Thursday, 30 April 2015

Summer sewing plans

Let's not even talk about how I am sublimating my extreme frustration with the continuing medical drama of my life by (a) buying fabric; and (b) pretending I have an unlimited budget (spoiler: I don't) and the effect this has had on my fabric stash numbers in April and my budget for the year to date. Okay? Okay.

Instead, let's talk about the fact that no matter what I didn't get done from my Spring sewing plans, since tomorrow is the start of May, I can now feign amnesia about previous plans and move on blithely to some summer sewing. Well, I did in fact get several things done that I wanted in April: I made a pintucked shirt, finished my faux leather/faux suede bag (which I have been using regularly -- it is great!), and made a pair of PJ shorts. I also made a supposedly wearable muslin of the HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine Tee, and, just as an update, I must confess to you that it's turned out not really be all that wearable. In normal wear the low neckline turned out to be positively indecent unless I wear something underneath it. However, I like almost everything else about it and since I received some very useful suggestions on how to fix the neckline I might revisit the pattern at a later stage. Probably not this summer though, since my recent spring cleaning efforts and subsequent summer wardrobe planning suggested to me that although I have several knit tops on the cusp of needing to be replaced, I should probably be all right for this season and don't need to make more.

As always, I like to start my sewing plan from my actual life and what my normal wardrobe needs are. I've FINALLY recovered enough from my November relapse (hurray!) that I am getting out of my house a lot more and therefore spending less time in PJs/almost-PJs. However, I'm unlikely to even start looking for a job until the autumn at the earliest. For now I am better, but I'm not actually well, and the serious possibility of another relapse is ever present. A return to actual normal life depends on how/if/when the new medication I am waiting for is finally made available to me and starts to actually make me well again. From a practical perspective, I don't therefore need any more summer work wear for this year -- I have just enough garments that fit and are in good condition to get me through any kind of one-off requirement for that kind of outfit. I won't be travelling this summer so I won't need anything out of the ordinary like beachwear. Although my weight is actively in flux (manly due to medication changes plus being able to take up exercise again) many of the things I made last summer still fit pretty well, plus I have a decent pile of clothes left from other summers when I was a similar weight.

All that leaves me with then is filling in holes in my casual wardrobe for a summer probably spent pretty much entirely in the north of England. Barring a freak summer, that means temperatures that generally hover around 20-22C (around 70F) with occasional warmer days, and plenty of days when it rains, especially in August. Most summers I live in linen trousers with a knit or woven top and a cardigan, or a maxi skirt and the same. On warmer days I break out shorts or knee-length skirts.

The green shirt on the right is one of my sleeveless shirt options I am considering (from Ottobre 02/2013)
The biggest hole in my wardrobe by far is a total lack of short-sleeved and/or sleeveless woven tops or shirts. Since I'm very into shirt-making at the moment my present plans include at least a couple of classic button fronted shirts with collars but short-sleeves or no sleeves. I've also been digging through my pattern collection for some other woven top options. Fabric wise, I have some drapey viscose to use and I've earmarked a couple of smaller pieces of crisper plain cotton that are the perfect length and fabric for sleeveless classic shirts. I also have one piece of seriously gorgeous green and blue checked shirt-weight linen that I bought in Ireland for the express purpose of making a summer shirt and then never dared to cut into last year. This summer I am determined to use it!

Maxi skirt from Burda Classics 2013
I don't need much in the way of clothes for my bottom half -- I made shorts last year that still fit, and I was able to thrift several great pairs of linen trousers earlier in the year when nobody else was buying them. I do want one maxi skirt, and I'm thinking about maybe using a pattern from Burda Style Special: Classics from 2013. The pattern uses an insane amount of fabric -- even more so since my fabric is at best semi-opaque and I therefore had to buy something to use as a lining -- but I love how full it is and also that it has a wide yoked waistband. I also have one piece of burgundy cotton sateen fabric just right for a knee length skirt, but no idea about pattern yet.

Style Arc Stacie

I'm still thinking about outerwear patterns. I do want to make the Grainline Morris blazer, as previously mentioned, and now they are popping up all over on a variety of figure types I am more determined than ever as people are getting really nice results. I've also got a yen for little red jacket in corduroy. I was thinking seriously enough about pairing my fabric with the StyleArc Stacie jacket that I dug out my pattern and did a ton of measuring (it's the only paper StyleArc pattern I have ever bought, though I have a couple I received for free and a couple of e-patterns -- I can't say I'm overly excited by single-size patterns). The other possible outerwear project is the navy trenchcoat I've been talking about for what, 2 years now? However, I'm not even thinking about that with any real intent until towards the end of my summer sewing season, if then.

This dress from Burda (03-2015-127A) is my front-runner for a wrap dress as I've been in love with this pattern since I first saw it
The other category I am contemplating dipping a toe into is woven dresses. I have so many hesitations about wearing dresses (and therefore about making them), and yet at the same time it's the single largest category of patterns that I own. The mismatch is kind of ridiculous. I picked out a handful of fabrics from my stash and now I am trying to match them to simple, casual summer dress patterns that I hope I won't feel too self-conscious to wear. My current plans are to make some kind of shirtdress (my obsession with shirts is never-ending!), some kind of wrap dress, and maybe one other. My fabric choices run the gamut from "I don't care what happens to this" to "this is one of my favourite fabrics that I own so I will probably wear anything I make from it no matter what".

I made this satchel in 2013, and I plan to use the same pattern again (Lisa Lam's Too Cool For School Satchel)
Also in my sewing queue for the summer: a satchel bag in turquoise; woven nightdresses for summer; a bag made with a metal closure that I've been hoarding for years; some smaller bag projects including some embroidery projects; and, if I can work up any enthusiasm for the dull sewing, some Roman blinds for my hallway and landing. I've been taking a break from knitting partly because I felt my hands needed it, but partly because I got bogged down in an incredibly tedious knitting project that consisted of an actual stocking stitch rectangle (which is still not finished, but almost) for felting/bag-making purposes. However, my summer knitting project is a solid (non-stripy) Backshore jumper (Ravelry link). I cast on a month ago but then got no further than my cast-on row, so I am planning to really concentrate on getting moving on it over the next few weeks. Of course, with my knitting luck, I'll finish just as the weather gets too cold to wear an elbow-length sleeved jumper!

Phew, all that sounds like a lot of work, but all things that I am actually quite excited to have in my wardrobe by the end of my sewing season! :D For May itself, I am thinking that I'll most probably work on woven shirts and the last pieces of replacement nightwear that I'll be doing. One thing you might notice is that I am NOT doing Me Made May. I thought about it last year but I was too sick, and this year, eh. I get why people do this, but for me personally, I wear the things I make all the time anyway, and I feel like I already understand my make/buy mix and how my wardrobe fits together. Plus, I have to be honest, the people doing the daily/weekly outfit photos are beyond boring by the end of the month and I therefore feel no need to emulate them!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Made: The "Fake Everything" Snazzy Slouch

This is the first more-complicated-than-a-tote bag that I've made in ages.

Despite adjusting the lighting, the details of this bag are, in fact, invisible in this photo
I also started it ages ago, back at the end of February. Then I hit a construction problem due to the fabric and ground to an unenthusiastic halt. When I picked it up again yesterday I suddenly realized that the problem was extremely fixable and promptly finished the bag in three hours. So often the way with sewing -- if you leave your finished item for a few weeks often you can't remember why you thought it was so terrible/unfixable in the first place!

More visible details! The outer pocket is a fake leather with a pindot pattern stamped into it
 The pattern is the Snazzy Slouch by ChrisW. She is one of my favourite bag pattern makers because her bags patterns, even the easy ones, are definitely a good step above most of what is available in terms of complexity and cleanness of finish. This bag at the easy end of her pattern spectrum, and it is not one that I have made before. However, I would definitely make it again. The only issue I have is the way the outer pockets (here in fake leather with a stamped pindot) are constructed. Whether this was because of the combination of materials or sewing error on my part, I ended up with a line of the lining fabric visible at the lower edge of the pocket. As it happens, I kind of like how it looks -- sort of like a piped edge  -- but I am pretty sure it is not supposed to look like that! On the other hand, not that it's visible in my photos, I really love the way the zipper and strap tabs go together at the end of making this bag -- it makes for a really great finished product.

I made only the very tiniest of changes to the design. I chose to use a long plastic strap harvested from a (hideous) RTW crochet bag I bought many years ago and never used rather than making my own. The strap on this bag is the perfect length to allow me to wear it cross-body. I also put in a plastic base rather than a peltex base, just because I like it when bags have firm base to sit on.

Simplified interior of bag
I also chose to simplify the interior of the bag (which should have a dividing, zipped pocket in the centre) for two reasons. Mainly, I just didn't have enough of my lining fabric (which is called Love City, and which my friend T gave me a yard of for my birthday a couple of years ago and that I have been hoarding ever since.) Secondly, though, I prefer just having one big cavernous space in which to throw things. I am not the most organized of handbag carriers -- I just fling everything in!

Overall, I found the bag really easy to put together (bearing in mind that if I have any claim to any kind of expertise in sewing, it is in making bags, as I have made a metric tonne of them) and all and any problems that I encountered were really due to the fabrics I chose. The biggest issue was with the faux suede. Some of this was stabilized using interfacing, but the bag is intentionally quite slouchy and thus some sections (the yoke pieces in particular) are left uninterfaced. Alas, stitching together the fake suede, which stretched in weird ways, and the faux leather, which also stretched in weird ways was not a dream come true in any way! I tried my (newly purchased) roller foot. I tried a teflon foot. I tried my walking foot. Nothing really helped, and my big construction drama that made me abandon the bag part way through was precisely because the faux suede distorted so horribly that I was struggling to match my seam lines at an important point. However, I was able to fudge it and it had no real effect on the finished bag, so whatever, manufactured drama I guess!

This is the biggest visible construction error: the bottom edge of the pockets WOULD NOT match >:( and I KNOW they were the same size!
Of course there are a bunch of imperfections, but I am quite pleased with my bag overall, and it's made me realize all over again how much I do enjoy bag making. For a while I went off it entirely, probably because I made so many millions of bags back when I first started sewing.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

This indecision's buggin' me

I would like to report to you all that I have made substantial coat progress, but in fact I've made none whatsoever. In fact, I have been in a glump, and have neither sewn nor knitted anything in over a week while I waited out my glumpishness. 

Really, the problem was that I just couldn't decide whether I really WANTED the coat I would be making with the Ottobre pattern I chose, or if I would just find it to be wardrobe deadweight. This was not helped by my recent wardrobe spring cleaning efforts, when I hit upon a method to clean my old raincoat. It came up beautifully and doesn't therefore need to be replaced, and, as is well established, I am not generally in favour of making things I don't need. Moreover, there's a large part of me that thinks that fabric would make a much better trenchcoat type coat, rather than a casual coat. However, I really don't feel like I want to sew a trenchcoat right now.

Yesterday, though, I decided life is WAY too short for all this wibbling, and since I am mostly just not feeling the coat project at all in any way, I folded everything up and put it away again. That fabric will get made up into something eventually, I am sure, but today is not that day.

In order to kickstart myself back into actually doing something, I decided to spend my sewing time yesterday and today on a couple of little easy projects, plus some fabric re-organization. I spent some time hemming some too-long linen trousers I bought a few weeks ago. This isn't a particularly fun job but the trousers were unwearably long without this alteration and it actually doesn't take too long once I get started. So dull though, ugh, so I gave myself a couple of hours to re-organize my fabric as a reward. I am definitely someone who enjoys petting the fabric stash and seeing if I can find interesting matches between fabrics I own for future outfits. I came up with a couple of new ideas while I was folding and sorting my fabric tubs this time, plus everything is now tidy again after the recent influx of fabrics that I bought that probably I shouldn't have bought (do not even think about asking about my fabric fast!)

Obnoxiously floral PJ shorts (Ottobre 05-2011-02)
Finally, in the interests of actually making something, I cut out and sewed some PJ shorts for the summer. I used a fake Liberty print in rather nice pima cotton. I have to admit I wouldn't be seen dead in anything this flowery and bright in public, but I kind of love using it for PJs. I accidentally (well, "accidentally" -- due to stupidity more like) bought only 1m of this fabric towards the end of 2014, having originally intended to buy 2m for long PJ trousers, and it's been lurking in stash waiting for warm weather ever since. The pattern is Ottobre 05-2011-02, a simple elasticated waist PJ short pattern that I have used several times before. It should really only take an hour to make at this point, but I've discovered that I really like my PJs sewn with French seams for both neatness and longevity, which basically doubles the time it takes to make them.

Morris Blazer by Grainline
At the risk of jinxing myself, I think I have dragged myself out of my glump, and I am now contemplating with some considerable interest (a) my existing summer sewing plans; and also (b) the new Morris blazer pattern from Grainline, which I bought when it came out yesterday.  Generally speaking, the Grainline aesthetic and I are not the best match -- so many boxy unfitted things! -- although I have a couple of the patterns and made the Linden sweatshirt twice already. The Morris blazer though really grabbed me -- mainly because I really like the collar -- and I have been looking for a while for a really interesting pattern to make with a particular piece of ponte knit. I'd sort of settled on a Kwik Sew pattern, but this Grainline pattern is a great deal more interesting to me. If I can summon up the enthusiasm to put together the PDF pattern, I might try making a muslin of this quite soon!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Spring cleaning

In light of the springiness that is currently springing here in the north of England, this weekend I spent some time going through my wardrobe pretty thoroughly before I switch it over for the summer.

As I went through my clothes, I found I continue to have a hard time determining whether or not something is actually at the point where it should no longer be worn in public or I am just really bored of it. There's always a part of my brain thinking that if something is not actually falling apart at the seams/full of holes/trailing pulls then it's fine! Totally wearable! And I shouldn't throw it away just because I am bored of it. On the other hand, there's definitely a tipping point when I suddenly realize (usually while at some kind of professional gathering where I'd like to look at least presentable) that no, really, this garment has had one wash too many, it looks terrible. I'm trying to keep a closer eye on my clothes so that I figure that out at N-1 wears, rather than N, but there are a few things in my wardrobe that I just honestly can't tell if they're done or if I'm just done with them.

At any rate, the weekend cull resulted in me shedding 33 items of clothing. Of those, about half were so decrepit, badly made or heavily worn that they went straight into recycling. Saddest loss on this front: the Ottobre zipper hoodie I made in November 2014. Loved the idea and outcome when first made. Did not love the fabric which developed hundreds and hundreds of pulls up and down the inside of the sleeves from the first day I wore it. I can't even work out how or why it was happening -- I thought maybe it was catching on the zip somehow, but I never saw it do so. So frustrating, especially as it was one of the most expensive fabrics I have bought and used so far! Also sad was the culling of the last thing in my active wardrobe from the very first garments I made in 2012 (a pair of PJ shorts). In that blog post, I'm all "I didn't finish the seams at the right time!". Alas, past!me, that is what doomed the shorts to the bin in the end - all the overlocking came unravelled and the seam allowances followed suit.

The other half of the culled clothes were mainly decent quality RTW and went into a charity box because they were still in good condition. Most of the things that went to charity were from 2012 and early 2013, which was a period when my weight hit an intermediate high following treatment for a thyroid condition. I kept the nicest/ best quality/ favourite pieces of my wardrobe from that weight, just in case I need them again, but got rid of anything I didn't love. I only have so much storage space, so I try to keep my collection of too big/too small clothes down to the things that most make me wish I had a grow/shrink ray gun. Due to these selection criteria, and because my shoddy sewing skills means there wasn't a lot of quality to the first garments I made, I really don't have much left to show for the first two years of my garment sewing attempts except the photos I took for this blog. Of the 12 garments I made in 2012, I have only one thing (a navy skirt) in storage, and of the 21 garments I made in 2013, I have one skirt in storage, and two pairs of PJs and a red and white t-shirt I now wear as a PJ top in active rotation. Everything else is dead and caput, some of it long since.

Overall, it felt like a pretty productive cull, and I updated my wardrobe and sewing plans today as a result quite extensively. On the one hand, I reckon I have a season more in enough of my summer-y knits to last for this year, so I've crossed out plans to replace them. On the other hand, I was able to add all kinds of (more interesting to make!) things in their place. (I also realized that I really, REALLY have to fabric fast for the summer. I am allowing myself two specific pieces of fabric that I've already decided on, and NOTHING ELSE. I need to stop even LOOKING at fabric other than that!)

Meanwhile, while clothes were going out the door and plans were being made for summer, I have also been working on making one of the last projects on my sewing plan for spring, a raincoat. Luckily(!), it rains all the time here where I live, so it's actually not all that season dependent.

In the end, after endless pattern deliberation, I've gone with a casual style anorak from Ottobre 02-2007:

Ottobre 02-2007-18 Anorak
I probably won't do the welt pockets because they're awkwardly placed more or less exactly at bust level, and I think it looks weird if I lower them. Despite avoiding the welts, though, there are still a couple of new things for me in the pattern: (a) a two part sleeve, which I've not done before, (and actually just easing the sleeve cap in a firm shower-resistant cotton may be challenging);  (b) it's fully lined. I'm using a slippery poly fabric for lining, which is always exciting from a fabric perspective, and a full lining means some construction bits I've never done before to fully enclose the shell and lining (though as you can see from the diagram, the hem and sleeve hem are topstitched closed).

So far all I've done is prepare the pattern and tissue fit (surprisingly good, as far as you can tell from paper) but I will hopefully have a working muslin this week. I was almost tempted not to muslin after the tissue fit seemed so reasonable since this is not a fitted style. However, I think it's probably a good idea for a first outerwear project, just because I don't really have a sense of how much ease I want across e.g. my upper back in a coat, none of my RTW fits well enough to measure from, and tissue fitting is hopeless for that kind of thing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Pintucked (or, Ottobre 02-2010-17, a spotted white shirt)

I originally intended the next thing I made to be a really straightforward plain white shirt. Instead it ended up being a not-quite so plain white shirt: spotty, pintucked, and semi-sheer but at least still white and a shirt. I used a new-to-me Ottobre pattern to make it, specifically Ottobre 02-2010-17.

Ottobre 02-2010-17, images from Ottobre magazine

The name of this pattern (Ottobre give sometimes-cheesy names to all their patterns as well as numbers) is "Borrowed from Boyfriend", and as this suggests, it is a loose-fitting, over-sized shirt not dissimilar to a men's shirt. I really liked the pintuck detail, but I didn't like the bib frill and I wanted a shirt with a collar stand but no collar, so I just omitted those details. The frill was easy enough to just omit, but the collar-less collar stand had a less good outcome.

Ottobre 02-2010-17, in sheer white cotton lawn, as modelled by Flossie (why do I never notice that it's hanging weird on Flossie until AFTER I've taken the photo?)
As far as the pattern goes, the most important thing to note is that they are really not kidding about "over-sized". Ottobre usually produce their patterns in the full 34-52 size range, but this shirt is only in sizes 34-46. On the other hand, as drafted it is ENORMOUS. When I made the Ottobre 05-2012-07 pattern, with more or less the same underlying body measurements, I used a size 44 and did an FBA. With this pattern, I used a straight size 42 with no FBA and I cut 5cm off the hem (even though I usually ADD length). It's still really long, and over-sized at the shoulders and hip on me. I know that it's meant to be oversized, but if I had made my normal size 44 I'd have been completely swamped. On the other hand, I didn't have to do any of my usual adjustments for broad back or large bicep. I did adjust for square shoulder as usual -- it seems like a simple 1.5cm increase at the outer shoulder on both front and back reliably fixes all Ottobre patterns for me.

As modelled by me. As you can see, it's massive at the hips and rather long in the sleeves due to how wide the shoulders fell on me.
This pattern had many construction details in common with the Ottobre 05-2012-07 "Gardener" shirt that I made twice (and loved) last year. The only really significant detail that is different from the Gardener shirt is the pintucks, and luckily I had some practice with pintucks from making two Pauline Alice Carme pullover blouses last year. Putting together the shirt therefore didn't involve anything new for me, although I did use tailor's tacks for only the second time to position the pintucks correctly. They were quite time consuming to sew as a result but they are such a visible feature of the shirt I felt like it was worth the extra time spent making them look as good as I could manage. Even with the fussy pintucking activity, I think I took less time overall to make this shirt than previous shirts, mainly because I have the big construction tasks like the sleeve plackets and cuffs, the button band and the collar figured out now and don't have to refer back to the instructions or my books all the time.

All of the real construction issues came about because of my choice of fabric. This is a white cotton lawn with tiny polka dots (only really visible in the detail shots below) and it was one of those "I get free postage if I buy one more thing" buys. When my package of fabric arrived arrived, it turned out to be unexpectedly lightweight, to the point of being nearly sheer. Initially, I set it aside and thought I might use it as lining for a bodice or something, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it would be a great way to make a sheer blouse without having to deal with the sort of fabric you usually have to buy to get that effect. I just don't LIKE sewing with chiffon or georgette, and I don't especially like wearing it either because unless you go nuts and buy silk, it tends to be polyester. With this fabric, although I had to allow for the transparency of the fabric in seam finishes etc, at least it was relatively well-behaved from a sewing perspective and it will be more pleasant to wear.

Construction details: pintucks, collar, unexpectedly well set in sleeves. The pintucks on the right aren't really crooked, I promise (well, you can see they aren't on the shot on me!)
The sheerness mainly meant that I tried to make my seams as unobtrusive as possible. For most of my construction I did the narrowest French seams I could manage and a narrow hem. In a few places I couldn't quite see how to make the seam/seam allowances smaller without really compromising my construction (the last seam of the button band and collar stand) so I left larger seam allowances sandwiched into those sections. The armscye seams are overlocked because I have yet to successfully manage a french seamed sleeve.

I didn't interface any of the usual interfaced areas (cuffs, button band, collar) partly because I wanted this to look soft and unstructured, but also because none of the interfacing I had really worked with the fabric -- I tested on some scraps and even my lightest interfacing looked wrong. I really should have interfaced with self-fabric, but I didn't have enough fabric left to do so. I fear this will reduce the longevity of the shirt quite a lot -- already I can see how it's affecting the buttonholes at the front.

Overall, though, I'm pretty happy with most of the sewing, with the exception being the collar stand. I should have done something more than simply omitting the collar to get the collar-less shirt look I was looking for -- reshaped the collar stand somehow, I guess. As it is, it's kind of a weird shape and stands away from my neck. I don't mind it, but it's not really what I was hoping for. Also, I'm still not getting the really nice finish on the join of the shirt and the collar stand that I am looking for, even though I'm following the David Coffin Paige recommendations. I feel like only practice is going to get me there though, so I'll just keep plugging away at it I guess. Maybe to prove that point, after I whined about how I still wasn't able to put sleeves in well and practice hadn't helped, these went in perfectly first time and are some of the nicest sleeve cap seams I've done so far, in terms of how (relatively) unpuckered they are.

In conclusion: one not-quite plain white shirt for my wardrobe (which meant I could dispose of a plain white shirt I hated, hurray) and one more shirt pattern attempted. :D

As a chaser after a slow and detailed pattern, I also made another pair of knit capri-length Burda 8271 PJ bottoms. I must seem obsessed with PJs as I make them regularly. However, it's actually just that I haven't bought any in years and it seems like every time I replace a pair the appalling state of the other, ancient RTW pairs I own is thrown into sharp relief. I don't have an armoire full of nightwear -- it's pretty much one new pair made, one old pair straight in the bin.

I actually have nothing new to say about this pattern, other than that I definitely like it better made with knits than with wovens (I previously made one pair with each type of fabric). This fabric was one of my very first knit buys, and I have no idea why I bought it. I would not be seen dead in such a twee print outside of nightwear!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Bits and pieces

  • I put away all my heaviest knitted scarves as the weather has officially turned the corner into spring and I had two entire bags full to pack away. With the caveat that I am planning to knit a green hat and scarf set next autumn/winter (and I am only giving this a pass because I already have the yarn) I am officially declaring my house a scarf/cowl knitting free zone for a good long time. Feel free to slap me if you see me say I am knitting one.
  • While looking for easy beginner embroidery projects, I came across the idea of embroidering fabric to use with self-covered buttons. I had a handful of button blanks left over from another project. I made a 4 piece set of botanically improbable "seasonal" trees on 29mm covered button blanks, to which I then superglued magnets so they can live on my whiteboard. The whole thing is free-hand -- though let's not pretend that this is in any way remarkable, as clearly a small child could draw a tree better than I can -- and the embroidery is just a mix of basic stitches that I learned from that Craftsy embroidery class I finished in January.
Botanically improbable tree embroidery
  • I also wanted to try embroidering with a thin knitting yarn, so I also made this one random magnet with, well, it's meant to be a grey and white bearded collie dog embroidered on it (the black dots at the bottom are feet, the black dot on the left is its nose. The puffball bit in the middle is the dog. It does have an eye as well, but it disappeared in the "fur", which is not actually unlike a real beardie). Obviously, as it looks really nothing like a dog at all, I had to put an explanatory "woof" on as well. Look, I am really not an artist, okay, I am doing my best here. /o\ You might be relieved to discover that I am using a template drawn by someone actually competent for my next embroidery thing.
  • I cut out a white pintucked shirt today (using a new-to-me Ottobre pattern). I am contemplating two problems that I will have to deal with tomorrow: how best to mark the pintucks (I usually chalk line everything, but not with this white fabric I don't think, so maybe tailor's tacks) and how best to finish the seams. The fabric isn't terribly opaque, so any seam finish I choose is going to be partially visible. I am leaning towards french seams at the moment, but still thinking about flat-felling as an option.
  • I am still struggling with what pattern to use to make a raincoat. I keep thinking I've made a decision and then... nope, back to the drawing board. Why so indecisive, self?

Friday, 3 April 2015

Made: HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine Tee

In June last year, I made a horrible dress using the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress pattern and a patterned turquoise knit. Despite some helpful advice from commenters and subsequent surgery on the waistline, addition of longer sleeves and other attempts to improve it, I never wore it and continued to glare hatefully it every time I saw it hanging in my closet. Earlier this year I therefore took it apart with a view to somehow re-using the fabric. Due to a disassembly error (my scissors slipped and I made a big hole) the main part of the bodice was a dead loss, leaving me with the elbow length sleeves and the skirt to reuse, as well as just over 1m of the fabric left over from my original 3m piece.
HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine Tee, as modelled by Flossie
I suppose eventually I'll probably hack together some kind of waistband and make a skirt from the skirt of the dress (very original of me), but in the meantime I decided that the 1m of fabric plus the sleeves from the dress could be usefully employed in making a wearable muslin of the HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine Tee. I am not really sure how actually wearable it is, due to the problems described below, and also because the more I look at this fabric, the less I like it. I like the base colour, but whether it's the print or the drape, or both, I don't know, I just don't like it. There's something very juvenile/pyjama-y about it and I am pretty sure if I saw it for sale now I wouldn't buy it. At any rate, other than the possible skirt rescue I am now done with it, which is probably a good thing.

This is the only paid for HotPatterns pattern I own, although I also have many free patterns from HP on my hard drive. I've never made any of them up though, and so I was starting from scratch with sizing. The Weekender Sunshine Tee was quite popular back in 2009-10 so there are a good number of reviews, and when I seemed to fall between sizes based on measurements I decided to go with the smaller of the two based on comments from other users. Thus, this is an HP size 12, with very few alterations.

As modelled by me. Clearly visible fit problem at the back! Also, the whole PHOTO of my back is crooked, due to camera user error, and I couldn't correct it without cutting my shoulders off. It's not that I'm that asymmetrical.
I could really do with a bit more room at the back hip, as is clearly visible from this photo, but other than that I think the size worked out pretty well -- I definitely did NOT need this top to be any larger at the neck or shoulder, and I got a surprisingly good fit through the bust and upper back, my usual fit problem areas.  However, the most notable thing about this top on my actual body is the depth and width of the neckline, which is to say, wow, it's really low, and really wide. I knew this was a known issue from reading reviews, but I didn't want to mess with all the yoke etc without seeing what it was like unaltered on me. My conclusion is that, as drafted, it's definitely not a top to wear if you spend a lot of time leaning over, shall we say. I haven't worn the top yet, so I don't know how it's going to hold up to normal life at all. I fear it may turn out to be a real nuisance, constantly requiring adjustment to cover bra straps and cleavage.

I cut the top to the "t-shirt" length in the pattern, but I hated it at that length, not least because I didn't have enough room in the back bodice to go over my butt. I ended up though in that terrible spiral of cutting it and then realizing I had a problem with the hem and having to go a little shorter, and eventually I was like, OK, I have to stop now and live with the hem I have, which is why I ended up with this not-entirely-flattering length.

The other widespread criticism I noticed in reviews of this pattern is that there is a problem with the sleeves/armhole. However, I circumvented this potential problem as I wanted to use the sleeves from my dress. I therefore drew the armhole from the original Lady Skater Dress pattern onto the pattern for this version. I am not entirely convinced that I put the sleeves in the right way round, because it was so long ago that I took them off the old dress that my note to myself no longer made any sense to me. /o\ At any rate, the wrinkles and fit problems with the sleeves are probably due to that.

Internal construction of the yoke
I quite like the way the top is constructed, except for the fact that gathering is my nemesis. I am always quite embarrassed at how crap I am at gathering, especially when gathered garments are the sort of thing beginners are told to do for their first project. I just don't seem to be able to get my gather on very successfully. In this case, although I spent ages trying to get the front bodice to gather neatly and evenly, by the time it had been through the overlocker it didn't end up the way I'd hoped at all. I feel like there is probably a secret trick to getting gathers to stay put while you sew them that I have yet to learn. I had, conservatively, 8 million pins in the gathers to hold them still, but maybe I should just bite the bullet and start hand-basting them in place as well/instead. At any rate, despite my ineptitude at gathering, I found the clean finish you get on the yoke inside to be very pleasing.

Overall, I am in two minds about this pattern. On the one hand, I can see a glimmer of a really nice top in my wearable muslin -- I like the way the gathers fall, I like the construction of the yoke, and I like the overall shape of the tee. On the other hand, I will have to wear it to know for sure, but I am pretty much convinced that the really wide and really low neckline is not going to work for me just from wearing it to rush around taking photos. Whereas with a regular knit top I would just cheerfully slap a different neckline over the pattern and trace it, the yoke and gathers make altering this top much more complicated, especially since one of the things I like about it is how the gathers are positioned on my body. I am not sure how excited I am to spend a lot of time getting the neckline to work perfectly when there are a million other knit top patterns in the world.

In conclusion: I'm glad I've made up this pattern, because I bought it right back at the start of my garment making adventures and it's therefore been on my To Do list just about forever. In fact, the first time I ever posted about making it was in May 2012 /o\. For now, though, I think I might shelve it again while I think about whether I want to keep working on it.