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!

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Camas as a cardigan

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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.

Simple PJs, Or the Adventures of Dolores and Margot

I got cold, so I made pajamas. I was very cold, so I simplified the task as much as I could. I might have been tempted to make an actual set if I had enough flannel but I didn’t. So tee and pants it was.

Here’s a glimpse into the daily life of the new PJs with the sad gray morning light filtered out:

Here I am demonstrating the functionality of the front pocket (1) and my ability to slouch in these as I’m trying to take a “different” photo this time (2). Half-successful at best, but no PJs were harmed during the photo shoot. 

I went for two patterns that I already had: the Margot pajama bottoms from Love at First Stitch and the So Zo Dolores Batwing that I won in Zoe’s MeMadeMay giveaway.

Sewing up the bottoms this time, I completely skipped the drawstring (it came up short on my first try at the pattern, by the way) and inserted wide elastic instead. I added two patch pockets cut on the cross-grain — one on the front and one on the back — for visual interest.

I also changed up the order of construction a bit. The pattern tells you to sew up the crotch seam last (and gives a solid tip how to do it, so no problem there), but I decided to sew it before sewing the outer leg seams this time.

Overall, I’d repeat my previous review: it’s a great easy pattern. I really like the book, too. I think it’s a fantastic book for new sewists and I’m definitely going to try more patterns from it. I have my eye on the Megan dress.

The Dolores Batwing was a slightly unexpected choice for me. I’m not usually a fan of the batwing sleeve. But I kept seeing really great versions of this pattern online and ended up creating a (modest) Pinterest board for the pattern (here’s a far better one, compliled by Zoe herself). The next step was sewing it up myself.

This is a really wonderful pattern for new sewists. The pattern pieces are simple, the PDF is laid out in a very clever and economical way, but I’d say it’s the instructions that are the most valuable part of the package.

I’ve seen the suggestion crop up a lot recently that beginning sewists are better served by the Big Four patterns marked “very easy” than by indie patterns, and I can’t agree with that. For one, most of the Big Four sewing instructions for knits that I’ve read sound like instructions written for woven fabrics, just prefaced with the advice that you stretch the fabric as you sew. I’m not even sure they recommend using ballpoint and stretch needles. Then there is the great mystery that is the sizing… I’m not saying it’s not doable, but I think that if you’re an adult woman who hasn’t been taught to sew by her mother, has limited time, and would prefer to minimize the fabric waste, you’re highly likely to get discouraged.

The hand holding that many indie patterns provide can go a long way toward not just keeping up your motivation but getting a wearable garment at the end. If you haven’t sewn knits before, this pattern would be a good teacher. The instructions are very detailed, and they’re illustrated with photographs. They lay out the easiest way to get the desired result. And for that reason I chose to deviate from some of them. A lot of sewists prefer to sew as much of a knit pattern flat as possible. I follow that advice when it comes to setting in sleeves in knits, but I don’t like sewing collar and cuff bands that way, and that’s where I went off the map with this pattern. I think Zoe’s approach is fine, just not my preferred choice.

Verdict: I like this stripe overload.

Question for you: Do you have a favorite sleepwear/loungewear pattern?

jammies, finally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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patch pocket on the back

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

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

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

The camisole is Savannah from Seamwork.

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

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

details: straps, lace on the neckline, narrow hem

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

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

What’s your favorite nightwear? Any pattern recommendations?

I’m no Phryne Fisher but here’s my new robe

 

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I’m one among many captivated by the luxurious loungewear on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I’ve seen several mentions of that particular “Fisher effect” online: sewists becoming obsessed with luxurious robes, slips, and pj’s. With good reason, I think.

I’ve often wondered why we tend to think of the home as a site of accidents and wear and tear — drinks spilling, knees and other spots getting visibly worn as we sit around, cat hair everywhere. Not that these things aren’t true, but they’re equally menacing outside the home when you’re in your “good clothes.”

And if you add up the time spent in the old clothes that you wouldn’t wear out but end up wearing at home… it’s a lot of time in clothes that you don’t particularly like.

I’ve seen some interesting answers to this dilemma cropping up online, from glammed up sweatpants to silk robes. They’re all fine, of course, depending on what your budget considerations are on the one hand and, on the other, what fits your life.

I guess for me it’s neither silk nor sweatpants. But I can’t pretend I had a plan.

What really happened was the February issue of Seamwork came out, I saw the Almada robe, and after a few days of looking at the pattern photos and line drawing I realized I was becoming pretty obsessed.

The simple cocoon-like shape was the selling point for me:

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Image from Seamwork

Below, my brief review of the pattern. That simple shape seems to have raised a lot of questions from sewists about the comfort and wearability of the robe, so maybe my brief overview could be helpful if you’re trying to decide whether to give the Almada a go.

Pattern description: kimono-inspired robe of a very simple shape; pattern includes both a body measurements chart and a finished measurements chart so you get a good idea of the intended fit

Instructions: very clear and easy to follow as I find all Colette/Seamwork patterns tend to be — detailed enough for beginners to follow.

One distinguishing feature of Seamwork instructions is that the techniques they describe are meant to make the project a fast one. The Almada is supposed to require a mere 2 hours at the machine. If speed is your priority, that’s perfect, but I think  it’s sometimes worth opting for more time-consuming finishes. That’s what I did.

Adjustments/departures from the pattern: My fabric was a lightweight rayon and it frayed quite intensely, so I decided to do French seams instead of the seam finish from the pattern. I also opted for a different cuff finish: I attached only the outer layer of the cuff to the sleeve. I folded and pressed the inside cuff by 1 cm and and sewed it in by hand, encasing the seam allowance inside the cuff.

The pattern has a central back seam. I kept wondering about how essential it was. The width of my fabric allowed me to cut out the back on the fold in one piece, so that’s what I did (I eliminated the CB seam allowance).

I did not use the marked placement of the ties. I saw many complaints about it online — people were worrying about the ease of movement. I treated it as a suggestion for placement. I did mark it with tailor’s tacks but after basting in the ties I decided I would like them further away from the sleeves and somewhat higher. I really recommend giving yourself a little bit of extra time to baste or pin the ties in to find where you like them most.

What I particularly liked about the pattern: I usually have to do a forward shoulder adjustment on Colette Patterns but it wasn’t necessary here, which made me very pleased. Apart from that the shape, the fit, the ease of construction. Oh, and I love the sew-on snap — great invisible closure for the robe!

Dislikes: I think you can only talk about dislikes if you expect to follow the pattern to the letter. You really don’t have to attach the ties as marked or finish the seams as described. As suggestions, these features of the pattern are fine but they didn’t work for me.

Recommend? Oh yes! I really enjoyed sewing this robe and I love wearing it.

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