Sunday, 18 November 2018

Lander Pants and #SewingLeftovers Mimi G Turtleneck

Hi everyone,

I have a twofer for you today!

I'm wearing my second (but certainly not last) pair of Lander Pants and a modified Mimi G Simplicity 1283 Turtleneck. Both of these projects are kind of old (turtleneck finished in March, and Landers in June) but have done solid wardrobe duty and tick off some #MakeNine aims so deserve their own post!

Here I am wearing my newly finished Mimi G turtleneck in Japan (paired with my first Lander Pants) back in March.

A quick #MakeNine update: I've nearly finished my Mimi G Simplicity 1283 flares and have a Marilla Walker Isca shirtdress (rather than shirt) cut out. The only projects remaining on my plan are my FehrTrade cycling gear which I'm not sure I'll get around to now, and think it might be too unseasonal to make the ruffle tee (although maybe if I make in something fancy it could be a festive top?).

The turtleneck I'm proud to say is a #SewingLeftovers project using jersey remaining from my gift t-shirt making kick last year. I made a few modifications - I removed the zip from the back neck for personal preference reasons (plus I'm rubbish at inserting zips neatly into jersey).

Also I didn't want the cropped length so blended from waist down with the free SBCC Tonic Tee (which I've never actually made up). The top still came up a little short (I believe SBCC is drafted for petites, and I'm a very average height of 5ft6) but it's a decent length for tucking in. I also had to make shorter sleeves due to fabric limitations, but I'm generally a fan of half and 3/4 length sleeve styles.

I didn't have the easiest time in terms of sizing with this pattern - my measurements landed me in the middle but I bought the larger size range pack due to reviews that the pattern came up quite tight. I picked my size for the top based on my bust measurement but the shoulders and neckline came out large on me, and I ended up gradually trimming bits off and fitting as I went til I sized down to smallest size in pack.

This is better but not perfect, and despite still being a bit big in the neck and shoulders might now be a bit tight across the chest. I prefer to double over the roll of the turtleneck to make is sit a bit tighter and balance the proportions.

The Lander Pants are made from denim purchased in Nippori Fabric Town in Tokyo. I took the obligatory tourist shot of course and ended up with with loads of great fabric, but I've not dared cut into the beautiful traditionally-pattern stuff yet. 

I don't think the denim is bought is actually Japanese though sadly. The colourway was inspired by Helen's version (although is not a very faithful colour copy!), and I went for high contrast topstitching but hope this doesn't come across as IKEA branded...Luckily I had a very close match of regular thread for the tricky areas like buttonholes that my vintage machine can't handle in topstitching thread. 

I was intending to make the cropped version of these kecks but on trying them on I liked the unhemmed length and embraced the fraying. 

I made a slight error when grading waistband seams and was worried I'd weakened the seam that was keeping my trews up by cutting too close to the stitching. I decided to freestyle some reinforcing stitches from the outside to strengthen these areas. I tried to make them look like intentional distressing but actually they blend in pretty well and hopefully they'll continue to hold up!

 I love this version almost as much as my first pair (although I think maybe my black version is a little more flattering around the stomach). They've certainly had a lot of wear and I'm keen to make the full-length version in a burgundy or forest green at some point.

I'll leave you with a shot of the rear fit. I've not made any modifications to this pattern for fit, although maybe I should get realistic and add some room for my belly for the next version. I might also add a line of edgestitching close to the button fly to reinforce that area as it does pull when I sit down.

Until next time,

NorseOtter xx

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Another Japanese Sewing Book Make: Clean and Natural Tucked Dress

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the comments on my last post - there were lots of helpful tips to help improve the dress and many thoughts about the state of sewing magazines. The fact that there is so little decent published editorial (other than apparently Threads, which I must track down) does reinvigorate me to blog more. I'm no expert but I love sharing my opinions with others who are interested in sewing and reading about others' sewing experiences, and being inspired by their style, fabric, and pattern choices! Another thing that does get my creative juices flowing is listening to podcasts, so at least in this area there is a wealth of sewing-related audio content - I particularly enjoy Love to Sew and have just begun listening to Dressed. Any other recommendations - let me know!

Anyway on to my latest make. This dress is inspired by attempts to use up vintage fabric in my stash - this piece is from the '80s I expect. I'm not sure of the fibre content but would hazard a guess that it's a cotton/viscose blend because of its softness and drape. I'd had a 70s-style wrap dress in mind for it for ages, but it's a really narrow piece - only 90cm across - so didn't work with a lot of patterns I have.

In the end I decided I wanted something easy-fitting and turned to my collection of Japanese pattern books because Japanese fabrics are usually quite narrow, and I just about managed to eke out the Tucked Dress from Clean and Natural in the largest size. I love the sample image and would love to try one one in chambray one day - with the turban too of course!

Technically I shouldn't have fit this (silly me for not checking the sizing charts before buying - Japanese bookshops are very seductive) as the largest size is for a 35" bust and I'm usually 38.5 or 39"! The hips were OK but the largest waist size was an inch smaller too. Luckily this dress style has plenty of design ease so I knew the waist wouldn't be a problem, but I was a little worried about the bust still. I consoled myself with the thought that I'm trying out using patterns sized with the high bust measurement at the moment and 35" works for this, so I could always do an FBA if needed.

As there are no darts in this style, just the waist tucks, I decided that instead of making a simple pull-on dress I would add a centre-back zip in case having a chest 4" larger than intended made the dress difficult to get on. A quick try-on of my traced pieces showed I should be able to wear the dress without any pulling, so I just went ahead with the straight size with the addition of the zip.

Next time actually I wouldn't bother with the zip, as it turns out I can get it on without needing it after all (should have tested that at basting stage!). Plus my centred zip just isn't very good - unfortunately the zipper pull keeps wanting to peek through, and the folds of fabric on either side are a little wobbly in places! Not hugely noticeable though and it's all good technique practice in a relatively low-stakes make. A couple of weeks ago Amy of Almond Rock mentioned that she finds centred zips tricky to get neat as well, so at least I know I'm in good company!

I didn't make any other changes to the dress, although I considered shortening it. I'm quite enjoying floating around at this length - my friend told me I looked very 'Abigail's Party' in it which I'm taking as a compliment, plus it makes it different enough from my autumnal Anna dress.

I enjoyed making this - I mentioned in my last post finding the La Maison Victor translated instructions a bit frustrating. With this dress I only translated the text that identified pattern pieces - as the illustrations are so good and the construction so simple I gave myself the freedom to just do whatever made the most sense to me, which was great!

I did an efficiency drive and after stay-stitching where needed sewed up all the pieces separately before pressing and overlocking them all, and only piecing them together at the end, rather than the usual 'working in units' approach. It seemed to work - although I do wish I'd ease-stitched the sleeve caps when inserting in the round as there were a couple of puckers I could have avoided. My only other annoyance is using interfacing around the neckline which is a too heavy for the fluidity of the fabric, but hopefully it'll soften up in the wash.

Having this lovely autumnal dress has made me want to make more dresses after a bit of a separates drive this year (many of which still need to be blogged). I was planning to make the Persephone Pants next in the queue but am also loving all the dramatic bishop-sleeved '70s maxi dresses out there at the moment and feeling like I want a piece of the action! I'm drowning in inspiration at the moment but without much time to take action - I'm seriously considering booking a 'sewcation' so I can get down to making my seasonal sewing plans come true and finally sew up the merino jersey I've been hoarding...

How are your seasonal sewing plans going? More podcast recommendations welcome!

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 7 October 2018

La Maison Victor Solange and Some Thoughts on Sewing Magazines

Hello! These aren't the greatest photos and this isn't the greatest look for me to be honest, but I felt I needed to get this dress blogged so here we are!

A few weeks ago I made the Solange Dress from the first edition of La Maison Victor to be published in the UK (back in July 2017 I believe?). I was quite excited about making this dress; I even took an instagram snap of my project materials artfully gathered together ready for sewing, but the end result is decidedly 'meh' for me.

© La Maison Victor
I decided to copy to look of the sample garment and cut into some stripy ponte bought in Japan (I also squeezed out a Burda top with the remnants here). However, what I decided to ignore at the time but can see plainly now is that even on the model the pockets add unwanted bulk around the middle, and on my less-than-lithe midsection that unflattering effect is even more pronounced. I've barely worn the dress since I made it because I feel so self-conscious in it.

I don't think it's a very flattering cut, but I'm sure I didn't get the fit quite right either. My measurements put me in body size 14, with my upper bust at 12 and full bust at 16. I did a bit of blending between sizes at the front but made the back 14 all over, but decided to do a bit of finangling with the sleeves so that they would fit into the armscye after the alterations. I’m not sure this worked too well as the sleeves like to crease when wearing, and the bust darts sit too high for me (although this does seem to be where they’re designed to sit from the line drawings, but it just looks a bit silly on me).

The pattern has a gently shaped back seam which I nearly missed when cutting out, but I could have used this to get a closer fit for my sway back.  The centre back seam is to allow you to insert an exposed zip, which ended up being a fussy process because I couldn't quite work out the instructions so just guessed it and left off the ribbon facing step.

To be honest I wish I hadn't bothered with it at all, as it creates wobbles in my seam and back neckline, but I have a habit of doggedly following the instructions sometimes even if I don't really want the finished result. Maybe it feels like cheating not to do it? I also feel that sometimes you have to face your fears in sewing and conquer tricky steps, or you'll spend all your time avoiding certain processes. That said, this didn't turn out great and I wish I'd practised on a sample instead!

You can't see in these photos but one small gripe about my cutting out of this dress is that I didn't think about stripe-matching the pockets, and I easily could have with the amount of fabric I had. I just thought they'd never be seen, so wanted to conserve as much leftover fabric for another project as possible. But actually the pockets do gape when sitting down so lack of matching is really obvious.

Again, as with the zip, realistically the pockets probably take away more than they add to the look of the garment so the easiest option would be to leave them off altogether! I have my hands in them in most of these pictures as that's the only way to keep them under control - otherwise you're forever smoothing them down to prevent your hips looking even lumpier than normal!

This was one of those projects that ends up being a lot more complex than it might seem at first glance. For starters I had a few headscratching moments where I couldn’t quite tell what the instructions were asking me to do. I guess something got lost in translation sewing-speak wise but I finally realised that ‘add a stitch next to the seam’ meant ‘add a line of stitching’ which meant ‘understitch’. Got there in the end!

I didn’t find it very fun to make either as I was expecting an easy palate-cleanser of a make but the instructions had a lot of fussy treatments and markings, more like what you’d expect from a woven garment than a simple semi-fitted t-shirt dress. Some of the processes really went awry - for example I found sewing the recommended woven neck binding around the ponte neckline made my twin needle skip stitches right where the topstitching is most visible! 

I've only worn this dress a couple of times since I made it, and I'm not sure if I'll keep it as it doesn't make me feel good. It's a shame to waste nice fabric that I bought on holiday, but it wasn't expensive and it's not unique so at least I have that consolation. I have more Japanese fabric in lovely traditional prints, but I'll take this as a lesson that I need to match them more carefully with the garment patterns and make a toile first to avoid disappointment!

If you've read this far through my rant, thank you! I'm sure we've all been there with projects that just don't work out. There were some other patterns I quite liked in that issue of La Maison Victor but I'll take a break before going back to see if they're worth toile-ing through. I haven't bought any subsequent issues.

I used to love sewing magazines, but nowadays I'm a lot more selective and only buy if there are at least two patterns I'd consider making, and usually this means going straight for Burda. There isn't much in the way of written editorial in Burda (usually just one article, giving context for a special pattern) which is a shame as I do love to read about sewing - that's why I still blog and enjoy reading others' blogs!

However I prefer it to buying the other sewing magazines like Love Sewing or Simply Sewing which have fewer patterns (that are less to my taste) as a lot of their editorial seems to be repurposed from other sewists' blogs that I'd have read for free online anyway! La Maison Victor seems to combine the weak spots of both magazines - as few patterns as Love Sewing et al plus the lack of written content that Burda has. I'm not saying I wouldn't buy it again, but it'd only be if the patterns were truly inspiring.

What are your thoughts on sewing magazines? Do you subscribe or pick and choose? Or avoid altogether?

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Remembering Summer in my (slightly) modified Mimi G Jessica Dress

It's properly Autumn here in England now, but I've still got a few summer projects to share. Typically, I only finished this dress in time for a couple of weeks' worth of wear before it got too cold, but I'm pretty pleased with it. All these pictures are taken at the dress's debut outing on holiday in the Dordogne. Sorry for the picture overload - I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful scenery, especially at the  magical Jardins de Marqueyssac.
 I wish I'd finished it earlier as it's the perfect floaty weight for the hot summer we had, but all my plans had a bit of a setback with my ankle issues. I'm glad it still got some wear!
I particularly love the pairing of pattern and fabric. This cotton lawn from The Man Outside Sainsbury's, made famous by Karen of Did You Make That? My one spree to his stall in Walthamstow Market at the beginning of the year has served me very well! This lawn was £7 a metre I believe and apparently Liberty, but there wasn't anything printed on the selvedge. It is good quality and a lovely 70s-ish floral print though, so I'm more than happy with it.

The pattern is the *free* Jessica dress from Mimi G. It's a lovely pattern and was very on-trend this summer. It was a pretty easy make and the instructions were decent, although you do have to mark your own buttonhole and pocket placement. I also didn't follow the order of construction to the letter, preferring instead to leave any hemming to the end in case I wanted to alter the length, but in the end I kept the skirt length as drafted.

I made a couple of modifications to this dress including a 1" FBA. However, after making up the bodice I realised it still wouldn’t overlap in middle, even after adding some extra room. My on-the fly fix was to create an additional button band for the bodice - luckily I had spare fabric left over. I prefer the look anyway. The band was 25.5cm in length and worked out perfectly for a neat turn at the top edge. 
If I made this again I would graft the bodice button band onto the skirt's button band so that doesn't have a break at the waist seam. I'd have to alter the order of construction and, for a neater and more efficient finish inside I should make some modifications to the shape of the facing at the bodice centre front so there isn't any doubling up there. 

To further tweak the fit I tried on bodice and took in a small wedge at side seams under the arms blending to nothing halfway down and curved in the seam under the bust for a closer fit towards the waist. Annoyingly, after all that faffing with fit I was a little careless with the placement of the straps and they're not quite symmetrical where they're anchored at the back- but not so off that anyone would notice! 

My only slight issue with the pattern is that it instructs you to make horizontal buttonholes, which for me means a bit of pulling at centre front. I'd do vertical buttonholes in future for a sturdier and more symmetrical line down centre front. Other than that it's a great pattern which is relatively easy to tweak for fit, and hopefully I'll get more wear out of this dress next year! 
NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 16 September 2018

#SewingLeftovers Winslow Culottes, Burda Top, and When Gift Sewing Goes Wrong...

This outfit is another #sewingleftovers project I made while recovering from my sprained ankle. This blog post also contains thoughts on gift sewing and the pros and cons of being a medium size - settle in for the ride! Late last year I made a pair of grey crepe full-length Winslow Culottes for a friend’s birthday, based on measurements she’d emailed over to me. Being fitted at the waist but otherwise loose and drapey enough to not require serious fitting I thought this would be OK, and forged ahead and made them up, leaving only the hem to do after getting her to try them on next time I saw her.

I had been in the habit of buying a pattern specifically for the person I'm making the garment for (rather than using something tried and tested from my stash) and making their gift as the first run with the pattern, but this time I decided to make myself a pair using black crepe in the midi length so that I had a good understanding of how the pattern came together and would hopefully produce a better garment for the final product for my friend.

While this was a great idea, what I’d done was to cut the printed pattern full size and simply fold in the sizes to cut my slightly smaller measurements, which meant when I was cutting for her garment I accidentally cut a back leg in the width for my size (I’d managed to fold back out all the shaped parts, but as the legs on the Winslows are straight lines I’d overlooked it).

I was so frustrated and had to order yet more crepe to recut the mistaken leg, and then when my friend tried the almost finished culottes on they ended being significantly too large in the waist – the only part that really needed to fit! I managed to rescue them by removing and reducing the length of the waistband and folding the box pleats a little deeper in even increments all around to match the new measurements, but never managed to get quite such a neat finish on the zip insertion the second time around.

All this backstory is to say I had the back legs in my size cut out for the Winslows, so decided that I might as well make them up, as when there are no fitting snags it is a fairly easy project with lots of straight lines that hopefully my left foot would be able to handle without issues. I didn’t want to be too matchy-matchy with my friend so decided to make the knee-length version as a more summery garment (which means I still have a bit of this grey crepe stuff kicking around!).

This came together pretty quickly and without issue, except I managed to attach the zip a hair too close to the teeth which makes zipping up and unzipping a bit of struggle when it comes together over the waist. I’ve been pairing it with my gingham #sewingleftovers Roberts top, which gives it a bit of a summer school uniform vibe. Hopefully not in too creepy a way!

I don’t love this crepe if I’m honest – I was sewing to a deadline for the gift garment (which obviously got thrown out of the window with the fitting issues) so had ordered online from Minerva crafts thinking this "luxury crepe" stuff might be similar in feel to the crepe rio I made my SewOver It Cigarette Pants from – but sadly it’s a bit more shiny and static-y than that and isn’t what I would have chosen if I’d had the time to go shopping in person. The black crepe I made my own Winslows from is the same stuff in a different colourway and again it’s OK but I don’t love it – which is a shame as it wasn’t cheap!

I recently read Sewrendipity’s blog on sewing for other people and I think I have to declare myself done with unselfish sewing for a while – last Winter I ended up with such a backlog of projects that didn’t go smoothly or ended up needing more work for one reason or another, and I ended up not enjoying myself and feeling dissatisfied with the final product. If you stack up the cost of patterns, fabric, notions, hours spent getting supplies and then actually making the thing it's genuinely mad not to just pop to the shop and get a readymade whatever like everyone else! So for the sake of my sanity I'm parking handmade gifts for the foreseeable. 

I decided to make this top (Burda 08/2017 Top 112) up with the leftovers from a disappointing Maison Victor Solange dress which I've made but not had the heart to photograph yet, as it makes me look like a sack of potatoes!  I cut this out after cutting all the pieces for the Solange and whipped it up after that was made, using the overlocker and twin needle for the sleeves and hem. I made this up very quickly and only skipped adding batting to the neck roll (as I didn’t have any) and it’s worked out pretty well for stripe-matching, although I think I missed a notch somewhere to help me align the sleeves. These are basically positioned at right angles to a rectangle of fabric, so very easy to sew but worth making sure you have the notches to ensure they’re positioned correctly.

I had to take quite a bit of length out of the sleeves for the pattern pieces to fit (and roughly match) on the fabric I had remaining, but I think it looks pretty decent. I quite like a half or ¾ sleeve and this often seems to happen to me – it did with my Hemlock tee and actually in the end both tops are quite similar.

This Burda top ended up being a lot more oversized and boxy than I’d realised! I don’t mind it despite it turning out a bit bigger than expected, and having a slightly too wide neckline that exposes a little bra strappage. If I were to make it again I’d size down. I made it in a straight size 44, which puts me right in the middle of Burda sizes and means I can make up the plus designs too. Nice to have the run of the magazine!

I was reading ‘I Sew Therefore I Am’ and her review of the Rachel Comey Vogue dress and how frustrating it is to be in between sizes for the Big 4, and I totally empathise. I find it very strange the way they divide the sizes with no overlap, as presumably the majority of women are in the middle section so it would make more sense to have another sizing range that gives you more options in the middle rather than having to place yourself as ‘large’ or ‘small’. Sizing generally is a bit weird in that sense – there are so many shades of ‘small’ and ‘large’ but only ever one ‘medium’. I’d call myself a medium size (and often find myself labelled as such in sizing charts) but it is weird when sometimes your measurements stick you on one side or other of that – it’s such a fine line between medium and small, and medium and large!

If you've stuck with me this far, thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on sizing and sewing for others?

NorseOtter xx