Helmirama

Jess just published a very thoughtful post about sewing and body image, and the siren song of popular patterns. I’ve been sitting on some thoughts along those lines but I think Jess said it better than I could. So I begin with a reading recommendation today.

And instead of a more substantial post about what I’ve been sewing (and thinking about sewing) this summer, I give you a partial update with a trip down memory lane.

Here are all the versions of the Helmi pattern by Named Clothing that I’ve made so far.

I started by making the blouse version:

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This version, in a slippery lightweight polyester crepe, was my wearable muslin. I went with the hidden button placket but without the intriguing trench details. (More about the blouse here.)

And then I couldn’t stop, though I ditched the hidden placket on my next versions:

(More about the blue blouse and the black blouse appears in this post.)

I added kimono sleeves on summer versions:

And the dresses:

The first one in a stripy cotton (I later elasticated the back waist on that one),

the second one in a Cotton and Steel cotton print, with a bit more body:

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And the latest one, sewn this summer, in a cotton chambray:

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On this one, I elasticated both the front and back. And I added this simple belt with D-rings, because I felt like that waist seam needed something more.

All the dress versions have pockets, pinched from a Simplicity pattern, by the way.

I pick up this pattern when I feel stuck, dispirited about fitting, but looking for a meaningful addition to my wardrobe despite those troubles.

So that clearly fits the definition of a tried-and-true pattern, but also says something about the adventure of dressing yourself…

This post will need an addendum because there’s one more blouse I have somehow failed to photograph although it’s a staple of my work wardrobe.

But, for now, I’m sharing this love letter to Helmi as is — maybe it can help someone get out of a sewing rut?…

What’s your go-to pattern?

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the dress of summer 2018

That’s bold, isn’t it? Here’s the dress:

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It is, believe it or not, the Donna dress from the Burda Vintage ’70s special issue. Yes, this one: the dress I planned to sew for “Sewing the Seventies” but it was not to be.

So without making it up as drafted, I played with the pattern to turn it into a bit of a Tessuti Lois dress lookalike*… I added kimono sleeves with cuffs, added a bit to the sides to give it pull-on capabilities, and added some waist ties.

 

Oh, and I added a facing because I didn’t want to line it.

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The fabric is a linen woven out of blue and black threads (anyone know the name of that kind of weave?).

I’ve really loved wearing this dress. Its one shortcoming is lack of pockets, but I don’t really see a good way to add them to this design. And it’s helped me keep my feelings about this year’s weight gain in check. It’s a comfort dress.

What’s your favorite garment this summer or winter?

*Yeah, I didn’t feel like messing with turning those gathers into a dart.

PS: This was also my Burda Challenge item for July, and the only thing I made in July, at the same time.

the evolution of a sack, in two parts

This story begins in March, when I had neither time nor willingness to work on fitting new patterns. And I thought, “I could use a sack dress, I think.” Enter a smallish piece of green crepe (polyester or silk — no clue, I bought it for a song second-hand) and an issue of Szycie aka the Polish edition of Patrones from June 2017.

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Dress #21 fit the bill: it is, essentially, a sleeveless sack with an elasticated waist. What the photo and the drawing don’t show is that the neckline dips much lower on the back than the front, which made it exactly the opposite of what I wanted. Since there are no darts or any other shaping to speak of, I sapped the pattern pieces.

Patrones is chock-full of high street inspiration, and most of the patterns are on the simple side. Unfortunately, only every other size is included on the pattern sheets (usually 38-42-46 in the regular range and 48-52-56 in the plus size range). For me, this means tracing between the sizes, which is no problem with a pattern as simple as this one but, I imagine, could get pretty challenging with a more complicated pattern.

I really had very little fabric, but with single-layer cutting, and a pieced back I ended up with a sack I quite like:

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My one reservation is that the armholes are so big on this pattern — and I both added a seam allowance and raised them slightly — that I can’t wear this without a blouse underneath.

 

I skipped the elastic and made a belt and belt loops instead.

And then I fiddled with the pattern a bit more. I added cuffed kimono sleeves, split the front and back pattern pieces into two, and added elastic and pockets.

My inspiration was the Staple Dress from April Rhodes and pattern 6509 from Burda.

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The fabric is a rather unimpressive crinkle polyester from JoAnn Fabrics. I liked the color of the wrong side: a nice saturated matte cornflower blue, so it became the right side. Which means the inside of this dress is embarrassingly shiny.

I think this version deserves another try, in a fabric that breathes. I’m thinking, rayon.

Do you like sack dresses? What are your favorite easy to sew and wear patterns? (And did I hear you say Inari from Named?)

 

Blouse 115 from Burda 3/2018

Forgive the unimaginative title of this post. It’s hot and I’m finding myself creatively challenged. I have a few projects planned but am stalling on them: reluctant to fit, and baste, and sweat in the easily overheating room where my sewing machine is.

So this post comes to you thanks to Emma of the blog Emma’s Atelier. Emma asked me if I had more photos of the blouse on and I realized I’d been really sitting on this one too long… Thanks, Emma. I needed a push!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the pattern caught my eye immediately. It’s a petite pattern, which I did notice immediately. I did toy with the idea of making a muslin but reluctance prevailed — in no small part thanks to a fabric remnant I was willing to take a chance on.

Here are the two magazine versions from the Burda site: version A and version B (it was B that made me want to give it a try).

So this is blouse no. 1 in said remnant, of which I only know that it’s a cotton fabric in an easily fraying weave of black and white. I picked it up at B&J Fabrics in NYC when I was there in March.

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I did make some changes to the design. The only true fit adjustment I made was a forward shoulder adjustment (my usual in Burda patterns). Apart from that, other changes were to simplify the design and reduce fabric volume.

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I removed the box pleats from the sleeves and the back. Then I combined the back and back yoke pattern pieces. And that was it.

I’m fairly short-waisted, I’ve discovered, so I wasn’t too concerned about the pattern being petite. But if you know you don’t want the waist seam hitting you too high, muslin first (or risk lengthening the pattern pieces somewhat cavalierly — honestly, I think there will be more of that kind of experimentation in my sewing future).

My second version is in a lightweight cotton print (voile?) I got from Mood Fabrics.

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You can see on both, that the peplum isn’t very voluminous. The gathering on the frontand back pieces contrasts with the relatively straight peplum.

I really like this pattern — and it was a bit of a risk. I didn’t know how to think of it stylewise, and it made me realize I desperately need to get some jeans in my wardrobe. I think that’s the perfect bottom piece to go with it.

I am planning a third one, though not for me, for a friend who will be a mom soon. The sew-on snap closures might make this a pretty good nursing top, I think.

This is my Burda Challenge pattern for both May and June, though I do have one unblogged Burda garment waiting in the wings…

Thumbs up for the pattern, and thumbs up for taking sewing risks (especially at times when it’s difficult to get up the energy and curiosity to sew).

 

must.sew.shirts., or, how the #burdachallenge continues

April was a month of sewing doubts, of a creativity slump, of body image issues, you name it. And yet somehow I managed to sew two shirts.

It was less epic than it may sound. I used the same pattern for both shirts and the fitting was pretty minimal because I relied on my previous experiences with Burda to figure out what I needed to tweak. And that might well be the reason why Burda and I might have a pretty lasting and almost exclusive relationship.

I continue to be pretty burned out when it comes to muslining and fitting new patterns. I’m also noticing more and more the need for fairly simple go-to pieces. In terms of what I like to wear to work, I think I’m pretty set on my reliable uniform being pants + buttoned blouse/shirt + cardigan or blazer.

Without further ado, here are the shirts.

Pattern: Shirt #103 from Burda 6/2017

Version #1: in scissor-patterned lightweight poly crepe that really needed to finally get out of the stash.

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Vesna’s version got me off the fence about the pattern, though she does detail doubts I can relate to in her post (read it and admire the shirt here).

While I can appreciate the use of piping in the pattern photos, I really wasn’t into the idea of trying that out myself. Definitely not in a lightweight fabric…

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I “drafted” my own pockets, fretted over the pattern placement, and managed to mess it up in an inconsipucous way, so all turned out well.

After wearing the penguin shirt a few times, I decided the sleeve length could use shortening, so I took out 2 cm from this pattern and it’s pretty spot on this way.

Version #2: the return of Cotton and Steel rayon.

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Some changes from the previous version, not all voluntary.

I messed up pattern matching across the front in that — in pattern-matching fervor — I cut out two right fronts. Incredibly dumb mistake…

I could only cut another front piece if I shortened the sleeves, hence the 3/4 sleeves. Frankly, I do love the impressive look of “proper” full length sleeves with plackets, cuffs, etc., but my love of effortless watch and bracelet wearing, and doing things with my hands freely, overall, might outweigh it.

Voluntary change: I wanted a bigger collar. So I embiggened it slightly, a la Henna’s tutorial but not as bold.

I also did add piping to the shoulder seams on this one. It’s almost invisible in this crazy print.

In the photo of the back you might notice a hint of back darts. I stole these from another Burda pattern (Burda 7136).

Buttons from the stash of lucky thrift shopping finds, picked out after a day of vacillating on Instagram.

I like Vesna’s curved hem alteration, but I kept the straight hem from the pattern because I tend to wear these tucked in anyway. But here they are, untucked:

Would I sew this pattern again? Absolutely. But perhaps not soon because the automatic buttonhole feature on my Brother machine seems to be on its last legs. The final two buttonholes on the second shirt were faked by a combination of outlining with straight stitch and dense zigzag on top. Pretty tedious.

It might be a signal to move on to sewing other things (or getting the other machine serviced, finally!).

Do you have a go-to shirt pattern? (I should probably add, and is it the Archer from Grainline Studio?) Tell me your shirt-making secrets and complaints. I’m all ears.

Penguins Forever

#burdachallenge2018 catch-up! These penguins are coming to you from early March.

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The fabric is a polyester (alas, but what can you do) crepe (yay) from Fabric.com. There’s also a gray version of this print available, but the blue makes the majestic penguins more visible. All in all, the fabric was pretty easy to work with and is on the nicer end of polyesters, so there’s that. 6840

The pattern is Burda (runs to get the envelope) 6840. I have complicated feelings about it. I both love the pleats at the front yoke and worry that they’ve time-traveled from the 1980s straight into my wardrobe. And I’m too old to wear this ironically: I remember the 1980s!…

Not much to say about the construction other than that I reversed the pleat (is the one I did the inverted pleat or the one the pattern calls for???) and simplified the button band — I didn’t want a hidden one, so I simplified it. I think the covered buttons look better than a seemingly buttonless band would.

Is it just me or do Burda shirts seem incredibly long in the body? I’m not really petite, just definitely not tall, and I always end up shortening the hem from the suggested length by at least an inch.

Do I recommend the pattern? Oh yes: easy to fit, pretty fun to sew (if you’re not leaning on the instructions too hard because, you know, it’s still Burda even if it comes in an envelope).

Do I have lingering worries about the ’80s vibes? Oh yeah.

Till next time.

burnout

Not the fabric type, the experience.

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I was very excited about my plan for “Sewing the Seventies” — the dress from Burda’s ’70s special issue. I cut it out — main fabric and lining; I even manage to sew parts of it.

And then I ran out energy completely. It was like my batteries were suddenly removed. Not a stitch more.

And that was a few weeks ago. I haven’t sewn anything since. Sewing is usually my refuge from work. I try to squeeze in a few moments here and there on less busy work days sometimes. Occasionally, a day on the weekend, when I have a longer stretch of time.

Well, it feels like that was then, and now is a very different reality. I’m just tired, and there’s no “second wind,” no shifting gears, no sense of an escape. I use up whatever energy I have (or manage to fake) to get through my weekly work tasks, and that’s all I’ve got.

To stay sane through this time, I’ve been reading and helping myself with what I call “the Sophia Loren method.” When I was a teenager, I stumbled upon an interview with Sophia Loren in one of my mother’s glossies. Loren told the interviewer she loves “working from her bed.” I’m not sure what that really means for a glamorous retired actress, but I imagine she meant responding to emails from adoring friends and fans while sipping Prosecco.

Dial down the glamour to nothing and you got my situation: work email, typing up work materials, and reading work materials in bed while sipping a cup of green tea (which, I try to convince myself, will give me a caffeine boost and make me feel less antsy). This, by the way, is all happening after a day at work, grown-up clothes and all.

“The Sophia Loren method” is countered by the fear of turning into a childless stay-in-bed mom (thank you, Arrested Development for this priceless label for my anxiety).

If I had a back-up me with enough energy, here’s what she would be sewing:

This dress from Burda 3/2017, in turquoise rayon crepe (it’s already traced and adjusted!).

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This top from Burda 3/2018 — an issue I got in a care package along with too much chocolate and some beautiful fabrics. I have a fabric I could use for this (but my doppelganger would need to do the rest):

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If the doppelganger and I could put together a small factory of impish helpers (seven dwarves?), we’d try recreating these looks from Szycie 1/2018 a.k.a. the Polish edition of the Spanish magazine Patrones:

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This one, though, definitely not in white. I will never understand white pants, ever. If you wear them, kudos to you. I’d have to laminate myself to pull it off. I love the jacket and the camisole…

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This is an outfit from the plus-size section, so would only be possible if I could count on my doppelganger being better at grading patterns than I am. I wouldn’t have thought of this combination of garments on my own and I find it actually pretty brilliant.

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That’s all, folks. I hope you have more energy than I do. Use it wisely.

Yours, in boundless envy.

Sewing the Seventies: My Vintage Patterns

Hello! I have no new sewing content to share, since my recent output consists of dutifully made t-shirts from patterns I’ve already written about. So I figured it’s a good time for a bit of an eye candy post.

Here are some ’70s patterns I picked up from various sources — and mostly for a steal. With one exception (scroll down to the bottom of the post), they’re all waiting to be made. I guess, in a way, it’s a post about my laziness as much as about ’70s eye candy.

First up: a pattern for jeans with an envelope illustration I love. I wish I were as cool as these ladies (and could reliably wear white shirts…).

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I think the size marked on it actually makes sense when you consult the back of the envelope as it has no relationship to contemporary Vogue Patterns sizing (I think…). It hasn’t mattered yet because I’m too scared to make jeans.

Next: Glamorous dress reminiscent of the recent Vogue Patterns hit (this one). I both love it and am consumed by worry that it’s too boob-tastic for me to actually wear.

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The illustration style on the envelope for this shirt pattern looks ’70s tilting into the ’80s to me. Maybe it’s the perm on the lady in the middle? I like views A and B (I’d like them more if I knew how to figure out a broad back adjustment for raglan sleeves). View C is the stuff of clown nightmares for me. Get away from me, oh bloodthirsty one!

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Now, this is a real thrifting score — it came in a ziplock bag of mostly ’80s patterns for $1. I like the lapels. There’s a softness to this blazer that really appeals to me.

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Another one from the same bag — this one is from 1980 so, depending on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty person, either the last year of the 1970s or a launch into the ’80s. I like the simplicity of this design, but I’m not sure what would be “extra-sure” about it. A jacket for your clairvoyant needs.

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Finally, one I made, though with some changes. Would make again.

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Any tips for me as far as making the leap from admiring to sewing goes? You may have noticed, the sizing on these is all over the place, which gives me yet another reason to procrastinate.

What ’70s patterns do you have in your stash?

my wardrobe gaps (black holes?)

Diving in today: I need to make more pants because posts about pants get the best comments!

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More about the pants in this post.

Thanks to everybody who joined in the conversation on my last post. I do have a tendency to ramble on about the challenges of fitting pants, and after every pair that I make I need to take a breather. It’s always the conversation after I post about it that makes me want to take on another pants project. The support and the practical advice I get from fellow sewists is a much stronger motivator, to be honest, than needing more pants in my wardrobe. (And I need more pairs badly.)

So that brings me to wardrobe gaps — or black holes, you know the category you desperately need, you try to tackle, but end up feeling that there’s an insatiable need for MORE of it in your wardrobe.

I keep returning to The Curated Closet (if you’re curious about the book, I have a book review post about it) and wishing for more time and patience to take on some of the practical exercises from the book.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pie-chart breakdown of lifestyle/occasions compared to your actual wardrobe composition. Henna’s post made me think about my personal pie chart, how it’s changed and what I’ve done with it in the time that’s passed since I first read the book.

The unique challenges of the past year notwithstanding, I think I can pat myself on the back a bit for aligning my sewing more closely with my wardrobe needs.

This has basically meant two things:

  1. fewer dresses
  2. my photos are pretty boring even when bad lighting isn’t the main culprit.

The “interestingness” of dresses was definitely brought home to me by the many, many, many comments and “hearts” that my most recent dress garnered on Instagram.

Don’t get me wrong: I love this dress and had a fantastic time making it, too.

However, I feel that closing my ears to the siren song of dresses like I’m Ulysses of the Sewing Machine helps me make things that get less sighs and pats when I open the closet and more wear.

Case in point: I type these words wearing the first of several to come Basic InstincT-shirts. Many of my posts have been typed while wearing one of the many versions of the Plantain tee I’ve made since I discovered that pattern.

So: I always need more knit tops (especially t-shirts)

BasicInstinctT (left) and Plantain with some mods (right). Definitely not a great picture of the Plantain! But, hey, now you know I used cotton jersey.

My one problem is that I don’t love sewing with knits. Something about the springy stretchiness of the fabrics annoys me when I’m sewing — and both on the sewing machine and the serger. With wovens, I definitely enjoy the process more. With knits, I just keep my eye on the finish line and the valuable wardrobe addition.

I am, at this point, out of things to add about the Plantain tee. But Sasha’s BasicInstincT is a new pattern for me. It bumped the Seamwork Jane out of my queue as the classic casual tee to try.

The PDF is more economical than Seamwork (which isn’t hard, their PDFs are notoriously long). Better yet: it’s layered, so you can choose to print only select sizes.

Notches matched up nicely. The neckline band had, I would say, the perfect length. I didn’t need to make a rounded shoulder adjustment (!).

The one change I will make next time is to raise the armhole by 1 cm and take some width out of sleeves.

Pretty close to perfect, this one!

One of my favorite versions of Plantain didn’t return from the wash, which either means that an envious neighbor went raiding the washing machine in the laundry room before I made it there. Or (more likely) it landed with my partner’s-in-crime tees never to be found in the bottomless collection.

Doesn’t matter. I need to make more.

What’s next?

More pants, obviously. 

It’s more than about time to face jeans-making. Alas, with the sturdier machine out of commission for now I get to continue to shamelessly procrastinate on this.

And?

Anything that could fall into the category of clothes to wear at home.

Here the neglect has reached criminal proportions. That’s where my old and worn out RTW items go to work beyond their retirement age. Ouch.

One saving grace is that I did make myself an item that adds some glamour to that otherwise sorry band of garments.

Remember the Camas cardigan I squeezed out of various leftover knits?

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More about this project here.

In my last bout of t-shirt making, I spontaneously decided to upgrade it by a simple addition:

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Obviously, when you add ties as an afterthought, it’s not a perfect wrap. But sometimes perfect is not what you need.

This post is getting long. Is there more?

Yeah.

Shirts.

Things are improving in that department, so I get to wrap up on a happy note.

Over to you:
Do you have any significant gaps or even black holes in your wardrobe? Do you prefer to tackle them or leave it to RTW while you sew what you really desire to sew?

I’d love to hear from you!

February Burda Challenge: Wardrobe Essential Hopefuls

Starting off telegraphically today:

Managed to make (and wear!) my planned Burda project.

Pictures didn’t come out great (color me surprised). But here goes.

IMG_20180126_145712The pattern comes from the Burda Style: Wardrobe Essentials book — a gift that keeps on giving.  All the patterns in the book have been also published in the Burda magazine. This one is from 2013 (I think). One drawback of the book is that it doesn’t tell you that, so it takes some investigating on the Burda Style website among patterns from 2010-2013 to match them to specific issues (and find more photos).

What did I do?

Lots of things. Mostly basting and fitting, and ripping, and basting again, and fitting. Then looking up alterations from Pants for Real People and making them, and then narrowing the legs some more…

Quite a lot of the fitting, to be honest, was more experiential and experimental than methodical. While the book was pretty indispensable for fitting my flat derriere, the side seam alterations to fit my particular hip and leg shape were mostly about trying it out.

Scary. Sometimes slightly disheartening. But I wanted to wear these, so I decided to trust the process and get to the finish line.

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I wanted to get a decent shot of the back but failed. I complain about my photography skills (and opportunities) far too much here. And these photos were rushed, in bad lighting.

I think the pants look better in real life, but I’ll be the first one to admit they’re not perfect. Next alteration to be added to the menu is the poetically dubbed “low-butt adjustment.”

We’ll see how it goes from there…

I made some additional changes to the pattern, too:

I wasn’t on board with the front-fly construction (two parts! seam allowances to be added in some places but not everywhere! what?!), so I drafted in what I think of a regular fly, extending its “flaps” beyond the line of the also poetically dubbed crotch seam.

Regrets?

I wish I had stabilized the pocket openings because the main fabric is pretty stretchy.

Speaking of fabric: you can find some good stuff in the “Suitings” section at Joann Fabrics. I like this one, even if I can’t remember the fiber composition for the life of me.

…And I squeezed in an extra garment this month, also from Burda. This top did not initially catch my eye. Because of the sleeves. I’m really not a fan of “the year of the sleeve” or what seems to be “two years of the sleeve and counting.” Crazy sleeves are at odds with my everyday life, so we’re not going there.

As you can guess, I simplified it. I find it really hard to find fabrics that hit the sweet spot of having both decent drape and some body. And not being transparent…

The crinkle rayon crepe I used here definitely wasn’t it. So I lined it with another rayon fabric from my stash that was too thin and filmy for my liking.

Oh, the joys of photographing black: on the left is the blouse as it is worn, with the crinkle crepe on the outside, and on the right you get a view of the inside.

The lining is attached at the neckline (which I first stabilized the hell out of with lightweight knit interfacing) and finally incorporated into the French seams at the armholes. It’s hemmed a little shorter than the shell. If I were to make it again, I wouldn’t go with a narrow hem because it’s pretty stiff. Not constricting, really, but it feels too different from the other hem.

I didn’t French seam the sleeves. I overlocked them on my sewing machine with a narrow overlocking stitch. I tried to be slow and accurate, so as not to destroy or distort the very fragile fabric. I left a slit at the bottom of the sleeves — I guess that’s my take on the “year of the sleeve.”

And that’s how I challenged myself in February with Burda. I’m left with the lingering sense that the clothes look better than in these photos but maybe the gray days of winter have me fooled?

What have you been sewing?