Monday, 24 July 2017

The perils of an ill-timed sneeze and other stories

A few things to share from this month so far:

First, a Wishlist Challenge entry! Back in April 2013, I made a top with a printed viscose fabric that I loved. It was a simple New Look woven tee pattern with a dolman sleeve and a scooped neckline. I decided to french seam it but, as this was right back near the start of my garment sewing adventures, did so sufficiently ineptly that sections of the seams shredded after about the third wash.

The original top that I made in 2013
This would not have been a total disaster, except past!me decided that the thing to do would be to disassemble the top by violently unpicking the side seams so that they ended up badly shredded but then cutting through the bias binding at the neckline, etc. rather than unpicking it. Er. What? Why?! At any rate, I squirreled the remnants away in the hope that I would find a way to make use of it at some point in the future, and put "find a way to use that pink floral viscose!" on my Wishlist.

Plan A: something like this Burda pattern (06-2017-123A)
I was inspired to get on with this item on the list by one of the Plus patterns in the 06/2017 issue of Burda. I couldn't actually cut the pattern out of the fabric that I had, but I decided I could definitely make something similar with the pieces I had plus some plain ivory viscose. This had the advantage also of allowing me to cut off the raggedy remains of the previous seams. So, that was Plan A, with a mental note to possibly come back to this pattern and make it up properly in the future.

Alas, Plan A was not successful, for the most ridiculous of reasons. I was nearly finished, and it actually looked great, but then disaster struck. As I was overlocking a shoulder seam, I suddenly sneezed violently and I guess in the process pressed hard on the foot pedal of my overlocker. The whole overlocking situation suddenly got out of hand and I ended up cutting a MASSIVE hole in the fabric near the shoulder. Let this be a lesson to all of us: if about to sneeze, remove your foot from the foot pedal!

Plan B: Burda 05-2015-124
After sneezing some more and then nearly committing violence because after all that work I couldn't believe I'd done something so comically stupid (because no, seriously, who creates wadders by SNEEZING?) I moved fairly swiftly on to Plan B. Plan B involved a pattern I'd previously earmarked as a possibility for this project, Burda 05-2015-124. This is a regular sized pattern, and I made my usual size 44.

This is one of those patterns that it would be really easily to just completely ignore in Burda. The styling of the modelled version is really not to my taste, and the line drawing kind of looks like nothing -- a box with sleeves. But, as is often the case with Burda, it has some great little details. The seamline at the bust creates a nicely shaped dart. The hemline shape is also really pretty. In a drapey viscose fabric, it doesn't look nearly as boxy on as the line drawing.

Burda 05-2015-124 made with remnants of the pink top + contrast ivory
Sorry the photo is so dark! As you can probably JUST ABOUT see, I had to retain the stripe in the lower body section down the side seam from the Plan A version of this top, which is not part of this pattern. I don't think it's too intrusive, but I really had no choice. I also managed to squeeze out enough bias tape to do a contrast binding at the neckline. The only thing I don't really like about the finished top is the neckline. I just omitted the keyhole neckline because I dislike them, but I thought the width of the neckline would fit easily over my head anyway. However, I forgot that I find Burda necklines are often too wide and/or too low, and this neckline is just a LITTLE too wide. If I cut this again, I will have to alter that.

Despite sneezing fits, this was eventually a success, and I am really pleased to have this fabric somehow back in my wardrobe!
Burda 06-2017-126 (images from Burdastyle)
Next, I was idly flipping through my copy of Burda 06/2017 I'd left out from when I was formulating Plan A, and decided to move right on to a Magazine Challenge and make up 06-2017-126. I know, it's yet another wacky top from Burda, but look how adorable the model looks in her top! And I rather like the weird little back drape! 

My sad attempt at Burda 06-2017-126
 However, did mine turn out that cute? No. No it did not. I had every possible problem with it. The fabric fought me every step of the way and point blank refused to go through my overlocker (why, I don't know, I tried for a solid HOUR to get it to work, but the thread snapped after 2-3 stitches no matter what settings I tried). I moved to my regular sewing machine and a stretch stitch, which was better, but then I discovered, 75% of the way through construction, that I had attached the upper and lower back pieces incorrectly, and much unpicking, recutting and redoing followed. Then I screwed up the neckband had to unpick it. I was just thinking about how to rescue the neckband when little seeds of doubt about that back drape feature and the knit fabric I had used made me decide to try the top on, neckband problems and all and... no. A WORLD OF NO, in fact. It didn't drape nicely as in the image, it just sort of sat there and looked like a misplaced lump of fabric in my centre back. Ugh. Sad to say, this went straight in the recycling bin.

To be fair to Burda, most of these were problems of my own making, but if you happened to want to make this top, I STRONGLY recommend a VERY slinky, drapey knit. Mine seemed drapey enough when I picked it out for this pattern, but it really wasn't. Also, this is again what I would call a typical Burda neckline, which is to say: very deep and very wide. If I had finished it, I would have had to wear something under it.

Summer PJs
In desperate need of a unicorn chaser, the next time I went into my sewing room I decided to make something VERY EASY. Thus: summer PJs. The bottoms are my TNT Ottobre sleep shorts (Ottobre 05-2011-02), and the top is a men's tee pattern, Knipmode 07-2017-22. I like my sleep tees large and baggy, and women's patterns are always too fitted for me to be comfortable in to sleep. I tried a simple pattern off the internet previously without much success, but since I had this Knipmode pattern available I decided to use it. I really like it and will use it again, although I need to bring the neckline in a little (again!) It's a very dull entry in my Magazine Challenge for this month, but hey, it's a pattern from this year's magazines! Good enough for me!

The last piece of July's news is that, after a couple of little windfalls, I decided to go mad and replace my overlocker. My old one was second-hand from eBay. I bought it in 2012 for £50, and I've used it a LOT, so it didn't really owe me anything. Recently, I've been getting a bit frustrated with it for various reasons. I was idly looking to see what there was in my price range on my preferred vendor site for sewing machines, spotted a discounted ex-display model and, well, you can guess the rest of the story!

New overlocker!! And my first project with it, a StyleArc Estelle cardigan in a reversible black/grey knit
Once I learned how to thread the machine and practiced a bit to get a feel for it, I wanted to actually make something. I have next to nothing left in my summer sewing queue and no knits at all, so I dragged this unseasonal project forward from my autumn sewing queue: yet another StyleArc Estelle cardigan, this time in a two-sided knit, dark grey on one side and black on the other. Having made four of these previously, I could really focus on getting to know the overlocker while I sewed. It came out really well, and was definitely a good pattern to pick to practice with the new machine, because it has a bit of everything -- long straight seams, curves, a couple of little fiddly bits. I probably won't wear it until autumn, but it won't come to any harm hanging in my wardrobe for few weeks extra.

Overall, I am SO PLEASED that I upgraded my overlocker. The stitch quality is MUCH better, it's a LOT quieter and it's easier to use than my old machine. It isn't particularly easier or faster to thread, but there's nothing particularly complicated in the threading either. It's a little different than my old one, but not so much that it wasn't fairly obvious what I had to do. I did have a couple of false starts with the threading, but honestly, if you can thread a new-to-you overlocker right the first time then I am just going to start shouting WITCHCRAFT! WITCHCRAFT! at you anyway.

And.. that brings me up to date! :D This week I am working on bags, and cutting out a pattern for my August Wishlist item because I want to put some serious thought into pattern placement on my fabric. That wishlist entry and finishing up a jacket are all I have left in my summer queue, which is timely since I plan to start sewing for autumn in mid-August. More about all of that in due course!

Monday, 3 July 2017

One last thing I made in June & a mid-year goals update

First up, I squeaked out a last little project in June, this wearable muslin woven raglan tee in white and black:

Woven raglan tee, Burda 10-2014-135
Last year, right at the end of summer, I made a green and white raglan tee using a Burda Plus magazine pattern. At the time, I said I kind of liked it, but maybe not the boat neckline. So far this summer I've actually worn that top quite often, but I still don't think the neckline is the best style for me. However, I had also picked out this raglan top pattern from the Burda October 2014 issue as an alternative I wanted to try, and hey presto, here it is. This is more or less a test version of the pattern, made with a bargain basement fabric buy (the black and white print on viscose, which was about £1.50 per metre) and a scrap of white viscose (the remnants of the same fabric I used for the sleeves of the green & white top, which was itself a bargain buy).

Burda 10-2014-135 line drawing
It's a very straightforward pattern, as you can see from the line drawing - just three pattern pieces + bias binding - including sleeves with a dart in the sleeve head. The only deviation I made from the pattern as written is (obviously) that I cut short sleeves instead of long sleeves.

I'm always a bit wary of pleats and gathering above the bust (or below the bust, or really anywhere near the bust) because I think it tends to make my large bust look even larger which: no, thank you very much, that's the last thing I need. However, the pleats on this top are actually quite small and not too poofy.

This is from the Plus section of the issue, and I made my usual size 44. The fit is mostly good, except it's a bit tighter through the sleeves than I like. I feel like I should have expected that from the line drawing, though, looking at it again now. When I make this again I will definitely want to fix that. Also, the neckline ended up a tiny bit wider than I wanted, and flirts with revealing bra straps. That's easy enough to fix in a second version, though.

Overall, I'm calling this a win for a wearable muslin.

Second order of business: it is somehow the middle of the year already, and it is therefore time for an update on my goals for 2017, which I wrote about in detail back in January.

1. Money: (a) Stick to my 2017 budget; (b) keep my envelope/PDF pattern spending at the same level as it was in 2016.

My budget goal is well in hand. Although I went a bit overboard on spending right at the beginning of the year I then had a couple of very quiet months for buying stuff, mainly because I was too sick in the spring to even want to look at fabric shopping sites (!!). The net result is that I am quite a bit under budget for the year at the halfway point.

Some of the patterns I've bought so far this year (the line drawing second from the right is the StyleArc Sadie Tunic)
I have bought a few patterns, but again, I'm on budget for the year so far, and I've been trying really hard not to buy stuff unless it legitimately adds something new to my pattern stash. Well, and also shirtdresses, despite my immense shirtdress collection (and lack of any actual shirtdresses, which is a whole separate problem...).

2.  Fabric Stash: (a) reduce my stash to under 200m and then stay at or under 200m for the rest of the year; (b) use two thirds of what I buy in 2017 during 2017; (c) use some of my older "favourite" fabrics

(a) As usual, my fabric stash reduction outcome can be summarized with: /o\. I bought 39m of fabric in the first half of the year, and only sewed 30m. Therefore, not only am I not under 200m in total, I actually have more fabric than I had in January! I really must do better on this. I have yet again gone through my stash and my sewing queue and tried very hard to match fabric I already own to things I want to make, and hopefully I'll have a better result to report at the end of the year.

(b) This is better measured over the year as a whole because I tend to buy ahead of the season, but currently, I have used about 25% of the fabric I've bought so far in 2017.

(c) I have actually made an effort to use some of my older "favourite" fabrics! I can't say I've made a major dent in the deepest, most "precious" layers of my stash, but I have made some impression on it, for sure. I've actually been combining it a bit with my Wishlist Challenge (see below) as both the PJs and one of the maxi skirts I made came from "precious" stash.
3. 2017 Magazine Challenge. Make one thing each month from any 2017 issue of any of my magazine subscriptions (Burda/Knipmode/Ottobre) and
4. 2017 Wishlist Challenge make at least 12 things off my wishlist in 2017.

Magazine challenge projects so far this year
I've only managed to make a couple for my magazine challenge so far this year, mainly because March/April/May was so rubbish healthwise. My two garments were: a draped front knit top from Burda 01-2017, and a striped woven top from Burda 03-2017. I am not sure if I will manage to catch up and make 12 items this year -- it kind of depends on how inspired I feel by the remaining magazine issues this year. As usual, I was less than excited by the summer Burda issues, but August is looking good and (although we have the inevitable dirndlapalooza to wade through in September) the last quarter of the year is often the best with Burda. The A/W issue of Ottobre should arrive in August as well, and I need to actually go through my recent Knipmodes in more detail -- it was just another thing that got pushed to one side while I was ill. I do have a pattern picked out from Burda 06-2017 to make this month, so that's a start.

Wishlist challenge projects so far this year
On the wishlist side of things... honestly, it's not worked out the way I hoped so far. So far, I've ticked off three entries in my list: indulgent silk PJs, two-layer lace knit tank, and brightly patterned maxi skirts. Not that I'm not happy with those things, but this is not the exciting, skill building, one-of-a-kind stuff I was really dreaming about when I put together my wishlist challenge originally. That said, I probably haven't really been up to exciting, skill-building (a.k.a. difficult!) sewing for most of the year so far, but hopefully that should improve as my health continues to improve. I'm not sure if I'll catch up and make 12 things this year, but I've definitely made sure to include wishlist items in my plans for the rest of the year.

Overall, given the circumstances I was working with in the first half of the year, I am pretty happy with where I am on my goals for this year. Now that I am much better I'll hopefully be able to kick quite a lot of things back into gear, both sewing-wise and all sorts of other things. I'm hoping to have a much busier, more interesting and more productive second half of the year now that I feel more or less human most days. In the immediate future though, I need to get cracking on some pattern tracing so I can get started sewing my way through my July queue.