Saturday, 27 September 2014

Butterick 5704; or, In Which I Totally Over-think Pyjamas

I urgently needed some PJ bottoms for the cooler weather. I have MANY types of PJ varying from extra thick flannel for the dead of winter to several pairs of hand-made PJ shorts that I wear through the summer. Historically in the autumn I've always worn reasonably good quality lightweight cotton trouser-length PJ bottoms. I tend to wear my PJs to the point of extinction, and when I moved I decided some of my old pairs were beyond deplorable and threw them away. Originally I sort of thought about buying new, because PJs are not super exciting to make, but then I decided that since I already had a pattern and also some very nice 100% cotton fabrics that I had no specific plan for, I would make my own. Also, I wanted an easy sewing task after my recent shirt-making travails.

PJs made with Butterick 5704, as modelled by a hanger
The pattern I used is Butterick 5704. It's a See and Sew pattern (ie. very cheap) and I got it half price. I originally bought it for view A, which is a knit hoodie pattern where the hood is attached to a V-neck. View C, though, is a very unexciting but wholly functional pair of woven PJ trousers.
Butterick 5704 technical drawing

I've heard such ridiculous horror stories about Big 4 trouser patterns that I took the precaution of comparing the pattern to the most recent version I made of the Ottobre 05-2011-02 PJ shorts, which I knew were quite comfortable and also to a pair of very old, washed-a-million times, and much loved cotton PJs. I mean, these are basically unfitted garments so I wasn't too worried, but everyone trash talks the Big 4 so much on pants I thought I'd best check. And the end result was... that the patterns were only slightly different in shape and size and they were both a good match to my existing PJs that I love. In the end I just cut a size Large and they are totally fine as far as an unfitted pair of trousers is concerned.

Since I had the much loved, and originally very expensive (though I bought them on sale, because I'm a cheapskate) cotton PJs out, I also decided to look at the construction to see if I could learn anything that might allow for similar longevity. They are 100% cotton; every seam was French seamed; and the waist elastic had been overlocked on to the raw edge and then cover-stitched in place. This latter in particular was new to me. Up to this point I've always just made a casing and then threaded the elastic into it. However, this does mean the elastic is free to roll around and twist up inside the casing, which I find irritating.

I copied all of these construction details on my PJ trousers with great success, and I am very hopeful that they'll also last a good long time. Of course, French seaming does at least double the time it takes to make anything, but I figure it's worth it if I don't have to try to mend seams or make replacements later on. Plus, once I had done the cutting out it took 2hrs 15 mins to make each pair, even with French seaming and figuring out the elastic waistband and everything. If they last HALF as long as my beloved old pair, that'll be four and a half hours well spent I reckon.
Paul Smith shirt

Fabric wise, both pairs of PJs were made, rather indulgently, from designer shirting fabric originally made for Paul Smith. The purple checked version was made into a (in my opinion) rather ugly men's shirt that retailed at something like £150. I paid about £7/m including p&p for the fabric and used most of the 2m piece I had. I do have plenty of scrap left over that will do for e.g. pocket bags and waistbands. Originally I was going to use the fabric for a shirt as well, but I wasn't convinced that I liked the colour up against my face when it came down to it, so it might as well be PJs.

The white pair are (although this is hard to detect from the photo) actually a sort of broken white and black check pattern. It too was originally made by Paul Smith into a classic shirt that retailed at over £100, although I've lost the photo of it that I uncovered. I bought 2m of the fabric for £7/m inc p&p. Unfortunately, it was the victim of my own stupidity. Do you ever do stuff and you KNOW it's stupid even as you do it? Well, that was me with this fabric. I was pre-washing a whole load of stuff and I only had this one white fabric. Instead of putting it through by itself, I decided it would be so much more efficient to shovel it in with some pale coloured fabrics.... including a light blue fabric that promptly and patchily shed dye all over it. :| I haven't been able to remove the dye at all, and so PJs was really all it was good for.

 And in conclusion: PJs! Wow, that was a totally overly wordy documentation of a very boring project.

In other news, having worn the blue shirt I finished earlier this week, I spent some time last night making a couple of minor alterations to the back and sleeve and then cutting out a second version in denim blue chambray. I'll be working on that off and on this week, no doubt. I also went nuts and ordered some more shirting fabrics. And I was doing so well on my fabric destashing as well. /o\ Oh, and also, I was out today and went by the little local fabric shop. In their £1 per pattern bin, I found the Coat Pattern of Joy for the black moleskin coat I have been thinking about! It looks horribly complicated, but I am determined to give it a go.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I'm back, and with a finished object as well! (Ottobre 05-2012-07)

I am back! I had an unplanned fortnight hiatus from almost everything sewing related for reasons of illness, having loads of other stuff to do and also MOVING IN. Yes, I am finally in my new house, a mere 8 weeks behind schedule. I moved in on Saturday and the ten days before that were just really busy, so I haven't really done much sewing at all. In fact I haven't really been more than skimming the sewing blogs or forums that I normally read daily, so if I normally read and comment on your blog, I'm sorry if I missed anything really exciting that I would normally exclaim with you over!

The last two days I finally had some breathing space and I returned to my on-going WIP, a button front, collared shirt, Ottobre 05-2012-07. I've mentioned this several times already, and here it is, finally! I am overall really pleased with it, even though it has SO MANY little imperfections and problems. This version is kind of a test garment. I really just wanted to see how the pattern came out and have a go at the things I had never done before, such as the collar, flat-felled seams and so on. Accordingly, I used a very well-behaved but also inexpensive fabric (a lightweight 100% cotton sateen in dark navy -- the photo on me is a more accurate colour rendition -- that I got from Tissu for about £3/m). Not that I don't like this version, and I'll definitely wear it, but it's only version 1, for sure.

Ottobre 05-2012-07 as modelled by Flossie and yours truly

The actual pattern is a really great basic of the sort that Ottobre seem to do really well.
Technical drawing 05-2012-07
The original in the magazine colour-blocked which, I have to be honest, is not my thing at all. However, when I was looking for a nice basic collared shirt this pattern really jumped out at me for several reasons: it uses bust darts, which was where I wanted to start with blouse/shirt making; it has a two part collar, which I prefer from a wearing perspective; and in the technical drawing at least it has a nice shape to it, rather than the blockier shirts that I have from other magazines/envelopes. As you have to trace Ottobre patterns anyway and the pieces that are colour-blocked were a single pattern piece on the pattern sheet, it was very easy to simply omit that detail. I also left off the pockets, because I dislike shirts with details over the bust.

I traced a size 44 for this first version of the shirt, and then adjusted it using the bodice of Ottobre 02-2014-05, the woven tee I made a couple of times earlier this year. Basically, those adjustments amounted to: larger bust dart and lower the bust dart. I also did a square shoulder adjustment, and added a LOT, about 6cm total, to the width of the sleeves, as my biceps are like 2-3 sizes bigger than the rest of me in Ottobre sizes, and I also lengthened the sleeves (a little too much, in fact).

Magazine image Ottobre 05-2012-07
Fit-wise, I am very happy with some things and less happy with others. For reference, I have a 10cm (4") difference between upper and full bust, and 15cm (6") difference between full and under bust, with makes me a G or H cup, normally. Like many large busted women my number one pet hate with buttoned blouses is tightness/gaping at the bust apex. Again, like anyone else with this kind of body shape, my only answer in RTW is to buy the size that fits my bust and live with shoulder seams that are halfway down my arms and, because I am mildly inverted triangle shaped, much too much fabric at the hips.

This particular blouse fits really well at the shoulders -- so much so that initially I was like "this is too narrow at the shoulder!" until I realized, no, this is just what a blouse that FITS at the shoulder feels like. It fits well enough at the bust that even when I flap my arms around a lot it doesn't seem to pull or gape in an unattractive way. However, as you can see in the photo, I do have some drag lines that indicate a need for a bit more room at the bust. I am inclined to put this down to a few pounds of weight gain since I last used my bodice piece from the woven tee. I am probably less concerned about the drag lines than a fit purist would be, just because my weight IS always in flux and I know that what fits/doesn't fit one month may be fine or even entirely unwearable the next. If this were a special occasion thing and the first wear was the most important, I'd worry more, but for something I'm going to wash and wear a lot of times while my weight potentially goes up and down, eh, whatever, it's good enough for now.

I do feel like there is some small adjustment I need to make in the back bodice right about at shoulder blade level. I have no idea what it is or how I would do it, but I definitely need just a smidgeon more ease right at that point to be totally comfortable. Also, I normally wear a 42 at the hip in Ottobre and I just traced out a 44 from top to bottom. I probably could shave a little bit off the hip width on this pattern, but I feel like this fit is actually quite nice over jeans -- it's loose without being tent-like.

Horrible sleeve problems -- you can see the puckers on the left
My BIGGEST fit problems are with the sleeves. I made them too long this time, after both my Carme blouses were too short in the sleeves, which is annoying. The revised fit at the bicep is good, but I absolutely HATE the shoulder cap. It pokes up when I raise my arm, and I had an absolute NIGHTMARE easing the sleeve into the armscye. The first sleeve I unpicked and re-sewed at least 6 times, and I still couldn't ease it in without puckers. I had such a nightmare with it that I ended up setting the whole project aside for nearly a week because I was so fed up with it. In the end I decided I would live with whatever happened when I sewed it again, and I would only put the second sleeve in once. Both sides have ugly puckers in the back armscye and the sleeves twist a tiny bit. I am not totally certain what to do for the best with this. I feel like maybe the best thing to do is to find a sleeve and armscye that fits really well and just trace that onto every shirt I make forever and ever, like I have with knit tops, but I need to find that perfect sleeve/armscye pattern first! All I know for sure right now is that this is Definitely Not It. 
Collar. Points are not pointy enough, but the top-stitching turned out OK

I did a bunch of new things with this shirt. I flat-felled all the seams, which went really well except for causing me to burn my fingers a million times when I was pressing folds into the seams before stitching. I made a collar, which was moderately successful although I need to work on getting my points pointier and the place where the collar stand and button band at the front meet is an absolute pig's ear on the inside, ugh. However, having done sleeve vents twice on my Carme blouses, my cuffs on this shirt came out really well, so I am going to assume it's all a matter of practice. Also good were the button-holes and button placement generally -- I feel like I have definitely got the hang of my machine's automatic buttonholer, which is pleasing. I also did a better-than-usual job on (some of) the top-stitching, although it's a bit wonky in a few places.

Disastrous interior shot at the edge of the collar band
Most of that, of course, is in the "invisible from 1 metre away" category of critique, but I really do aspire to turn out beautifully finished items. For this attempt I just stuck to exactly what the instructions said (with some changes in construction order because I was flat-felling my seams and didn't want to set the sleeves in flat as a result). Next time I make a shirt I want to employ some of the methods described in Shirtmaking and some tutorials I've found online and see if I can get any better finish.

I am really glad I made this shirt, but I have to say, shirt making overall does feel time consuming and it's really finicky. Like, you don't just whizz up a seam and call a sleeve done -- you have to put in the vent, and the pleat and the cuff and the button-hole and the button and blah blah blah, it's a TON of work and at the end of it all you've done is ONE SLEEVE. I am sure I will make the second shirt more quickly than this first one, and so on, but it's always going to be quite a time-consuming project. I'd really like to make sure that if I'm spending time on this sort of thing that the outcome is really beautiful and well-fitted. Oh, and that the fabric is great. I really liked making this 100% cotton blouse from a fabric perspective, especially after my last 100% polyester monstrosity. The fabric wasn't expensive, but it was a nice quality and easy to work. I'm damned if I am spending these kind of hours making a really nice shirt and using polyester or polycotton though!

Not that my next project is a shirt. Partly because I'm burned out on this pattern right now, but also for fitting reasons, I am not going to do ANYTHING further with this pattern until I've worn the shirt for an entire day, or maybe even twice. More and more I'm finding that I don't get a really good impression of the things I've made until I've worn and washed them a couple of times in normal, day-to-day circumstances. I definitely want to experience how this shirt feels when worn out in the real world before I make the pattern up for the second time.

So, what next? Well, I COULD make a start on one of my many BIG SCARY outerwear projects, but honestly, I haven't got the patience for that right now. So I'm going to take a little break from complicated projects and make some PJ trousers. More cotton, long straight seams, and elasticated waist bands. Just the chaser I need after this shirt! And also, now it's getting cold at night I'm not warm enough in PJ shorts any more, and I threw away a pile of really disreputable old PJs before I moved. So, urgently required as well! :D

Gosh, that got long. I had a lot to say about shirt-making! How are you all and what exciting things have been happening for you all in September? :D

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

In which I make some progress on all fronts

I'll start with the best, if not at all sewing-related, news: MY KITCHEN IS ALMOST FINISHED. Hopefully by this weekend, all that will stand between me and ACTUALLY MOVING IN is cleaning everything up and then the horrifying prospect of unpacking my kitchen-related belongings from their boxes. \o/ \o/ \o/ The knock on effect will be that I will finally be living in the same house as my sewing stuff, so I will get more done, and also actually I will be able to finish setting up my sewing room (currently partly occupied by things that are waiting to go elsewhere, but can't until the kitchen is finished). It will be SO GREAT when everything is done! \o/

Alas, I've made less progress on my autumn sewing this months so far than I would have liked. I had a major medication change and the last 10-14 days have been pretty miserable from a health perspective as a result. Any kind of close work, including both reading on my computer and sewing, was kind of unpleasant. And then just as I started to recover, my laptop died and I had to run around, buy a new one and set myself up again. Sewing time was in short supply as a result. I feel much better now though AND I have a shiny new laptop, so all is well in my world.

Ottobre 05-2012-07
I did get a few short sewing sessions in and as a result I am about a third of the way through constructing my first Ottobre 05-2012-07 blouse. I am making a version with no colour blocking and I've managed to put together the bodice with flat-felled seams and I'm working on the details of the sleeves at the moment. I am cautiously optimistic about the shirt so far, although all the fiddly details (collar, cuffs, button band, button holes, etc) are all still ahead of me so there's plenty of time for me to change my mind about that! D:

My last project was a total fail, in part because I was using such unpleasant and badly behaved fabric. It's made me appreciate the very nice and easy-to-sew 100% cotton I picked out for this shirt SO MUCH MORE, let me tell you.  The next few things I'm planning on making are all in lovely high quality cottons too. More than ever I am determined that as I work towards having a smaller and higher quality fabric stash that I buy fabrics that I really love, and increasingly I think making sure there's plenty of natural fibres in the mix is going to be key.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Despite yesterday's sewing-related glumpishness, I carried on with my current project off and on all day, right up until about 4pm I looked at it and went: you know what? Nope! and slung it in the bin.

This project was a last minute addition to my fall plans. It started with perusing a catalogue that came to my mum's house and me spying this Esprit shirt:

I did actually consider buying it, because this isn't actually an expensive shirt, but there were a couple of things I don't like about it. In particular, I have no time for the pleats at the bottom of the placket which I'm afraid would lead inevitably to being asked if I'm pregnant. Also, it seemed like a style I could make more than once if it turned out well. I was very taken by the idea of it in a bright checked fabric, as I have had a similar bookmarked for lo these many weeks on one of my favourite fabric shopping sites but had no excuse to buy it pattern in mind.

First though, I needed a pattern. It's a little bit like the Carme, insofar as it's a pullover blouse with button placket and tabbed sleeves, but the neckline is quite different and that isn't something I have the skills to change on the Carme myself, so I didn't think I could do a straightfoward mod of that pattern.

Patrones 339-2
Having checked my stash and my magazine collection, I decided I didn't have a pattern, as unlikely as that sounds given the size of my Burda mag stash. The closest, but also HIDEOUSLY EXPENSIVE option is a Vogue pattern,
Vogue 1323. Hideously expensive doesn't always stop me, but hideously expensive AND only one useful view because I think the trouser pattern that comes it is vile and would never make it: no. I found a few other alternatives, but the most practical alternative was Butterick 5826, which was MUCH cheaper. I don't like a few things about that top (the D ring sleeve tabs, the sleeves full stop), but I was poised to buy it nevertheless. Then a new issue of Patrones arrived and magically a similar top was in it. This picture is actually NOT the top I made (Patrones 338-19) but from the NEXT issue, as Patrones is nothing if not tediously repetitive. The one I made was very similar except it had bust darts, a tiny bit of gathering at the shoulder and a back yoke, very similar to the Vogue pattern, but the important bit is that the collar/placket etc was like this photo. When I made it I just copied across the shirt-tail hem from the Carme blouse to make it a little more like what I wanted.

However, since I haven't made any tops from Patrones before I decided not to buy the fabric I was thinking about but make it up in some tiny blue and white gingham stuff from my stash.
Not my best idea. It turned out that I HATE this fabric. I've always been dubious about it since I bought it (on eBay second-hand in a huge 6m piece, but for very little money) because it's either 100% polyester or close to it. It has a slight crinkle to it that has an interesting effect in the gingham of making it look slightly stripy from different angles, and I thought, when I tried it, that for polyester it pressed reasonably well. What I didn't realize though until actually sewing was that every time I pressed it, the crinkles flattened out erratically, changing the shape of the fabric pieces after I'd cut them out. I had to cut the collar band out three times and even then it was not quite right. Also, when I went to try it on, it took mere minutes in front on the mirror for the plastic-y polyester texture to grate on my nerves. I hate wearing all poly fabric, it's like wearing a black plastic rubbish bag.

Even if I hadn't hated the fabric... I hated the fit I got from the pattern. The shoulders are WAY off on me, even though I ostensibly cut to size, and at the same time the collar was uncomfortable. I did an OK but not brilliant job with the placket (the Carme instructions give you a MUCH nicer finish) but the several layers of fabric in the placket were too heavy for the fabric and the neckline sagged unattractively -- and I didn't even interface it!

So, lots of rarrrrgh noises later, I tossed the half-made shirt, tossed the remaining fabric (a LOT of remaining fabric, I feel quite guilty) in the pile to go to the fabric recycling box, and abandoned the whole idea for a couple of hours.

Butterick 5826

Since then, I decided that the best plan was to buy the Butterick pattern. I think my actual plan is just to frankenpattern the neckline of view A (or possibly B) onto the basic Carme bodice, because I know that (mostly) fits at the shoulder and I like the sleeve better.

Meanwhile, other news in brief:
- STILL NO KITCHEN. The (second) installation guy is due in the morning tomorrow, now, having been "delayed". I will believe it when I see it at this point.
- I am still thinking about whether I want to make something to wear to this family event. I got as far as laying out pattern pieces on fabric for a new skirt today but then was distracted by the fact that I didn't have a matching zip for it, and ground to a halt again. :| I don't have much time left so I REALLY need to make up my mind.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

This is all too much like hard work

I have felt rather glumpish the last week or so about sewing. Just last month I was feeling all joyful over making some progress with my sewing, but this week I just kind of want to sit around whining about how haaaaaaard everything is, omg, and why can't I just make stuff without having to unpick every darned thing a million times? >:( This has been exacerbated by making up a pattern with very inadequate instructions, which means spending a lot of time pondering the written directions and the pattern pieces and trying to imagine how things fit together.

At any rate, glumpishness aside, I AM actually making slow progress on my two current WIPs -- both tops, one from Patrones, and the other the much-discussed Ottobre button down. I might have something to show for this activity later in the week, though this in part depends on external forces a.k.a. WILL MY KITCHEN FINALLY BE FITTED?! Allegedly, a (new, improved) kitchen installer will be at my new house bright and early TOMORROW to commence work! I might actually be able to unpack my remaining belongings and MOVE IN!  If I can, then I will be absent from my sewing machine for a bit while I unpack the remainder of my belongings and sort myself out, but to be honest, I'd give up a LOT of time at my sewing machine right now for the promise of actually being able to move in!

In the meantime, I leave you with two tiny projects that I finished in late August: an Oyster card holder for my friend B made with fabric covered in sinister looking flamingoes (you may well ask why I even OWNED a fabric covered in sinister looking flamingoes, but I have no answer for you, really, other than they I bought it at the height of my fabric related delirium); and the other was the minor make-over of the turquoise Lady Skater dress I made back in June. In the end (and with many thanks to MULTIPLE commenters who offered excellent advice) I raised the waistline considerably, and unpicked the (hideous) cap sleeves and added elbow length sleeves instead. I don't think I'm ever going to love this dress, but it's now MUCH more wearable.

Sinister flamingo Oyster card holder; Lady Skater dress