Friday, 13 July 2018

Make Nine Progress and Summer Sewing Plans


Check out my hideous #MakeNine collage! I'm pleased to say I've achieved 5 out of my planned 9 makes, and we're just over halfway through the year, so that seems like decent progress!

Here they are:

Popover Shirt for Angus  (and the wearable toile)

Marilla Walker Roberts Dungarees and Basic Instinct Tee (in same post)

The Marilla Walker Isca Shirt and Mimi G Flares I'm not prioritising to get ticked off my list until Autumn really, but I should probably have a go at the FehrTrade Surf to Summit cycling top in the short-sleeved version while it's still summer, and the Ruffle Tee from Self Assembly Required too as I imagine it'd be hard to layer once it gets chillier.

If you can read my terrible text overlay you may notice a couple of things are done but unblogged - so why this post instead of getting my Mimi G Turtleneck and True Bias Lander Pants published? Well, I've been recovering from an sprained ankle which has not only set me back in my modelling (hence no photos of recent makes) but is also slowing down my sewing output and it is SO FRUSTRATING.

I have finally begun to manage using the machine again with a few low stakes #sewingleftovers projects, but using my left foot instead of my usual right has been messing with my accuracy! I'll post the results soon as my ankle should just about be stable enough to pose on. Hopefully I'll be back to full capacity soon as I have missed my machine terribly and have loads of summery makes planned. Here are a few things I'd like to get made in the next few weeks:

Mimi G Jessica Dress (free!)
Kalle Shirtdress
Sew La Di Da French Gypsy Dress
A loose floaty boxy dress from one of my Japanese Pattern Books
Persephone Pants/ Shorts
Terra Pants
Images for all of these are on my dedicated Pinterest board here. 

I'm also continuing what I started while injured and planning on making lots of #SewingLeftovers camis and tops from free patterns around the web, using patterns such as: Sew Loft Diana Cami, The Foldline's Hello Sailor Top, Colette Sorbetto (sans pleat),  Pauline Alice Bailen Slip, How to Do Fashion 00 Danmark

I have fabric for all of these projects bar the French Gypsy Dress, so let's see how I get on!

How have your MakeNine or other sewing plans been getting along? Do you like to set long term sewing goals or plan your makes in small chunks? I'm definitely someone who likes to do a bit of both - it's nice to have flexibility for when you feel inspired or are captivated by the latest pattern releases!

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Cropped Kalle Shirt in Vintage Fabric

I finally made the Closet Case Kalle! I've wanted to make this for ages but was put off as it came out after I'd already treated myself to the Deer and Doe Melilot, which is very similar but a bit more slim-cut and has fewer variations. I wasn't sure if I definitely needed space in my wardrobe for both, and even attempted to hack a dress version of the Melilot inspired by the Kalle.

In the end I justified having both by asking my brother to get me one as a present. Funny how we give ourselves these self-imposed stumbling blocks sometimes, isn't it? This is the cropped version of the Kalle with band collar, concealed button band, and no pockets. I cut one pocket, but decided against it after playing with placement.

This was quite an enjoyable sew and looks fun in this fabric - some gifted medium-weight vintage cotton that is perhaps a bit on the stiff side but means the drama of the shape is emphasised. I'm keen to try it again in a fabric with more drape - I can see myself making all versions!

The one thing I struggled with was making up the concealed button band - I had to have a couple of goes and it looks a little messy on the inside! I think it's not as clear as it could be that when you're making the buttonholes you go through two layers of fabric, not just where you've made the markings. Obvious to some I'm sure, but not me...

I used the ugliest buttons I could find in my stash as I knew they'd be functional only, although they're slightly bigger than called for so distort the band a little bit and meant I had to make the buttonholes a bit bigger after I initially sewed them. I found a plain white button for the collar stand that I think blends in with the colours of the print (no-one need ever know how mismatched the rest are!).

My band collar I think doesn't look quite as tall as I expected - I don't know if I accidentally used the wrong seam allowance or something, but everything else seems to have lined up nicely so I'm not sure. It also seems like it might be a bit loose - not sure if I should size down for a closer fit on my scrawny neck? I definitely need to work on improving the buttonholes I make in my collar stands - they always end up being really messy!

There's a lot to love with this pattern and I'm keen to make all the variations - especially now it's warm here in the UK so I can make the most of the loose fit. I want to try a shirt collared dress version next and have some lovely navy cupro for it, but am a bit worried about the looseness around the neck - perhaps I should size down in that area then grade up from the bust down? Fitting experts do chip in!

FYI I'm wearing the Kalle here with my first denim pair of Ginger Jeans! I'd not worn these for a while as I made them with a cheap zip that kept coming undone whenever I sat down, but a little while ago I bit the bullet, ripped out the waistband and redid the fly with a new zip. It was a fair bit of work, but it's never a bad thing to get a bit more practice putting zips in, and now I've rescued the jeans and can get a lot more wear out of them! They're still not perfect; I think the top edge of the jeans got stretched out in handling so there's a little bit of gathering when putting the waistband back on, but it's not too noticeable.

Have you rescued any makes recently, or given in to a pattern desire? I've just got my other brother to get me some belated gifts of the Persephone pants (which I was holding back on because I have the Landers but still wanted) and the Terra Pants. So many good things to make! Hope I find the time for it all.

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 9 June 2018

#SewTogetherforSummer Famous Frocks Liza Wrap Dress

Hi everyone!

Here is my #sewtogetherforsummer wrap dress! I was tempted to make the Trina Dress as I love the version I made for a friend, but have been meaning to try a jersey wrap dress for a while and had 3 metres of this thin black floral jersey picked up on a whim for £9 in total from Misan Textiles in Goldhawk Road that I wanted out of the stash!

The pattern is the Liza Wrap Dress (inspired by Liza Minnelli) from the Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress Book (I've previously made an Anjelica Huston blouse from the same book).  I made the long-sleeved variation (the original design is sleeveless) but kept the straight skirt rather than hacking to flare it as instructed.

Alterations: I decided to make the size S bodice based on my high bust measurement with a 1" FBA (there was a 3" difference, but I read in knit bodices you should add less than you would for a woven FBA to ensure you still have negative ease), and M sized skirt. During the weekend that Craftsy offered 48 hours of free access to all its online workshops I watched the Cashmerette FBA tutorial for knits on repeat, and used this helpful blog post to refer back to when doing the adjustments for real.

Using this fitting method seems to have worked well, but I think it may have affected what size waist ties I should have cut, as they don't reach the top edge of the wrap bodice as I feel they should, and this looks a bit awkward having an untethered straight edge poking out!

To fix this I just tuck the edge in when I'm wearing it so there's a smooth diagonal line from the bodice to the tie, it's not very noticeable in this print. Next time I'd avoid this by cutting the ties after making up the bodice to ensure that they are as wide as the side bodice edge.

This was the second time working with a border print (first was my raw silk Anna dress which I love more than that blog post would have you believe). Although I knew what I was going for on the horizontal plane with this fabric I didn't think to account for the spacing of the vertical design, so the pattern motif on the back skirt is haphazardly aligned (plus I'm realising now looking at the pictures the floral design is uneven at the hem too - so I didn't even get the horizontals quite right! Eep).

My pattern cutting was not as accurate as it should be, as it was tough managing great quantities of this drapey and stretchy knit and trying not to let the weight of it affect what I was able to cut on the table. I also made the mistake one of forgetting to alter the armscye from sleeveless to sleeved, but it doesn't seem to have caused any problems. 

The pattern calls for 5/8" seam allowances even though it's intended for a knit - I ended up using 3/8" in most seams except for bindings. It was very easy to make up but for a better result I should have used my walking foot on the neckline binding and on the hem of the inside skirt edge. Only after my twin needle stitching got a bit gathered did I bother to install the walking foot to help smooth things out for the outer skirt side hem as it's more visible, and I made sure to use it for the sleeve and skirt hem.

In a continuation of my border pattern woes I also couldn't get the sleeves quite balanced; I wanted to make a feature of the vertical design but didn't have enough fabric for them to be evenly centred. Oh well, it's not like anyone can ever see me from both sides at once!

 I didn't particularly enjoy making this if I'm honest. I think being disappointed with my pattern matching and cutting from the outset put me off, but I'm glad I experimented with using my high bust measurement as this has definitely produced a better fit. I often have gaping and too much space over my shoulders and have noticed this as a feature of most of the garments that I wore during Me-Made May, so I'm glad I've worked out how to fix it!

However I think I would make this pattern again, as it's a nice basic and will be quicker and easier now I have the adjustments sorted, especially if I make it in a solid fabric! I felt really good wearing this for photos and out for an evening of short films at Bafta the other night, although this clingy fabric does mean I need to be feeling pretty body confident to wear it!

What are your favourite wrap dress patterns? What is the secret to success with border prints?!

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Popover Colette Negroni in Linen Plaid

It's always a desire of mine to take beautiful on-location photos of a new me-made garment when we go on holiday. Trouble is, I'm always too busy holiday-ing to actually do it. Then, when we finally get the opportunity, it's not even me who gets to pose in an exotic location!

It may not be immediately obvious, but these photos were shot in Japan. We'd been cycling round the island of Teshima, which is a short hop away from the more famous Naoshima, where we'd been enjoying some art. It was a little bit off-season when we went, and mid-week too, so unfortunately a lot of the 'art houses' where artists had taken over derelict locations over the island and created art installations were unfortunately closed, but the Teshima Art Museum (which was incredible) was open, as was the Yokoo house (some cool features but the painting style not to my taste at all).

If you're a fan of modern art and are in Japan, Naoshima is a must and Teshima is worth checking out if you have time. Go at the weekend, or if you can't - just aim to spend a couple of hours there (there are only two ferries back to Naoshima and if you go for the later one you'll have too much time on your hands), rent an electric bike and make the Art Museum your first stop as it is a very special experience.  Cycling around the rest of the island is pretty cool too - it's a lot more rural than Naoshima and has rice paddies and birds of prey everywhere! Anyway the reason we have this random boatyard as a backdrop is because we were early for our ferry and had an hour to kill.

Enough about the location, you're here for the sewing, right? So, this is a modified Colette Negroni, with a popover placket. After trying the method out on the Simon Shirt I knew I needed something with a little more ease (to make the actual "popping over" easier), but wasn't sure how I was going to manage the convertible collar/ placket intersection.

In all honesty I'm not sure I really did it in the most elegant way, and I had completely omitted the facing to create the front on the fold and placket but then realised in process that I needed something to anchor the convertible collar to the placket so had to create a mini-facing on the fly. I don't have construction photos of this, but basically I traced off the original facing pieces but curved them in so they're much shorter and connect to the placket halfway down on the inside, then handstitched it to the placket to secure.

The placket is also probably a bit wide - I decided in this plaid the placket looked weird being too skinny and decided to make it wider on a whim. I was actually a bit gutted when I realised this would mean such a wide flat space at centre front - funny how making that adjustment didn't compute in my brain to the effect on actual neckline, but actually I think it looks fine. I had tried to match up the plaids too but didn't bargain on the placket folding screwing up the grid spacing so the vertical lines are way off - but at least the horizontal lines match. Next time I think I'd do it on the bias for interest (as I did with the back yoke), but I felt it would look cleaner to try and pattern match.

The wide placket also means the buttons don't quite secure the top corner, which wants to curl up at the edge, and I'll be adding a tiny nylon popper to hold that in place. The shirt doesn't really look right with the placket undone with it being so wide (and having the improvised facings sewn on afterwards) but that's OK, being in a darker colour it suits cooler weather and being done all the way up.

After all the little challenges in making, another thing that has happened since after the shirt's first wash is that the cuffs have frayed quite badly. The fabric is a linen (from Brixton's wonderful Simply Fabrics, as are the nut buttons) and I must have just trimmed the seam allowances too close! I think some store-bought navy binding oversewn around the cuff edges will have to be my fix as I'm not in the mood sew new cuffs - I'm not even sure if I have enough fabric left!  

Anyway I'm happy to have finally gifted this, and completed one of my Make Nine

Are you good at getting glamorous location shots of your new makes? Or are you like me, full of good intentions but too busy trying to stick to your sightseeing itinerary? 

I'll leave you with some photos of Angus contemplating a bird of prey (hawk?) resting on a lamppost. 

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Me Made May: Recap and Reinvigorated Sewjo!


How was your Me-Made May? This is the first time I've participated, and I have to say while I found the daily photos a bit of a pain to get at times (daily photos are not compulsory but they were part of my own personal challenge) this also meant that I became a bit of an ambassador for the campaign (if that's what it is?) as I kept having to explain to friends and colleagues why I needed their help to take a picture of me - not just being vain, honest!

In terms of the clothes themselves I didn't set any specific limits, but as the month went on and I found the time to get out all the summer stuff that had been packed away I decided to see if I could go a whole month without repeats. This meant that I was forced to wear things that I wasn't that comfortable wearing all day, and made me consider why.

With a lot of the dresses I realised that, while I had managed to successfully do an FBA, often I had gaping necklines that made me feel sloppy or made the garment move and slide on me during wear. This is definitely a fit issue I'll be looking into for future makes - I'm going to experiment with using my upper bust measurement in future to see if that makes a difference.

These are all the garments that I will either make small tweaks for fit as they are or will make changes to the pattern for future versions. Top row all need their waistbands bringing up and in, middle row all need the fit at upper bust worked on, and bottom row the t-shirt needs more space for my beefy biceps, and as those the cropped sweater in the middle image (plus an FBA), and while I'm having fun in the dungarees in the last image for future versions I will experiment with bringing in at the waist for a more '40s look. 

Some of the stuff I wore I decided just wasn't well-made enough for me to feel good in it anymore; and that's OK. I have worn these things loads and learned a lot in making them. Some of them are decent enough to give away, others I will look at refashioning and those with lots of yardage I might repurpose for experimenting with muslins while I work out some fit issues.

This is my scrap/ donate collage. Top left: I'm donating the skirt - the print isn't me anymore and I think someone else will have fun with it. Top right: I'm keeping the dungarees but the cropped top underneath doesn't fit and rides up. Bottom left: Love this dress but the fabric is really bobbly, will look to address any fit issues then will re-make and scrap the old fabric and salvage the zip. Bottom right: the pile of clothes I didn't manage to wear during #memademay! Not getting rid of all these, but will donate the red skirt that matches the crop top as it's too tight over the hips, and will donate the yellow dress as this was a wearable muslin for the Megan dress that still ended up having fit issues. Also donating the boucle Delphine skirt - it's looking a bit ratty too and is big at the waist but I think someone else might have fun sprucing it up.

Sadly some of the stuff I really love has just got a bit ratty; either through lots of wear or through cheap materials. I plan to harvest what notions I can from these garments and re-use the fabric to make some woven bowls/ rag rugs as per this Megan Nielsen tutorial or something similar. I haven't made any of these yet, but I have some balls of braided scraps waiting to be sewn up that I found it very therapeutic to braid, for those times when you want to be creative but don't have the energy to challenge your brain, or just want to have busy hands while watching TV.

These are all getting refashioned! I love the fabric for all of these, but in the first dress the fit is off, the second I'm not keen on the style or the contrast shirred waist, and the third was always a disaster as it was just a terrible pattern! 

This brings me back to my blog; it's great having a blog so I have a memory of all of the things I've made, even if I do then decide to give them away, refashion them, or repurpose the fabric. It's great to have a record, and to learn from looking back!

How this has informed my making going forward (other than addressing that fit issue!) is to try and focus on spending time on making things I really want to wear. This sounds obvious, but quite often I make things out of a sense of duty to fulfil a previous plan or justify a pattern or fabric purchase that maybe I'm just not that into anymore.

These are the garments I enjoyed wearing most; shirts and shirtdresses (Melilot and Kalle), jeans, cropped trousers and culottes (Lander, Flint, Ginger, Safran, Winslow), and By Hand London dresses (Anna, Elisalex) that are feminine but modern in their aesthetic

The things I've made that I've loved the most (and made loads of repet versions) are patterns that have really appealed and grabbed me - the Gingers, Landers, Melilots, Kalles, Flints, Winslows, Annas, Elisalexs. I may not have "needed" these; but they've made me feel excited to make and made me feel current in what I wear. So I'm also going to give myself the freedom to be creative and follow my heart when it comes to fabric and pattern purchasing. Sewing becomes a chore when I'm slavishly following a plan, and I start to feel uninspired and disengaged and not take much pleasure from what I'm making.

Everything I didn't get a chance to wear: 6 skirts, 6 dresses (or 7 if you include the one I just found hidden in my stash waiting for a refashion), 2 tops and a pair of trousers

I may have enough clothing - in fact more than enough - as there have been me-mades that I didn't even get the opportunity to wear this month. Rather than feeling guilty or burdened by this, I'm going to use this as the impetus I need to embrace my creativity and not hold onto things that are holding this back. I have plans to do this sustainably and be more mindful in my making going forward, but I'm not going to channel making energy into projects that don't inspire me!

How was your Me Made May? I found it both inspiring and a chance to reflect and refresh my attitude towards making. Thanks Zoe for making it happen, and to everyone who took part!

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 19 May 2018

My First Japanese Sewing Book Project - #SewingLeftovers Culottes

I may have mentioned in a recent post that I went to Japan, and that I did the cliched thing of buying a new suitcase to carry back all my goodies. Well, several of the more bulky goodies ended up being sewing books. It was seriously hard to narrow down what I wanted when out bookshopping; there was a lot of very charmingly photographed stuff I wanted just because I like the images, some books that focused in incredible pattern geometry, and lots of great casual stylish books. I fell hard for the latter camp and bought five, three of which are actually quite similar - they all feature a duster coat, tunic dress and pull on linen pants for example. But, I do not care. I love them all and justified my purchases by asking myself if there were two unique patterns I would make in each book.

I felt quite smug when the first thing I made when I got back from Japan (and still in the malaise of jetlag) was a pair of culottes from Blouse, Pants, One Piece. I made version B of the culottes; there is also version F which is just below knee-length and has pockets. Both culottes have the same back piece with lines for the length you need for the different views. I decided on view B to keep it simple, as finding your pattern pieces on the sheet (which is printed all in black and white and overlaid a thousand ways!) is actually enough of a headache without wrapping my jetjagged brain around even more pattern pieces.

The instruction illustrations are pretty good, but I decided to write in pencil what I thought they made just to have an at-a-glance guide. I used this brilliant resource from Japanese Sewing Books to decipher the pattern pieces after I'd traced them and make sure I knew which was the front and which the back leg! I also used the Google Translate app every now and then, drawing Japanese characters for the first time in my life clumsily into my smartphone.

So, while the making was in fact quite simple (and no fitting, hooray!) my brain definitely had a little challenge while working in translation, but I found it pretty fun. And if I can make it work jetlagged, the rest of the patterns will be a breeze, right?!

The only slight surprise I had with these culottes is that I made them out of leftover fabric from my Gertie Shirtwaist Dress and I didn't have quite enough for the full length, so I shortened the pattern by about 9cm. And funnily enough, that length looks like the book's photo - so these must be pretty much full length if made as drafted (unless I have very short legs? I'm 5 ft 5 for reference).

Wearing them, they are super fun. I thought they might be a bit clownish, but I think the fact they're voluminous enough to mimic a skirt helps guide the look into more sophisticated territory. The cotton is more structured than the linen they're meant to be made up in, and I'm annoyed I didn't get my centre front double pleats quite perfect - that was one part of the illustrations I winged without bothering to fully translate I'm afraid. And, if I'm completely honest I do wish I had pockets. And that maybe I'd made the elastic a little tighter (although it will be easy enough to adjust later if I decide). But my brain was so broken, I craved adventure, but also simplicity!

Overall, for a #sewingleftovers wearable muslin pattern translated from another language I'm pretty pleased. More fabric out of the cupboard and on my body, and experiment fulfilled and the joy of using things up!

FYI I also bought (all links to reviews from Japanese Sewing Books blog - so useful!): Atelier To Nani Iro, Clean and Natural, Shirts, and Shareable Wardrobe. The last was kind of purely for the styling and photography, but I am tempted to make a bit of an avant-garde style departure! There is a particularly cute jumpsuit I'm willing to take a gamble on...

PS if you're in Japan and looking for books go to Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama (Tokyo) if you get a chance (there are other branches but this one is so lovely). I followed this blog for the recommendation and it was my favourite bookshop - so beautiful - very architecturally interesting from the outside and inside each section beautifully curated and styled with an exhibition for each area of interest. The sewing book section wasn't huge but was comprehensive enough for me to spend an hour or so browsing and choosing - it's difficult to browse books from the spine when the format is quite uniform and the titles are all in a different language! Tsutaya also do tax free over a certain amount which Maruzen (also recommended in the blog and worth a visit) don't; they also had a decent selection but the bookshop near Tokyo Station was big and well stocked but a less charming atmosphere - you could visit Tsutaya and not buy anything and still enjoy the experience, but in Maruzen not so much.

I'll leave you with some goofy out-takes.

NorseOtter xx