Monday, 27 January 2014

Anna Dress Done! But with a Long List of Sins...

Hooray! I've finally finished my Anna dress, and I'm already craving to make a new one. But first of all, here's how it turned out, plus the aforementioned long list of sins, or, if I'm feeling less harsh on myself, rookie errors. Regardless, I've been wearing it everyday since I completed it, so although it's full of flaws I think I'll get my money's worth. Plus I'm sure with this experience under my belt my next one will be 100 times better...

So, here it is! Apologies for the quality of the photos, they were taken indoors in fairly low light. 

Silly pose front view with blurry jazz hands. 
Front view, touch of bitchy resting face here. It looks like one of the sleeves is puffing up more than the other here, because it probably is- I don't think I managed to get them quite symmetrical. 
Bit of a side view for you there. 
And finally the back view. Again the sleeves look uneven, but this time on the other side, so maybe it's the way I'm standing on the bed?

So, what's the write-up? 

You can't really tell but I've accidentally given myself 'punk seams' along quite a few of the lines here- due to poor cutting, which meant having excess raw edge coming through the outside when doing French seams. I've trimmed off the mohawk-style edging for the most part, and this is an error I will be sure to avoid next time!

I've also made a 'monkey's breakfast' of the back zip again. I didn't have the patience to learn new instructions so I did the zip the way I half-remembered from school, which was sewing up the back centre seam, inserting the zip and finally unpicking to reveal. I don't think this would've turned out too badly if I'd tacked the zip in first, but having pins in kept making my zipper foot go off track and so the fabric edges covering the zip are a little wobbly. Oh well, at least I discovered what a zipper foot was! And then to make matters worse I decided to pink the excess fabric from under the zip to stop any loose threads getting caught in the teeth and only went and cut tiny holes in my fabric in three separate places 
(why oh why did I not do this with embroidery scissors instead of pinking shears?!)! I've repaired the holes, but they're another messy little detail to remind me to be more careful.

Another step I wish I'd done some basting at was when attaching the skirt to the bodice. I don't really understand 'ease' so I have tiny uneven pleats at the waistline which shouldn't be there. I did see this post from the Curious Kiwi about constructing differently so that panel matching is neater, maybe I'll try this next time.

So, my sin list:

- Bad cutting
- Bad marking
- Using the wrong tension
- Not basting
- Not clipping
- Not easing
- Careless trimming when finishing

I've already gone and bought myself some new tailor's shears and tailor's chalk so that the next time I can be much more precise in my cutting and marking, which I know will get me set on the right track and avoid many of the daft errors I've done this time around. Now I just need to get my noggin around easing and clipping (which I'm sure are easy as pie but feel like another bit of jargon to slow me down when I'm in the zone) and I'll be almost there!

I'll be making my next Anna in some amazing bright yellow African wax print fabric with red horses on it (it is soon to be the Year of the Horse you know). I think I'll leave the sleeves off this one and try the v-neck this time too.

Until next time!

NorseOtter xxx

Sorting out my pesky neck facings! These kept popping out because I was too wimpy to clip them to make them lie flat. I've since secured them to the shoulder seam with a stitch either side and this seems to have tamed them.

PS I made this in UK size 14 graded up to a UK size 16 at the bust. I took my measurements immediately after Christmas so was perhaps a bit pudgier then (I usually take UK 12 in RTW clothing, although this does tend to strain at the bust!). But hey it seems to fit, so why should I give a hoot about the numbers? 


Wednesday, 15 January 2014


I wasn't going to put any pictures with this post, as you may have gathered from the title I haven't really got very far with this project so have nothing yet to show for it! However I did a quick google of 'frustrated tailor' and amongst stills from TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDER SPY (and for some unknown reason footballers) I found this chap who made me laugh. So apologies for the poor quality but a quick smile is what I need right now!

My Anna dress is beset with woes! 

First off there's getting time to get down to sewing, which is enough of a challenge from anyone with a bit of a commute but on top of this I've had to leave my bike chained up for a bit as my tyres have worn through and I don't feel safe riding it til the replacements have arrived. And when they do I'll have an evening eaten up getting mucky changing them! 

I also mentioned in my Friday 13 post that my flat had fallen through (3 months in!). So now we're on the hunt in every corner of London evenings and weekends which again is so time-consuming, and often means I end up staying with my fella (which is lovely, but far away from my sewing machine!). 

So, onto actual sewing woes. I'm hoping that a bit more experience will put paid to many of these but:

A) There is definitely something off with the tension, and I'm not sure how to fix it. None of my lines of stitching are perfectly even, but it's an old machine so I'm kind of making do. However this means the weave of my fabric is getting a bit warped too. I've tried to adjust the tension on the bobbin case but it's still a bit off. Urgh. 

B) My frickin' presser foot broke! To be fair one of its hinge bolts has been missing since I've had it. But it finally unlatched itself in the middle of a session and I had to spend a lot of time fixing it and finding a replacement bolt (the original is just plastic so it doesn't even have a fitting for any kind of metal bolts, but we managed to find a plastic nail case that will do for now). 

C) My frickin' bobbin case part of the machine came totally loose. Luckily an easy fix. 

D) Just bits of the machine keep falling off willy-nilly! The thread spool holder just fell off the top today. No harm done, but WTF!

In sum all of these things point to me needing to service my machine. I'm just loathe to spend the money when I have my boyfriend's Gran's Bernina in storage, which is likely to be a far superior machine than my Gran's old Toyota. Not that we're comparing Grans or anything. 

But wait, I have more woes!

E) I've cut my pieces really scruffily which makes the edges hard to match. That'll learn me for cutting on my bedroom floor instead of being bothered to clear and wipe the table. It took me so long to lay and cut the pieces too, precisely because I was contorting myself above them while precariously crouching on the floor to cut and kept moving the fabric around with my elbows/ knees/ feet. Gah.

F) Despite this, I have still made several pattern adaptations in the name of learning! I did the FBA, which I was very proud of, but forgot about my side dart when constructing the bodice and very nearly left it out (to be fair it isn't in the sewalong which I have been relying on as a beginner).  So I did it in a rush and am a bit worried my darts are unbalanced. Erk. 

G) I also decided to try French seams for the first time, because people are always praising them. But because of my whacky pattern cutting when I'd finished there were great tufts of seam scrap coming through! So I tried to undo and start again with my seam ripper and only went and tore a hole in the back bodice fabric. The because of this I had to trim off the mess on one side while getting rid of the damaged piece so have made my sleeve narrower. ARG. 

So now I have to recut my back bodice on one side, match up the darts, and remember to make sure that the sleeve has a very tight seam so it's not too much smaller than the one on the other side. This all points to me being that extra-stupid kind of lazy where you cut corners that mean you have to spend twice as long doing whatever it is you need to do. 

I guess it's all a learning experience, but I'm not too sure I'm actually going to get a wearable garment out of this! This is why people make muslins I guess (as well as for the fit, and as I've hardly got anywhere that is still anyone's guess!). At least the fabric I bought was cheap- around £3 or £4 a metre.

So that's me signing off for now. Hoping to have more time and luck later and actually have something to show next time I post!

NorseOtter xx

Monday, 6 January 2014

Thoughts from a Fevered Brain

Happy New Year everyone!

Well, I'm not not fevered exactly, but I'm very frustrated because I've been too unwell to sew, struck down with a rotten head cold! I've spent the whole weekend in bed unable to do anything except watch trashy cop dramas. So my altered Anna pattern and lovely Brixtonian fabric is still languishing waiting for cutting and construction. 

It's been a busy week since I last posted- myself and the Salacious Sirens performed at The Gorringe for New Year's Eve with a bunch of booting-shaking Charleston-esque mash-ups. I spent most of the night rushing around with very little on and even when I was 'fully dressed' I was sporting a very un-demure neckline, so perhaps this is to blame for my spate of un-wellness. Here's said dress, just because it's fabulous and I don't get too many legitimate opportunities to wear it:

Salacious Sirens L- R: Bebe Boheme, Violet Empire, Ottolie Divine, and Lady Libertine

I also went back to work after what seemed like a good break, so perhaps it's a dash of 'work-itis'. Whatever it is it's not doing me any favours, I was really looking forward to getting my teeth (or should it be shears) into that dress.

However it's not all be unproductive over the last few days- I've been reading and admiring lots of End of Year round-ups and inspiration lists from my blogroll (one day I am going to write bogroll by mistake and cringe, I may as well put that out there now) so although I can't really do any 'best and worst' round-ups (as I haven't really made that much yet!) I would like to write about what inspired me to start sewing again, and learning to make proper garments:
1. My Ma
Knichet doesn't really sew anymore but never stops knitting, and I'm happy to have learnt from her and have her fantastic archive of vintage patterns to peruse whenever the fancy takes me. Plonk yourself on a rush-hour South-bound London bus and there she'll be, clicking away amongst the bustling commuter crowds. I have a few lovely handmade garments that I've salvaged from Knichet's home-sewn wardrobe but sadly I'm just too big to wear much of what she made when she was a 'sylphlike' slip of a thing in her 20s. 

2. Edith Dawson
My bloke's grandmother. I've mentioned the magnificent trove of Mancunian treasures that were hers that I gleaned in the last house clearance (including the Bernina that I can't wait to get my mitts on). As well as being a noted ballroom dancer in her time she was a prolific dressmaker (and won awards for it!) and had a fantastic sense of style. Although I never got to meet her, the first time I went to the old house in Manchester I had a whale of a time picking from her old wardrobe- almost all of which are handmade pieces made up in outrageous '60s prints (sadly also mostly outrageous 60s synthetics, but all the patterns have been kept so can remake in kinder materials to my heart's content).
One day I will do a post dedicated to my Edith Dawson dresses as they are wonderful, but most of them need some alteration to fit more flatteringly and I'll be keen to receive any expert tips! She also had a wonderful hat collection that I must showcase. 

Me in a fantastic Edith Dawson creation, from the 60s I believe (I'm on my way to a festival, hence the camping pack looming over me).
Orange ombre fabric, bow details on the sleeves, and wait for it- a pleated skirt, sadly not shown here. 

3. Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons
I saw the first few episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee (I missed the last couple as I was off in Vancouver!) and I loved it. I even subscribed to Cloth Magazine in my enthusiasm, but only received 3 issues before it sadly 
folded , so rather belatedly I turned to the internet for my sewing inspiration fix and was delighted to find Tilly's blog. I love her style (although sadly not all of it would suit my shape, but darn it I will find a way to wear Breton stripes!) and her humour, and have found loads more fantastic sewing blogs to inspire me through hers. 

My other current favourites are: Dolly Clackett. I want everything that this lady sews- the styles, the prints, and I also want her shoes! Again I love the humour in the blog too, and seeing Leamington Spa in the outfit posts reminds me of my years living there as a student. I also have a massive style crush on Lladybird who has an insanely prolific output and a wickedly sharp wit. Seriously, 'Lurk her closet', I want to make everything that she has (but it would take me 100 times longer). I also really enjoy reading Paunnet's blog- again she has a sense of style that I really appreciate and a look that's quite similar to mine so seeing what suits her and the patterns she likes is very inspiring to me- plus she's always sharing great new design finds so is definitely one to follow!

There are a bunch of others too that I'll feel guilty for not mentioning later as I have a massive blogroll and I look forward to seeing each new creation as it gets posted up, but I think these four are the most similar to my personal style that I've found. I find it really empowering seeing how great all the sewists that I follow look in their handmade outfits and hope that one day soon my creations will come out as well. It is so much nicer to be inspired by real people making things to suit their personal styles and shapes and looking brilliant in them, than spending time internet shopping and buying a bunch of ill-fitting RTW stuff that won't look anything on me like it does on the model.

Anyway, a long post, the product of too much time in bed being introspective and not enough time getting busy with the shears!

Until next time,

NorseOtter xxx