Wednesday, 21 September 2016


I haven't made much progress on anything significant the last week or so, like my outerwear plans or making more tunics. I did, however, start and finish two little projects, both of which made use of more embellishment than I usually do.

First of all, another Grainline Linden sweater. Late in the summer, I made a green and white raglan top and at the time I mentioned I'd noticed that mixed fabric/embellished raglan tops seemed to be something I was pinning a lot on Pinterest. I used this image to show the sort of thing I had been interested in:

Some raglan tops from my Pinterest collection (again)
This time, I used the photo in the upper left for inspiration, with the mix of knit and lace. My top is made with a very fine black knit (the same knit I used on last week's Ottobre top) with an extra layer of a stretch black crochet/lace knit in the front and back bodice only.

Is there anything less rewarding than taking photos of black clothes? (Grainline Linden with crochet lace overlay and black knit -- if you click on the image the lace detail will actually be visible when the image is larger!)
It seemed like most RTW I glanced at with a similar design just put the lace on the front, presumably in an effort to decrease their fabric use. I didn't have anything in mind for the rest of the fabric and I thought it would look nicer on both sides. I made the top exactly as usual, and just treated a layer of the black knit and the lace as a single piece of fabric when I was sewing. This was unproblematic except that it made for an interesting experience sewing the band at the bottom since I had quite the sandwich of fabric layers going on. I had to recut the bottom band and try again because it went a bit wrong the first time, but my struggles are not evident in the finished product. Overall, I'm really pleased with how this turned out.

My second embellishment project was also fairly straightforward. If you've read this blog for a while you'll know I've been passingly interested in the Alabama Chanin books/techniques. I keep meaning to make an actual AC knit garment just to see how I like it. (I have to be honest, I have major doubts that I don't think I'll clear up until I actually give making a wearable garment a fair shot.) One of the things the book tells you to do is stencil in your design onto the fabric with fabric paint before you start sewing/embroidering/whatever. Stencilling is not something I have ever done before, so I decided to do a mini stencilling-only project first.

Things I used on my scarf
Thus: One pot of grey fabric paint. One cosmetic sponge (from a large bag of them from the £1 shop). One large black fabric scarf purchased from eBay direct from China for 99p. One simple stencil from the first Alabama Chanin book, transferred onto template plastic because I thought the cardboard would go soggy if I used the one in the book.

I quickly hit on a technique for splodging the paint through the template. I decided to do a sort of border print along the short edges of the scarf, but other than that I made no attempt to plan out the actual layout of the stencil. I just tried to fit it the stencil in at different angles somewhat organically as I was going along.

Finished stencil painted scarf
And here is the finished product! I definitely learned some things about stenciling from doing this that I plan to carry over to an actual AC garment, and I like my finished scarf as well.

Next up: the weather having finally become somewhat autumnal this week, I am in a hurry to make more tunic length tops so I can actually start using the jeggings I bought. I will probably be focusing on that over the next couple of weeks. On the plus side, that means lots of fun new patterns for me. On the minus side, lots of fun new patterns means lots of my least favourite sewing job: tracing and/or cutting out patterns.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

In which I sew A Look (Butterick 6270 & Ottobre 02-2016-05)

Today's "Look": Butterick 6270 tunic (left) and Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" (right). Put together in centre!
I have mostly, up to now, avoided the skinny jean look. I did buy a pair of skinny jeans once a couple of years ago but I was stymied by the problem of how do I wear these? I always found myself feeling weirdly exposed and under-dressed if I wore skinny jeans with the same tops I wore with bootcut jeans. This is, of course, ludicrous because in actual fact the only place they fit differently/more snugly than my bootcut jeans was below the knee. No matter how silly, though, the fact was I couldn't get comfortable with wearing skinny jeans and eventually got rid of them.

This time around, I decided that if I was going to try out the skinny trousers look, I needed more of a "make some outfits" strategy. Rather than skinny jeans, I bought two pairs of RTW "jeggings" in my two main autumn/winter neutrals, black and navy. I use scare quotes because "jeggings" seem to be defined differently by every shop that sells them, meaning everything from extra stretchy skinny jeans to knit leggings with a fake jeans-style fly and topstitch printed down the outer leg. My two pairs are a mid-to-lightweight stretch woven with a faux fly and front pockets, some jeans-type topstitching details and an elasticated waist. If I decide I like this look and need more, I would probably make rather than buy next time. Based on my recent extremely positive experience with Jalie 2908, I have been thinking about getting Jalie 3461 if I decide to try making some.

By the time I bought the trousers I had also spent some quality middle-of-the-night-insomnia-sucks time on Pinterest combing through for ideas for tops, and then trying to match them up with fabric & patterns in my stash. I'm not going to lie: this was very entertaining and made being awake at 3:30am significantly more bearable. :D

Skinny black trousers and layers, all by Eileen Fisher
My first outfit is based on various photos of outfits from Eileen Fisher. Eileen Fisher is not a brand with which I am really that familiar. If they have shops here in the UK I am not aware of it, and frankly the prices would be waaaaay out of my range even if they did (e.g. ~£200 for their basic black trousers like in these photos. Hahaha, no, I don't think so.) At any rate, the actual shop notwithstanding, in the photos I pinned what I picked out specifically that I wanted to try to achieve was a relatively streamlined tunic, with another shorter and differently shaped lightweight layer over the top.

My version of the outfit therefore includes (a) black RTW jeggings; (b) a tunic length top in black and ivory patterned viscose made with Butterick 6270; and (c) Ottobre 02-2016-05, a curved hem knit top in a very lightweight, semi-opaque black knit.

Butterick 6270

The Butterick pattern, despite having a very uninspiring pattern cover, is really rather nice. As you most likely know, See & Sew patterns are a cut-down, reduced-price version of a pre-existing Butterick, McCall's or Vogue pattern, usually just one view or with a very limited variation compared to the original. I looked for the original pattern but couldn't figure out what it was*, and nobody seems to have reviewed this See & Sew version so far. I chose it for this project because my fabric, with the diagonal check design, really needed something without a lot of style lines. As it is, let us gloss gently over the question of whether I managed to match the diagonal lines at the side seams in any way (answer: no, I did not, it is a mess of disconnected lines).

* Edited to add: With thanks to SewCraftyChemist, the original pattern is Butterick 5997, which has an additional view with pintucks and some more sleeve variations.

Butterick 6270 tunic: front, back and innards showing the large facing and clean finished shoulder yoke
I made version B, with a long sleeve with a continuous lap cuff, but without a pocket or the collar, in a size 16 which is the largest size in the package. I made no changes except for my essential square shoulder adjustment.

You can see on the white version on the pattern illustration and in my version above that there is a wide facing to finish the neckline. I expected, as I cordially loathe all facings, to hate this one too. However, it actually all comes together quite well, albeit with a little bit of hand sewing of the facings to the front yoke seams. It also asks you to slip-stitch the front shoulder yokes by hand. I did not do that, preferring the burrito method for a clean finish yoke despite having to squeeze quite a lot of shirt into a very small space between the yoke pieces. I also ignored the instruction to hand-stitch the collar stand closed. I stitched in the ditch, but it must be said I don't get such a nice finish from that no matter how slow and careful I am. Probably I would prefer the outcome of hand-stitching it, even if I don't particularly enjoy the process.

Fit-wise, for straight out of the envelope except for my straight shoulder fix, it's all right I guess. The usual problems cropped up: the width of the shoulders, which are not just out but MILES out, and that annoying twisty sleeve problem. The shoulder width thing is a real pain because the effect of all those criss-crossing lines on the extra width of the fabric makes it look like I'm wearing Dynasty style shoulderpads, which is annoying. Both shoulder width and twisty sleeve issues are on my list of Things To Figure Out Sooner Rather Than Later, but eh, too late for this garment I guess! I'm still experimenting a bit with what the perfect length of top is for me with skinny trousers. This top is 76cm long and I feel like it might have been better just a little bit longer, maybe 80cm.

Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" sweater front, side and back to show the curved hem
Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog", from the Ottobre pattern sheet

The top layer of my outfit is from a recent issue of Ottobre. The pattern, 02-2016-05, is a typical simple Ottobre knit pattern with three pattern pieces and a binding. The appeal for me was the shaped front and back hem. The original pattern has invisible zips set into the two side seams. I have seen this top made up on someone's blog, though I'm sorry to say I forget who, and I ear-marked the pattern at the time because I liked how it looked on her. She did it properly with the zips and everything, and it looked great. However, I couldn't actually imagine any circumstance in which I would ever unzip those zips, plus my knit fabric is absolutely featherweight and the thought of inserting two zips in it filled me with horror, so I left them off. And that's all there is to say about this pattern, really.

As modelled by me, with RTW black "jeggings". I got my collar stuck in my sweater in the rear view -- oops!
So that's my first top (or tops, in the case) to wear with my new jeggings made. I think I'm pleased with it -- I like it better in the mirror than in the photos but that's pretty typical for me. I have more similar projects planned to sew over the next few weeks to make these trousers functional in my wardrobe for autumn (though, there's been no actual sign of autumn here yet -- we're sweltering through the hottest September in decades here right now. It's meant to start being more normal temperatures from this weekend but still probably too warm for this outfit!) I'm also slowly creeping through the preparations to start making that camel coloured jacket, though, so most likely the start of that will be up next.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Trouser Chronicles, Chapter 3: Faking It (Jalie 2908)

The story of my efforts at trouser fitting so far:

Chapter 1: The Trouble with Trousers (February) In which I made many many muslins and took many many photos of my butt, and yet achieved very little in the way of improvement in fitting moderately close fitting non-stretch woven trousers.
Chapter 2: Imperfect Trousers Are Better Than No Trousers (July) In which I continued to attempt to fit moderately close fitting woven trouser patterns, and ended up with one pair of not-completely-awful-but-not-good-either trousers.

This is my attempt to stand around looking "casual" in a photo in my new Jalie 2908 trousers. Er. Maybe I'll just go back to starting straight ahead.

This week, I embarked upon round three of Me vs. The Trouser, and this time I decided that there might be An Ultimate Answer to all my problems, and that Ultimate Answer might well be: Lycra! The fact of the matter is that a nice stretchy fabric disguises many a fitting flaw, and I decided it was time to try out "faking better fit through stretchiness" as a strategy. This turned out to be a winner, and, although I've yet to subject them to the test of a full day of wear, these cobalt blue trousers definitely have the potential to be at the top of my list of Favourite Things I've Made In 2016 based on current evidence.

Jalie 2908

Today's story starts with the choice of Jalie 2908, a.k.a That Stretch Woven Bootcut Jeans Pattern Everyone Raved About In 2009/2010. It's extremely widely reviewed -- about 200 times on PR -- and any Google Image search of it produces lo, the largest collection of Butts In Jeans that you could ever want to see.

I made up the pattern as is, straight from the envelope, using the higher of the two rises supplied (view B). This seems ridiculous after I spent SO LONG figuring out adjustments the last two times I worked on trousers. However, when I compared my much-altered basic woven pant pattern with this Jalie pattern, it turned out that a lot of the changes I'd made seemed to be already built into the shape of Jalie's pattern.

Despite this encouraging discovery, I was prepared for this to be (yet another) fitting disaster and this affected my construction decisions. You have to get almost to the end of all of the construction before you can try the trousers on for the first time. Since I was kind of skeptical about the outcome, I wasn't willing to put in hours on the top-stitching and embellishment in case it turned out to be a waste of time. I did topstitch where it was required but just minimally and in my construction thread, and though I always try to sew precisely I didn't sweat the details too much. This pair of trousers is therefore probably sort of "wearable muslin" quality rather than "this is my best work, hurrah" quality. This is is also reflected in the fabric, which was at the more inexpensive end of the stretch wovens I considered, a stretch cotton twill. It's marginally stretchier than called for by the pattern and rather light weight -- fine for the autumn but I wouldn't want to wear these trousers in mid-winter. One problem is that it CREASES OMG. I pressed these trousers for the photo, but dear god, you can barely tell.

Front fit, highly over-exposed to show the details. Too tight at my thighs and upper hip due to making a size too small, but wearable, especially if the fabric grows during the day.
I made a size U from Jalie's size list. This was actually a mistake -- I am between a U and a V in the size range, and I meant to pick the larger size. Somehow in time period between choosing the size and tracing the pattern I got mixed up and ended up tracing the size U. All my fit shots below are therefore a set of variations on a theme of "just a bit too tight". That said, I'm actually OK with how it fits, especially since this fabric is already showing signs that it will grow as you wear it. For one, does anyone else think their trousers look much worse in photos than in the flesh? I definitely don't think the whiskering at the front crotch is anywhere near so obvious or concerning when I look in the mirror vs. looking at the photo. Secondly, I never wear anything tucked in. These shots are the first and last time anyone will ever see the waistband of my jeans, and very often nothing will be visible above my upper thigh because of my shirt/sweater length. So, you know, since it's not so tight that it's uncomfortable to wear, I can live with it.

Rear fit, also a little too tight. Otherwise looks like every pair of RTW jeans I have ever owned in terms of the wrinkling size and location
Overall, the best things about these finished trousers:
  • I love, love, love the colour of this fabric.  LOVE.
Bootcut flare and the teeny tiny hem I had to turn. This is probably closest to the real colour.
  • I like the shape and flare of the bootcut very much. I know bootcut is not super fashionable, despite a recent uptick in popularity, but I've always loved bootcut and how it looks on me. This pattern really works for me in terms of hem width and where the flare starts. It's only JUST long enough out of the envelope though -- I could only turn up only the teeniest, tiniest hem as I wanted to keep as much length as possible.
 To improve on next time:
  • The fit, obviously. I will probably try going up a size next time to a V. Separately, I am becoming more and more convinced, based on some reading I've been doing, that I need to learn a knock knee alteration. This would hopefully improve both the inner thigh fit and the way that trousers/jeans hang below the knees. I'll look at this when I come back to trouser fitting in the next few weeks.

Fly front. Looks okay in this shot, but actually not great.

  • The fly. I did better with the instructions I used from Burda for my last pair of trousers than I did with the Jalie instructions This sounds very unlikely, given the usual state of Burda instructions, but the pattern I used was one of their special "sewing course" patterns and the fly front instructions were great. I might just use them in future for all fly fronts. I don't like how close to the lap edge the zip is in this pair of trousers.
I didn't do anything fancy with the back pockets. I wish I had done at least a little minimal bit of a pattern! I will next time for sure.

  • Some of the finishing, because it is pretty shoddy in places, to be honest, to the point where I was all maybe I'll just try not to capture that particular detail in my photos because it looks rough, tra la la. /o\ That's for fellow sewist consumption of course. In real life, nobody is going to notice, or if they do I would be side-eyeing them pretty hard for looking that closely at my crotch to begin with, but still, ugh, not my best work!
Left: Attempt 1 at a (bias) waistband, with horrible distortion after I topstitched; Right: Attempt 2, on the cross-grain, pieced from scraps. The upper edge is still a LITTLE wavy, but it's still 100% better than Attempt 1!
  • The waistband. This version actually took two attempts. I cut the bias waistband required by the pattern instructions without much enthusiasm because I couldn't see how, without interfacing, it wasn't going to stretch and warp horribly when I sewed it. Since then, I have discovered most people who used the bias waistband HAVE interfaced it, so score one for my instincts, I guess, but minus one for not actually following them in any way. I tried the bias waistband without interfacing, and it was sort of OK right up until I started topstitching, and then NOPE! the hideous mess I expected ensued. In the end I had to piece a second, cross-grain waistband from my (very limited) scraps. I had so little fabric left I couldn't even piece in such a way as to put the piecing seam to match the side seam! However, again, nobody will notice  -- even I can barely see my piecing seams in this photo -- so it was worth the time spent unpicking and piecing for sure.
In conclusion: Faking it with stretch was a success. Yes, I picked the wrong size and no, my sewing was not brilliant. However, this is a perfectly wearable pair of trousers, albeit on the tighter end of the spectrum of what I'm willing to wear. Overall these trousers, while imperfect, are much less imperfect than the last pair, and I'm all about progression, not perfection. \o/

Next up in the Trouser Chronicles: I will definitely make this pattern again although not immediately. I am just bummed that Jalie don't have a non-stretch pattern that I could try! However, I was re-reading an old blog entry for some reason and was reminded that Simplicity actually do a whole range of "Amazing Fit" patterns for non-stretch trousers. Since Burda doesn't seem to be working well for me as a starting point, I decided it couldn't hurt to give one of those a try. Who knows, maybe it really will be amazing :D

For now, due to having more pressing wardrobe needs, I'm probably going to take a little break from trousers again and work on other things. Next up on my sewing table is this combination of pattern, fabric and lining:

Next: Outerwear! Outerwear! Outerwear! :D

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Finshing up August

After my fit of the dismals in my last two posts, I am finally more cheerful! So here is a roundup of August and some thoughts on what I want to sew next.

This month I made up a couple of TNTs (PJ shorts, a t-shirt) and that had the usual pleasing outcome.  I also made a white and green raglan woven top, and I've enjoyed wearing that although I don't think I'll make that pattern again. One good thing is that the top I thought was a disaster at the time (the one I made using a Silhouette pattern) has surprisingly turned out to be pretty wearable overall, so that has been cheering.

Just under the wire for the end of the month I also finished up one more TNT knit top. I squeezed it on to a little remnant piece of fabric I bought recently. It's not very exciting, I know, but I really wanted a striped black and white top for this autumn, and I liked this weird barcode like knit a lot from the moment I saw it.

TNT t-shirt with three quarter sleeves in a "barcode" striped knit
Overall, though, I guess August wasn't what you might call a super productive month. Also, I bought a whole pile of fabric so I'm not even going to TOUCH the question of how I did against either my budget or my planned stash reduction except to say: dismally! On the other hand the pile of fabric I bought mostly has very specific Autumn plans assigned to it, so I refuse to angst over it.

Earlier this year, I decided I needed to do a really ruthless edit of my patterns, magazines and books and also catalogue it all more thoroughly. I got started on that in the last week or so. (I have to be in the mood to be ruthless, and it's taken until now to get to the point where I feel like I want to cull my sewing possessions like this!) I've ended up putting a bunch of stuff up on eBay that I've decided just isn't anything I need. A lot of what I'm selling is envelope patterns I bought in the early phases of my sewing career before I really figured out what I wanted to sew. I feel like I bought a lot of "everyone else loves this" patterns but a lot of them really weren't me at all, stylistically speaking, so I've cut my losses with those.

One mini-success I can report is that I also decided at the beginning of the year to only add envelope patterns (which are very expensive here in the UK) to my collection when they offer something unique or that appeals to me very strongly. So far I've done a pretty good job of that! I've only bought four envelope patterns overall to date this year. I've also bought about dozen PDF patterns, but a lot of those are Lekala and at £1.35 a pop I am not too bothered by that. My major pattern supply of course comes from having three magazine subs (Burda, Knipmode and Ottobre) so I am not exactly starving for pattern stimulation!

That said, the most recent Big4 collections have included some really interesting patterns. I have five envelopes in total on my wishlist:

Butterick 6388; McCall's 7433; New Look 6481; Burda 6578 and Vogue 8805

Of these four are from the most recent collections, and one is old, old, old (Vogue 8805) and has been lurking on my wishlist a long time. I want the New Look 6481 pattern only for that blazer, especially after seeing the gorgeous version Ms. SewCraftyChemist made already. The Butterick 6388 I want just because of that neckline -- definitely an interesting knit top variation. It's really weird for me to want an Archive Collection or vintage style pattern but that McCall's 7433 shirtdress has some really pretty and unique details. The Burda 6578 pattern is in essence an ordinary buttoned shirt but I'm in love with that pleating detail on the pink version on the cover and think it would be fun to sew.

I'll wait to buy all of these when they're on sale in the UK because I am cheap I am not in any special hurry to make any of them. I hope I can pick up the Butterick knit pattern sooner rather than later though as I love it and want to make it up before winter if I can.

As for September, well, my list of things to do this month looks something like this:

1. Outerwear! Outerwear! Outerwear!
2. Semi-intense fitting session to improve woven shirt fit (especially that sleeve twist I keep getting and tightness through the upper back) and then making a couple.
3. Stuff to wear in autumn to laze around the house.
4. Finish the sweater I'm knitting.
5. No, really: Outerwear! Outerwear! Outerwear!

All that said, before I embark on any of these exciting plans I have two WIPs to finish up: another quick TNT knit top, and the pair of Jalie 2908 bootcut jeans I have cut out waiting for me to summon the mental strength to work on a fly front. For sure I'll get the top finished by the end of the weekend. Who can say whether I'll feel up to sewing the fly front in the next few days!

Monday, 29 August 2016

What is actually wrong with me (a non-sewing post)

I guess we're all all too aware these days of how many scammers there are on the internet, lying about fake illnesses that they have out of some desire to feel special or to get money or something. So, I feel like I should say first and up front that I didn't write this post to scrounge for sympathy or anything else. I've never really tried to hide the fact of my illness on this blog, and obviously (as seen yesterday) I do whine about the impact of my illness quite regularly, but in general I don't want this to become a blog about being sick. Recently, however, I've had a couple of questions about why I am stuck at home/unable to work/talk about being sick so much, and so just out of the knowledge that it's irritating to be cryptic all the time, here is a brief explanation. I imagine most people will just skip the rest of the post, and that's perfectly OK with me.

Over the last few years I've been struggling with an illness that I came to realize I had had for a while. From 2012 -- oddly enough, from right about the same time I took up sewing -- onward it escalated significantly but it wasn't correctly diagnosed until after I ended up in hospital a couple of times in mid-to-late 2013. I bounced around a lot of different specialists until finally I was told that I have a very rare genetic condition of a type known as an auto-inflammatory disease. The type I have (not listed on that website) causes acute pain by causing chronic inflammation of my major internal organs (heart, lungs, liver, stomach). Sadly, I don't respond to the main drug that works for many people in my situation, and I have been trapped in bureaucratic wrangling with the NHS for over eighteen months now trying to access an alternative (expensive) treatment instead, which may or may not help if I should ever be given permission to try it. This situation is of course very frustrating.

In the meantime, I take steroids, which prevents about 90-95% of the inflammation. Like most people I get heavy duty side effects to go along with my heavy duty steroid dose. Over the last two years or so I've mainly learned to ride the line between how much pain I am able to tolerate and how many of the steroid side effects I am able to tolerate. When I have bad weeks, it tends to be because one or other of these (pain or side effects) slipped past the toleration point. In general, I've found the best way to keep myself stable is not to try to do too much. Sadly, "avoiding doing too much" has turned out to include avoiding doing almost everything I previously took for granted about leading a normal life. I am very very fortunate that my family have been able to provide endless emotional, financial and practical support to help get me through this period of my life.

To circle back round to my actual sewing: as I've mentioned before, the biggest effect has been that my life is pretty limited -- I don't leave the house much because too much exertion triggers the inflammation -- and so the range of things I sew is a bit limited. The most aggravating thing about my illness from a sewing perspective is the constant weight fluctuations. Many people gain very significant amounts of weight when they are on steroids at my dose level for as long as I have been on them. I have been fortunate to avoid that, although "fortunate" is a funny way to put it because it's partly because I feel so violently ill most days that I don't even want to look at food. However, my weight has bounced up and down quite a lot, and unfortunately when you gain weight on steroids it all goes on (a) your abdomen ("steroid belly"); (b) your upper back ("buffalo hump") and (c) your face and chin ("moon face" or chipmunk face) and then it STICKS THERE, even if you lose weight again! I can't say any of this makes me happy, especially the chipmunk face thing, but there's nothing I can do so I am just... I don't know, working on cultivating something like a zen attitude about it all?

I guess that's my de facto way of dealing with the whole thing, really. Mostly, I just try to get on with whatever facsimile of my life I can have right now. Sewing has been a great plus in my life. When I am well enough to be up and about around my house, it gives me something to do. I'm able to buy almost everything I need on the internet, so the fact that I can't go out to the shops doesn't really matter. When I am less well, it's something think about in the many empty hours that I would otherwise spend staring at the walls. From the outside, I can see it probably looks a little obsessive at times, but in the grand scheme of things I'd rather have a few strangers on the internet think I'm, for example, weirdly over-invested in wardrobe planning than give up on a major source of amusement.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

In which I complain a lot

The last week and a half has been very frustrating. I have been ALMOST well enough to sew, but not quite. As a result I kept starting to work on things and then having to keel over in a heap for a while to recover when I suddenly felt horrible. This is not an optimal way to actually get anything done.
Jalie 2908 on my cobalt blue fabric
I did mange to get a couple of things cut out by working in short bursts, but they are now both lurking in a pile of pieces waiting for me to get on with the actual sewing. One is just a basic knit top, very dull, but I am also working on is a pair of Jalie 2908 stretch bootcut jeans (a.k.a that pattern everyone and her little dog too made circa 2009/2010) in a cobalt blue stretchy twill. Unfortunately, I can't seem to muster the concentration span to start sewing, particularly since the early stages are all fiddly things like the pockets and the fly. Hopefully I'll have more success with that this week.

Finished body of Il Grande Favorito minus the neckband; with the neckband that I knitted on today
One thing I have managed to get on with is the sweater I am knitting, mainly because knitting mostly involves copious amounts of sitting still, and my pattern requires almost no concentration, being mainly stocking stitch. The pattern is Il Grande Favorito, which is perpetually at the top of the "Hot right now" list on Ravelry and deservedly so. I recommend it highly, especially if you're looking for a low stress sweater pattern. So far, I am reasonably happy with the actual jumper, although I feel like my knitting overall still looks really clunky and Happy Hands At Home. Some of that though is that I keep choosing to knit in cotton which I'm now informed tends to show (bad) stitch definition much more clearly than wool. I've therefore decided to buy a wool yarn for my next sweater though I'm going to make some socks first I think.

The other reason I am frustrated is that I have been planning my autumn sewing. Ordinarily, as anyone who has read this blog will be aware, planning what I am going to do brings me great satisfaction. However, combined with not actually being able to get on with anything, it's mostly just been a source of disgruntlement this last week. Here are some reasons for my frustration:

1. My inability to spend all of my time sewing. I just want to SEW ALL OF THE THINGS! I have 100s of patterns earmarked to use! I have 200m of fabric, give or take, lurking about in my sewing room! Curses on the necessity of doing other things like sleeping, eating, housework, and (one day I hope again) earning a living! Every time I flipped through my patterns this week to pull ideas for the autumn I seemed to see a dozen more things I'd like to make and found myself whining but whyyyyyyyy can't I just sew all the time :( :( :(

2. Why did I ever start trying to plan a wardrobe and keep the size down to a reasonable number? You can't make all of the things if you also have a ceiling on how many things you own. This restriction is so frustrating to me some days and the biggest irritation is that it's entirely self-imposed. I wibble constantly between telling myself it is OK to go over my self-imposed limits (which I know it totally is -- nobody is going to come and arrest me, or even frown at me, even if I own twice as much as I do right now) and remembering why I decided on a generous-but-consciously-limited wardrobe to begin with (many reasons, enumerated at extraordinary and tedious length in my wardrobe planning posts).

3. Why do I not have a more varied life that I can sew more varied things? This is actually mainly frustration with being sick. I just hit the three year anniversary of the first time I was hospitalized with my present illness and everything started going downhill, so this annoyance developed extra force and drama this last week. I am sure I hardly need to inform you that it is very boring to sew for a frequently-housebound way of life. I don't really get to go anywhere or do anything even when I'm moderately well and there's only so many different types of outfits you need when your main activities in life are sitting on your own sofa, sitting on your mum's sofa, and going to the grocery store once a week.

Burda 09-2010-120 -- one of my more ambitious plans for this autumn!
4. Why am I not a better sewer? I have a couple of projects in my plan that I really want to try that are probably above my skill level. I mean, it won't stop me trying them, but I dislike having to brace myself for failure.

5. Why do I own the stash I own? I am frustrated that I own: fabrics in fibres I do not like (polyester chiffon, eek, the horror) even if I like the print; fabrics in colours I like in the abstract but in practice never wear and that go with nothing else in my wardrobe; fabric pieces in lengths that are either too long or too short for their most likely use (too long meaning I would end up with an unusable scrap at the end); fabrics too precious to use (why?!); and fabrics I just outright do not like.

6. Why am I such a stick-in-the-mud about what I'll actually wear? I made two summer dresses earlier this year and we've had some actually nice days of weather this summer. I could have worn my sundresses, but in fact I only wore one of them once. I sort of thought that might be the case, which is why I didn't make more than two. I feel so self-conscious in dresses even though I know that no, really, other than my mum, nobody gives a single damn what I am wearing, or even often sees it (see above re. my rather restricted life). I just don't reach for dresses, it seems. I've been sort of planning to experiment with some very slightly different trouser shapes and top lengths, and also with making slightly different loungewear this autumn, but now I am second guessing myself as to whether I'll actually wear it.

In conclusion: I am in such a whiny mood at the moment, and I've achieved very little, sewing-wise. I will be back in a more cheerful state of mind AND with finished garments soon, I hope!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Little repeats for the end of summer

My sewing time for the last week or so has been dedicated to tidying up the loose ends of my summer sewing queue. A few things never made it out of the planning stage, but it was actually a pretty successful season of sewing for me overall. I did have three little easy projects that I wanted to finish up before I officially called time on summer sewing for 2016.

Very easy repeats: Liberty print PJ shorts and a white tee
The first two are multiple repeats and very dull. I made a pair of Liberty cotton print PJ shorts using my TNT (tried 'n true) pattern Ottobre 05-2011-02. Using Liberty cotton for PJs probably seems decadent, but I actually bought the fabric for £5/m at the factory shop in Lancaster.

I also had already cut out a plain white tee (using my basic tee pattern based on New Look 6150) but I was being lazy about re-threading my overlocker & coverstitch machines. Since I happened to have re-threaded for the white blouse I made last week, I got my t-shirt pieces out and ran it up quickly. I don't know why I always act like re-threading my machines is this terrible onerous chore that takes hours of my sewing time. I've timed myself before and it rarely takes more than five minutes.

Some pins from my Pinterest board that inspired my last project
The last thing on my list is one of those "inspired by my Pinterest board" projects. I like to scroll through some of my boards sometimes and see if I can spot any trends or patterns in what I'm pinning. I noticed I'd pinned a lot of lightweight woven or woven/knit mix raglan tops with patterned or textured body pieces and plain sleeves (or occasionally vice versa). It struck me that it would be useful to figure out a nice TNT pattern for that kind of top because it could potentially be a good way to use a small piece of fabric and/or tone down a really dramatic print.

I picked out a plain white and a white/green patterned viscose from my fabric stash to try this out and then I went pattern hunting in my stash. Can I just say again how much I love my magazine collection? If I'm looking for a straightforward pattern I'll always find one somewhere in my magazines.

Burda Plus S/S 2013 #433 Raglan sleeve tunic -- images from

As it turned out, I had actually totally forgotten about this pattern, from Burda Plus S/S 2013, that I tried out once waaaaay back at the beginning of my garment sewing adventures. I think it might have been the first thing I ever actually finished from Burda. At the time I did all sorts of wacky adjustments, about which the less said the better, and I think I only wore the top about twice.

Burda Plus S/S 2013 433 in green and white viscose with white viscose sleeves
On this occasion I made more or less a straight size 44, as is my current wont with tops in Burda. It's a long top as written -- 76cm at the centre back. I cut the length much shorter and also drew in a shirt-tail hem, very slightly longer at the back than the front, which I stole from a shirt pattern I made some ago, the Pauline Alice Carme. I almost never tuck any of my tops in so my hems are always visible. I've taken to using shaped hem patterns or drawing my own in almost every time because I think it looks more interesting (and probably more flattering) than a straight horizontal hem. I'm pleased with my fabric combination and I do think the top as a whole is quite pretty.

However, overall I don't think the shape of the neckline is particularly flattering to my shoulders -- too wide and shallow -- and I don't especially like how the fabric drapes around my bust. A lot of the alternative woven raglans in my stash have a ton of gathering and are very voluminous, in the peasant-blouse style, and I liked that this particular pattern is more streamlined. However, I've found a sort of middle ground pattern that I might try next, Burda 10-2014-135. The neckline is more of a scoop and has a couple of small pleats at centre front. I really like the way the sample blouses (there are a couple of variations in the magazine) drape at the bust on the models, and while I do know that relying on the modelled images is a fool's game, I think I might give it a go anyway.

If I do, I'll be making my top long-sleeved, as I am now going to embark on my autumn sewing. My sewing queue for this autumn is heavy on outerwear because I still don't have much and I am determined to fill that gap with sewing rather than RTW. I'll also be going back to work on trousers imminently, this time armed with the world's largest supply of gingham fabric and hopefully some new ideas on how to approach my fitting problems.