Thursday, 7 December 2017

Operation: Outerwear II, The Blue Wool Jacket (Burda 6461) (Part II)


I HAVE FINISHED MY JACKET, and I absolutely, one hundred percent LOVE it. I am so pleased with how it turned out that I can't even quite believe that I made it myself. :D

The pattern I am using: Burda 6461, view B

At the end of my last post on this subject, I was at the point where I had done a bunch of fitting work with my not-very-interesting pattern (Burda 6461, view B) and was ready to cut into my fabric.

Between a lack of daylight at this time of year and really terrible, wet, and gloomy weather, I was forced to take all my photos indoors and without much natural light. I've had to over-expose a lot of the photos that follow in order to actually show the fit etc, but I did manage to get one this one that more or less accurately shows the colour of the fabric, which as you can see is navy with a lighter blue fleck:

This is the best shot I managed that shows the actual colour of the fabric
I had concerns about fitting even this simple pattern onto my piece of fabric, but in the end I had just enough, though I had nothing but strips and bits left over. Luckily, it was a fairly substantial boiled wool (a.k.a. loden), which meant no fraying edges and therefore no extra seam allowance required. It was an absolute dream to sew and it pressed beautifully as well. The only downside is that I'm concerned that the fabric might pill or bobble in wear, but I guess I'll just give it a periodic shave if it does. I'd definitely sew with boiled wool again based on this experience.

Front view, buttoned up, on Flossie, over-exposed to show the details
I interfaced the whole centre front piece, the hem and sleeve hem, armholes and back neck and the back facing using my new steam press. I used a lightweight tricot/knit fusible interfacing because the wool had so much give and movement, and this seemed to work OK although I don't think the glue adhered very well to the textured wool surface.

Rear view, also over-exposed.
After all the prep work, the actual construction of this jacket was all really straightforward except for the collar. When I was making the muslins, I did at one point attach a mock up of the collar to one of them just to get an idea of what kind of size and shape it was. However, I didn't make the whole collar or even, to be honest, read the instructions for how to put it together and attach it. When I got to that point in constructing the actual jacket, I was all O.o at the instructions. It was seriously the ODDEST way to attach a collar I've ever seen. I have to admit that the description of what to do baffled me initially to such an extent that I actually put it aside and spent some time making my sleeves in order to mull over what it was that the instructions wanted me to do.

Side view, over-exposed

The front facings of this jacket are part of the center front pattern piece, and they extend back to the shoulder seam. Once you have your front and back bodice constructed, first you attach the back facing to the two front facing shoulder seams to make a big loop. Then you sew the under-collar to the back of the jacket, and the upper collar to the facings, then re-arrange the facings and collar so that you have right sides facing, and then you sew the collar construction seams together. When you turn the collar, you therefore flip the whole facing part of the jacket into position.

Good things: collar seams rolled to the under-collar; Bad things: disappointingly non-pointy collar points.
However weird the instructions were it did work out perfectly in the end! I was pleased that Burda supplied separate pattern pieces for the upper and under collar, which made rolling the seams under for a nice collar finish much easier. My only problem with the collar in the end was that I spent ages trying to get my collar and the neck edge nicely pointy, but though I trimmed and pressed and poked to the best of my ability, this fabric is just too bulky to form a perfect point. In the end I decided I had achieved "good enough" and moved on.

One thing new to me in this jacket is that I used a piece of pre-made sleeve head to add some definition to the upper curve of the sleeve attachment seam. I am definitely a convert to this for future jacket and coats, as it really improves the look and shape of the sleeve cap and it's (a) a very cheap product, and (b) a very quick and easy process (I used the instructions on how to attach it that I found in the Singer "Tailoring" book). You definitely get a good return for taking just a few minutes to do this extra step in the construction process.

Lining and front facings
I lined this jacket in a blue and black polyester satin animal print-ish fabric, which I bought on Goldhawk Road in 2013. Burda's instructions for lining things always involve a metric tonne of hand-stitching, which I am basically never willing to do. Instead I bagged the lining using the instructions in a book called "Easy Guide to Sewing Linings" by Connie Long (which is an invaluable little guide to all things lining, I can't recommend it enough). That said, as usual I got to the point where I was trying to turn an entire bulky jacket through one sleeve and asked myself how I possibly thought this was easier than a metric tonne of hand stitching. Overall the lining process was mostly straightforward, although for some reason I struggled again with the sleeve caps despite removing about a mile of ease.

My final job was the installing the buttonholes and buttons, or as I like to call it, How To Ruin Two Weeks Work In Under a Minute. The pattern calls for 4 buttons, but I decided on 5 for one good reason (it enabled me to put the buttons at well-spaced intervals round my bust point) and one bad reason (my buttons came in a pack of 5). As always, my machine was a total diva about the buttonhole process. Either everything is situated EXACTLY PERFECTLY and the buttonhole sensor works fine, or else it is a catastrophe. I put in 5 buttonholes and 4 came out perfectly and one was a catastrophe, which is about par for the course. Luckily, the problematic buttonhole isn't in the least bit obvious, to the point where I doubt anyone who isn't me will ever notice at all.

Wearing the jacket: open.
I'm really pleased with the fit. To recap, I started with a size 44 and then made the following fitting changes: lowered the bust point, narrowed the shoulders, added length in the upper back with a high round back adjustment, raised the armholes, and removed (a HUGE amount of) ease and height from the sleeve cap. I make a square shoulder adjustment in most patterns, but I achieved the same effect in this pattern by sewing it as designed but omitting the shoulder pad.

So I should also have a photo of me wearing the jacket buttoned up to show the fit except, uh, this is what I took:

This is a very helpful photo.

So you will have to make do with a naff Instagram mirror selfie for a buttoned-up view:

Instagram front view

I think all my fitting changes worked out well except I was maybe a little over-enthusiastic with my high round back adjustment. There seems to be just a little excess fabric just below the collar when I'm wearing it. Next time I do this adjustment I'll scale back the size of my change a little.

The most important thing for me however is that I feel like I can move around really well, including the crucial "reach forward to hold the steering wheel" test. I am going to start raising the armhole on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g in the light of discovering what a difference that adjustment makes to ease of motion. I am also delighted by the fit at the bust and shoulder, which is a significant improvement on, well, pretty much every coat I've ever owned.


Rear view, hugely over-exposed to show the fit

In conclusion: Quite a lot of the time I feel something of a failure on the sewing front. I make a lot of easy stuff and I am quite competent at doing so. However, when I try to make anything remotely more complex or try to get something to actually fit well I don't seem to do so well. Now, to be fair, this is not a particularly complicated pattern either BUT the end result fits really well and it is legitimately well-sewn, and that's an enormous confidence boost. I feel really encouraged about working some more on fitting, in particular, because I definitely see that I improved the fit quite significantly with the changes I made between Muslin #1 and the Finished Jacket.

Overall, I'm not sure I can actually express how thrilled I am with this jacket! It's definitely going to be the best thing I've made this year; it's probably in the top three things I've EVER made! And I finished it just in time to wear this weekend, when the UK is about to turn quite a lot colder than usual! :D

Next up: after this more complicated project, I'm going to go with something fast and easy. I've prepped the pattern pieces for a McCall's 6844, a.k.a. That Cardigan Pattern That Everyone Else Has Made A Million Times Already, which should be a snap to cut and sew. This is a slight change to my plans -- originally I was going to sew an Ottobre cardigan in purple ponte, but I've gone for a McCall's pattern in blue and white scuba for ... reasons, I am sure. :D

Saturday, 2 December 2017

November Round-Up

November was a MUCH better month for me, sewing-wise. I actually made some things! Things that weren't the most basic sewing imaginable and used new and different patterns! \o/

This month I made: three knit tunics (see here and here) and made a substantial start on a jacket using Burda 6461. Since that last post, I've actually made even more progress on the latter, though rather less than I'd hoped because the first few days of this week I felt a bit grim. As a result I was only able to cut out my jacket in very short bursts. I did finally get it mostly done by Thursday except for the pieces I wanted to block fuse.

On the subject of which: this week I was also waiting to be able to go collect a very useful new toy: a steam press! I've wanted a steam press for AGES -- ever since I started sewing, really, as I started out making bags, which use a TON of interfacing. I rapidly came to despise the process of applying fusible interfacing using a hand-iron and by all accounts these machines get it done much faster and more evenly. However, up to now it's always been one of those "nice to have, totally not necessary" items that I could never quite see my way to buying. However, it was my birthday recently and I was given some money, and there was a serendipitous, extremely well-priced second-hand listing for this Singer ESP 2 on eBay that I could easily collect. Obviously it was Meant To Be!

A Singer ESP 2 steam press, a birthday present to myself :D
Initial impressions from fusing my jacket pieces this week are very positive. I block fused a section of the fabric for all the smaller pieces (collar, collar stands, etc) and a second large piece for the centre front pattern pieces and then cut them out, and that process was overall extremely successful. I also fused strips at the hems of all the pieces and around the armholes, for which results were more mixed for some reason. I think maybe I didn't fuse some of them for long enough.

(I also ordered some expensive dressmaking scissors with what remained of my birthday money, but they are taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R to arrive.  Maybe next week!)

Jacket so far! The collar hasn't been pressed at all yet, it won't stay so puffy and sad!
At any rate, I got through the whole preparation stage and I actually started sewing my jacket today and made really good progress! The bodice went together super fast, I put the sleeves together though I haven't attached them yet, and I did the WACKIEST COLLAR ATTACHMENT EVER (which I will no doubt talk about at GREAT LENGTH when I write up my finished jacket because: wacky as hell). I still need to finish off the collar, attach the sleeves and the patch pockets and do the hemming before I embark on the lining. I am never excited by Burda's lining instructions as they are heavy on the hand-stitching. I may have to give that process a bit more thought before I actually get started. Also, I just remembered I haven't replicated my adjustments through the separate lining pieces, so um, I guess I'll be doing that as well. Even with all that to do, however, I am hoping to be done by the end of the week.

Other than tunics and my jacket, this month I also did a bunch of random little sewing tasks for other people (hemming stuff, making lightweight drawstring laundry bags for travel) and I did an absolute PILE of cross-stitching:
Christmas cross-stitch stuff using Vervaco card kits
Each row above is a different Vervaco cross-stitch kit, each of which makes three cards, though I plan to use them as decorations rather than sending them to anyone. Of the three kits, I like the cats best as finished pieces, not least because that is authentic cat behaviour right there: if you have a cat and a Christmas tree, you will have a cat IN your Christmas tree. I also really like the Christmas Elves in the middle, but they weren't very interesting to stitch. There are big blocks of colour that you later add embellishment to in order to give it that Nordic/Fair Isle sweater look. The embellishment was fun, cross-stitching the big blocks of colour not so much.

I now have another, larger, single-piece cross-stitch underway which is another Christmas themed thing, and obviously therefore I hope to get that done over the course of the month.

Other than finishing off the jacket and my cross-stitch, my plans for December are:

December plans: New Look 6527, Ottobre 02-2017-08, Ottobre 02-2013-12
- A woven tunic using New Look 6527, maybe view A (the red version) exactly if I can squeeze it out of my fabric, but if not then I'll leave off the overlay on the bottom part, in a spotty black viscose.
- The last knit tunic to wear with leggings that I had planned to make in November and ended up putting off because I had pattern doubts. I have picked out a new pattern, Ottobre 02-2017-08, that I think will work a lot better with the fabric, which is a bright blue mid-weight knit.
- A purple ponte knit cardigan using Ottobre 02-2013-12.

Vintage Vogue woven top; Burda 11-2015-116 modelled image and technical drawing.
And then the "maybe"/"might start but not finish this month" list is: if I have time at the end of the month, I'd like to make a top using a vintage Vogue pattern I've had in stash for a while now in a blue/navy ikat patterned stretch woven. Then, in January, I want to at least muslin Burda 11-2015-116, which means I probably want to buckle down to that tracing job in December even if I don't get anywhere near starting it. I honestly can't decide if this coat with the GIGANTIC lapels will suit me or not, but I'm obsessed with the idea of it! And I also have one piece of gift sewing to do in early January for a birthday and I want to get the prep done for that if not the entire gift is possible.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Operation: Outerwear II, The Blue Wool Jacket (Burda 6461) (Part I)

Unbelievably, I have actual PROGRESS on a piece of outerwear to report! It's a seasonally appropriate miracle!

Pattern Choice

I am using a Burda envelope pattern, Burda 6461, which is... well, let's be honest, it's not a very exciting pattern. I am using view B, as below:

Burda 6461 and view B technical drawing
I ended up buying this wholly uninteresting pattern specifically for this project this week (on sale for half price, at least) despite my MANY back issues of Burda with bookmarked jacket patterns and my MANY other pre-existing jacket patterns, for two reasons:

1. The amount of fabric I have. I bought the fabric at a craft fair last year. It was the end of a roll and I was told there was 2m and it was 155cm wide, which ordinarily would be quite enough for a jacket of almost any description. However, when I got it home and unfolded it I was extremely annoyed to discover that although I did have 2m in length only 1.5m was at the full width as a large piece had been chopped off one end. This took a lot of potential patterns out of the running.

2. My pattern requirements were really specific: I wanted my jacket to be lined, have pockets and a simple (not notched) collar, and be designed with a single-breasted front with visible buttons (because I have some great buttons for this jacket!). I wanted the pattern to either be the length I was looking for (mid hip) or be very easily adjusted to that length. I also wanted it to have princess seams and a two piece sleeve. This is the exact jacket I wanted, boring though it is.

Fitting work

I am not usually much for a ton of fitting work. In my last post, however, I remarked that I wanted to go back to the drawing board with some of my fitting problems. For the last 18 months or so I've been quite lazily using a size 44 with only very minor adjustments, and I've been paying for that with, in particular, extremely poor fit through the shoulder.

Since then I've spent some time revisiting a whole bunch of different things in all kinds of different books and websites and blogs about determining what size one should pick as a starting point. The most common suggestion is to start from a smaller size at the shoulder and blend/grade/adjust as required below that point. With this in mind, I decided to take a whole new set of measurements and see whether that helped me. With making a Burda pattern, I also had the long form of the Burda sizing chart to use. Several of the measurements have vanished from their size charts in the last year or so, but previously they always had neck circumference and various other measurements to help you pick a size, which I thought might be useful.

My size outcomes based on Burda's charts were as follows:

Neck: 40
Shoulder width: 38/40
Upper bust (calculated from full bust minus 7.5cm for a C-cup): 44
Bust: 44
Upper arm: 44/46
Waist: 44/46
Hip: 42

For the most part, this tells me nothing I didn't know. I have mocked Burda for years for their Giant Rectangle patterns, and yet I am myself a Giant Rectangle. The only reason my hip size looks smaller than the rest of me is that Burda, and most other pattern companies, draft for a slight pear shape and I am, in fact, completely rectangular -- my hip & bust measurements are usually identical. I also have barely any waist, and certainly not the slight hourglass shape that Burda draft for. (Actually, I have no ROOM for a waist as there's only the smallest possible gap between the bottom of my ribcage and the top of my pelvis. This has always been a curious relief to me. It's pointless for me to chase after a "perfect" hourglass figure -- no amount of weight loss could ever change my skeletal structure!)

For the purposes of this jacket, though, taking my measurements again was quite the eureka moment in terms of my neck & shoulder vs upper bust numbers. I am genuinely surprised by these measurements (and I did take them several times to check I was accurate!) because I wouldn't have said AT ALL that I was narrow through the shoulders compared to my upper chest or that I had a smaller neck than average. I'm still not convinced I do compared to like, actual people in the world, rather than the hypothetical fit model. I wonder how many other people would find their measurements put them 1-2 sizes smaller through the neck and shoulder than everywhere else

At any rate, armed with this information I decided there were therefore two possible routes to pursue: either start with a 40, and blend/adjust from the point of the shoulder down; or start with a 44 and adjust the neck and shoulder as required. I traced the top portion of both the 44 and the 40 onto paper -- just enough of a paper muslin to see how the neckline and shoulder would fit together. The 40 neckline felt too small and constricting. Moreover, the shoulder width difference between the two sizes was barely 0.7cm, and even with this width reduction the shoulder seam on the size 40 was still clearly going to hang down my arm as usual and require further adjustment. In the end therefore, after all that effort, I did exactly what I always do and started from a straight 44, on the basis that if I was going to adjust the shoulder anyway, it was easier to just cut the whole garment in a single size and plan to make a larger shoulder adjustment.

Muslin #1: The straight 44

Muslin #1 of Burda 6461
This therefore is a 44, straight off the pattern sheet. It probably helps at this point if you understand that all the RTW coats and jackets I own either (a) fit horribly and are uncomfortable to wear; or (b) are knit/fleece and the stretch therefore disguises most fit problems. So, when I say that the fit of this first muslin was "not bad", I mean: it was not as bad as some RTW coats/jackets I have owned, but it still had a lot of problems.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo on me as well as on Flossie here, so you will have to take my word for the fact that there were two blindingly obvious fit problems: 1. The bust point was too high, producing an empty bubble of fabric above my actual bust. This also meant the bust fit was a tiny bit too tight because the extra width was not where I needed it. 2. The shoulders were FAR too wide. Flossie actually has a pretty good approximation of my shoulder width -- it's not perfect, but it's pretty close -- and you can see just how much overhang there is. I ended up taking 2cm out of the width. Even if I'd started with the size 40, I'd still have had to take another 1.2cm out.

I'm not enormously experienced moving the bust point around with princess seams, and I wanted to see if I did or didn't have enough room at the bust once the fullness was in the right place. I therefore decided to adjust my paper patterns for the bust point problem and the shoulder width adjustment, which required me to redraw the whole armhole as well, and make a second muslin, just to check everything worked.

Muslin #2: Further adjustments

Muslin 2 of Burda 6461

Muslin 2: The bust adjustment worked great. The shoulder situation was better. Honestly, I feel like this still looks a little far down my arm on the left side as you look at this photo, but it didn't seem that way when I had my arms by my side -- I think holding the phone shifted it a little.

I then did a high round back adjustment, which was another major adjustment I intended to do in the first round. I was distracted by all my shoulder fitting shenanigans and forgot.

My next job, after I took this photos, was to work on the 'reach forward' problem. This is an essential fitting problem for me. Historically, all my RTW coats and many of my shirts and blouses both handmade and RTW have suffered from the problem that I get massive, painfully tight drag on my upper arms when I reach forward. You can actually see it in this photo -- look at the tight lines across my bicep on the hand holding the phone. Shifting the shoulder seams back up to my actual shoulder helped, but not as much as I hoped it would. 

For a long time, I had assumed the problem was in the sleeve fit around my biceps. I don't have small upper arms and I often do full bicep adjustments, but this never seemed to fix the problem. I started to wonder if that was just, you know, what happens if you wear woven sleeves, and I'm just spoiled by wearing a lot of knits into thinking that reaching forward to, for example, hold my steering wheel or open a door should not make my sleeves cut into me.

In my quest to re-read a bunch of fitting information, however, I came across a section that specifically address this problem. I ended up raising the armhole by 2cm and that made a HUGE difference to the fit and comfort reaching forward. It does mean I have a little excess fabric around the armhole when my arms are by my side, but I can live with that.

Doing that though meant I had to address the sleeve. Again, you can see in the photo that the sleeve of this pattern was a problem. Admittedly, I wasn't making much effort to get this sleeve in properly, but wow, there was a lot of excess fabric in the sleeve cap. A LOT. I took the sleeves in and out a few times while I played with some adjustment possibilities, and even the one time I got it in without a ton of pleating, the sleeve cap was really poofy and high. I ended up flattening the cap and taking out quite a lot ease, and that really improved the look of the sleeve when I was done.

That's all my progress so far! I've made all my paper pattern changes and tomorrow I'll start cutting out. With any luck, my next update will be a finished jacket!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Another tunic (Knipmode 01-2017-13)

Finishing up with this season's Almost Pyjamas garments, I had thought to make another two tunics. In the end I've only made one. I've had a change of heart about the second pattern I'd chosen and as I hadn't cut it out yet like I thought I had, I've pushed it further along my sewing queue for now.

The tunic I did make is from Knipmode 01-2017, pattern 13 (also available on their website to buy).

Tunic modelled shot and tech drawing from Knipmode 01-2017

My attention was caught more by the technical drawing than by the modelled shot, which is rather bland. I really liked those interesting shoulder seam/darts, and the overall shape of the tunic with the curved empire waist seam.

My version, modelled by Flossie and me in my hall mirror again.
I used a lightweight purple ponte with a sort of leafy pattern on it in black and lighter purple. I am not usually very keen on florals, but this one is marginally more subtle than most. I originally bought it online thinking I would make a cardigan, but when it arrived I discovered that the wrong side is bright white. I needed to sew it using a pattern than keeps the wrong side completely hidden.

Knipmode sizing is a little bit different to Burda/Ottobre but this is also quite a voluminous pattern. The back, in particular, has a LOT of ease built in. If I were making a more fitted style I would in theory want a Knipmode size 44 through the bust at least, but I went with a size 42 with this garment and I really like how it fits. The slightly unusual shoulder/sleeve arrangement makes it hard to generalize about the shoulder fit (a topic in last week's post) from this pattern.

Sleeve/shoulder/front dart detail; the dreadful zipper insertion
I made zero fitting or design changes, except to leave the zips off the pockets. I never intended to do the zips, seeing no point to them, but if I HAD, the zip installation on the front would have put me right off anyway! The tunic on the whole went together well except for that zip, which went in very very badly.

I translated the instructions using a mixture of Google translate and the (very) few words of Dutch sewing lingo I've picked up, and they mostly made sense with only a little thought here and there. However, the zipper insertion instructions did not translate at all well. I puzzled over the results I got from Google translate for a while, but I still don't really understand what the original instructions were. Luckily, I had been looking at a tunic with a very similar zipped neckline in Burda just a few days before, so I decided to follow those instructions instead... except then I screwed up a critical part of it and made my life 100% more difficult than it needed to be. The final result is exceedingly substandard and home-made looking, which pains me. I mean, it's fine in the sense that the zipper goes up and down and from a safe distance it's not entirely horrible, but still: ugh. Luckily this tunic is part of my Almost Pyjamas wardrobe and won't be too in the public eye much at all.

Zip aside, I'm pretty happy with this tunic, and also to have used another Knipmode pattern! I am encouraged by this experience even with the troublesome zip (which would have been fine if I had just not independently made a major error), and I feel more than ever that I mustn't talk myself out of using my magazines just because there's a couple of extra steps involved in making things.

Next up on my sewing queue is a jacket. Yes, I know I always say that and then shock, horror, no actual outerwear is forthcoming. However, things are getting really awkward now. I have so much outerwear fabric! I still have no actual outerwear to wear as I've refused to buy myself a new coat when I have so many outerwear sewing plans! I have actually successfully made a coat (my red raincoat, which I have worn frequently even though it's totally the wrong colour for most of my wardrobe), so I know I can do it! I have no excuse, in other words.

Monday, 6 November 2017

The 2017 Edition of Almost But Not Quite Pyjamas, plus Fit as a problem

Last autumn, I decided to experiment a little with the leggings-and-a-knit-tunic look for days when I am mainly at home. I wanted some new options for the sort of outfit that is Almost But Not Quite Pyjamas: perfectly respectable to wear if I have to answer the door or run to the corner shop for something, but equally OK to nap in. I didn't want to invest too much time/fabric/money in the experiment, because I wasn't sure how much I'd wear what I made, so I bought two pairs of inexpensive RTW leggings and made four also inexpensive tunics to go with them (see here and here).

A year on, I can conclude that this experiment has been quite successful, inasmuch as it's become my preferred outfit type on days when I don't plan to leave the house. In fact, I wore out the cheap leggings (they went sad and saggy) and two of the tunics are now looking shabby after frequent washes. When I was planning my sewing for this autumn/winter, expanding/replacing this part of my wardrobe was therefore top of my list of things to do. I bought replacement RTW leggings, but picked out four new-to-me knit tunic patterns to go with them. Here are the first two: (please forgive the photos, my main camera is having a problem so all I had was my phone)

Ottobre 02-2010-11 technical drawing, and my version on Flossie

First, an older Ottobre pattern, 02-2010-11, which is (bafflingly, as usual) called the "Journal" tunic in the magazine. It's actually two garments -- a three-quarter sleeved surplice bodice top and a longer sleeveless underdress that peeks out from underneath at the neckline and hem. This pattern has actually been on my To Make list for a long time, so I was pleased to actually get around to sewing it up.

Underdress on its own, and me wearing it
The underdress is extremely simple: the front is gathered above an empire waist seamline and attached to a skirt, but the back is just a flat bodice piece and skirt. The pattern calls for a turn and stitch neckline and armholes but that is not an edge treatment I like much, so I bound it the way I do t-shirts. Other than that, I did a small square shoulder adjustment but otherwise made up a size 44 as per the pattern sheet.

Why did I bother to take a photo of it on me? Well, empire waist has always been a problem for me in the past. In RTW I could NEVER get anything to fit where the seam didn't end up bisecting me more or less at the bust point due to having a large, slightly low bust. The seam position on this underdress isn't too bad, but it's still not quite in the right place! Something to think about if I make it again, for sure.

The two layers on me
The upper layer is very slightly more complicated to make as it's gathered at the shoulders and has the cross-over front, but it was still pretty easy. I again used a size 44 with no alterations except for the square shoulder adjustment. The neckline on this is hemmed first, and I was relieved my fabric didn't stretch out during the cover-stitching process. Actually, in general I made my life more complicated than it needed to be by using a very drapey, floppy viscose knit fabric that didn't really respond well to handling. The front turned out OK, but the back neck, which had a facing that I turned into a binding, not so much. I think if I made this again I'd try for a slightly firmer fabric just because I think it might hold up better to the manipulation required to put this top together. This drapey soft viscose is lovely to wear but not ideal to sew.

This was one of those projects where I went back and forth as I was making it on whether I liked it or not. I wondered if the print of the fabric was too childish. I wasn't sure if the empire waist seamlines were going to fall in the right place. In the end though, I really love it, with one major caveat that I'll come back to at the end of this post.

Burda 12-2016-112 technical drawing and my version as modelled by me in my hall mirror

My second tunic is a very simple short dress pattern from a fairly recent issue of Burda, 12-2016-112. I have to admit I ignored this pattern entirely when this issue came out as it's at the more basic end of Burda's designs. There's nothing much to it, but it seemed to me that it was a nice shape, and handily the pattern is suitable for either knits or wovens. The only real ~feature, however, is the rufflecuffs, which I loathe. I wear a cardigan or sweater like 90% of days, and I find it incredibly annoying trying to shove an extra half metre of fabric down my cardigan sleeve. That was easy to just omit though.

Burda 12-2016-112: Front and back view on Flossie
I made one other big change: I omitted the centre back zip as I was using a knit and cut the back on the fold, mainly because I didn't want to do stripe matching on the back. (Even though the side seams turned out perfectly! I even managed to match ABOVE the dart -- which to be fair was a total coincidence. I usually just work on matching below the dart since everything above it is usually hidden by my arm, but on this occasion it happened to work out perfectly. AND I matched side to side across the sleeve and bodice. Stripe matching win!)

The change to the back piece sacrificed a fair bit of back shaping but I thought the trade-off was worth it. Other than that, though, this dress is pretty much as written for a size 44, with only my usual square shoulder adjustment, and missing off the flouncy rufflecuff.

Stripe matching like a boss -- I can barely see my side seam in this photo! :D
The only tricky part with this was the v-neck, which was faced. I had two problems with this. First, and irrevocably, the neckline stretched a little when I was sewing one side of it (why one side and not the other?! Who knows!) and as a result the finished neckline looks slightly wonky. I didn't realize until I stepped back and looked at the finished garment so I didn't have a chance to fix it. I don't love this at all, but I am hoping it's the sort of flaw I forget about as I wear the thing.

The second problem was just: facings. I don't love them. I don't even like them. I came to absolutely despise the ones on this tunic because they would NOT stay put on the inside of the garment. I did everything I know how to do to make it work -- trim, clipped, understitched, pressed, stitched in the ditch at the shoulder seam, you name it. I ended up topstitching the thing in place. It doesn't look bad, but it's not the pretty clean finish on the technical drawing. I think I can lay the blame on my bulky, bouncy ponte knit fabric. Maybe using a different, lighter fabric for the facing would have been better.

I haven't worn this one yet, and my big qualm about this dress is how comfortable this ponte fabric is going to be. Fit-wise it's OK, if a little bit tight across the biceps, which is something to fix if I make it again. The sleeves are tight in a knit: they'd be unwearable in a woven. The fabric itself though is a bit polyester-y and scratchy. I'm wondering whether it's going to be very comfortable to wear.

The elephant in the room though with the outcome with both of these projects is that I really SHOULDN'T be using a size 44 straight off a Burda/Ottobre pattern sheet. Yes, the things I make fit, for the indifferent definition of 'fit' that 'similar to the fit I can achieve from inexpensive RTW'. I've fallen into the lazy habit of just using a size 44 (or the equivalent) because it addresses what is always my biggest fit concern in general with reasonable success. Above all I want to make sure that I don't draw even more attention to my large bust by having my tops gape or pull at the bust line. At the level of the bust point, a Burda or Ottobre size 44 works out well for this.

The shoulder width problem illustrated -- the line on the left is where the shoulder seam fall. The line on the right is the point of my shoulder
However, I'm really NOT a Burda or Ottobre size 44 at the shoulder. In the splodgy paint print tunic above, you can see how the shoulder seam is falling down my arm. Several of the patterns I've made up using the lazy 'just make a 44' sizing choice have ended up too big at the neckline and too wide at the shoulder, sometimes by quite a substantial amount. In knits, over-sized and loose-fitting garments, which collectively account for the vast proportion of my sewing over the last 18 months or so -- the same 18 months where I've been lazily making straight size 44s -- the problem isn't so obvious and doesn't tend to bother me too much when I'm wearing the garments in question. I will absolutely wear both of these tunics and I probably won't register the fit problems too much.

I have a LOT of woven projects in my queue, though, and very few of the handful of woven garments I've made have been successful from a fit perspective over the same 18 month period. Part of the reason I haven't made many wovens is that I know I need to work on fit before I start cutting into the fabrics I've been hoarding for those projects for a while now. As regular readers will know, the last 18 months have also been very difficult health-wise, so I've not really had the wherewithal to get stuck into a major fitting project. However, I'm now sufficiently fed up with the poor fit I'm achieving that I think I'm going to have to work on it properly.

In the very short term, I have two more knit tunics lined up to sew that are straight from the pattern sheet. I am sure they will have the same fit problems at the shoulder and neck, but it's too late to worry about it as I already cut them out. For other things I have lined up for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, I am going to need to add a lot of fitting steps to the sewing process I think.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Some progress, at least

October has been, on the whole, very dull. The weather has been mostly grey and wet, I have recovered disappointingly slowly from last month's major health setback, and in general very little worthy of note occurred. I didn't sew at all the first two weeks of the month as I really didn't feel well enough to do anything that wasn't lurk miserably under a blanket most of the day. However, the second half of the month was MUCH better and I was much more able to do things.

I decided that in order to get back into a sewing routine I would pick out all the least taxing projects from my autumn/winter queue, in terms of physical and mental effort required. While this approach was very successful from getting-back-into-sewing point of view, I have to admit that it makes for very dull blogging. Honestly, most of my 2017 sewing output so far has been deathly boring even to me -- I'm hoping the end of the year improves a bit!

Top row: StyleArc Estelle cardigan in green ponte, Butterick 5704 PJs in checked shirting. Bottom row: Burda 01-2017-124 PJs (simplified) in hideous red fabric and my t-shirt sloper in green.

Briefly, then: the four things I made this month were:

1. Another StyleArc Estelle cardigan, in dark green;
2. A green three-quarter sleeve t-shirt using my basic t-shirt sloper;
3. A pair of my TNT long PJ trousers, Butterick 5704, in a blue checked shirting fabric,
4. A simplified version of the wide-legged PJ trousers I made at the start of the year (Burda 01-2017-124), without the piping or separate cuff pieces. I described these on Instagram as hideously ugly and seriously UGLY! Yet, I love this pattern and the fabric is silky and delightful to wear, so I don't really even care that the colour is a revolting tomato-y red, weirdly tie-dyed and overall fug. :D

I think I am going to retire the StyleArc Estelle pattern for now as I've made it six times. I've loved the ones I've made and they've all been in constant rotation. One of them, in plain black, I wore out in under a year and it has already gone in the recycling. Two of the others are likely to follow shortly as the fabric is starting to look shabby. As much as I like my remaining Estelles and the pattern in general, though, I think I'd like to make a different pattern now.

The only other thing I have to say about making these four things is that I briefly came to loathe my recently purchased overlocker while sewing the knits. I was having SO MANY problems with it. It kept missing stitches and the thread kept breaking, so I was having to rethread the loopers every few minutes. You know how it is when you're ill and tired and not at your best overall; little annoyances seem a thousand times more dramatic and difficult than they really are. Well, I was so much in that state of mind that I was literally crying over the stupid overlocker because it just wouldn't WORK. I felt like I had tried EVERYTHING -- different thread, different tension settings, completely rethreading the machine a million times, checking all the settings, etc etc etc. Then, paging through the instruction manual "Troubleshooting" section, I realized I hadn't tried one of the most obvious things of all: changing the needles. Two minutes of effort to do that, and hey presto, everything worked perfectly again. I felt like such an idiot! /o\ The only positive is that I got a LOT of threading practice and could now probably thread that machine in my sleep!

Overlocker-related dramatics aside, now that I am back on track a bit I have been making plans for November. First up, I want to make some more knit tunics to go with leggings for lounging around the house. I've got four new-to-me patterns all picked out and ready to start tracing, fabric and notions lined up and ready, and I'm keen to get on with those garments. I also picked up both my cross-stiching and knitting. And, over the course of several of the recent lurking-feebly-on-my-sofa days, I did a little more fine-tuning of my wardrobe plans and spreadsheets, which I will probably write about a bit more soon. One of these days I might even post my years-in-draft post about my colour choices!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Well, that was a month all right

I seem to have settled on a sort of once-a-month blog post approach, though that truly wasn't my plan for September. I actually started the month quite well, and fairly quickly worked through the first part of my "Autumn Essentials" sewing list: two pairs of my standard mid-season PJ pattern (Burda 8271), and two pairs of easy ponte knit trousers (StyleArc Barb, which I made once before and then wore to the point of exinction). I continue to be very happy with and impressed by my new overlocker, which chomped merrily through the task of constructing those ponte knit trousers.

Here are surely the least interesting photos I've ever posted showing those projects:

Two pairs of Burda 8271 in brown satin and black cotton
Two pairs of StyleArc Barb in grey and navy ponte

I had finished all that by mid-September and was lining up my last couple of simple-and-necessary autumn garments. Then I started to feel significantly more ill than I have been for a while. And then I got sicker. And then finally about ten days ago things came to a head and I ended up in hospital. Recovery so far has been pretty slow. No matter how therapeutic I would find it right now to sew and stop thinking about being ill for a while, I'm just not up to it. Just the thought of wrestling with patterns and fabric is exhausting right now, no matter how familiar and simple the patterns in question.

My plans for October, therefore, are pretty loose. If I feel better at all, I'm going to try to get a couple more simple-and-necessary things made, and then move on to some more knit tunic type things to wear with leggings. If I don't... well, I won't.