hello, Helmi!

And, suddenly, all plans got moved aside and I went down the rabbit hole of the Helmi pattern from Named. I’ve almost finished the second blouse (shirt? — I need to resolve this) from that pattern and I’m actually pretty tired from the marathon sewing I’ve put myself through. When you dream of sitting down with a book and a cup of tea while at the sewing machine, you know you’re not doing a hobby right…

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So I sat down with a book and a cup of tea to take this photo of the almost-finished Helmi blouse. Note the bias-bound side seam. I made the bias tape from fabric scraps. Needless to say, those side seams took ages. 

Maybe this kind of sewing trance is just to be expected when you finally feel up to making a more challenging type of garment that also happens to be a crucial wardrobe gap… I’m on my way to doubling the number of shirts in my wardrobe, and they are my favorite thing to wear to work.

The photo above somehow does the fabric color justice: it’s a beatiful blue somewhere between the blue of violets and that of cornflowers. It’s a rayon — somewhat unruly but manageable with a little bit of help from spray starch. Nothing like the menace that was the fabric I used for my “test” Helmi (there was a muslin before that but the muslin didn’t have all the details).

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I call this one the Floral Menace Helmi.

If cutting and sewing the blue rayon was at times like trying to make a piece of clothing out of water, this lightweight floral polyester crepe (I think) was like water with patches of ice. The starching helped only a bit.

Because both of these fabrics are lightweight, I was worried about making the right choice with interfacing. My choices were actually very limited, so I settled on knit interfacing on the Floral Menace to keep things naturally floppy but capable of supporting buttons and buttonholes, and on the blue rayon blouse a combination of knit interfacing and lighweight non-woven fusible (i.e. basically, the two kinds I have in my stash right now).

Let’s talk fitting…

I am definitely not in the position to judge pattern drafting, so I’ll just share a few observations. One: all notches matched up beautifully. Two: the sleeve was drafted differently than I’m used to, with a pronounced curve on the back of the sleeve head and not much ease. That meant two surprises: I didn’t have to add ease stitches to ease the sleeve head in nicely, and the sleeve didn’t fit tight at all. Magic! Three: the shoulder seam is drafted to accommodate the 21st-century computer hunch — the slope of that seam is different on the front than on the back piece. For this hunchback it meant a forward shoulder adjustment of a mere 14″, and I would have survived without it. Magic again!

Where I definitely needed a fit adjustment was my broad back, but at this point that’s very obvious to me. I also raised the bust dart slightly, and I’m not sure whether it was a good or a bad choice… I need to wear these blouses a bit more to determine that.

Now… I’m not crazy about the 1 cm/ 3/8″ seam allowance. With the madly fraying polyester it just didn’t feel like enough for French seams, so I overlocked the seam allowances (which will do, but I’m not loving it). For the second blouse I added a 1/4″ to the side and sleeve seams.

So that’s easily fixed if you don’t mind taking the time to redraw the pattern pieces (which is what I did) or remembering to add to these seam allowances when cutting your fabric.

The instructions are clear and succinct. I can’t really evaluate the “trench inspired” elements of the blouse, since I skipped them.

Verdict: definitely recommend and will sew again!

In other news, I really loved following #fashrev and #fashionrevolutionweek on Instagram. I especially enjoyed the validation I got reading others’ washing tips. When I moved to the US it seemed to me people around me were doing laundry all the time, and no one was hanging out any clothes. I quickly discovered that the dryer was shredding my t-shirts at an alarming pace and got a drying rack. I’d always hand-washed quite a lot of my clothes, and while it’s not the must enjoyable activity, I’m glad I’ve stuck with it.

I also liked seeing people’s happy “I made my clothes” photos, though, to be completely honest, I liked the photos of garment workers with “I made your clothes” signs even more. I’m hoping that more awareness about who the majority of the world’s garment workers are, where they live, and how little they get paid leads to fairer compensation and decent working conditions. That’s the change we need the most.

As for making your own clothes… Me-Made May starts tomorrow! I can’t say I’ve filled my wardrobe gaps, but I’ll do my best to wear at least one me-made item every day.

What have you been up to? Are you excited for #mmmay17?

nonrequired reading: the master herself

… And now for something somewhat different. Yesterday was World Book Day, today is the beginning of Fashion Revolution Week, and I found myself at a crossroads. Reading is one of the crucial ways we have available for thinking and feeling our way into the lives of others. The Rana Plaza disaster from April 24, 2013 did not get adequate coverage in the news (that’s one thing) and outside of online sewing circles I don’t hear it mentioned, to be honest. What we can do is keep remembering it and letting others know that it happened and trying to make sense of what it means not just in terms of global economic ties but also in terms of human life, labor, and what we think of as the right to happiness — or the right to a decent life.

I’m still trying to understand the impact of the Rana Plaza collapse — the impact of how we consume fashion in general — and the consequences of our responses to it all. So this post is not about that.

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You don’t know this, but I have several overgrown unpublished posts sitting in my blog’s draft box. They are all about books. I’m better at pumping the writing brakes with sewing, and each one of those posts kept growing, making me less confident in my ability to shrink them down to size — and into a usable shape.

I could let it go, but I really like reading about reading, and I really appreciate any mention or review of a book that crops up on the blogs I follow. I don’t think writing about books belongs solely on book blogs. I think books belong anywhere they want to wander in. I have one sitting on top of the blouse I just finished.

It’s a copy of Wislawa Szymborska’s book reviews New Nonrequired Reading. I’ve had this particular copy since I was a teenager. It’s been on trains and planes with me. At home, at work, and on vacation. It’s moved with me between several countries and many apartments and houses.  You don’t have to read Polish to enjoy it, now you can read it also in English. The cover of the American edition, I’m happy to say, looks very inviting.

The book that’s moved with me so much is the second volume. I did read the first one (Nonrequired Reading) at some point but, somehow, I only have this second one. I’ve read the witty reviews in it numerous times. Some of them are at this point like a lullaby for when I struggle to fall asleep.

Out of the books reviewed by the poet I’ve maybe read a couple. In a way they don’t even matter that much. The anecdotes about her reading them is what really makes this volume worth throwing into your suitcase to take it wherever you go. It’s the experience of reading more than what was read, and it’s how it was read, and how that is shared that makes it cool and delightful years later. You read it for the image of Szymborska, slight lady that she was, trying to run out of a burning museum with one of Klimt’s Birch paintings (a hypothetical she closes with when talking about a biography of Klimt — written by whom? I don’t remember), for her heartfelt defense of smoking (even when you don’t buy it, like I don’t), her long ironic look at new linguistic developments (I wonder what her take would be on the word “selfie” and its really nasty but poignant Polish some-time equivalent…). You read it because it’s like a great conversation in which you don’t need to say a thing. I’d say it’s a lot like Before Sunrise without needing to bother with a romance plot.

I discovered the English edition via Brain Pickings. Here, Maria Popova writes about her experience of reading one of Szymborska’s essays. And to top it off, there are also links to Amanda Palmer’s reading of two of Szymborska’s poems (“Possibilities,” “Life While-You-Wait“).

My one tiny but serious reservation about the recording of “Possibilities” is how Palmer pronounces the name of the river Warta. The “w” is not the “w” in “water” — it’s pronounced like “v” in “vat.” These days, it’s really easy to look that up. Wikipedia has the pronunciation right. That said, I’d want nothing more than for English textbooks that include Szymborska’s poems to get the pronunciation of her name right. I’ve seen some monstrous nonsense out there… Maybe it’s just confusion with Hungarian, but “sz” is never a “z” in Polish. It’s like “sh” in “shine,” and it’s never silent.

Okay, quagmire spotted, rant over.

Please tell me what you’re reading right now.

shirt story. chapter two: I finally made one!

It certainly took me long enough to get there! Lots of fretting, fitting, and pattern alterations. Here it is:

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Here at the House of Shiny Door Knobs we have nowhere to pose where the clothes could be the proper focus.

Fresh off the happy wave of the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt dress, this is McCall’s 7387 — a pattern I bought on impulse, started fitting, realized it had some features I wasn’t crazy about, and then discarded.

I’m writing this post after realizing that you can’t keep the momentum going forever. It turns out that trying to quickly prepare another shirt pattern after a long day at work is not the best evening plan. Luckily, I stopped myself before fabric scissors came into play. Oh, wonderful wave of shirt-sewing mojo, let me do your beauty justice by giving this shirt a proper write-up.

I could call this a blouse, I guess, but I prefer “shirt” because I really like the variations on menswear in women’s patterns. You can mix and match elements and not be afraid of David Page Coffin criticizing you in your dreams. Or so I’m hoping.

Construction details aside, my primary concern is always fit. I often see photos of tissue-paper pattern pieces pinned neatly to freshly cut fabric on Instagram and I wonder — sometimes with a bit of envy — how many of you out there have the luxury of getting a good fit “straight out of the envelope.” Not me. I’ve been working pretty hard over the years on not blaming it all on my body and how it fits or doesn’t fit into some sort of “standards.” So, to be honest, what really bugs me is how much time fitting and alterations can take. Not that much time left for sewing in the end!

This one took a while from first muslin to completion. For a long time we weren’t talking because I wasn’t sure I could figure out the alterations and hack it to get the design details I wanted.

I got it at a pattern sale, where the siren song of $1 or $1.99 always lures me. I didn’t notice just how deep that back pleat was or that there wasn’t a collar stand.

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No collar stand. Even after digging through the pattern envelope for a long time. It turns out reading the pattern contents might save you some time!

I really hated the back pleat when I made up the first muslin. It felt like a heavy tail sitting atop my derriere, and the curve of the pattern piece gave it unnecessary length that made it pile up on said derriere. Not a cool look. It was the first thing I knew I needed to do away with when I eventually picked up this pattern again.

It’s the kimono sleeves that made me reach for it. And fabric leftovers that didn’t add up to much on their own but really got me fired up about this project once I realized how I could put them together.


It did take some creative cutting, some plans changed along the way. The main fabric was leftover chambray from the circle skirt I made as one of my first sewing projects (you can see a photo of it here). The button placket got integrated into the fronts. I could have turned it the other way around and it would look like intended. (But I didn’t because I thought, “why not go in the opposite direction and just let it look like the continuous piece that it is?”)

I cut out the inner yoke from the last precious bits of the Cotton and Steel print from my first dress. For the outer collar and cuffs I used linen/rayon left remnants from these pants. And because the yoke and back piece were both cut out in the chambray, I decided to set them apart with some flat black piping.

I wanted slightly feminine buttons to balance out the crispness of the fabrics. And that’s that when it came to style choices. I really felt steered by the fabrics on this one and quite enjoyed the limitations of the yardage in each. I don’t know if I could have stumbled on this combination otherwise.

I’ll follow up with some notes on fit alterations.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on?

Little My All Grown Up

I’ve never been as sassy as Tove Jansson’s fabulous character but she has remained my inspiration well into adulthood. Jungian psychoanalysts would agree (scroll down for proof).

I’m still amazed that I actually managed to finish this dress.

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Skillful photobombing by the Feline Overlord

As I mentioned before, it had been sitting half-sewn since last July. The pattern is McCall’s 7314, one that I picked up at a sale, both intrigued by the loose fit and the way the bodice was joined to the skirt and wary of it. Custom cup sizes was what really sold me on it. If you don’t feel like reading through the nitty gritty below, let me tell you now that I give it a thumbs up. It was pretty easy to fit!

Before we get into the details, let me give a shoutout to the awesome hostesses and participants of #sewtogetherforsummer on Instagram. Sarah (find her also here on IG), Monika, and Suzy have been amazingly engaged in the community that’s forming around the hashtag and encouraging. I was really energized to work on the dress thanks to all the wonderful conversations that happened around my progress shots on IG! Thanks to everyone who chimed in! You helped me make a dress I really love.

I guess it’s fair to say you helped me make a dress that channeled my inner Little My. Maybe I’m only imagining that my fabric choice was almost accidental?…

little-my-dress

Proof. For your consideration

Details, in semi-random order:

  • no forward-shoulder adjustment on this one, somewhat surprisingly (which is why you always need to check the pattern before you dive in!)
  • shoulders squared, though, by almost 1 cm
  • my now usual broad-back adjustment (here’s a graphic)
  • collar constructed following this ingenius tutorial I can’t recommend enough
  • the bust darts took A LOT of pressing because they insited on staying pointy and sharp even after careful trimming — so pick a soft fabric for this dress!
m7314-collage

The elasticated back and side-seam pockets (and cat paws and tail)

  • I barely had enough fabric for the version I chose, so I cut the pockets from a different remnant; I’m proud of my understitching — they’re not peeking out!
  • I only elasticated the back waistline seam (as the pattern instructs); if you want a tighter fit, you can elasticate the front as well
  • note to self for next time: raise the armholes by about 1 cm (due to the square shoulder alteration)

The fabric is a pin dot poly/cotton stretch poplin, bought from Fabric.com over a year ago. I recommend using 1/4″ elastic because that’s what will fit through the casing that in this pattern is formed from the seam allowance. Buttons were a lucky thrift-store find from a few years ago.

And that’s about it for now.

Will I make another shirt dress for #sewtogetherforsummer? I would certainly like to, but I have a trip coming up and will try to focus on making some essentials for that. But there will be shirt dresses after the sewalong is over, and I hope I get to contiue the conversations.

If you haven’t joined in #sewtogetherforsummer, do join in. You will enjoy it!

suddenly, a shirt dress in progress

Hello! Many of you may have been basking in the sun for a while now, whether it’s meant enjoying the spring or autumn, and I have been quietly envious while reading your updates. So brace yourselves for unsolicited weather news. Here, in the northeast of the US the weather has been doggedly engaging in The Game of Thrones cosplay, hitting us with last-minute snow storms and clinging to grayish darkness. But today, finally, the sun broke through the cloud cover and the temperature rose pleasantly. I can even hear birds. And suddenly I had no clue what to sew and was not really up to the task of cutting out fabric for a new pattern.

So I confronted a UFO so old it’s turned a corner of my sewing nook into its very own Area 51. I usually miss out on all the fun sewalongs, but this time I spontaneously jumped on the bandwagon with #sewtogetherforsummer even if summer seems like a distant fantasy still. Here’s photographic evidence:

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McCall’s 7314 is a shirt dress I spontaneously fitted and cut out last July (sic!) on the heels of that tricky McCall’s 6891 that taught me so many lessons… Well, that shirt dress had a convertible collar, this one has a collar stand and all that jazz. I fitted the bodice the lazy way, that is with pattern tissue and fit alterations Frankensteined from that earlier dress.

I don’t really remember why I got so distracted from that project. At first it was too hot, and then it was too cold… you know how it goes. This week I finally started putting it together and this is where things stand right now:

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If like me you have very limited experience with shirt dresses but want to learn as you make one, I really recommend the Four Square Walls tutorial on sewing the collar and collar stand a different way than the McCall’s instructions tell you to. It definitely seems easier and more user friendly, in my opinion. I still have a lot of thinking, plus trial and error before I can make collars with more confidence (not to mention understand the language of David Page Coffin) but first steps have been made.

I arrogantly forewent the topstitching, so avert your gaze if you are a purist.

More on this dress coming up. Unless I get inexplicably distracted again, that is.

Have you made this dress? Are you sewing a shirt dress right now? Tell me your secrets.

And enjoy the sun. I’m soaking it up greedily, every ray I get.

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?

Seasonal Wardrobe Disorder #2

Some time in the middle of last week I sat down to make the following sketch:

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It was getting warmer and my overall seasonal wardrobe deficiencies were stirring my imagination, so I cooked up a list that reflects my (as yet mostly unfulfilled) shirt and shirt dress dreams and also includes one vanity party dress project (Simplicity 1059), two haunting UFOs (McCall’s 7314, a shirt dress I spontaneously cut out and half-sewed last summer, please don’t judge; and a Colette Beignet skirt for which I cut out a lining but, inexplicably, not the main shell), and a half-baked cardigan hack inspired by Johanna’s brilliant tutorial.

Very nice, but possibly also very unrealistic.

… And cue sudden temperature drop and now the thing trending on Twitter as #blizzard2017, and I’m back to the previous page in my sewing notebook. (I’m also back in the Keaton pants, which continue to be my stylish saviors in this a—-ole winter of cruel deceptions.)

As a reminder, here’s my previous wardrobe disorder remedy sketch, with some actual results:

Ladies and gentlemen, we are almost out of Pipe Dream Province here as most of the sketched items have been sewn. One item remains on the list (but with the pattern cut out, so baby steps are being made!). That last item will likely be Butterick “See and Sew” 5908, subbing for the pattern from Burda Style Wardrobe Essentials that I’ve been too lazy to trace (this one, and yes, I might still change my mind and trace it).

And here’s the current garment-in-progress, pleated pants from Burda 8/2016:

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Magazine photo and my hand-basted pair ready for first try-on, with additional cat hair embellishment.

It seems like it’s all pants all the time here now and like I’m suddenly very cavalier about making them. I’ve by no means become a pant fitting expert overnight but, to be honest, the pairs I’ve made so far look and feel better than almost all the RTW pairs I own, so that motivates me to keep working on new pairs. I stumbled upon this great post by Jasika Nicole about how exhilarating making pants is and: (1) I agree, (2) I bought that Burda pattern, so now that’s some kind of a plan, too.

So it looks like I’ve become more of a planner than I’d imagined possible, and making/hoping to make all these pants patterns, and more than mildly Burda obsessed…

Pants against blizzards, friends. Cheer me up in my snow prison and tell me what you’ve been up to.

culotte coward

Post updated: Some photos replaced to distract you with additional cat cameos and a snazzy door knob.

Culotte coward, that’s me. Twice I started working with a culotte pattern, and twice I chickened out and lengthened the pants. Exhibit A (from this pattern).

And fresh off the machine, exhibit B:

pattern v. reality

Why the culotte avoidance yet again? Well, the right footwear from culottes seems to be either heels or ankle-length boots (and, no, I’m not just saying that because that’s what the ladies on the pattern envelope have). Neither of those are among my top footwear choices, to be honest. When I’m not barefoot and throwing myself off chairs for blog purposes I mostly wear ballet flats.* Not particularly culotte friendly.

Maybe my relationship with culottes is destined to be about sighing from afar and then lengthening the legs? Time will tell.

Bonus photos: welcome to the home of cat toys and shiny door knobs.

I fished this pattern out of my stash after reading Katie’s post about her first pair of these. Katie has no culotte cowardice and has found yet another type of shoe that looks good with the length. I, on the other hand, cut my pants as long as the available fabric allowed.

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“Get off my chair, human. What even are ‘pants’?”

So, dear readers, my pants-making odyssey continues. I can’t say I’ve even come close to cracking pant fitting, but I do see it as an achievement that I haven’t totally succumbed to the fear of failure. I’m trying things out and moving along.

These didn’t go without challenges. As you can probably tell even from these photos that leave a lot to be desired, these are pretty loose-fitting. And that’s after I went down two sizes from the his down. Partly it’s the fabric, which is “corduroy” according to the label. I think a slightly more accurate description would be “rubbery corduroy imitation.” This thing is very stretchy and somewhat cool to the touch. I think it has some rayon in it but it  definitely has a lot of polyester. Bought at Joann because I got a gift card from loving family members.

Any advice about how to best photograph new pants while keeping your identity secret greatly appreciated.

Let me tell you a little bit about the waistband. I’m proud of myself for being cautious enough to cut it according to my waist measurement and not smaller. Fitted at those two sizes down that I fitted the hips it was absolutely suffocating.

It’s a bigger topic than this post but Big Four sizing continues to mess with my mind. In a body-shaming kind of way when it comes to the waist. The distribution of ease in these patterns makes my brainbox overheat. I just don’t get it. According to the body measurement chart on the pattern envelope I’m all in one size bracket, in reality that never ever works. Liza made me feel a bit saner when I confessed my waist-fitting woes in the comment thread to the post on her new stunning ’70s pants. Thanks again!

I seem to be neither hip-ful (yeah, not a word) enough nor wasp-waisted enough for these patterns. Sadly, though I try to be body-positive not just in theory but also in practice, I still get pretty self-conscious. Especially about my waist. So I got stuck on the waistband for a while. And, in the end, I fitted it with too much ease. It gaps on the back and pants ride down slightly.

Sigh, work in progress…

Inside details: pocket lining in a precious remnant, bias-tape hem facing from another precious remnant

Imperfect as these are, they will still get a lot of wear. I’ve never had much luck with RTW pants. I seem to only ever see ones I like on other people and never in stores. So this is sewing for the wardrobe gap and for that seasonal list that is bound to work for a chunk of spring. Dress season seems very far off still…

What have you been up to?

*I vaguely recall a romantic comedy with a character played by Rose Byrne snarking on a woman in ballet flats as being “so 2008.” I’d give that character a serious injury from all the eyerolling.

 

seasonal wardrobe disorder

winter-wardrobe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your seasonal strategy for sewing? 

Flaurel (and maybe a farewell)

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

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

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

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

Voilà:

flaurel2

I call it the Flaurel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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