Thursday, 31 July 2014

House move woe :|

Argh. In theory I was supposed to be moving in this weekend but ahahaha, no. Not going to happen. The kitchen was supposed to get fitted on Monday, but on Sunday the kitchen people texted us all 'We have an emergency! It'll be another week!' which, OK, but I'm pretty sure there aren't kitchen emergencies so your guess is as good as mine what they were REALLY doing.

Thus: still no kitchen, no real move in date (MAYBE next Thursday/Friday? Maybe.) and therefore: hard to say if there is much prospect of sewing for another week or so. SIGH. I really WANT to sew, I need the stress reduction that it provides and also, I really want to make up the two pieces of fabric that I bought in July. I am BARELY holding from a spoiled toddler tantrum. I WANT TO MOVE IN. I WANT TO SEW. I AM TIRED OF BEING IN LIMBO. Ugh. (On the other hand, being home with my mum is actually also great, so I am not a TOTAL toddler.)

I did manage a teeny tiny project today. I bought myself a long, wide quilting ruler when I moved back because I was struggling to make bias binding with the rulers I had. I've been meaning to buy one for ages, but I couldn't find a metric one that I liked/could afford. I finally found one on eBay just recently. I made three small pieces of fabric into bias binding -- one random fat quarter of white with pink roses that I got in a bag full of fabric, and two remnants of floral Liberty fabric that were too light for bag or pocket lining. The ruler definitely improved the process, so I am pleased with that purchase.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Post-move sewing planning

Ten days later... one completed house move across the Irish Sea! I am back in the UK in my home-town (south Manchester).

When I say my move is "completed" I mean that my possessions and I have made it more or less in one piece from one place to the other. Almost nothing is unpacked yet. I opened up a couple of my sewing tea chests today make sure a few of the more delicate things made it intact, but otherwise it's just a sea of stuff in boxes. Partly that's because I feel kind of blah after the massive effort to get myself moved, partly because it's HOT here (people in actual warm climates may laugh at my definition of hot, but I am not good with even British standards of hot), and partly because alas, my kitchen is so far from done as to render the house presently unliveable: it's basically an empty room without even a water supply! So it'll be at least another week and maybe as much as two before I actually move in properly to my new house.

Sad to say, this does mean my sewing continues to be curtailed by move-related practicalities, but that just means I have more time to make and discard a million sewing plans.

Unexpectedly moved to top of my to make list: another Pauline Alice Carme, with some further minor pattern fixes. I LOVE the black one I made for the mini-wardrobe and I really want another one. After wearing it twice so far I know I definitely need to fix the sleeve length and I think it would benefit also from a small round back adjustment. I have been making so many knits that I forget that that is one of my fitting issues normally in wovens. I've picked a totally different fabric, this time one with a print, that I think will look great with this pattern.

Burda 07-2012-114
The other woven top I am thinking about is one I've had on my list for an age: Burda 07-2012-114. It's an even simpler pullover blouse but I really liked it when the issue first came out. I was put off by the lack of bust shaping previously but I feel like I have that cracked now, plus I have seen several versions on women with similar body shapes/sizes to me online and think it looks really nice. I may make a couple of these as well in very different fabrics.

Ottobre 05-2012-07

And finally, one of my big plans is to make a chambray button-down. Making a button-down is a big goal of mine and I really want a chambray shirt. At the moment I think I am going to start with a muslin of Ottobre 05-2012-07, except without the colour-blocking. I spent part of today reading Shirtmaking by David Coffin and I am quite keen to try out some of the techniques he recommends.

And in addition to all those blouses, I am also keen to make some bags over the next month or so.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Bits and Pieces

1. I have packed up my sewing room except for my magazines. It's so annoying not being able to go do a bit of sewing whenever I feel like it but since I move a week tomorrow it was necessary to get everything ready to go, alas. Packing up even that much turned out to be MUCH harder on me in my current state of health than I expected so I am very glad some family members are coming to help me out with the rest in a few days.

2. In the absence of sewing projects to do, I decided to cast on yet another pair of socks. So far, all my socks have just been straight stocking stitch because I pretty much felt like I had enough to cope with working out how to knit socks at all. This time I decided to try out a pattern with the very smallest amount of extra complexity, and picked Hermione's Everyday Socks (Ravelry link), a very popular free pattern with just the smallest of added details of a little texture. It's going swimmingly so far, except I managed to make one stupid mistake in the ribbing that I didn't notice soon enough and now can't fix without essentially frogging all the work I've done so far, ugh. That is the worst thing about knitting.

3. My commitment to fabric fasting is hanging by the barest of threads. It's fatal to be sick and therefore stuck in bed idly wandering the internet AND moving back to a country with much better online shopping. I'm going to see if I still want the things that are in my shopping basket when I am closer to actually having moved in and able to take delivery of stuff. Maybe my interest will wane between now and then. (Ha, ha, listen to my hollow laughter at that possibility.)

4. I already did buy a couple of books, mainly second-hand. One of them was this book on Shirtmaking by David Coffin. Reviews seem mostly positive everywhere I've seen. I'm probably a bit far off "fine sewing" skills, but I felt like it was probably a useful book if I wanted to start to improve on the finish I got on my Carme blouse. The other books I bought were similar: technique books for home-sewing generally and finishing/sewing advice for tailoring. The shirtmaking book in particular though should be of immediate use to me, since I plan to move on to a proper button-down front shirt once I am back and set up again ready to sew.

5. As you might guess from that description of the things I am reading, I have VERY ambitious plans for my sewing for the second half of the year: shirts, obviously, also trousers, a dress, at least one jacket or coat, and not just like, the unlined linen version of a jacket that I've made before, etc etc. I feel like I have somewhat turned a corner in my attitude towards my sewing. For a while there I felt kind of intimidated by more complex projects. Now I feel a bit like, eh, life is too short to be intimidated by fabric and thread. What's the worst that could happen anyway? I make something so terrible it is consigned straight to the rubbish bin. Well, I mean, that would be kind of sad, but not exactly world-ending. One thing that helps is that I am determined to manage my wardrobe. If I want to keep the total number of clothes I have under control and own only things that I really want to wear, then at some point I have to either make the things I want to wear or else decide that I'm NOT going to make them, or even try to, and go out and buy them. I think it's worth at least TRYING to make some of the things I want. If it doesn't work out then, eh, it doesn't work out. At least I'll know!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Mini-Wardrobe: Outfits

Last post on this, I promise!

The rules of the mini-wardrobe competition are that you have to make 5 items and have 6 outfits at the end. My mini-wardrobe makes exactly 6 outfits: each of the three tops with each of the two bottoms. You can't even really layer any of them. I really did go for the most simplistic of all wardrobes.

At any rate, here are my outfit photos, taken on my balcony for a change rather than in a corner of my sewing room! I actually like all my outfits although I am not 100% certain I would choose to wear the pattern-mixy polka dot top/print skirt outfit very often. Sadly, the details of my black top are rather obscured as well and jacking up the exposure to show the details like I did for the garment shots just made it look like I had ethereally glowing shorts on.

And that's my mini-wardrobe wrapped up! It was really fun to do, and I am glad I found a way to build in some things I really wanted to make (the Carme blouse in particular). I don't care at all that it's now going into the competition thing where I will get, most likely, a grand total of one vote provided I am allowed to vote for myself. :D MUCH more importantly I am going to wear one of my new outfits when I go out to dinner with one or two people from my former department next week, and everything else will just get absorbed into my normal wardrobe from here on in.

Unfortunately, I'm now on sewing hiatus until I get set back up after the move to the UK. No doubt I will write blog posts containing my usual amount of nonsense, but I won't really be actually making anything for a couple of weeks at least. (Except for the inevitable knitting, of course!) I have such big plans for what I am going to sew in August though, once I am moved in and sorted out and back on track with my work. :D

(Also, totally unrelatedly, I noticed that the official release date of the 05-2014 Ottobre is the end of August, which means hopefully we should start seeing photos soon! I liked Ottobre last year but this year I am NUTS about it. So many of the projects I want to try out over the next few months are from Ottobre!)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Mini-wardrobe: Tops (Ottobre 02-2013-02, Ottobre 02-2013-16, Pauline Alice Carme)

Part 2 of 3 of my mini-wardrobe. This time, the three tops I made. I am reserving most space to talk about making the Pauline Alice Carme blouse at the end.

Ottobre 02-2013-02 (again!) in white and black polka dot
If I had very little to say about making the white shorts, I have almost nothing at all to say about making the black and white polka dot top. This is Ottobre 02-2013-02, and it is my ninth iteration of the pattern. In fact, I made a version of it last week (my paintbrush top). (I did update my official review if you're interested). The reason I make this pattern so often is that, well, for one I really like wearing these tees, but also because it requires pretty much exactly 1m of fabric with little wastage, so it's very economical. This fabric is from Tissu. It's a viscose/cotton/lycra mix and it has a very nice texture. Total cost of this tee: £8.50.
Ottobre 02-2013-16 "Duo" in white jersey and white stretch poly satin

You might be thinking to yourself: why is this a different pattern number? Is that not the same t-shirt? And yes, it mainly is, except Ottobre gave this version, which has a whole two extra lines of stitching (plus a pocket, which I didn't use because I don't like pockets on tees) a different pattern number and a different name. I made my version in a scrap of white jersey left over from my blue and white raglan tee from earlier this summer and some stretch white poly satin also from Tissu. As usual my only major pattern alteration was to add 5cm cuffs to the sleeves. This time I made them in the satin fabric for that extra bit of contrast.

This was quite a problematic make for all that it's my tenth version of this very basic tee. The first iteration, I decided to change the position of the upper/lower bodice line a little as otherwise it was going to bisect my bust more or less at the apex, which is not such a great look. However, I lowered it too far and the proportions looked just a little bit off. Then I didn't get the stretchiness/width ratio right on the lower section in the (not very stretchy) stretch satin, and it was rather tight across my hips. Also, my overlocker went mad as I was stitching the horizontal body seams so I had a couple of places where the stitches were too loose and almost visible. This was the point where I was like, eh, this is not working, and hastily made the polka dot top.

However, once I decided that I didn't want to make a completely different sixth thing, the challenge became to make this top work, to paraphrase Tim Gunn. Luckily, I still had half of the 1m of stretch satin I'd bought, and all the problems I had had a single easy solution. The white jersey section was too long, so I just cut off a bit of it plus the lower satin section and tossed it, recut and re-sewed a new satin section and sewed them together. It took about 20 minutes and hey presto, the actual top that I had planned on and that I really like. Although on Flossie here it looks like a straight tee, it actually just catches on my hips and puddles the way the polka dot version does. Cost: £5 (for the stretch satin, basically, since the white jersey was in my scrap bag and therefore notionally "free" in my head).

And finally, the top I am most excited to have made for this competition, the Pauline Alice Carme. I've reviewed this properly on PR, so here I'll just mindlessly blather.

Pauline Alice Carme in black cotton lawn
The Carme is my first step towards my Ultimate Goal of making a million woven collared, button shirts/blouses of all descriptions. Well, not a MILLION, but a lot, anyway. I am going to blather MORE about my shirt-making intentions some time this month because I have decided that August should be the Month of Shirt-Making. This Ultimate Goal is actually one of the main reasons I got into garment sewing in the first place. Historically, shirts and blouses have been a huge problem for me to buy RTW. In short: RTW shirts and blouses are terrible and their manufacturers should feel terrible. On the other hand, the reason I haven't ventured into this is that shirt-making is FINICKY. There are so many details (collars, cuffs, button-holes, etc) and so many of them are really front and centre obvious if you get them wrong. However, I suddenly kind of realized I wasn't going to get any better at any of those details by never working on them, or by waiting forever and ever to see if my weight/size will stabilize. At about the same time, I stumbled across the Carme blouse and immediately bought it.

Pintuck yoke newly cut out from prepared fabric, and in situ in the blouse
What attracted me to the pattern was the pintuck section, which reminded me strongly of a blouse I still have in my sewing room for future copying purposes after I wore it to the point of death and beyond. Actually making the pintuck section was surprisingly enjoyable. The pattern has you make a simple pintucked rectangle and then you cut out the yoke section once it is done. It's a lot of running back and forth from the iron to the machine, but I found I really enjoyed the process of creating it. However, I am not sure I 100% love the proportions of the yoke section on my body. It definitely looks better on the (petite, slim) pattern creator and many of the smaller busted pattern users I've seen on the internet. I don't hate it, though!

Back of blouse
Other things I really like: the shaped hem, the fancy button placket (MUCH easier than I thought it would be and although the outcome isn't quite as perfect as I would have liked it is good enough for me to be happy), my simple black star buttons, my amazingly perfect set-in sleeves (I am getting GOOD at setting in sleeves!).

Sleeves rolled up with tab, shaped hem more visible from the side view
Details that didn't work out quite as well as hoped, though: the collar and cuffs, the button-holes and the fit. Fit-wise, I used my Ottobre woven tee pattern to help me pick a size and adjust the pattern. Ostensibly I am a 42 shoulder and a 42 hip for this pattern but uh, no. I made a 44 after comparing and still didn't feel like it was an overly generous pattern. I did an FBA and lowered the dart SUBSTANTIALLY (it's up around your underarm as written and I don't think my bust apex was EVER quite that high). I also added 2.5cm of width to the bicep and 2cm to the width of the cuff (it turns out I have huge wrists! WHO KNEW). If I made it again, I'd add a smidgeon more width to the bicep and also some additional space through the upper back since I find the fit to be tight. I'd also lengthen the sleeves CONSIDERABLY. I thought I'd done a good job of measuring the sleeves/cuffs to get them to come out the right length on me, but no, actually, I did a terrible job and these sleeves are just as annoyingly short on me as many a RTW blouse. Clearly, that is something I am going to have to work on figuring out. In this particular case, I am not too massively upset about the too-short sleeves since I fully intend to wear them rolled up with the button up tabs 99% of the time.

Sleeves rolled up, buttons undone -- more realistically how I will wear it 90% of the time
As far as the other less successful details, some of it was inexperience (especially the button-holes, it took me a while to figure out how to get a good result from my buttonhole foot/sensor thingy, etc) and some of it I am pretty sure is that the instructions for this pattern don't use a method conducive to an A+ finish. I am going to do some reading on getting better results for cuffs and collars because eh, no, I'm going to have to do better that this for me to be happy with shirt-making outcomes. My finishing on this is totally unremarkable -- I swapped out my overlocker thread for black and overlocked all the seams, including the yoke seam. I was going to do French seams on the body at least but when it came down to it I decided not to bother. I'm not sure how you could finish the yoke/body seam any other way that overlocking, actually.

Fabric-wise, I needed 1.8m of this plain black cotton lawn for this top. On the one hand, using 100% cotton lawn was a great idea from a "novice shirt sewer" perspective. It was super well-behaved, could be ironed into perfect pintucks, and was very easy to sew. On the other hand, it's a little bit stiff so it tends to stand away from the body, which I don't prefer from a wear perspective. I do tend to like my tops a little drapier and body-skimming. There are drapier cotton lawns, and I would probably want to find one if I were going to make this again (or use a blend with more drape) even though it would make wrestling with the details of the pattern that much more complex.

My fabric was from eBay and set me back £5.50/m, so about £10 in total. The buttons were from the Cork Button Company and were stupidly expensive (everything on the internet in Ireland is stupidly expensive). So, around £15-ish probably altogether. I also bought the Pauline Alice pattern as a PDF for €8, of course, although I generally don't track pattern costs in my overall costs (for no very good reason, other than that I used a lot of magazines which makes it difficult to apportion cost).

Overall, I'm really pleased with the outcome of making the Carme blouse. It looks just like I imagined with the skirt and shorts, and it was a really good way to dip a toe into shirt-making.

Up next, my final mini-wardrobe post will be my outfit photos :D

Monday, 7 July 2014

Mini-wardrobe: Bottoms (Ottobre 02-2007-12 Skirt; Ottobre 02-2014-06 Shorts)

I've finished my mini-wardrobe! I know, crazy, right? Six day mini-wardrobe! It's finished though mainly because I really thought about what I would do instead of that Wiksten tank and I felt more and more like the second knit top I'd made was good enough. I decided if I made a 6th thing I'd just be making something for the sake of it, not because I wanted it or needed it. Since I hate the idea of that, and anyway REALLY need to get on with my packing, I decided that the top I'd made was good enough, and called my mini-wardrobe DONE.

I'm going to split my blog entries about the mini-wardrobe into three parts, just because I have a LOT to say/lots of photos and a single post would just get ludicrously long and nobody would ever wade through it all. Today's post: bottoms, or the skirt and shorts I made for the mini-wardobe. First up: the skirt that gave me overall inspiration for this wardrobe.

Ottobre 02-2007-12 Straight skirt in printed linen
I recently saw a similar black and white printed skirt in a shop and coveted it, but I didn't want to pay ££ for it.  Then I serendipitously saw this linen/viscose blend fabric on eBay, decided it was Meant To Be and made it the centrepiece of my mini-wardrobe. My skirt is made to a really basic pattern (two pattern pieces!), but my excuse here for the simplicity of the pattern is that the print on this fabric is so busy that I wanted the absolute minimum number of seams to break it up.

As it turned out, I really struggled to find exactly the right pattern, even though all I wanted was a simple straight skirt. I wanted it to have a side zip rather than a centre back zip (and centre back seam), and I would have preferred a waistband or at least a facing, as I dislike ribbon or twill tape waist finishes. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with exactly what I wanted. My previous straight skirt attempts, with Simplicity 8664, resulted in one semi-hit and one miss, and that pattern has a centre back seam. (Also, wow, that was one of the first garments I made, and my latest makes are so much less terrible.) I wasn't excited to use the Simplicity pattern again and I would have had to trace it in a different size anyway, so I went looking in my magazines for an alternative. In the end I decided to make Ottobre 02-2007-12, which is new to me, and just draft myself a facing to replace the petersham ribbon finish the pattern suggests. Note that "draft a facing" means I folded out the darts on the skirt pieces, stuck a piece of paper on top of my traced pattern, made an arbitrary decision about how big the facings needed to be in terms of depth from the waist seam, and traced. Not exactly rocket science. (You can also read my PR review for the skirt here.)

Interior view of skirt -- look at my pretty lining/seam binding/hem binding! :D
Probably the most interesting part of this skirt from a sewing point of view is the inside, which, with no modesty at all, I will say that I think came out looking GORGEOUS. It's a shame nobody will see it. This is my ALL-TIME favourite lining/seam finishing technique, where you basically use your underlining/interlining to make it look like you bound the seams as well. Isn't it pretty? My interlining in this case was totally necessary because the printed linen I used was lightweight and drapey and needed something to (a) make it opaque and (b) give it some weight so that it hangs nicely. The interlining is just plain white cotton. I bound the edge of the facing and the hem in pre-made black satin bias tape.

The big disappointment with this skirt was that I only bought 1m of fabric and couldn't really get any more (for both pecuniary and practical reasons) and there was no way I could pattern match at the side seams. I settled for trying to get a good horizontal match and choosing what I hope is a nice pattern element for the centre front. I think if the pattern had been larger, the lack of side-seam pattern matching would bother me more. However, as it is, the pattern is busy enough that I don't think it's too painfully horrible that it doesn't match. (And, I have to say, the RTW skirt that I liked ALSO didn't pattern match at the side-seams, so I don't feel too bad.)

This was one of the more expensive things in my mini-wardrobe (and it wasn't that expensive): £8.50 for the linen, £3.50 for the interlining, plus the satin bias tape, plus a (stupidly expensive) zip. Altogether, it came to about £15. The RTW skirt I liked so much was more than double that, AND it wasn't nearly so well made, if I do say so myself!

Since I had a really busy print on my first "bottom" in my wardrobe, I went for plain white for the second:

Ottobre 02-2014-06 shorts in white

Aren't those literally the least exciting things you have ever seen in your life? No, really, it's the world's least interesting shorts pattern in plain white, and WORSE, I actually made the same pattern (Ottobre 02-2014-06) a fortnight ago in marginally less uninteresting turquoise linen, so you've seen it before very recently. I finished my seams just like last time: flat-felling on the crotch seams for durability, binding on the side seams, waistband facing and hems.

Seam binding on my white shorts. Also apparently EVERY WRINKLE IN THE WORLD D:
My binding is pretty cute: I dug out a random little piece of broderie anglais to make into bias binding for this project, as I discovered that anything in any other colour would show through the white fabric. In fact, the bound seam allowances still do show through a little more than I would like, but I can't do anything about that. And... I'm not sure there is anything more to say about these shorts. I've updated my PR review for competition purposes here, if you care. I've worn and washed my turquoise shorts twice already so I am pretty sure that these will get plenty of wear as well.

Cost-wise, the white fabric, of which I used 1m, set me back the princely sum of £1/m. The zipper was twice that price! Bargain shorts: £3.

Friday, 4 July 2014

A quick mini-wardrobe update

 As a quick reminder, here's my mini-wardrobe plan:

As previously mentioned, I have STUPID time constraints to deal with if I want to enter the competition, which were not helped by the fact that I felt absolutely shocking at the beginning of the week and struggled to get out of bed at all on Monday. Luckily, Tuesday was a much better day, health-wise, and I therefore started off on the 1st of July with the task of doing as much cutting out as possible. I managed to get everything cut out and ready except for the Wiksten tank top, which I haven't even remotely started (in fact, I haven't even printed the pattern yet!). I am very glad I (deliberately) chose such easy patterns. Except for the Carme, the patterns were really quick to cut out as there are so few pieces and I've made most of them before!

Not at all impressive photo of The Things I Have Made So Far. Please excuse the wrinkles.

I started out by making the things I could make quickly and easily. The two-fabric tee is, of course, just a variation on a theme of the Ottobre 02-2013-02 tee that I've made a million times (most recently my paintbrush top). It's a different pattern number but it's like two extra lines of stitching. As it happens, I didn't really like how it turned out at the time and am still a bit dubious even after a couple of days of thinking about it, so I hastily made another Ottobre 02-2013-02 tee in white with black polka dots. This seemed like a great idea (and it looks great with my shorts)... until I realized it also had to go with the black and white print skirt, which is a pattern mix too far for me. SIGH. I will have to see how I feel about it when everything is done before I decide what to submit for the competition.

The shorts (barely visible in the back in this shot) you might recognize I made in turquoise linen a fortnight ago. As it turns out, I really like wearing those shorts and whether or not the fit is perfect from an academic perspective, there's no denying that from a wear perspective the fit is super comfortable, so I am very happy to have another pair. The shorts took me a little longer to make only because I wanted to get a nice finish on the inside, and all the flat-felling and bias taping of seams and edges takes a bit longer. Still, it's only mid-day on the 4th July and I've already made a LOT of progress.

Next up on my sewing table, and hopefully finished by the end of the weekend, is the skirt. It's another REALLY simple, two-piece pattern but of course I've had to make it more complicated than that. The pattern is unlined, but the fabric is too lightweight for that so I decided to do my all-time favourite skirt lining/seam finishing method and interline with faux hong kong seams. I also didn't like the waistband finish specified (petersham ribbon, which I don't like and can't get easily) so I had to draft up some facings. All of that added some preparation time, but once I get sewing it honestly won't take long to finish. Usually the slowest part is the hem because I blind-hem by hand!