Thursday, 31 December 2015

Vintage Pledge: Simplicity 3257

Hi there folks!


Hot on the heels of my last post, here is my second and final Vintage Pledge make of 2015. I had wanted to make three things overall, but hadn't settled on what to make for the third. With time narrowing and no fabric in my stash inspiring me to whip up something just for the sake of it I decided to cap at two in the end (here's my other make- a late '70s jersey dress). I'm sure there will be more vintage makes for 2016, and as my style is all vintage-inspired anyway, I don't think it's worth making something just because I said I might- I need to have something that I'm excited to wear to take the time to create it!

With this in mind I think that next year's approach to my making will be to try and focus on fabric first- there is so much yardage waiting in my stash that I have allocated for particular projects that I haven't got round to yet. While I love the excitement and possibilities of new patterns, often they require shopping for specific fabrics and I think making a dent in what I already have is important - and will yield garments that have existed only in my imagination for too long!

Having said that I'm pleased that I decided to make this skirt up. I did shop for it specifically- like my second pair of Gingers I knew I wanted a specific fabric in a solid colour, so online shopping at Minerva crafts was the way to go to avoid fabric shop temptation that might end in many more metres of frivolous prints! This is a solid black cotton drill, and I very nearly bought it in black and white checks by accident so I guess it must be specifically for uniform making such as chefs' trousers. It was incredibly easy to work with, cuts and presses well and holds the waistline pleats well so I'm glad I went with this, even if it does remind me of something I might have worn to school back in the day! As long as I avoid styling with a v-neck pullover and blazer hopefully this won't come across too much in everyday wear...

I have made this skirt once before - it's Simplicity 3257 from the late '50s, which I bought a couple of years back from Etsy and back then the measurements were perfect, but now I might need a little more room. The waistband was absolutely tiny- even for the 28" waist it's drafted for - so I decided to add a couple of extra inches and then just attach by trial and error rather than trying to match the notches. I made sure to balance the ease so there was more waistband at the front for my belly and a little less at the back where my swayback often means there's a gap anyway, with a little to overlap at the side. It's worked out OK so far, there is still a bit of creasing from wear though.

As I'd made this before (when I barely had any experience with sewing!) I knew this wasn't going to be too much of a challenge and made it in a couple of evenings after work. It's got quite an unusual kickpleat construction- the 'modesty fold' goes all the way up to the waistband, rather than just being a wider extension of the centre back seam. Other than that it's just two darts at the back and four pleats at the front.

I followed all the instructions except for the side zip insertion- instead I decided to use my Colette Sewing Handbook so I had the step-by-step photos to work with (in my first attempt at this skirt I didn't get my head around the pattern instructions for the side zip either and just sewed it in by hand!). They're probably not that difficult really, but I don't have a huge amount of patience and knew I had the Colette book to cover me. I still haven't made anything from that book yet- but I like to have it to hand for solid advice every now and again. I still refer to my copy of Love at First Stitch too (although I wish it had spiral binding!)- it got me into good habits like staystitching and understitching that not all pattern instructions include.

Anyway- this skirt is simple and the perfect thing for wearing with my cropped vintage jumpers, even if this angora number has deposited white fluff all over it! I could maybe do with a little more ease in the hips for the most flattering fit... Perhaps next year I'll try my hand at sizing up these one-size vintage patterns as there's another very cute dress pattern I bought along with this one when I was blissfully unaware of the difference between shop and dressmaking sizes.

Thanks for reading and happy new year everyone!

NorseOtter xx  


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

My Top 5 Misses of 2015

Hi everyone,

I hope it's been a peaceful and joyful week for you and yours whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

I'm a bit peeved because I got too very very extremely great sewing toys for Christmas and they've both got flaws which mean I have to wait til replacement parts arrive before I can play with them. So frustrating! I got a dress form which had a crack in the wood of its stand column and an overlocker whose blade snapped on first use! The dress form's issue totally not my fault, but I think I may have got a stray pin under the overlocker blade...Anyway, sigh, at least both things can be replaced.

So, back to the Top 5 series. I started with my Top 5 Hits- nice to begin with a positive right? So, here are my Top 5 Misses. I'm reversing my previous Top 5 post's order and starting with my biggest disappointment (whereas with my hits I worked my way up to my favourite make)- you'll see why. Bear in mind this is my second year of sewing, so although I may not think anything I make is perfect I've hardly hated anything so much I've never worn it- and it's all learning, right? However, here is something I've never worn:

Ultimate Trousers

Still. Can't. Get. These. Right! They should be so simple! So cute! But they do me no favours at all. I don't even know where to start to make these look anywhere decent on me so I may just chalk it up to experience. I liked my pattern and print matching of the muslin I was working on (as I often do- following my dream even when I know already that its doomed) so did the work to finish these off properly, but to no avail. They pull in weird areas, the waistband is all distorted, so unflattering in every way. Annoying as I would love a really plain pair of black trousers and thought this pattern would fit the bill, but there's much work to do to have them fit my shape.

Lady Pencil Dress

I knew this was a failure even when I posted it- the clue is in the name 'Hackety-Hash'! The bodice is too long and too tight, the skirt is too short and has the weird upwards curve at the front due to some in-progress style changes when I realised I'd cut two left panels of the original back skirt (this was supposed to be a straight-up Lady Skater)...I have worn this, but probably shouldn't. If there's a long torsoed person out there with great legs I hope they find whatever charity shop I donate this to.

New Look 6144

I really like this dress- from the front! Maybe I can fix it? The back bodice is just massive on me, exacerbated by the fact that I insisted on inserting an exposed zip (4 tries people!) which has of course added another 1/2" width to my back troubles. I do love the neckline and the shift-like feel to this dress, so might pluck up the courage to do some work on fixing it in the new year. Hopefully once my dress form is up and running this will help with back adjustments somewhat.

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual Sweetheart Top (and to a lesser extent Easy Knit Pencil Skirt)

The skirt was also in my hits, but the whole outfit kind of has to be categorised as a miss because unfortunately it was made in the wrong fabric. This was me not realising at the time that sweater knit and sweatshirting are very different fabrics, and so buying the wrong badger for the job. I think it's a UK vs US English thing- for me, I think of a sweater as a sweatshirt- I just thought it was a different way of saying the same thing! If Gertie had called for 'jumper knit' I would have had a better idea of what kind of fabric to go for, but in US English a jumper is a pinafore dress. I hope I'm not the only person to have made this mistake! So anyway, this pattern comes up in a very tight fit with sweatshirting, so not really a great end result.

I don't really have any more outright misses- I mentioned in my hits post that a few of the garments I'd made had a less-than-perfect fit- such as the Mimi Blouse and Ginger Jeans, and I know I want to make at least one more Anna and Elisalex dress but am grimly aware that there's work to be done on the bodice for both. My Clemence Skirt isn't great- it was a bit of a rushed job and the waistband is messy and the hem's not level, but I do wear it quite a bit and inserted my first ever invisible zip with it so I don't want to condemn it too much!

I hope you won't think it's cheating not to have too much to showcase for my misses. I guess I can also say that I missed a few of my sewing targets for 2015, but I always knew they were massively ambitious! Was it 36 garments? I made 19 in the end, 20 if you count finishing off the Ultimate Trousers. Anyway, I'll have more to say about that in my Reflections and Goals post!

Thanks for reading- I hope your 2015 has gone well and that you're looking forward to an even better year in 2016!

NorseOtter xxx

Monday, 21 December 2015

My Top 5 Hits of 2015

Hi there folks!

How are your festive preparations going? I've decided to give myself a break this year and not do homemade gifts- the amount of late night sewing I was doing this time last year was exhausting, and I doubt contributed to a great result in the end... Besides, I've made plenty of homemade gifts this year, no need to put myself through the mill!

I do have a project to blog, a smart little Vintage Pledge number, but haven't had time with all the festivities (and subsequent lie-ins) to get photos just yet. Hopefully I'll get around to it before the year is out, if I can still get it on after all the festive eating, it is rather fitted!

In the meantime I've decided to get on board with Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow's Top 5s again, as I found it a really useful exercise last year- plus I love reading everyone else's posts! The hindsight factor is pretty useful too- so many things I wasn't initially keen on I've grown to love, and slightly less positively vice versa- but it's all learning!

So, here are my Top 5 Hits! In reverse order....

Number 5: Gertie's Vintage Casual Easy Knit Pencil Skirt

Can I call a pattern this easy a win for me? Well for precisely this reason I think I must. I've made three of these in total- one for Josephine (although possibly in a slightly unsuitable fabric) and two for myself- one is unblogged as they're so fast to sew and chuck on that it almost seems silly to post a repeat of a pattern I haven't made much of a variation on. I have a slight suspicion I might get an overlocker for Christmas which will make this an even faster make! This is so easy to wear- the high waist means no gaping between waistband and top, it's comfortable, and I can even wear it to cycle in.

Number 4: My Vintage Pattern Pledge Butterick 3505

Just a casual day dress but one I love to wear and feel elegant yet comfortable in. I'd love to make another of these in the above-knee length as featured on the pattern envelope, and maybe be totally true to the instructions next time with some seam binding to strengthen the underbust shaping too. I did my first ever invisible hem with this dress and it worked a treat- definitely a technique I'm happy to have in my repetoire!

Number 3: Tilly and the Buttons Mimi Blouses for Me and Alexandra

Unfortunately both of these should also be chalked down to misses as they are both a bit too small- I had one size traced for Alexandra according to her measurements and was too lazy to trace again so used the same for me as we are a similar build and the shirt has plenty of ease over the bust where I'd normally make adjustments. However it was a bit small for us both, especially on the biceps! We can both get the blouses on, but the fit isn't the most flattering. Which is a huge shame as again, despite grieving over small details of the finish at the time, looking at either shirt with rested eyes reveals them both to have been made with a lot of care and if I must pat myself on the back, I really like the print and button choices for both (although the fabric choice for my damselfly version is undeniably a bit stiffer than is called for).

Number 2: Great British Sewing Bee Book 2 Chicken Shirt for Angus

Another big deal was making my first ever men's shirt. Presumably fitting men should be easier than fitting the female physique- but it was not so with this pattern due to the crazy small armholes. I had to do a lot of work to make the armholes and sleeves work, and even though I was initially a bit critical of my finish on a few of the areas looking at it with a bit of distance it's actually something I'm proud of. I also transferred all of my adjustments onto my traced paper pattern so if I ever felt like making it again I could do it a lot more easily! Next time I think I'd rather go for a pattern with a more reliable fit and stretch myself with more advanced shirt details like a proper stand collar and cuffs instead.

Number 1: Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans View A and View B

I may not have gushed about my love of these much when I originally created them, but actually both my pairs of Ginger Jeans are pretty good - if not 100% perfect just yet. However, considering that they're both really 'wearable muslins' I've learnt a lot about jeans construction and reckon I can work on the fit to make my perfect pair or two (or three) next year! I'm no longer quite so afraid of trouser construction and have mastered the fly front, so a couple of big wins right there.

This has been a fun exercise to chart my changing hair colour for this year too, and my enduring love of flat soled Doc Martens. Have you noticed that for the jeans posts I'm wearing the same shoe in a different colourway? Guess I'm becoming more entrenched in my ways!

Will you be posting your Top 5s? I'd love to have a gander and glean some inspiration for next year's sewing plans! I'll likely be putting up my Top 5 Misses sometime soon too, although as you can see from my comments here it's always a mixed result for me, I never consider anything 100% perfect or 100% awful.

Have a lovely festive season everyone!

NorseOtter xxx

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Ginger Jeans Mark Two

Hi everyone!

I've finished my second pair of Ginger jeans and been wearing them a bit this week to see how I feel about them. This time I made the high-waisted version View B in some 2% elastane black cotton twill that I bought on eBay. I made straight size 12 but after the baste-fit decided to make up the back seam and yoke seam with a 3/8" seam allowance to allow a little more room for my rear as the back waistband was pulling down a bit. This worked out OK, but I forgot that making that addition would increase the length of the back legs, so I had a fair bit of easing to do when making up the side seams. Next time I will draft a slightly longer back crotch curve and taper the sides so as to avoid this again!

Fitwise I'm not quite sure about how flattering they are. I made up the pocket stay - as I bought the earlier version of the pattern I had to draft it myself but it wasn't too difficult following the tutorial in the sewalong here. As my round belly is a bit of a problem area for me I was eager for it to be sucked in, but I feel like maybe the woven pocket stay slightly distorts the overlying stretchy jeans fabric? There is a bit of pulling from the fly to the side seams which I don't think is caused by needing more width at the hips- if anything I might even slim that bit down next time as I feel a bit of negative ease would be more flattering in that area. Would it be better to draft a stay with a little stretch, or does that negate the point of the stay?!

My self-drafted pocket stay- although should have added a seam to create a separate pocket section

I was so excited about having these as the trousers I could pair with my vintage-style cropped jumpers, but feel like after a day's wear the waistband does crease and the area around the stomach, rear, and hips expands a bit making me feel even more bulbous in my rotund regions. Perhaps my fabric has too much stretch, or not very decent recovery?

It was £5.99 a metre so on the cheapish side. I originally interfaced the waistband facing, but for some reason tried to attach this direct to the top of the jeans (instead of the waistband side, duh) when baste-fitting and of course there was far too much fabric at the top of the jeans to gather into the rigid waistband. However, even after discarding the interfacing for the final version of the waistband I feel like I had to stretch the front right side a lot to line up the waistband with the top of the front leg of the jeans below. There was initially a little gathering and I had to restitch- this is mostly gone now but looks less than totally professional. It's weird that it's so much more on one side than the other- I'll watch for this in my next pair in case it was my mistake. There are so many processes to go through it's easy to make one or two.

Some obligatory bum shots. I don't think my pocket placement is the most flattering, and I think some negative ease might create a smoother hip line.

Speaking of mistakes I think I put my pockets on slightly wonky again! It's hard when the back isn't made up to know if they're going to be level. As I was happy with the placement of the pockets in my first pair of View As I decided to just go with them as is again rather than basting. Next time I will baste, or be sure to make my own more accurate markings, as just having two circles for the outer top corners can still result in slight pocket angle differences in my experience. I decided not to put rivets on the back pockets so as not to draw attention to this! I also somehow managed to cut out my coin pocket for the left hip AGAIN. Maybe I should just make this my signature?

Coin pocket on wrong hip (and slightly small buttonhole!)
For quick reference here are all the options/ mods that I made for this pair:

- Drafted my own pocket stay in woven mediumweight cotton (same as for my Vestido de los Muertos)
- Made my waistband and facing both in stretch denim (only interfacing the button and buttonhole areas)
- Sewed the yoke and back seams at 3/8" for a little more booty room (with mixed success, will do a more sophisticated modification next time)
- I've also realised I sized up to to the 12 as I'm a little over the measurements for 10. Perhaps this is why the area around the hips doesn't look as good as it could? Maybe next time I'll size down in that area but make sure to make the necessary rear adjustments.

Not too shabby topstitching on the back pocket, but a bit of gathering at the side seams visible

My fly front! My machine struggled with the bar tacks,
but otherwise a decent effr
I really like the look of these jeans but haven't quite got them perfect for me yet. They're wearable but not the wardrobe staples I was hoping they'd be just yet. Oh well, if nothing else it was a very good topstitching practice session (there was plenty of ripping out let me tell you)! I got through a reel and half of 30m topstitching thread and can confirm there is no discernable difference to my untrained eye between the Gutermann and Coats black topstitching threads. I do however wish I'd taken on board the suggestion to note down my machine settings to get the gaps between lines of topstitching even; I had a nice thing going on my first few lines which seemed so obvious I didn't bother to write down, then of course promptly forgot when it came time to o it again. There is a little bit of variation depending on which seams you're looking at- most noticeably where the front and back crotch meet, but hopefully nobody will be scrutinising there!

My corduroy pair of Ginger Jeans in View A, worn threadbare by my saddle
Talking of unsightly crotches actually this very sad thing happened to my previous pair of Ginger Jeans- look how badly worn they are from cycling already! I don't even wear these very much as they are a bit too casual for my style, especially when they've stretched out a bit over the course of the day (as they were made in a non-stretch fabric) and with their naughty low-flying zip- but it's a shame they're already in such bad shape. I have also managed to spoil another of my handmade garments by getting print from a plastic bag transferred onto the rear (if you're a non-cyclist the plastic bag is to prevent the seat getting wet in rain). Perhaps I should dig out those embarrassingly tight Shimano cycling shorts after all and stop spoiling all my clothes out of vanity/ laziness?

Now trying to speed through the rest of my sewing plans for the year and hopefully get another #vintagepledge make under my belt. No gift sewing for me this December though, it was too much last year! How's your end of year sewing going?

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Vestido de los Muertos - New Look 6144

Hola amigos!

I hope you had a fun Halloween, and for those that celebrate it, a thoroughly excellent Dia de los Muertos. I had planned to have this 'Dress of the Dead' finished in time to wear on the day (not for any party, just to look festive in the office) but as usual I didn't get it finished in time!

This is a Simplicity New Look 6144. My mum bought this for me a year or so ago when it came free with a magazine, and I've only just got around to making it up! I chose View F with the 3/4 length raglan sleeves and four neckline darts, but decided not to make the matching belt a it wasn't the look I was going for- I wanted a pretty relaxed shift dress. The dress also features double-ended darts at the front and back to create shaping and should be a pretty quick sew as it's only one piece for the front, two for the back and two pieces per sleeve. I'm still planning to make up the Colette Sewing Handbook's Licorice dress which is constructed in a similar way so this is kind of like a trial run for that (which I have some lovely green silk for, although I'm now tempted to use that on Colette's Dahlia dress which I recently bought).

This calaveras-print fabric is a fairly lightweight cotton and was £4 a metre from one of the shops in Goldhawk Road and was bought with this pattern in mind. I think it works pretty well, although I didn't worry about print matching so some of the side seams have some double-vision skeletons going on, and the neckline pleats have beheaded a few of the little fellas. I'm doing pretty well at getting through my stash from my two trips to Goldhawk Road so far this year. I fear it is still under threat from developers- my last trip in August they told me they had a stay of execution until December. I'm not sure I can justify another trip there this year- especially as my cupboards are groaning under the weight of my current stash, but I will miss it. It's such a fantastic resource.

The dress is fairly simple construction-wise, and as it had 3-4 inches of ease built in I didn't worry about doing an FBA, so it's made up in size 16 straight out of the envelope. I know it sounds very vain, but I feel like I must somehow have body dysmorphia whenever I make up patterns with this kind of sizing- it feels weird to be a very average body size to the naked eye (at least to my eye- I have curves but I don't consider myself to be big) yet have to make up the second largest size available on the pattern sheet!

I did make one adjustment which I kind of regret. I didn't have the required zip to hand, but I did have this rather lovely red Riri zip which I thought would look pretty cool. I've been seeing lots of exposed zips in my blog feed as the Orla Top sewalong has been going along- so I thought I'd give it a go on this dress. Annoyingly, it didn't quite work out to plan and I ended up having to insert the zip four times! It's still not got that nice squared-off end that I was going for, but at this point it will have to do. I think my mistake was not considering the seam allowances- you need to make sure your back seam's allowances are narrower than the allowance you will be attaching to the zip to be able to achieve that squared-off look at the bottom.

I used Tilly's Orla sewalong post for reference, plus this one from Pattern Runway (although I can't figure out step seven) as Tilly's tutorial is for inserting into a slash in the fabric rather than a seam. If anyone knows a clearer tutorial i'd be keen to check it out for next time. This may have been a good time to make up a sample to learn this technique, but I was foolhardy enough to think it would be simple enough to get right on the first try- but getting even exposure of your contrasting zip tapes is paramount when making a statement zip like this. I've also slightly misaligned the zip tapes at the top so added a little extra bulk at the neckline- I always seem to do this so need to be careful next time about starting my sewing my zip a couple of mm lower down.

While I think what I've done works for the look I was going for, it has thrown the back fit a little off-kilter, as the added width of the zip tapes plus the narrower seam allowance has created a little more room back there. I'm leaving it as is for now, but may take the excess in at the darts for a more streamlined look if it continues to bother me. The usual excess fabric due to swayback is making itself known so I might have a bash later, but am still sore at all the time I spent trying to get the zip right!

This was supposed to be another easy project before getting my teeth into another pair of much-needed Ginger jeans, so hopefully it won't be too long before my next post as I anticipate they may take some time to make up- wish me luck!

How's your seasonal sewing getting on?

NorseOtter xx

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Vintage Pledge: Butterick 3505 from 1978

Hello everyone!

Butterick 3505 worn with a Pam Hogg coat handed down to my from my aunt. I've got a cold at the moment, otherwise would have done some Pam Hogg-esque make-up to match. Learnings from this coat: if you're punk enough, you don't need to print match!
The leaves have turned, the chill has snuck in and, as of today, the clocks have gone back. It's been a busy couple of months for me- I went to my cousin's wedding at the beautiful restored cinema the Worthing Dome, had a week in Istanbul, filled my brain to bursting with films at the London Film Festival, and have been hosting my boyfriend's mum who's been over from Canada (which meant showing her around our neighbourhood and a daytrip out to the fascinating centre of Second World War code-breaking, Bletchley Park). So it has taken quite a while to complete this- a very late in the year Vintage Pledge make!

I was similarly behind on the game with last year's Vintage Pledge, and I don't think I'm going to make my very loose plan of three garments for this year- I just need other things in my wardrobe more urgently (jeans, trousers and tops!) and am keen to make more of a dent in my fabric stash which is all spoken for with other more modern projects (although almost all vintage-inspired!). Having said that I did do a bit of online fabric shopping today to enable what is likely to be my second and final Vintage make for the year- this skirt. I just need a black skirt in my wardrobe and it's surprisingly hard to find the right thing when trying to buy plain fabric in an actual shop (maybe it's just the distraction of more eye-catching prints).

Think the interfacing I used for the neckline facing might be a bit stiff and is pulling the shoulder a bit out of shape here. Hopefully it will soften up in the wash!
So the Butterick 3505 is a pretty easy make. It's designed for moderate stretch knits, and I've made it in this ponte or double knit from Goldhawk Road. It's a single-size pattern, and luckily for me Angus's gran (the original pattern owner) was more or less the same size as me, so I've made as is apart from adding an inch or so for an FBA. This pretty much worked out, although I think it's added a bit more width across the shoulders than I need which makes me a look a bit boxy and top-heavy from some angles. 

Excuse the serious face. My sleeve-seeting is not the best I've ever done here. It was one of those things I pointlessly rushed through, just to then have to put down the project for a while. 
I made up View B, as modelled on the lady in blue on the left in the pattern illustration, but the length was mid-calf when made up. Although I like the flirty above the knee length I quite liked the mid-calf too so have kept that for now. It's just a 3cm hem turned up once using a blind hem with the raw edge neatened using the overlock foot. The blind hem foot really is a magical tool and I wish I'd played with more often-  the stitching is totally invisible from the right side and it was fairly easy to use.

I'm glad I followed the instructions and did the blind hem- although they also called for seam binding for the underbust seams which I confess I didn't do. I'm not sure if you can see that the bodice is gathered under the bust in these pictures? I hope I don't regret not binding those seams, as I'm assuming that's to stabilise and prevent the heaviness of the skirt pulling the bodice out of shape. All of my seams are trimmed and finished using the overlocker foot which hopefully will give some stability. 

I love the centre seam and think it flows quite flatteringly. There is a tiny bit of wobbling- next time I think I would stablise the centre seam with strips of interfacing just to ensure the centre seam is really crisp.  I'd be keen to make this up again, maybe just in plain black, and go for the shorter length and narrower shoulders next time. It should be a bit speedier when not done in very small chunks between myriad distractions. It's been a lovely couple of months but I have to say I'm looking forward to time to myself and getting on with some more making!

Finally the back view. Not a bad invisible zip insertion but maybe I should have done a swayback adjustment. Excuse the shiny dart from pressing without a protective cloth- I hope that will go back to matt in the wash. I think there's also a cheeky tailor's tack I forgot to remove at the tip of the dart there!

Here's to my long-suffering photographer. He had me snap this because of his hilariously thrown together Sunday slouchwear. He still looks good though, no?

Not too much more to say about this- a very simple make really but with a couple of new techniques for me to try and a pretty wearable result! Wish me luck with my next Vintage pledge make- hopefully it won't take as long to come together! 

What have you been making? Any other Vintage Pledgers out there?

NorseOtter xxx