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:

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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:

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(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?

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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…

jammies, finally

jammies2

Hello, everyone! I hope you’ve had a relaxing weekend celebrating Canada Day, pre-celebrating 4th of July, or simply enjoying a weekend either in its summery or wintery glory, depending where in the world you find yourselves.

Posting is slowing down here and will slow down even more as I’m preparing for a trip. It’s probably good to give you a chance to miss pictures of my trusted radiator, so no problem. Sewing, however, has been speeding up because the trip is making me keenly aware of wardrobe gaps.

The most serious one was jammies without holes torn by cat claws or worn out by time.

These ones are the happy marriage of two indie patterns I’d had on my to-sew list longer than I care to admit with a nice mystery vintage fabric find. The fabric breathes, wrinkles like nobody’s business, and, I think, it might be either a cotton or a rayon I can’t really identify.

The bottoms are the Margot pyjamas from Tilly Walnes’ Love at First StitchLet me just say that I love that book. I think it’s the best book out there for sewing newbies who want to make clothes rather than sew for the home. I really wasn’t interested in making pillowcases — simply because I didn’t need any new ones at that point. After making a tote bag (which I still use) I was dying to move on to simple clothes. I already had the Colette Sewing Handbook but was finding it way too difficult (despite the beginner label on the cover). Love at First Stitch was the helping hand I needed. I made the Delphine skirt as one of my first garment projects. I guess I needed a more solid push to finally make the Margots.

That push came not only from the approaching departure date but from a review of the newest companion book to The Great British Sewing Book. Elisalex from By Hand London made some truly glamourous pj’s using two patterns in From Stitch to Style. I wanted to translate that fun silhouette and detail from the black silk pj’s into my beige floral mystery fabric.

jammie-pocket
patch pocket on the back

Back to the pattern: Tilly’s instructions are clear and very beginner-friendly. The only bit I’m not sure about is the length of the drawstring. I might have misunderstood the recommended length to cut because mine came out on the short side. I’m glad I decided to insert elastic in addition to the drawstring.

If (honestly, not “if” but “when”) I make these again, I’ll put in side seam pockets. I like the look of the patch pocket but I find myself always searching for the side seam pockets.

Would I recommend the Margot pattern? Definitely. And I will sew it again. I just hope my laziness doesn’t delay that.

The camisole is Savannah from Seamwork.

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This was my first attempt at a bias-cut garment. To help myself out a bit, I traced the pattern pieces and taped them to the half-pieces from the pattern to get whole pieces.

My mystery fabric was perhaps slightly thicker than the recommended fabrics because I wasn’t able to turn the ends of the straps under again to get a clean finish at the end. The straps were tricky to make, overall. They’re pretty narrow and difficult to topstitch.

details: straps, lace on the neckline, narrow hem

I departed from the pattern slightly on the neckline finish. I attached the lace to the front only and bound the back with a bias strip. The lace isn’t as scratchy as I worried it might be but I still think the bias strip feels better on the back.

Would I recommend the Savannah pattern? Yes… with some hesitation about those straps and their attachment. I think I’d like to take a look at other camisole patterns first. That said, I’d like to try the version for knit fabrics.

What’s your favorite nightwear? Any pattern recommendations?

veni, vidi… vici

My rusty Latin has failed me (and so has Google Translate). I spent a while trying to figure out how to insert “I cried” before “I won.” I’m not Julius Caesar, so a lot happened between the seeing and the victory.

Let me skip to the victory for a moment and then walk back:

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This is McCall’s 6891, my nemesis for the past several weeks. (I almost said “years.”) I think it might be better to sometimes just throw things in the corner or even the trash angrily and move on. But that’s not really in my nature. I tend to just doggedly pursue the problem until I exhaust all options. And sometimes myself.

(Looking at these photos I realize the dress would have benefitted from ironing before I put it on. It was a very hot day when I took these, so I hope you can forgive me for choosing not to iron.)

But I’m definitely not planning on exhausting you, so I’ll try to make the weepy parts telegraphic rather than descriptive.

Let’s break it down:

Veni

I wrote about how I got the pattern and realized how different the dress could look from the one on the pattern envelope. I blame Kirsten Dunst for what followed.

Vidi

Seeing what I needed to attend to in order to fit this pattern wasn’t easy. So, Ceasar, this is where we part ways for a while.

I’ve vented about the sizing in these patterns a lot already (maybe too much?). Trying to crack the logic behind it is like a new hobby at this point. Fit for Real People, as great a book as it is, tries to convince you that Big Four sizing is the best and most sensible. I understand that the sizing is supposed to somehow magically end up working for all figure types, hence the 4″ of unnecessary ease slapped on the shoulders and bust area. Figuring out which size to actually cut out for the shoulders is a quest for secret clues (my own favorite clue comes from Susan Khalje). But I’m still not convinced that grading wildly between three sizes (which is what I apparently have to do) is such a great way to arrive at your size.

Bullet points from here on:

  • the straightforward alterations: forward shoulder adjustment, square shoulder tweak, and a pretty significant sway back alteration (the back is drafted looooong)
  • some of you might remember that after attaching the sleeves I couldn’t move my arms in this dress. I did a broad upper back alteration, following Sunni Standing’s excellent advice. That involved cutting out a new back bodice from leftover fabric.
  • After attaching the sleeves to the new bodice I still couldn’t move my arms. So I took a closer look at the sleeves. Thanks to Kenneth D. King’s  video and article in Threads
    I was able to redraft the sleeves to give myself room for movement. I don’t think I arrived at a perfect sleeves, but I can move, so VICTORY!

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The skirt was a straightforward circle skirt, so no challenges there. That concludes fitting. But sewing held some surprises as well.

Edit: Oh, hot tip for hemming the circle skirt — while I was struggling with the bodice, I hung up the skirt on a hanger. It ended up hanging for about two weeks, after which I marked a new hem, evening it out where the bias dropped. Measuring was a bit easier on the unattached skirt.

Before vici, the collar

The pattern envelope claims it’s an easy pattern to sew, but I don’t think that sewing within a millimeter of a pattern mark from two opposite directions falls into that category, McCall’s. And that’s what you have to do to get the collar right. If you end up too far from the mark, you get a hole. If you accidentally sew through the mark, you can’t turn the collar pieces.

The instructions for the collar are sparse. But I haven’t found anything that helpful online. Jane has good tips on navigating another tricky point in this collar style. What was most difficult for me, though, was figuring out how the collar and facings move when you flip things to hide the wrong sides. The pattern doesn’t tell you that, so for my first try I set out to follow the instructions with a handsewing needle. That was helpful. Once I understood that the collar and the facings move independently (don’t sew through those pesky dot marks!), I was on the right track. Trimming the seam allowances exactly to the pattern’s specifications helps very much as well.

Vici

I like this dress. I like it a lot. I think I might make it again, now that I’ve fitted it and drawn up new pattern pieces that work. Getting through all the fitting and redrafting really did give me a sense of accomplishment. It was learning the hard way, without the certainty that I’d get a wearable garment out of it at the end. But I did! And I’m also feeling a bit more confident about fitting Big Four patterns.

That said, would I recommend it to others? Yes and no.

NO:

  • if you’re not obsessed with this style but rather looking for a fairly easy shirt dress, I’d recommend looking for a different pattern
  • if you don’t want to make a muslin and you haven’t yet figured out what your typical adjustments are in Big Four patterns
  • if having to potentially redraft a sleeve is a deal breaker for you

YES:

  • if you’re in love with this style and really want to make it
  • if you don’t mind spending time fitting
  • if you don’t mind potentially having to redraft pattern pieces

Case not settled. The jury is split between “Recommend, with modifications” and “Try to look for a shirtdress pattern with clearer instructions, clearer sizing, and more movement-friendly sleeves before you try this one.”

Verdict: Case not settled. The jury is split between “Recommend, with modifications” and “Try to look for a shirtdress pattern with clearer instructions, clearer sizing, and more movement-friendly sleeves before you try this one.”

Over to you: I’d love to hear from you if you have any pattern deal breakers and how you decide how to rate a pattern.

 

 

 

the dream of a common language

This is a different post. I’ve been going back and forth on whether to write it, but it occurred to me after joining in a few conversations on Instagram that ignoring it isn’t a solution.

In this kind of blogging we strive to be apolitical. And with good reason. We want to talk to people about the things that connect us, and we don’t want our differences to prevent us from it. I think that’s a very important aim. But I think that the true dream that lies there, unspoken, is not to create community by being quiet about divisive issues at all cost, but to have a shared language — and by that I mean a shared set of concerns and values — that we could use to talk. To really hear each other. Not to debate but to talk in a way that makes it possible for us to understand the other arguments, the ones we can’t yet understand or relate to.

I’ll be honest and say that the result of the referendum in the UK caught me by surprise. I still don’t know how to wrap my head around it. The split is so profound — almost 50/50, although there is, indeed, a result, and one that carries as yet not entirely known or knowable consequences… And we’re observing a similar split in so many different countries.

For years now we’ve been living in an increasingly divided political reality. There are some differences between specific countries, but the depth of the division is comparable. We have been developing political labels that need to be translated from the lingo of one side of the divide to that of the other — otherwise, they don’t have meaning.

So what tools do we have for crafting conversations rather than debates in which we yell our ideas over voices from the other side?

Everyone wants to be happy and wants to avoid suffering. I’m not saying that to sound Pollyanna-ish. I think that’s what we genuinely share. I also think that that’s easily forgotten when we enter debates in which we act as it’s possible to convince the other side to capitulate (it’s not because we’re never truly addressing each other’s concerns). I think it’s where we need to start because it means acknowledging the pain caused by profound rifts.

This post is not only about what just happened in the UK — though it will have an impact on us all, echoing around the world, though in different degrees. Here, in the US, the Supreme Court has just issued a ruling that puts the lives of many people in jeopardy. We are, in different corners of the world, debating immigration without a shared language and without a shared recognition that we are talking about people who, like us (whoever “we” are in this conversation), want to be happy and to avoid suffering. The vision of immigration that emerges from the debates is polarized between outrage over the lack of tolerance and outrage over the incomers imagined as a hive rather than individual people. I wish we were able to talk, not to debate. And to include in the conversation these people who are like us even if we don’t acknowledge that in our divided language.

I’m still hesitant about posting this because I really don’t want to alienate anyone. I don’t want to alienate people who disagree with me. I hope there is a possibility we can start finding that common language and that we can begin to heal the divisions that are turning us into each other’s enemies.

 

*the title of this post is an allusion to the title of a volume of poetry by Adrienne Rich.