make and I'll probably only wear it around the house. In the grand scheme of things it's no great loss that it didn't turn out great and it used some older fabric that I had no particular desire to hoard and cherish forever. Although I'm mildly distressed that all my beautiful internal work was not rewarded with a stellar garment, I am inclined to take the position that it was really useful practice, and showed me how actually quite easy it is to get a good internal finish even if you can only sew in short bursts (and, I now have an excuse to indulge my enjoyment of making bias binding!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Made: Ottobre 02-2014-05 "Painted Roses" (Darted Woven Tee)

Also known as the top of joy and happiness! (Also, this fabric is in my fabric spreadsheet as "Navy with blobby polka dots", so this top is also in my head the Blobby Top.)
Ottobre 02-2014-05 "Painted Roses" Darted woven tee, as modelled by yours truly
My actual PR pattern review with srs bsns pattern review type information is here. This post is mainly just babbling.

And as modelled by Flossie
Can I talk about my fabric first? OK, the thing is, I have a very weird stash. The reason that my stash is weird is that I went through a period where I basically bought whatever caught my eye that came up cheap for auction on eBay. Luckily, I have very consistent colour and print preferences, so there isn't really anything outlandish in my crates of fabric. However I do have an awful lot of things bought with no particular project in mind, many of which I bought very cheaply. This fabric was in an auction that finished at like, 3am (I used an automated bid thing) and therefore I got loads of it for next to nothing. More accurately, I got 3.5m for £1.68/m including postage. It turned up with a label attached that suggested it had been bought in South Africa so who knows how it eventually ended up with me.

It's only some kind of synthetic, but it has the most delightful texture, and it is so drapy you can barely convince it to keep a fold to store it. I knew I wanted something as drapy as possible for this top because I made the muslin from polycotton and it had a tendency to sit away from the body in a way I didn't like. If I make this again (almost 100% certain to make this again!) I will definitely want to stick to the drapy end of my stash. (Although, if you looked at this top and my description and thought "I bet that was a bitch to hem/bind the neckline/do anything that involved having a crease!" you are 100% RIGHT. It was a HORROR for all those things. Slippery, drapey fabric + synthetic so you could only use the very coolest iron otherwise it MELTED and no steam because it went weird and wrinkly = absolute NIGHTMARE and 3000000 pins to get anything done if you needed a crease.)

Still, even though I knew it would not be the most fun to work with, this the drapiest non-sheer fabric I have in my stash, and I have wanted to use it since I bought it. Even though in my head this fabric is reserved for some kind of ridiculous dress so that I can recreate this one stupid outfit I have pinned, I decided that since I had so much of it I could use 1m for this top. And I am SO GLAD that I did, because I LOVE this fabric and I love how the top turned out in it.

So now, the pattern. Just on the fabric theme for a second, the delightful thing about this pattern is that it does genuinely only need 1m of fabric. You could probably squeeze it out of a yard, too (sorry, I don't work in yards to know for sure), especially if you buy bias tape or use contrast bias tape. Since the bias tape doesn't show, it wouldn't matter. (See the photo below for an interior view of the neckline finish -- the outside is a clean finish):

Interior view of neckline finish (using matching bias tape)
As has probably become clear from, oh, every entry ever, I am a total cheapskate, so I appreciate any pattern that allows me to produce something I really like from 1m of fabric that means I can either (a) remnant basket dive in fabric shops; and/or (b) buy very small pieces of more expensive fabrics.

Otherwise the pattern is typical Ottobre: well-drafted, clear, no fuss. I love it. I did play with the neckline because I found it to be very high. Even though the description is all "slips over your head without a zipper!" they obviously weren't using a model with my fat head, because it was not the easiest of "slips over". I actually ended up cutting the Lady Skater Dress neckline into this top, as I find it to be a nice depth of scoop on me. I took 4cm off the length and to be honest it's still quite long, even on me (I am 5'8") so if you're short, you're going to be lopping off quite a bit.

I am, however, going to walk back some of my IT FITS, HALLELUJAH exaltation. It does fit, and I love it and I will probably wear it a million times, and from the front view (above) it's hard to see that it actually doesn't fit in the way we as sewists would like tops to fit. In fact, I had no idea how bad the actual bust fit was until I took a photo from the side for this blog post, which is when I went: oh :(

Bad fit :(
You can CLEARLY see the drag marks and the way the side seam is distorted by my bust in this shot. I definitely needed an FBA after all. However, even though this has put a bit of a damper on my excitement about this top, and clearly my fit is not going to win any awards or plaudits ever, but it's MUCH CLOSER to fitting than anything I've made before, and SIGNIFICANTLY closer to fitting than anything similar sort of woven tee I have ever bought, where to fit at the bust I've ended up with the shoulders halfway down my biceps.

So, still work to be done to get this right, but I will definitely wear this top and enjoy the hell out of it, imperfect as it is. It helps that there's some good sewing in it. I did french seams for every seam except the sleeves, which I overlocked. I got the best sleeve application I have EVER got and the bound neckline looks pretty good. Even my hems came out well despite being a total horror to do. And the fabric cost me like £2, so it was no great investment. So I am happy! :D

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Continued win!

Today was somewhat revolting in parts (health stuff, still; writer's block on my thesis) but the parts that involved sewing were a win, even though since I last posted all of my previous win had drained away down the plughole of bad fit.

The last time I posted, I had decided that I could resurrect my old Connie Crawford blouse block and hopefully move myself along a little further along the road towards being able to make woven tops with darts. I was super excited because having made one muslin I felt like I was getting somewhere on fit. Except... when I tried it on again Tuesday, I felt a lot less excited about the fit. I re-sewed the dubiously sewn darts and found that actually, no, the problem wasn't the sewing. There was something off about the fit of the bust, and everything I read seemed to suggest it was because hugenormous darts don't really work that well.

Too much room at the bust (a first for me)
Next I tried splitting the one hugenormous dart into two darts (using this Colette tutorial) which was a useful and interesting exercise. However, it also didn't work. The more I looked at the outcome, the more I felt like the problem was that I had far too much room for my bust, which is a an absolute first! At this point I was, as usual, starting to think that I would never ever manage to make a woven top that fit, and contemplating, I don't know, burning everything and selling my machines. I did neither, of course, but I did dramatically fling my muslins in the bin and stomp out my sewing room (and then I had to go back in, because I'd left the iron on. I can't even do a good dramatic exit!)

Wednesday, I got over myself and decided that right, the best thing to do was start with a basic,
simple darted pattern and start again with an FBA. I already had the Ottobre 02-2014-05 darted tee pattern, so I decided to do that. When I looked at the pattern, it was about the right width compared to the Connie Crawford block hack I'd done, but it had only a small dart. For the heck of it, I decided to just move the dart to point at my bust point (my bust is very low as well as large) and sew it up. The sad fact is that my spatial reasoning is hopeless, and I couldn't see how it would fit with the small dart but I also couldn't work out how much extra room I would need without working in fabric.

Except it fit. For real this time, pretty much perfectly, with no FBA or anything!  I actually sewed it up in the morning and I kept trying it on and trying it on all day and all evening to make sure I didn't need to make any further adjustments, but no! Still fit!

Today I got up and in my breaks I cut out and then sewed a version in a piece of fabric that I have had for a while and have been wanting to use for ages, and I am SO IN LOVE with the top I made. I still need to do the hem and the sleeve hems, but oh my goodness, it's PERFECT and I LOVE IT and want to wear it a million times. The best thing is, I now not only have a great pattern (Ottobre is now pretty much permanently my favourite pattern source) but I also have something to compare every subsequent darted front top to... which means I can legitimately move on to trying to make up some patterns I have been dying to make for ages. The other thing I got done today was print and stick together the Pauline Alice Carme blouse pattern, which I bought months ago when the pattern creator first started to sell it (because it was on sale, and I am a cheapskate), and I already excited to give it a try now that I know that I have some hope of figuring out the fit.

In short YAY! And also, pattern review and photos of my new top tomorrow, for sure, health permitting. :D

Monday, 2 June 2014

A stupid confession and an epic win!

First, I have to tell you all something completely ridiculous and shameful: I have owned my new sewing machine for almost a year and I ONLY JUST worked out how to use the backstitch function properly. No, really. I am just that much of an idiot. /o\ How did I discover how to do it? In one of my breaks from work today I suddenly thought to myself: It is NOT POSSIBLE that my mid-priced Janome does not backstitch correctly. I should spend five minutes and look it up in the instruction manual, because it's much more likely that I am doing it wrong. The only thing wrong with this statement is that it took 30 seconds, not five minutes. /o\  I have been backstitching everything with glee this evening. It is all really rather sad.

Second, I have had a BREAKTHROUGH of epic proportions, I think. Well, I've had some kind of breakthrough anyway, and I am hoping it is going to help me sew some of my most urgently required garments.

When I started sewing clothes, one of my most pressing concerns was that I am rarely able to RTW woven tops that fit, because boobs. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that fitting woven tops when you're sewing is no less Herculean a task than finding RTW tops that fit in the shops, also because boobs. The gargantuan FBA that I require has taken me many MANY attempts to begin to feel like I know what I am doing, and I still need Fit for Real People open in front of me every time.

I've been working on and off on a close-fitting princess bodice block for summer dress purposes, because I feel like princess seams are the best friend of anyone with uber boobs, but every time I work on it I ask myself why I am doing that rather than addressing my most urgent need, which is a block that will help me make moderately loose-fitting shirts and blouses.

Connie Crawford F/G sloper. Doesn't this illustration make you want to work on it? :|
It's not like I haven't tried before. About eighteen months ago, I bought the Connie Crawford F/G-cup sloper blouse block, hoping that having the huge dart pre-done would help. I spent ages and ages on it, trying to develop a close fitting block. Then I tried using the block I'd developed with a blouse pattern from Burda but didn't get past the muslin stage. After that I kind of abandoned the whole project when I began to lose weight, on the rather specious grounds that fitting a moving target was no fun. I say specious because what I overlooked was that actually, I lose weight very consistently for the most part. Although it's a moving target, my actual proportions and fitting issues don't vary much: I am a different size of the same shape, if that makes any sense.

Ottobre 02-2014-05
The last time I played with my much-adjusted blouse block, I was trying to make a very close-fitting top, which, it turns out, translates at my present weight to a size and shape of top that actually really works for me in terms of ease. I figured this out by comparing the block without seam allowances to a pattern I had been thinking of making in my approximately my size. In this case: Ottobre 02-2014-05, a woven t-shirt with darts, in a size 42 for my shoulders (it is a toss-up whether I need a 40 or a 42 at the shoulder, I went with the larger size on this occasion). They were basically the same, except my block has the hugenormous dart already in the right place. So this evening I sewed up the block exactly as I left it a year ago, in random pieces from my muslin stash with 1.5cm seam allowances, and HURRAY, I have a t-shirt. The bust fit looks great, even if the dart execution is a bit dubious. I am kind of impressed with Past!Me for the job I did on my fitting, even if I didn't really know what I was doing. Way to go, Past!Me!

It's not perfect however: I messed up when I was cutting out and accidentally decreased the hip circumference by about 6cm, which it turns out is a fairly fatal error for my hips. From memory, and based on the photos of that Burda blouse muslin, I think I also did a bad job with my hip fitting way back when as well, because, as I said at the time, it just didn't go over my butt. I also struggled sewing that hugenormous dart nicely. The dart take-up is massive and I ended up with a large puff of fabric near the end of the dart. I think I'm going to try splitting the dart into two side seam darts tomorrow to see if I can tame that. And then I am going to try making some kind of very very simple darted top using my basic block. \o/ If I manage this, it will be an ENORMOUS step forward in my garment sewing goals.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Summer Sewing Week: Bags

To finish up my week of summer sewing, I made two simple bags. (I also did some incredibly boring sewing, like refashioning this cream maxi dress I made last summer into a maxi skirt, too boring to even show you a photo (though I took one, before I realized how boring it was!) and doing some mending/re-hemming etc from things that had piled up.)
Lined shopping bag and zipper pouch to stuff it in -- it folds up into thirds to fit inside neatly.
First, a replacement simple lined shopping bag. I've used the very first bag I ever made, three years ago in August, regularly. It lives in a little matching pouch my handbag in case I need a shopping bag when I pick up a few groceries or whatever. However, my original bag was pretty small and my sewing wasn't 100% the best, and it was also unlined and had now frayed a bit, so I decided to replace it. Here is my new, larger, lined, better sewn bag, complete with a quick lined zipper pouch to stuff it in when I'm not using it.

The pink stripy fabric is my oldest stash, dating from August 2011! I had bought a few pieces of fabric at that point but then used them immediately. At the time I really thought I would buy fabric for each project as I started it. Let's all just laugh hollowly at that optimistic idea, shall we? Anyway, when this arrived in the post it was not what I was expecting and I put it away until I could think of something to do with it. From such small beginnings are mammoth fabric stashes built, alas. At any rate, I used all of it. The lining (which you can't see) is a cheap cream coloured polycotton from my bag stash. This bag is to no particular pattern, it's just a big rectangle with boxed corners, and the zipper pouch, honestly, I can't remember what tutorial I tended to use, but I've made so many of these now I no longer even look it up.

Robot Tote Bag (click on it to see the little robots in more detail!)
My second bag is just another tote bag, although I suppose the making of it is marginally more complicated. It's the Ava Rose Tote pattern by Artsycraftsybabe. I've made it at least a half a dozen times before -- in fact I've got all her patterns and I've used all of them several times actually. She's kind of my go-to pattern maker for roomy easy tote bags, mainly because they are the perfect fit for A4 notebooks etc. This fabric is called Robots and Rivets and it's part of the John Lewis children's home dec fabric range. I bought this last summer, just before I moved to Ireland. I thought the little robots were stupidly adorable and I had to have it. Needless to say I didn't pay John Lewis prices: I bought the fabric at Standfast in Lancaster, which is a fabric printer with a little factory shop. The fabric is usually flawed (as this one is) or a remnant but when you buy fabrics with patterns that you're fussy cutting into small pieces anyway, it rarely matters. The lining is another basic polycotton from my bag stash.

I still have what I hope will be some fun summer garment projects on my list of things to make, and I pulled a bunch of fabrics from stash for those yesterday while I was re-organizing my fabrics. It's going to be all cardigans, summer dresses and summer tops as well as a leather bag recycled from an old jacket in my sewing room for the next few weeks I hope. :D