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:

helmi1-2

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:

Helmi-c+s1

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

helmi-chambray1

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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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?

camas-cardi-4
More about this project here.

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

CamasCardi+ties06

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!

Me-Made May 2017: days 1-6 and first discoveries

First off, a big heartfelt thank you to everyone who’s commented on the previous post both here and on Instagram. It took me time and brainpower to write that one up. I wanted it to be clear and helpful. Thanks again for the lovely response, and I’ll be sure to follow up on that post when I learn something new about fitting.

Me-Made May is here! And it caught me in a shirt-making frenzy and already showed me another serious wardrobe gap: clothes for the home.

Here’s a quick roundup of what me-mades I wore on the first six days:

Top row, left to right: May 1:McCall’s 7387May 2: Plantain tee and denim Rooibos dressMay 3: Laurel blouse and pleated pants from Burda 8/2016
Bottom row, left to right: May 4: Plantain tee and handknit cardigan (pattern is Walnuss by Ankestrick), May 5: Floral Menace Helmi and my last handknit cardiganMay 6: Mesa knit shift and my favorite handknit cardigan (pattern: Oblique by Veronik Avery)

I decided to take as much pressure off as possible when it comes to photos. If it’s easier to snap a quick photo before getting dressed, I do just that. No repeats, no posing. I’m treating these as documentation rather than a photography challenge.

Thoughts so far: my work wardrobe is finally taking shape. The pants I made this year and the new shirts are really filling an important gap. Hurray!

But on days I’m working from home and on weekends getting dressed is not so easy if the plan is just to stay in. I need some nice clothes for that time at home. I’d better stop trying to “save” knits for dresses and make more tees and pants for lounging. Step away from the shirt patterns…

How is May going for you? Are you taking part in Me-Made May this year? Any discoveries?

wear report: handknits

About a year ago I gathered my handknits and put together a “wear report,” trying to distinguish between what was fun to make and what I actually ended up wearing the most.  I decided to repeat the exercise this year. The blog gives me a place to share it.

I’ve been knitting for a few years and there have been periods in that time when I was knitting up a storm. I’ve made several sweaters, socks, and accessories for myself and others. Planning is sadly not my strong suit. For me to knit something, the process and techniques involved have to be exciting at that time. What that means is that when I feel like knitting colorwork, I’m not going to enjoy knitting cables, and when I want to have the freedom of ignoring swatching I will happily cast on a shawl but won’t be up to making myself swatch and figure out measurements for a fitted sweater.

In addition to these changeable preferences, there’s also the influence of other knitters and images from Ravelry… In short, I’ve had my share of impulse knitting, and a lot of it didn’t work out well. So I’m trying to be a bit more thoughtful about my knitting choices. Taking an honest look at what I actually end up wearing the most is helpful.

I decided to spare myself a round-up of the least worn items this time, but I know which ones those are and some of them are already set aside for frogging. I’ll focus on the most worn items. (By the way, I’m excluding socks because: a) they all get worn a lot, b) I only knit and wear fairly plain socks, which would be pretty boring to share.)

Cardigans

wearreport-cardi2015

The patterns are: [1] Oblique, by Veronik Avery (a free pattern, btw!), [2] Celery, by Veera Välimäki with a lace insert on the back borrowed from Norah Gaughan’s Nidden, [3] slightly modified Coraline, by Ysolda Teague, and [4] Deco, by Kate Davies.

Oblique is on top of my list again and on a path to getting worn to death. This sweater took me ages and I wouldn’t describe the process of making it as easy, to put it mildly. From the unreliable gauge swatch that lied (well, didn’t quite manage to reflect the dimensions of the final sweater, maybe I shouldn’t assign blame) to the difficulty of sewing it up, it was a demanding cardigan. But, clearly, I need to bite the bullet and make another one. Oblique is both classic and modern, and the natural color goes with everything. The yarn is also my all-time favorite, Ultra Alpaca from Berroco.

What the other cardigans share with Oblique is that they all took a pretty long time to make. Some of them have shaping, they don’t all have the same construction, but they have important similarities: they’re either finer gauge (or lace) and they’re all one color.

Pullovers

wearreport-pull2015

The patterns: [1] no pattern: improvised set-in sleeve sweater inspired by The Black Sweater I Never Had In High School But Always Wanted, [2] Hela, by Védís Jónsdóttir (a free pattern!), [3] Vormorgunn, by the same designer, from her book Knitting with Icelandic Wool[4] no pattern: improvised pullover with a lace yoke, [5] Sibella, by Carrie Bostick Hoge.

In a nutshell, round yokes rule, as do Icelandic patterns, I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon with Sibella, and knitting with black yarn is a nightmare worth suffering through.

Accessories
wearreport-accessories2015

The patterns: [1] Echo Flower Shawl, by Jenny Johnson Johnen (free!), [2] Give a Hoot, by Jocelyn Tunney (also free!), [3] Spruce Forest, by Nancy Bush, [4] Skeleton Key Slouchie Tam, by Simone Van Iderstine, [5] Heartbreak, by Lisa Mutch.

More difficult to draw conslusions here but neutrals and triangular shawls dominate.

Lessons learned

First of all, I won’t be frogging everything else any time soon, or remaking most of these patterns in natural-colored alpaca yarn (though the latter sounds good!). But what I will likely do is slowly remake some of the items that don’t get worn much.

Some of the wardrobe gaps I’m aware of are not so obvious from this round-up, actually. Sewing is slowly changing my personal aesthetic. For example, I now have more skirts I really like, but no cropped pullovers to wear with them in the winter. That’s one wardrobe gap I really want to address.

But the wear report really helps me understand the difference between what I enjoy knitting in terms of the provess and what I enjoy wearing in a way I can translate into future projects:

  • I really like colorwork, but clearly it’s best place in my wardrobe is in the Icelandic-style yoked pullover (try it cropped, and with a color palette matched to a skirt or two?). Colorwork or striped cardigans don’t get much wear; colorwork in neutrals might perhaps be a good idea for new accessories.
  • Oblique is a design I can learn a lot from in terms of what I recognize as a desirable combination of classic and modern: the cardigan has a fairly simple shape, but the lace creates interest without looking very feminine or vintage (not that these are bad traits — but they don’t necessarily seem to be what I want from a cardigan). I need more cardigans like Oblique.
  • When I’m in the mood for a somewhat challenging lace knit, a triangular shawl with nupps seems like a good idea because I get a lot of wear out of both Spruce Forest and Echo Flower (these are actually both feminine and traditional).
  • I seem to be wearing increasingly more neutrals. (Does it mean I’m growing up?)

That’s all the soul wardrobe searching I — and probably you, too — can deal with right now. If you care to comment, tell me if you do a “wear report” too sometimes. And do share yoru favorite knitting patterns.