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

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Summer Uniform: #SewingLeftovers Roberts Top and Flint Shorts

Hi everyone!

This is one of the things I made while nursing my sprained ankle injury, so isn’t my best work by any means! It's the Marilla Walker Roberts Top (from the same collection that I made my dungarees - and I'm not done with that PDF set yet!). 

I wanted to get on with using up some of the fabric that has been hanging around in the cupboard for ever, and this gingham polycotton remnant left over from my hacked Pastille Dress (follow the link for bonus laughs with my Pam Hogg-esque yellow hair) seemed like a good candidate – it was only £2.99 per metre to begin with and had served its primary purpose.

I made a straight size 4 without any FBA adjustments (I know I should every time, but can’t always be bothered). I swear I tried to create interest on the back panels but cutting them at a 90 degree angle, but I guess with squares that effectively sets you back where you started – I should have cut on the bias for a more interesting effect.

This was a nice simple make really and I could have made it even simpler by not bothering with the french seaming – especially as I did that thing where you match the edges rather than the sewing line so managed to introduce some unnecessary misalignment!

The biggest challenge with this make was sewing it up with my left foot. With my right out of action and elevated on a chair it was a struggle to sew comfortably and accurately, but I had to make something or risk going stir-crazy!

The finished result is a little tight over the bust and has some wobbles in the stitching, but as a little #sewingleftovers project to save my sanity I’m glad I did it. Plus it served me pretty well in the heat as an airy little top that doesn’t really need ironing.

I wore it loads this summer paired with some more #sewingleftovers Winslow Culottes (to be posted soon) and these Megan Nielsen Flint shorts which I actually made late last summer but it quickly got too cold to take any snaps of them. I made them for a late September getaway to Croatia and loved wearing them as a little bit of pin-up chic as a tourist. However they didn't work out quite so well on the beach - I put them on over a damp cossie and managed to stain my thighs blue when the wetness of the swimsuit made the dye run!

Other than that they're great - I made these before I made my over-fitting errors for my silk pair, so they fit quite nicely. They're maybe a little snug over the rear but as the denim (originally used for my classic Ginger jeans - warning, more nuclear blonde vibes going on with the barnet in those old shots too!) has a bit of stretch they're quite comfortable. While they were made last summer they're a nice precursor to the #sewingleftovers project, a bandwagon I'm very happy to jump on. It does feel good to use stuff up!

I'll leave you with the cheeky shot below - back soon with more #sewingleftover goodness, summer uniforms (before it becomes ridiculously late to post) and a catch-up on how I did with my summer sewing plans. 

Until then, take care!

NorseOtter xx

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