Monday, 18 June 2018

Grecian turquoise - the ultimate secret pyjamas!

How many sewing blogger stories start "So I had this wedding to go to..."!

So I had this wedding to go to, that of my lovely friend Leanda (Hi Leanda - great wedding!) and the only wedding clothes that fit me all had mending issues. (My firework dress has a torn vent and the red flowery one's button band basically just needs entirely replacing!) Obviously the sensible solution was not to mend them, but to make something new and exciting!  However, the short attention span that makes me uninterested in fiddly mending jobs also meant it was going to have to be something fairly straightforward to make.

I am partway through a shirtdress right now, and have spent about 5 hours cutting it all out, so I wasn't in the mood for a pattern. I therefore drafted it all on Agnetha (my dressform).
Given the tight time fame and lack of pattern, jersey was clearly indicated. I looked through the stash and found this delicious fine turquoise jersey that I had been hoarding for a few years. I'm not good with fabric types but it's very cool to wear, so I think it must have some natural fibres in. It's very soft but not hugely stretchy, like a silky t-shirting. The colour is just gorgeous - that greenish turquoise that you don't see very often. The Internet tells me this colour is based on one of the variations of a pigment called paris green, which was a popular colour with painters and fashion in the 1800s, but which was also highly toxic so eventually banned.

People are sometimes confused by the term draping (ie drafting a pattern directly on a body or dressform) as often it's not so much draping fabric, as painstakingly adjusting small details, more like a puzzle. On this occasion however, draping is a very accurate word! I hadn't decided what sort of dress i wanted, but after basically throwing the fabric over one shoulder of the dressform, it just looked so great as a long simple dress that it just had to become that!

It's an extremely simple construction. I had about two metres and I cut it in half crossways, then cut off a long thin strip, then cut one of the halves in half again.

The bigger piece was gathered and pleated onto wide elastic for the skirt. To produce a flatter section at the centre front I added a piece of interfaced fabric to the elastic loop so that bit wouldn't  gather. I didn't want it to be all gathers as that tends sit oddly on me, but I had to gather a bit due to the lack of stretch in the fabric. The main pleating is on the back, where they produce a diagonal effect which I like. I then used the thin strip to cover the waistband elastic.

The top is made from a piece of fabric over each shoulder, crossing at the front and back. I created the shoulder shaping by sewing some thin elastic on the inside to gather the material at that point. It's also sewn up the sides under the arms.

Full disclosure - this isn't actually a dress. The top is tucked in and then pinned with safety pins on the inside at front and back. This was easier,  but also means that I can wear the skirt separately if I want to in future.

Being jersey, I didn't finish any hems or seams, so this was extremely quick to make!
Overall I love this dress - it feels really dramatic yet super comfortable - the ultimate secret pyjamas!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Blue and red Appleton

In the classic blogger manner, I sewed up a pattern, loved it, wore it all the time,  made another, and am now blogging the second one without having done the first!

So, aaages ago, probably a year and a half ago? I made myself a black velvet Appleton dress by Cashmerette. I love fitted stretchy dress, and a wrap, and it is therefore perhaps not that surprising that I have worn it repeatedly since I made it.

I have not yet got round to photographing it, partly as I am lazy and partly as it is hard to photograph due to being black.

I have been stockpiling fabrics ever since to make another one (or twelve!). I've been in a bit of a sewing slump though so I have only now got round to starting them.

This is a soft jersey I got from Leeds market a few months ago - I loved the colours so much it jumped the queue!
The colours are so vivid and it doesn't start looking white until you stretch it quite significantly, which is always important in a jersey fabric.

As everyone else has already said- the Appleton is a great pattern, and is super quick to make. This probably took me about two hours,  a decent proprioception of which was ironing my scrunched up pattern pieces. The construction is very straightforward, and makes it a lovely easy sew.

As it's a wrap dress, and Jenny has already done your fba for you, fitting is also pretty minimal. I only made two alterations. As I had with my back dress,  I added 2.5 inches onto the bodice length  (I'm 5'9" but most of my height is in my torso). I also slightly lowered the back neckline by about 1cm - on my black dress the neck rides up a bit.

So - I love this dress - sadly though I haven't got to wear it for reals yet as the UK's been having a drastic snowstorm this week so it's been too cold. 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Whistlestop wardrobe for India

In November I was asked to go to India for work. Upside - yay! free travel! Downside - only bring in india for 2 days, most of which involved filming 10+ hours a day in rather warm conditions.

Now I have warm weather clothing, but it's all fairly skimpy, or gets too hot in northern uk. Smart-casual work attire in a hot, conservative country wasn't really covered. After some research, I decided on three pieces, a loose tunic, loose trousers and a long skirt, all made in viscose for coolness.
Now an additional difficulty was that the notice of the jaunt wasn't super massive,  so I didn't have a lot of time. Still, I managed two out of three- which I don't think is that bad!

So.. the failure was the tunic,  and it was definitely a failure. I made it as a colour block of white and a pale cloud pattern. I now have significant respect for all the sewists that make tunics, as mine turned out horrible. It took about 2/3rds of the overall sewing time I had available and remains the only thing I've ever made that went straight into the bin (normally things live for a few months/years in a random pile on the floor!). So. .. there are no pictures - you'll just have to imagine me wearing something that looked like a mangled pillow case.

So, slightly panicked, I started on the other items.

Luckily, they went much easier, albeit with some corners cut to save time!

The main event from my perspective was the loose trousers. I have never attempted trousers before, even pjamas. So they were a little daunting- but fortunately, the bagginess hides many fitting sins!
I used the Moji trousers pattern from Colette's Seamwork. It's a fairly simple pattern with an elasticated waist. It's fairly fitted, so I went up a few sizes to loosen them up, as well as dropping the crotch by the simple measure of adding about 3 inches to the top.

I used a very wriggly black viscose from the stash, which proved slightly trying- there is a hole in one side seam where it all slipped. I also did the hems with hem tape, which seemed a good idea at the time  (I had to rinse them in the hotel when of course it dissolved!)
Other than that though they worked very well, though I'm not sure how much I'll wear them in the uk- perhaps if I took the crotch back up?

My other triumph is the long skirt. As you may have gathered from the need for slapdash hem tape, I was running low on time. Luckily this skirt took about 10 minutes!

I used some lovely border print viscose I bought ages ago from the Asian Bazaar at Leeds Market. I obviously wanted the border, so I just chopped about 5 inches off the opposite edge, sewed up the side seam and then zigzagged it onto some elastic.

I wore this skirt more than anything else on the trip, it is so cool and comfortable,  and felt more elegant than my other options! 

Overall, it all worked out very well, though my lack of tunic did mean a last minute dash to tk maxx for a long shirt that bore a striking resemblance to the Kalle shirt dress!

(Here I am, wearing my welcome flower garland!)

Sunday, 12 November 2017

"Fancy a kiss?" The Dementor costume

This costume has been 2 years coming. The halloween before last I had big plans to be a dementor. It was me and my girlfriend's first halloween together and we had spent a lot of time discussing costumes. Cut to the night of the party and due to bad teaching times I am exhausted, antisocial and have made about 5% of the costume. Eventually we go out late with me wearing an old red riding hood cape and a serious case of costume anticlimax.

But... the dementor costume was still haunting me. Just too creepy to forget.

So this year I started slightly earlier and actually planned some stuff. I was still making it up to the wire, but I was cheerful and finished it (part due to planning and perhaps part no longer being a teacher!)

It's actually a pretty simple costume. I made a series of layers and ragged the edges. They just have a hole in the middle and the longer ones have holes for my hands to go through. To make it creepier I made a hat from cardboard with a dome of pillow in the middle. This extended my head height by about 5 inches, and I then added another 2 layers of thin material. Which looked extremely creepy and I could just about still see.

To complete the effect, I made some finger extensions using those costume witch fingers, long bits of wire and some electrical tape. These proved quite uncomfortable (I think the costume fingers were for kids) and I could only manage one hand at a time, but they looked great!

Overall the costume was a great success and I won second prize at the party!

Monday, 18 September 2017

The "Baby I'm a firework" Upton hack

Well yesterday my littlest brother got married, in a lovely wedding where I danced until my feet were sore. Despite having already made a wedding attending dress a month ago, I had an urge to make another (not anything to do with me know wanting to try and fix the button band fiasco from the other dress!).

Now I am trying to be thrifty and I have a stash that fills 8 large drawers, so I was determined to work with something I already had. As I had had some slippage issues with my wiggly viscose in the last dress, I decided to use a more stable fabric. This significantly cut down my options, as most of my stable fabric selection is 1-1.5m lengths intended for pencil skirts. The fabric that therefore jumped out at me is one of my oldest stash pieces, 3m of thin cotton with a crazy flower/firework print. I must have bought this a good 4-5 years ago in Edinburgh. I had intended it for a fitted dress, but then learned more about fabric and realised that it was a bit flimsy and creasy. It then sat in the stash... waiting..

Until now! (Pardon the wrinkles, I had already been to the ceremony and meal.)

(Being photobombed by my other brother and cousin!)

(The fabric photographs fantastically - even when nothing else is on focus!)

Now, as I mentioned in a recent Instagram, I always sew in a bit of a rush, but can spend hours planning, so I originally had something very complicated planned. I have always loved tiki sarong dresses, and had a whole boned and pleated top, wrap skirt thing planned. As is typical with my planning however, I planned so long that I had no time to make it, so I scaled my plan right back.

I had always intended to use the Cashmerette Upton bodice as the basis for the dress, though I found it funny that I was planning an elaborate hack before I had even made a normal version. For the scaled back plan, I simply decided to just use the top as is, and combine it with a simple fitted pencil skirt (which I rubbed off an existing skirt that I knew fit me).

Now previously, I have only made the Cashmerette Appleton wrap dress (which I have still not blogged despite LOVING!) and I was a little concerned that a woven top would be harder to fit, even when designed by the talented Jenny. This assumption meant that when the pattern piece slipped slightly when cutting out the bodice that I didn't fix it, I figured I would need to make adjustments anyway. I WAS WRONG - I SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED JENNY! Once it was all sewn up, the fit was perfect, except very slightly too wide across the centre front, where it had slipped. Sigh.

To reinforce the bodice given the thin material, I underlined the bodice with white cotton from a second hand sheet. This was really convenient, as I could draw straight onto it with my heat dissolving pens to make all the markings. (I love my those pens!) I should have also reinforced the skirt, but did not for time reasons. This wasn't a critical error, but meant that there was a slight rip later that could have been avoided.

I tried quite hard to make sure the print worked and wasn't odd. I carefully lined up one of the bright explosion areas onto the neckline which was very successful I also did some pattern matching up the centre back seams, but then had to let it out as it was too tight.. still, it still reads as one image, even if isn't perfect!

For the Upton bodice I made a 14 e/f and the only alterations I made were to lengthen the straps by 1.5 inches (I basically sewed along the cut line), take in the upper back by about half an inch along the zip, and to lengthen the bodice by about 3 inches to lower the waistline (the Upton sits at the high waist). I also had to add a short dart at the centre front to lose that pesky additional width.

(Oops - really should have remembered to sew on the hook and eye at the top of the zip!)

Overall - I love it! Even though it got very creased and I should have lined the skirt - I felt very glamorous in it and it is very comfortable. For next time I will have to fix the back tear (I caught the slit area on a chair arm), and find my pretty slip (I couldn't find it for this time, and my other one is a bit long, hence you can it in these pictures. When I make the Upton again, I will take an inch out of the back length, as the zip buckles a little when I stand up straight.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

This year's wedding attending dress

I hate finding fancy clothes to wear to weddings. It always seems more stressful than other types of shopping or sewing. Fancy fabrics and not quite fitting bodices.. Therefore once I make a more dressy dress, I tend to wear it to everything!

I have two weddings this year, one of which is my brother's so people might actually photograph me. Unfortunately, my previous wedding outfit, along with much of my usual wardrobe, is now a little snug. Also, I am wearing it in the pictures from my other brother's wedding a few years ago so that might look a little odd!

Clearly, some new fanciness is needed. As a warm up , for the other wedding this year (some lovely friends) I decided to make a new dress. As ever, I spent a long time planning it, and insufficient time making it (though better timed than the last wedding dress, where I sewed the facing down in a toilet when I got there).

I used some lovely viscose, which I probably got off ebay (I went through a significant ebay viscose buying frenzy at one point). It is a fantastic bright tomato red with white flowers and is very drapey.
The basic bodice shape is essentially a simple button up with spaghetti straps. There are then two drapey sleeve bits that go off the shoulder round from centre front to centre back. As I didn't have a remotely similar pattern I drafted it myself on Agnetha. This was reasonably successful though I ended up with some rather odd dart ends.. luckily once i extended them a bit and ironed it they looked ok. I was very pleased with the straps. I normally leave those kind of things until the last minute, when I am then too bored and rush it. This time I did them first, turning them through properly and everything! The sleeves are just long hemmed rectangles that are pleated at the centre front and back.

Viscose is a bit of a beast to work with. It hangs beautifully, and you can press it any way you want to fix the sloppiest dart installation. It also however shifts continually, misshapes itself at any moment,  stretches unexpectedly and twists randomly when you (inevitably) lose the grainline. 

I love almost everything about the dress, but let's not overlook the elephant in the room. The front button band is horrible. It's crooked, uneven, a bit too tight and the fabric ripped around the poppers so half of them don't do up and the other half are barely attached to the dress. Luckily, many safety pins corrected the structural problems, but I am going to have to make a whole new band and sew it on straighter!

Other slight issues - the straps stretched a bit and the the back neckline is therefore a bit too low. I just wore a slip under it.

The skirt is just a longer version of Colette patterns Ginger. I found the cutting of it more stressful than it should have been as to make straps I ripped off a bit of fabric at the top, only to realise it was actually the side. This made it all a bit narrow, but I worked it out. I was worried about hemming it, but that part went beautifully.

Overall I love the dress, but I will have to do some serious work at the front. I may wear it to the next wedding, or maybe something else new- I feel like I'm getting my sewjo back a bit!

In other news, I am super thrilled that Mena and the Sew Weekly is back on instagram. I have been missing that regular entertainment and inspiration basically since it went away! To find it look for #sewweekly and add your own posts! Mena has set monthly and weekly challenges to get involved with.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

On stashes....

Talk to a sewist, and you will talk about THE STASH. It is a strange topic really, as it is both an emblem of pride, of identity, of potential, but also of failure, guilt and waste. On one hand, we collect fabric to give ourselves options, to express ourselves. We see endless options and dreams and we get all excited. On the other hand however, we often collect more fabric than we use, so it sits there, reminding us of all the dreams we had, all the plans we made. Now don't get me wrong, not all sewists build up stashes at all (you efficient people slightly terrify me!) and many others love their stashes, viewing them as a fabric shop in their own home. I don't though, and based on my wanderings on the interwebs, a lot of other sewists don't either.

If I see some fabric I love, I want to own it. It eats at me, "BUY ME , BUY ME! I would be so perfect for a .....". Sometimes I buy it, sometimes I don't. But the stash grows. I don't sew nearly as much as I think I do, and so the stash keeps creeping up, overflowing another box in my spare wardrobe, another bag on the floor of my sewing room. Drip, by drip, by drip. Even when I have used a piece, there's some left, a bit too big to throw away,; so into another bag it goes.. I might need to repair it, I might want to contrast line a pocket, or make a cushion cover...

I love the pieces of fabric in my stash, I have a plan for each, touching them thrills my fingers and looking at the colours and patterns makes my eyes happy. I love the potential of it all, that I could whip up anything I wanted in a weekend - screw shopping! I feel like a sewist in my room, looking at it all, it is evidence of this aspect of my identity, of the community I belong to.

It troubles me though. It sits there, taking up space, requiring organisation, gathering dust. And I can see the money invested in it. The ideas I had that I haven't put into practice. As you go further back, the identities I had that no longer really apply, but which I am still attached to. It is full of memories, and not necessarily pleasant ones, memories of enthusiasm for things that never ended up happening.

The trouble is that I approach buying fabric the way I buy clothes - I see that, I want it, I possibly buy it. And clothes also costs money, and take up space, and you get weirdly nostalgic about them. But the key difference is that you can at least wear the clothes. I actually have to use the fabric for it to help me. It is like I am thirsty, so I keep buying drinks, but instead of drinking them and feeling relieved, I just put them in a cupboard, and keep being thirsty.

I had a moment of realisation earlier (and hence this post). I was looking at my fabric options form the stash on Trello (this has been a very useful app for me btw), thinking of some things I could make over Christmas. And I realised that the idea of making things with my stash bothered me. I was worried about using the fabric. Worried that I would waste it, that I wouldn't have it later in case I needed it then. Which is utterly ludicrous. What is the point of having it if I don't use it? That's what it is for! What weird fabric emergency am I an anticipating that I need to keep half a fabric shop in reserve?! 

So I am going to use it. Make things with it as quickly as I can, experiment, give bits away, sell some. Make it an active thing again, not just a museum.

How though? so I have some plans:

1) Make some stuff. Motivation is a muscle they say, the more you sew, the more you want to. I am going to make some stuff over Christmas, some new stuff that is making me excited now, and some old stuff that got me excited before. 

2) Tear up old plans. This is a big one for me. When I look at pieces of fabric I have had for YEARS, I still see the original plan for it. That might be a great plan, but frankly often it isn't. Who I am, what I wear, has moved on, and my understanding of what fabric would be good for (based on quality, fabric type etc) has drastically changed. So I look at some soft cotton and think: "I should make this into a lovely pencil skirt -why have I not done this yet. I am a failure, I should place it here in this pile where I will see it and make the skirt soon." But I don't make it, because I know really that it wont make a good pencil skirt, it will be see-through, and crease, and annoy me. So I don't make it. But I still remember the plan, the dream, so it stays in the stash. It is time to stop this. I am going to look at every piece I have, and really think about that dream plan. If it is rubbish, I abandon it. I shall abandon it by either making a new plan that might actually work, or getting rid of it. I need to write over all my old plans. It is bad enough having good ideas you haven't yet got round to, it's ridiculous to beat myself up over stupid plans!

3) Get rid of fear. Probably easier said than done this one! When I started sewing I sewed more. I had no idea what was hard, or shouldn't be attempted. I consequently sewed all kinds of stuff, with mixed results. Now I am scared, I know slippery fabrics are hard to work with, I know wool is expensive and can shrink weird. About a quarter of my stash is fabrics I am too scared to use - put away for "when I am a better sewist". I am probably never going to be much better. And when I am I will just know more things I can be scared of - that is the nature of knowledge. The only thing that makes you braver is trying. So I am going to try. I am going to commit to ruining fabric and making wonky things again. Because I probably wont. And if I do, it is no more a waste than them waiting forever.