Thursday, July 31, 2014

So Much Sewing: Some Thoughts

So as my regular readers may have noticed by now, in the month of July I was sewing up a storm. I signed up for the Pattern Stash contest at Pattern Review, hoping to inspire myself to get to some of those older patterns in my stash that looked good to me at the time but somehow never made it out of the envelope.

I discovered a few things about myself and my sewing while participating in a contest like this.

On the positive side, I did make 15 patterns! That is, quite literally, 5 times my normal output; usually if I make 3 things a month I feel impressed with myself. Only a couple of the things I tried this month were items that I ended up not liking -- most of them were really satisfactory. Out of everything that I sewed up, I think I'll be most likely to want to make these ones again:

Vogue 1247 -- a well-fitting, practical skirt
New Look 6977 -- an easy and pretty skirt
Simplicity 3790 -- wonderful pullover top that fits well
Kwik Sew 3756 -- unusual neckline, easy top -- it's all good
Kwik Sew 3559 -- the first thing I made this month; and it's been worn at least 10 times so far. Great pattern, wonderfully useful top. Definitely making this one again.

I enjoyed sifting through my older stash of patterns and matching them up with fabric stash -- got lots of ideas and even decided to give away some fabric that I didn't like anymore. Plus, I used nearly 19.5 yards of the stash in this month's sewing! I enjoyed having a deadline of sorts to keep me focused on my sewing, and I enjoyed how it helped me to stop dithering and just cut a pattern out already ;) I discovered that I like cutting out the next few projects all at once and then having them ready to go, even if I will be limiting that to only 3 projects cut out at once in future, to avoid the dreaded UFO.

However, this hyper-focus on sewing is not sustainable in my lifestyle. I also discovered this month that I am a slow sewer. To get 15 items sewn (many of which were "quick and easy" patterns) I had to spend the vast majority of my available time sewing. While I of course love to sew, I also have other things that need doing, and most of those things were entirely neglected this month -- and I'll be playing catch-up for the next week or so.

I also find that whenever I place myself under an obligation to do something (no matter what it is) I immediately begin to feel less excited about doing it. I don't want to rob myself of the joy of sewing, which is why I do it, so I don't think these kinds of competitions are in my future. Plus I don't like the feeling of comparing myself to others that contests engender, or the anxiety of not doing as much as I had thought I could...

Another element is that these kind of quantity contests mean you're in a rush and whipping things up -- and I found that I'm not interested in just making something for the sake of making it; I want to take more time over the things I'm making, and learn things with each project, and go the extra bit to line a skirt or add a nice seam finish, or rip out a zipper and do it over again. Or take on a difficult pattern and spend the whole month just fitting it and testing it. So while I did have fun this month, I have to accept that I am not a rapid stitcher who can turn things out instantly.

Despite all this, I thought this was a valuable experience -- I learned to think about sewing more consciously, and was able to make up some items that I was just not getting to, due only to procrastination. I streamlined my crowded sewing space to make it more functional, and went through my pattern and fabric stashes. I was inspired by other participants' makes and their sewing habits. Now to incorporate that into a more normal schedule for all that sewing ahead!

All photos via British Library on Flickr

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gray or Grey? A few shades, but not 50

And now for my final makes of the month, a grey palette that I've been working on for a week or two. Unlike my last dress, this grouping is more of a "cloudy day" collection ;) This is going to be a picture-heavy post so I'll just link to the patterns, not add their covers too.

So I finally finished handsewing the skirt fasteners and stitching down grosgrain waist stays last night -- I always put off the little finishing bits -- and decided to stitch up a linen tank top to match them all. I have another linen top cut out of the same lovely smoooth black, but thought it was too complicated to finish it in time -- that's a project for next month!

I really like this set of skirts -- they are each interesting for some reason. So...

#1. The Common Denominator Black Tank, New Look 6035

I bought this pattern originally for its suit jacket design. Have I ever even attempted to examine any of my jacket patterns yet? No. So looking a little more closely at the options in this pattern, I decided that this tank top, with the gathers in the front, slits at the side seams, and simple neck & arm binding, would be perfect worn loose over my new skirts, or under a jacket (if I ever get one made!) I like the fit -- next try I think I'd pinch out 1/2" in centre back, and 1/2" in the length of the shoulders. Otherwise I think this is a great, useful staple piece.

#2. The Rachel Comey Vogue 1247


Pocket closeup
It fits via yoke front and back - I feel like it is
quite slimming too
I've been wanting to make this skirt for ages. I love the look of the front yoke pockets, which I think are quite unusual, and I had the perfect grey linen blend for it. I also like it because it sits at the natural waist, which I find much more comfortable than below the waist. It has a wide waistband and it fits my waist and hips, both, without many alterations. This may actually be my favourite skirt that I've ever made.

Of course, I also adapted it by adding 7 inches in length, to have it sit at my knee -- it's a mini as laid out in the pattern -- never a good look for me! In this lovely fabric, I know I'm going to wear this one a lot. I'm considering a second version in fine wale corduroy...

Back view: my not exactly invisible invisible zip --
but I still like it
The only change (besides length) that I made to this design was not finishing the interior seams with bias binding as instructed. I just pinked them as usual and called it a day. I'm sure the bias finish would be lovely, and perhaps I'll use it when I make this again, now that I know how much I like this pattern.

#3. The Cloudy Day Wrap Skirt, Butterick 3024

I had more of this grey fabric so tried this traditional wrap skirt. I like the way this fits, not too tight, not too baggy, and I also added a side seam pocket into the non-opening side, which should be useful.  Taking pictures on a windy day has convinced me that I need to add a few snaps down the opening...let's just say it's a necessary adaptation...

Because every cloud should be followed by a rainbow:

hidden colour :)
Actually, I'd used up my white grosgrain on the next skirt, and didn't have any dark ribbon left. Then I suddenly recalled that I'd bought a roll of rainbow grosgrain for a craft project a while ago... and there it was. So I have a hidden colourful surprise in this one -- it pleases me to know it's there.

#4. The B&W Doily Print, Simplicity 4236

I bought this pattern a while ago, thinking of an interesting border print for it. I found a print a month or two ago, that was more home decor than garment weight, but I loved it. I had just enough to make a hybrid between View C (quite full) and View D (quite straight). The weight of the fabric would not have allowed for a really full skirt anyhow, and I am quite pleased with this one!

I added a really lightweight cotton side seam pocket in the non-zip side and it usually sits okay; don't know what I was doing in this pic -- in holding up the top for a clear view I must have squished the back of the skirt out a little. This skirt just feels pretty to me, and it's a very simple make. The waist is just turned under with white grosgrain and the zip opening is topped with a hook & eye.


So there is my four-piece set of shades of grey. I like all the pieces and think they will be a very wearable set of clothes, even into fall. Tomorrow I'm going to be sharing a few of my thoughts about making so many things all at once, inspired by the PR Pattern Stash contest -- and then I am taking a sewing break while I have a few days off work as well. No more basement sweatshop nights for me this summer ;)

OonaPalooza Print Explosion!


It's Oonapalooza month! That's the theme that the Sewcialists have chosen for July: be inspired by the inspired style of Oonabaloona

I first discovered Oonabaloona via Pinterest, long before I started my own blog. Then, when I began following the sewing blogosphere more closely and started this blog, I realized who she was in this commmunity. Always fun and inspiring and full of creative ideas...and lots and lots of maxi dresses and crazy prints too!

I always thought that people who are short like me should not wear maxi dresses. Look at Oona, I thought, if only I was as tall and glamorous as she is, I could carry off some of those maxis she wears! Imagine my surprise when I finally clued in that I am just as tall as Oona -- nearly 5'2"! Unfortunately the "glamorous" part is not so easy...oh well!

So Oona's inspiration for this outfit is twofold: first, her example has given me the courage to try a maxi dress, and second, to try one in a fabulous floral print. I really like it, much more than I'd expected to!

I used an old pattern that I have had for probably close to 20 years but had never even cut out. It's Butterick 4597. I didn't alter it, as I wanted it ankle length, but I did grade out with an extra inch from the waist down. If I make it again I'll also shorten the torso by an inch, just so the waist flares a tiny bit higher up.

The pattern is designed for knits, but had a long zip in the back. Since I used a stretchier knit than called for, I eliminated the zip and just sewed up the back. Since there is some shaping in the back seam, I didn't cut it on the fold, just stitched up the seam.

Full view

I love that there is a knee-high slit in centre front
but it is hard to notice standing normally --
 here it is pulled over slightly just to show it off
And again

Just I was taking this last photo a bit of sun came 
through the clouds like a spotlight ;)

This was a fun pattern to finally attempt, and I love how it is fitted but not super tight. I never thought I'd actually like a maxi dress, but thanks to Oona's example I gave it a try, and really love it!

This is nearly my last make for this month of pattern stash sewing; another post will be forthcoming with my final makes. It's been an interesting experience, but I have many thoughts on it...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Floaty Florals

And now for another quick make: this knit skirt from New Look 6977. I wasn't sure which piece to make from this pattern, as they all seem like good choices. But I had a lovely piece of floral knit that reminds me of the 70s, in a good way... and I thought would look great as a flowy skirt.

I cut the length of the skirt halfway between the really short one with the contrast waistband and the far too long other option. It's just below my knee, and hemmed with a narrow hem. With the flare of the skirt, it swishes nicely as I walk ;)

This is a very simple pattern indeed: two trapezoidal shaped pieces with a rectangular waistband. The waistband is kind of interesting, as it is a foldover with a wide elastic inserted -- it sits just below the waist and creates a waistband that isn't all gathered and bulky, instead sitting quite smoothly. It's really nice!

Just two trapezoids...

Another view. A pretty, swishy skirt!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Am I Blue? No, not really!

PhotoA quick post to share my latest make: a knit tee that worked in every way, that I had no problems cutting or sewing -- what a pleasure! Made it last night, wore it today.

I made my version from a piece of fabric I had left after cutting out an unfinished object from so long ago that I don't even know where it ended up... wasn't sure I had enough fabric left for the pattern I wanted to make, Simplicity 3790, View E (the orange one on the pattern envelope), but when I laid it out, the shoulder yoke stretched right up to the edge of the "tail" of fabric left on the remnant I had, and it fit with about an inch to spare! Meant to be, I guess :)

The yoke was interesting - I didn't get the opening perfectly straight but close enough to be perfectly wearable. Attaching the front and back was a bit of a puzzle for a bit; it was a little bit of fabric origami that confused my tired brain, until I just folded it enough for it to finally make sense. And it wasn't that hard, simply stitching the excess "back" folded over on to the shoulder seam so that when you turned it back right side out it tucked under to make a nice finished edge. Not sure why I was so stumped but those 3D brain glitches do happen!

This was a really simple pattern for a really nice result, I think. The only alteration I made was to add 1/2 inch to each side seam, grading out from just above the waist to the hem. I wanted to be sure the hemline was floaty enough and I think it worked. I also set the sleeves in flat as I thought it would be easier.

Glad the pattern placement worked out too! When wearing, the centre yoke edges tended to fall outward (they aren't interfaced). It looks nice that way too, but I think I may add a pretty button at the join so that I can wear it either way.

So nice to have a make that goes just the way you want it to, especially when sewing a lot all at once. Love this one!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Trio of Purple

The Pattern Stash contest is inspiring me to sew all the time! Well, all the time for me, in between working full time and having other commitments that interfere with my sewing time...LOL. I am a fairly slow sewer as well, but I do enjoy the process. I'm having fun making sets of things this month, and this outfit was inspired by some beautiful purpley-magenta linen blend that I picked up in a sale at my fabric store a month or two ago. I actually have one more skirt cut out of this fabric but we'll see if I get to it this month or not...

In any case, I sewed up a Simplicity 2305 (Cynthia Rowley) skirt, a New Look 6148 top, and then tossed off a Butterick 5470 tank top in a toile de jouy that I have had for years which I realized matched perfectly!

First, here is the purely purple outfit:

Here's a better look at the skirt, in daylight so the colour is clearer -- I love the colour so much! Despite there being gathers front and back on this skirt, I like the way it fits; I was a little worried that it would add a lot of bulk to areas that don't exactly need adding to. But it falls nicely. I added a side seam pocket on the side without the side zip, which was just a lapped zip that turned out nicely. The waistband is under this belt but it is pretty basic too. 

The top. It is a lovely fit, very comfy. The neckband stands up slightly, I don't know what I did, but I think that with this fabric it gives a retro vibe of a kind. Anyhow, I like it. The only thing I wish I would have thought about was raising the pocket. Oh well! Otherwise I really like it. It was a breeze to sew up, and I remembered to pinch an inch out of centre front and back neckline before I cut -- it fits really well now.

B5470Then I added Butterick 5470, which I have owned for so long I have no idea where I got it. I have always planned to make the jacket from this pattern but have never got as far as actually cutting out the pattern tissue and preparing it... at least now I've done that! I made the cute pleated tank, but should have added another inch to the length. It's okay as is but the extra length might have made it fall a little more nicely. The construction of this is pretty easy, even if my front facing wants to pop up (I might tack it down a bit more) It's cute and light, but that front pleat in a cotton means I probably shouldn't wear this out too often unless I'm trying to park in the special "pregnant woman" spot at the grocery store... I think it would work more effectively in a very light and drapy fabric.

In any case, I am amazed at myself for finishing these and having a matching outfit to wear! I think out of the three, I'd be most likely to make the New Look top again; I can imagine lots of variations on it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

This week I've been working on a few projects as part of my Pattern Stash contest challenge. I've finished two -- one that went together like a dream and that I absolutely love, and one that I finished reluctantly and haven't been able to rescue even with further alterations. Sigh. These are two OOPs, one understandably so...

New Look 6705Here is the great one: New Look 6705, a pattern that I've had for a good long while, and that I'd like to make all of the views from, except perhaps the longest jacket. I decided to make the skirt for my first try at this -- I like the high waist and the length of it. I had some olive green stretch suiting in my stash that I have no idea how or why I ever bought, but it seemed like a good choice for this one. I measured, and ending up cutting the 16 at waist and 18 at hips. While I prefer 14/16 as the maximum size, to soothe my vanity, I realized I should actually try to make this fit so that I didn't end up looking like I was stuffed into a sausage casing...

And what do you know? It fits beautifully. I am not sure if it's the higher waist, or the slight stretch, or what, but I didn't even change the length of the darts at the waist and it fits, perfectly. Right out of the package. Very strange... It was superbly easy to sew, and I did a lapped zip at the side which looks lovely; amazing how much easier zips are now that I've actually got a zipper foot.

But I put it on and immediately loved it. I hemmed it up an inch and kind of wish I'd given it only a narrow hem as the unhemmed length was very 30s, but I think it is still fine. It's very, very comfortable but I also feel dolled up in it! I already have another fabric in mind for my next try, which I want to make in August (once this contest thing is all done with...)
Full view for length -- not too flattering
 but it was sooo windy!

Front view, with single darts

Back view, with double darts
Side view, with slit

And now on to admitting the failure...which I was sad about because I used the rest of the soft mustard knit that I'd used for side panels of an earlier top, which is so lovely, and I was looking forward to wearing it in its unaldulterated glory.

However. I used McCalls 6822, a "stitch and save" pattern with some basic variations on a t-shirt. I chose View B for the lovely back gathering:

Line Drawing

and I admit that the back of my shirt is quite nice, and close to what I'd pictured. But the front is a disaster! Maybe I should just walk around backwards all day.... I think I know why this pattern is out of print. Even accounting for the loose, drapey fit of the design, this shirt is ENORMOUS. I cut it in medium across the neck and shoulders and graded out to large at hips, which was completely unnecessary, as I ended up taking in 2 inches on each side in the end, and even that still didn't fix the issue.

Part of it could be my fabric choice, as it doesn't have much body of its own. I added a neckband but it didn't suit; the fabric gathered up oddly and  looks all wrinkly. Plus there were these strange little puckers in the underarm region where the straight front met the gathered back seam. Even stitching it to narrow the sides didn't eliminate them. Argh. I feel like I'm wearing a cleaning rag. Oh well. You win some, you wad some.

Anyhow, at least I found one wonderful pattern that I'll keep and make again, and found out that I have one pattern that I will not be using again!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Multicolour Snakeskin!

As promised in my last post, my next Pattern Stash Buster is a much more colourful top! This print is as close as I get to animal products ;) It was on the sale table of "skin prints" a couple of months ago and I couldn't resist it, as I knew I had the perfect jewelry for it...

I chose Kwik Sew 3756 -- I've been meaning to make this for quite a long time -- I traced it out because I didn't want to cut into the actual paper that old Kwik Sew patterns come printed on. Plus there were only 4 pieces, 2 of which were rectangular!

Snip Snip, so quick
I love how this turned out -- and it was pretty straightforward to sew, too. The instructions were nice and clear, as usual with Kwik Sew but once again I completely disregarded their "DO NOT GRADE BETWEEN SIZES" warning. From cutting a Medium at shoulder and bust, I graded heavily from waist to hip to hem into a Large. The resulting bump in the pattern was fairly noticeable on paper as there must have been 3/4 inch difference between sizes. But made up it looks perfect and I am very glad I made that change as this sits very nicely indeed on my waist and hip area, and I think it actually makes me look a bit slimmer than I would if it was really tight across the middle.

Sneaking out to the side yard between torrential
downpours today for a quick pic! It started pouring again
ten minutes after I went inside. My backyard
has its own pond now...
Other than the grading I didn't make any alterations. Unless you count completely forgetting to put the interfacing on the facing piece that sits across the bottom of the neckline... which has resulted in a not-quite-square expanse. I think the wee sag in the centre also has to do with size. Next time I make this (and I will) I'll pinch some width out of that centre bit. I was also thinking about changing the sleeve binding to a band but decided to stay with the binding. With this busy print I wouldn't notice if there was topstitching showing anyhow.

I'm very pleased with this comfortable and fun top. It's nice and bright for a change and I like the simple details that make it into a more interesting profile.

Basic Black

I'm participating in Pattern Review's Pattern Stash contest right now, so I'll be sharing a lot of my makes in the next while. I've gone through the vast stash of unmade patterns and pulled out a few that are both relatively easy and which I have some need of.

The first few items I've finished are all knit tops. I really don't like plain t-shirts very much, but I've found a lack of quick and comfy tops in my wardrobe. For this project I am trying to use up as much of my stash fabric as possible, so I pulled out 2 patterns and matched them up with two lengths of black knit that were left over from other projects.

The first pattern is Kwik Sew 3559.

This is actually a dress but I cut it off to tunic length, both because I had just enough fabric for that and because I really wanted this style of top rather than another dress. I really, really love it. 

Full view. Perfect length for me

Front view with gathers. You can tell here how
much this thin knit doesn't approve of the iron.

The back is straight, no gathers. It falls nicely.

The only alteration I made on this one, besides shortening it, was to grade from medium at shoulders and bust to large at hip, despite Kwik Sew's regular stern admonition not to grade between sizes. Oh, and I did not use the neckline facings as I didn't think that this very light fabric would look great with facings. I just turned under the neckline. I'm glad I made this one first because it was easy and successful, and a top that I know I'm going to love.

Next up was Simplicity 2181. I had grand visions of this one, even if I was making it out of a thicker plain black instead of a thin and shiny print. It was a bit of a slog, in the sense that the construction had me confused. Probably best not to start a new project instead of heading to bed... but in any case, I got this one done and I do like it. I don't think the sizing is quite right though -- the gathers at the shoulder seams are uneven and cause funny bulky issues. I wonder if that 's because I should have taken some width out of the shoulder. It does make me feel a bit frumpy.

Getting the little band through the front openings to form the gathers was an exercise in patience as well, and I'm not convinced by the final effect. But again, it may just be the fabric choice, or the sizing. I think that if I slightly shortened the upper bodice area as well as the shoulder width it would fit better overall.

There was a fair bit of gathering to do, and an unusual seam that formed the opening for the little gathering band. I did find the order of sewing the sleeve cuffs on a bit odd -- they're supposed to be sewn on flat, before the side seams, but I thought that would leave an ugly inner sleeve, so sewed up the sides then sewed the cuffs on as a band.

But the good thing is when I tried it on tonight I did like it better than last night upon finishing. So perhaps it'll grow on me!

Anyhow, the next couple of planned projects are not basic black -- they are quite bright, in contrast! But I know I'll get a lot of wear out of these black basic tees. Especially the Kwik Sew!