Saturday, 31 October 2015

Pyjamas, plans and a couple more Craftsy mini-reviews

October started out pretty positively, but alas, the second half went rapidly downhill and for quite a lot of the time I've been too ill to really do anything, even watch Craftsy videos. Most days I wasn't even up to posting on Instagram, which is about the lowest bar for activity I can think of. My grand plan to really burn through a lot of video instruction while I had the all-access pass was thus foiled! I did get through a couple more classes (reviews at the bottom of the post) but not nearly as much as I wanted. I also didn't sew at all for most of the second half of the month. On the days when I did feel well, I used the time to do all the mundane household/life things I hadn't done on the bad days and didn't have the energy to do anything more. I can't begin to tell you how bored and fed-up I am with all this illness, or how frustrated I am with the slow-grinding wheels of bureaucracy that stand between me and actually being treated for it. One of these days though I'll report that I'm getting better and we'll all pass out with shock.

I also broke my fabric drought this month -- after abstaining for MONTHS I broke down and ordered a 2m cut of a fabric I just couldn't resist! Despite this, however, I am actually finally making some downward progress with my stash -- right now I have 12.5m less garment fabric than than on 1 January, which is about as good as my stash statistics have looked all year. I also did an epic sort out of my bag-making/other fabric. I sent some fabrics to recycle and sold some other pieces on eBay, with the end result that I've manage to cull over 25m from that part of my stash in total so far this year.

On the actual sewing front, though, other than that StyleArc Issy top (wear update: fabulous, love this top) and some easy knits at the start of the month, the only other thing I managed to make successfully in October was an unexciting but subsequently very welcome pair of pyjamas. This is my old favourite Butterick 5704 (a pattern that I've made several times now) and a no pattern (or, at the risk of sounding extremely pretentious when describing a garment than is basically a rectangle, a "self-drafted" pattern) baggy t-shirt that I first made earlier this year.

My fuzzy October pyjamas
I'm not sure I really needed these, but I actually really love the PJ bottoms in particular, which are made in a slubby, slightly fuzzy cotton/viscose blend. I originally bought it for a shirt but when it came to it I didn't like the idea of the fuzzy texture -- I like my shirting smooth and fine. However, it made up into lovely PJs, which have been warm and comforting while I've felt so rotten.

For November I have a few plans but nothing too concrete -- it depends how well I feel as to how ambitious I get with my sewing for the next few weeks. At the moment too the weather is so warm that I've not really felt very excited about making anything intended for wear in the dead of winter. I may regret this, since the doom and gloom merchants are talking hysterically about the "worst winter in 50 years" that's allegedly going to hit us at some point. That prospect does provide me with a little encouragement to try to make some progress on Operation: Outerwear (a.k.a my long-discussed but never realized coat project). If we do have a dreadful winter I am woefully ill-equipped for it, as far as coats are concerned. On the other hand, the idea of trying to do anything as ambitious as fitting and sewing a coat if I carry on feeling as ill I did for most of October is risible, and so I'm leaving it there as just a possibility rather than a plan for now. Less interesting but probably more achievable are a couple of knit garments I have it in mind to make, and maybe a woven shirt if I feel up to it. I also want to get back to knitting my Wanderling jumper. I meant to get restarted on in October but again: too ill most days, too busy when I wasn't ill.

As far as the Craftsy thing goes, I did get through three more classes (here also is Part 1 of my mini-reviews, with some general blather at the start). The main thing to come from watching these classes is actually that I added something to my "vague future plans for when I am well again and working and have an income and stuff": I really want to go do one of Alison Smith's classes at her School of Sewing down in the Midlands. In the meantime, I watched:

Couture Finishing Techniques by Alison Smith
I don't really aspire to sew ~~couture but I do enjoy getting a really nice finish on garments that I make, so I was quite keen to take this class. I've also heard really good things about Alison Smith, so I wanted to try at least one of her classes. Definitely a good plan -- I loved this class! It covers seam and hem finishing, a fancy buttonhole, a zip guard and waistband finish for a skirt, various kinds of corded closures and some hand stitching. Although the class is billed as "couture" and there are some bits I was like "yeah, no, I won't be hand whip stitching my seam allowances any time soon, who has time for that", I can easily imagine including many of the other techniques in my own extremely prosaic and everyday sewing. (In fact, I was delighted to discover she suggested using several techniques I have already tried to use e.g. in a black and white linen skirt I made in summer 2014 -- I loved how that skirt came out and the finish I got.). Presentation wise, Alison is another very clear and precise instructor, very like Suzy Furrer in her presentation style (and also a professional teacher -- there's a trend here). This was DEFINITELY worth my time.

Couture Dressmaking Techniques by Alison Smith
Having taken the finishing techniques class first, I expected to like this class, and indeed I did really enjoy it. It covers a lot of the same ground as the The Couture Dress by Susan Khalje, which I've owned for a very long time -- I think it was the first class I ever bought -- but of which I've only ever watched about half. There's a lot of the usual hand-work, silk organza underline everything type of thing, but there's plenty of technique in here done at the machine that I can see myself using in my everyday sewing. Again, really enjoyed Alison's delivery of the material, took a million notes, definitely worth my time. I did skip the section on boning entirely, because I foresee no boned dresses in my immediate (or even in my distant) future.

Decorative Seams: Techniques and Finishes by Katrina Walker
I chose this class because it demonstrated a particular technique (open slot seams) that I have picked out as something I want to do with a specific pattern and fabric in my stash. Of course I have written instructions in one of my sewing books, but I thought since here was an opportunity to see it demonstrated, plus some other things like faux tucks and piping, I would take advantage of it. As it turned out, I did watch pretty much the whole of the rest of the class as well as the slot seam section, except for two longer sections on prairie points and Seminole piecing -- they were a little too Look, Ma, I'm Wearing A Quilt! for my taste. The instructor, Katrina, is quite good -- very clear and although a little nervous in the earliest segments, she settles down into a very approachable and pleasant teaching style quite quickly. Unfortunately she wears probably her own hand-made clothes and I was distracted by how poor the fit was sometimes. This is slightly unkind of me, but she is being sold to me as a sewing teacher so whatever. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed the class and very usefully there is a sampler/instruction worksheet provided for each of the techniques which I think will come in handy. I don't think I'll want to revisit this class but I don't feel I wasted my time flipping through the parts that interested me most.

Overall, the all-access pass was great. I'd definitely buy one again if it were at the right price, and I definitely feel like, in spite of the fact I didn't watch even half the classes I targetted due to illness, I got really good value for money from it.  I wish I'd gotten to more of the Suzy Furrer classes, and the Allison Smith tailoring classes as well, but I just couldn't.


  1. I'm sorry to hear how crap your health has been. That really sucks and it has been a long time for you. People don't often talk about how boring it is having a long term illness but of course it is. I really do hope you turn the corner soon and at least become eligible for treatment.
    Thanks for the Craftsy reviews. I did a Katrina walker class and liked it. My favourite teacher so far is Sarah Alm (professional teacher too) but I haven't watched anything by Suzy Furrer or Alison Smith although I do own one of each. Will push it up my list.
    Love your pjs and your sense of humour. Hope November is better for you.

    1. It's been so long, and yes, it really is SO BORING to be ill all the time and have such a limited life. It's boring even that I end up talking about it all time time because there's nothing else going on in my life. Ugh.

      I looked at the Sara Alm classes as well! They were definitely on the "long list" of things if I had time on the all access pass, but I never got to them, obviously. Good to know they are worth doing if I get another chance. :D

  2. Do you have a YouTube channel, or is there anyway I can contact you.? I'm really into your blogs... 😍😍

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