Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Review of the Year and Top 5 Hits

Hello everyone! I hope all who celebrate have had a lovely festive break, and for those who don't I hope you're enjoying a bit of peace and goodwill also! Here's my review of what I've made this year, including my Top 5 hits!

For some reason I felt like I hadn't got that much sewn this year, but looking back I have actually made more in previous years (only a slight increase really, but weird considering how I felt there were large chunks of time when I wanted to be sewing but couldn't for one reason or another!). I may have blogged less as a few things I made were outfits where I posted more than one garment at a time. I've briefly summarised my output from previous years and how much of it has survived to compare how this year has fared.

When I started sewing in earnest in 2014 I made 15 things including three gifts, two of which sadly I never got photos of. While many of the things I made that year haven't survived, a surprising number is still in regular rotation – my last three projects of 2015 (a box-pleat midi skirt, my Lady Skater dress, and an '80s raglan-sleeve dress) I still wear really regularly! My second Anna dress still comes out in force in Summer, and I recently made my first Elisalex more wearable by shortening to knee length. Four of the things I've made have been scrapped (first Anna dress, Charlotte skirt, the Ultimate shorts, and my Plantain tee- these all actually fell apart due to cheap fabric, as well as beginner-level construction). I plan to make something else out of the Boho Maxi dress as it's not really something I wear and it's a shame to waste that lovely fabric on something where it barely makes it out of the wardrobe, and the Megan dress I ended up gifting to someone else.

In 2015 I made 20 things (including six gifts). I've given away my Lady Pencil dress as it was a bit of a weird fudging together of patterns and hopefully will make another wearer much happier. I finished off my Ultimate Trousers, and although I don't wear them often they were a good learning experience. My first Ginger Jeans have worn through, and my New Look 6144 is a poor fit at the back and needs a slip to be warm enough for winter so doesn't get very much wear. Both my Tilly and the Buttons skirts gape at the waistband but still get worn fairly frequently, and the other dresses that I made get worn all the time, especially the Anna with a gathered skirt which I initially had down as a fail!
In 2016 I made 24 things (and am hoping to make 2 more before the year is out!). The two as yet unmade are gifts, as were four other things I made this year (one unblogged until I get photos to share, but I love it!). I deliberately decided not to make as many gifts for my close friends this year as it's tiring and doesn't always end in wearable garments if you want it to be a surprise, as fitting is so key! I'm surprised I made as much as I did as I definitely felt like there were more periods of sewing machine withdrawal this year than in previous years, but maybe this is just symptomatic of the obsession taking deeper root! I didn't make everything from my 'Resewlutions' but more on that in a future post...

So, what were my Top 5 makes this year?

This year has been more about separates than dresses, that's for sure! Top of the pile is:

People are surprised these are handmade. I'm not sure the low rise is as flattering on me as it could be, but I love wearing these as they feel so much like a legit piece of clothing, and better than other jeans I've owned! I'm not done with this pattern and might consider either going down a size for a tighter fit (as these almost look like the Morgan boyfriend jeans that Closet Case also released, but they're definitely Gingers!) and/ or raising the rise a little.

Again, I think these almost pass as not looking homemade! They fit pretty well out of the envelope and I've barely taken them off, they're so easy to wear. I really want to make more when I can get hold of fabric with an appropriate level of stretch!

I'm so happy I finally made this happen, as it was an idea that was left to marinade for far too long. I love wearing this dress, although I did have to make a few modifications to the pattern (i.e. using different sleeves) to make it easier to wear. It's still a tiny bit restrictive in arm movement, but I believe the BHL team have addressed this in a re-release of the pattern.

OK, this is two items and neither have been made perfectly, but I wear this all the time and really need to make another so I can ride in style while the other's in the wash! I've been cycling in London for almost 8 years now and it's only really been this year that I made the move to wear cycling clothes and change at work. I used to wear my normal clothing and arrive sweaty and rumpled, with grease stains from the chain and brake marks from getting my skirt caught in the back wheel on my hems for years and years, but now I work in the same office every day (as opposed to travelling to venues all over London, sometimes in the course of one day) I find I can dress in my beloved pencil skirts once again if I don't have to also cycle in them. It's also much safer to be able to cycle without being distracted by whether or not you're being modest! I also upgraded my bike this year and no longer have a step-through frame, so it's essential that what I wear for my ride gives me enough movement to swing my leg over the back wheel when I mount. I have had a few embarrassing moments getting trapped trying to dismount in a sheath dress and getting the front of the skirt caught on the saddle!

Easy fitting, modern but with a vintage twist, I love these and have plans for many more, including a lengthened shirt dress! I think the collar might be a little loose-fitting around the neck which I might adjust for my scrawny neck the next time though – not sure how exactly to do this, maybe just blending to a smaller size there?

I've really enjoyed making more shirts and trousers this year rather than making all the dresses like I used to! I did receive some lovely sewing books over the year (Famous Frocks: Little Black Dress, Boundless Style and Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book) so I am keen to make a few more dresses too, especially as the ones I've already made get so much wear, I need to vary it up a bit!

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! I'll be sharing my Top 5 Misses soon, plus some goals for 2017. I'm by no means the most committed blogger out there, but I love having this space to share what I've made and connect with people who have similar interests. Hope you've all had a good year and here's to a constructive 2017!

NorseOtter x

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Cycling Outfit: Fehr Trade Surf to Summit Top and Duathlon Pedal-Pushers

Hi folks,

Look away now if you can't bear the sight of a non-athlete in lycra – I've made my first foray into activewear! These patterns are both Fehrtrade, the cycling jersey is the Surf to Summit top with all the cycling additions, and the pedal pushers are the Duathlon shorts but in capri length (I wish they went to legging length for when it's this cold though, that's why I'm having to wear long socks in these snaps). This is a two-for-one kind of post as I couldn't really post about these separately- they were made to be worn as an outfit. I realise now that these are kind of the colours for Team GB, but really my motivation for the choices was to try and match the paintwork on my bike (although I couldn't get the exact grey/blue I needed). Is that really sad? I hope I don't look too hilarious!

This is by no means a perfect example of either pattern but I'm pretty proud of them and I'm already getting good use out of them it. In this chilly weather my ankles are a bit cold and I'm having to wear one of my uniqlo heatteach base layers under the jersey, but I'm appreciating the aerodynamic benefits of this combination. I'm a bit worried I'm giving my fellow cyclists the wrong impression about the kind of speed I plan to reach however!

I made the Duathlon shorts first as they're simpler and were billed as a pretty fast make. In fact, they probably would have been if I hadn't decided to add the cycle padding as that was fiddly to get sitting right and my machine wasn't really enjoying stitching through the foam (which is bra cup foam, it's OK for a commute). I got a lot of skipped stitches trying to sew this in. In my desire to get the shorts done I just zigzagged around the padding for a second pass rather than ripping out and starting again. It's not the neatest job but I didn't want to risk any more visibly skipped stitches. I was stitching with a ball point needle in size 80 I think, so perhaps next time I'd go for a universal to pierce the foam better, and I think I read somewhere that a bigger needle might do a more reliable job. Will report back on my next attempt!  

One thing I do notice with the cycle padding however is that the central crotch seam can show (sorry to bring that to your attention, but just in case you were planning on making this pattern too it's worth knowing!). Sewing this seam with the overlocker can look a bit thick when pressed against the foam, and also a little a bit anatomical if you know what I mean...I think next time I would sew the crotch seam with my sewing machine rather than the overlocker and trim it right down in the area to go under the padding to make sure there isn't an unsightly ridge. Any other tips appreciated! I've only seen people make these up for running so don't know if anyone else has experienced this issue?

I also made the phone pockets encased within the side stripes. They do actually hold my phone, but given as these are cycling shorts I think it's too risky that it'd slip out and get smashed, so I wouldn't bother with this again unless I was making a running version.

These are made in a size Small which is never where I usually fall on a sizing chart, and actually if anything they might be a bit loose! I took them in another 1/8” along both sides of the stripe after having tried them on with the waistband and hem already done, which is why the stripe flares out a tiny bit at the calf, as I couldn't be bothered to rip out and redo my twinstitched hem. The waistband sits nicely but there is still a bit of wrinkling on the back of the leg and they're a bit loose at the calf so I on my next pair I'll take out a smidge on the back leg piece and taper down a bit more for a tighter fit.

The cycling jersey is the Surf to Summit top. While the pattern recommends making a basic version with no added extras first to test for fit, I decided to dive straight in and make a half-zip, back pockets and dipped hem version just to get a bit more practice at all these new techniques. Luckily for me the fit is pretty good- I sized Medium at the bust, grading down to Small for waist and hips. I lowered the armscye by 1/8” with a quick and dirty pass with my overlocker (and should probably scoop a tad more out next time) and I think I could take out a smidge in the princess seams at upper bust and narrow down the sleeves for the forearms a bit too, but otherwise it seems a decent size.

This was not as quick to sew up as the Duathlon shorts as there were so many new processes for me, and a lot of things I ended up having to do twice! The Duathlons I sewed up mostly on my overlocker except for the hems, but next time I think I might do a first pass with my sewing machine just to check fit. Having had that experience I decided to sew up everything on my sewing machine for the Surf to Summit top and neaten the seams afterwards with the overlocker.

I used fold over elastic for the first times for the back pocket and hem of the jersey- in both cases I think I should have sewn the elastic in a bit tighter to make it hug the body as it's standing away slightly. It's less of an issue at the hem, but I'm not sure if the back pockets are supposed to stand so open!

The real pain to get my head around with this top though was the half-zip. It went in OK for the zip itself, but the neck facing/ zip placket piece did cause me some frustration. For a start, I didn't seem to realise when cutting the corner off the piece that forms both the placket and the zip facing that this should separate into two pieces. So when I sewed the zip in the facing was still attached and flapping about until it came to the neck facing step and I wondered why the markings to attach to neckline seemed to be upside down!

Once I'd figured that out it shouldn't have been too hard, but I managed to mess up my markings when attaching the facing to the neckline and neglected to leave a fold hanging over the edge, which in subsequent steps is supposed to form a protective flap under the zip teeth. As I'd already trimmed the corners I couldn't work out where this should have been, so fudged the flap by rolling the fabric a bit (it's a mess on the inside). My stitching in the ditch to secure the neck facing also ended up puckering in the inside, and when I tried to neated up the edges of the zip placket with the overlocker it was a pain to wrangle and I broke a needle going over the zip teeth.

A lot of this could easily have been avoided if I hadn't been frustrated about miscutting the piece in the first place! I do think that there should be some advice on neatening the inside of the facing and placket edges as they look unfinished as left by the pattern. Perhaps this is for a smoother line on the outside, but next time I will overlock the lower edge of my neck facing before stitching in the ditch (and possibly do that after forming the zip placket so I can neaten that up at the same time, if it doesn't mess anything else up...). Anyway it all came together in the end, messy as it is. Unfortunately the tension that my wrangling has put on the zip means it does tend to pull tight against my throat a bit.

I plan to make more of both patterns, but taking more time over the tricky bits so they come out right. I rushed these versions through as these are functional rather than glamorous pieces, but as they'll both get more wear than anything else in my wardrobe combined the next version deserves to be made with more care. I'm also making the mens' version for my boyfriend, and one for my dad for Christmas, both with all the cycling additions, so hopefully the gift versions look a bit more professional!

This outfit cost me about £40 to make which is cheaper than it would have been to buy. I've got loads more of the fabric left all in these colours as the minimum order was a metre of each from UK Fabrics online, so I can make myself at least one more identical cycling outfit but with hopefully less grief and a neater result, without spending a penny more! The fold over elastic, waistband elastic and bra foam padding that I used for the cycling pad all came from Sewing Chest – helpfully all the stockists for the specialist materials are on Fehrtrade's page.

 Have you ever made activewear? Any fitting tips very helpful, especially from fellow cyclists!

Norseotter xx