Friday, 29 July 2016

Knitted Objects 2016: #2 Drop Stitch Scarf in pink

I've been planning to start knitting a jumper on August 1st and I thought I'd best get back into knitting practice. I couldn't face my very boring lace-weight knitting WIP, which I can only bring myself to work on sporadically, so I decided instead to knit this fast little scarf, out of season though it is. This is a pattern I've knitted before, the free Drop Stitch Scarf (Ravelry link). The yarn is Malabrigo Rios in English Rose, which is a subtly variegated pink at the fuchsia/purple end the of pink spectrum.

Malabrigo is one of those ~~artisan, indie yarn brands that people go on and on about. I am not normally all that patient with that kind of hoopla -- or the accompanying price tag -- but in this case I have to admit the yarn does seem to live up to the hype. The colour variation is lovely, the yarn is gorgeously soft and squashy and knitted up well. The finished object is very pleasing indeed. I'd knit with this yarn again for sure, though I am pretty sure I am never going to find it affordable to make a whole sweater or other large project with it. I was sucked into this purchase because I saw something made up in this yarn/colourway and absolutely fell in love with it. I was still only willing to buy a single 100g skein for a small project as a treat. I can't afford to become too much of a yarn snob!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Finally, a jacket! (Simplicity 2209)

Before I start, a big thank you to commenters on the post about the trousers I made last week -- loads of good suggestions/advice, all of which I really appreciated. I have already followed up on a few of them and will be doing more work on trousers now that I've got some new ideas. More about this soon, no doubt!

In the meantime, as a break from the horror of fitting trousers, I decided to make an easy unlined jacket.

Back in mid-February I had a mini brainwave about what to do with a piece of linen/mix fabric I'd bought back in 2012 that I didn't really like and couldn't imagine using. I threw it in the washer with a box of navy blue Dylon dye and the result was actually very good. The fabric didn't take the full colour of the dye, coming out a sort of denim blue rather than true navy. Most interestingly though the green lines, which are woven into the fabric, must be some kind of polyester or other synthetic because they didn't take the dye at all. As a result, the fabric ended up a really interesting mix of blue and green, with quite a lot of texture. I earmarked it for a lightweight summer jacket and added the project to the queue.
Pre- and post-dye fabric
Then, however, it took me absolutely ages to settle on a pattern. Although I had a good length of fabric (2.7m, or 3 yards) it was vintage and quite narrow -- something like 105cm (about 41"). I must have gone through my magazine and pattern collection about 20 times before I found a pattern I liked that would also fit on my fabric. (In the end I had about 50cm left over from making this particular pattern.)

Simplicity 2209

Somewhat unusually for me, I eventually settled on an envelope pattern. This is an OOP Simplicity pattern that I got on the front of a magazine when I first started garment sewing. It's one of the Lisette patterns from before the designer moved over to Butterick, Simplicity 2209, and both dress and jacket have been widely and mostly positively reviewed. I chose view C, which has a flat collar, little pockets set into the princess seams, and, as written, 3/4-length sleeves.

I made a size 16 based on the finished garment measurements. It actually felt quite risky because I didn't muslin (bad sewer! no biscuit!) and I don't make enough Simplicity to have a sense of how they fit me. The fit isn't TOO bad, but if I were to make it again I'd do a few things differently.

Simplicity 2209 in blue/green linen-and-something mix - front
First, some things I actually did change: I dislike 3/4 sleeves on jackets so I lengthened the pattern to full length sleeves. I added 2.5cm to the width of the bicep to accommodate my large upper arms. I also turned smaller hems on the bodice than written to give myself an extra ~1.5cm in length. I didn't do my usual square shoulder adjustment but I did leave out the shoulder pad, which has the same overall effect. Other than that though, I pretty much stuck to the pattern as written.

Simplicity 2209 in blue/green linen-and-something mix -back
Things I should have done: I think I need to look at doing some kind of high round back adjustment more regularly. It's not TOO bad, but the hem definitely rises at centre back which indicates some extra length is needed. Either that or I need to fix my posture radically.

By far my biggest problem is/was the armscye/sleeve. I had SO MANY problems getting these sleeves to look reasonable. As written the sleeve caps were very tall and pointy. I struggled to get the sleeve in at all without puckers because there was a lot of sleeve cap ease. I finally managed to baste one sleeve in neatly but when I tried it on, the point of the shoulder was fully 3cm down my arm. The shoulder position hadn't looked quite so bad when I measured the flat pattern, so that was a bit disheartening.
Better photo of the colour/texture of the fabric plus the button detail

I ended up doing multiple rounds of basting and stitching trying to get the shoulder in the right place and re-shape of the armscye. I took somewhere between 2.5cm and 3cm out of the shoulder width of the bodice, took in the back armscye and flattened the sleeve cap significantly. The outcome is... wearable? I mean, I'm happy enough with it, if I'm honest, even if the fit isn't brilliant.

As modelled by me -- note the twisty sleeve issue!
The other sleeve issue I have (and this is a recurrent problem, but clearly visible in this jacket) is that everything I make seems to end up with the sleeves twisting inward from shoulder to bicep. I can't quite work out if this is a fitting problem (from my reading, maybe a forward shoulder?), something to do with how I am doing my bicep adjustment, or something about the way I'm setting the sleeves. Or some combination of all of the above. Or something else entirely that I don't know about! At any rate, I've added shoulder/armscye/sleeve fitting to my very long list of Things I Need To Learn About. I feel like what I might need to do is develop a really good set of sleeve/armscye combinations for different situations and just over-write any pattern that is too far out from them with my preferred shape.

As modelled by me from the back -- rising back hem issue also visible!

Other than the sleeve/sleeve cap ease, this was a very easy jacket to sew. Originally I planned to Hong Kong finish all my seams, and I even bought some bright emerald green bias tape to do so. However, I did half of one seam and realized that though I loved the colour combination, the bias tape I'd bought was too stiff for the fabric, so I unpicked it and decided to just overlock all the seams instead. It's a shame because I think the bias tape finish would have looked nice, but it did speed up the construction process a lot.

View of the innards -- all the edges are just overlocked
Overall, I am quite happy with my little jacket and it will no doubt get plenty of wear since it fits in so well with the rest of my wardrobe now the fabric is this colour.

Next up: I made a double gauze top earlier in the year that I love to bits. I almost immediately I bought another piece of double gauze and my next plan is to turn that into an easy late summer blouse. :D

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Imperfect trousers are better than no trousers (Burda 01-2007-108A)

On my list of things to do this year was work on fitting trousers. I gave it a go back in February, but though I spent what felt like a huge amount of time and effort on it, it wasn't overly successful. After four muslins, I hadn't really improved the fit significantly from the first muslin, and I never moved on to making an actual pair of trousers because the whole fitting experience was so exhausting and all I had achieved was trousers with pretty indifferent fit.

This month, however, I really needed to acquire at least one new pair of trousers. I'll admit it: I fully intended to just buy some. However, when I had a day when I felt quite well, I went out shopping and after rifling through the stock in multiple shops, it seemed like nearly everything available was tapered or skinny leg, neither of which I am keen on. I only found two of pairs of straight leg trousers that seemed like possibilities. When I tried them on, though, one pair really didn't fit at all no matter what size I tried, and although the second pair fit more or less okay they were ridiculously expensive. I'd run out of both steam and local shops to investigate at that point so I went home to sulk about it.

At that point a little lightbulb went on for me: if my choice is between indifferently fitting expensive RTW trousers, and indifferently fitting sewn trousers, why not just sew? Of course it would be better if I were able to make well-fitting trousers. However, as long as the fit of these early attempts isn't WORSE than the store-bought alternative the overall outcome is probably neutral. Also, one thing for sure is that I'm not going to get any better at making trousers by not making them.

So that was my goal this week: make some trousers, no matter how imperfect, because imperfect trousers are better than not having trousers.

Imperfect trousers: complete! (Burda 01-2007-108A in navy twill)

After my experience starting from a Burda pattern in February, I decided to see what happened if I started this time with a customized sloper pattern from Bootstrap. Bootstrap uses the same underlying pattern-making system as Lekala, which I have used with some success this year as a way to short-circuit some fitting issues in top patterns. Lekala is cheaper (if you buy in the frequent $1 sales) so I hadn't really bothered with Bootstrap up to now. However, more recently Bootstrap has started to offer some extra "indie" patterns, including some pants slopers, that are not available from Lekala. These patterns allow you to customize some additional trouser fitting details such as thigh width and butt shape.
Bootstrap CustomFit Classic Pants Sloper With Facing
I bought the CustomFit Classic Pants Sloper With Facing (NOT an affiliate link), and made up a muslin. As I sewed I was sort of day-dreaming that I'd put them on and miraculously they'd look amazing and I'd only have to make some minor alterations to make them fit me perfectly.

Ha. Hahaha. Ha.


I mean, obviously no. I was aware even while I thought about it that was not going to happen, but I admit I did hope for better initial fit than I got. I put them on and the fit was in fact pretty horrible, just like the first muslin I made previously from a similar Burda pattern. Depressingly, it was also horrible in more or less exactly the same ways: huge amounts of excess fabric pooling below the butt, huge diagonal lines radiating from my large upper thighs. I'd hoped that using my actual thigh measurements to produce the sloper would make a difference to the thigh problem, but this was not the case at all. This is because the extra width at the thigh is evenly distributed between the seams on the pattern, but not on my body (my inner thigh is where all the extra room is needed). I realize this is perfectly reasonable as generalized customization method, but it didn't help me. More concerning is that the waist fit was not only not better, it was significantly worse than the Burda pattern I tried previously -- I took out multiple centimetres to get it to fit. I triple checked and my measurements were both accurate and input correctly, so who knows what went wrong there.

My overall impression of the Bootstrap CustomFit sloper then is not very positive. Mostly it looked like the straight-off-the-pattern sheet Burda pattern, and none of the things it was meant to customize actually customized it in a useful way. It is entirely possible I picked the wrong customizations for e.g. butt shape, but at $7 for the pattern I can't afford to keep buying repeats to see if that makes a difference. That said, I definitely think for someone who has struggled to find ANY base pattern from which to start -- and in particular people who are sized out of Burda/Burda Plus or the Big4, since this can be customized up to a 56" hip -- this might be a way to get a basic sloper pattern. For me though, since I am actually a pretty average size and shape, it was kind of a waste of money.

At any rate, since I have some experience of fitting these problems from last time, I made some adjustments (one of them extremely technically dubious) to the Bootstrap pattern and after some effort I ended up with a basic pant sloper that I think more or less worked.

Key words: More or less. I am not going to pretend that I achieved anything like good fit! However, the fit I achieved is not worse than the expensive pair I tried on the shop. It's not any better, either, but it's at least at parity.  I could definitely have gone through several more rounds of muslins (and probably driven myself up the wall with frustration in the process) but for now I ran with "good enough!" and moved on to the actual trouser pattern I wanted to make.

Burda 01-2007-108A
(This was the point that I realized that I had really picked the wrong Bootstrap sloper for the trousers I wanted to make. I should have bought/used the version with a waistband.)

This is Burda 01-2007-108A. I picked this pattern because it's straightforward and has all the key features I wanted: straight-leg, with a waistband, a fly, rear darts, and front pockets with a horizontal opening. This pattern is written for a non-stretch woven, which matched the inexpensive navy cotton/poly twill fabric I had on hand for this pair of trousers. I had 2m of this fabric but I only really needed 1.5m.

I traced the new pattern and then overlaid the Bootstrap pattern I'd worked on over the top. This would have been easier, of course, if I'd picked the right sloper, but it was just a case of pinning together the waistband and leg pieces as if they were a single piece and then drawing the new pattern over. I'm pretty sure I introduced some stupid mistakes in the process -- definitely I screwed up the rear dart placement -- but I did manage to put together a working pattern.

Fly front. Actual fly: good! Pocket bags that peek out: not so good!
A good thing about my pattern choice, which I actually didn't realize when I picked the pattern, is that this was this issue's "Sewing Course" pattern and therefore came with extensive, illustrated instructions. Most of trouser making is not actually at all challenging if you've made anything at all with a waistband before, but the only previous times I made a fly front (two summers ago, on some skirts) I really struggled and they looked rubbish. The instructions for the fly for this pattern were really good though and I am very pleased with how it turned out. I made a couple of goofs -- somehow forgot to understitch the pocket bags so they pop up annoyingly! -- but overall I'm happy with the sewing on these trousers.

Trousers on me from the front
From a fitting perspective, the front looks pretty good, and the side seams are nice and straight. My main problems have always been at the back, though. When I look at these trousers on me, it's clear to me that there was extra width added at the outer thigh by the Bootstrap sloper (where I don't need it) as well as the inner thigh. I ended up adding yet more width to the inner thigh to eradicate drag lines, but I didn't take it off the other side. There's this empty, saggy line to the outer thigh as a result. The back darts are in the wrong place because of the way I merged the two patterns, and they look rubbish besides.

Trousers on me from the back :( I have very little idea how to fix any of this and believe me I've tried!
There are obviously still other fitting issues at the back overall, not all of which I understand or have any idea how to fix. Also, wow, the photos look 100 times worse than when you see the fitting problems in the mirror. /o\ This is where I really do have to remind myself that imperfect trousers are still better than no trousers! Also: this is not worse fit than I achieve from RTW. I just don't worry as much about RTW fit.

The problem I think overall with trouser fitting is one of the uncertainty of time/effort vs. reward. I feel like I could easily spend another 100 hours on muslins and fitting and the outcome could be anywhere from "amazing trousers that fit perfectly" to "no change from what I've achieved so far: still pretty rubbish" to "I might as well wear these like a bag over my head because it's such a disaster".

I also feel like I just don't GET trouser fitting in some fundamental way, probably because spatial resasoning has never been my strength. (It pains me to admit this -- I wish I were good at everything! But spatial reasoning and I have never been the best of friends.) I really struggle with the logic behind the pattern changes required to change the fit, and I don't really understand why some changes work (or don't work). Plus, trousers seems to be such a shifty mess of "change one thing for the better, everything else gets worse!". Argh. In a perfect world, I'd go do a trouser fitting course, but that's only going to be possible when (if) I get better and can leave my house for more than half an hour at a time!

In the meantime, I am not entirely sure how to proceed with my next pair of trousers. The fabric I bought for them is quite stretchy, which means finding a Burda pattern written for stretch and seeing if I can translate some of the adjustments I made into that new pattern. I might take a break from trousers and make something else easier first though!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Bits and pieces

  • Finally crawled out of my lengthy (mainly illness related) slump and decided to sew something easy and small. I cut out this green tote bag a few weeks ago but then left it to lurk in pieces in a corner for a while. The pattern is the artyscraftsybabe Lily Beth bag, which I have made once before in pink. I like the size and shape of the bag because my laptop fits in it nicely. Here is the finished article:

  • I am excited for my magazines arriving this month! With Burda, August is very often my favourite issue of any given year, though that could be just out of relief at being past the Burda summer silly season. That said, I actually think Burda this summer was way less peculiar than usual. I hope they've not just delayed their more baffling issues to later in the year. At any rate, based on the August preview there's a couple of things I want to make immediately from the August issue and a couple of patterns I definitely want to have on my radar for future use. I am also excited for Knipmode this month based on the preview. Last month was a bit of a disappointment as there really wasn't much I was interested in, so I was feeling lukewarm about it. My Knipmode subscription is up for renewal this month and sadly the sinking value of the £ vs. well, every currency ever, but specifically the Euro, is going to kill me when it comes to pay for it. I did debate whether to cancel because let's be honest, I've not used it a lot and it's not cheap or, since it's in Dutch, especially easy for me to use. However, even though there are arguments against it I think I am going to renew. There have been lots of patterns that I really liked and have ear-marked but that won't be suitable until I am working again. Plus, I've really cut down on my other pattern buying very significantly in part because I get my pattern fix from my magazines. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it. :D
  • Speaking of Burda, I was so sad to see Burdavisor is kaput after being C&D'ed. I can understand why Burda went after them, I guess, but it was such a mind-bogglingly useful tool that I am really bummed about it all the same. 
  •  I urgently need to make at least one, but maybe two pairs of trousers. Weather-wise, after a brief spell of warm and sunny weather at the very start of June it's been distinctly cool and wet here -- well below average temperatures and sunshine for the whole of June/early July and there's no real sign of improvement. Unfortunately all my sewing at the start of the summer was to fill "hot weather days" gaps in my wardrobe and it's mostly been too cold to wear any of it! My wardrobe planning has not stood up to this test, and I don't have enough of the right kind of trousers for weeks without end of this summer-but-not weather. On the other hand, the very thought of doing more trouser fitting after my exhausting and only partially successful efforts in February fills with me with horror. D:
  • Actually everything left on my summer sewing list fills me with at least mild trepidation. Typically, I have left all the more difficult things I want to make until last! My list is a sea of "can't decide on a pattern", "fitting nightmare", and "pattern has 88 pieces that all need to be traced and adjusted". D: Remind me again why this is my hobby that I do for fun?