Monday, 29 February 2016

Spring sewing starts here

For once, I am not lamenting the end of the month and the death of all my plans! I feel like I did a lot of sewing this month compared to the last several months. I finished: a t-shirt; three tank tops and a pair of StyleArc Barb trousers; a grey and white pullover shirt that, despite many (MANY) sewing flaws I love to pieces and have worn several times already; a sad wadder of a top from the most recent Burda (not a wadder in that post, but alas, trashed in the end) and worked on fitting trousers. That seems like a pretty respectable output for the shortest month of the year!

Unfortunately, due to stress buying fabric on several occasions, the less said about my overall fabric stash figures OR my sewing budget at the end of this month, the better. /o\ I mean, at least I sewed up a bunch of fabric as well as buying a bunch. And my stress buying wasn't quite as bad as it could have been as I did ditch out of buying things on several occasions. And I do love all the things I bought and all of them are for use this year. Still, not good. /o\

Moving swiftly on, let's talk spring! The first of March is meteorological spring, even if we have to wait another three weeks for astronomical spring and probably ages longer than that for actual nice spring-like weather. Nevertheless, it's time to think spring sewing for me. :D

Ottobre 05-2012-07
My big thing this spring is to replenish the long-sleeved woven shirt part of my wardrobe. My current selection is a bit limited and I need to replace a couple of those that I do have as they've become shabby. I have fabrics but not so much the patterns picked out at this point, though at least one of them for sure is going to be another Ottobre 05-2012-07 (without the colour blocking or the pockets) as a direct replacement for one of the shabby shirts. I am also looking for a cardigan pattern for 2m of striped cotton pique at the moment, without much success. Every pattern I find seems like it either needs too much fabric or would be a pain to work with stripes. Also on my list: some PJs, finish up the bag I am halfway through making, and sundry other small things. 

Finally, I'll say this part very quietly because as we all know my plans to make coats usually turn out to be fruitless, but I have once again picked out a raincoat pattern for a piece of red shower-proof cotton in my stash and am proposing to work on it this month. Actually, no, I am determined, DETERMINED, to actually get some traction on an outerwear garment this month! It's so annoying to have everything I need to sew coats and jackets -- which my wardrobe is really suffering for a lack of -- and yet still not have any coats or jackets! For real this time, I have to make a meaningful attempt to make a spring coat, or I need to give up and buy one.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Trouble With Trousers (or, Problems with Pants, if you're North American)

According to Bloglovin' and their stats page, a ton of new people started following this blog lately, heaven knows why. Hello, new people! Don't worry, I don't usually post quite so frequently, but this week I am full of things I am bursting to talk about, apparently. This post in particular is the longest thing IN THE WORLD, sorry about that.

First up, further developments on yesterday's Trashbag Top. I quite legitimately liked it yesterday but then a friend asked me Why is yours so much longer than the photo? Why is the tuck in a different place? At the time I answered lol, Burda, the model is probably 6'5"! But then SewCraftyChemist posted photos of her awesome, VERY much cuter, stripy version and it looked like it was the right length (and I have like, 3" in height on her!) and the tuck WAS in the right place. I suspected I sewed it all wrong.

This morning I retrieved my issue of Burda, my traced pattern and the top from where I'd hung it to compare the three. My immediate thought was: was this a tracing error? (No). Then I checked the pattern against the fabric thinking it might have been a cutting error and it was way, WAY off. I mean hugely off. So hugely off that I couldn't imagine how I could have possibly made such an epic cutting error and not noticed at the time. I was all I am the worst sewer in the world :( :( Why is this my hobby :( :(. However, the more I looked at my top this morning the more it struck me that it looked peculiar compared to yesterday.

I tried it on. How fortunate that I had photographic evidence from yesterday of what it used to look like! Overnight, while hanging on a hanger, the fabric had slowly relaxed out of shape in a very uneven manner, leaving me with strange dipping hems and sleeves that had expanded from just above the elbow to half way down my forearm. Wearing it, I look like I have been partially digested by a blue hospital gown.

Remember how I was like "I didn't know how to use this fabric because it's a crinkle viscose and you can't cut a straight line in it"? It turns out even if you manage to cut a straight line, IT WON'T STAY STRAIGHT. I guess every time I pressed it yesterday I was gradually uncrinkling it from the shape I'd cut it into until it was rather larger than the pattern pieces I started with, and then when I hung it overnight the long shoulder seams, which are cut at an angle to the grain, continued to relax all out of shape. And I mean OUT OF SHAPE. It gained like 20cm in length in places.

Alas, the end of this story won't surprise you: the Trashbag Top is in the trashbag :( However, I suppose I am mildly reassured that possibly I am not the actual worst sewer in the world.

Meanwhile, I have also been having an adventure with trouser fitting, which has been a mixture of fun, fascinating and extremely, EXTREMELY frustrating.

Up to now I haven't made much effort towards sewing trousers or trouser-like garments. When I've ventured into trouser type objects on the sewing front, I've only really made baggy elasticated waist PJs and yoga pants. I did also make some moderately (but not spectacularly) successful Ottobre woven shorts back in 2014, and most recently I made some closer fitting knit trousers using the StyleArc Barb pattern

At the end of last week I decided to use some of my sewing time to try out trouser fitting. I therefore dug through all my various fitting books and came up with a plan. From what I understood, most non-stretch woven patterns conform to one of two blocks: "trousers", which hang straight from the widest part of your butt to the hem; and "slacks" which are more fitted and slightly cup the butt. I decided to try making "slacks", on the grounds that the fitting problems would be clearer in a closer fitting garment and it would presumably be easier to make a more relaxed "trouser" pattern up once I understood the changes needed in the more fitted pattern.
Technical drawing: Burda 04-2005-103B
The key things I was looking for in a pattern were that it should have been written for a stable woven, have darts for waist shaping, straight and not overly fitted legs, a simple closure (preferably a side zip), and no waistband, pockets, design or seaming details. As usual, my Burda back issue stash proved invaluable and I found and traced out this exceedingly forgettable pattern from April 2005.

So far, I've made 4.5 muslins. I think 3.5 of these were a complete and utter waste of time.

MUSLIN #1, or, The Starting Point

I am, according to Burda, absolutely dead on the hip measurement for a size 42 and somewhere around a size 44 waist. This hip/waist size difference is normal for me -- my butt is quite flat and I carry a lot of weight on my abdomen. I also have a very small gap between my ribcage and the top of my pelvis. Even if I lost a ton of body fat (unlikely) from my waist/abdomen, I STILL wouldn't have much of a waist indent. I'm basically doomed to life as a Giant Rectangle myself, and should probably stop mocking Burda about it. :D

Anyway, I therefore dutifully cut a size 42 with giant seam allowances and here is what I had:
First, totally unaltered muslin
I think it's worth saying that I have almost certainly left the house and gone out in public in trousers that fit worse than this straight-from-the-pattern-sheet muslin, though never in patchily dyed pastel pink. In fact, I know I do, as during one interlude of frustration, sadly after my camera tripod expired, I went through all my favourite pairs of trousers and set up mirrors so I could examine my backside extensively. (Aren't the things you do when you sew absurd?). My 100% absolute favourite RTW trousers that I think make my legs look amazing, and that I would wear every single day if I could? Only about 50% less wrinkled in the back view -- and I don't care, I still love them.

At this point I went through my fitting books and started pinning and tucking and sewing in "corrections" to try to resolve those 8 million wrinkles on the back. This took a very long time and was mostly pointless. Then I had a Eureka moment. There are so many lines and wrinkles and they're all in different directions, but when you look at them closely they are almost all pointing at my thighs. And, then I thought, oh, hey, maybe the fact that all my RTW trousers wear out at the inner thigh means something! /o\ I carry all my extra thigh fat high on my inner thigh, so that's the seam I let out.

Post-thigh-letting-out. Still some crotch seam issues but I think much better. Also seriously, I am SUCH a rectangle. Do I have a single curve below the bust in that left hand shot?
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to STOP THERE. Yes, the back crotch curve needs some extra room (too much butt definition in this photo, the horror!) but the legs are actually better than 90% of my RTW at this point. But no, after this I carried on going, and (spoiler!) every iteration since has been worse.

First there was:

MUSLIN #2 or The Train Wreck Muslin

This muslin I have to talk about without visual aids because (a) my camera tripod broke and I worked mainly with mirrors instead, and (b) I introduced such a huge major error into my pattern between muslin #1 and muslin #2 that the photos I do have don't make a huge amount of sense.

What happened was that overnight I read about the knock-knee adjustment as a fix for "full inner thigh" on Debbie Cook's blog, which I promptly implemented and completely and utterly screwed up. I ended up having to cut through the seam below the knee to take out the distortion created by the pattern adjustment. No reflection on the adjustment or Debbie's description, I just made a big mistake as I was truing up the pattern and it made the whole thing go wrong. For some reason, though, I then spent ages going back and forth between this train wreck and the first muslin I made still trying to get rid of those leg wrinkles and making more adjustments. Many hours were lost to no effect.

MUSLIN #3, or Tally Ho!

Apparently my inspiration for Muslin 3
I made two huge changes (mistakes) before I sewed muslin 3. The more work I did on the first two muslins, the more volume I found myself adding everywhere. I suddenly wondered if I was just engineering myself into a size 44 from a 42. I went back to the pattern and it seemed like maybe it WOULD be better to start from a 44, so I traced that off instead. Mistake 1.

Mistake 2: In order to reflect my inner thigh pattern changes in my new pattern (rather than the rough and ready "let the seam out" approach even though that actually worked fine) I tried this method I saw recommended and just... no. Absolutely not. That would be a great adjustment for someone with "saddlebag" thighs, for sure but I really have quite a straight outseam hip line and I just looked like I was wearing Victorian jodhpurs.

There was no point in going any further with this one, I just ripped off the adjusted fronts and flung them out, but re-used the back to make:

MUSLIN #3.5, or, The Adult Diaper

I retraced the front piece AGAIN, and this time did the inner thigh adjustment described by Cation (#3 on that list). This worked better, in the sense that it didn't make me look like I was about to canter through my estate on my faithful steed. On the other hand this is the point where I realized going up a size was a mistake. A huge mistake, that I then spent ages carefully trying to backtrack from by gradually reshaping the side seams. Alas, this fabric is very thin, I apologize for subjecting you to this photo:

The effect of going up a size: so much unneeded space through the whole hip and thigh!
I also cut and pinned in a HyperExtended Calf from the same post by Cation even though I am extremely dubious that that is my problem. However I also felt like using the very thin polycotton fabric I was using was a mistake, because it just doesn't hang or behave like actual bottom-weight fabric. So, I made a few changes to the pattern and in perfectly horrid poly twill from my muslin stash, I cut out:

MUSLIN #4, or All These Changes Have Achieved Nothing.

Sorry you can't see the rest of my legs -- as I mentioned, my tripod broke and this was the best I could do without it
This is the back of the latest muslin. Basically, all of those hours and hours of extra work and multiple muslins were for nothing. The wrinkles are not noticeably less pronounced, and there are all sorts of exciting new problems, like the empty curves on my lower hip (the result of going from the size 42 to 44) and the fact that (out of shot) I've altered the width of the hem quite noticeably.

Seriously, if I had to pick which of these was better, I'd pick the one on the left, a.k.a Muslin 1
Do I sound frustrated? I feel quite frustrated this evening, but only because I've come to realize that I used a stack of fabric and a huge chunk of time and actually did nothing useful from a trouser fitting perspective between Saturday evening, when the shot on the left was taken, and this evening, when I took the shot on the right.

However, even though frustration is my uppermost emotion at the moment, this was actually a super helpful experience. Things that I learned:
  • You know when they say "choose by hip size"? Definitely I should have chosen by hip size. It is much much easier to add space at the waist and thighs than it is to reshape the hip. The thing is, I have read that a hundred times before now, but this is the first time I could really SEE the difference between starting from the right and wrong size. Also, Burda runs totally true to size. Their hip measurement chart says 102cm for a size 42 hip. My hip measurement is 102cm. In retrospect, the fit on Muslin #1 was really very good at the hip.
  • My thighs are much bigger than Burda's block. MUCH bigger. But then, thinking about it I've come to realize that every pair of RTW trousers I own is tight through the thighs. I think I've just come to think that's normal and never even realized it was a fit problem that I needed to solve!
  • There's definitely a point at which you have to decide that the fit you've achieved is "good enough". I don't know what's causing those last few wrinkles at knee level on the left hand muslin above, and the question I have to ask myself now is: do I care? Given every pair of trousers I've ever worn has been, unbeknown to me, wrinkled as hell, does it matter?
  • Trousers are exhausting. I need a vacation after trying to fit them.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


As I mentioned in my post yesterday, two fellow sewers, SewCraftyChemist and Kathy Sews, and I ended up in a pact this week on Instagram to make this peculiar Giant Rectangle (with tucks!) from Burda 03/2016:

Burda 03-2016-118, image by I can only assume based on this photo & the length of my top that this model is well over six feet tall.

Due to time zones more than anything, I finished mine first.

The trashbag top, as modelled by me
The fabric recommendations for this were "lightweight, sheer fabrics". My crinkle viscose & cotton blend is not really sheer, but it is semi-opaque at best. You can also make it with a knit, based on the (same pattern, but longer) dress number 119 which is for knits. There's so much volume though that it was zero problem making this in a woven. The only change I made was to hem the lower edge rather than leaving it raw. I can't say I like sewing with crinkle fabric because you can't cut a straight line in it for love or money, which is why it lurked unloved in my fabric stash for 3.5 years after I bought it even though I like the colour a lot. However, it was perfect for this project and it definitely had the right amount (A LOT) of drape for this top. It was also very cheap -- I got 2.4m of it for £3.20 -- but rather narrow (about 120cm wide) so I used all that I had for this project.

Side views (tucked side and non-tucked side) and back view, though I had my hands in my pockets and it made the back tuck up rather than hanging loose as you can see in the other two shots.
Is it weird that I really like it? OK, it's very peculiar and certainly not very suitable for the north of England in February, but I can totally imagine throwing it on over shorts and a top in summer, or over leggings if I were a leggings wearer. The back would cover your butt so long as you don't ruck it up weirdly the way I am doing in that photo.

I actually don't think this is a top that repays being photographed standing perfectly still. In motion though, it floats and moves, and the drape-y bit looks interesting and the cowl both stays put and doesn't flip the facing out and drapes in a very nice way. Overall, I'm glad I made it!

Every time I sew with Burda I remember why I am so keen to make more use of my Burda mags. It's a top that looks like a trashbag, true, but it's such a well-designed trashbag! The back neck facing/front neck facing/shoulder seam thing is all done so neatly, you end up with a really nicely draped cowl and no exposed seam or facing edges at all. I love that attention to detail in Burda patterns. I just overlocked my seams (not even in matching thread!) but my fabric is opaque enough that I didn't care about that. If you were sewing this in a proper sheer you'd probably want to do narrow french seams.

I'm so looking forward to seeing the outcome of the rest of the rest of #teamtrashbagtop (actually a misnomer, since Kathy is making the dress version!) :D :D

Monday, 22 February 2016

Coming soon..

Since I finished my grey and white shirt last week I've hit a bit of seasonal sewing lull. I don't really want anything more for winter per se, but I also don't feel like sewing spring clothes in even the dying days of February. This is therefore perfect moment for me to try out my Secret 2016 Sewing Resolution! This secret resolution was to be a bit more adventurous and varied with my sewing this year. I'll write about all of these in more detail soon, but in the last few days I've: (a) worked through my first two muslins of a simple woven trouser pattern, (b) tried out two different Lekala patterns, and (c) cut out a little gym bag, which is something I've been meaning to make for myself for yonks.

I'm really excited about (a), the trouser fitting experience, in particular! It's been more fun and interesting than I anticipated given that mostly people seem to end up wailing and gnashing their teeth over the whole thing. I am going to make muslin three in the next couple of days. I'm hoping I've nailed the big changes with this one and it'll be just a case of refining the fit. If I have then, yay, another part of my wardrobe that I can start adding to by sewing rather than shopping!

Burda 03-2016-118, image from
The other thing I've done in pursuit of sewing fun today is (d) trace, cut out and start sewing this supremely wacky top from Burda 03/2016. I'm not going to lie, I saw this in the previews and even though I rag on Burda's ridiculous Giant Rectangle patterns all the time, I just really wanted to sew it! I ear-marked some fabric for it and everything! Despite that, it honestly might never have happened but then I saw Kathy Sews (instagram) mention it on Instagram and SewCraftyChemist (instagram) chimed in, and somehow we seemed to end up making a pact. Kathy said she thought it might look like she was wearing a trashbag, but it might equally be amazingly comfortable. So far, all I can say for sure is that I am questioning my choices in life. #teamtrashbagtop /o\

Mila Designer Dress, by StyleArc

I'm also weirdly into this brand new StyleArc dress they announced today, the Mila dress. I actually think it's 100% cuter in the modelled photo than the tech drawing image above. I'm half convinced it would look heinous on me but I might not be able to stop myself buying it when it's available as a PDF all the same. /o\

I have to admit I've always been sneakingly interested in the weirder and less conventional patterns in my pattern magazines and elsewhere. The problem is that I am actually very conventional in the way I dress and so I definitely only want a limited number of oddball/statement piece items in my wardrobe. I don't mind making the Giant Rectangle top even if it turns out to look like a trashbag because it will be a quick sew and I happened to have a suitable piece of fabric that's been in stash for nearly as long as I have been garment sewing (just under 4 years) and that I have no other ideas for at all. If I am going to use good fabric and buy a pattern and spend a lot of time on something off-beat, through, I kind of want to know that the outcome is going to fit in with the rest of my more ordinary wardrobe. Also under the banner of 'coming soon...' then are my further thoughts on my wardrobe planning endeavours and numbers and conventional vs. interesting and figure flattery and all kinds of other things. I have a lot (A LOT, but then, if you've read my blog for more than a minute you'll have worked out that I am among the bafflingly verbose) of words in draft about this stuff, you guys, be prepared to be bored rigid soon!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, this shirt is a total Monet

It's a full-on Monet!
First off, sorry if this is like the fifteenth pullover-shirt-with-a-placket you've seen this week. It's typical of my bad timing to decide to sew this right when Grainline released a pattern add-on for the popular Archer shirt to make exactly this type of shirt, meaning everyone and her dog is making one right now. Mine is not made to that pattern -- I don't even own the Archer -- but, you know, a pullover shirt is a pullover shirt, and the fact I decided to make it months ago will not reduce your ennui at seeing yet another in a very short period.

Knipmode "Blouse mit polosluiting"
The pattern I used is actually a Knipmode download from January 2013. It's a plus-size pattern in sizes 44-56, and I made a size 44. I actually think that, as written, it's a really nice pattern and a good option for someone looking for a well drafted pullover shirt pattern in this size range with some bust shaping. (The Knipmode size chart is here, btw.). The PDF goes together really easily, it all fitted together well (other than the bits I changed and screwed up) and I think overall it's a good pattern. The problems I had were entirely of my own doing.  Do be aware the instructions are in Dutch. I paid no attention to them beyond the basics because there's nothing revolutionary about this shirt, but Google translate does produce something reasonably comprehensible if you need it.

As you can see, the shirt designed to be tunic length. Originally I thought that if I shortened it and left off the pockets (I loathe pockets over my bust) that would pretty much all the pattern changes I would need to make. Of course, it wasn't at all, and then on top of changing a bunch of design elements I also made several appallingly stupid mistakes. The end result is a shirt that in my opinion looks kind of OK from a distance but, erk, not so much up close, and which is moreover not really much like the original pattern.

First off, when I shortened the paper pattern (by 15cm), I decided that the placket length now looked very odd. So then I had to shorten the placket, which was not a problem at all. I then realized that it didn't use the placket method I like the best, which I had previously used on the Pauline Alice Carme and is described in extensive detail in the Shirtmaking book by David Page Coffin. I decided to use the Carme pattern piece (on the bias for some visual interest) and the instructions in Shirtmaking and do my own thing. This one decision was to prove my undoing.

Shirt as modelled by Flossie. At least the BACK has no glaring errors!

First of all I got very confused which way round to sew the placket on, and realized right when I finished that I'd managed to sew it on backwards for a woman's shirt (left over right rather than the reverse). Not a major problem, but the first of several mistakes! More egregiously, however, I later I realized that although I thought I'd made sure the placket/collar/collar band would still work out properly, er, it didn't. At all. AT ALL. I am not entirely sure where my planning went wrong, but it went VERY VERY WRONG. Luckily, I have never in living memory actually buttoned any top up to the neck so as rubbish as this looks on Flossie with the wide open gap, it doesn't make it an automatic wadder for me.

The biggest and by far the most stupid problem was that, as my fabric is the same on both sides, I accidentally managed to make two left sleeves, meaning that when I set the sleeve into the right armhole, it had to go in backwards (the cuff opening faces forwards). I realized right at the very end, when I'd done all the construction and set the sleeve in and everything, so it was far too late to fix it and I had no fabric left to cut another sleeve. /o\ /o\ /o\ I am SO ANNOYED with myself about this. Again, however, it's not the end of the world as I plan to mainly wear the shirt with the cuffs rolled up and of course I could always make it short-sleeved if it really aggravates me. For now I am going to just live with it. I could have screamed when I realized, though!

The final problem is the fine detail of the shirt. I felt like I was getting better at collars and cuffs and similar details, but ugh, nothing came out really well this time. Overall, it just doesn't look well-made to me even compared to some of the shirts I made last year. This is a bit discouraging but I know it's just a case of practicing more and taking more time over the tricky bits. I'm also going to dig through my various books to see if I can pick up any tips for the parts I find particularly difficult -- surely I can't be the only person to struggle with getting my collar stands the right shape, and surely someone has thought of a way to do it better! 

Shirt as modelled by me.
Having said all that, I have to admit I really quite like how this shirt looks on me! Also, not everything went wrong when I was making it:

- Setting the sleeves in went absolutely perfectly. This used to be a really problematic part of construction for me but I really think I've got the knack of it now.

- Ditto the flat-felled side and sleeve seams -- I really like this seam finishing method on shirts and it's definitely getting easier with practice. I didn't flat fell the armscye seams this time.

- The pattern matching is pretty good in most places where I attempted it, and unexpectedly good across the sleeves and bodice (which was more luck than good judgment, but I'm still calling it a win!)

- I really like how the bias cut placket looks and would do that again even though it makes the sewing harder.

- I made one other tiny pattern change, which was that the original pattern has a single yoke and I did a clean finish double yoke as I think they look nicer. This turned out really well.

- I really like the shape of the shirt-tail hem and of the blouse overall and I'm pleased with the way it fits me and hangs in this drapey fabric. That said, it was hardly a fitting challenge: it's an oversized design, and notionally it is a size too big for me on top of that. (According to Knipmode's size chart I am a size 42 but on this occasion I made the smallest size available in the pattern, which was a size 44, with some fitting changes based on previous patterns I've used).

I guess it remains to be seen how much I'll actually wear this shirt. I'm wearing it today, and so far I like it. It's not a wadder I don't think, but maybe it is kind of a disappointment. A lot of the disappointment is that I had a really clear idea of how I thought this top would look and it doesn't live up to my mental image at all. I'm pretty sure though that the answer to this problem is: less ~~~visualization of perfect garments, more actual sewing to practice the skills I need!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Several small problems solved

This week has not, overall, been a good or easy week. In order to keep my mind off larger and mostly intractable problems I decided to try to try to solve some smaller and more manageable sewing problems, which turned out to be a surprisingly good way to occupy myself. The other way I occupied myself was with stress buying fabric, so I was also keen to shuttle some of my stash out the door as garments to make up for my sudden attack of retail therapy!

Problem #1: What on earth shall I do with this green and white linen blend I've owned for 4 years?

Solution: Buy a box of Dylon dye in Navy and throw it & the fabric in my washing machine.

Outcome: Outstanding!

The original fabric
The long version of the story:

I bought this linen blend fabric during my initial series of Bad Fabric Decisions back in early 2012 and when it arrived I didn't like the yellow-y green colour of it AT ALL. It wasn't crazy expensive, but it cost enough that I have been resisting the idea of donating it, using it for muslins or trying to sell it. I kept thinking surely I would think of something I could do with it, but with very little actual success in thinking of anything. However, I have had some success with washing machine dying using Dylon dyes. I woke up the other day and had the lighbulb moment that I should try dying this fabric as well, even though all I knew about fibre content was "linen blend", which could mean anything.

Fabric after dye and in close up
Obviously the green threads in this linen blend were pure polyester or something that entirely resisted the dye. The overall colour is lighter than I expected as well, so I think the poly content of the white threads was also pretty high. However, overall I LOVE LOVE LOVE how this came out. The light is very poor at the moment so I struggled to get a photo (even with my good camera) of how nice this fabric looks, but the denim blue it ended up as is a great colour, and the threads of green make it really visually interesting. It's a huge improvement on the starting fabric, anyway. My current thinking is to make an unlined linen jacket for summer with it. I just need to work up the courage to work on a shoulder princess FBA.

Problem #2: What to do with 2m of semi-opaque white tactel (a nylon knit)?
Solution: Make vest tops to wear under blouses etc.
Outcome: Pretty good, for a definition of good that includes going into this knowing the neck bindings would not come out well.

The long story: I bought a pile black and white tactel at the very end of 2014 and it was a mistake. Tactel is a nylon knit, and when I was thinking about buying it I read somewhere that it was extensively used in activewear because it wicks moisture away from the body. Well, I don't know if it's used in activewear but after making a few things with it I can tell you it absolutely DOES NOT wick. Instead the synthetic fibre content just makes you sweaty and then traps the sweat against your body. Yuck. Plus, the fabric scorches horribly at anything above a lukewarm iron which makes it difficult to get a really good press or finish on my bindings and hems no matter what method I tried.

I have attempted a few garments with these fabrics, and in the end I have gotten some wear out the two plain tees I made mainly by using them as insulating bottom layers on cold/inactive days. As I knew the bindings and hems would end up being ugly, I decided making sleeveless tops to go under blouses and shirts that won't be visible to anyone else seemed ideal. In the end I managed to squeeze three tops out of the 2m of fabric, but two of them are identical so I didn't bother with a third photo.
Two of three white vest tops in tactel, using a pattern from Diane Moden 66 (Spring 2008)
I traced out this sleeveless top pattern from the single random issue of Diana Moden (yet another German pattern magazine) that I own. The original pattern is on the left -- you might be able to tell that the neckline has a subtle sort of squared shape. I then traced the front bodice piece again and drew in a scoop neck instead for the other two versions. I spent what felt like AGES on the bindings, but alas, they did indeed come out badly, even on the much-easier-to-bind scoop necklines.

Despite the fabric and the binding problems, I'm sure these will get quite a lot of wear as layering garments, I got rid of my 2m of fabric and I have learned my lesson: no more nylon knits under any circumstances!

Problem #3: The knit trouser patterns I have been using are very loungewear/casual and I'd like something a little smarter.
Solution: Try out the StyleArc Barb pattern.
Outcome: Needs some work.

I like knit trousers and I wear them all the time on days when I am not leaving the house. They are are warm and much more comfortable to sit around the house in than jeans or cords with fixed waistbands. However if I am going out in public I don't really like to wear the sort of baggy knit half-a-step-away-from-pyjamas trousers I've made in the past. I also dislike getting changed in the middle of the day if I realize I need to go out somewhere unexpectedly. I decided recently to see if I could find a more refined looking knit trouser pattern that I could wear around the house but that would also look OK out in public.

StyleArc Barb

Enter StyleArc Barb. The description claims they are ideal for work which I am not 100% in agreement with (but I am also not Australian and I haven't generally worked in very casual or even 'business casual' environments, so who am I to say). Regardless of work suitability, however, they are clearly much less pyjama like than the patterns I have previously used. I made StyleArc size 12 straight from the envelope in 2m of a micro-striped black ponte knit.

Note: I ramped the light all the way up to try to show the stripes and fit on the photos, so my bare arms are an alarming shade of white. Be assured I am not actually a ghost. Readers of a sensitive disposition should look away now, as the rear-of-body fit straight out of the envelope is truly appalling. Also, I should really have put shoes on for this shot because (a) I hemmed them for shoes and they look stupid when I'm in socks and (b) I am wearing socks with yellow toes.

Front of trousers: not bad. Back of trousers: EEEEK.
The front fit is pretty good! There's actually a weird little vertical fold thing going on at the crotch which is really not super attractive, but which I think I know how to fix. The back is a whole other issue: GIANT MASS OF BUTT WRINKLES. There's a lot going on there, fitting wise, but I think most of the problem is caused by my very flat behind in StyleArc's very curved crotch seam. I NEVER go out the house in knit trousers with my butt on show like that, so I am not actually overly concerned that it's unflattering and I'll still wear this pair, but there is definitely some fitting adjustment to be done before I make this pattern again! Realizing this caused me to fall down a rabbit hole of re-reading my collection of trouser fitting books, so maybe I will do more with this soon. However, assuming I can figure out the butt problem, I will definitely make these again. I really like how they look and they are a perfect match to my requirement for a smarter but still comfortable knit trouser.

Next up: Problem solving session complete, I am now working on a Knipmode blouse.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Bits and pieces

  • I replaced the blades on my overlocker today and the fabric chewing problem I have recently experienced ~~~magically went away. Score one for reading the manual and actually doing what it told me! /o\ To be fair, it doesn't give any indication of how often the blades might need to be changed. That said, I've had the machine for almost 4 years and I bought it second-hand, so I probably should have realized that the blades needed changing before I panicked about the mess it made of the seams of my green tee. At any rate: non-fabric-chewing overlocker = progress on my next garment!
  • My next garment is a pair of StyleArc Barb trousers in ponte. I cut them out the other day and today I zipped along with construction right up to the point of putting the elastic in the waistband... and realized the elastic I ordered for them hadn't actually arrived in the post yet. So there'll be a slight pause before they are finished. I tried them on without the benefit of a waistband and, eh, they're all right I guess? They seem to be designed for someone with rather more butt than I possess, so I may have to do some surgery on the back before I finish them.
  • I am making grand plans for spring/summer sewing, I think mainly because I am so sick of winter. This is unfortunate since it's only 9 February and there's some way to go before it's even spring, really. It's not been a bad winter by most standards, insofar as so far at least it's not been particularly cold and we have had only one day with a merest hint of snow, but it has been extremely EXTREMELY wet. I am very tired of grey skies and rain. We could do with a long dry summer to make up for it, but probably it will just be slightly warmer and still extremely wet. I have a raincoat in my plans, is all I'm saying. (But also shorts and tees and various other more summery things.)
The Ottobre 02-2016 technical drawings

  • The other reason for planning summer sewing is that the Ottobre spring/summer issue preview went up recently and put me in mind of it. I was initially pretty pleased with the new issue, but I feel like I need to walk back my opinion on further thought. I think I was just happy it wasn't doing a Burda (I have to admit that most issues of Burda have still been mostly unappealing to me so far this year) or even compared to Ottobre last year, where I felt tepid at best about both issues. However, several people pointed out on the PR thread, there's a lot of re-treading of patterns Ottobre have done before. Just how many A-line side-dart dress patterns are they going to do? Though, there have also been loads in Burda too lately, and they are in all the shops, so I guess they are reflecting that trend pretty accurately. I'm not so sure about the peplum tops though -- I haven't seen nearly so many of them about this year and I am not a big fan of the look anyway. And heaven preserve me from jumpsuits, ugh, I am so ready for that trend to be OVER. However, all that said: I am happy for a woven kimono tee with a dart (13) -- so much easier to FBA than creating a new dart! I like the look of the shorts (3) and the shirt with the concealed button placket (4). I also kind of like dresses 7 (the crossover bodice) and 19 (the maxi princess seamed dress). Overall, I am probably a slightly warmer level of tepid about this issue. However, I will almost certainly at least muslin the shorts because I can't find a fly-front pattern I like in my Burda collection.
Vogue 8805: an option for my ponte remnants?
  • I spent some time today going through my scrap bags and deciding whether I could cull much of it. I really struggle with what to keep and what to throw away when I finish garments. I ended up keeping a handful of wovens if they are in pieces that are large enough to cut e.g. waistband facings, pocket bags, contrast cuffs etc, plus a small bag of pieces suitable for patchwork (cotton prints, mainly) plus some larger knit remnants. I have four pieces of ponte that are 70-80cm long. I feel like that should be enough to make something but I am not entirely sure what. Straight knit skirts, I guess, or if I could find some that went together maybe I could make Vogue 8805. I hate colour blocking, though, not because I don't like how it looks but because I am rubbish at picking colours that look good together! Any other suggestions for remnants?
  • I also went through all the fabric I had designated for muslins to see if it was worth keeping all of it. Sadly, I made a lot of fabric buying mistakes when I first started garment sewing and I therefore have a LOT of fabric that eventually got shoved in a box marked "nothing made from this fabric would be wearable outside the house". I didn't end up getting rid of anything today but I do feel like I have a better grasp on what I actually have and how I might use it. One thing I did decide was to try a dye experiment on one piece of (allegedly) linen fabric to see if I can move it into a more useful category as well. I say "allegedly" though because the more I look at the fabric the more I wonder if it's linen at all and whether it has any poly content. I guess I'll see when it comes out the dye! (I am waiting on that in the post as well.)

Saturday, 6 February 2016

A very green t-shirt

Last time I posted it was all doom and woe. I can't say I've really had a much better week this week -- the lingering effects of this head cold are proving hard to shake and there was all kinds of bad news delivered from many different sources -- but despite that I don't feel quite so fed up. I have spent an inordinate amount of my leisure time this week thinking about sewing and suddenly feel very enthusiastic about it again. In fact, my attitude today could best be summed up as I want to make all of the things! ALL OF THEM! I have a big list of plans and ideas about what I want to sew over the next few months and I'm not done thinking of things yet. :D

In the meantime this week I also nibbled away at a small project just to get going with some actual sewing again. Normally I can make a knit top in one sewing session, but I spread this one out over several days. This was mainly because I didn't feel very well most of the week and couldn't really spend hours on anything, but also because I wanted to just ease myself gently back into the habit of working on something every day. The outcome of this effort is this very bright green t-shirt:

Three quarter sleeved NL6150 tee with Ottobre 02-2007-05 'Rose Tee' neckline
I started with my (extremely boring by this point) New Look 6150-based t-shirt pattern with elbow length sleeves, but decided to experiment with a new neck line. I do like the scoop I usually use, but I had a yen for a V-neck. I therefore grafted the neckline from a popular Ottobre pattern, 02-2007-05, known as the Rose Tee, on to my basic tee pattern.

Ottobre Rose Tee drawing and picture
Alas, I did a completely rubbish job attaching the neck band and mine turned very oval and not pointy or V-neck shaped AT ALL, IN ANY WAY. In fact, I had no end of problems attaching the neckline and getting the fabric to behave, to the point that I wondered if I was going to have to give up on the top altogether at one point. I feel like the finished product passes muster from a safe 1m distance (and in the photo )but up close it is very clearly not the best top I have ever produced.

This is the fourth top I have made with this kind of double-layered shaped neckline (previously I've made up another Ottobre pattern , as well as the HotPatterns Weekender Sunshine which I made twice which have similar neckline treatements), and my conclusion after these four attempts is that I just don't LIKE this type of neckline. I don't like sewing them for sure, but I also don't really like them just in general. I find the shaped pieces add bulk through the neck and shoulder seams, and there's a rigidity to the neckline that I dislike. I don't like to say "never again!" but I'll probably give any future patterns with similar necklines a miss.

I don't hate my new green tee or anything, but it's definitely not my favourite. I've found an alternative pattern that I'll use next time I want a V-neck, which will hopefully be more to my taste and also, an actual V!

Up next on my sewing table: some easy StyleArc trousers in ponte knit. I'll probably cut out the fabric today but I can't get started sewing because I'm waiting for (a) some waistband elastic and (b) new blades for my overlocker to arrive in the post. One of my (many) problems with the green tee was that my overlocker was chewing most unhappily through the fabric at times. I think new blades might help.