Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013: A Review

I was going to post this at the weekend, but then I had an unscheduled and most undesirable health situation and ended up in hospital again on Sunday. Pretty much sick of this being-sick thing now. At any rate, I'm at home again now and not entirely dead, so on with the sewing content!

At the beginning of 2013, I set myself a rather modest goal:
In 2013, I want to keep my goals simple: plan well and sew carefully... I'd really like it if, when I look back at 2013, I decided that on balance I'd sewn useful additions to my wardrobe. I'd like to feel that sewing was a hobby that made me happy, not stressed. I'd also like to feel like I'd improved my skills levels and could see that I could do more at the end of the year than at the beginning, and that the bags and clothes I've made reflect that I've taken the time and trouble to sew them to the best of my abilities.
That seems to have worked out pretty well for me! Certainly I made some really useful things that I've worn to death. I actually also had a little post-it note of some other smaller goals that I wanted to hit.

My year in brief:
  • I spent 112% of the budget I set myself for crafty endeavours this year. (Oops.)
  • I used or disposed of 71.5m of fabric (I donated about 6.5m of this total). Unfortunately, I bought 100.5m and since my goal was to use more than I bought, um, oops? I really have to do better on this one.
  • I sewed 22 wearable items of clothing, plus 1 UFO, plus 4 unwearables.
  • I made 7 bags.
  • I knitted 10 scarves/cowls plus 1 UFO jumper.
  • I made a dress and a jacket, but didn't quite crack the collared blouse I wanted to try this year.
  • I managed to make the whole outfit for the wedding I went to in June.
  • I entered 2 PR competitions.
  • I kept my Etsy shop in my preferred stock range.
  • I enjoyed myself!
And in photos:


Jackets: Embroidered beige linen (New Look 6911); Turquoise Linen (New Look 6911)

Even though I'm not very enthusiastic about either of these jackets any more (the beige one in particular suffers from being a colour that doesn't look nearly as good on me in reality as it did in my head) I consider these jackets to have been absolutely invaluable learning experience and I'm so glad I made them. They kind of exemplify what I wanted at the beginning of 2013 -- no way would I have thought that I could make a jacket, even a simple one, at the beginning of the year, and I did!

Tops. From left to right, top row: Black and white patterned 1 and 2 (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Red and white patterned (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Pink and green floral (New Look 6025). Bottom row: White with lace yoke (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Pale blue (Ottobre 02-2013-13); Blue polka dot (Ottobre 02-2013-02); Shades of blue raglan (Ottobre 05-2013-04).

As evidenced by the fact that I made seven of the Ottobre 02-2013-02 'Summer Basics Tee' in total (one never photographed as it was a muslin, which I now wear as a PJ top) this year, I absolutely love this pattern. The advantage of making the same thing over and over is that I can also actually SEE my progression in working with knits from the first version I made in spring to the one I made in late autumn. :D I have worn all of the tops constantly since I made them and plan to make replacements next year. I really like the other two tops and have worn them a lot a well.

Dresses. Grey with birds (Made by Rae Washi dress); Cream with birds (Made by Rae Washi dress, maxi variation); Black ditsy (Deer and Doe Sureau).

The left-most and centre dresses were my first ever dresses! Big skill boost: adjusting the Washi dress bodice into a princess seamed bodice! I love princess seams so much and will probably make this adjustment again some day.

Skirts. Top row: Brown crocodile (McCall 5431); Turquoise feathers (Ottobre 05-2007-03); Layered white and turquoise floral (McCall's 5431). Bottom row: Khaki "safari" skirt (Ottobre 02-2010-15) Border print maxi skirt (Lorenna Buck Maxi Tutorial); Pieced denim (My Image M1103)

I've recapped my skirts before. I really like all these skirts, though they got different amounts of wear. I'm actually really proud of the denim one I made most recently because the pieced sections came out beautifully.

PJs. Border print and non-border print PJ shorts (Ottobre 05-2011-02); PJ tops (New Look 6321); PJ bottoms (Butterick 5704)

PJs are always the most successful of my makes. Nothing has to match, look good, fit particularly well or co-ordinate with anything else in my wardrobe! It just has to be soft against my skin and survive the washing machine intact. (I do love these though, especially my border print version.)


From left to right: Raglan sleeved top (Burda Plus 01-2013-433); "Rose tee" (Ottobre 02-2007-05); Black and white blouse (Burda 05-2012-135); The Saddest Stripy top (Patrones 298-07). Muslins that didn't go anywhere, failed experiments and the boxiest blouse in the world. They have all gone to the great wardrobe in the sky, peace be with them.

I also have a UFO, the disappointing cape (Woodland Stroll Cape), which may or may not be salvaged in the spring and which I am therefore categorising as a UFO rather than an unwearable for the time being. 

Bags & Clutches

From left to right: Top row: Half-moon handbags. Middle row: Owl & Stripe Bag; Seafarers Satchel; Hollyhock tote. Bottom row: High Tea Clutch; Wedding clutch.

Most of these, with the exception of the Seafarer's satchel (middle row in the middle) which I gave away to a raffle and the wedding clutch (bottom right) which, as the name would suggest, was for the June wedding I attended, were made for my Etsy shop, which I then took offline for most of the year. I still like them all though! I plan to make more, more interesting bags this year, in addition to run-of-the-mill shop inventory.


From left to right (links go to related blog post): Top row: Skinny Beginner's scarf; Kit scarf 1; Kit scarf 2; Gaptastic Cowl; Kit scarf 3. Bottom row: Super Chunky Cowl 1; Super Chunky Cowl 2; Firefly scarf; Kit scarf 4; Taffeta Scarf

My knitting this year was basically a WALL OF SCARVES. My favourite is the purple and grey super-chunky (bottom, second from left), which I adore beyond all reason. I should definitely not make any more scarves for the foreseeable future though. I have one knitting UFO, the purple jumper of doom, which is now probably too big in addition to being dreadful.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The state of the fabric stash

Since I leave for the UK tomorrow, my sewing year is effectively over. This led me this morning, during a fit of procrastination when I should have been getting my apartment ready to go, to play with my fabric spreadsheet and try to figure out the state of my fabric stash. I already know that I totally flunked in my attempt to use more fabric than I bought in 2013 -- actually, I added about 30m total to the stash. Oops!

In 2013 I mainly just tracked total metres. This year I am going for slightly more detail in my tracking. The actual numbers below are of zero interest to anyone but me, but actually it was quite revealing as a way to look at my stash.

- A good 45m or 20% of my ~215m total is lining or muslin.
- I think you CAN see the effect of me trying to fabric fast in 2013, insofar as I clearly stashed much less than in 2012 (I didn't track use vs. buy in 2012).
- My ambitions have clearly always been greater than my talents, because I have a good 30m of fabric stashed for jackets or coats in spite of the fact that it's going to be a real challenge to my sewing skills to make even one.
- On the other hand, given my lifestyle, I'm pretty happy to see that although I've succumbed to the temptation to buy a few pieces of fancy fabric for evening wear I really don't have all that much. There's just 15m in stash, and all the rest is every day fabric for my normal life.

Strangely, seeing that list makes me excited to just start sewing my stash. I already have it! It's a sunk cost at this point, so I might as well use it. Plus, if I make mistakes with this fabric, I get to eventually go buy new fabric because there will always be more fabric. Plus it reminds me how much I LIKE my stash. My problem is more overcoming that novice sewers reluctance to "waste" nice fabric on inferior beginner outcomes than buyer's remorse.

The other thing that pleases me is that actually, I know what I want to do with most of this fabric. I have a little note on what I want to use the fabric for -- it's not hard and fast, in any way, right up until the moment I cut out the pattern, but it's an idea. I only have 18m of fabric where I have really no idea what to do with it, and most of those fabrics are decently sized remnants of fabrics I have already used once.

Total metres at 1-Jan-2014: 213.45m (89 fabrics)

By type:
Knits: 37.2m

Woven: 129.55m*
of which
Everyday: 86.05m
Outerwear: 29.95m
Fancy: 13.95m

Muslin: 30.0m
Lining: 16.7m

By length:
<1.5m: 20.8m (21 fabrics)
1.5-2.9m: 77.3m (36 fabrics)
3m+: 115.m (32 fabrics)

By age:
Bought in 2012: 150.75m
Bought in 2013: 62.7m

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Things that I Do Not Want

OK, here's the thing. When the whole kerfuffle about Cake patterns happened over at Debbie Cook's journal, I was mainly very amused.

Then I posted a negative-to-neutral critique of another indie pattern, the Liesl + Co Woodland Stroll Cape on PR myself, and AT THE TIME I said that I hope this pattern author isn't running all over the web responding individually to critique, because ugh, nobody wants that.Woke up this morning to discover that lo, the pattern author is running all over PR responding individually to critique. Her comment to me was short, and I am disproportionately annoyed by it. She said:

"Oh, I'm so sorry it didn't work for you! Our model was 5'8", and I'm 5'8" as well, so I'm surprised that it wasn't long enough. Our testers were all very happy with the length as well. I wonder if the larger size would have been better? Best wishes."

So, on the surface, nice enough, except it basically is saying "your experience of the pattern was wrong". I should have made a bigger size! Well, DUH, except my measurements, which I took SPECIFICALLY FOR THE PATTERN because my measurements are in flux ARE EXACTLY IN THE L SIZE RANGE and there's bugger all I can do at this stage to make it bigger. Other people my height think the length is fine! Well, the length isn't fine and I don't care how many people who claim to be the same height as me are happy with it, I am not. Her saying that is not going to make me go oh, no, you're right, it IS the right length, I was CONFUSED before about how long it was before. My cape is not the perfect length just because you are telling me it is. (Never mind that I already lengthened it 5cm and it's STILL too short on me.)

Here's my suggestion, should any indie pattern makers be reading (like, three people read this blog, so no, they are not reading): IF YOU ARE TALKING BACK TO REVIEWERS YOU HAVE NOT PAID, YOU NEED TO CHOOSE YOUR WORDS VERY CAREFULLY. Did she say ANYTHING remotely constructive to me? No. I think I can guess on my own that it's not the right size, thanks. I'd go make this point on the PR forums but it would open a massive flame war and I've spent the last week in a miserable heap for various reasons and haven't got the mental strength.

Honestly, all this has made me do is decide pretty much not to review any indie patterns ever, because they're all clearly unable to cope with customers with a neutral-to-negative experience of their product. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Another quick sample of sashiko

This design is usually supposed to evoke fish scales or ocean waves. I decided to try out a two colour combination for this one. I feel like I am getting the hang of the stitching technique now. This is about 16cm square and it took just a touch over two hours last night.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


The other day the people at Colette posted about Sashiko embroidery. Mostly, this seemed to be about them flogging their sashiko kits, which were way too expensive for me at $40 for a set and sold out within 24 hours anyway.

However, what really grabbed my attention was the image of a blouse embroidered with a sashiko design:

Sashiko blouse by mina perhonen

Now, I am not normally into embroidery, or embellishment or ANYTHING of that ilk, but you know when something is a sort of coup de foudre and you have to try it out? So, lacking the money to buy a pre-made kit, I went wandering around the internet to see if I could find enough resources to enable me to at least try it out. Between random stuff I googled and a couple of pages in a book I have about quilting, I managed to figure out most of the basics (I think) and draw a pattern on graph paper that is more or less a traditional design. I had a go first with a couple of simpler patterns and some thread, and then last night I sat down and tried a small square of the pattern. This is what it looks like:

Obviously, it has some flaws! You aren't supposed to allow the threads to cross each other or touch and I kind of screwed up some of the places where a lot of points meet -- the best one is the centre of the star on the bottom left, which is probably most like it's supposed to look. You're also supposed to be really consistent with the size of your stitches, which I was not, and the spaces between stitches are meant to be half the length of the stitch itself, which I also clearly got wrong. However, I think this is pretty good for a first real attempt! I'm not sure I'd want to do anything this complicated over a whole blouse though -- maybe something like this would be better.

It took a while to create the tissue paper pattern, which I placed on top of two layers of random scrap white cotton and then pinned into place. At first it's a bit awkward because even pinned it shifts a bit, but after you do the first long rows of stitching it stays mostly in place. My square is about 12cm by 12cm and it took me a total of about 2.5 hours to embroider -- an hour last night, about an hour this afternoon while I sat waiting for a hospital appointment, and a half hour once I got home just to finish off two lines of stitching. Actually, embroidering in public was an interesting experience. Normally nobody speaks to me at all in hospital waiting rooms but today two separate people asked me about what I was doing. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Cape Disappointment

Last month, I mentioned I wanted to make a cape. It had to wait until I went to London to buy lining fabric, and then for me to actually find the time to sew it up, However, I managed to put some time aside to cut it out over the weekend and have done about 30 minutes a day the last couple of days.

And I hate it. I am so annoyed. >:(

The pattern I eventually chose was the Woodland Stroll cape by indie designer Liesl + Co.  That plaid one on the left is the company image by the way.  Here's my official pattern review. I haven't taken photos yet and I don't know if I can be bothered. You can read all my problems with it on my review, but the upshot is: it's too small (even though I fit perfectly in the size range on my real, for serious measurements); it's too short; the pattern has stupid non-standard seam allowances which drove me nuts the whole time.

On the plus side, my actual sewing was awesome. Except now I have a 90% finished cape (I haven't done the buttons on) that is well-sewed but that I hate. The fact that it's too small is less of a problem than it might be since my weight is still changing -- it might fit in the spring. Maybe if I stuff this in a cupboard for now I might get over my loathing?

(I have been sitting on this post and review for a few days because I had followed the kerfuffle on Debbie Cook's blog where the indie pattern creator LOST HER SHIT over some critical comments. I don't have any reason to think the pattern-creator of this pattern is going to be running around like a 2 year old having a tantrum like the other person, but still.)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A birthday scarf

I know this blog seems to have descended into scarf knitting mania, but this one TRULY is my last scarf this year and we will shortly be returning to your regularly scheduled sewing posts. Honest! I have even just cut out my cape at last and will be posting about it soon, sewing time permitting.

Sirdar Taffeta in Portobello
Meanwhile, however, it was my birthday last week and my mum and dad came over from the UK to spend a couple of days with me. Since the baggage limits are pretty tight on RyanAir they mostly gave me money for my birthday, but they also brought me a couple of little gifts, the most relevant to this blog being a ruffler foot for my sewing machine and a scarf-sized hank of really interesting yarn called Taffeta by Sirdar in the "Portobello" colourway.  I haven't tried my ruffler foot yet, but I jumped right on casting on the scarf.

I'm not going to lie, I was initially utterly baffled by the instructions for how to make a scarf from the yarn that were printed inside the label, and even once I started knitting I had a highly sceptical O.o face going on the whole time.

However, after a half hour of knitting it all started to make sense, and I knit it on and off Friday and Saturday until I ran out of yarn, ending up with this:

I think it's really cute! It's got a slight feather boa look about it, and I love the colours and the fringe. Now I just need somewhere to wear it! (Although, this does make me think again about the amazing theoretical evening wear wardrobe currently still fabric that I aspire to own one day, and how well this scarf will fit into it.)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Goldhawk Road haul and two finished scarves

I was in London this weekend for a pre-birthday treat to myself (my actual birthday is this week). I stayed with my friend B, who also sews and was therefore willing to accompany me fabric shopping (although she didn't buy anything herself). Thus on Saturday we trekked across the pretty much the whole of London to go to Goldhawk Road for my second break from my fabric buying fast. When I moved to Ireland I decided I had TOO MUCH FABRIC and couldn't buy any more this year with two exceptions: the Dublin K&S show at the beginning of this month (where I bought just under 9m of fabric), and this trip to London, where I bought 14m. The only time I broke the rule was when I bought the sheets to use as fabric for my two Washi dresses in the summer, so I am actually really happy with my willpower! I went to London with a list of possible fabrics/colours/etc that would fit into the wardrobe I want to sew over the next 12 months, a budget and a very hard limit that whatever I bought had to fit into my little carry-on bag to come home to Dublin.

On my list were some requirements for lining fabrics for a variety of forthcoming garments. I bought 10.5m of various ridiculous colours and styles because I love a wild lining in an otherwise sober and sensible garment (the blue animal print, white blobby print, leopard print and blue tulip print are all lining fabrics). I also bought 2m of classic stripy shirting, and my absolute favourite purchase, 1.5m of gorgeous lace. The lace was a bit of a splurge, price-wise, and actually in the shop for some reason I thought it was stretch lace and it turned out not to be so that scuppered the original plan I had when I bought it. On the plus side, it's totally in my colour palette, I loooove it and I've already had way more ideas than I have fabric for what to do with it even though it's not stretch. Overall, I'm calling the fabric buying trip a win.

Meanwhile, I also made my friend B a tiny little gift of a scarf before I went. The yarn is Sirdar Firefly, and I bought it at the local yarn shop in Booterstown when I bought the yarn for my Gap-tastic cowl. It didn't photograph very well, unfortunately!

This is a really skinny, interesting yarn with two metallic and black threads connected by little squares in blues and greens. I picked up a single skein so, in order to make a scarf long enough to be useful to wear, I decided to knit it fairly narrow (20 stitches of garter stitch) and on my massive 15mm needles. (I tried on 9mm needles first but it wasn't quite what I wanted). It made for a very delicate looking, airy knit, but I think the scarf actually looks best sort of scrunched and twirled up together like a rope. I decided I wanted to make & gift this at the last minute and I am not 100% happy with the cast on row, but I didn't have time to fix it before I left.

To amuse myself in the boring parts of the travel experience (airports/the plane), I also took another little Aldi scarf kit with me. This red scarf is identical to the purple version I made at the start of October. It's really tremendously unexciting, but it was the perfect travelling knitting project because it required zero brain power. I really need to stop knitting scarves though now. Jumpers or death!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Made: Absolutely positively the last cowl I am making this year

Another really simple cowl -- same yarn (super-chunky from Aldi), same general "pattern" (moss stitch on gigantic 15mm needles) with only one difference that I made it slightly narrower (16 stitches wide rather than 20 stitches like the previous one) and therefore slightly longer. I'm not sure I love this length. Maybe the happy mean is the one stitch width I DIDN'T try of 18 stitches! Obviously it's also in a different colourway of grey/pink/purple. The only disappointing thing is that the previous one I made turned out in kind of an interesting pattern, whereas the variegation of this one just looks like regularly repeating blobs. However, I still like it! It took me basically just Sunday to knit this and again, I am really happy with the way this cheap and cheerful yarn worked out for me. I know a lot of people loathe super-chunky wool and I'm not likely to use a lot of it again, but it's been weirdly confidence boosting to knit with these two cheapie skeins from Aldi and I don't regret buy it.

That is absolutely, definitely the last cowl I am making though. They all go nicely with my winter coat, though, so I should now have enough to get me through the winter season!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Made: Another simple cowl

Super-chunky cowl in moss stitch

Weirdly, I feel like making this incredibly simple moss stitch cowl was a really great learning experience. There was no pattern to this at all, just 20 stitches of moss stitch until I almost ran out of yarn and then grafted together the short ends of the scarf to make it a cowl. I didn't make a single mistake in the whole thing, mainly because with knitting with such a huge super-chunky yarn it was almost impossible that you wouldn't see a mistake while you were knitting. I could really see the anatomy of the stitches, especially since I was knitting on huge 15mm straight needles. So, huge cowl to keep me warm, plus a great way to improve my knitting.

I'm probably not the biggest fan of these super chunky weight yarns, but I would recommend them to a learner trying to figure out what they are doing. The actual yarn was variegated so I had nothing to do with the colour changes - it's just one big 300g ball that I bought from Aldi for €8. I actually have another, more attractive ball the same except in grey/pink/purple which I might make up next. Unless I embark once more on the increasingly depressing purple jumper of doom.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Dublin Knitting & Stitching Show

Yesterday I toddled off to the RDS in Dublin to go to the Knitting and Stitching Show, which is on for the rest of the weekend. I've wanted to go to this event for a while, and I've been looking forward to going to the Dublin dates ever since I moved here at the start of June.

I got there late morning, just after 11am sometime, and toured the place spending my ill-gotten gains for about two and half hours. It made for a very expensive day given that it's €16 to even get in the door, but I enjoyed it nevertheless and the whole thing was a very pleasant break from my usual sense of geographical isolation from anybody else who does any kind of sewing. In fact, the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable except for the impact on my bank balance, which was not at all good. D:

Despite the name of the event, there were actually a lot of other crafts represented in addition to knitting supplies, fabric sellers and haberdashers. There were some stalls for things like papercraft and jewellery making, which I didn't really explore (I am interested in jewellery making but I cannot possibly engage in another expensive and stash-creating hobby). There were also some sewing machine manufacturers/vendors in attendance as well. The final category of 'Other Stuff' was quite diverse and ran the usual gamut -- people selling finished goods from designer handmade to chintzy semi-mass-produced crafty stuff (wooden clocks and the like), several stalls full of Made-In-China handbags, plus the usual semi-mass produced stuff like candles, massage oils, and, most randomly of all, a booth for the Irish Farming Times, manned by two men, one of whom I heard asking the other whether he'd ever seen so many women, ever. (Knitting and stitching events? 99% women, plus the occasional (a) manstander, holding bags and waiting more or less patiently for his spouse to finish shopping; (b) elderly Irish gentleman buying knitting needles, one of whom I had a long conversation with as I bought the most ENORMOUS 15mm needles and he wanted to know what I was going to do with them. He was buying new needles to make cabled socks). Additionally, there were crafty people and artists around the edges of the event and a big quilting display, and there were also classes but none of them really appealed to me so I didn't even consider going to one.

I concentrated mainly on the fabric stalls with an occasional foray into notions and knitting. There was a LOT of quilting stuff in the fabrics and much less suitable for apparel than I would have liked, but from the conversations I struck up with total strangers, garment sewing is really not a big thing here. (Although I'm stupidly shy, in some circumstances I will strike up conversations with anyone, and fabric shopping is one of those times.) I did buy some nice fabrics, of which more anon, although nothing really inexpensive. The knitting stuff I found disappointing. Almost all the knitting stalls were just selling mass produced wool, the same stuff you can buy from Deramores. There were some really nice artisanal wools here and there, but they were all so expensive that I couldn't justify buying anything without a specific plan for the wool. I did buy one out-of-print pattern, which I kind of wish I hadn't bought, and the aforementioned enormous 15mm knitting needles.

My major purchases, were of course, fabric. I bought 8.8m of fabric in total. From left to right: 1m of slinky turquoise jersey; 1.3m of plain black suiting for a skirt; 2.5m of blue and white striped Irish linen; 1m of a blue/green print; 1m of turquoise and brown stretch cotton; and 2m of blue/green checked Irish linen.

The best buys on that list were so VERY much the two pieces of linen. They were from a little stall being run by two charming ladies from Fabric Affair, who are actually based in Northern Ireland. They sell Irish-made linen and tweed fabrics. The tweed looked lovely, although I didn't investigate it very thoroughly (not least because it was INSANELY expensive). However, the shirting fabrics were just gorgeous: mainly blues and greens, all traditional stripes and checks. If I had won the lottery as I hoped yesterday, after my appeal to the universe, I would have gone and bought up everything they had today! Alas, in the absence of instant millions I initially restricted myself to just the blue/green check. Then I got to the end of my tour of all the stalls and found I still had some money left, and since the blue and white stripe was calling out to me, I went back and got that.

The good thing is that all of this has been bought with a very specific purpose in mind. It won't get used immediately because I want my weight to be stable before I start sewing some things, but those linen pieces will be turned into shirts in the summer :D

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Reviewed: Deer & Doe Sureau Dress & Ottobre 05-2013-4 Raglan Tee

These two items have absolutely nothing to do with each other except that I made them within a few days of each other.

Deer & Doe Sureau Dress

I bought this dress pattern because I kind of wanted the Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges dress pattern. That sounds confusing, but actually it made perfect sense because the one thing I didn't like about the Darling Ranges dress was that it buttoned all the way to the hem, and also the price. The Deer & Doe Sureau was in some ways simpler (no buttons at all, or only fake buttons) and, as I'm in Europe, it was cheaper too.

You can read my proper pattern review on PR here, so I am just going to add the babble that the (hyper critical) PR people apparently don't want to read in actual reviews. (I now never read those threads on the forum where people say how terrible reviewers are because I became so self-conscious about what I was writing in my reviews. My current plan is to be super factual in my PR reviews and reserve my general meanderings for this blog... which is a whole other thing where people get fed up about linking your blog from your review. Argh. People are so annoying.)


Sureau dress in black ditsy floral cotton
Fitting: I bought this pattern ages and ages ago, ran up a bodice muslin in the largest size and realized it was just way too small for me at the time. When I was recently contemplating making a dress with this fabric I ran up a second bodice muslin, still in the largest size because that's what I had traced, tried it on, and then went argh, no and tossed it in a corner. However, when I went back to it I decided that actually the fit was not as terrible as I thought. The big problem was, as always, the impact my square shoulders had, and once I fixed that (which is weirdly a relatively minor alteration, only a 1cm change, but eliminates SO MANY problems SO QUICKLY it's kind of amazing) I saw a vast improvement. The other thing I had to alter was the back, which has two massive waist darts that made the bodice far too tight on me. I released them and then pinned back in a little dart. I actually didn't have to do my usual midback width change OR a forward shoulder adjustment, so that was good.

Me, in the dress. It does need a belt for shape.
 The other thing I didn't do was an FBA, and this was a mistake. So, as mentioned I used the largest size, a 46, which is actually pretty much spot on my actual bust measurement, although it's 1 size too big for my hips (this is quite normal for me in RTW: going by hip and bust size I am always 1-2 sizes larger for tops than bottoms). Because the skirt is gathered, I decided I would live with the too-large hip and just make a straight 46. However... the neckline fit is OK, but it's not quite right. If I go by upper bust, I end up at a size 40, and then some kind of epic FBA is required, plus actually the back bodice is a really nice fit with the 46, so presumably I would have had to alter the size 40 back extensively. The upshot of all this is that I went with the size based on full-bust and had precisely the same problem I always have when I do so.

Other things I didn't do that I will need to do for the next version: (a) drop the gathers around the bust -- my bust is low and the gathers have an unfortunate tendency to puff up just above the fullest part of my bust; (b) add 2cm to the length of the bodice; (c) add at least 6cm to the length of the skirt. I had to do some mad thing with a hem facing because otherwise the skirt ended up WAY too short on me. As it is, it's just BARELY at a length I am willing to wear with tights.

Zip problem
Sewing: Actually, my sewing on this was really good! I took my time with it and didn't carry on sewing one evening when I was tired. Some nit-picky things: I didn't do the greatest job ever with the back neck/facing seams, or the bottom of the front neckline. It's not BAD, but it's not GOOD either. I did a lapped zip, but somehow with wearing it keeps unlapping itself. I think I missed a line of stitching somewhere. Luckily, it's under my arm and the colour is a good match to the fabric so it's not really visible. The waist seam at the zip is a LITTLE bit off -- less than 1cm -- but you can't see in this fabric anyway. Overall, I'm really proud of this dress! :D

Cost: This fabric was £2/m  for a 5m piece from eBay back at the beginning of the year. I used 2.7m, plus a zip, plus general overheads, so this dress set me back about £6.50, plus the pattern itself. On that note, I do think Deer & Doe are, like many indies, over-priced for what you get. You do get this really nice, solid, recycled paper pattern, and the instructions are glossy and clear. However, you only get one view of the dress and then some woolly instructions on making a sleeveless version and a peplum top version (although in the latter case as far as I could tell there isn't even a line on the pattern to indicate how long to make the peplum part). Luckily for my budget, this was the only dress that I really REALLY wanted from the Deer & Doe line -- a lot of their patterns are more cutesy/young than I really want to wear.

In conclusion: Probably the worst thing about this dress is actually the fabric, which I always had doubts about, though I am very happy to have used a nice stable cotton for the first run of this dress. I've been wearing it with a brighter top underneath and tights and boots and it actually is fine for an everyday autumn dress.

Ottobre 05-2013-4 "Monday Basic Raglan Tee"

Raglan tee in two shades of blue
I actually don't have all that much to say about this one. My PR review is here. I sewed a size 46 at the shoulders/bust and narrowed down to something like a 42/44 at the hip. I actually slightly over-estimated how stretchy this fabric would be over my shoulders because the fit is very close at the shoulders and biceps. Still, I like pretty much everything about this top except that the neckline is just a hair too wide.

The fabric is from Tissu -- I had two 1m cuts for £3 each and decided to combine them for this top (that splodge on the front is water, not a dye problem). I have a bit left of each colour, just enough to make something although who knows what. I am particularly pleased with my sewing on this one, because for the first time since my machine was moved I actually got my thread tension on my serger 100% right. \o/ I left the hem raw, mainly because I'm lazy and this is a top for the weekend.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

This post brought to you by frustration, bad light, and Vogue's newest pattern release

Frustration: I wanted to do a magazine review of both the recent Burda Style Special: Classics magazine AND Burda 11/2013, but I can't, because they haven't turned up at my house yet. :| I think the Classics magazine may have gone missing altogether because it was allegedly posted to me 18 days ago and has never arrived. :| I am not very happy, particularly since my newsagent is deathly silent on the matter and hasn't responded to my WHERE IS MY MAGAZINE enquiry.

Bad light: I have, however, been sewing! Unfortunately both of the things that I've finished are waiting for a day when the light is decent and I have enough time to take photographs. For now, all I will reveal is that I have successfully made one top and one dress (!) and further details will be with you soon!

In the meantime, what I can do is mock Vogue's new pattern releases. At this time of the year, of course, all the pattern releases are either full of party dresses for the Christmas season and crafty shit and PJ patterns to make for home-made gifts (of which I am making exactly NONE this year, sorry family). Vogue, not being much for the crafty/PJ stuff, is mainly party dresses, and also a bunch of winter-ish separates, none of which really grabbed me.

The one thing I might conceivably consider buying is actually a Marcy Tilton pattern, which is probably the first and last time you will ever see me say that. I have to admit that normally I am utterly cold to MT patterns, mainly because so many of them look like the clothing equivalent of a scrap quilt. However, I am weirdly in favour of V8954, a loose fitting jacket thing, especially in view C, below. When I say "consider buying" though, what I really mean is "feel vaguely positive about but never actually buy, because it's in no way worth £10+ to me".

As if to make up for producing something I actually like, the other Marcy Tilton pattern in this release is the world's most ridiculous hat collection. The most hilarifying (hilarious + terrifying = hilarifying) is this one, which looks like the crust of a mediaeval pork pie to me:

The other pattern a lot of people were getting excited by is this wrap top/skinny trouser pattern, V1378, but I have to admit I feel like Burda has done similar trousers about 20 times in the last 2 years, so I am unenthused (and never wear skinny anything anyway).

And finally, the WORST PATTERN IN THE WORLD, and the reason all these designers so desperate to take us back to the 1980s in fashion should GO AWAY, is this skirt and top ensemble made seemingly from bin bags, V1327.

The skirt alone is hugely unflattering, but when you add the top! Just. Why? The no doubt very thin model is swamped in it and looks like a pinhead because of the difference between the apparent volume of her body and the size of her head. Just, ugh, why? This is on top of the 80s style fishtail dress and boxy coats. Dear fashion world: nobody wants these trends. Make them go away.

The other thing I can do is look forward with extreme glee to the Dublin Knitting and Stitching Show, which I am planning to attend this Friday! \o/ I am going with a strict budget and a shopping list, outside of which I may not deviate. I will no doubt report back with my spoils at the weekend. :D

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bits and pieces

1. I am obsessed with the idea of making a cape. I don't know where this obsession springs from, because hi, it's like a 2 year old trend here, but CAPE. I WANT ONE. Here's the fabric I'll use if I decide to actually go ahead with it:

It was kind of a mistaken buy from eBay. I decided I wanted a plaid wool bias skirt and saw this for sale. Unfortunately, it was badly described by the seller and when it turned up it's more like a coating than a suiting wool. It was about £4/m and I have just under 3m available. I can't see myself making an actual plaid coat, with sleeves and everything, but a plaid CAPE, for some reason I'm really enthusiastic about it. Sometimes I wonder about my brain.

Right now I am trying to decide whether I want to make one that is more like this Lekala pattern or more like this Liesl & Co pattern. There's a big price differential and I can't see myself making more than one cape, so on that basis something from either Lekala or from my back issues of Burda is winning at the moment, from a purely financial perspective. I do need to pick up a lining as well, but I would need to do that no matter what I make with this wool.

2. My Seam Allowance ruler turned up in the mail today and I am FILLED with enthusiasm for it. I have been holding off on buying one and telling myself that adding seam allowances using a seam gauge is no big deal, mainly because the postage charged for the SA ruler is insane. To be fair, it turned up very well packaged and in one piece, which I do appreciate, but ouch, that was expensive for a ruler. Still, I was so very very over adding seam allowances with a seam gauge after I made the pieced skirt the other week that I finally pulled the trigger and got one. I also got a gadget for measuring seams so you can check them for equal length without walking them, mainly because I fully intend to make a million things with princess seams in the course of my sewing life and it's also very time consuming to walk the seams properly.

3. I haven't had the magazine yet but I looked through the complete collection of patterns for the November issue on the Russian Burda site and just. Yuck. I don't even know whether I can be bothered to review the issue, because there's almost nothing I like more than tepidly.

4. Really intrigued by this new web app for knitting patterns: Custom Fit. It appeals to me because my big complaint as I page through Ravelry tends to be that everything is so FANCY, and really what I tend to want from sweaters and cardigans are much simpler, more basic but well-fitted looks. Most of my favourite sweaters have come from Long Tall Sally, which are perfect in length for me on the body, but too long at the sleeves and not quite right at the bust. I might give the app a try once I am finished with the Purple Sweater Of Doom.

5. The other thing that arrived in the mail today was two issues of Patrones, the first of my subscription. The down side is that they're actually older issues -- August, to be precise -- so now I have to see if the newsagent I am using will put my subscription on hold for a month because I HAVE the next issues, which are the ones bought for me by my friends when they went to Spain. If not, I'll have to off-load them somehow, probably on eBay or PR. Ugh. However, there are several patterns in each of the magazines I got today that I like, especially tops, so that's quite encouraging and is getting me over my previous bout of Buyer's Remorse.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Reviewed: My Image Magazine M1103 and Patrones 298-07

This post consists of a win and a fail.

The Win: Denim skirt (M1103, from My Image S/S 2011)

M1103 - Technical drawing and scan from magazine

My results from My Image magazines so far have been a bit mixed - one semi-successful top that unfortunately disintegrated in the wash after 3 wears (bad sewing/fabric rather than the fault of the pattern) and one total failure of a dress (bad everything on my part, not totally convinced that there wasn't also a pattern issue). Nevertheless, when I decided I wanted to make a denim skirt for autumn I found half a dozen possible patterns in my collection but found myself continually coming back to this one, even though I am a bit dubious about dipped back hems (in the end, the dipped back hem is barely noticeable, though). It's pattern M1103 from My Image Spring/Summer 2011. There aren't too many reviews of this online -- I found one on PR and one via a google search -- but they both looked really cute, so I decided to give this skirt a go. For the sake of brevity on this blog, here is the link to my formal review on PR, and I'll just add some extra notes here with my photos.

Front view

- Fabric: This skirt is made from lightweight stretchy denim from Croft Mill that I bought in April 2012. I am sure I had an idea then what I would do with it, but for at least the last year or so it's lurked, unloved in my 'What They Hell Am I Going To Do With This?' pile. It cost £5.93 per metre including p&p, which makes it among my more expensive fabrics, and I had 2m. I used up 1.2m, which leaves me with probably just enough to do a short straight denim skirt next summer as well. Sadly, however, it's really not a great match to the pattern at all. It's genuinely a light-weight denim, but not lightweight enough that the flounces don't end up sticking out rigidly where they should be more flowing.

Back view

- Cost: The main cost was the fabric because all I needed other than that was an invisible zip and then the usual basic overheads. My total costs were probably somewhere around £8-9 (or €10, these days I guess!)

Close-up of the front just because I am proud of my seams and stitching
- Argh, pattern woes: The sizing is just totally wrong on this. I ended up taking 2cm off every seam at the waist and hip, for a total of 8cm off all round -- and worst, I had to take it in AFTER I had actually sewed almost everything, because of when I realized how bad a fit it was going to be in the sewing process. I do actually know better than to sew and topstitch to the point of no return before I try something on but I did it anyway. What is even more annoying is that previous reviews had all said that the skirt came up large but I made it in the perfect-match-for-my-measurements size 44 rather than an optimistic 42 to begin with. Ugh. In the end I cut the pieces that meet at the waist and side seam down to something very close to a size 40, so it really wasn't a well-sized pattern AT ALL.

Side view: the only view on which the dipped back hem is visible, and also you can see how I had to bodge the upper side seam

- Persnickety Sewing Critique: I was SO PROUD of the curved seams and finishing. There are a couple of teeny tiny errors, but nothing that I think it visible unless you know it's there. I wish I had got more of a point to the top of the side panel, which ended up more rounded than I intended, but I think it still looks OK. Then I had to hack the side seams open and reshape/re-sew them for fit, and that did a number on my otherwise awesome seam matching. It's still pretty good for something I had to unpick once everything was done and sew again twice, but it's not as perfect as it was. Also, the colouration of the denim obscures more of the seaming detail than I entirely expected, which is a bummer. Still, overall, I am pretty proud of this skirt. I did a good, but not perfect, job on the invisible zip, I'm really happy with my fake flat-felled seams and hem, and I like how the inside and the outside turned out. I sewed this skirt really slowly and carefully, and I feel like the result bears out that slower, more thoughtful sewing on my part produces an overall better outcome for me.

The fail: Patrones 298-07

I already have a few copies of Patrones and just recently, after some friends bought me a couple of issues while they were on holiday in Spain, I finally pulled the trigger on a year long subscription. I am already thinking that might have been a mistake and am having epic shopper's remorse, but never mind.

This top is from issue 298, which is from, actually I'm not even sure, 2010 or so probably. It's a "Joven" (Young) issue which basically just means the sizes provided are one step smaller (38-46 instead of 40-48), really, and there are a few that look more like patterns for teenagers rather than grown ups. I picked out this draped blouse top ages ago, more on the strength of the technical drawing than the sample in the magazine, however.

Patrones 298 #7
It's a simple draped neck bias cut blouse, sleeveless, with an asymmetric hem and asymmetric pleats along the side seam. It's meant for a woven, with an exposed zip in the back neck.

This is where the mistakes start. For ages I've been hoarding a single metre of a thinly striped blue and white poly-cotton jersey. I meant to make an Ottobre Summer Basic Tee -- you know, the tee I already have seven of -- or else use it as part of a stripe/solid mix raglan. However, two days ago I woke up and thought, no, you know what this could be? A draped bias blue/white striped top, very slightly (VERY SLIGHTLY) reminiscent of the Vivienne Westwood Anglomania blue and white stuff that was around for a long time. VW clothes always have interesting tucks and pleats and stripe directions, and so that's what I set out to do. I figured that knit vs. woven wouldn't make that much of a difference in this case, except I would be able to miss off the exposed zip. And anyway, it's a 1m pattern, who cares.

Front view: Note that Flossie is significantly different in boob shape to me, so this is not a totally accurate representation of how this fits (yes, I know, stuff a bra etc etc, I just don't have a spare bra right now!)
Um. Well, on the plus side, I legitimately love my many directional stripes. I have been brainwashed for years by the NO HORIZONTAL STRIPES IF YOU'RE FAT! rhetoric, and so bias stripes actually really do appeal to me because they avoid the question. I have the bias stripes on the front and back (the back was meant to be chevroned, but I screwed up when I was positioning the pattern pieces, alas), and then horizontal lines for the front waist band and vertical on the back neck binding. I really love it. I also legitimately like the way that the tucks/ruching along the side seam disorders the stripes, and actually, I like the way this drapes over my abdomen, although I wish it had had equal ruching on each side.

Side view. Note that I realized before I got into any finicky finishing bits that I was never going to wear this, so it's got loads of crappy seam finishes. This side has most of the pleats though.

Unfortunately, I dislike everything else. The neck is really high, so all the draping does is make it look like a weirdly baggy turtleneck. The armhole is INSANELY massive and dips almost to the bottom of my bra band. Also, for some reason I decided I should follow the instructions and make the back in two pieces -- done this way in the original because of it being in a woven so you could put the zip in -- rather than more sanely cutting it as a single piece. If I had managed to get the chevron look I would be less annoyed, but having screwed up cutting it as well, the back is just a dead loss.

Back view. Not only did I not get the chevron effect because of stupid cutting, I didn't get my stripes to line up either. SIGH.
I also suddenly remembered how much I loathe asymmetric hems, especially when the "short" side is too short on me. Finally, I have no idea what I was thinking making a sleeveless top, because I don't LIKE sleeveless tops and almost never wear them.

Possible future top
In short, a fail!whale of a top. No idea what I'll do with it -- the problem with cutting on the bias is that it's difficult to repurpose it. I might just fling it in the fabric recycling. It was genuinely cheap -- £3.50/m from Tissu ages ago -- so I don't feel a lot of angst about it, AND I did learn several useful things, the most positive of which is that I'm really into the idea of tucks/pleats/playing with direction with stripes, and I do like the ruched effect. On the latter front, it encouraged me to look again at a particular Ottobre pattern from the most recent issue that I had picked out but then hummed and hawed over, 05-2013-16, because I think it could be a top I wore a lot. The only problem is getting the bust fit right on that upper bodice piece. There is a little adjustment process suggested in Ottobre, but I don't think it's meant to deal with my particular enormous boob problem.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A casual autumn dress: pattern deliberations

Having decided that to hell with preserving my stash against some nebulous future where my weight is stable, I have been contemplating how to use a black ditsy floral fabric I bought right at the beginning of January. I wouldn't ordinarily have said that this fabric is at all my style. Actually, I'm still not convinced that this fabric is at all my style, but I am determined to try it out because I also wouldn't have said a border print with birds was my style and I love my border print Washi dress and wore it loads this summer.

Ditsy print draped on Flossie and a close up

I think it's actually hard to work out what colour this fabric is. The base is black, obviously, but there are tiny blue and green flowers and grey leaves and stems covering like 99% of it. From a distance it doesn't even look floral, just sort of like abstract splodges.

I have 5m of it, it's a 100% cotton, 110cm wide fabric. I'd have said it was quilting cotton, except it's actually nicely drapy and surprisingly, for a 100% cotton fabric, doesn't seem to crease too horribly.

Next question: what pattern?

My first possibility is the Washi dress again. I tried on my previous version and decided that actually the pattern version I have right now is actually a great fit for a casual winter dress, mainly because the elasticated back makes up for any fitting problems. It would probably need a tiny bit of adjustment at the bust, but because it was (to be honest) too tight when I made it, it's now at a comfortable level of loose. Plus, there's a free sleeve pattern piece available from the pattern creator, although I don't like the gathers on the sleeve head. However, I don't really like how it looks on me with a cardigan buttoned over the top, because of the high waist. I'd really kind of like a natural waist dress if I can find one.

Front runner among the alternatives right now is this 1970s Simplicity dress pattern. The only problem is that it's a half size, which is a nuisance because I'm 5'8" tall and will therefore need to lengthen the bodice. Also, I am fully intending to princess seam the bodice rather than play with darts. At some point I am going to have to get over my fear of darted close fitting bodices, but this is not that time. The only problem is that I ardently dislike the long-sleeve and would have to find something else.

Another alternative is a shirt dress and probably I would use Simplicity 2246 and use view C, the one with the gathered skirt, rather than the straight version. However, this would require me to overcome my fear of button-holes, and also, darts. However, this dress is clearly not meant to be close fitting, and I do have a darted sloper for a more relaxed fit top that I could hopefully put to use with this pattern. I just need to work out of course if my darted sloper actually still fits.

I had one other dress in mind, the Deer & Doe Sureau, which I bought ages ago. Yesterday I ran up a very quick straight out-of-the-envelope muslin in what I thought might be closest to my size and it was such a MESS, dear god, that I couldn't face thinking about all the alterations I would  have to make. I've put it on one side for now because I do really like the pattern and I'll maybe think about it again some other time. I actually think it's another bodice that could very easily be made to fit simply by princess seaming it.

(I have weird sewing guilt about my extreme reliance on princess seams, but they're just so EASY compared to darts when you're sewing around the Boobs of Doom.)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Two finished objects -- and one of them I sewed!

Unfortunately, neither of them are very exciting, but on the basis that nothing exists if you don't blog about it...
Knitted scarf from an Aldi kit in purple
First (and most unexciting of all) another super quick little knitted project, for which I used a kit from Aldi. It's a weirdly bobbly fashion yarn in Cadbury's Dairy Milk purple. I actually love it, but a work of knitting genius it is really not: 11 stitches of garter stitch, keep going until you run out. Even I managed that without too much difficulty!

Scarf hung loose, also, assorted detritus in the background
Sadly, it's a bit shorter than I really like in a scarf if I'm going to wear it hanging, but I do like it rolled up like in the first photo in the neck of my grey winter coat, so it's at least still useful and it was €4.50 for the kit so I don't really care. (Not sure why I took this photo without moving the box that is waiting to go to the tip and my knitting bag out of the way, but never mind!) Now I just have to convince myself not to start another new easy project but to get on with finishing the Purple Jumper Of Doom. :|

Item no. 2, and officially the first garment I've produced in my new flat, and it's yet another iteration of the Ottobre 02-2013-02 "Summer Basics Tee". For anyone keeping count, why yes, this is version number 7 I've made. I might be slightly obsessed with this pattern.

Ottobre 02-2013-02 version number 7 (no, really) in blue polka dot cotton jersey
I had to re-trace my pattern for two reasons. First, I use really cheap thin tissue paper to trace at the moment and frankly 6 uses was as much as it could take. It was more tape than tissue at this point. I really need to find something better to copy patterns I want to re-use onto, though what that would be I have no idea since I balk at the horrible cost of swedish tracing paper. Second, there was a sizing issue. Previous versions were a fairly straightforward 48 shoulders-to-bust, blending to a 46 at the hip. This version started off a 46 shoulder-to-bust, 44 hip, but after a series of surgeries ended up around a 44 shoulder, 46 bust, and 42 hip. The surgeries did not improve the finish I got, but whatever, this is just a t-shirt for around the house, I can live with a mediocre finish.

I have a whole laundry list of alterations of this top at this point -- neckline narrowed by 4cm (unfortunately, I did 3cm on this top and it JUST flirts with showing my bra strap, which I hate) armhole dropped by 2cm, different neckband application, 5cm cuffs to finish the armhole rather than a bound edge. The newest change, suggested by a friend of mine, is a skinny banded hem finish rather than the usual twin needle hem that I do, top stitched (as was the neck band) in order to prevent it from curling over.

Cuffed hem, top stitch to stop it curling up.

I wish I could have made my band a little less skinny, but alas, I had an allegedly 1m cut that was the most mis-shapen 1m I have ever seen. It was 94cm along one selvedge and 106cm down the other. I was lucky to get the top, neck binding, cuffs and even a skinny hem band out of it. It came from Tissu, who usually do a much better job with cutting, and it cost £4 for a metre (with free p&p because I bought it with a bunch of other stuff).

After my 7 iterations, I've made 3 cotton jersey (including this one), and 4 slinky jerseys of various descriptions. Overall, I think it makes up best in the slinkier stuff with good recovery. The cotton jerseys slowly stretch of the course of the day so you start off with it catching at the hip as intended, and by the end of the day it's hang down over your butt.

Next up, I am tracing ALL THE GARMENTS IN THE WORLD, since I have three separate new patterns that I want to make from magazines this month. Luckily I quite like the tracing process, or at least I don't object to it.

Terrible selfie to finish off!