seasonal wardrobe disorder

winter-wardrobe

Today’s post is brought to you by my oddly late realization that virtually everything in my wardrobe is completely and totally seasonal. Or seasonally-affected, ha! That truth (which should have been obvious, you might argue) was beginning to sink in when I was putting my Top 5 of 2016 post together and noticing that at the time of writing it I wasn’t able to wear almost any of the clothes on that list if I was leaving the house. 

Then I realized that trying to wear rayon tops at this time of the year was a strange act of defiance only made possible by handknit cardigans. Then I made the Keaton pants, and, finally, the loving embrace of brushed cotton snapped me out of my state of denial.

And that’s when I made the sketch above. That there is the truth about what I need in my winter wardrobe. No dresses and no skirts, it’s no country for them. Only pants, handknits, and knit tops allowed in the presence of snow shovels.

I see the light now and I’m finally replacing my well-worn RTW clothes with me-mades. Here’s what I’ve made so far:

First up, the Keaton pants + a trio of Plantain tees (I already have four long-sleeved ones, I should add).

I feel like I don’t praise the Plantain tee pattern enough. My photography skills are not up to hyping it up more as a basic, but it’s a brilliant pattern that’s helping me replace a lot of not-so-great RTW tops with ones that I really enjoy wearing that are also neutral enough to go with almost everything.

I’m thinking at this point that even if Deer and Doe decide not to go the PDF route I kind of owe it to them to do a transatlantic paper pattern purchase just to express my gratitude for this wonderful free pattern.

Up next, the first fruits of my Burda tracing frenzy (thanks to everyone who offered their tracing tips in response to my Instagram post): two pullovers from pattern 106 from Burda 8/2016.

On the gray one I messed up everything it was possible to mess up because I was sewing when I was tired. I figured (wrongly) that I could do some sewing in lieu of a nap. On the upside I learned to unpick serged seams and I got a wearable pullover in the end.

(Photos clearly inspired by the Leaning Tower of Pisa.)

Size-wise, it was pretty big and I shaved off quite a bit on the side seams. I also didn’t add enough of a seam allowance on the neckline. It was enormous and droopy. What saved it in the end was inventiveness forced by being down to pitifully small and narrow fabric scraps. I used a non-stretchy scrap cut lengthwise with the selvedge included.

The fabric was leftovers from an unblogged Oslo cardigan. I’ve seen some lovely makes from it pop up on Instagram. What I personally don’t love about it is its poor recovery.

On to the second one, also from leftovers. This thick interlock knit had already become a Finlayson pullover (another unblogged Christmas gift) and the black dress from this post.

This pattern is good for squeezing out of leftovers, thanks to the central back seam. By the way, that seam is brilliantly shaped — it comes in on the lower back, thus working as a sway-back alteration. I’m seeing that on many Burda patterns and it impresses me every time.

Not that you can necessarily tell but in those two bottom photos I’m attempting to show off the pleated detail on the sleeves. That detail is my favorite feature of this pattern.

The second time around I only added a seam allowance on the neckline and the central back seam. Still, I “smallified” it once again by shaving off a bit off the side seam.

Oh, and the cuffs are from a textured knit remnant I picked up at Joann a while back. Not that you can actually see that it’s a different fabric in these photos.

I give the pattern a solid thumbs up, “smallifying” efforts notwithstanding, since they’re just my preference, not a pattern issue.

I can’t wait to tackle the two Burda pant patterns I have on that list. The pleated pair is traced already, the other one not yet. The fabrics are pre-washed. I just need to either muslin or dive in with a bit of fake courage.

But after Katie’s post I fished out McCall’s 7445 out of my pattern stash and now I want to make those, too.

Decisions, decisions. I thank you in advance for wishes of an early spring. But I believe Punxsatawney Phil has already said no to that and the snow banks outside my window seem to be feeling very at home.

What’s your seasonal strategy for sewing? 

Flaurel (and maybe a farewell)

Hello, are you also snowed in? It’s getting pretty boring and nothing like Narnia. Well, maybe with the exception of the serious questions about, ekhm, power and those who wield it. We could use some kids with a lion.

Just snow here, tall snowbanks and provisional hills of it made by snowplows right now as a snowstorm just wound down (I hope!). But I dug up some flowers. From my stash.

The flowers: three yards of a dark navy polyester floral print that I bought on impulse during a Craftsy sale. Was it a year ago? I don’t remember. I do remember that the total cost was under $10 dollars and, while I liked the print, I didn’t like the slippery feel of the fabric.

With the aid of spray starch I finally cut into it. The spray starch did not work as well as I’d hoped but I’m not giving up on the stuff. And I did manage to cut out a Laurel dress, even if the hem played tricks on me.

Voilà:

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I call it the Flaurel

I took my time on this one. I liked the print as a print. Draping myself in it (yes, that happened) and then sewing it, I was torn between love and wondering whether it makes me look like a sofa. Bridget Jones level worries here, as you can see.

I resolved my dilemma by adding a keyhole, exactly like I did on the Laurel lbd. The keyhole has supreme dilemma-resolving power, I think. And just like that one the Flaurel is zipper-free, with a button and buttonloop at the neckline. I added small cuffs to the sleeves, which kind of disappear in the print but please me nonetheless.

The fabric has no stretch. I was lazy, the fabric was fraying viciously, and so I didn’t bother with basting for fit. In the end the dress fits but I have to wait a while to shed the lingering perfectionist hangup.

And… don’t hold me to this… but it might be the last Laurel for a longer while. Tinkering with Big Four and Burda has made me take many, many closer looks at my back in terms of fitting. Don’t get me wrong, the Laurel is pleasingly roomy on the back for me but I feel like the redrafted armholes I’ve tested out here and here fit even better. So I’d like to give other shift dresses* a try, with that crazy armhole (which I’ll try to show you in the near future).

That’s reason one. Reason two is that I’ve grown pretty discouraged about Colette over the past several months. I really don’t like how they responded to the criticism of the drafting of the Rue dress. I appreciate that they did admit drafting errors but what they revealed about their process did not inspire confidence. Laurel is a pattern drafted from their previous block and it fits me pretty well with minor adjustments. More current patterns, like Winona and Wren (both of which I wanted to make), are drafted from a new block, which is very different. I gave up on trying to fit them. I would like to make these dresses but I really don’t want to deal with what would need to be careful muslining and maybe partly redrafting. And in a knit. I don’t have the time for that now, so I’m moving on.

Okay, one more thing about the Flaurel. The inspiration came from the inimitable Carolyn and her fantastic photos from her Year of Handmade (#lifegoals). Now, I can’t seem to find the photo I have in mind. Did I imagine it? If so, please forgive me, Carolyn. If that’s just something from a dream collage based me absorbing these outfits, I take full responsibility.

Anyhow, here’s my take on that memory or dream. A dress with a skirt, because who will know. Apart from all of you, obviously.

Me and my broad, broad back. The skirt is the deep pleat skirt from Burda.

What do you think?

That’s it for flowers, back to the snow. I’ve been putting off writing about this but thinking about it all the time. And, as a result, posting here sporadically even though I really like talking about sewing with you and sharing my makes and woes. The current situation in the world has been getting to me, to put it mildly. Yes, there are always things to worry and care about in the world, but I’d argue that one can remain more skillful about that when one is not checking the news every morning to see if the world as we know it still exists.

I don’t believe one can really be apolitical but I also believe that we shouldn’t blindly cling to labels. We should stop every once in a while and define those labels to check what they actually mean to us. That’s a serious problem. I’m seeing people throwing around labels and those labels are washed out of all meaning. What are the principles behind the labels? It’s heartbreaking to see people follow someone who seems to be waving a flag they like without asking any questions.

So many people, on both sides of the various divides, are talking about anger these days. And, I’m not going to lie, I don’t think that in all those cases “the truth is in the middle” and both sides have equal standing, or that their anger is equally justified. Some of that anger is more justified. When it’s anger about being hurt in real ways and not by imagined threats it’s justified. Anger, as such, I think isn’t bad unless you act out in anger. Anger can certainly be the spark that starts something good but it only become that if you transform it into thoughtful action. Use it as energy but act out of wisdom and kindness.

At this time it’s important to cultivate kindness. Don’t replace it with hate. And no, I’m not saying be a doormat. Give tough love. But let there be kindness in your heart and let it guide you. If you extend it to yourself, you won’t let yourself become a doormat. Are you following me?

Kindness will allow us to stay sane in difficult times. Hate is scary and provokes hate as a reaction. But nothing can grow on hate, and no happiness can be built on the suffering of others. It’s important to remember that, then the hate will be less scary, it won’t provoke us to hate in return. Instead, we’ll be able to respond to it more wisely. And we really need that right now.

Sorry if that was rambling. I’ve been thinking about all this for a long time and wanted to finally write something and reach out to others.

Thanks to everyone who’s written thoughtfully on difficult topics, be it more personal or more political. Thanks to Naomi (and her most recent post) for the spark that finally allowed me to write this part of the post.

EDITED TO ADD MISSING FOOTNOTE:
* This dress. I blame Siobhan.

Blogger Recognition Award: Thank You & Giving Away More Awards!

Thank you, Sewing, for Cat People, for giving me this lovely blog award! It’s lovely to be included in this because these awards get to multiply — I get to give this badge to more bloggers, you, reading this, get to find out about more interesting blogs that are out there, and we get to do something fun, friendly, and affirming in what is a very bleak time.

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I won’t go into detail about the “bleak bit” right now. I notice that my writing often tends toward the negative. On this particular blog it often takes the form of exploring my fitting drama. If it were possible to wait a while before giving your blog a title, I would have ditched the nonsense title and gone with “Fitting Drama” or something similar. A big thank you to those who stick with me despite — or maybe because of?… — all my fitting adventures and misadventures. Thank you for the great conversation, for cheering me on through my pant/trouser tribulations, and for your own writing!

On to the sewing blog version of the Proust Questionnaire!

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

Dear Sewing for Cat People, thank you again! Congrats on your newest great-looking pair of Safran Jeans and looking forward to your future projects!

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We all need more of this in our lives. But please observe work safety regulations!

2. Write a post to show your award.

Yes, we are in it as I write and you read. And time twists on itself.

3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.

I’m a very private person, which for me means that keeping other areas of my life separate from this space makes me feel saner and happier. I started blogging because it gives me a sense of a fuller participation in the online sewing community — I’m not just dropping in and out of conversations but you can see my sewing side written up here, and changing over time. That’s the simple reason: to participate in conversations to a greater degree, to get a record of what I’ve been doing and thinking, and to meet people online, in the capacity we feel comfortable with.

Writing online we inevitably develop a “persona.” I like to keep my persona circumscribed and somewhat anonymous because that makes me less invested in creating an impeccable image and overidentifying with this image. That works for me. But, in all honesty, I enjoy reading very different blogs on a spectrum from very anonymous with an exclusive thematic focus to more private ones. Those of you who have been writing about illness and difficult life events have helped me in my life outside this little online bubble. I couldn’t write about life the way you do but I hope I’ve been able to express my support and my gratitude to you in a genuine way.

4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

I think there’s a lot of tacit and intangible pressure to create something like an online version of you, to post under your name, and to present an idealized image of your life. My major piece of advice to new bloggers would be to allow yourself to be creative and discerning about how you want to want to write, what you wish to put out there, and what you’d rather keep to yourself. Giving yourself at least some space between the you who goes to work, has colleagues, and responsibilities, and the online persona you’re writing up online will likely make you happier and freer.

This is my very subjective take on the subject but I see a lot of people making themselves captive to an image of themselves and of their life that is not even too good to be true but too plastic, perfectionist, and constraining.

And to add to that, don’t be too eager to turn yourself into a business. If you want to use blogging as a platform for a business, be strategic about it. Be upfront about the business aspect and don’t use yourself as an extension of the business because it will burn you out.

Feel free to ignore my advice if you disagree with it, obviously.

5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.

Here is, in random order, a list of 20 blogs that I enjoy for a whole array of reasons. One thing that brings them together is sewing. The bloggers write about it in different ways, they sew for different reasons. I owe everyone on this really not exhaustive list a big thank you for their writing, our conversations, and their sense of humor!

I hope this list lets you discover new blogs to follow regularly.

Sew It Or Throw It

Spare Room Style

Saturday Night Stitch

Belle Citadel

Handmade by Carolyn

Madame Tifaine

Chronically Siobhan

Elewa

Ida Aida

Thrift Make Sew

Mokosha

Tea Okereke

Poppykettle

Pretty Grievances

Sewing Is Not a Superpower

Punkty Odniesienia

Kathryn’s Busy Town

Au Fil des Pages

The Last Stitch

Pattern Scissors Cloth

 

 

the Diane Keaton moment

Readers, I made pants.

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Riding on the wave of other sewists’ resolutions, I just dove into the project. And throwing caution to the winds, I cut out Burda 6856. My original plan was to prevaricate some more, then cut out a pair marked easy — starting with a muslin, possibly treating Pants for Real People as a WebMD for pants, diagnosing my pair with every fit ailment possible…

But it’s too cold for all that. I found myself down to one pair of pants I could wear to work in the Arctic chill. So I decided to risk it despite the scary threats of those fitting problems with names from a children’s book gone wrong, Camel Toe and Polterwang.

Fit and Sizing Adventures

I started at a size chosen by my body measurements. I tip my hat to reviewers who posted at Pattern Review who caution against it. I apologize for not taking photos because when I basted the pieces I looked like I was on my way to clown college.

I sized down in a somewhat crazy way: two sizes down on the hips, tapering the legs further, waistband one size down (and realistically, I could have gone two down with a good amount of room in there). That’s the result you’re seeing in these photos.

I hope the way I see it is the way you see it: more Diane Keaton than anywhere near clown college. But Diane Keaton jumping over snow banks because that’s the situation right now.

A word on what some call “stride” (nice euphemism) but what we all know is the crotch. I did not alter that curve in any way. I figured that by choosing roomier pants I was more likely to be pleased with it and I am. And I still have a lot to learn about fit in that… area.

Fabric and Notions

The fabric is a brushed cotton from Joann Fabrics. I lined the pockets with a lighter weight cotton and cut out the inside waistband from cotton sateen leftovers. The layers of brushed cotton get very bulky and stiff, as I discovered while making the belt carriers.

The zipper is the last one from a very fortunate thrifting haul — it’s metal and I was trembling while sewing it in. No needles got damaged in the process, even though I had to shorten the zipper by about an inch. The button is from Joann. It’s plastic pretending to be metal.

Details

I wish those pleats were a bit shallower, to be honest, but I can’t complain too much. They still look good. I really like the darts on the back.

Pattern Instructions and Order of Construction

No, I didn’t exactly follow the sparse Burda instructions. I read them, I appreciate the illustrations, but I don’t think they offer the best solutions.

I changed the order of construction a bit so as to be able to sew the zipper in flat, with access to it on both sides of the pants front. If the Burda instructions for that step are sufficient to you, you are brilliant in my book. My sanity was saved by Sandra Betzina’s tutorial on the Threads website. I also added a fly shield (pattern piece included in the pattern envelope).

I’m not convinced that dividing the back waistband into two pieces is the best idea. With the belt carrier placed on that center back seam, it gets really bulky. So I cut the inner waistband in one piece.

Finishing

I finished the waistband by hand, and I think it spared me a lot of irritation that would have likely come with wrangling it under the machine.

I tried blind-hemming the legs on the machine but this fabric really isn’t good for that. I had to redo it by hand any way. The pattern was smarter in this respect because it actually tells you to hem by hand.

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Verdict

I like them! I wish the sizing was a bit less crazy.

If you have any good pants fitting advice, throw it my way!

PS: A more organized version of this review is up on Pattern Review here.

Camas as a cardigan

camas-cardi-4

This one ticks several boxes. The Camas blouse checks out as a cardigan in several ways:

  • perfect for lounging while pretending to be put together and ready to meet the world;
  • potentially great for actually meeting the world;
  • only needed to be minimally upsized for a cardigan — I sewed the sleeve and side seams with a 1 cm/ 3/8″ seam allowance;
  • I MADE IT OUT OF FABRIC SCRAPS, WHICH MAKES ME SO OVERJOYED I’M WRITING IN ALL CAPS
  • it’s both fairly simple sewing and qualifies as loungewear, so it satisfies a major wardrobe need for me.

the back and the inside

I was inspired by Morgan’s cardigan version from the Camas sewalong.

There were some goofs. I was rushing and sewed in part of the front band wrong. And I trimmed the seams before I noticed it. Not great but not tragic, so I just went with it. If I could rewind time, I’d unpick it and sew it properly.

I improvised those cuffs. They could be slimmer. But they’re not and it’s still fine.

Here it is worn:

I wrote up a proper review of the pattern here. Now I can recommend it both as a blouse and a cardigan. And I might just make it again.

simplify

Burda Easy blew my mind. (Images from burdastyle.de)

That’s my one sewing “resolution” for 2017. If the result is less than appealing, my excuse will be that Burda made me do it. Because the F/W 2016 issue of Burda Easy is what got the little cogs turning for me.

I noticed that I seem to operate according to an implicit rule that goes something like this: “why simplify when you can overcomplicate?” As you can guess, I never described it to myself in this way until began to realize I have a growing fabric stash and lots of remaining wardrobe gaps.

The issue is not sewing because I’ve convinced myself that I should save fabric for an appropriately ambitious project. Given the remaining gaps in my wardrobe,* it’s become clear to me that I need to balance the more ambitious plans with some simple garments that will get worn on a regular basis.

Enter Burda Easy. Doctor T has a great post about this issue if you want to know more about the designs and see more garment photos. Seeing the clothes in motion was what did it for me. Now, not all of these fit my life and style preferences: the huge vest and coat, and that oversize sweater would both make me look enormous and like I’m drowning in fabric. But a lot of them look really good.

The biggest suprise is how much I’m digging that tunic. It essentially conforms to Anna of the Paunnet blog’s definiton of Burda cutting corners design-wise: “rectangles by Burda” (see here). And yet I want to wear these rectangles. Obviously not now, not in the depths of frozen hell, but I think they will be close to dreamy when the world boils around us mid-July.

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More rectangles for me! Photo from Burda Easy F/W 2016.

But seriously now, here’s the strategy I want to try out this year: for every ambitious project (pants! shirts!) try to add some simple clothes, especially to wear around the house. So more knit tops; ideally, some decent-looking pants to wear around the house (maybe the ones from Burda to replace the ancient worn-out pair of cords I’m reaching for all the time), more shift dresses maybe…

Which brings me to strategy #2:

re-use already fitted and adjusted patterns as much as possible. Not that I haven’t been doing this, but I’ve mostly done it out of resignation when I got fed up with trying to fit a pattern that was turning out to be clearly not suited to my body shape. Funnily enough, given all the Burda inspiration in this post, the Burda bodice is pretty far from my shape (as I discovered when making this dress), so I might hack the Colette Laurel to get something similar to this one:

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Image source: burdastyle.com.

Another simple Burda project I have my eye on is this sweater:

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Pattern and more photos available here.

I might have some leftover knit fabric that would be great for this.

What about you? Any easy sewing plans you’re looking forward to? And how do you stand on New Year resolutions?

*Nothing helps you realize things as clearly as waking up in a harsh winter with one pair of pants remaining wearable in the weather conditions. That’s how you know you’ve been goofing up.

 

the velvet bandwagon & all the Plantain dresses

Hello in 2017! 😉 I hope the year’s started off well for you. I’m starting by playing catch-up with what I made during my holiday frenzy.

I hopped on the velvet bandwagon. I’ve been seeing so many beautiful velvet dresses in very different silhouettes. This one, sewn up by Elisalex from By Hand London, has been a long-time favorite. It’s lovely but I did know I wouldn’t be going the copycat route because I could not survive a moment in a sleeveless dress in winter.

What I had in mind was something slightly Goth-y, definitely long-sleeved, and simple enough that I could wear it out to a restaurant rather than to a ball (no balls in my calendar). Fabric aside, the true inspiration for this dress was Jeska’s Winona dress.

And here’s the end result. You will have to use your imagination looking at the photos because Santa didn’t bring us much sunlight:

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New spot for photos: the only one that had some light that day.

I was incredibly cautious sewing this stretch velvet, anticipating all sorts of disasters. To my great relief, the fabric didn’t shift around too much when sewing two layers of it together with a walking foot. But attaching a lining was difficult, even with careful basting. Go slow — but that’s what I always say, regardless of the fabric, don’t I?

I read everything I could find online about working with velvet and stretch velvet. The best pieces of advice:

  • keep track of the pile and cut your pieces all with the pile running in the same direction
  • use weights and a rotary cutter when cutting out the pattern pieces, lay the fabric right side down on the cutting mat, trace off whole pattern pieces (i.e. no cutting on the fold) — that last bit of advice is what I always do with knits anyway
  • press sparingly and gently, on a fluffy towel or piece of the velvet fabric so as not to crush the pile
  • baste where necessary
  • test out neckline finishes: binding in self-fabric was coming out too bulky, a turned and stitched down neckline would have been a disaster, lining the bodice worked best for me (I tested these out on scraps before committing to a neckline finish)

One untested piece of advice that I’m still mulling over: apparently fusible interfacings are not suitable for velvet. I only have fusibles and not even a scrap of  silk organza, so I did not stabilize my neckline. Now I’m just hoping it doesn’t stretch out too badly.

I lined the bodice in a lightweight rayon knit. I sewed the lining in by hand at the waist and armholes, and, yes, that did take a while.

The pattern: a mashup, which is becoming very much a regular feature of my sewing. The bodice is a slightly modified Plantain tee and the skirt is the top half of the Winona skirt from Seamwork.

Why a combination of these two and not, say, the Winona in its entirety? I’ll save that story for another time. For now I’ll just state the obvious: sewing with a tried pattern that you know works well in the type of fabric you’re working with saves a lot of time and worry about fit. And it gives you more time for sewing itself, and so I made another version of the dress in a black interlock knit (the photo is comparably blurry, you’re welcome):

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My thoughts on the Winona pattern, in a nutshell: thumbs up for the skirt (and I wish there was a way to print out just the top half of it without printing the whole mammoth 52-page PDF of just one of the two versions of the pattern), thumbs down for the bodice — at least for this broad-backed sewist.

I don’t know what body type Colette Patterns/Seamwork is drafting for these days, but it’s not the broader backed lady of yore (i.e. the earlier days Colette Patterns). From what I can tell, it’s someone with a tiny waist (maybe tinier than the measurements from the chart, but I can’t tell for sure) and a narrower back. And someone who likes the armholes to fall low? More to say on that but just not today.

The skirt is a keeper for me. I like that the seams don’t intersect with the side seams of the bodice — less bulk! I have a thing for gored skirts, it seems. I can definitely see myself re-using this one yet again.

The true hero of this story is, of course, the Plantain tee pattern from Deer and Doe.

It’s the one pattern from that company that I’ve tried so far simply because it’s the only one they offer as a PDF. At one point I was on the verge of buying the Melilot shirt but it was temporarily sold out. And I really wasn’t too keen on having a paper pattern shipped all the way from France. They released an end-of-year survey about PDF patterns and I hope it means they will offer at least some of their catalog in that form.

I love the Plantain pattern. I’ve made it straight-up, mashed it up with the Tonic tee from SBCC Patterns (I got it when it was a free pattern) with a good outcome, and I’ve made four dresses from it so far. Not all of these have made it on to the blog. The first two dresses predate the blog and were my first attempts at knit dresses and elastic insertion.

Both were made some time in the fall of 2015. The one on the left was the first one. I followed Anna’s tutorial but lengthened the bodice piece for a less babydoll silhouette. The second one, in navy and gray knit fabric remnants, got an empire waist and a skirt from Simplicity 1325.

This pattern has served as the perfect canvas for learning and experiments. I’ve played with the fit but it’s that ultra-rare pattern that actually fit me okay sewn up as is.

My own experiments with the pattern have been modest so far in comparison with this really great adaptation of the pattern.

I’m not one to commit to resolutions, but in 2017 I’d like to try doing more with patterns I have already tried and fitted, and sew completely new to me patterns sparingly. I guess if I were to pick a theme or motto it would be pragmatism with a bit of experimentation. What are your sewing plans for 2017?

 

Top 5 of 2016: the misses

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This is probably everyone’s favorite roundup. Let’s see if this one yields any helpful insights, shall we?

I did not include unfinished and abandoned projects here. I don’t usually bother taking pictures of those (not just because I’m too upset). Let me note that in addition to the misses I’ve also had quite a few failures: fabric wasted or destroyed, false starts, unwearable results. Most of those got recycled somehow or at least thrown at the bottom of the ever-expanding scrap bag.

The projects featured here weren’t necessarily complete misses but their flaws have sent them to a dark corner of the closet.

#1 Polka dot Maya top with lots of unnecessary and distracting tweaks

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Those polka dots hate me. It took me surprisingly long to see that, even though I’ve never been all that fond of polka dots… I definitely don’t dislike them on others but in my own case I really need to stop trying to make “fetch” happen.

The pattern itself — Maya by Marilla Walker — is fine. I made a top from it earlier that I like and wear pretty often; I’d definitely like to make another one. The fabric is fine, too: it’s rayon.

The jury’s still out on those pants (New Look 6459). Right now there’s just one top I like them with. (And it’s definitely not the one in the photo!)

Possible solution to my woes: dye it solid black.

#2 Plantain/Tonic tee in a fabric that’s too thick for a short-sleeve tee

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That’s the problem in a nutshell. I wore that top once and realized that the fabric is really better suited either for a long-sleeve winter tee or a pullover.

Sadly, I only bought enough fabric for a short-sleeve tee.

I’m wondering whether there are any solutions for this one. The one that comes to my mind is cut it up and see if I can sew up a tee for a friend’s kid.

This is the only photo I have of this top. It’s from Me-Made May (that’s why there’s a number in the corner). The skirt is the Veronika circle skirt from Megan Nielsen, sewn in 2015. I still like it but, unfortunately, I’ve um, filled out a bit too much to wear it.

#3 Mesa knit shift from Seamwork, or, the learning curve of adjustments

mesa4This one is a mix of good things and bad things. I do wear it — usually with black tights and a long cardigan — but the fit issues do bug me.

As a muslin of sorts I made a top version that was an utter failure (and did not get photographed). That one helped me discover that the neckline was too wide and droopy to be wearable. I redrafted it.

What it did not let me discover — probably because I didn’t yet know enough about fitting my back –were the issues on the upper back and overall back length. I also missed the fact that the armhole needed raising by at least 1.5 cm.

On the dress version I was able to take out some length on the back by adding a central back seam, which I curved at the small of the back. But there’s still some excess fabric pooling there. The back ended up too narrow for comfortable movement. This ponte is fairly stretchy but not I would really need to redraw the armscye to give myself more fabric on the back.

Lessons learned: It’s a wearable dress, just not as pleasant to wear as I’d wish. And, yes, while I’ve had several great makes from Colette and Seamwork patterns, this is a pattern I’m not likely to make again. The unusable (for me at least) neckline and too big armscye bug me too much. The result of issues like those is that I’m using the Plantain tee pattern as a block for knit tees and dresses rather than giving other patterns a try — more on that soon.

#4 McCall’s 6891: a milestone project with a questionable fabric choice

m6891-3This was a very important dress for me, not just because I cried a lot while making it, which is documented on this blog.

I’m glad I stuck with it and kept hacking away at the pattern until I altered the back to fit me. It’s not exactly fun to discover how much your shape differs from the one that the pattern was drafted for. It is, in fact, similar to the discomfort of not fitting into an RTW size that you think should work for you. The redrawn lines of the pattern take some getting used to.

Being able to move your arms in a dress definitely makes up for all that.

So what’s the real “miss” in this one?

For one, I left myself very little ease in the waist. So when I gained a little weight and effectively went up a clothing size, the dress no longer fit comfortably.

But the more serious problem is the poly/cotton I made it in. The cheap fabric choice was intentional — this was my first stab at the pattern and I did anticipate fit issues. The interfaced buttonholes on the skirt never pressed well, unfortunately, and I think this design really calls for a softer drape, though with some body. I think it would work really well in a crepe.

Solutions? I could let out the side seams a bit, but I think I’ll leave it as is.

Resolutions? Make again, in a crepe, and size up.

#5 Abstract Anna dress, or, the trials of a bias-cut neckline

stripeanna3

 

Again, that’s the issue right there. I did wear this dress a lot in the summer, probably exacerbating the neckline problem.

But I like that I let myself make it roomier — this dress has helped me rethink ease and room for movement in garments even further. And it’s a fun dress in this unusual print. The fabric, by the way, is one of the good ones from Joann Fabrics.

Solutions? Well, I stabilized that neckline with some fusible tape in a desperate attempt to stop the drooping. Too little, too late, not a real solution but will have to do in a pinch.

Lessons learned: Stabilize bias-cut necklines at the cutting stage. Stay-stitching is not enough. I should write that down in all caps and put up on the wall above my sewing machine.

All these misses and hits have led to some deep thoughts about what and how I want to sew in 2017, which I hope to write up next week. As you can see, resolutions are not exactly a priority. And don’t let them drive you crazy either.

I wish you all a great 2017 with a fantastic beginning. Cheers!

Top 5 of 2016: the hits

1A big thanks to Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow for coming up with and hosting this great roundup series. I’ve been enjoying reading these posts for a while now and I’m happy to join in this year.

Here’s my purely subjective list. It has been influenced by lots of factors, from the weather to weight fluctuations.

Rather than pick out five garments, I’ve picked out five categories that cover both my most worn and liked garments and what I’ve been learning from these about my wardrobe gaps.

Here we go:

#1 All my Rooibos dresses so far

I would not have predicted that Rooibos would be my pattern of the year when I finished that first dress. But it quickly became my go-to warm weather dress for those occasions when I wanted to feel somewhat dressed up but with serious pockets. It turned out that I often want to feel that way. So I made a second dress, and when the temperatures dropped, a third, which taught me how great the simplified pattern works as a layering piece.

Really, I think that for me simplifying the design was the key. The original neckline, though cute, makes it look like more of a one-off than it needs to be. It would work well as a variation, with a no-frills variation as an alternative added to the pattern.

I have some thoughts on the criticism of how Colette Patterns are drafted but I’d rather save it for later. I did two muslins for Rooibos and I feel that those were enough for me to figure out the right fit for me. I do think that the bust sizing runs smaller than usual for this particular pattern, and so that’s an issue that should at least be clarified if not resolved with a pattern update. But, overall, I can say that I do recommend it. And I think I might make it again.

#2 Laurel in navy crepe
laurel4-2

The best fabric pairing I’ve had with this pattern so far. I wear this dress a lot — more than the other dress versions I’ve sewn up because this color and this fabric have proven the most versatile.

I want to keep working with this pattern. I’ve had some luck (and a lot of fun) trying out different hacks on the blouse version. I’m thinking of hacking the dress to get something similar to this Burda pattern. I will be sticking with the Laurel as the basis (rather than altering the Burda bodice) because it’s drafted both for my cup size and for a broad back.

#3 Skirts and tops for work

top row, from the left: [1] Burda deep pleat skirt (post), [2]Thread Theory Camas blouse and mini skirt (blogged here and here); [3] Burda deep pleat skirt paired with a Plantain/Tonic tee (post)
bottom row, from the left: [4] Astoria sweater (blogged here and here); [5] Colette Patterns Beignet skirt with Plantain/tonic tee and me-made cardigan (blogged here and here); [6] Simplicity 1070 knit pencil skirt (post)

Some lessons learned from trying to make my work wardrobe less accidental:

  • I like to keep my work and non-work wardrobes slightly separate
  • I really like wearing skirts, even when they don’t have pockets
  • overall, a skirt and a top (shirt, especially) gets more wear than dresses (these somehow feel more ‘private’?); significant exception: the Laurel dress above
  • I obviously still need to tackle making shirts and pants… and definitely with more dedication

# 4 Finlayson

A very important unselfish sewing project. I made two, and I think I will make more. And that clever collar might travel on to other sewing projects. Maybe this category will eventually become Thread Theory patterns? Time will tell. I am enjoying sewing those and have a few more of their designs on my forever expanding to-sew list.

# 5 Jammies and loungewear

from left: [1] Almada robe from Seamwork; [2] warm season jammies; [3] cold season jammies

In short, need more, and need to go beyond sleepwear to some solutions for the laziest of weekends spent at home. Ideas welcome.

That’s my Top 5. Coming soon, everyone’s favorite roundup: the misses.

 

 

pattern review: Camas blouse

camasgertieskirt5

Hello! How was your holiday-season making? I managed to to push myself to fulfill my admittedly somewhat unreasonable holiday work quota, ending up with three garments started and finished in one week. Three! It felt like sewing with the fast-forward button on — very not me, and very tiring at the end of it. Finishing up what luckily managed to be my holiday dress, I was dreaming of not sewing, so it was a bad place to be. But it’s not even two days later and I’m back to planning my next projects. The take-away from this for 2017 is as simple as “slow down, silly.”

Before we stumble into the tricky territory of resolution-making, let’s catch up. The Camas blouse is my next stop on the tour of Thread Theory patterns. Thanks to their generous sales, I’ve bought almost all of their patterns but have yet to make my way through the catalog. So far I’ve sewn several t-shirts from the Strathcona pattern (all well-loved and worn a lot but unphotographed), two Finlayson sweaters (the second yet to be blogged, but here’s the first one), and now, Camas, for me.

This project was a groundbreaking one for me, in unexpected ways. Big words, I know. After all my hesitating over shirt patterns, this is finally one I did make. And, yes, what decided in its favor was the fact that it’s a knit pattern, so whatever fit issues would possibly crop up were less likely to make the garment unwearable. Then again, in my book, a knit project means no muslin because I don’t have a stash of ‘throwaway’ knits matched to the weight and type of my ‘good’ knits.

Here, the fit risks are minor anyway because the design features gathering over the bust and on the back.

Gathering details: yes, you probably can’t see them very well in these photos

The pattern

I have the PDF version and was very pleased to see that the layout is both clear and fairly economical. It was quick to print out and assemble. The pattern includes both a body measurement chart and a finish measurement chart, so it’s easy to pick a size.

The instructions are well-written, easy to follow, and illustrated. In addition, there’s a sewalong on the Thread Theory blog, with lots of practical tips for sewing Camas in different weights and stretch percentages of knits, pattern hacks such as a cardigan and a dress, and even advice for making Camas in wovens.

Morgan’s cardigan from the sewalong (scroll through this post for photos of it) inspired me to test this design’s scrap-busting potential.

My alterations and experiments


First up, the alterations:

I did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment, which I will approach slightly differently next time I make this pattern (draw a new seamline from the original placement on the nexk to the forward position on the shoulder side).

I also raised the armhole slightly, and will perhaps raise it a bit more next time. There are good instructions for that alteration in the sewalong (in this post).

One unnecessary alteration I did (provoked by my usual experience with Colette and Big 4 patterns were the back always has too much length for me) was to lower the neckline on the back neck (that meant adjusting not just the back yoke but also the back neck binding). While the end result looks and wear okay, it’s a little low. Clearly, the original design is the better way to go. Lesson learned.

The experiments:

I combined lightweight knits with mid-weight knits, all having different stretch percentages. The back, fronts, and sleeves are in a lightweight black rayon knit, the yokes are a mid-weight gray jersey, lined with mid-weight white interlock knit remnants. The button bands are in a gray double-knit remnant. Upon reflection, that last fabric was not the worst choice but also definitely not the best one. The seam allowances needed some careful trimming or would have ended up too bulky inside the button band.

Finally, I added a mock-piping detail, using strips of the white interlock knit folded in half and basted to the outer yokes before joining the yokes to the back and fronts. I trimmed the seam allowances in the mock-piping strips to minimize the bulk as much as possible. As you can see in the photos of the back, there’s some stiffness there, but I think it works: there’s still some stretch left. And I think the effect was well worth the risk.

The trickiest part

The blouse untucked

The buttonholes, hands down. Morgan gives both tips and warnings in that respect. I was dreading the buttonholes and I did end up messing them up. I had incredible problems keeping the placement consistent — most of my buttonholes tilt away from the middle of the band toward the blouse front. But not uniformly. I didn’t even bother cutting them open, I just sewed the buttons on top, joining the two sides of the band. I’m not normally a fan of non-functional solutions but I definitely prefer them over failure.

Sew again

That’s my conclusion. Thumbs up all the way. I’m eyeing some more scraps for a cardigan version and the photos from Morgan’s fashion show of her graduation collection make me want to try a dress version. While some of the woven versions are interesting (and I’m really intrigued by Morgan’s idea of woven sleeves with a knit band insert!), I think I’ll stick with knits for this pattern.

With the new Thread Theory pattern release, the Lazo trousers, I’m afraid I’m in danger of becoming a copy cat. I really like Morgan’s design ideas.

Have you made Camas? Other pattern recommendations? Reflections on holiday sewing? I’d love to hear from you.