the sensible skirt and her wayward sister

of_skirts

I guess it’s #tbt since I’m writing this on a Thursday evening and I’m playing catch-up with two makes from August. Time flies! What follows, dear friends, is some truly mundane sewing talk. These were two fairly straightforward makes that used up stash fabrics.

I made these two skirts just before starting my new job. The one on the left, as you may guess, has been worn to work, while the other I’ve slipped into after work. I’m definitely one of those people who crave a work uniform. Not that the floral skirt is somehow wildly inappropriate, it just doesn’t fit in with my idea of what I need for work. That, and I need a contrast between work and not-work.

The orange skirt was made with the leftover linen from the Adelaide dress. I managed to use up all of it. It would have necessitated smaller seam allowances if the sizing hadn’t turned out totally misleading. The pattern is New Look 6231. That pattern envelope… Let’s just say I talked myself into believing the pants might work. I even muslined them but gave up as soon as I tried them on and discovered just how gigantic they were. I really didn’t have the patience to size down. The muslin is in the corner somewhere…

orangeskirt-1
New Look 6231 skirt and RTW shirt (don’t judge)

The skirt was, of course, much easier to size down. I will be completely honest, dear readers: I don’t love this skirt. I do like the simplicity of the design — it just has two darts in the back. But I just don’t like how low it sits, so I think it’s fair to say I’m half-resentful of how practical it’s proved for work. I don’t think I’ll go with this particular pattern again. I think I’m more likely to re-make the Colette Meringue skirt without scallops and with an added waistband. And, possibly, pockets. That’s a plan. Do I recommend the pattern though? Eh… not really. It runs big and I think you can find many several similar skirts out there.

The other skirt is only really wayward in the fabric department. The pattern behaves well and, I think, is worth sewing up. It’s a By Hand London Anna hack you can find here. It would have been especially cool if BHL treated us to a PDF of the pocket pieces because this sewist ended up on the small side drafting them on her own. Well, I guess at least I won’t overstuff them.

flowerskirt-1
The hem: oddly lumpy by nature, it seems.

I still haven’t told you what’s so wayward about my fabric. It’s a very unruly polyester. Somewhat stiff but still really slippery. Overall, not fun. Especially if, like me, you don’t always learn from past mistakes and decide on a nonsensical hand-sewn hem. Don’t (hear that, future me, don’t). Finish that hem on the machine or your it will resemble the exhibit above even after some serious ironing. The Anna skirt hack itself I highly recommend. I might try it again with a nicer fabric.

You’re probably not getting a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vibe from these photos but to me that difference between the work skirt and the after-work skirt is pretty meaningful. But more on that another time.

Do you have any simple skirt pattern recommendations to share? I’d love some new ideas.

climbing the WIP mountain

116b_0912_b_large
Suddenly, I find myself working on this skirt. Image from Burda Style.

Hello there! With my machine safely returned from repair, I’m desperately trying to fit in bits of sewing whenever I can. The result (so far at least) is a a jumble of projects in different stages of assembly.

The oldest one among them can’t really be even blamed on machine trouble. It’s a shirtdress cut on the heels of  McCall’s 6891. It’s another McCall’s pattern, 7314… which I only learned after some research because my copy of the pattern has that inane seasonal number you can never look up anywhere (why, McCall’s?). Here’s what the pattern envelope looks like:

m7314_a
Image found here.

The dress in progress doesn’t look like much yet, unfortunately. It’s still very much in parts, which is a shame because the fabric is very end-of-summer appropriate. But what can you do…

Apparently, what you can do is keep procrastinating by cutting out more projects, some of them on a whim.

The Burda skirt at the top of the post is the most unexpected project of the lot. I’ve had a length of a strangely stiff poly-cotton twill fabric (misguided online purchase) that I’ve been meaning to cut into if only to have real grounds to complain about it. The pattern is from Burda Style: Wardrobe Essentials. I need to make some tweaks to the fit. I’m also thinking of adding pockets and a waistband. The pattern has no waistband and, oddly, no facing. It just tells you to line the skirt and that, to me, sounds pretty insufficient in the waist support territory. What would you say?

To take advantage of the tracing frenzy that I knew would soon fade I also finally traced the blouse that I first wrote about eons ago. No sewing progress on that one, ha ha. But hey, it’s traced so maybe some day I will stop going on about shirts and finally make one.

Let’s pretend that the only other WIPs remaining are a spur-of-the-moment Laurel dress and an equally spur-of-the-moment Rooibos dress. Let the others be covered by a blanket of silence.

What have you been up to?

Rooibos with piping: the details

Hello! I’m happy that today’s post finally brings some proper photos of my new Colette Rooibos. Please ignore the flyaways and rejoice that I’m sparing you the sight of my tired face. Here’s the dress:

rooibosl-4

As Liza Mae pointed out, piping really makes this dress. That is, you can make it without piping and still get a pretty dress but piping is this design’s soulmate. Or whatever the sartorial equivalent of soulmate is.

I had a length of vintage premade piping (scored at a wonderful store that deserves a post of its own) and I used almost all of it on this dress. I did prewash it before use. I’m not sure what level of shrinkage I should anticipate with a poly/cotton blend and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

(Ironing before photos is an ideal that I aspire to.)

Oh, piping. I have tried it once before and it turned out okay but the make was unsuccessful for other reasons. This time I really wanted it to be either okay or more than okay, especially since I was dealing with more serious curves and twists than that first time.

The Colette tutorial on sewing in piping is good, but it wasn’t even really the how-to I was particularly concerned about. It was accuracy. So I measured (my piping was narrower than 5/8″ so that was absolutely necessary), basted, and tried to be patient. That’s all I can say. I wish I had a trick to add here but all I learned from this was to go slow and aim for precision.

I overlapped the piping ends on the back of the neckline like the sewalong post told me to, but on the armholes I decided to shorten the piping so it ended before the side seam. That was to avoid bulk in a spot that is not very visible but that can get potentially very uncomfortable.

In my previous post I mentioned my doubts about the durability of the invisible zipper in the side seam. It does look very nice, but I’m still not entirely certain (though hopeful) that it can do the job.

Finally, the length of the dress and hemming. I lengthened this version by 1″ and I definitely recommend lengthening it at least that much. I hemmed by first version with a ribbon and on this one, thanks to the added length, I was able to get a twice-turned hem of about 1″. It was hand sewn, as chosen by my machine’s refusal to cooperate, but that was actually a great choice because the hand stitching is invisible in this beautiful linen.

I’m pleased, overall. Now I just need to get more serious about ironing the finished garment with at least a fraction of the dedication I’m able to put into pressing the work in progress. Resolutions…

What have you been up to, dear readers? Any piping in your present or planned projects?

the dress that almost wasn’t

DSCN6425_picmonkeyed

Everything conspired against it: the machine was on the blink for most of it, refused to cooperate mid-way through the zipper insertion, then agreed to give one final push as long as it was treated very gently, and then decided it was enough on the last seam. The final inches of that one were cranked out on the hand wheel. Needless to say, the machine’s going in for servicing.

Speaking of machines: I could use a time-producing or temporarily time-slowing one to write some blog posts (and get some sewing done, but see problem above). I’ve started a new job and am still figuring out my schedule as well as how to keep my repertoire of interests extended beyond sleeping.

Sewing this dress took more than two weeks, most of which were filled with longing to sew rather than any sewing. I hope that once I have a healthy machine again I’ll be able to work on breaking up sewing into steps I can squeeze into a busy day.

Not many photos today — and no modeled shots — but here are some details.
cp1006-rooibos-06-large-9547fae8f1b92c230f476549b6121597ff771a00ae600016224aa3427498dbd8
The pattern is Rooibos from Colette Patterns. My first version exceeded my expectations. I liked it but I wasn’t sure I was going to make the dress again since the design is pretty striking. By which I mean it’s not exactly a blank canvas type of pattern, so it seems like you can only pair it with as many things, and change up the design as much… But I had already simplified the design by leaving out the neckline detail that it broke out of its original style. (You can take it as either a good or a bad thing. I do like the original design a lot, I was just never sure that neckline detail would work for me.) I think the simplified neckline made a crucial difference for me — the dress became more wearable for me in more situations. I found myself reaching for it so often this summer, I realized I’d actually love to have another one.

I decided that the linen I bought in Poland would be a great fabric to try. I kept seeing wool recommended by bloggers who made the dress when it first came out but wool in a sleeveless design not really made for layering doesn’t make much sense to me. I did worry that the linen might be a bit crisp for the design lines here (and you can see the bust shape so clearly in these hanger shots). But it’s actually fine.

DSCN6421_picmonkeyed_picmonkeyed

I cut the facings and pockets from an intense floral cotton I need to write more about (on a different occasion). And I should honestly say: I did debate going with the original neckline for a moment. It’s probably fair to admit that my laziness won out — my final muslin had the simplified neckline and so the reliable (i.e. altered to fit) pattern pieces have it. I was definitely not up to muslining this again, so simple neckline it was. It was a little bare without the buttons but with them I think it’s just the right amount of interest and not too much.

As you can see, I did in fact challenge myself a bit on this make. I decided to give piping a try. I’m glad I did even though it required basting and patience, the latter being in low supply these days.

One final thought: I’m worried about this invisible zipper. This one feels exceptionally fragile in my hands. I did decide to go with Angela Wolf’s trick from her Craftsy class and sew a little farther from the zipper teeth at the horizontal seams. But still, I’m not confident this zipper will last. I think it might be worth substituting a regular zipper if I make the dress again (ha!), even if it means sacrificing that invisible effect.

That’s it for now. I guess though I admire people who always boldly make up new patterns, I’m a committed repeat offender. I just really like the comfort of sewing something I’ve already fitted.

tyranny of choice: help me!

Hello, sewists! Are you feeling the change of seasons coming on? I definitely am not, though I’m happy that the nights are getting mercifully cooler. That said, I did pick up a nice cut of plaid brushed cotton and now I’m in two minds about what to make with it.

joann15010598 I dug up this image from the depths of confusion that make up the Joann website (here it is on said website). It’s not easy to tell from the photo but the pattern is pretty large scale. So large, in fact, that I’m beginning to doubt my original plan, which was an autumnal, cozy, work-appropriate Laurel dress.

There’s another reason why I’m not so sure about that original plan. Charlotte from English Girl at Home had the genius idea to try making the Oslo cardigan from Seamwork in wovens. I love her versions of this pattern.

What would you sew: Laurel or Oslo? Or maybe a different pattern entirely?

Hazel in a heat wave

Do you have this too? My reaction to the recent heat wave was to quickly sew up a dress for that weather. The motivating logic was that if I sewed fast enough maybe I could outrun the heat. That more mature part of me knew it doesn’t work that way, but I let wishful thinking take over. And at the end I was rewarded with this:

DSCN6396_picmonkeyed

 

This is the third Hazel dress for me. I made two last summer and I’ve been wearing them a lot.

I have to admit, though, that since last year my approach to fitting has changed a bit. I put in a lot of work into fitting the bodice in those first two versions and as a result they fit like a glove. It’s not a bad thing but a year and several heat waves later my focus has changed. I now want clothes to move well along with my movements.

So this one is more relaxed. I did, however, take in the side seams a little bit (not as much as in the first two, but still). I cut a size down from my measurements and the fit is still pretty relaxed.

The fabric is seersucker partly underlined (skirt and bodice front) with cotton lawn. This was my first time sewing with seersucker and I was a little wary of the crinkly texture. It went fine, though, since the fabric’s stable.

DSCN6398_picmonkeyed

I rarely wear white, so of course the first time I wore this out I ended up with a cinnamon stain. It only makes sense. (I got it out and these pictures were actually taken post-stain, so whew.)

Concluding thoughts:

I have a lot of love for this pattern and I thoroughly enjoyed sewing it again. Sewing something you’ve already cut out (yes, I’m often that lazy) and already fitted is really relaxing — even when I’m basically melting in the heat. Having said that, after three versions, all of which are in heavy rotation in the summer, I think it might be wise to retire this pattern for a while. (Well, we’ll see what happens next summer, right?).

What’s on your summer go-to pattern list? Or do you always try new patterns? Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

 

unexpectedly romantic

I have a soft spot for the romantic looks from the 1990s. Less lacy than 1980s romantic, with way fewer jabots. (Here’s a handy Pinterest board.) It can all get definitely kitschy, but that’s kind of my point: it’s the kind of kitsch I tend to fall for. Maybe it’s better that that period happened in my life long before I learned to sew because the obsession didn’t go beyond a handful of Goth dresses — including one velvet dress — and two much loved oversize black sweaters hunted down in second-hand stores (well, and a sea of black tops and pants, but those were pretty neutral otherwise).

Sewing, however, is the power to bring those ghosts back and the appeal of minimalism may not be stronger than the siren call of velvet, dark florals, and lace trims.

Judging by the photo of my recent fabric purchases you might think this is just idle talk. But there was one more fabric that didn’t make it into the photo. At the store it called to me like Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula and I was helpless. Then the fabric demanded to be prewashed as soon as possible, and it quickly became a dress (the AC unit outage notwithstanding).

DSCN6393_picmonkeyed

 

Yes, that is a lace hem. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

The pattern is Kenedy from Seamwork magazine, one of the two memorable patterns from an issue so memorable my post about it still keeps getting lots of views. As that post clearly shows, I’m a fan of Seamwork. But — and I invite you to insert your favorite curse word here — #$!*!%@!!, Seamwork, why is this dress so short?! That’s my one regret with this pattern — I wish I had been more suspicious about the length and added at least 3″.

I did instantly realize the neckline would need lowering or it would choke me. I scooped it out a good 2″.

There were other lessons learned: it was my first time sewing a rolled hem by hand and I enjoyed it. A slightly less optimistic but still useful lesson was learning that the trapeze dress sans belt is not the best shape on me: it’s more than slightly nightgown-y in my opinion. Then again, what did I expect making it up in a dainty floral and with a lace hem?

In defense of the hem, it adds at least a tiny bit of much needed length. As you can see, I skipped the ties.

The fabric was a dream to sew. It’s a stretch rayon poplin, if I remember correctly. Pretty breathable yet very stretchy, doesn’t wrinkle much. I only had 1.5m, but I squeezed it out, bias-cut sleeves included. (And I would have been able to squeeze out a slightly longer dress out of it, Seamwork team.)

Final thoughts: 

As much as I admire the consistent sewists among you who work on developing their personal style and on the discipline needed not to get distracted by shiny new things, I have to admit that I’m enjoying this unexpected dress. We’ll see if I end up standing by that claim. Well, it’s not Goth and not boss; I guess it’s fair to admit it’s twee. I should probably hate it but I don’t. It’s more of a lounging piece because of the length, so maybe everything has its place?

What do you think? More importantly, though, do you have a style or a fashion period you like so much you think you’ve lost objectivity about it?

sewing in different languages

This is Alfred, my sewing assistant, and he’s here to tell you he is looking forward to sitting on all the fabric. Right now he seems to be content with hovering over the sewing magazines I brought home from my trip.

DSCN6406_picmonkeyed
Burda, Polish edition: (a) 7/2016 and (b) 8/2016 — you can view and buy all the patterns here; (c) Naehtrends (sincere apologies for breaking up the umlaut but cut and paste refused to cooperate here) — a completely new-to-me German magazine

Over at SewrendipityAlex has written about differing sewing terminologies across languages. I can’t find the specific post right now but if you’re not following Sewrendipity yet I wholeheartedly recommend perusing it, and definitely not just for that one post.

Alex’s experience with learning to sew is very similar to mine: we both learned to sew with the help of sources in English and surrounded by sewists who primarily use English. Alex mentioned that the Romanian edition of Burda was for her an introduction to sewing in Romanian and that’s exactly what I’d say about the Polish Burda in my own case.

Well, first and foremost, I’ve been learning what’s what from Polish sewing bloggers. Which brings me to more blog recommendations. Two of my favorite Polish blogs are bilingual: Friendsheep and Punkty Odniesienia (Points of Reference); Marchewkowa isn’t bilingual but I think you might still enjoy the vintage inspiration.

I’m admitting this with slight embarrassment. The language teacher in me knows very well that language is just language, so it makes perfect sense that you would only know the terminology you’ve been exposed to, regardless of whether it’s in the first, second, or seventh language you’ve learned. The native speaker, though, is still feeling a bit embarrassed. But, hey, it’s all learnable, so on to the patterns.

Oh, Burda, you’re leaving me coveting those plus-size patterns. To those of you who don’t sew with Burda patterns and don’t know the magazine: unfortunately, it’s not like there is an overall generous size range. No, we’re talking about completely separate pattern collections for the size sets. So while there’s quite a few I like in my size range, the plus-size range is for the most part more interesting in these two issues. Here’s some evidence, from my favorite photoshoot/collection:

The images speak for themselves, don’t they? These are some gorgeous pieces. If these are in your size range or you’re very skilled at grading patterns, I’d say you can get yourself several must-sew items just from that one photoshoot… Bought separately, the patterns are $5.99 each on the US BurdaStyle site, so it’s still a bargain.

If I overcome my laziness and trace through the maze of lines, this is what I’d love to sew up:


That skirt… I hope that skirt helps me become a less lazy sewist…

On a side note, I love that the Polish edition of Burda includes a crossword puzzle and book reviews.. of novels! How can you not love a magazine that supports reading not within its specific subject area? Swoon.

On to Nähtrends, a German magazine with patterns based on current collections from popular clothing brands. For me, the major assets of this issue are the shirt patterns:

What stands between me and these is, again, all the tracing.

Interested in German sewing blogs? I follow the sewing and knitting adventures of Katharina over at Froebelina and I recently discovered the Schnittchen Patterns blog. I would be happy to get more recommendations.

I could go on and on about the sewing patterns, because there are so many more in three magazines. But there’s an art to reviewing these publications. I’d say Paunnet and Ooobop are probably the best sources for witty, detailed reviews with good photos.

Apart from the magazines I also picked up a few fabrics:

DSCN6404_picmonkeyed
(1) a polyester crepe with an irresistible print, (2) rayon challis, (3) linen

There is one more, but it’s already a dress, and so — another blog post.

Happy sewing!

there and back again

Hello, everyone! I’m back from my trip, which turned into a longer vacation offline first due to an unexpected wifi outage and then due to life. These things like to come in pairs or even threes, so after those wifi troubles there, when I got back home the AC broke at my house, and now my sewing machine. As I’m typing this I’m melting slightly.

I have loot from the trip in the form of new sewing patterns and fabric, but I’ll leave that for the next post because I’m a slave to chronology and I have some last-minute makes from before the trip that I’d like to share with you.

Dear readers, I made pants (i.e. trousers for those among you to whom pants is not what one shows off in public). I made these in black linen, so you might not be able to see much in these photos, even though I helpfully tried to brighten them up and ended up giving myself a somewhat worrying pallor.

Can you tell that I chickened out of making culottes at the last minute?

This is the pattern. I think I’d like to try it again, both in this longer length and as actual culottes. Apart from the length, the one modification I made was a slight sway back adjustment, and moving the zipper to the side. The center back really didn’t seem like the best place for it.

I don’t think you can tell how much I actually like these pants from those rushed photos. Especially since I paired them with a top I have very little love for. The pattern is the Maya top from Marilla Walker. I have no problem with the pattern — I love the other top I made from it earlier. I think it’s the big polka dots. They’re just too big for me, if that makes any sense to you. That, and maybe I should stop chickening out of cropping tops.

So here’s another make — a Laurel top because (a) I’m predictable and like to sew things I’ve already fitted and tested, and because (b) I had scraps from the second Anna dress.

(The change of footwear is for your amusement, dear readers, and that stick is for my cat’s.)

I’m not in love with this top. I would perhaps be if I’d sewn up the body in a solid white. There would have been a nice contrast with those black sleeves and collar. I wonder if I should have cropped it a bit too (well, I still might, right?).

I should say, though, that these clothes proved great for travel. I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not one of these women who can handle a transatlantic flight in full make up and tight clothes. I’m firmly in that sorry camp of people who get instantly dehydrated and uncomfortable. The long linen pants helped me go from hot and humid weather of the East Coast to a very cold plane and then back outside into somewhat cooler, albeit still warm, summer weather in Central Europe without losing my mind. Thank you, pants.

Now I have lengths and proportion to rethink.

But how have you been and what have you been sewing? Drop me a line, dear sewing friends.

 

When Fabric Met Pattern

… the hesitation reached the same heated level as in When Harry Met Sally. No hilarious time was had at a restaurant but some serious doubts where had over the cutting mat.

And the question lingers: did it work out for that gored skirt or should I be headed for clown college in this dress?

stripeanna2

The pattern is Anna, again. This time I went with the v-neck variation.

The fabric is the only bit of rayon from my stash that was long enough for a dress. It’s a print I found at Joann Fabrics many moons ago.

The doubts are all about whether the irregular stripes of the fabric work in combination with the skirt panels.

More evidence for your consideration:

As far as construction goes, I went with mostly French seams again. I also decided to substitute a hand-picked lapped zipper for the recommended invisible zipper yet again. And yet again I did not regret it one second.

I bound the seam allowances in the seam with the zipper with Seams Great, which I picked up at one point out of curiosity. It’s a nice lightweight finish for this rayon. Definitely lighter than binding with bias tape. I also finished the edge of the facing with it. Have you tried Seams Great?

stripeanna-bodice
a peek inside the neckline

Staystitching that neckline was a bit scary. I was worried about stretching the bias edge. I cut the facing from a still lightweight but less drapey fabric to give the neckline more stability (you might recognize it from this project). Additionally, I stabilized its neck edge with strips of fusible interfacing. I hemmed the sleeves and the skirt by hand.

You know how it tends to go with this pattern. I have vague plans for more Annas. I wouldn’t mind giving the maxi version a try, if I have enough fabric, that is. And I’d love to make this skirt hack. Those pockets are calling to me.

But back to obsessing over those panels…