Tuesday, 19 June 2018

You win some, you lose some

I have no sewing friends locally, which is a source of great sadness to me because I would love a fabric shopping accomplice. However, a couple of weeks ago my friend B (who does sew though she is not really into garment sewing) heroically drove up to my city and, in addition to staying up very late to gossip, also went fabric shopping with me. I bought 5 pieces of fabric: three 2m lengths of knit for t-shirts to make immediately, one large scale gingham for a shirt this autumn, and a fabulous snakeskin printed stretch denim for, idk, some time when I can actually make trousers that fit.
Left: three t-shirt knits. Right: snakeskin printed denim. I have no photo of the gingham for some reason.
At the end of 2017, I had decided that for the most part, RTW t-shirts seemed like better value for money than making my own. So far this year I've found that decision to be mostly accurate when it comes to your basic, somewhat fitted t-shirt in a plain colour. However, although I looked for ages, I couldn't find any nice loose-fit tees and in the end I decided I could do much better than anything I'd seen in RTW. I wanted a total of 4 to add to my wardrobe. The first was the striped knit top I made in May, and I've been working on making the other three over the last few days.

Top #1 used the uppermost fabric in the image above. None of my photos capture it at all, but this fabric actually has some kind of sparkly coating on the otherwise plain grey marl knit, so it is quite shiny/sparkly when it catches the light. This makes it slightly more interesting in real life than photos suggest.

Burda 01-2018-105 Garment photo and technical drawing from Burdastyle.ru
For the pattern I had chose Burda 01-2018-105, a very easy, two piece lounging type tee. The front is all one piece and folds over to a sort of faux-raglan back, with a dart that runs from the shoulder to the back seam. It looks like nothing in the modelled photos or technical drawing, but it's actually a great little pattern and I can see myself making this again and again.

I made a size 40 at the neck and shoulder and a size 44 from the underarm down, which produced exactly what I was looking for: it fits through the upper chest and neck and then is loose and swingy below that. I made two minor design changes: I hate side splits with unbelievable fervor (no really, who knew you could feel so strongly about side splits), so I sewed right down to the hem line, and, once made, I found I didn't like how high the neckline was at all and ended up cutting off the neckband I had already put in and turning the neckline into a deeper rounded scoop.

Top #1 (left) and #2 (right): My versions using Burda 01-2018-105
Originally, I had planned to do something entirely different with the blue striped fabric for top #2 (the bottom fabric in the pile above) but then I had a moment of clarity. I looked at the pattern I thought I was going to use (the recent HotPatterns Swingy Tee), which has loads of pieces and top-stitching and a centre front dart. I looked at the fabric, which is a VERY drapey, lightweight fabric that in no way holds any shape. I decided these two were not things that were not fated to go together successfully, and I made a second Burda 01-2018-105, exactly the same except this time I cut the neckline exactly how I preferred from the outset.

Burda 02-2018-129 knit top, images from burdastyle.ru
So far, so good, despite my neckband problems with top #1. I therefore moved on to top #3, which was another Burda pattern, this time Burda 02-2018-129, a Plus pattern with a twist/knot detail at the hem. My third fabric was a gorgeous, amazing knit in denim blue with a slight sheen and a slubby texture. I absolutely loved this fabric and thought it would look great with the pattern, especially as it has an interesting contrast wrong side that, if it happened to show, wouldn't look bad at all. I traced a size 44, and made several adjustments to the shoulder and neckline -- mainly bringing it in at the neck as I knew as written it would be too wide on me. I also cut short sleeves without the cuff detail. Looking at the measurements, I was concerned it would be too long for me overall, but I decided from the image on the model that the knot detail on the front would pull the top up quite a lot and also the way top is constructed made it really difficult to shorten, so I left it.

My best approximation of the pattern as written: not so much a knot/drape as an unholy mess at the waist
This is one of those patterns where you cut out the pieces and you're like.... um, what? How on earth do these fit together to make that? Sometimes I've made things like this and I've been very confused by the raw pieces of the garment, but as soon as I started to put it together, light dawned and it all made sense (the wacky back drape top I made earlier this year is a case in point, though I have to note that that was the "sewing course" pattern that month, i.e. there were illustrations of the construction).

Spoiler: the light did not dawn in this case. I was actually doing well, and things WERE making sense, and then I got to the point where you connect up the left and right lower fronts at the knot/twist and I just got completely stuck. The best I managed was the photo above. It was wrong, but I had absolutely no idea how to sew it correctly and this was the closest I seemed to be able to get.

Maybe I gave up too soon, or I should have left it and come back to it later, but I felt like I had tried every possible thing with no success, and there were also other problems. The fabric isn't at all what I would consider a heavy weight knit, but the way you put the lower bodice together means there are layers and layers of fabric right at your waist/hip. Really, this needed a very light weight knit indeed if you aren't to end up with a bulky wad of fabric at the hip. The second problem was that although the twist does pull the top up a lot, it was still a lot longer than I wanted and it ended up a really unfortunate length on me. While it would have been difficult to adjust the length at the pattern stage, it was impossible at the partially completed stage.

Rescued loose fit tee, and the only detail that remains of the original pattern -- a triangular inset
In the end, the extra length saved me, because I was able to cut off almost all of the knot/twist details and still have a decent length t-shirt. The only thing left of the original pattern is an unobtrusive triangular inset, which doesn't look particularly weird.

I guess overall, yay, I got three t-shirts from the experience, which is all I really wanted. However, I am somewhat irritated with myself for two reasons: first, that I couldn't make sense of the Burda pattern. I am not someone who wants or needs a diagram for every step of every pattern, but I also don't have the best spatial reasoning in the world. When it comes to these sort of twist/fold/whatever features I think I probably did need more than Burda provides for this pattern. I just could not figure it out at all from the information I had (written instructions, seam numbers, pieces in front of me). I'd like to blame the pattern/instructions, but I am pretty sure it's just me. Needless to say, I heartily dislike feeling incompetent.

The second irritation is that if I had had some foresight, I might have realized sooner that I had made poor choices with my pattern/fabric matches. The blue stripe was much lighter weight and would have been a much better fit for the knot detail tee. The denim coloured knit was almost certainly sturdy enough to have taken the darts and top-stitching of my original planned HotPatterns pattern. I'm very annoyed by this missed opportunity!

In conclusion: a mixed outcome, but I guess I can't win them all.

Next up on my sewing table: I can't put it off any longer, I'm going to have to attempt to make some shorts. D: D: D:

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Put a bird on it

Ta-da! My enthusiasm for sewing came roaring back, and I have therefore made both of the garments I talked about at the end of my last post.

1. Angled front skirt (Burda 05-2017-113)

Burda 05-2017-113 Skirt (Images from burdastyle.ru)

I've been wanting a solid white skirt for a while, but I've been dithering on the pattern. I really wanted to make something with some design interest since the fabric I'd chosen, a plain white cotton twill, was not very interesting (even if very useful, wardrobe wise). Last year I was very taken with this angled front skirt in Burda 05-2017 and marked it for future use. I had to think how to adjust it though because when Burda make their skirt patterns short, they make them SHORT. I had to 10cm to this pattern to get it to my usual "casual summer skirt" length of around 52.5 cm (~21"). Normally length adjustments are a no brainer, but with those angled front seams and separate pieces for hem facings, it took a little more effort than usual.

My white skirt on me. The angled front crosses just above knee length on me.

The only other very minor change I made is that I left off the belt loops/rope belt because I never belt anything. I did make the pointlessly complicated pockets. They do look nice, if not entirely symmetrical in my version because I messed up somewhere, but also: pointlessly complicated.

Pointlessly complicated back pocket. Yes, there were three separate pieces to make it.
Other than that, this is a straight size 42, which is my usual lower body Burda size. Although the rest of the fit is great, it's very loose at the waist. This is not because I have a small waist, at all. In fact, the opposite: I am more of a size 44 waist compared to my size 42 hips. The waistband is just really big. I realized this as I was cutting it out, because it was one of those pieces where Burda just give you a dimension to cut a rectangle, and the dimensions for the size 42 made me raise my eyebrows. But then for some reason I just carried on blithely and then was surprised when it turned out to be quite loose at the waist. Well, duh. You can see on the photo how wide the waistband is compared to the hips. I'm rectangular in shape, but not that rectangular!

White skirt on a hanger. I tried so hard to get a shot without wrinkles, but lol, no.
Overall, I'm actually delighted with this skirt. It's one of those garments where the finished product looks exactly the way I imagined it would, or maybe even better. I will say that every time I work with white fabric I am impressed all over again by people who do e.g. bridal sewing, because keeping a white fabric looking nice while you work with it is VERY HARD. I wasn't helped in this case by the fact this fabric wrinkles if you look at it funny, but even so, it needed washing as soon as I finished it. I swear to you I pressed this skirt within an inch of its life before I took these photos, but wow, no, it looks like wrinkled mess at the back. Luckily I don't really mind looking wrinkled in real life, but I was extremely frustrated by the photo taking experience here.

2. A shirt with a bird on it/June Magazine Challenge (Burda 06-2018-112)

Burda 06-2018-112 - Images from Burdastyle.ru
Next up was a top with a bird on it, also my June Magazine Challenge garment. It's from Burda 06-2018, and the version in the magazine is so eye-searingly awful that initially I flipped right past it without really thinking about it. (There's also a dress version, #111, in a sad sort of beige colour, that was not any more attractive to me.) However, the technical drawing made it more interesting to me. It's a fairly simple, loose-fit woven top, but I was very taken with that pleated detail at the neckline.

My finished shirt, with a close up of the pleated placket in situ. The sleeves should be folded back in cuffs.
 I made a size 44 with my usual fit adjustments -- narrowed the shoulder, raised the armhole, squared the shoulder, did a rounded back adjustment and also added 2cm of length to the bodice. The rounded back adjustment was easier than usual because the back is gathered into the collar. Rather than put a shoulder dart in, I just gathered a little more.

The pattern is rated 3 dots by Burda, which I was initially surprised by as there aren't many pieces, there are no fastenings, etc. The source of their complexity rating is, I think, the pleated insert pieces and how you attach them to the main front bodice piece. I was moderately happy with how my pleating turned out. It is really not perfect at all, but using a busy print hides many of my sewing flaws! Inserting the pieces into the main front piece is not complicated in theory, but actually doing it was a faff. It was just a lot of trying to manipulate the fabric to get seams line up. Plus, I am not a fan of gathering and you have to gather the horizontal seam at the front. I don't know why people always tell beginners to make things with gathers, because sewing gathered seams is hard and it looks crap if you do it badly. Again, my large print disguises many sins here as well.

The pleated insert pieces before insertion

The fabric I used for this is slightly out of my usual style. For a long time I've had an Indian fabric company on my eBay watch list that sells a lot of blue and white, hand/block printed fabrics. I've been tempted quite a few times because I love a blue and white print. I finally bought this piece earlier this year as an experiment. It's not especially expensive: I got 2.25m of fabric for I think something like £9 including postage, though it did take a little while to get here from India.

Close up of the bird -- you can just about see that it appear on the lower right as you look at the photo of me wearing the top. Sleeves still not cuffed for some reason
The fabric is quite narrow -- just barely 110cm wide -- and not the greatest quality. It's 100% cotton according to the sales blurb, but it's thin and quite loosely woven and it's definitely more off-white/'natural' in colour than white. It's lovely and soft though, and the (lack of) weight made it perfect for a summer top. The block printing is good, but it's not 100% perfect, though I think that's part of the charm. I did wonder if the dye would run/fade horribly when I washed it, but it came through the wash/tumble dry looking much as it did when it went in. I'm not sure it's a fabric with tremendous longevity, but I guess I'll see how it goes. I do like the bird though, and it's fancy eyelashes, though I did have to do some creative pattern positioning to avoid Bird On Boob issues.

I originally thought these two garments would work together really well as an outfit, but the proportions don't really work the way I expected. The skirt looks better with tops that hit higher on my hip and that are more close fitting than this top. Still I am sure to get plenty of use from it if the weather stays warm here over this summer.

Next up: I've traced two new looser fit knit top patterns from Burda, and I've got one from HotPatterns that I need to print and put together, which, ugh, yuck, I hate putting together PDF patterns. Still, since construction is usually very quick with knits, I should have all three done in no time once I have my patterns sorted. :D

Saturday, 2 June 2018

A review of May

Ahem. *blows dust off blog*

Since I last posted, in mid-April, I have variously:

1. Gone away on holiday for a week. This was, in fact, the first time I've really spent any time away from home since I first got sick in the summer of 2013. It was not what one might call the most perfectly successful holiday, insofar as I was away 7 days, the weather was beyond awful for 2 days and I was extremely unwell for 1.5 days (though luckily (?) the 0.5 day of feeling ill coincided with a terrible weather day). However, I was still somewhere that wasn't here (although still in the UK) and I had a pretty good time, so I am going to call it an overall win.

2. Struggled through several more weeks of total sewing apathy.

3. Overcome the apathy and made five things. :D

More specifically, I made:

a. Two kimono jackets using Butterick 6176

Butterick 6176 Kimono jackets (views F and E from left to right)
This was a semi impulsive project. I love the look of these jackets when I see them in shops and on other people but somehow, although the trend has been around a while, I have never got around to buying or making one for myself. I therefore picked up Butterick 6176 very cheaply on eBay. Most of the views in this pattern are completely rectangular and not really very interesting. However, views E (short version) and F (long version) have a shaped hem that I thought looked nice. I made a size Medium of each of these views.

Originally I was just going to make one, the longer view F, in a blue and tile print (see centre, above). It turned out so well, however, and I enjoyed wearing it so much that I immediately wanted another. I ended up making a short version with the remains of a piece of polyester georgette that had been lurking, thoroughly unloved, in my stash ever since I made a top from the rest of it in 2012. I actually loved how this second jacket turned out too right up until I tried to hem it. The fabric would NOT hold a crease for a hem, and once I'd finally struggled all my way around the (ENORMOUS) hem I discovered that the weight of the doubled over fabric makes the front edges flip out and exposes the wrong side. As a result, though I still like it, I'm also mildly irritated by it.

b. A cardigan in a fine open-weave knit

McCall's 6844 View B in navy lace knit
This is everyone's favourite cardigan pattern of the last couple of years, McCall's 6844.

I've made this pattern before, but in a very different fabric (purple ponte) and a different view (C, with a peplum). I learned from that previous version and added about 2.5cm width to the bicep of the sleeve and 1cm of squareness to the shoulders when I made this one. I chose this pattern because my fabric is VERY nice and also VERY expensive, and I definitely wanted to use a pattern I knew worked and that (with my minor changes) would fit.

Construction wise, it was extremely straightforward. You can only just see in the image above that the fabric has a faint lurex silver horizontal stripe woven into it, which was a bit of a pain to match but lined up nicely in the end. Other than that though, it's a very fine and light fabric, and yet also handled really well through the overlocker despite all the holes. I love how this turned out, and it's a perfect summer top layer.

c. Two items for my 2018 Magazine Challenge.

I bet you thought I'd given up on this! But no, although I didn't make anything in April, I made up for it this month by making two different things from the May issue of Burda.

Burda 05:2018-113 Top, images from burdastyle.de

Burda 05-2018-113A is a short sleeved knit top intended for heavier/sweatshirt knits, and it has a collar that is intended to stand up a little, and eyelet and ribbon trim. (Version B is similar but doesn't have the eyelets -- it has a tassel trim all along the diagonal seam.)

I wanted one of these the instant I saw the previews of this issue and then I wanted to make it even more when I found a perfect striped knit to recreate their version. Then I dithered, because the fabric was CRAZY expensive. I kept going and looking at the fabric listing, and putting it in my shopping basket, and then taking it out because it was ££££, lather, rinse, repeat. In the end I decided to get it because I couldn't find anything I liked even half as much, and hoped it was worth it.

My version (sorry about the terrible, super dark mirror selfie)
TOTALLY worth it. This fabric is gorgeous and I love how the pattern turned out.

I made my usual size 44 with few alterations. I was a bit stymied for how to alter for a smaller and squarer neck/shoulder line and in the end went with a straight size to fit my bust, which is kind of a step back, fitting wise. As a result, it doesn't have the "perfect" neck and shoulder fit I'm striving for this year but eh, it's an over-sized t-shirt. It's fine.

I left off the hem band (because I hate them) added some length but then, uh, took some of it away again when it came time to hem (so I have no idea, really, where I ended up in terms of additional length), and in the end I also left off the eyelets and ribbon. I bought the eyelets and everything, but when I tried them out on a piece of scrap fabric, I didn't like how it looked at all. Honestly, I don't think my version needed it -- there's SO MUCH going on with the painted stripe style fabric and the multi-directional stripes.

Worth noting: despite the magazine version being exactly like mine, the pattern as printed doesn't have the grainlines marked to make this with stripes running in a contrast pattern, nor does the fabric layout diagram show an appropriate configuration. I had to spend a little while squinting at my pattern before I got the correct grainlines drawn in

My second item from this issue of Burda was a skirt, 05-2018-105 (#104 is the exact same skirt, but midi-length).
Burda 05-2018-105 Skirt (images from Burdastyle.de)
I am not really sure why I was grabbed by this skirt pattern, but I really liked the look of it, and when I looked more thoroughly at it, I was pleased that it is bias cut, which I always think drapes more nicely. The pattern as written also has a back feature -- a self-belt on the back only that laces up through eyelets (again with the eyelets!). I'm sure it's very pretty, but (a) what a giant faff having to do that up behind your back would be; and (b) I never wear my tops tucked in, so nobody was ever going to see it. So I left it off. Other than that, I made a straight size 42 with no alterations except to add a little length. Actually I added too much length and ended up having to sew in a very deep hem. That's my own fault for mis-reading my own "preferred length" scribbles in my sewing notebook. Other than that minor misadventure, this was extremely easy to put together.

My version, and a close up of the (fake) pocket flap, turtle fabric and turtle buttons(!)
This was another expensive fabric, mainly because I bought it direct from Japan. I'm not normally one for novelty/cute prints at all, but I absolutely fell in love with these little multi-coloured turtles swimming around on a navy cotton fabric. From a distance it looks like a small floral, so it's also not too obviously "I'm wearing a novelty print!" either. I bought 2 yards (1.8m) about three years ago and I'm afraid it became one of those fabrics that I put in the ridiculous category of "too good to use". I am glad once I worked up the courage to cut into it that it turned out well. I even found little turtle buttons to go on the (decorative) pocket flaps! :D
June plans: Burda 06-2018-112 blouse and Burda 05-2017-113 skirt (if I can figure out how to lengthen the latter!)
Next up: making my Magazine challenge for June, which will be Burda 06-2018-112, a short-sleeved woven top with a pleated detail. I'm also trying to work out the pattern adjustments for a skirt from Burda 05-2017 that I meant to make last year but didn't manage for some reason (illness at a guess). I am a bit stuck because the skirt is very short (centre back length = 43cm/17") as written and I don't wear my skirts shorter than 52.5cm (21"). I'm not sure how I will go about make the skirt 10cm longer without messing up the angles on the front pieces.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

And moving swiftly on...

My last post was full of ambitious plans for spring/March and here we are on the 19th April and, as the recent radio silence might suggest, I have to tell you that I accomplished pretty much none of them. The last six or seven weeks have gone something like this:

- Minor illness (just a cold, but ugh, it seemed to go on forever)
- Apathy about sewing anything for warmer weather because it was so. damn. cold. and wintery for most of March, which turned into:
- Apathy about sewing anything at all for any reason, or really doing anything other than sitting around in a miserable heap. (I don't know why, I just had a serious case of the Idon'twannas for a couple of weeks about literally everything that wasn't essential to survival.)
- The Return Of The Major Withdrawal Symptoms, and all the fun times that go with them, which I am just now bouncing back from.

In the midst of all that, I feel like I've pretty much missed the window for sewing for Spring! Over the last couple of weeks, I have managed a few easy, essential projects for my wardrobe:

PJs in pink gingham
I made a couple of pairs of PJs (one capri length pair for spring/autumn, one pair of shorts for summer) in pink gingham using my trusty PJ TNTs (capris: Burda 8721, shorts: Ottobre 05-2011-02).

Navy cardigan and curved hem jumper

I also made two quick and easy repeats from a 3m piece of textured navy knit, using Simplicity 1733 to make a cardigan and Ottobre 02-2016-05 to make a lightweight sweater with a curved/hi-lo hem. I've made exactly this combination of patterns from a single piece of fabric before, and it worked out so well and I've worn those garments so often that I barely even thought about it before I slapped the patterns down on my fabric. The more I sew, the more I love having a library of reliable, repeatable patterns as well as having the constant novelty from my pattern magazines etc.

Although it barely merits a mention on the creativity scale, in the midst of all my misery I did also manage to work through a basketful of tiny, annoying sewing jobs: hemming trousers that I bought unhemmed, fixing seams and hems in garments that had come apart in the wash (and, I must tell you, of the half a dozen things that needed repair, only one of them was hand-made -- it's the RTW stuff that falls apart!) and cutting down/hemming a pair of RTW trousers into shorts.

Even though I didn't get around to the larger, more ambitious projects on my sewing plan, wardrobe-wise I do have almost everything I need for Spring. Everything else -- and in particular my plans for a raincoat -- will just have to wait until I start thinking about cooler weather sewing again after the summer.

For now though, I'm starting to think ahead to summer sewing. I've only two absolute essential garments that I absolutely must make this year: a lightweight cardigan, which should be straightforward and quick, and a pair of shorts, which requires me to re-open the whole question of making trousers that fit and is therefore not straightforward at all. D:

My list of wants (rather than needs), is much longer and potentially more interesting, and covers a little bit of everything from outerwear (I have a slightly odd cotton fabric to turn into a lightweight blazer), to summer skirts and dresses, to woven tops. First up, though, I still need to choose and make a project for my April magazine challenge, and most likely that is what I'll be back with next. :D

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

February wrap-up + March plans

We're in the grip of a particularly cold spell of weather here in the UK so obviously I finished up February by making a short-sleeved, light-weight top. Nothing like a bit of totally unseasonal sewing!

Ottobre 02-2018-01 "Valentine" blouse (Images from Ottobre magazine)

This is Ottobre 02-2018-01, from the Spring/Summer issue that dropped on my doorstep earlier this month. The issue has a bit of a vintage feel to it and I like it a lot. I definitely also want to make a couple of the knit dresses in this issue at some point and I plan to make one of the blouse patterns from this issue for my March magazine challenge. This top was just a bonus that I snuck in to my sewing queue for a couple of reasons: I wanted to make a simple pattern to see what I could transfer from what I've learned about fitting Burda patterns to Ottobre; and I was in desperate need of something quick and easy to make after sewing two more complicated items this month and having more of the same on the horizon in March.

My version of Ottobre 02-2018-01 -- the shoulders do not look too poofy here but...

My top is made in one of the oldest garment fabrics I had in stash -- in fact, I used the other half of the piece I bought back in 2012 for the first top I ever made (which was a disaster that I was insanely proud of at the time but never actually wore). I showed the photo of this new finished garment to a friend of mine and she was like "Your fabric has the screaming faces of the damned on it!" which I can't decide how to take, really. Maybe I should have turned the fabric the other way up.

This is my first Ottobre pattern since I've embarked on my recent "make my tops fit better!" campaign, so there was some trial (and error) involved in choosing the size. I went with a size 40 neck and shoulder, and size 44 through the body. I think I might have been better off with a size 42 through the neck and shoulder, and that is what I will try with my next Ottobre top pattern in March. Other than that, I adjusted for square shoulders (about 0.8cm), high round back (with shoulder darts) and lowered the bust point. I lowered the bust point a LOT, actually, Ottobre seem to draft for a woman whose bust is right up around her armpit.

On me, with visible shoulder poofiness

I made one change to the design of the pattern, which is that having eyeballed the neckline I decided I didn't need to cut the back in two pieces and have the button closure -- I just cut it on the fold so I could pull it over my head. This works fine, although I wish I had cut the neckline in a slightly lower scoop because I find that more flattering to my body shape. However, the biggest problem is that I just don't like gathered shoulders. I knew that going in, of course, but the modelled garment didn't seem to have the poofy shoulders that gathered shoulder garments often have and so I decided to risk it. Alas, my version does have poofy shoulders, and I am not a huge fan. I do like the full, floaty short-sleeve that you get as a result of the wide sleeve, but I probably won't make this pattern -- or anything else with a gathered sleeve head -- again.

And that's it for me for February. I am very pleased with my sewing output this month, even if some of it felt like very hard work at the time. :D

I am also calling an end to my winter sewing. It's actually still very cold right now and spring therefore seems very far off, but I like to have my wardrobe mostly waiting for me to start wearing when the change in season rolls around. For that to happen, I have to start sewing a few weeks ahead. That said, I don't actually have a spring specific wardrobe. In spring and autumn I typically just take out the heaviest clothes from my winter wardrobe, and substitute in a few transitional, mid-weight pieces and layering items. I usually add in a couple of warmer weather garments just in case we have a couple of days of more warmer, sunnier weather.

Here are my plans for March:

Planned raincoat pattern: Burda 08-2004-109 (images from Burda.ru)

- My most urgent spring/autumn/transition wardrobe gap is another raincoat. I did make a red raincoat in 2016 that I like a lot. It is still in my wardrobe and I've worn it quite often, but to be honest it's not the most useful colour coat when the rest of my wardrobe is so very heavy on blue, green and turquoise. I'm planning to make one in navy this month. I did consider making a classic trenchcoat, until I tried one on in a shop and remembered that actually, double-breasted, boxy cut, raglan sleeved coats are not my favourite look on me AT ALL, and I would be much better off with a different sort of pattern. The front-runner at the moment is Burda 08-2004-109. Is it weird to make such an old pattern? I feel like it's a pretty classic style but there's a part of me wonders whether it wouldn't be better to find something more recent.

- Long-sleeved cotton button-front shirts are a favourite layering item that I wear year round, so the "Make All The Shirts" plan continues (hopefully less painfully this month). I'd like to get at least one more finished before the end of the month, two if possible.

- My Magazine Challenge for the month is also a collared shirt -- Ottobre 02-2018-10. I don't dislike the March issue of Burda at all, but nothing really jumped out at me that I instantly wanted to make, nor from Knipmode March, whereas I am very taken with the slightly vintage-y look of this blouse. The personal/skill challenge for this one is that I have some doubts about the fisheye darts at the front, as that's a bust fitting method I've never quite managed to sew successfully.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Slow (but somewhat successful!) shirt sewing + a stress-relieving bag

After I finished my black and white jacket earlier this month, I intended to plough on, full steam ahead, into Making All The Shirts. Well, I did move on to making shirts, but the last ten days or so have been less a full-steam-ahead-shirt-apalooza, and more a lengthy and rather trying experience making a single shirt.

I've made several previous attempts to make a classic, button-fronted shirt, with mixed success. The best outcome I had was a chambray shirt I made using an Ottobre pattern in 2014, which is still going strong in my wardrobe. Since then, though, most of my shirt-making attempts have been unsatisfactory to some degree, mainly because of the fit. Most have ended up going into the recycling/donation box after very few wears because they were just uncomfortable to wear.

My big focus for shirt-making this year therefore is achieving better fit. I decided to start with something relatively simple with a solid coloured fabric (no pattern matching!) and a straightforward pattern. I was specifically looking for: a normal (not dropped) set-in shoulder/sleeve; a cut-on/folded button band; a back yoke; a bust dart; and a traditional collar + collar stand. My final choice was Burda 04-2010-114, which is, I have to admit, fairly uninteresting as shirts go, but has all the features I was looking for. I made this first version in an inexpensive navy cotton with a touch of lycra that I bought in 2016.
Burda 04-2010-114: Shirt pattern (images from Burda.ru)
I must tell you immediately, before I start complaining, that I think this is a really nice pattern and I will definitely make it again. All the problems I had with this particular shirt were of my own making! Overall, there are a LOT of sewing flaws in my completed shirt and as far as the finish of it is concerned, it's definitely not my best work. This was kind of depressing because I was really trying SO HARD to make The Perfect Shirt and that is really not what I ended up with. At all. In any way. Instead, I just had sewing session after sewing session where I just. kept. screwing. up.

My very imperfect navy shirt using Burda 04-2010-114

Everything I could have done incorrectly, I did incorrectly. I caught random folds of fabric in seams by mistake. The whole collar/collar stand sewing experience took forever, was utterly miserable and frankly the outcome doesn't bear up to any kind of close scrutiny. I also put the wrong interfacing on the collar and collar stand and made them much too stiff, but only realized how bad it was once I had already trimmed the seam allowances so drastically that unpicking/resewing with a new version would have been a nightmare. I set in a sleeve inside out. Two of my ten buttonholes were a complete and utter disaster. And so on. I don't think I've ever unpicked so much in my entire life.

Collar details. Not my best collar attempt and it took forever.
By the time I was 80% of the way through this shirt I was SO DONE with it. In fact, I was so done I very seriously considered binning it and moving on. At the very moment when I was contemplating shoving it in my fabric recycling bag, however, the post arrived and included a set of tools to install metal grommets that I ordered in order to finish off a tote bag. I took a time out and hit things with a hammer for a while (the results of which are below) and felt much better as a result! My screw-ups didn't end with the hammering, but I had worked off enough aggression to decide I should at least try to finish it.

Eventually, I got to the point where I needed to try on my shirt in order to position the buttons for my bust point. I was totally ready to hate it and declare it a wadder. I put it on and it was like: Oh! OH! This is actually really nice! And it is! There is one small fit problem I want to fix before I make a second version (the bust darts are just a little bit too long) but other than that, this shirt probably fits better than any woven top I have made to date, and it's certainly the best fitting button-front shirt I have made so far.

This is a terrible photo, but I took the other one standing in such a stupid pose that it was pointless.

In order to achieve this improved fit, I did a bunch of things that I have more or less established as my necessary adjustments to Burda patterns: lowered the bust point, did a rounded back adjustment and a large bicep adjustment, and raised the armhole). However, I also refined the fit in a couple of areas compared to previous sewing efforts.
Back view, more sensibly taken on a timer and not in a stupid pose.

- Dealing with the narrow shoulder thing.

I'm really taken with how much better tops and outerwear looks with the shoulder in the right place, which is sadly kind of a novelty for me. It was not something I could ever achieve in RTW clothes because I always had to buy to fit my bust, which reliably meant buying tops that were significantly too large for me through the shoulder. Until recently I've been making exactly the same mistake with my sewing -- sewing a straight 44 to fit my bust -- with exactly the same result. I've been working on this for the last few garments and I think I may now have cracked what my "usual" Burda adjustment needs to be for this problem.

With this pattern, I went back to the Burda size chart and spent some quality time attempting to measure my own shoulders as a starting point. According to the size charts, I'm a size 38 in shoulder width. I have taken this measurement before, but if I am honest, I've always kind of dismissed the outcome as an error on my part. It's very hard to measure your own shoulders, after all, and also honestly, I look at photos and in the mirror and nothing about my body shape says "narrow shoulders" to me. For this shirt, however, I took the radical step of believing the measurement and the Burda size chart. When I traced the pattern, I drew in the shoulder and armhole for both the size 38 and 44. Then I did a pivot and slide adjustment to blend them together, which ultimately meant hacking off just over 1.5cm from the shoulder seam. And it WORKED. This is the best shoulder width fit on a woven top I've achieved so far.

On the other side of the neck/shoulder issue, however, I'm still fine tuning my approach to the neckline. For this shirt I used the neck opening/collar/collar stand in size 44. Looking at it critically, if I pin the centre front of the collar stand together as if it were buttoned, it is clearly too big. It's not going to bother me with this shirt at all, which I will never wear buttoned up. However, I guess I know why so many previous Burda tops I've made have been too wide at the neck and prone to showing off my bra straps. I'm thinking for my next pattern attempt I might try believing the size chart again and make the actual size Burda's chart indicates for my neck measurement (which is size 40). You know, just in case that should happen to work. /o\

- Square shoulder. I have been doing a square shoulder adjustment for years now. With this pattern, the shoulder line is within the yoke piece, and I had to look up how to adjust that properly. Then I was sort of dithering over how much to adjust it by, and decided to try to be a bit more scientific than usual. It just so happened that I had just recently seen on someone's Instagram that they used a little clinometer app on their iPhone to get a better idea of *exactly* how their shoulder slope compared to a pattern. I decided to give this a go for this shirt pattern.

Nothing shocking came of this -- I looked at the slope for the shoulder in three separate Burda patterns I had out, and discovered they sloped fairly consistently at about 15-16 degrees. My shoulder slope is squarer at around 12 degrees. After drawing a bunch of lines, I concluded that I needed to raise the shoulder point of this pattern by 2cm, or, if I were using a pattern with a more standard shoulder seam, by 1cm on both the back and front. This is, in fact, pretty much exactly how much I usually adjust Burda patterns for my shoulders so there was nothing much gained immediately from this work. However, it should help me figure out my adjustment for patterns for other companies.

In conclusion: This is a lot of blather for a very simple shirt, but the upshot of it is that despite my miserable sewing experience and the poor finish I got, I really love this shirt because of the fit. I will definitely be back with another of these and hopefully will transfer a lot of what I learned making this to the rest of my Make All The Shirts plan.

Meanwhile, I also have a bag to show off! This has a rather long history, insofar as I cut it out back in August 2017, then realized I didn't have the right tools to finish it, got fed up, and stuffed it into a bag in pieces. I fully intended to get back to it, but you might recall I then keeled over and ended up in hospital in September last year. As a result, the whole thing went out of my mind until I was rounding up WIPs at the end of 2017 and realized that not only was the bag in pieces but I still hadn't bought a tool to insert the grommets. I finally put the bag together and ordered a grommet tool earlier this month. Hammering the grommets in place proved to be an extremely therapeutic interlude this week, and I am generally very pleased with how this bag turned out! The pattern, by the way, is the free Rope Handle Tote, from Sew4Home.

Monday, 12 February 2018

February Magazine Challenge: Black and white jacket (Burda 02-2018-112)

Originally, when all I had seen were the previews, I had more than half decided to make the latest Burda variation on a theme of wacky top (Burda 02-2018-107) for the February edition of my personal magazine challenge. However, when my copy of the magazine arrived, what actually leapt out of the pages at me was Burda 02-2018-112, a short boxy jacket with piping details:

Burda 02-2018-112 Jacket and technical drawing (images from Burda.ru)

Although I hadn't thought to make it until later in the year, I already had a piece of fabric earmarked for a short jacket. I had no particular pattern in mind, so I was quite happy to shuffle my plans around and use this pattern.

My version of Burda 02-2018-112 in black and white cotton sateen

I bought this piece of black and white stretch cotton sateen as a remnant and it was (a) very cheap, and (b) not very big -- only just about 1.5m and fairly narrow (about 130cm wide). I just BARELY had enough fabric for this pattern. Actually, let me amend that: I didn't have enough fabric for this jacket. I had enough for the main pieces but not the front and back facings or even the collar facing. Luckily, I had a similar weight fabric in plain white in stash that I could easily substitute in. Since those parts of the jacket aren't really visible, I didn't feel like this was a problem at all.

Side view on Flossie -- as you can see, I did make some attempt to match across the sleeve/body

I had just about enough fabric to pattern match to some extent, and some parts of my pattern matching are good: the center front, the side seams below the dart, and the side-to-side view across the upper sleeve, front and back bodice. However, the under sleeve pattern piece was very problematic. I probably needed another 0.5m of fabric, maybe even more, to get any kind of match. With the fabric I had I really couldn't do any better so, eh, whatever, I'll take the ostrich approach: I can't see the rear view of the sleeves, so it's not really a problem. :D

The other fabric/print problem is the hem. So, you might have noticed that the hem doesn't follow the lines on the fabric. I could find literally no way to do that with this fabric/pattern combination. Something was going to be screwy no matter how I cut it out, so I decided to focus on the things that were most important to me, as far as matching the print and pattern were concerned. Of course, I'd LIKE a hem that looked like it finished evenly on a black line all the way round the jacket, but I couldn't have it AND have the centre front/side-to-side match.

Rear view, with extremely dodgy under sleeve pattern matching
Design-wise, I made a two tiny changes from the pattern as written. I left off the welt pockets -- my reasons were 5% aesthetics, 10% fabric limitations and 85% not wanting to sew welt pockets. My second change was that I put the fold-back cuff pieces on the bias, partly to avoid having to pattern match and partly because I thought it would look more interesting. Everything else I did exactly as the instructions suggested except that, as usual, I bagged the (plain white satin) lining.

Piping detail at the collar/centre front
My favourite part of this jacket is how the piping turned out and the fact that I got that collar to look really neat and symmetrical. As you can see in the technical drawing, the pattern uses piping at the point where the cuff meets the sleeve, and there is also a long continuous piece of piping that runs along centre front on both sides and up and around the standing collar.

The piping is 3mm piping cord covered in a plain black polyester crepe de chine. This is the first time I've made my own piping. I've put pre-made piping in several bags and on one pair of PJs, with varying degrees of success. For this project I decided to buy myself an inexpensive piping presser foot to see if that made it any easier. I'm definitely glad I bought it -- the piping went in so smoothly with it. The presser foot I bought was only £3 off eBay including p&p, so not exactly a major purchase, and worth it just for this jacket even if I were somehow to never use it again.

The only place the piping foot didn't help was in the twisty bit at the centre front. I ended up sewing that whole section of the seam by hand because even with my machine set to sew as slow as possible, I couldn't get the control I needed to sew it together correctly. I don't do a lot of hand-sewing and I'm not the best at it, but I figured that part of the garment isn't going to come under massive strain at any point, so even my less-than-perfect hand sewing should hold together.

I probably least like the turn back cuffs. I used a heavier weight fabric for the contrast inner because it's what I had in stash that was suitable, and eh, it's OK, but they didn't turn out brilliantly and I couldn't get good points on the cuff edges worth a damn. I also don't love how the jacket looks on me when the cuffs are turned back, in part just because I have a horror of 7/8 or cropped sleeves on jackets, and in part because the length is the same as the jacket hem, and it makes me look like a plaid box.

Naff selfie front view, because my regular front views didn't come out. Please excuse the plant that appears to be growing out of my elbow

Fit-wise, I am moderately pleased. I started with a size 44 and made what I currently consider to be my "usual" fitting changes (square shoulder, narrow shoulder, raise the armhole, lower the bust dart, make a rounded back adjustment with shoulder darts). I feel like I am still figuring out the right amount of rounded back adjustment. I think this jacket would have benefited from just a little bit more upper back room.

Side and rear view on me (the rear view with the cuffs turned up)
I am not 100% happy with the fit of the sleeves at the back, but I had MAJOR problems getting them into the armscye anyway so I am not surprised. I took some height out of the sleeve head before I cut out the fabric, but then when I was actually sewing it I had to take even more out on the fly, and I always think that is a problematic way to fix a sleeve head problem. However, again, ostrich approach: the main problem in on my back underarm. I can't see it, so it's not really there.

Overall, honestly, despite all the flaws in this jacket, I am kind of amazed at how well it turned out. I won't say this was a throwaway project, but I really wasn't prepared for how much I'd like it or how pleased I'd be with some aspects of the sewing. Another win for the magazine challenge approach, since I am pretty sure I'd never have made this without that impetus. :D

Next up: Many shirts. So many shirts.