Saturday, 30 January 2016

Can January be over already?

I don't know about anyone else, but my January seems to have been about three million years long. Plus, most of it was rubbish despite starting reasonably well. Most recently I've spent the last 8-10 days first feeling distinctly under the weather, and then succumbing entirely to an absolute monster of a winter bug. I abandoned any hope of doing anything that wasn't sleeping or coughing for a full week and I'm only just starting to pick the threads of normal life again now.

Any summary of this month's activities is therefore going to be very feeble. I only managed to finish one thing, a cardigan for my mum, which on the plus side she likes very much and which used up 2m of otherwise unlikely-to-be-used fabric. I did make some small progress on my knitting as well, and I'm probably half way through the first sleeve of my Wanderling jumper. Sleeves are so boring though, I really have to MAKE myself keep knitting.

As I mentioned in that cardigan post, my other sewing project for January was to make some kind of progress on my winter jacket. I actually did start! I traced out all the pattern pieces in size 42 (my normal Burda upper body size starting point), did various little adjustments I knew I'd need but not the big FBA I thought would be likely (because I was struggling to get a sense of how it would fit from the flat pattern), cut a muslin and sewed it together.
Jacket muslin and an attempt at a flat pattern FBA that went wrong, wrong, so very very wrong
My first realization was that the size 42 is the wrong size. There are two really big problems I already knew I was going to have: it doesn't fit at the bust, and the dart placement is totally wrong because my bust is so low. For the rest of it though -- shoulder, back, waist & hip, it actually doesn't fit too badly... over a t-shirt.This is a winter jacket, however, so I need to be able to wear it on top of at least a couple of layers including a sweater. Over a more typical-for-me winter outfit, the muslin fit across the shoulders and back was very tight and of course the bust fit, already bad, got much worse. I let out a few seams in my muslin, looked at the flat pattern again and concluded that the easiest thing to do would just be to go up a size and start again with a size 44 before I did anything else. Unfortunately this means re-tracing the entire pattern from the Burda pattern sheet, which, ugh, tracing is not my favourite thing to start with, let alone tracing the same pattern twice.

Rather than jump back into tracing, I decided to have a go at getting the size 42 to fit at the bust. This might sound like a waste of time, but I have never worked with french darts before and I figured it would be useful to get the flat pattern practice. So off I went, normal FBA procedure that I've done a million times now: 4cm (1.5") FBA, opening a side dart, then closed it, rotating the extra into the existing French dart and ... holy CRAP, somehow, I ended up with a dart approximately the size of Mars. I mean, seriously, the dart take-up went from about 6cm to 30cm. I have NO FREAKING IDEA what I did wrong. I obviously screwed up somewhere because I've done a lot of 4cm darts before and I've never ended up with anything quite as ridiculous as that!

Overall, I definitely feel very discouraged by this experience: I have no idea how to fix the FBA, and I am not convinced that I know how to fix the dart placement problem with this french dart either. Since then have made no progress at all apart from a very half-hearted start at tracing at size 44.

Maybe it's just being even more ill than usual talking, but working on this jacket sent me into a real slump as far as sewing confidence and inspiration is concerned. About the middle of this week, when I was in the depths of this winter bug thing, I convinced myself I was completely useless at sewing and would never be able to make even one of the things that I had admired on Instagram/blogs/whatever that day. I wailed to myself self-pityingly about how I never wear or make or own anything interesting or fun, and so I should just sell up all my sewing stuff and go back to buying RTW.

It was mostly the fever and nose-blowing misery talking, but still: slump of EPIC proportions. A lot of it, if I'm honest, is also just misery and impatience with my long-term illness situation. 99% of the reason I don't get to make or wear anything "interesting" is that even when not hacking and wheezing with a winter bug, I am still not well enough to work or have a normal life and there's still no end in sight. In fact, I am not even well enough to leave the house very often at the moment, which, as I have mentioned before, makes for a very restricted set of wardrobe needs. My sewing slump is indicative of a much bigger slump.

However, I am not going to let it beat me. For now I've decided to mothball the whole question of the winter jacket. I'm not going to pursue a project that's making my miserable right now so I'm not even going to think about it in February. Realistically, there's no point in making a winter coat once we're into March, so really, I'm pushing the whole idea of my moleskin jacket to next autumn. I'm not giving up on outerwear for the year, but, whatever, it's not worth making myself unhappy over this particular jacket for a minute longer.

For February itself, I've got some nice easy little knit top projects lined up that should hopefully restore some of my confidence, and I've got a couple of slightly harder woven top patterns in mind that should still be well within my capabilities. I'm toying with half a dozen other possibilities as well, several of them non-garment (mainly bags). Plus I'm determined to keep making progress on my Wandering sweater, even though sleeves are dull. So, hopefully I'll have more cheerful and productive sewing and/or knitting news to report here over the next few weeks.

I can end on a BIT of a cheerful note, because even while I've been really struggling with sewing, I do think I have made some progress with drawing, which I mentioned I recently took up in a further attempt to fill the empty hours stuck at home while I'm sick. In the last month I've worked through another "learn to draw" type book, (if you want to you can read all about it on my other blog). I guess I'm far enough into the experience of learning to sew that I can't see progress as clearly any more, but since I'm right back at "absolute beginner" in drawing, I really can see what difference my efforts at learning and practicing have on my skill set. To prove it, here is the difference between the "pre-test" self-portrait I drew on 20 December 2015, and the self-portrait I drew on 19 January 2016 when I finished the book:

Maybe it's ridiculous, but I do think seeing evidence that yes, working on a skill by practicing and trying to learn new things DOES WORK really helps keep me on a more even keel about my sewing, mid-week drama notwithstanding. I know I'll get better at making the things I want to make if I just keep plugging away at it and trying my best. Sure, I'm never going to be an artist. I'm never going to be a designer or even probably more than a competent seamstress. But I can get to a point where I can do the things I want to do, for sure.

I've been taking a break from drawing too while I've been coughing and sneezing my way through this week, but when I'm being rational I'm looking forward to putting both sewing and drawing back into my daily routine --- just as soon as my daily routine stops including blowing my nose every 2.3 seconds!


  1. I hope you get well soon, a month long "crud bug" is too long! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that got into a sewing slump this January. Don't let the jacket get you down, fresh eyes in a few months and you'll breeze through it without a glitch or choose another pattern. You are very talented. Many talents are a good thing. I either sew or clean & organize......
    Loved your post, get well soon & happy sewing!

    1. Thanks! I've felt much more cheerful since I decided to give up on the coat, as it happens, and hopefully can get on with some fun things soon :D

  2. You definitely have made good progress with your drawing! I hope you get out of the slump soon. Long term chronic illness is the freaking worst.

    1. Thank you! I am so proud of my drawing progress, I'm not going to lie. :D

  3. Sewing something simple that you have done before is definitely a good way out of your sewing slump. Tackling a coat with adjustments is not easy for anyone so be gentle on yourself.

    1. No, I think it was probably too much to ask while I'm still so ill. I am going to give myself a break and sew some less difficult things for a while I think :D

  4. Awwww...I just want to hug you! Definitely don't work on anything that makes you miserable! Janine is spot on: be gentle with yourself and sew something simple.

    I like your self portraits, too. You're quite good at drawing. =)

    1. Thank you! :D I was definitely in need of virtual hugs when I wrote this but I actually feel much more cheerful now and am quite excited to start sewing some (easier) things. :D