my wardrobe gaps (black holes?)

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

BasicInstincT+BurdaBookPants-01
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!

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Burda #103 from issue 2/2012: pleated pant adventures continue

Sometimes on this blog I feel like a kid who just can’t tell lie for fear of [insert some sort of punishment idea from an ’80s fantasy movie]. Typing this post, I realize how fitting it is for the Burda Challenge that this pattern is from a February issue… However, I most definitely didn’t just make it. The Burda Challenge project is still in the midst of fitting and all the head-scratching that entails. Since it’s another pair of pants, I thought that writing about these might be a way to think through a few things.

I finished these a couple of months ago and have been in two minds about them ever since.

It’s the pleats.

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It seems that I can’t resist pleated pants. I see them on someone else and just want to make a pair for myself, and once they’re closer to being finished, the doubt sets in.

In this case, Jasika Nicole’s post about her pink pair got me obsessed with this pattern. One thing I didn’t ask myself till I was deep into making the pants was what differences between us (apart from the fact that I’ve seen her on TV and if she saw me on TV I’d worry about a candid camera scenario) might be significant in terms of the end result.

Three pairs of pleated pants later (this one being the third one), I think I’m beginning to get it.

I mostly see those gorgeous pleated pants on women with figures very different from mine, and so the proportions work out differently.

Now, I’m a strong believer in “wear what you want to wear, however you may describe and see your body type.” And I wear these. But I do accessorize them with second thoughts, and that’s not ideal.

It seems that pleats and round tummies may not be a combo for everyone. Pair that with a flat derriere, and you get even more questions.

I think I’d like to get away from the pleats for now in favor of more fitted silhouettes.

BurdaPleatedGreen+HNPlantain-2

Some thoughts on making and fitting these:

I always baste pants together after cutting out the pattern pieces, and that always reveals a host of necessary changes. Out I take Pants for Real People and begin to move seamlines, pin out excess fabric, etc. I definitely can’t claim to be an expert in fitting myself at this point, but I think I’m at least on track despite not being able to ever get a fitting buddy to help with this process.

Actually, it’s such a downer to read advice such as “If you can’t get a fitting buddy, maybe don’t bother because it will be very hard to fit yourself.” Well, what if you can’t — should you just give up on sewing altogether because you can’t create this perfect situation?

It’s all experiment here, with multiple goes at basting. I find that reading the Palmer/Pletsch book and sewing blogs is helpful as long as you don’t limit yourself to the scenarios you see described. Mostly, I’ve encountered fit alterations to give more room in the hips and derriere, with fabric taken in to accommodate a smaller waist, which is the opposite of what I end up needing.

Matchstick legs paired with a flat bum and a round tummy give you some interesting shapes to play with. Long story short, I end up adding and cutting fabric in slightly different places than I usually see described, and, obviously, that leads to more head-scratching.

In a nutshell, figuring out fit by yourself can be extremely helpful for getting clothes that actually correspond to your figure… but it can also be crazy-making.

As for this pattern in particular, I didn’t follow instructions too closely — because it’s Burda, and I don’t speak Burda even when I can recognize the words from languages I know. Put together, the words rarely make perfect sense. Burda is a language of its own, and I’m not sure anyone but the pattern writers speaks it.

So I made these on the basis of earlier pants I’ve sewn and some arbitrary choices about, e.g. whether and how far to sew down the front pleats, whether to stabilize pockets, how to hem them, what closure to put in, etc.

My one discovery with this pattern is that the side-seam pockets really work well — I had some doubts and even thought of altering the pattern for slash pockets, but I might actually play with adding side-seam pockets like these to other pairs of pants.

Any pearls of wisdom to share from your own pant-fitting adventures? I’d love to hear from you.

the call of the white shirt

This shirt, specifically. I have to share the pattern photo again, because it’s a rare treat:

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Photo from the book Burda Style Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials.

So much going on there… The pattern book, however, is pure gold and I plan to sew my way through it.

And just to clarify, I made the women’s shirt, not the robe the gentleman is wearing, nor any of the other incredibly distracting things in the photo. It’s not just me, right? There’s an overload of possible narrative in that photo. The collection to which it belongs is apparently called “Honeymooners” but it looks like a vaguely adultery-related scenario. So much tension. Will she escape through the French door?

Where was I?

The shirt. It looked deceptively easy but I wouldn’t have done it without Tea‘s help. I can’t thank her enough. Burda instructions did not alert me to the unusualness of that collar (no surprise there) and the line drawing doesn’t show the way the collar stand attaches to the collar. Need I add that there is no diagram included with the instructions?…

Tea made this beautiful version of the shirt as well as a black one with a scalloped collar, which is not on her blog, but it’s equally lovely and Tea’s photos of its tricky collar saved my sanity.

I’ll try to pay it forward — here’s my crummy photo of the collar and collar stand:

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Collar stand sandwiched inside the collar. Interesting concept but fiddly to sew.

This was a wearable muslin, again. I cut the pattern pieces out and basted the shirt together before committing to the final placement of the shoulder seams and bust darts.

In the end I left the shoulder seams as they were but moved the darts up by 1.5 cm (or 5/8″ if you prefer). My one complaint fit-wise is that the armholes fall a bit low, which limits mobility a bit. (Non-complaint but a fit-related fact: I did my obligatory broad back alteration on the back. For details of this fit alteration see this post.)

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Le look total Burda book: the shirt paired with the skirt from this post (from which I removed the offending pockets)

Confession time: I am trying to embrace white shirts but I have two major hurdles to overcome. Hurdle #1: the fear of spilling everything on myself while wearing white; hurdle #2: memory of high school and college exams to which I usually wore an outfit such as pictured above (long story — the TL; DR version is: school/academic culture demanding more formal attire).

I’ll need to work on figuring out some clever pairings to deal with that second issue. The answer is probably some pants I have yet to sew…

burdabookshirt-front

 

More details:
Pattern:
 Voile Button-Down Blouse from Burda Style Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials
Fabric: white cotton voile from stash (long live shopping the stash!)
Notions: thread, 6 buttons, lightweight fusible interfacing, bias tape for the collar stand finish.
Seam finish and other details: first time trying flat-felled seams (not perfect but not terrible either, I think); shirt hem turned up to basting lines, then stitched; rolled hems on facings.
“Fun” fact: inserting the curved ends of the collar stand into the collar took multiple tries and corrections.

You may have noticed my button placement choice. I decided not to take the buttons all the way to the top — I didn’t like the way it looked on me. I went for this camp collar effect instead. What do you think?

Pattern verdict: So far, I really like it, even though I’m not sure what to wear it with and that strange collar stands out from my neck quite a bit.

sneaking a peek

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Apparently I’ve forgotten how to blog. It all started with an allergy to photo-taking combined with heat-exacerbated decision fatigue. Translation: I wasn’t getting much sewing done. Then I sewed a few things, but only when I broke the cycle.

This is what happens to me:

I stare from the pile of fabrics to the pile of patterns I just selected. None of the patterns seems good enough for the fabrics at first. Then I inevitably pick the challenging ones, with a lot of shaping. They all need muslining. It turns out I’m out of muslin and willingness. And so the fabrics end up being too precious and I get stuck.

The remedy: easy sewing. The photo above is one of such easy projects that got me sewing again. Now to get it photographed and give it a proper post…

But first a couple of questions for you if you have a minute: Do you ever get stuck in this way? What slows you down or drains your sewing motivation?

pants #3, or, what I’ve learned so far and why I’m venturing on

Dear readers, my adventures in the scary land of pant/trouser making continue. I’m extremely grateful for all the encouragement I’ve gotten on my previous pants-making posts. Thank you all for your kind words! I’m happy to hear that I’ve also managed to get some of you encouraged by my dive into this intimidating area of garment sewing.

I think it’s worth the risk even if you fail. For one, I’ve been learning just how little I understood about the fit of pants when my choices were limited to ready-to-wear. And even though I haven’t had a “it fit straight out of the pattern envelope” experience with any of the pants I’ve made (well, I basically never do with any pattern), with some patience and basting, I ended up with wearable pants every time. So as I go along I’m learning about fitting and — more importantly even — I am really enjoying clothing my bottom half.

The third pattern I tackled from my sketched list came from Burda 8/2016. The photos from that issue (scroll through these posts for exhibit #1 and exhibit #2) didn’t give me a clear an idea of what those might end up looking like — more like an alluring suggestion. I’m somewhat surprised by where I arrived, though in a good way, I should add.

Today I take you to my messy sewing nook to meet my less-than-clean mirror in these very candid and completely unstyled shots of the new pants:

Totally unstyled but completely me-made: Plantain tee ans stripey socks by yours truly

Gah! That mirror desperately needs cleaning. But the pantsL I’m extremely pleased with them after wearing them out a couple of times and I’m liking them more each time I wear them. But I’m not going to lie to you: it took quite a few rounds of basting and fiddling with the fit before we got there.

Here are some slightly clearer photos. And details.

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I’d say they ended up looking like I imagined the Thread Theory Lazo Trousers would. Or maybe how the Lazos do on the figure type for which they are drafted. I’d say that if you have a flat tummy and a derriere that is not quite as pancake-like as mine, you’re bound to get a lovely result with those. Morgan’s own samples look great, so do Meg’s Lazos (and she has a neat post about them). I’m kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum and the muslin turned out hilarious. I’d show you if I were less self-conscious. The crotch length for which they’re drafted was all wrong with my body proportions and I decided to end it on that one muslin and just shelve the project. Please don’t take my experience as a criticism of the pattern. Morgan’s posts about fitting these helped me diagnose what didn’t work for me, and I can definitely see myself returning to both the pattern and her posts to do some altering that would make these work for me.

Okay, but back to the Burda pattern. Running to Burda from an indie pattern that had a sewalong and fit advice is not a move I can explain logically. And I didn’t follow the instructions for the pattern because I didn’t get most of them. I’m definitely not fluent in the super laconic language of Burda instructions.

Here’s what I did instead, in case you want to follow my path but don’t speak Burda-ese:

  1. I cut out the size according to body measurements, to be on the safe side, and I basted the pants together, leaving the waistband off for that first try-on. (I slipped a length of elastic over the top to hold the pants up.) These pants have slash pockets, which I did not cut out yet; in fact, I superposed the pocket over the cutout and just chalked the spash pocket line in on the inside, so I could baste to fit without worrying about pockets at all.
  2. That first try on gave me some insight (the size I cut was too big, especially in the hips). I recommend basting in the waistband and pinning it closed to get a better idea of the fit. That’s what I did next.
  3. I’m not going to give you my fit adjustments in excrutiating detail since your needs might be very different from mine. I worked with Pati Palmer and Marta Alto’s book Pants for Real People to figure those out. Most importantly, I took the inseam in to accommodate as per the “pancake butt” adjustment (many thanks to Melanie for introducting this phrase to my fitting vocabulary). I also ended up shaving quite a bit off the outseams, especially on the hips. At this stage, I merely chalked in the new seam lines, didn’t cut anything out just yet.
  4. I determined the pocket placement using my new seamlines and cut out the pocket slash line. Then I made the pockets (the pattern instructions didn’t mention stabilizing the pocket openings but I did, with some lightweight fabric selvedges I had kept from an earlier project).
  5. I sewed the darts on the back (they needed some altering after the try on) and the pleats on the front, sewing them down partly, as was suggested in one of the comments to the pattern photos (but not in the pattern instructions, gah!).
  6. Next I tackled the fly front following Sandra Betzina’s tutorial. I’ve watched a few different tutorials for this step, and this one I find the clearest and easiest to follow, hands down. I second the advice on interfacing — I’m glad I stabilized the zipper area.
  7. This pattern didn’t have a fly shield but I added one. Make sure you cut out the waistband long enough to accommodate this if you also want to add one.
  8. Inseam, then crotch seam (where I did a double line of stitching once I was happy with the fit), basted outseam. There was some basting and ripping here before I felt comfortable with the fit, so I’d recommend not rushing this part.
  9. Sew the outseam, add waistband (I recommend interfacing if you’re working with a streth suiting like I was), hem pants.

So that’s my blueprint for sewing these. Pardon me if I dumbed it down inadvertently. Feel free to correct me or add steps I might have forgotten about here.

As you can tell from the two photos above the list, these don’t necessarily look fantastic from all angles. I definitely fretted about the fit and my understanding of how pleats play into it… But the final test for me is not my dubious photography skills but the wearing. These feel comfortable. Not perfect maybe but definitely good enough to fill a woeful wardrobe gap for me.

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Hand sewing: waistband on the inside, hook and eye closures (well, obviously), and hems.

And that’s a milestone for me. So if you wear pants a lot, dive into making them. I’m glad I did. I wish I had more time so I could get on with the next pair, but that will have to wait.

More from me soon. As always, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on or planning to make?

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.

burda6856-front

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.

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!

the unphotographable dress and some thoughts on wardrobe planning

burda-black-12

I promised better photos of this dress but this is all I got. Would you believe that one was taken on a sunnier day? The clearest thing I can give you is that title and an overexposed flat shot of the bodice:

burdabutterick_dressThose cuff and neckline bands: I naively hoped the instructions would guide me through the construction but all they offered was one sentence simply telling me to sew them on the outside and topstitch.

Let’s do this in a telegraphic style and with more blurry photographs.

Fitting woes

I’ve written about them in the first post about this dress. In short, the Burda bodice doesn’t fit me. Can’t breathe freely, can’t move my arms. So I swapped it out for the bodice from Butterick 6086, which I had to modify further. I slashed the sleeve to get more width on the biceps and I lowered the sleeve cap; I also made a 3/4″ broad back adjustment (while keeping the shoulders narrow, so lots of fun); plus the usual Big Four navigation between sensible ease at the bust and a realistic width at the waist.

It took ages and three muslins but even these photos tell me it was worth the work. I can flap my arms like a crazy bird and the dress still retains a decent shape.

burda-black-collage

what passes for arm flapping among existentialists

Fabrics

Lightweight black polyester crepe from Fabric.com and leftovers of a more stable polyester crepe from this dress for the neckline and cuff finish.

This project marks the beginning of my love affair with spray starch. I could not have done it without the stuff. It helped me cut the black crepe without losing my mind and kept it decently stable for sewing.

Construction notes

Bust darts and seam finish: Those were some big darts, since all the intake went into the lone horizontal bust darts. I trimmed them, pressed them upwards as both the Burda pattern and my sewing guru Sheryll advise, and bound them with Hug Snug. I Hug-Snugged all the seams, possibly because I wanted to risk the sanity I had saved thanks to the spray starch. It was not quick, to put it mildly, but turned out okay.

a dramatization of okay, with modest means

Zipper: invisible, sewn under the neckline finish, with a hook and eye on top. I sewed the zipper before sewing the side seams, thus completely putting the order of construction on its head.

That neckline and cuff finish you might be wondering about: I drafted these pieces from the sleeve and bodice pieces (it’s also what I always do with facings because I never sew anything without alterations). I stitched a line between the piece and seam allowance, trimmed the seam allowance to about 3-4 mm, and pressed the seam allowance under the pattern piece carefully. I’d say that’s a better strategy than notching the curves — it makes the curves smoother. And then I edge-stitched very, very slowly.

Pleats on the skirt: I stitched down the first inch of the pleats and on the back I converted the darts into pleats and aligned them with the vertical back darts.

what kind of dance is this even?

Hem: double-turned and hand-stitched.

And that would be all about this dress if not for a special issue of Burda I got as a gift when I started sewing this.

It was an issue devoted to simple sewing projects that make good wardrobe builders. It left me thinking intensively about my own sewing planning, which often gets overambitious in terms of both difficulty of the projects and their potential for getting worn on a daily basis.

Francesca at Atelier Vicolo N. 6 can give you a better insight into that issue with her two gorgeous dresses from it — they do not defy the camera while devouring light.

To cut a long story short, since first leafing through that issue my plan has been, well, not to make all of those Burda patterns but to simplify my sewing plans.

My first steps toward that coming to the blog soon. Flap, flap.

why I like a uniform

I made a skirt. This skirt. I broke out of the tracing procrastination loop and boldly cut a lining and waistband. And by “boldly” I mean “finally” because, dear readers, I’m patting myself on the back here for getting something finally done.

In these photos I’m wearing the skirt with a RTW shirt because “Operation: Shirt” is stuck at the muslin stage. While I like the one pictured here (because it’s rayon, the fiber of the minor gods), it’s not ideal. It’s two sizes too big and swamps my shoulders but gives my broad, broad back enough room to move. Trade-offs.

But back to the skirt. The stiff fabric hasn’t magically relaxed, which you can see very clearly in that second photo where the side-seam pocket is standing up awkwardly on my hip. Maybe there’s a reason why the original pattern didn’t include side-seam pockets?… Well, with winter coming I need a place to jam some emergency tissues, even if it’s not as discreet as I’d hoped…

I have a bad tendency to decide on pocket placement without referring to patterns that include side-seam pockets. Once again the result is pockets that are placed about an inch too low. Don’t do as I do. I also shouldn’t because I clearly don’t have good instincts in this respect.

But there are things I’m genuinely proud of. I followed Sheryll’s advice (can’t find the post right now but I encourage you to browse her ingenious blog) and liberated myself from the order of construction. I put in the zipper before sewing up the side seams and that gave me my neatest lapped zipper yet. (I did give myself a slightly larger seam allowance there. And, oh, the original pattern had a side-seam zipper and just one pattern piece for the back, so I changed that.)

I added a waistband. The pattern just tells you to line the skirt and it doesn’t even include facings, which, in my opinion, is a bad idea. If you don’t stabilize the waist somehow, it’s bound to stretch out. I prefer a waistband to a faced waist finish, so I drafted one. A wider one would need to be shaped so as not to gap at the top, so I decided to make mine fairly narrow.

I also disagreed with the pattern when it came to the lining. The instructions tell you to simply eliminate the pleat on the front when cutting out the lining but I added about 5/8″/1.5 cm of “pleat remnant wiggle room” there.  Carolyn has a great post about how to add a lining to a skirt in which she spells out what sewing patterns typically don’t tell you when they say to use the same pattern pieces: convert darts to tucks and sew the seams with a smaller seam allowance to give yourself room for movement. So that’s what I did here. I also cut the lining about 1.5″ shorter than the skirt. The lining fabric is a colorful polyester I bought second-hand.

This skirt is part of my effort to come up with a work uniform. More precisely: I’d like to arrive at a small wardrobe of clothes for work that will act as elements of a work uniform. Anything to combat decision fatigue. So, not going as far as this brilliant lady but close to Barack Obama’s tightly curated closet. (Note: no presidential ambitions here.)

I also like a bit of a uniform outside of work but without any “productivity plan.” Recently I’m all about pinafore dresses. I sewed the denim version of the Colette Rooibos dress with the intention of layering it over long-sleeve tees. It took me a while to realize I could also do that with my first Rooibos. So this is what I’ve been wearing most of the time after work:

It makes me pretty happy that these are all fully me-made outfits (well, minus the shoes, dear shoemakers).

Do you have a uniform? Do you love the idea or loathe it? Please share.

Thanks for reading.