Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 In Review: Wardrobe Outcomes (inc. What I Made And How It Lasted)

Overall, I think 2016 was a successful year as far as my wardrobe is concerned. I don't think my data & spreadsheet intensive way of keeping track and planning a wardrobe would work for everyone -- or maybe even for anyone who isn't me! -- but I feel like it really worked for me this year.

Above all I am really happy with how my wardrobe planning helped me pick things to make/buy and put together something resembling a coherent set of clothes. I didn't make or buy a single thing that went unworn because it didn't fit into my wardrobe -- everything slotted neatly into one or more outfits as soon as I finished/bought it. Some things of course got worn less than others, but if something was neglected it was really never because I couldn't find a way to wear it. This feels like a big improvement on my past wardrobe history when I always had a lot of orphans, often felt like I only had one way to wear specific garments and that I only wore a small percentage of my wardrobe. I also don't have any unnecessary duplicates, which was something I was very prone to doing before. Over the last three years my wardrobe has decreased in size every year, but it feels both more diverse in colour and design than it ever has previously. So, eccentric though my wardrobe planning efforts might be, they are working well enough for me to feel very enthusiastic about continuing to pursue them in 2017.

Another couple of wardrobe goals for 2016 were to make about two-thirds of my wardrobe additions this year, with only one third coming from shops, and to thrift about half of what I bought. By the end of the year I'd made about 57% of the new additions to my wardrobe, which is close enough for me.  On the other hand, I didn't thrift as much as I had planned. However, I did plan my RTW shopping really carefully to take maximum advantage of sales and discounts. I feel like I actually did a really good job managing my RTW expenditure so I'm not concerned that I bought new rather than thrift. 

Numbers: Garments sewn

This year, I attempted to make 49 garments. Of these, 4 were immediate wadders and another 5 I discarded after relatively few wears. As of today, I therefore have 40 garments in my wardrobe that I made in 2016.

Including the wadders etc, I used 40 different patterns in total, of which 9 were repeats from a previous year. My pattern sources run true to previous years, which is to say just about 60% magazines, mainly Ottobre and Burda, and then the remainder from all kinds of other brands and companies from across the spectrum from Big4 envelopes to a PDF from a teeny tiny blogger/pattern maker. More specifically, this is my breakdown:

Magazines: 24 in total, split between Burda (12); Ottobre (10) and Knipmode (2)
Big4 envelopes: 9 in total, split between New Look (4), Butterick (3), Simplicity (1) and Burda (1).
Indies: 7 in total. StyleArc (3), Silhouette (1), Grainline (1), Cozy Little World (1) and Jalie (1)

Numbers: Garments purchased

This year I also bought 36 items of clothing, of which 5 didn't make it to the end of the year (mainly my discards shrank in the wash, which is my personal pet peeve with RTW). My purchases fall entirely in three categories: trousers/jeans; t-shirts; and knitwear. I am working on making more of my own trousers, but there are some kinds of t-shirts, sweaters and cardigans that I am very unlikely to make, and I am fine with that. I have no intention of (or really even interest in) going 100% handmade.

Numbers: Discards

I discarded a hideous amount of clothes this year, as part of my long-running campaign to "right-size" my wardrobe. Over the last few months I've finally gotten rid of the things that were basically useless as clothes but in which I had some kind of strange emotional investment. On the minus side, so much waste this year -- I discarded 105 garments in total! On the plus side, I think that's it for the big numbers of discards as I think I am now more or less "right-sized". I'm for sure not a minimalist (and I don't want to be) but I think I have a very well-sized wardrobe just now. Overall, my wardrobe is about 10% smaller than at the start of the year, but the number of clothes in daily wear hasn't changed much. The 10% decrease really just came from shedding things I had packed up into storage for one reason or another.

Garment/Sewing Technique Goals

I had a little list of garments and techniques I wanted to try in my set of goals for 2016, and I did manage a good number of them:

Garments etc: I made two woven dresses and had several attempts at woven trousers. I made a piece of outerwear (mentioned further below!). The only thing I didn't have a go at this year that was on my goal list is a lined, tailored blazer. Knitting-wise, although I didn't do quite as much knitting as I'd hoped I'm particularly pleased with my Wanderling sweater. I also made a few tote bags, which isn't quite the bag-making outcome I was looking for, although the ones I made are nice enough.

Techniques: I did some contrast top-stitching (on a polka dot skirt) and several attempts of varying success at fly fronts. On the other hand I didn't try either bound button-holes or welt pockets mainly just because I didn't really make the kind of garments that called for either. I also wanted to try out some Alabama Chanin embellishment but only managed a stencilled scarf.

The Verdict On The Things I Made

In previous years, I've categorized everything I've made at the end of the year. I made too many things to do that this year, and a lot of them just fell into the category of "fine!". Really, they're fine -- those garments were competently made, I like them, I wore them, it's all good, and I have nothing more to say about them. You can see them all on my Completed Projects 2016 page, which has every garment I made this year and links to the relevant blog post.

However, I have picked out 5 each of: the best things (for various definitions of 'best') I made this year; my "if only!" garments -- things I almost love, if only they didn't have one or more problems; the serious workhorse patterns/garments; and selected disasters. 

Category #1: The Best Things Since Sliced Bread

Best of 2016
  1. Burda 02-2009-133 Red raincoat. The fit is not perfect. Also, the fabric creases like CRAZY in wear. I'm still super impressed with myself for making this coat and love & wear it a lot.
  2. Jalie 2908 Bootcut Jeans in cobalt blue twill. I love the pattern, I love the colour. I don't love how the fly turned out and I wish they were just a tiny bit bigger, but these are still by far the most successful of my (mostly sad) attempts at trousers in 2016.
  3. Cozy Little World Jasmin in navy polka dot viscose/lycra. This is a simple pattern that cost 3 Euro and was worth every penny. This polka dot version is my favourite and I wore it constantly this summer. I just really like the shape and the fit, and also the fabric.
  4. Burda 07-2011-116 (a.k.a. the flying squirrel top) in floral viscose. I have a perverse love of Burda's wackier patterns and this one is just great. It was a fun sew being both weird and well-constructed. I didn't wear it a million times because it's too distinctive to have massive wear frequency, but I loved it every time.
  5. Grainline Linden striped sweatshirt. I am no great fan of Grainline, whose patterns I mostly find boring and boxy. Somehow, though, the Linden has become a TNT. This stripy cotton pique version in particular, but also a black version with a crochet overlay I made later in the year, have both been in heavy rotation ever since I made them.
Category #2: If Only!

Almost the best, but not quite of 2016
  1. Burda 03-2016-104 polka dot double gauze woven tee. Love the fabric. Love the shape of the hemline and of the top as a whole. Love the way it looks with half my summer wardrobe. It should have been my favourite garment of the year, but it's weirdly tight at the upper back. I can't even do the obvious and release the pleat at the back because the (fragile) double gauze fabric pulled a little at the stitching line of the pleat and would show marks. So frustrating!
  2. Knipmode 02-2013-35 grey/white checked viscose popover shirt. I wanted this to be a favourite so much, but a combination of irritating user error when making it (two left sleeves=cuffs upside down on one arm, problems with the collar) and then weirdly late-in-the-day shrinkage in the laundry have left it a lot less loved than I think it should have been.
  3. Butterick 6388 knit dress with lapped collar. Love the distinctive collar of this knit dress/tunic, and I wear it a lot. I made the wrong size though and despite trying to fix it it's just that little bit wrong, fit-wise. It'll still get plenty of wear I am sure.
  4. Simplicity 2209 blue/green jacket. This is a lesson in why I should make a muslin. I love the fabric and the style of this jacket but the fit is just that bit off. I didn't wear it as much as I thought as a result. But I still love the idea and I'm glad I rescued the ugly fabric with a box of dye to make it.
  5. Butterick 6270, tunic in black and ivory checked viscose. I would 100% love this tunic top, which has been in very high rotation since I made it in September, if only I didn't hate the facings! As it is, I wear it really regularly and every time I do I curse the way the neckline is constructed.

Category #3: Let's Hear It For Workhorses

Workhorses of 2016

  1. StyleArc Barb black knit trousers. I was dubious when I made these trousers, and there's no doubt that from the back there are some definite fit issues, but wow, they are comfortable and ultra easy to wear. I'm thinking about how to fix the back fit issues so I can make more. I've worn this pair almost to the point of death -- the fabric is lasting less well than my enthusiasm for the trousers.
  2. New Look 6150 in black and white stripe. This is my workhorse, much adapted t-shirt pattern. I've made a ton of them over the last three years and it's just consistently worked. This is my favourite of the 5(!) I've made this year.
  3. StyleArc Estelle in black jacquard. One of these days the waterfall cardigan trend will end, but it is not that day yet. This is my third Estelle and I've worn it, and the two previous versions I made in late 2015, in very high rotation. For sure they're going to get too tatty to wear long before I am ready to get rid of them.
  4. Ottobre 05-2015-01 dress in black and white bark pattern. This is my favourite of the knit tunics/dresses I made this autumn/early winter. I've worn this version in high rotation so far. I have a real appreciation for a simple pattern that really works. It looks like nothing in the technical drawing, but so great in person.
  5. Butterick 5704/Burda 8271/Ottobre 05-2011-02 Various PJs. (not pictured) These are all my workhorse PJ patterns and they're, in themselves, boring as anything. But they're also great, easy basics that I'm happy to make over and over. I LOVE my hand-made PJs all year every year.

Category #4: Disaster, Darling!

Disasters of 2016
  1. Ottobre 05-2012-07 navy viscose shirt. I really wanted a drapey blue button front shirt. Instead I got a mess. I couldn't sew this fabric together in a straight line for love or money due to shifty fabric that I cut badly. Then the fit, despite this being a shirt pattern I had made successfully twice before, was horrendously awful. I tried taking the sleeves down to short sleeves, and then down to sleeveless, and then I gave up and abandoned it after wearing it only once.
  2. Burda 06-2016-101 t-shirt in fuschia knit. I liked this wacky looking Burda pattern a lot! But I made it from the worst fabric in the world, a very thin viscose knit that ripped along half the seam lines the second time I washed it. Sorry, t-shirt, you were a great idea but my execution didn't work out.
  3. Silhouette 511, Angie's blouse. I made this with gorgeous, expensive white double gauze. I picked the wrong size using the (STUPID) sizing method Silhouette insist on, had to cut the sleeves off to get it on at all. I wore it once but although it's a nice idea, especially that unique collar detail, I hated everything else about it. I am still furious every time I think about the waste of my nice fabric and I got rid of all three Silhouette patterns I owned as a result.
  4. Burda 06-2012-130 dress in navy/star print viscose. Nothing about this worked for me in the end. I wore it once and it fit so horribly, looked so grim on me, and had so many sewing problems that I'd half-assedly tried to fix, I felt awful in it all day. Bye-bye, dress!
  5. Burda 03-2016-118 'the trashbag top'. Not all wacky Burda patterns work out, though to be fair this one is the fault of my fabric. It was a crinkle viscose and between making it and the following morning it uncrinkled in such a way as to make it closely resemble a hospital gown designed by someone in a high fever. Nope! Straight in the recycling. 
In conclusion: Overall, I think my wardrobe had a good year, and I definitely sewed a lot of things I am pleased with and proud of. I have Grand Plans for what I make in 2017, of course, of which more in my third and final post on this topic. :D

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016 In Review: How I Spent My Money

Previous years: 2014; 2015

Although this post is ostensibly about my sewing budget for 2016, there's a big overlap between my money management and how I manage my fabric stash. These, therefore, were my three money and fabric stash related goals for 2016:
  • Stick to my 2016 budget and reduce my spending on patterns compared to 2015:
  • Reduce garment stash to less than 150m (from ~193m at the end of 2015).
  • Use at least two thirds of 2016 fabric purchases within 2016.
Tragically, this is a post full of how I failed to realize any of these goals! /o\

In both previous years of reviewing how I spent my sewing budget I started out by patting myself on the back for being at or very near what I'd planned to spend for the year. Not so much in 2016 -- I went over budget by a pretty epic 18%! D: I gave myself the same amount of money as last year, so that's a big overspend. I should note that it's not really a problem, exactly. My budget in this case is self-imposed rather than being about hitting the limits of my resources -- I'm not over here choosing between buying food and buying buttons or anything! However, I know that when I overspend compared to the (generous) budget I set myself it often turns out I've bought things I didn't really need, which is indeed the case this year.

Here's how my spending broke down:

Major purchases: 0%

My sewing set up didn't change this year and I made no major purchases like machines or other hardware of that type. I'm not really expecting to make any in 2017 either -- all my machines are in good shape and do everything I need. The only possible big ticket item is a tailor's dummy. Flossie (my tailor's dummy that my mum bought (and named) when she started teacher training college in the late 1960s and that she has passed on to me) will need to be replaced at some point as she's ever more rickety, but I don't think her demise is quite imminent.

Fabric: 40%

I'm over budget this year because, frankly, I bought entirely too much fabric. In 2016, I bought 120m of fabric, which, to put it into context, is my second highest total ever and just over twice what I bought in 2015. (The only year I bought more was 2012, or, as I like to think of it, that year when I didn't know what I was doing and sent my credit card into melt-down buying mostly the wrong things.) In the out-going column, this year I've used 98m of fabric, just under half of which (47m) was purchased during 2016. That's probably the most I've ever used in a year, so at least I had that going for me to counterbalance my over-purchasing. I finished the year on 217.8m in stash, so absolutely nowhere near my 150m goal. :(

Some thoughts on my fabric buying this year:
1. I did a lot of stress fabric buying this year. I did a lot of stress everything this year -- stress eating, stress fabric buying, stress cleaning, you name it. 2016 was just a really stressful year. On the whole I'm not a big believer in distracting myself from stress by buying stuff, as much as anything because I don't think it works, so I'm kind of peeved that I did so this year. I apparently don't make terribly good decisions when I stress buy either, though on the whole I don't think I bought anything too outlandish in the way of fabric. What I did do was did buy some quantity of things that are not duplicates, precisely, but are certainly no more than variations on a theme. Apparently in times of stress I particularly like to buy navy/blue patterned shirting fabrics.

2. I had a goal this year to buy-to-use rather than buy-to-stash, and I legitimately did use, by my standards, a lot of fabric that I had just recently bought in the course of the year. However, because I bought so MUCH fabric, the numbers didn't really work out overall. Last year I used about 32% of the fabric I bought in 2015. This year I used about 40% of the fabric I bought in 2016. So, a small improvement, but not quite as much of one as I'd hoped.

3. On the other hand, I did do a better job this year of buying fabrics that are suitable for my current lifestyle. Almost all of the fabric 'left over' from 2016 is the sort of thing I could easily use tomorrow rather than being useful only in some fantasy life when I need a lot of work or going out clothes.

4. Obviously, I failed at my goal to reduce my overall stash, since I bought more fabric than I used. This is my third year in a row where I haven't managed any significant reduction in overall stash size. Maybe I am not made to have a small(er) stash. Every time I make a deliberate attempt to reduce the size of my stash, I seem to end up back where I started. However, I'm pretty much at the limit of my storage space and comfort level with what I have right now. I definitely need the general 2017 stash trend to be downwards, or at worst neutral.

5. I have a real 'keep this in stash because it is too nice to use' problem. This isn't a case of owning fabric that is too fancy for the easy-to-launder casual/smart-casual clothes that make up most of my wardrobe right now. I mean, I have some of that too, but it's not the main problem. The bulk of my issue is owning fabric that I have arbitrarily decided is somehow too good for me. One of the reasons I have so many navy/blue shirting fabrics is that I keep buying it, and then going oh this is so great .... I can't possibly use it! and then buying more in the hope I find one I am willing to use. This is ridiculous, so I'm going to have to get over it.
Pattern magazines: 25%

This year I had subscriptions to Burda, Knipmode and Ottobre.

I am not someone who gets great "return" from magazines, in the sense that I have a lot of magazines and most of them I've never made anything from and have no definite plans to make anything from either. However, I find the magazines to be a source of constant interest and inspiration, and, especially with Burda, it's amazing how many times I come back to an issue months/years after it was published and suddenly want to make a pattern from it. I'm therefore fine with having a large collection of magazines and continue to feel like they are a good investment. However, I did sell many of my issues of Patrones from 2013-2014 this year as I decided I wasn't ever going to use them and wanted to free up some space on my shelves.
As far as actual 2016 subscriptions are concerned, I thought Burda in particular had a GREAT year with loads of patterns that I picked out to make at some point soon as well as a good number that went on the back burner for when I am working again and need a more diverse wardrobe. On the other hand, my picks from Knipmode seem to skew heavily towards their more smart/smart-casual patterns and so very few are making it into my "make it soon" list, which is a bit disappointing.

I feel like Ottobre is probably the weakest of my subscriptions at the moment -- I wasn't wild about either of the 2016 issues. On the other hand, I wasn't wild about the 2015 issues and several of the patterns have grown on me since, so there's definitely a sleeper effect. Plus, when I look at the patterns I've used over the course of my sewing lifetime so far, Ottobre has by far the best 'return' per issue -- I come back to those magazines over and over for good quality basic patterns. Overall, for the price they charge and for a subscription of just a couple of issues per year, I still feel I get enough long-term value from Ottobre to keep it up.

Other than my three subscriptions, I also bought a handful of Burda back issues (I'm now down to just 5 back issues that I want that I don't have), as well as Burda Plus A/W 2016, which was a stand-out issue with no re-prints from the main magazine for a change. It was also, apparently the last English language Burda Plus, which is a shame. I'll have to buy the German or French edition if they release more good issues. I also bought Burda Vintage (1970s), but as much just to read/be amused by as for the patterns as I was kind of indifferent to them.

Patterns (envelope and PDF): 10%

Some of the envelope patterns I bought this year
I had very specific ideas about buying envelope and PDF patterns this year. I gave myself a very limited budget, for one thing, which I stuck to like glue (hurray for having ONE success on the budgeting front!). Mainly, however, I wanted to be very deliberate about what I bought and only get patterns that really added something new and different to my pattern collection. I also tried hard not to buy patterns for a fantasy life I don't have, so I didn't buy very many dress patterns or patterns for clothes for the career I don't have right now. I bought Big4 only in the (relatively infrequent) half prices sales to save money. I also sold (or have listed on eBay) a lot of envelope patterns I bought right back when I started garment sewing before I really had a good handle on what I want to make. My overall paper/envelope pattern stash therefore actually decreased in size, even though I did buy patterns throughout the year.

Some of the PDFs I bought this year
Overall, I am really pleased with how my pattern stash shaped up this year. I don't think there's anything left in there I don't want to make at some point. Apart from one random maxi skirt envelope pattern I bought while in the grip of fierce insomnia, I think all my purchases this year were either interesting, different, or usefully filled a gap in my pattern collection. If I can repeat this trick next year, that would be great.

Notions (14%), Knitting (5%), Books (5%), Other (2%)

The rest of my spending is split between four minor categories, and I'm pretty happy with what I bought and how much I spent in each. I did spend more on notions this year than usual because (a) I bought a huge bulk purchase of interfacing in September and (b) it seemed like I had to replace all kinds of little things (like overlocker blades) at various points in the year and over the course of 12 months all those small purchases added up. That said, there's nothing really in these numbers that concerns me or that I think I need to address next year.

In conclusion: I need to calm the hell down on the fabric buying side of things next year. I have pleeeeeenty of fabric to start sewing up as 2017 gets under way, especially if I can get myself over my mental block about the 'too nice for me' fabric. I also need to make sure I keep up the discipline on the pattern buying front, because I feel like it worked out very nicely for me this year overall. Everything else I think is ticking along nicely at about the right level of spend.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas Crafts

I hope that everyone who is celebrating the holidays this week is having an enjoyable time of it so far! I managed to have a minor flare of my chronic illness right in time for Christmas, which is just typical. Luckily, as this confined me more or less to my house and sofa, I had some projects to kept me occupied. Here is a very quick roundup:

Gap-tastic Cowl in Universal Yarns Felicity
 1. This cowl I knitted as a gift for my sister-in-law, whose birthday is few days before Christmas. The (novelty) yarn is quite weird in that it's almost like a ribbon, but it actually made up beautifully into this really simple seed stitch cowl. The pattern is the Gap-tastic Cowl, a free pattern that I have used several times before. I ordered the yarn in a last-minute rush, somehow got the quantities totally wrong and ended up with exactly twice as much as I needed. Since my SIL lives in Australia, I might well make a second, identical one for myself as at least we will never get them confused or wear them at the same time!

"Fungus" scarf in Plymouth Yarn Joy Rainbow

2. The last couple of years I've picked out a super-easy scarf project that I could start and finish on Christmas Day, and I did the same this year. This one uses another novelty yarn that makes up into a sort of ruffly scarf thing when you use the "pattern" on the label. I use scare quotes because the pattern is basically doing 6 stitches per row of garter stitch. It took less than two hours to knit from start to finish. My mother said it looked like some kind of fungus or seaweed or something as I was knitting it, and so now in my head it will always be the fungus scarf.

Completed Vervaco "Cheerful Santas" cross-stitch kit
3. Continuing my infatuation with cross-stitch, this insanely adorable little kit I'd bought turned up on December 19th. I felt so rotten at that time I actually more or less stayed in bed sick the following couple of days, and since being in bed is very boring I got started stitching early on the 20th and worked on it quite extensively every day (and mainlined Person Of Interest on Netflix at the same time!). I finished it up this morning, the 27th, exactly 7 days later, which I think was pretty good going. There are a couple of little mistakes in my stitching, but nothing that I think is too obvious. The kit, if you're interested, is Vervaco's Cheerful Santas, and I bought it on Amazon. It's rated Easy, which I think is a fair rating, and there are relatively few colours to juggle. I really loved the extra-large chart that Vervaco supply as well. I was amused to discover that although they are called Santas in the English packaging, in the original language (Vervaco is a Belgian company) they are actually Christmas Gnomes! I know nothing of Belgian Christmas traditions, but their gnomes are cute. I'm going to frame my finished stitching and use it as a Christmas decoration in future years. :D

There are very few days left in the year. I'm going to post my reviews of 2016 this week some time, and I'm also chugging as quickly as I can through the sleeves of my Il Grande Favorito jumper, which has been lurking, sleeveless, in my knitting bag for months now. I've been making myself work on it a bit and I'm actually making pretty good progress -- I'm just a little under halfway through the first sleeve and it really hasn't taken as long as I thought it would. If I am very disciplined I might even get it finished before the start of 2017!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

So far, in December

Over the last couple of weeks I have:

So many miles of curtain and lining hems. SO MANY.
1. Hemmed all of the curtains in the world, and all of the linings. It took an unbelievably long time to get them all done, but my mum was pleased to have them finished and hung before the Hordes of House-guests arrived. (The Hordes have now arrived and are occupying a great deal of everyone's time.)

New PJs in black cotton with a ditsy floral pattern

2. Made a pair of PJs, more to get myself going again making things than because I was desperately in need of more winter PJs. The fabric is the remains of a large piece black cotton with a tiny floral that I bought 3 years ago, and which I once used to make a horribly unsuccessful dress. The print is, I realize now, really not me at all but it was a great fabric for PJs. I had exactly the right amount left to make a pair of my old faithful PJ pattern, Butterick 5704. An ideal use of resources all round!

New Look 6303 (View C) in blue floral viscose
3. Made a New Look 6303 blouse in a blue floral viscose. This is one of those draped cross-front/faux-wrap blouses everyone has been wearing for about 2 years and I've been meaning to make at least as long. I have an extended family meet-up to attend this weekend and I made this blouse in anticipation of it. On the one hand, it came out beautifully as far as the sewing and the fabric/pattern match-up are concerned. I was a little concerned that the way you construct the front would mean the flowers on one half of the bodice were visibly upside down and on the bias. Well, I mean, they ARE upside down and sideways, but I don't think really noticeable unless you know to look for it and I don't think it's visually distracting even if you know about it.

However, I didn't make a muslin and the fit is all wrong. It's tighter than I like across the upper back and shoulders. I could live with this (as I frequently do with RTW) but while the front looks actually great if I stand still, if I move my arms around at all it all pulls completely open. I experimented with safety pins but that looks worse. To get it to fit properly I probably needed to go up at least one size through the bodice and/or do an FBA.

The basic problem is that my fluctuating weight (caused mainly by changes in my medication at the moment) has shot up over the last couple of months and it was very difficult to decide what size to make as a result. I thought I'd be OK with a New Look 16 even at my current weight based on the finished measurements but I didn't make a muslin and frankly have no idea how I'd have altered this pattern anyway given the pattern pieces. So, blah, not only do I have a perfectly nice blouse that I can't wear unless/until my weight wanders downwards again, but I also have to figure out something different to wear to my family event this weekend now. This is a depressing outcome. I try very hard not to let my weight/weight changes bother me, both because it's not important compared to my overall health situation and also for Serious Feminist Reasons about body acceptance and the importance of not making weight a factor in our moral judgement of people (especially women) starting with myself. However, I do think it would be easier to achieve body acceptance if I could have more or less the same body for more than a couple of months at a time. It's very frustrating when you sew to try to fit a constantly moving target and I tend to transfer that to frustration with my body rather than with sewing.

Cross-stitch kit: Ho Ho Ho ornament
4. Since making clothes is annoying at the moment, I have been having an intense flirtation with doing cross-stitch, which is a form of embroidery I have not done much of since my very early teens. I don't have very many Christmas ornaments at all because I normally spend most of the holiday period with my family and I tend not to decorate my own house. This year I put out the tiny collection of Christmas decorations I had and was struck by the desire to have a few more. Rather than buy some finished ornaments though, I decided I wanted to make some. I started with this little Ho Ho Ho placard using an inexpensive kit. For something I haven't done in years I thought the actual cross-stitch came out quite well and I really enjoyed making it. I got a couple of other kits to play with as a result - some more Christmas ornament type things, but also a larger kit that I want to stitch starting in January.

5. Other things I have been doing: knitting up a storm (some of it Secret Gift Knitting, so I shall do a knitting round-up once the gift giving season is done); writing my end-of-year review posts for this blog (so boring for everyone to read but I love writing them so, whatever, be prepared to skip them); and thinking about what I want to do sewing-wise in 2017 and coming up with all sorts of fun ideas for myself. :D

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Getting back on the horse (in a cardigan I made)

I last posted on the 4th of November and at the time I was all I am hopeful I am will feel better this month (compared to October, which was rubbish) and will be able to get on with things!

Alas, I didn't feel better and didn't get on with things, a situation compounded by dire world events, rotten personal news, rubbish weather and a side order of I'm Just Not Feeling It Right Now glumness. I didn't even do the the many, many miles of curtain hemming that my mum is patiently waiting for me to finish in advance of the arrival of Hordes Of Houseguests (a.k.a. my brother and his family, visiting from Australia) who are coming for an extended Christmas visit.

At some point early in the month, I did work up the energy/enthusiasm to cut out a very simple knit project. Although the pieces I cut out then lurked about untouched for about three weeks, when I suddenly felt more enthusiastic this weekend I was therefore able to start sewing something straight away.
Burda Easy 02-2015-4D Coat with neckline darts - images from Burdastyle magazine.
This pattern is from Burda Easy A/W 2015, pattern 4D. I own a half dozen issues of Burda Easy but this was my first use of the patterns. As the name of the magazine suggests, the designs tend to be very straightforward with few pattern pieces, plus they come with real actual pattern sheets (no tracing! though you still have to add seam allowances) and much more comprehensive instructions than usual for Burda.

Burda Easy A/W 2015 Pattern 4D in blue floral ponte knit

This particular pattern is actually intended to be a woven coat, but my version is a cardigan or "coatigan" as I made it out of a mid-weight ponte knit. I do own quite a few patterns for cardigans actually made for knits, but once the idea to make this coat was in my head I couldn't persuade myself to find something else. Partly this was because I had a problem with the wrong side of this fabric as it's a really bright white. Obviously anything like a waterfall design where the wrong side is on show was therefore out of the question, but also it seemed like a lot of cardigan patterns I had didn't go a great job of concealing the wrong side. I also wanted very few style lines as I didn't want to break up the giant print too much. This very simple coat pattern ticked all those boxes and since the fabric was pretty but ultimately inexpensive I decided to run with it.

Back view. Giant floral print is giant

This garment was ultra easy to sew, as you would expect. With making it out of ponte knit I just overlocked about 90% of the construction so I didn't even need to do any extra seam finishing or anything. As always, however, facings are the bane of my existence. On the one hand, the wide facings do a good job of keeping the wrong side of the fabric hidden. On the other hand, despite me spending a while hand-sewing the facings into place along every seam and hidden area I could think of, they do tend to open up a little still. I'll have to see if this annoys me when I wear it for real or if I forget about it.

Innards, including the annoying front facings

Size and fit wise, I made a size 44 with my usual small square shoulder adjustment. It's a rather shapeless and voluminous garment -- for sure you'd have room to layer even if you made it in a woven. It has no fastenings, which is what I wanted, although the pattern could easily be made up differently since the other versions (A-C) all fasten various ways. On me, the fit is maybe a little wide at the shoulder, but not enough that I am too bothered about it.

Overall, I think I like this cardigan. It was certainly a nice easy way to get sewing again. However, I am a bit dubious about the print. I really loved the print as a piece of fabric, but I'm not sure it 100% translated the way I expected into a garment. The colours are perfect for my wardrobe but I don't know, sometimes I think florals skew very frumpy on me. I guess I'll see how it goes wearing it.

Next up: This week is curtain-hemming-apalooza on behalf of my long-suffering mum, who has waited quite long enough. After that I've got a pile of Christmas and holiday related sewing and knitting to do, plus I want to finish the blue jumper I stalled out on at the beginning of the autumn by the end of the year if I can. So I'll be busy busy busy, or at least I will be if I can just stay well enough and motivated enough to keep going this time!

Friday, 4 November 2016

A black tunic and top

As mentioned at the end of my last post, I cut out another tunic to wear with black leggings at the beginning of October. Then I was forced into a lengthy sewing hiatus for the rest of the month. Happily, I am now sewing again, and my first task was therefore to sew up the two things I'd already cut out.

Ottobre 05-2014-05 New Boheme tunic in black cotton/lycra

Ottobre 05-2014-05 technical drawing
First up was the tunic. The pattern is Ottobre 05-2014-05, which is called the "New Boheme" tunic.

Since I made it in black, the line drawing no doubt tells you more than the actual finished garment photos do in terms of the features of the tunic. As usual for Ottobre, the pattern has some nice little details -- I like the pleated front neckline a lot and also the way the pockets are constructed is very neat. The pockets do sag open a little bit, but I was prepared for that this time since one of the two sample images in the magazine also has slightly saggy pockets.

I made a size 44 straight from the pattern envelope with only one minor change, which was making the sleeves elbow length. (This is the problem with there being a gap between cutting out and sewing: I can't remember why I wanted shorter sleeves. I just did, apparently.)

I really like how the pockets are assembled on this tunic

This turned out to be a very generously sized tunic except for the sleeves, which are more typical of Ottobre's knit pattern fit on me. I think if you're between sizes I would go for the smaller of the two sizes and just check the sleeve width is going to work for you. That said, I am very happy with how this turned out overall and pleased with how it looks in an outfit with black leggings.

I had one big 3m piece of this black cotton lycra knit, and my experience has always been that if you're planning to cut two things out it's often better to do both at once. In theory, the tunic above required 2.2m of fabric and even my most economical basic knit top pattern with elbow-length sleeves usually requires at least 1.2m of fabric. Somehow, however, by shortening the sleeves of the tunic and playing pattern Tetris I managed to get both the tunic AND a turtleneck top out of my 3m piece of fabric and still had 0.5m left over. Witchcraft!

Burda 09-2010-121 top (original version)
The outcome from making this top is a total hack job on my part. I started with a popular older Burda pattern (09-2010-121, which has a ton of reviews on PR). I traced out a size 44, and then basically over-wrote everything from the shoulder point down with my usual basic knit top pattern. I also totally ignored the (extra long, extra skinny) sleeves in the Burda pattern in favour of my preferred elbow length knit sleeve. So really, I only used maybe 10% of the Burda pattern.

I actually quite liked how the neckline turned out. I had been bit dubious because, as it's a one piece bodice/neckline, you sew the collar and collar facing as one and then flip the facing inside and sew the seam allowances together to hold it in place, leaving the rest of the facing unsecured. This does mean that it's a tiny bit awkward to put on (the facing tends to open up at centre front and back) and you definitely have to futz with the collar once it's on to get it to lie correctly, but once you've done that, it looks good. However, I admit I only wore it for a short period, so I can't say if it would stay put through a whole day of wear. 

Finished top with altered neckline
The reason for not wearing it for long is that since turtlenecks haven't been in fashion for a while, I had actually forgotten why I've never owned many: I hate the feeling of the fabric clinging to my neck! I wouldn't say, from a pattern perspective, that the neckline is designed to be tight at all, but I am just really bothered by the sensation of even a moderately close-fitting neckline like this. I wasn't at all excited to wear this top and in the end I decided to cut off the neckline to a crew neck as I will certainly wear that more often. Overall, this was really a lot of effort to go through for the end result, but eh, at least I ended up with something I'll wear!

Next up: Is there a compound word in any language for "the feeling of regret when you remember you promised a loved one that you would re-hem approximately six miles of curtains for them"? If there is, that is what I'm feeling right now. So many miles of curtains. So very much regret. However, once the curtains are done (will the curtains EVER be done?) I've got some cardigan plans I want to get started on, or maybe a shirt, or maybe something else entirely. Definitely nothing with a lot of hems!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

So much for October

In a nutshell, October has been dreadful. I shan't even bother to recap the reasons why it was so dreadful, just take my word for it: it was just grim and I am glad it is nearly over.

Due to the dreadfulness I have sewed very little since my last entry in this blog.  Right back at the beginning of the month I did continue my Almost But Not Quite Pyjama sewing and made one knit tunic/short dress in black and white:

The Tree Bark Twig Dress; or Ottobre 05-2015-01, in a print so busy that you can make out literally zero details

Ottobre 05-2015-01 Twig Dress

This is Ottobre 05-2015-01, which Ottobre call the "Twig" dress, a simple A-line knit dress. This name was baffling until I realized that the sample dress was made in a print reminiscent of twigs. It amused me far too much that the fabric I used was described by the vendor as a "bark" print. Can't escape the trees with this dress!

The fabric was a 1.75m remnant of a slightly woolly textured sweater knit in a poly/viscose/lycra blend. It was the perfect amount of fabric for this dress -- I had nothing more than some skinny strips and one small square left at the end. I made no attempt any kind of pattern matching, but it turns out the print is so busy and random that I think the seams, even the centre back seam, blend in pretty well anyway.

If you squint REALLY HARD you can probably just about make out the semi-circular pocket here. Maybe.
I made a size 44 straight off the pattern sheet with just my usual square shoulder adjustment. If I make it again, I'll shave just 0.5-1cm or so off the shoulder -- making it more like a 42 through the neckline -- because the shoulder point is just a tad too wide. Really, I should just use the size 42 neckline but I was being lazy about blending sizes when I traced this one.

On me, sorry for the camera phone shot.
One reason I like Ottobre patterns so much is that even though this is really an ultra-simple dress it just seems really well thought out. The pockets at the front are just a little bit different, with bound edges, there is a nicely shaped centre back seam, and overall it seems really well drafted. My version went together extremely smoothly and quickly. My only tiny sewing problem was that the fabric was quite bulky and the bindings at the neckline are therefore quite thick. You're meant to sew in a little dart at the centre front to create the v-neck, but that was just not going to work out. My dress is therefore a sort of pointy scoop rather than a V neck. That aside, in conclusion: A++, would sew again.

Since making that (and that first wear that I took a mirror selfie of was back on October 4th, so, a while ago now) I have also cut out a second tunic pattern to wear with black leggings. However, that's still languishing in pieces on my sewing table right now awaiting my return to sewing productivity. As the dreadfulness is receding I imagine I'll get started sewing again imminently, but as usual I have a backlog of more urgent but much less fun things (housework I cannot continue to neglect, etc) that I need to catch up on in my more productive hours before I can start using them for sewing purposes. I still have high hopes for November, in terms of making interesting things and getting stuff done!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Under the wire

As usual I am keeping track of my goals for the year as each month goes by, but really the less said about my "achievements" in September compared to those goals, the better! For various reasons, September was really stressful and I coped with this in two ways: EAT ALL THE THINGS! and BUY ALL THE FABRIC! The result of this is (a) a lot of stomach ache; (b) my fabric shelves overfloweth; and (c) my budget and stash busting plans are in severe disarray. Ah well, I am sure there are worse coping mechanisms!

Luckily for the structural integrity of my fabric shelves, I did also made a bunch of things. Some of them even turned out really well. My cobalt blue Jalie jeans were by far the best thing I made in September, and possibly even the best thing I've made all year so far despite the sewing flaws. I absolutely LOVE them and have worn them a lot this month already. I also really like my Grainline Linden sweater with the lace overlay  and I'm glad I thought to make it.

However, I was definitely protesting too much in my last entry about the wearability as it stood of my Butterick 6388 sweater dress. In the end I took scissors to it and trimmed the size. I took about 8cm out of the width from just below the bust and then, because I was being lazy and didn't want to re-do the hem, I tapered back out to the original width at the hem. This makes it rather A-line, but I'm OK with that. The moral of this story is: I should definitely have bought the smaller sized pattern envelope, alas. I want to use this pattern again, but I am going to have to grade it down in order to do so, or else suck it up and buy a second copy in the right size.

Before and after of B6388 as modelled by me
I also started and finished making a super easy StyleArc Estelle yesterday. This is a pattern I made twice in September 2015. I really like and still wear both of the versions I made then and so the possibility of making it again came to mind when I wanted to add a draped/open cardigan in black to my wardrobe this month. As usual I sort of dithered about repeating a pattern rather than trying something new: on the one hand, novelty! On the other the certainty of knowing a pattern really works and goes together easily! This time, easy repeat won. I do love the Estelle pattern: just three pattern pieces, four if you use the optional pocket (which I never do), and it all just fits together so nicely and looks great when finished. The fabric in this case is a textured black ponte knit. I could maybe wish it weren't quite so polyester-y but it'll be fine.

StyleArc Estelle in black textured ponte knit
So that was September! As far as October goes, I've got big big plans, as always. Three things I definitely want to do: (a) finish my current knitting project, which has stalled, as usual, at the sleeve stage. Why am I so reluctant to knit sleeves?!; (b) work on my twisty sleeve/shoulder width fitting problems and see if I can make a bit of progress there; and (c) outerwear! outerwear! outerwear! We're having an unusually mild autumn, but I really am going to need a jacket at some point!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A pair of knit dresses (Ottobre 05-2016-16 and Butterick 6388)

I'm not going to lie, I really liked both of these dresses and was dead pleased with how they looked in the mirror. Then I took photos in order to review the patterns here and when I looked at the photos I was like... oh. These look terrible, just deeply unflattering and sack like both on Flossie and on me. Since then I've wound my way back round to "I still really like these, they're great for the purpose I made them, and I don't really care if they don't look good in photos". Still, it's a thing to note.

Left: Ottobre 05-2016-16; Right: Butterick 6388 (View D)
The purpose part is important. I had a sort of gap in my wardrobe in the category I like to call Not Entirely Unlike Pyjamas. These are soft and comfortable clothes suitable for those days where my sole intention is to spend my time lying around the house, but that are still perfectly respectable to wear if I have to answer the door or run into the local shop for thirty seconds. Until recently, I've mostly worn some kind of tracky bottom/knit top combination on those days, but this autumn I decided to add some knit leggings & long knit tunic/short knit dress combinations into rotation. I bought a couple of pairs of RTW leggings on this occasion -- I am not entirely convinced sewing my own leggings is worth the effort, though I daresay I'll end up giving it a try one of these days.
Ottobre 05-2016-16

I decided to make two blue dresses to go with navy leggings first. The first is from the most recent issue of Ottobre Woman, pattern 05-2016-16. I can't say this leapt out at me from the magazine when it arrived. It was, in fact, only when another blogger -- Dawn at Two On Two Off -- made a really great version that my attention was drawn to the pattern. Once alerted to it though I added it quickly to my sewing queue. For my version I used a grey and blue knit of unknown fibre composition that, while rather thin, was quite well behaved overall. It has a sort of paisley pattern on it but didn't sweat the pattern matching (by which I mean, I cut out all the pieces from my fabric and THEN suddenly thought oh! pattern matching! that's a thing people do, I guess!) and the whole thing therefore came together in no time at all.

Various view of my actual dress -- front, side and droopy pocket

One disappointment is the droopy pocket, which I don't think the other reviewer experienced. It's impossible to tell if the version in the magazine has droopy pockets like mine because the model has her hands in them. My suspicion is probably not, and that it's caused in my dress by a combination of my fabric being very lightweight and drooping under the weight of the double facing, compared to the stiffer knits used both by Dawn and by the magazine, and also it not being pulled straight/flat by my body because of the size I used.

Ottobre 05-2016-16 on me
I made a 44, more or less straight from the pattern sheet. Ordinarily, I make a square shoulder adjustment but with batwing tops this becomes rather complicated so I decided to try this version without. The fit through the shoulder/bust is pretty much what I would expect from a non-square-shoulder-adjusted batwing to look on me. It all comes unstuck, of course, at the waist and hip. Ordinarily, when making separates, I use a size 44 upper body, size 40 lower body in Ottobre patterns. Often I don't attempt to grade down through the hips at all because I don't generally choose to emphasize the relative narrowness of my hips vs my shoulders/bust. In this case though, I really should have graded at least one size down over the hips as I think that might have helped with the droopy pocket problem. Also, you can just about tell from the technical drawing that the skirt is pegged somewhat. Unfortunately, it turns out that a too large pegged skirt will hang a little oddly, with some peculiar droopy lines over the hip. That said, it's a very comfortable dress.

My second dress is from this recent Butterick pattern, B6388.

Butterick 6388
For sure I am not the only person who glanced through the recent Butterick release and pounced on Butterick 6388 as a pattern I really needed in my life, mainly because of that lapped collar on views B, C and D. I have been waiting patiently ever since for it to first arrive and then go on sale here in the UK, which it finally did last week, allowing me to scoop it up for £4 instead of the usual £8.

However, there was a problem: the sizing. First up, let me just say that my full bust allegedly puts me in a Size 18 according to the McVogueRick size chart. I have never ever made a size 18 in anything. I use either a 14 or a 16 or something between the two for upper body garments, and a 12/14 for lower body. With this pattern, however, the sizing has been done in XS/S/M, and L/XL/XXL, where M is 12-14, and L is 16-18.

I've not made any Butterick knits before so I had no previous experience to work from. Looking at the measurements, I just couldn't decide at all which to pick. The finished garment sizes on the Medium are almost exactly the same as my actual measurements, which means they would have had almost zero ease. That's fine in a knit normally, but this pattern called for a knit with minimal stretch. Also, I really wanted to make view D as a sweater dress, a top layer that I can wear in winter over leggings and a t-shirt so I wanted a little bit of room for layering. On the other hand, the size Large has a whopping 10cm extra space in it. Ordinarily I would have just merrily made up an imaginary size half way between the two but M and L are in different envelopes, so I had to decide what size to start with. I eventually went for the larger of the two envelope sets, L/XL/XXL, sacrificing the possibility of ever making View E, the trousers, as the smallest size is too large for me.

All of which is to say: this is a size Large, straight off the envelope. The pattern says it is "semi-fitted" which, no. My version is not quite as shapelessly sack-like in person as it appears in my uninspiring, standing still photo, but it is definitely also not semi-fitted. I guess I can just say that the Large is too big on me and I should have bought/made a size Medium. If I had wanted a cute little dress to wear with boots and scarf to wear out the house, this is a disaster and I would have ended up taking inches out of the entire side seam. As Nearly But Not Quite Pyjamas, I'm actually fine with it as is, though if I make it again -- and I will almost certainly make it again -- I will be taking out quite a lot of that extra ease (and also, dear god, look at the twisty sleeve problem, AGAIN!)

Butterick 6388 on me
More pertinently, the real draw of this pattern is in fact the neckline, and this turned out so well, just like the pattern image:
Butterick 6388 neckline
My fabric is a very very soft, floppy knit. It has probably more stretch than the pattern really calls for and the collar is a little prone to falling down as I wear it, but the shape and construction of the collar is actually great. If I were making this again in such a soft, loose knit, I might consider adding a lightweight knit interfacing, just to make it hold the shape more neatly. In a firmer knit, the sort the pattern actually recommends, I think it would hold the shape better to start with. Although I am very happy with how it turned out, construction was not wholly unproblematic. My fabric was quite thick and my overlocker is quite basic/lightweight. The section at the front has 7 layers and the overlocker chewed through it only very reluctantly. I was glad that I actually sewed it with my regular machine before I finished the neckline on the overlocker, because I think going straight to overlocking it would have been a disaster.

B6388 back view
The back of the dress is also seamed -- there's an (unshaped) centre back seam, and a circular yoke seam. In the larger sizes, the centre back seam seems to be there in order to fit the pattern on the fabric, but in smaller sizes you don't need to. If I made it again and decreased the size, I might also cut the back on the fold, since that seam adds nothing and I don't ordinarily do any kind of centre back adjustment (obviously, if you do, the existence of a seam is a plus!)

The pattern calls for 2.2m of fabric for view D in size L, which I blithely ignored. I could have gotten the whole pattern out of 2m without any problem at all, but it slipped my mind that I needed to cut 4 pocket pieces and I only cut 2 by mistake. As it turned out, I had cut round my pattern pieces in such a way that all the scraps I had were almost, but not quite big enough to cut the second pair of pocket pieces, which was aggravating. In the end I just left the pockets off. I also decided not to do the top stitching, partly because it didn't show up on my fabric at all when I tested it and therefore it seemed like a waste of time, and partly because this fabric distorted like crazy with every additional line of stitching.

One major issue I have with the pattern is that it seems to have been written as if the person sewing it will have fallen through a time warp to 1973 before she does so. I understand that not everyone sewing knits has an overlocker/serger, but some of the advice was just bizarre, old-fashioned and/or written as if the garment was going to be made in a woven. I also really REALLY dislike a 5/8ths seam allowance on a knit garment. This is my umpteenth knit garment so I just tra-la-la'd my way through a lot of the instructions and only paid any close attention to how to put the lapped collar together. Still, ugh, McCall's need to get it together with their knit pattern instructions.

In conclusion: I am not a picture of sartorial elegance in these photos, but I don't need to be to be pleased with my dresses. I really want to make the Butterick pattern again -- I might make a view C length jumper with some ponte knit I have -- but I need to think about how to adjust the size. There's a part of me wonders whether it would be worth picking up the smaller envelope, even though that's an expensive thing to do.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


I haven't made much progress on anything significant the last week or so, like my outerwear plans or making more tunics. I did, however, start and finish two little projects, both of which made use of more embellishment than I usually do.

First of all, another Grainline Linden sweater. Late in the summer, I made a green and white raglan top and at the time I mentioned I'd noticed that mixed fabric/embellished raglan tops seemed to be something I was pinning a lot on Pinterest. I used this image to show the sort of thing I had been interested in:

Some raglan tops from my Pinterest collection (again)
This time, I used the photo in the upper left for inspiration, with the mix of knit and lace. My top is made with a very fine black knit (the same knit I used on last week's Ottobre top) with an extra layer of a stretch black crochet/lace knit in the front and back bodice only.

Is there anything less rewarding than taking photos of black clothes? (Grainline Linden with crochet lace overlay and black knit -- if you click on the image the lace detail will actually be visible when the image is larger!)
It seemed like most RTW I glanced at with a similar design just put the lace on the front, presumably in an effort to decrease their fabric use. I didn't have anything in mind for the rest of the fabric and I thought it would look nicer on both sides. I made the top exactly as usual, and just treated a layer of the black knit and the lace as a single piece of fabric when I was sewing. This was unproblematic except that it made for an interesting experience sewing the band at the bottom since I had quite the sandwich of fabric layers going on. I had to recut the bottom band and try again because it went a bit wrong the first time, but my struggles are not evident in the finished product. Overall, I'm really pleased with how this turned out.

My second embellishment project was also fairly straightforward. If you've read this blog for a while you'll know I've been passingly interested in the Alabama Chanin books/techniques. I keep meaning to make an actual AC knit garment just to see how I like it. (I have to be honest, I have major doubts that I don't think I'll clear up until I actually give making a wearable garment a fair shot.) One of the things the book tells you to do is stencil in your design onto the fabric with fabric paint before you start sewing/embroidering/whatever. Stencilling is not something I have ever done before, so I decided to do a mini stencilling-only project first.

Things I used on my scarf
Thus: One pot of grey fabric paint. One cosmetic sponge (from a large bag of them from the £1 shop). One large black fabric scarf purchased from eBay direct from China for 99p. One simple stencil from the first Alabama Chanin book, transferred onto template plastic because I thought the cardboard would go soggy if I used the one in the book.

I quickly hit on a technique for splodging the paint through the template. I decided to do a sort of border print along the short edges of the scarf, but other than that I made no attempt to plan out the actual layout of the stencil. I just tried to fit it the stencil in at different angles somewhat organically as I was going along.

Finished stencil painted scarf
And here is the finished product! I definitely learned some things about stenciling from doing this that I plan to carry over to an actual AC garment, and I like my finished scarf as well.

Next up: the weather having finally become somewhat autumnal this week, I am in a hurry to make more tunic length tops so I can actually start using the jeggings I bought. I will probably be focusing on that over the next couple of weeks. On the plus side, that means lots of fun new patterns for me. On the minus side, lots of fun new patterns means lots of my least favourite sewing job: tracing and/or cutting out patterns.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

In which I sew A Look (Butterick 6270 & Ottobre 02-2016-05)

Today's "Look": Butterick 6270 tunic (left) and Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" (right). Put together in centre!
I have mostly, up to now, avoided the skinny jean look. I did buy a pair of skinny jeans once a couple of years ago but I was stymied by the problem of how do I wear these? I always found myself feeling weirdly exposed and under-dressed if I wore skinny jeans with the same tops I wore with bootcut jeans. This is, of course, ludicrous because in actual fact the only place they fit differently/more snugly than my bootcut jeans was below the knee. No matter how silly, though, the fact was I couldn't get comfortable with wearing skinny jeans and eventually got rid of them.

This time around, I decided that if I was going to try out the skinny trousers look, I needed more of a "make some outfits" strategy. Rather than skinny jeans, I bought two pairs of RTW "jeggings" in my two main autumn/winter neutrals, black and navy. I use scare quotes because "jeggings" seem to be defined differently by every shop that sells them, meaning everything from extra stretchy skinny jeans to knit leggings with a fake jeans-style fly and topstitch printed down the outer leg. My two pairs are a mid-to-lightweight stretch woven with a faux fly and front pockets, some jeans-type topstitching details and an elasticated waist. If I decide I like this look and need more, I would probably make rather than buy next time. Based on my recent extremely positive experience with Jalie 2908, I have been thinking about getting Jalie 3461 if I decide to try making some.

By the time I bought the trousers I had also spent some quality middle-of-the-night-insomnia-sucks time on Pinterest combing through for ideas for tops, and then trying to match them up with fabric & patterns in my stash. I'm not going to lie: this was very entertaining and made being awake at 3:30am significantly more bearable. :D

Skinny black trousers and layers, all by Eileen Fisher
My first outfit is based on various photos of outfits from Eileen Fisher. Eileen Fisher is not a brand with which I am really that familiar. If they have shops here in the UK I am not aware of it, and frankly the prices would be waaaaay out of my range even if they did (e.g. ~£200 for their basic black trousers like in these photos. Hahaha, no, I don't think so.) At any rate, the actual shop notwithstanding, in the photos I pinned what I picked out specifically that I wanted to try to achieve was a relatively streamlined tunic, with another shorter and differently shaped lightweight layer over the top.

My version of the outfit therefore includes (a) black RTW jeggings; (b) a tunic length top in black and ivory patterned viscose made with Butterick 6270; and (c) Ottobre 02-2016-05, a curved hem knit top in a very lightweight, semi-opaque black knit.

Butterick 6270

The Butterick pattern, despite having a very uninspiring pattern cover, is really rather nice. As you most likely know, See & Sew patterns are a cut-down, reduced-price version of a pre-existing Butterick, McCall's or Vogue pattern, usually just one view or with a very limited variation compared to the original. I looked for the original pattern but couldn't figure out what it was*, and nobody seems to have reviewed this See & Sew version so far. I chose it for this project because my fabric, with the diagonal check design, really needed something without a lot of style lines. As it is, let us gloss gently over the question of whether I managed to match the diagonal lines at the side seams in any way (answer: no, I did not, it is a mess of disconnected lines).

* Edited to add: With thanks to SewCraftyChemist, the original pattern is Butterick 5997, which has an additional view with pintucks and some more sleeve variations.

Butterick 6270 tunic: front, back and innards showing the large facing and clean finished shoulder yoke
I made version B, with a long sleeve with a continuous lap cuff, but without a pocket or the collar, in a size 16 which is the largest size in the package. I made no changes except for my essential square shoulder adjustment.

You can see on the white version on the pattern illustration and in my version above that there is a wide facing to finish the neckline. I expected, as I cordially loathe all facings, to hate this one too. However, it actually all comes together quite well, albeit with a little bit of hand sewing of the facings to the front yoke seams. It also asks you to slip-stitch the front shoulder yokes by hand. I did not do that, preferring the burrito method for a clean finish yoke despite having to squeeze quite a lot of shirt into a very small space between the yoke pieces. I also ignored the instruction to hand-stitch the collar stand closed. I stitched in the ditch, but it must be said I don't get such a nice finish from that no matter how slow and careful I am. Probably I would prefer the outcome of hand-stitching it, even if I don't particularly enjoy the process.

Fit-wise, for straight out of the envelope except for my straight shoulder fix, it's all right I guess. The usual problems cropped up: the width of the shoulders, which are not just out but MILES out, and that annoying twisty sleeve problem. The shoulder width thing is a real pain because the effect of all those criss-crossing lines on the extra width of the fabric makes it look like I'm wearing Dynasty style shoulderpads, which is annoying. Both shoulder width and twisty sleeve issues are on my list of Things To Figure Out Sooner Rather Than Later, but eh, too late for this garment I guess! I'm still experimenting a bit with what the perfect length of top is for me with skinny trousers. This top is 76cm long and I feel like it might have been better just a little bit longer, maybe 80cm.

Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" sweater front, side and back to show the curved hem
Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog", from the Ottobre pattern sheet

The top layer of my outfit is from a recent issue of Ottobre. The pattern, 02-2016-05, is a typical simple Ottobre knit pattern with three pattern pieces and a binding. The appeal for me was the shaped front and back hem. The original pattern has invisible zips set into the two side seams. I have seen this top made up on someone's blog, though I'm sorry to say I forget who, and I ear-marked the pattern at the time because I liked how it looked on her. She did it properly with the zips and everything, and it looked great. However, I couldn't actually imagine any circumstance in which I would ever unzip those zips, plus my knit fabric is absolutely featherweight and the thought of inserting two zips in it filled me with horror, so I left them off. And that's all there is to say about this pattern, really.

As modelled by me, with RTW black "jeggings". I got my collar stuck in my sweater in the rear view -- oops!
So that's my first top (or tops, in the case) to wear with my new jeggings made. I think I'm pleased with it -- I like it better in the mirror than in the photos but that's pretty typical for me. I have more similar projects planned to sew over the next few weeks to make these trousers functional in my wardrobe for autumn (though, there's been no actual sign of autumn here yet -- we're sweltering through the hottest September in decades here right now. It's meant to start being more normal temperatures from this weekend but still probably too warm for this outfit!) I'm also slowly creeping through the preparations to start making that camel coloured jacket, though, so most likely the start of that will be up next.