Thursday, 12 April 2018

sewing plans: spring 2018

Planning! I was considering skipping a seasonal plan this time round to see if going with the flow would work better for me, but it turns out that no, it doesn't. It just leaves me with a ton of ideas and no clue where to start. Here are the things I'm thinking of making, sorted into their various categories.

Holiday Wardrobe

Patrick and I have booked a trip to New York at the beginning of June. Ostensibly we're going to visit friends, but by what is definitely a coincidence NYC also holds a ton of stuff we get very excited about (him: fancy dining and art galleries; me: dancing and fabric shopping; both of us: booze). I've been to New York once before, but it was before I started sewing (and also was with a friend who didn't budget for seeing anything or doing anything, and spent a full eighteen hours of the trip not speaking to me because I insisted we go for a proper meal instead of surviving off breadsticks from the 7/11), so I am determined to pay a visit to Mood. Since I cannot imagine a world in which I go to Mood and don't want to buy anything, I need to pack lightly to leave space for my future hypothetical fabric. I'm not going to make an entire wardrobe for this trip but there are a few gaps I can think of:

A jumpsuit or two. I think jumpsuits will be perfect for day-to-day wandering around and hitting up bars, and I bought a few patterns last month. They're all different styles of woven jumpsuit, and one of them is the most hilariously ugly sample garment I've seen in a while:
What IS this shiny green one-shouldered culotted monstrosity? I swear I can hear the static ripping when I look at this picture. Why would you force another human being into that thing, and why wouldn't somebody stop you? EESH. Despite the Jolly Green Giant getup, I bought the pattern because the two-shouldered version with full-length trousers could be very nice. This one is dressier than the other two, but ideally I'd like to make wearable toiles of all three. Possibly a tall order, and I might not get that far, but in my head at the moment that's the plan. 

A pair of trousers. I talked about wanting a pair of swishy high-waisted trousers in my dream projects post, and lately I've been shooting my wardrobe really dirty looks because those trousers don't exist yet. The time is right. I still don't know what pattern to use - I can't find anything that looks exactly right. If the jumpsuit above works well I might knock together a waistband and use the trousers from that. 

A Wanted top. I don't have a lot of T-shirts, so a short-sleeved Wanted top that works with a denim skirt and whatever the above trousers turn out to be would be just the thing.

A fancy-ass dress. I don't know yet whether I need to make anything new for this (my weight has been all over the place and I have no idea what currently fits me), but since New York restaurant dress codes seem to be stricter than London ones, I will need something I can wear to whatever swanky dinner Patrick decides we're going to. 

Workout Gear

For the past five years my only form of exercise, when I have exercised at all, has been partnered dance classes and socials where everyone rocks up in their regular clothes, so I've never needed activewear. However, in a bid to get fitter and remind myself that I actually really love dancing, I'm currently signed up to a couple of more intense street dance-type classes (the thigh burn, OH GOD THE THIGH BURN). We record ourselves at the end of each class, and I'm kind of over watching videos of myself wearing the few pieces of ancient ratty RTW that I haven't thrown out yet. I only want a couple of things for now, so this is what I'm starting with:

Simplicity 8424. I've made a start on the vest top and wrap top already, and if I can find a suitable fabric I want to try the leggings as well. They'll be the full length ones - I like the look of the calf length ones with the ties, but if you think I'm going to wax my legs just so that I can look slightly fancier when I exercise then you've got another think coming.

A few T-shirts. This is tricky because I need to get the amount of ease right. I don't like doing dance classes in baggy clothes because it obscures my body positioning and makes it hard to tell if I'm doing the moves right, but if everything I'm wearing is skintight I get self-conscious and end up not committing to the dance properly. So this will probably take a bit of experimenting with style and ease and length. I'm going to try the Named Selja T-shirt, and I'm in the market for one or two other patterns as well.

This Would Be Cool But I Haven't Thought It Through Yet

A cropped stripy hoodie. I have never been remotely interested in owning a hoodie, but I have some really nice stripy ponte in my stash that's suddenly insisting on being made into one. Now that I've had the idea I really want it, but I'm aware that if the finished garment is even slightly wrong then I'm going to hate it. I don't have a pattern yet and will probably need to make a toile before I cut into my good fabric.

A Goth dress. Last month Teen Goth Jen insisted on buying some bright red tartan stretch cotton from Fabric Land, and since the only way to de-Gothify it would be to make weird Rupert the Bear trousers, I'm going to lean into it. My initial thought was to make another Anna/Hollyburn mash-up, but I've managed to lose both the Hollyburn pocket piece and my altered Anna bodice. I printed out the bodice and altered it again, but it doesn't look the same for some reason, so I need to toile that and try to reverse engineer the Hollyburn pocket. These are both really annoying jobs, so I might well end up making something else entirely.

This isn't everything I've got in mind, but even this much is a pretty tall order (and almost certainly won't all get done), so I'm going to leave it here for now. If anyone who knows NYC has any fabric shopping/eating/drinking recommendations, please do let me know!

(This was not as quick and dirty a post as I'd anticipated. Oops.)

Monday, 9 April 2018

a really late winter sewing wrap-up

For obvious reasons my winter plan was a bit of a misfire. My original intention when trying to get my sewjo back was to just cut my losses, forget the whole thing and move on. Then I decided I'd make a few of the projects I wanted the most, but leave it off the blog so I didn't get bogged down in it. I got those things done at the beginning of March and tried to put it to one side, but since then there's been this bizarre creeping dread when I come to post, like I haven't handed in my homework and the teacher's about to find out. Who is the teacher in this scenario? I have no clue. Nevertheless, we must give in to the invisible boogeyman and do a wrap-up post.

Overall I managed seven things from my original list; two during the actual season they were meant for,and another five at the beginning of last month. The rest have been jettisoned for now - I might come back to some of them at a later date, but for now I've given myself permission to ignore them. Results for the five I did make are... mixed, as you're about to find out.

(Also, my dental work has been extended into at least three separate operations, so THAT's a joy.)

Deer & Doe Lupin jacket

This was absolutely a success. I don't have much more to say about the pattern; it's still great, I still love it, I will still probably make it again. This kind of minky-pink suede wouldn't normally be my thing, but it's a perfect colour for a jacket - it goes with almost everything while still looking a bit more imaginative than a true neutral. I lined it with the leftover bird lining from my Rumana coat so it'll be nice and soft to wear over short-sleeved tops and dresses once spring bothers to turn up. It's living in the wardrobe for now because it's too cold to abandon my big coat and too wet to risk going out in suede.

Vogue 8888 dressing gown

This one probably does warrant its own post, but I just feel so uncomfortable in it that I can't bring myself to take a load of photos. I'm not sure my assessment of the pattern would be accurate anyway, because I just hate this. It's too small at the hips so it won't stay closed (as I'm sure you can see), the fabric was a nightmare to sew and press, and even though I spent quite a long time French seaming everything and making it pretty inside, once it was done I said, "oh, thank God for that", threw it on the floor and put my boyfriend's old towelling robe back on. I will have another go at a dressing gown, but not this pattern and not for a while. Turns out I really hate sewing shawl collars, and doing it four times in the last few months has done zero to desensitise me. Shawl collars can bite it, as far as I'm concerned. 

Jersey pyjamas

I LOVE these. They're the trouser part of the Closet Case Patterns Sallie jumpsuit with an added elasticated rectangle for the waistband,and they're the best item of loungewear I've ever made. I wear them constantly at home, and I take them with me whenever I go away, even if it's only for a night. I will definitely make more, and possibly also make a pair I can wear outside. Fabric was an impulse buy from a Sew Over It remnant sale that I really didn't know what to do with once I got it home, but it's perfect for this. (The top here is part of a continued experiment to come up with a knit top sloper -  still a work in progress.)

Simplicity 1370 skirt

I tried this twice and I don't think it's right for me, simply because of the way I'm shaped. This one was way too big and fell down when I walked...

...and this one looked perfect but rode up at the back when I walked, to the point where a stranger had to tell me my ass was hanging out. I think the pattern itself is really nice, but it's not for my small-waisted giant-assed self. I'm currently working on adapting another pattern, which I'll post about when I've finished my second attempt. 

That's everything from my winter plan that I intend to make for now, except the Victory Patterns Esther trousers which I will do a separate post about. I hated them when I put them on, but they somehow look really good in all the photos I've taken, so I'm going to mess about with the pleating and see if I can make myself like them more in person. I'm going to do a quick and dirty planning post on Thursday, which will hopefully lead up to a proper pattern review next week. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 2 April 2018

an experimental Simplicity 8380

Happy Easter, humans! I am still two days away from my horrible dental work and still hurting, but on the plus side the swelling has gone, RuPaul's Drag Race is back (Team MonĂ©t) and I have finished my course of super-strength antibiotics so I can drink again. Yay! 

Here's a dress I had no plans to make whatsoever:

This is a Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern that I bought on a whim and decided to experiment with. I'm not 100% sure about it as a finished garment, but there are so many really great elements to this dress and I'm really impressed with the way it's been designed. I haven't used a Cynthia Rowley before, but if they're all like this then I'm definitely getting more (I was going to write "I'm buying all of them" but then I Googled and half of them appear to be tents, so no. There's definitely a couple I could try, though).

I got this fabric from The Textile Centre well over a year ago, and as soon as it arrived I thought, "Wow, I have literally no idea what to do with this" and put it at the back of my stash. I've had a few half-hearted ideas for it, but basically I'd decided to get rid of it and was just trying to work out how. Then I bought some really nice fabric of a similar weight and texture that I really didn't want to screw up on an untested pattern, and figured this would make a decent toile. 

In "For Fuck's Sake" news, the really nice fabric died in the pre-wash. 

The biggest mistake I made with this dress was to glance at the instructions, see that they wanted me to put a zip in, laugh at the incompetence and not read through the rest of the instructions. I was correct that there's zero need for a zip, but half the construction of the bodice is based around the idea that there will be a zip, and I needed to read ahead and correct for that, which I did not. I managed to fudge it and it's fine, but it would have been a lot easier if I'd constructed the whole bodice before sewing the remaining side seam up.

I LOVE the pockets on this dress. I thought they were just standard side seam pockets (and thus had to do a bunch of unpicking because I yet again hadn't bothered to read the instructions), but they're anchored into the waist seam so that the pocket isn't dragged down when you put something in it, and they're huge but with a much smaller opening, so there's lots of room to hold stuff and much less chance that anything will fall out. It's a little bit genius. I haven't quite got the construction down on this one, but I will be taking these pockets and putting them into basically everything that isn't super-fitted. SO MUCH ROOM. 

My overall impression of this pattern is very positive, but as yet I have no idea whether or not this dress will get worn. On the one hand, this is accidentally an amazing fabric/pattern match and I legitimately did not think I could ever get this fabric to look this good. The skirt is a good shape, I really like the pockets, and the large broken bust darts work fantastically for me. On the other hand, it is slightly too short (it's unhemmed here) to be worn without tights, and I don't like how it looks with tights or have sufficient extra fabric to alter it. I'm also not completely sure about sleeveless on me (while I'm not the biggest fan of my arms, it's not that - I just think there's something about a shoulder that ends where this one does, especially combined with a slightly higher neck, that looks a bit odd to me proportionally). I may never make this exact dress again, but there is a TON for me to steal and repurpose here, and I guarantee you will see bits of this reused in a bunch of different ways. 

I'm not sure if there'll be a post next week. My infected face has seriously impeded my sewing motivation, and the garment I'd planned to post about (the Victory Patterns Esther trousers) looks TERRIBLE on me so I need to rethink how I do that. If I can get something done, I will! 

Monday, 26 March 2018

McCalls 7243, or goddammit my face really hurts right now

Things I have done in the past week:

1. Forgot to schedule my planning post while I was out of the country.
2. Changed my mind about most of the things in the planning post anyway.
3. Had lots of red wine and Iberian ham and some actual vitamin D in Seville.
4. Got a toothache on our last day, which I thought was somewhat inconvenient.
5. Woke up the next morning to discover the entire lower half of my face had swollen up.
6. Attempted to go out for Patrick's birthday dinner anyway.
7. Got an emergency dentist appointment and got told that I need two root canals. TWO root canals. Two simultaneous root canals. TWO.
8. Also got told that I can't have these two bastard root canals done until after Easter.

So suffice it to say, I am hurting and grumpy right now.  Please excuse my slightly terse blogging, but words are not currently my strong point unless those words are "ARRGGHH" or "my face hurts". 

However, before the Great Mouth Disaster, I did manage to get a few things made and photographed, so let's remember happier times. This was the first successful garment I made after my sewing drought:

I went to visit my parents just after my birthday last month, which of course meant a trip to Fabric Land. I bought four lengths of fabric and had a vague idea for each one, but only this one had a specific pattern in mind. I'm always looking for interesting knit tops and McCalls 7243 seemed to fit the bill (three out of four of the views are dresses, but they're all super clingy and that is not for me right now).

Obviously the main feature of this top is the collar, and it took me AGES to get it right. After the third screw-up I seriously considered abandoning the whole thing. I couldn't work out how they wanted me to finish the neckline (answer: they don't really, the seam just kind of sits slightly more towards the inside so you can't see it), and then getting the collar sewn in to the underarm and side seam took multiple unpickings and redoings. This might just be me and my rusty sewing brain, as all the reviews I could find said THIS IS LITERALLY THE EASIEST THING IN THE UNIVERSE, but I did not find it so. I'm pleased I persevered, though. 

I really like this top, though I'm in two minds whether to make it again. I'm not sure I need two of these, but also I have been wearing this to death since I made it. I think it'll be very dependent on whether I come across the right type of fabric - it looks great and falls beautifully in this sweater knit, but I think it would be kind of terrible in a lighter jersey. We shall see! 

(As I was taking these pictures the upstairs neighbour next door came out onto his balcony, which is basically five feet from my face, and gave me this "haha,women taking photos of themselves" smile. It was awkward.)

Next week: an experimental dress, and a still-pre-root-canals slightly grumpy Jen. Please feel free to send pictures of puppies or videos of terrible 90s pop.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Back, back, back again: the Rumana coat

Hi everyone. First of all I want to say thanks to the people who left supportive comments on my last post (including the ones that made it to my email but didn't show up on the actual blog for some reason) and everyone who messaged me directly. I was very much not in a place to reply to everyone, but I really did appreciate it and it's one of the things that helped get me into a place to come back. I thought I was going to be away for a week, and that turned into more than a month (not a fun month, either), but I think - I hope - that the worst is behind me and I can start to get back to living and sewing again.  

So! Coatmaking! 

Here we have the By Hand London Rumana coat. I bought this fabric several months ago on a trip to Abakhan in North Wales with the mother-in-law, and originally it was going to be a Leanne Marshall Simplicity coat. Then I decided I didn't like that very much and it was going to be a Rumana, before changing my mind again and cutting out the pattern tissue for Vogue 9289, whereupon I discovered that the pattern pieces were way too big for my fabric (ah, grown-on sleeves) and went back a step to the Rumana. Phew. 

The coat has a proper collar and collar stand, which I'd never done before. I was expecting it to be as annoying if not more than a shawl collar, but it was actually easier. (I hate shawl collars. Guess who'd currently making herself a dressing gown and struggling to find the motivation?) It also has giant pockets, which I very much appreciate. 

(Close-up collar and pocket shots. I got Patrick to take these on a different day, hence the sudden costume change. I think the collar in particular looks really good and I'm proud of my work there.)

The coat is fairly sleek and close-fitting, and so has quite a large back vent. I don't think I've ever sewn a vent on a lined garment before and for me was probably one of the more confusing things I had to do. This fabric is wool mix and didn't take to the iron quite as well as I was expecting, and the vent in particular I had to come back to several times to press the shit out of it. It still doesn't look like it's had the shit pressed out of it, so I'll probably keep doing it occasionally. 

I got this lining from Fabric Store in Walthamstow. It's a super-soft viscose and it feels really nice against bare skin. This is the kind of print I would never actually wear on the outside, but looks great as a coat lining; not so dramatic that it overshadows the actual coat, but dramatic enough that it's definitely a feature. A bunch of people have commented on it already, which is nice. I had enough left over to line another jacket, which hopefully you'll be seeing soon. 

I've not put a fastening on this coat. The pattern does come with button placements, but it looked like such an afterthought, like someone somewhere in the testing process said, "Uh, could this coat maybe close somehow?" and they went, "Oh! Closing! Didn't think of that!" I much prefer the look of it without buttons (and I don't think I've seen buttons on any of their samples) and though it does mean I have to hold it closed when it's very cold, that doesn't bother me as much as you might think. For most of spring and autumn I'll just let it billow out behind me, Spike-style. 

I have worn this coat literally every day since I made it. It's really great to have a proper long coat and I'm glad I went with the pattern that would allow me the most length for my three and a half metres. I made this coat in January (the only thing I made for the first two whole months of the year) before the cold snap and snowstorms, and even while I was feeling properly shitty I was extra grateful to Past Jen for having managed it. If I'd had to go out in negative temperatures in a hip-length coat, I think I might have cried. Or never left the house and starved, whichever. 


Next week is going to be a planning post, and then we're going to Spain for a couple of days. I'm hoping that pretty surroundings will allow me to get another couple of garments photographed, and I can get back into something resembling a rhythm. We shall see!

Monday, 5 February 2018

blog note

Mental health wise, I have had a truly terrible January. Panic attacks, crying fits, so lacking in energy that I've been rooted to the spot for days on end. It has not been fun and I haven't been able to do anything about it. All of my January posts here were pre-written, featuring garments that I made and photographed last year, so I could just schedule them and keep up my normal posting structure, but now I don't have any more of those and I've only managed to make one thing this year. (It's a thing I'm very pleased with, but that's a dramatic drop in my usual productivity.) Taking proper blog photos of that thing currently feels far beyond me, so I'm giving myself a week off and hoping this coming week turns out better and allows me to get something done.

Back (hopefully) next Monday with a proper post.

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Liberty print Christmas present of doom: my MANY THOUGHTS on Butterick 6837

ALRIGHT. Welcome to the most expensive and time-consuming project I have ever embarked upon.

I've been promising Patrick this dressing gown for at least the past two years. I don't make many things for him because everything he likes to wear is super-complicated and his standards are pretty high, but I thought this would be much closer adjacent to my wheelhouse. The reason it's taken this long is that it was impossible to find the right fabric. Patrick has extremely specific taste in prints and there just didn't seem to be anything that was right for him. After scouring Goldhawk Road, Shaukat, the Liberty website and anywhere else that claimed to sell Liberty silk, we concluded that silk just doesn't come in the kinds of prints he likes, and picked this Tana lawn instead.

That's some print, right?

The pattern is Butterick 6837. I'd never made it before, so I decided to make a toile out of an old duvet cover that had fallen apart in the wash. It was a nice soft duvet cover, so I had in the back of my mind that I could claim it for myself once the final version was finished. Sadly it was not to be; the toile was enormous, fit completely differently on each shoulder, and was generally unwearable for either of us. Assuming it was a cutting error on my part (which at least some of it must have been), I bought some cheap silky fabric and tried again. The second toile definitely helped me see where the errors were much more clearly, and having finished it I felt confident enough to move on to the proper expensive fabric. I learned a lot from that toile, most notably that this dressing gown looks horrendous on me. Turns out that "unisex" means "for men". It comes in men's sizes, is designed to fit a man's body, and in some cases makes design decisions which make the thing unwearable for women in ways that really wouldn't be the case the other way round.

Let's start with: it's giant. I started out making the L, but for the final version downsized to an M, and it's still pretty huge. I, with my gigantic hips, have plenty of room in this thing (I tried it on several times during construction, mostly for pocket placement things). I've never worked with a men's pattern (sorry "unisex pattern") before so I don't know if this is normal, but all the reviews of the pyjamas included in this set mentioned similar things. I did have a go at the tank top, which is the only thing in the envelope sized for women, and that definitely did NOT go over my hips, FYI.

Second: all the details are positioned very strangely. On the second toile I initially placed the belt carriers as I was told to, and was basically belting the thing over my ass. To get the belt to sit at the waist I had to yank the entire dressing gown up in a very ungainly fashion. I know I'm short-waisted, but I've never had this problem with dressing gowns before and also have never met a woman whose waist is where my ass is. I then discovered that this doesn't even work for men, because when I tried the toile on Patrick the first thing he said was, "Can you move the belt loops up? This is kind of uncomfortable." He's the exact height Butterick men's patterns are allegedly drafted for, so this is nonsense really. I moved them up two inches, which he said was much better. (For the final one I made my carriers by folding the raw edges into the middle, folding in half and edge stitching rather than making a tube and spending ages trying to turn it the right way round.)

According to the illustrations the pattern is designed to hit somewhere around the calf on the body they've drafted for, so I added several inches to the length. Based on the fabric guidelines and what I had I was expecting to be able to make a pair of matching shorts, but that turned out not to be the case, so I made a longer dressing gown and a nice work tie instead.

I also felt the pockets were placed way too low, and for the final robe I dispensed with the markers altogether and positioned the pockets directly on the finished garment as I was wearing it. That didn't make for the easiest pocket-attaching experience, and I still don't really like the way they look, but I do think this is an improvement. All of the detailing seems to have been designed for a man with a crazy long torso and crazy short legs. I put strips of contrast fabric across the top of the pockets because I felt it needed it, but since it was just me making things up the execution isn't great. It's the only thing I'm displeased with, though, which is quite a relief for a project this size.

I used a raspberry-coloured crepe-back satin for the contrast, and I'm very glad I did. On the toiles I used the same fabric for both the main and the contrast, and honestly it didn't look great. I also think using a slightly heavier fabric for the collar helps it to sit better. I know there's a kind of edging of the self fabric around most of my contrast pieces; that wasn't deliberate at first, but when I tried pressing it away I decided I didn't like that as much and left everything as it was. I also used some of the satin to make a spare belt (which I forgot to photograph, soz) since I'm fairly sure that the Tana lawn belt will be pretty disgusting after a few months of hard wear. It's already impossible to press the creases out.


Construction was fairly simple, aside from the shawl collar, which I'd never done before and was completely perplexed by. There are a million sewing tutorials on the internet, but none that were prepared to explain shawl collars to me in idiot-proof language. This was my third go and it didn't get less perplexing, but I think I managed it okay. I'm not in a hurry to do it again though.  The Tana lawn was wonderful to work with as always, the satin somewhat less so, but we got through it with only minimal threats directed at inanimate objects.

All of the exposed seams are French seamed, and I finished all the unattached raw edges with Liberty bias binding. I'm not going to come anywhere near the expense level of this project for quite some time.

Overall I'm really pleased with this. Making it was kind of a fraught experience (stupidly expensive materials + unreliable pattern + intended for somebody else = ARGH) but I'm glad that I've done it and he really likes it. This style of dressing gown is exactly right for him, so from that angle I'm happy that I used it, but as a pattern I was not impressed at all. The next project in my queue is a dressing gown for myself using Vogue 8888, and I pray that goes more smoothly than this one did. Still, it's done, and I'm happy. And so is he. 

Before I wrap up, I'm going to share my tip for taking photos of camera-shy boyfriends: shout out a string of really terrible dad jokes. 

His favourite: Doctor doctor, I think I'm a bridge. What's come over you? Two cars and a lorry.
My favourite: Why is a duck in a microwave like an old soul singer? Because its bill withers. 

Goodnight, folks. I'm here all week.