Saturday, November 28, 2015

Complete: Jeans!!

Well, hello! I've been missing in action for way longer than either I expected or planned, but it's not for want of sewing activity. More on that in a moment. First, and I really couldn't be more excited about this...I made jeans! Jeans that fit! Jeans that look like jeans!!

During Me Made May last year I'd often thought jeans would be a useful handmade item to throw into the mix, but although I bought Named's Jamie Jeans pattern I didn't do anything about it until my RTW Old Faithfuls finally gave up on life. They wore out beyond repair right under the butt, and it occurred to me that if I carefully took them apart I would have a serviceable jeans pattern with all fit issues already resolved. Plus, they weren't a stretch denim, so I wouldn't have to calculate or compare stretch percentage. I got excited and bought some similar weight denim. Then I got intimidated and shoved them to the bottom of the queue.

In the meantime, the Ginger Jeans pattern was released, and all manner of beautifully sewn, frankly professional-looking jeans started popping up on blogs everywhere. My jeans-to-be started to creep back up the project list. The more I read the more do-able jeans seemed. So I blocked out a week's worth or so of sewing time and pitched in.

 There were no instructions, obviously, so I relied heavily on the Closet Case Files Ginger sewalong tutorials - especially for the fly front. The other thing that was hugely helpful was that when I unpicked the original I took care to keep one side of anything doubled intact. For example, one side of the back leg remained with pocket and yoke, the other was unpicked down so that all pieces were separate. This helped not only with seeing how it all went together, but also as a guide for topstitching. (The fly front I just took lots of photos of before unpicking and then prayed fervently.)

I don't have a particularly fancy machine, and found that I didn't have any problems with the denim layers. There were a few times I needed to manually turn the side handwheel briefly on very thick layers, but that was it.
I used a triple stitch on all the leg seams, and just overlocked raw edges. (I'd like to try flat felling next time, but I wasn't going to deviate from what was on my original pair this time around.)

The main fiddly aspect I found was changing needles and thread on almost every seam. It helped to know it was worth the trouble though; the specific topstitching needles my local sewing shop put me onto made it SO much more hassle-free than what I was expecting/ dreading. The topstitching thread was Gutermann (3 x100m spools!), which mostly worked well. Very occasionally it snarled up behind the eye of the needle and needed to be cut and rethreaded, but I'm not sure whether this is just a typical issue with thick thread. Anyone know?
Two other tips that made topstitching a much happier experience were to set the stitch length to 4 (the longest setting on my machine), and using the edging foot attachment. (Oh, how I adore this foot!) I mimicked the topstitching and bar tacks on the original jeans and I'm really happy with the result.
The pocket linings were of a leftover cotton lawn from the stash, as was the gingham bias binding I used for the internal fly pieces. The fly isn't perfect on these, but I think I know what I did wrong and will try and improve on that next time.

One thing I've learned since is that you can actually use any length zip. Once you sew it in place it doesn't matter if the metal stops at the top are visible or not, since the waistband sewn in above will stop the zipper pull from going anywhere. I really loathe the zip I used; it was the only 5cm navy one I could find and the zipper pull is huge. So I'll definitely change that aspect with any future pairs.
I have to confess to making a complete hash of the buttonhole. For some reason, even though it had been fine with the topstitching thread, I was convinced the machine wouldn't cope with sewing a buttonhole and tried to do it with the ordinary navy thread instead. It looked unspeakable, so I tried to go over the top with the thick gold thread. Hands up everyone who knows you can't sew over a cut buttonhole successfully? (Both mine are waving here...). In the end I tried to cover it up by a narrow zigzag stitch over the cut edges. It's dreadful, but at least it's mostly hidden by the button... 

 These niggles aside...I made jeans! I'd love to have rivets on the pockets, but couldn't find any at the time of making. I've since seen that Thread Theory now stock them in their web shop (God bless the online sewing community!) so will have to invest in some, methinks.

I mentioned last post (in August!) that for summer sewing I was going to try and put together a capsule wardrobe. I think I expected this to be easy. Well, it isn't! I've never invested this much thought into sewing plans before. Of all the blogs and posts I've read I've found Unfancy the most helpful; I like that her approach doesn't include accessories, loungewear, exercise gear and formal wear but focuses more on everyday stuff. Mine's taking shape, but still has some refining to do. If I can let go properly of the idea that it has to be The Perfect Wardrobe, I think I'll get it done. That's another thing I like about Unfancy - she stresses it's a process that you improve and fine tune each season.

Finally, and the reason it's been so quiet around here of late, I've started up a new venture:
Yup, it's all happening! I've set up small group, project-based classes, catering for people who'd love to learn how to sew, but are a bit daunted or unsure as to how to get started. There's so much resource out there now for people once they've begun, but my aim is to help them get over that initial intimidation and to see them surprise and delight themselves by what they can actually sew. It seems to be working! You can get a taste of what's happening (even if you obviously have no need to attend ;) ) via Facebook or Instagram.
Now that classes are up and running, I'll try and be a lot more regular about posting here; there's a worrying number of unblogged projects around these parts. I have an awful  feeling that by the time I get around to the summer makes we'll be smack bang in the middle of winter again...
What are you working on at the moment?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Complete: A Jacket & Leftover Skirt

I'm back this week with an attempt to triumph over vanity. Well, to at least let pride triumph over vanity...which doesn't sound all that laudable at all, really. I'll explain - this is one of my favourite ever things to wear that I've made, coupled with some of my least liked photos (own fault: felt wretched, should've stayed home, soldiered on and can see it in every shot. Never mind, we can't all be models!)

This jacket is a pattern released by Spotlight here in Australia, oh, maybe seven years ago, as part of their then Get Creative range. I bought it at the time in case I ever tried making clothes for myself sometime in the future (!), and promptly forgot about it. The fabric, a wine -not purple - coloured pinwale corduroy I bought two years ago in case I ever tried making a casual blazer, and promptly forgot about it.
The pattern calls itself a military-style jacket. I didn't make any structural modifications; the only changes I made were to not do the three rows of topstitching at each seam (not avoidance, I just thought it would be lost and wasted on corduroy), and to lose the front tie fastenings (which looked fussy and annoying).

The above photo is from May, which I've included because I actually look happy in this shot. Plus, this outfit (jacket, Kanerva blouse and Burda pants) is one of my all-time favourites, self-made or otherwise, which I think is worth acknowledging!

In far less happy shots...

 As mentioned above, this jacket had tie fastenings, so doesn't do up at the front. I was dubious at first (wouldn't it just look too small?) but I actually really like how it sits. The shaping in it gives a nice line, and it doesn't feel at all restrictive like a done-up blazer sometimes can.

 Instead of the ties, I experimented with these patches for (non-functioning) buttonholes and buttons.

I sewed them on a very slight diagonal, with the cord's direction contrasting with the fabric underneath. The vintage buttons were a surprise gift from Sarah along with one of her giveaways; I'd been saving them up waiting for the perfect project.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I've been trying to find uses for my ever-growing pile of scraps and leftovers. Well, this gets a double tick! There was no lining drafted for the pattern itself, just wide facings at front, back yoke and hem. I'd overlocked the other seams, which were also top-stitched (just once though), and they looked fine. But I thought I'd to try something a bit special on the facings' edges, and so bound them with some of the leftover silk from my Vogue 1152 dress. Confession: it's not cut strictly on the bias, since there wasn't enough fabric, but since all the edges were straight or diagonal I didn't think it would matter too much. I love the effect! 
The other tick is given for, wait for it: getting a whole other garment out of the leftovers! True, the hem isn't as generous as it should be and the back piece is seamed rather than cut on the fold, but I'm not arguing! This is View B of Burda 7147, an A-line mini wrap skirt:

...and I definitely should have ironed the wrinkles out pre-photography... This is a really quick project, that can be squeezed out of just under a metre of fabric.

The fronts fold back over themselves to form facings, and snaps are sewn on to secure it.

 Some dark early morning photos there, sorry. I like an A-line silhouette, although this is a much shorter version than I'm used to. I probably wouldn't wear it without tights.

One change I did make that was choice and not necessity was to add a lining; since I planned to wear this with tights I thought that it might help stop it riding up or "sticking". And it works. I wish I could think of a way to stop it sticking to itself at the front wrap...

So, one lot of project leftovers has been used up. Now I just have to find ways to use up the rest of the drawer!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Complete: A Year-Round Vogue 1152?

I've often wondered whether it's possible to make a dress than you can genuinely wear all though the year. Heaven knows I've tried, and with pretty dismal results so far. The winter ones feel too heavy in summer, the summer ones feel all wrong and "denial-ish" in cold weather. Possibly the closest I've come is with my Jacinta maxi dress. I have worn this through winter and summer; I wore it a few days ago in a last ditch attempt to prove to myself that a year-round dress is feasible. Sadly, it only made me realise (and this may well have been aided by currently working through Colette's Wardrobe Architect) that I actually loathe wearing maxi dresses in winter. I felt like a Greek widow all day. Nope!

But, I think I just may have got there with this one:

This is Vogue 1152, one of Rebecca Taylor's designs. I've admired this one for the past few years, but couldn't quite bring myself to hand over $30 for the privilege of owning it. But when Spotlight had a $5 Vogue sale last year, I pounced!

It's (directly from the envelope, this) a "loose-fitting dress with front and back princess seams, front and back gathers, front insets with contrast piping, back elastic casings and side invisible zip". I jettisoned the "short sleeves with pleated cap and gathered lower edge into self band", since I don't love short sleeves (again, Wardrobe Architect ;) ), especially puffy ones. I also left off the curved shirttail hem. I have no quarrel with shirttail hems - provided they're on shirts. Instead, I just cut the hem at the length of the centre front.

The fabric is an Alannah Hill silk crepe du chine, that I found last year at Clear It (thank you, Sarah!) I'm not often drawn to floral prints, especially larger scale ones, but I loved the colours through this and the way the design is broken down so it almost looks abstract. I think silk crepe du chine may well be my new favourite. It drapes, it breathes and it behaves. In short, a dream fabric!

Please forgive the tights in the photos; it was early morning, about 3 degrees and the deck was slippery with ice. Dedication to blog photography only goes so far...

I didn't actually do up a muslin for this, just held the front bodice pieces up against me. Word of warning: this neckline is LOW! I raised it here by 5cm/2", and while I could wear it without a cami underneath, it does feel a little bit cleavage-y that way. That's irritating, because I really wanted this to work for being out of the house on really sweltering summer days. It's also irritating, being an avoidable and self-inflicted issue. Maybe I'll just get a crop top bra thing...

 One thing I didn't notice until the end was that the front bodice gathers on the left side (in photos) aren't sitting quite right; it puffs out a bit on that side. It can be folded back into place, but I prefer to put on my clothes and forget about them, rather than having to monitor and adjust throughout the day.

But what I really love about this dress is how lovely it is to wear. It's SO comfortable! I'm a bit wary of loose fitting styles, as being short I tend to feel swamped by excess fabric, plus I like a defined waist. You can see above how much extra fabric there is at the waist, but it doesn't feel or look "tent-like". I'm not sure if that's down to the drape of the fabric or the drafting of the pattern, but I love it. (It'll be an excellent choice for heavy eating days ;).) The two rows of elastic at the centre back help give it overall shaping too.

I tried a few different colours for the contrast piping at the front. I have, as previously mentioned, a sizeable scraps stash, and I really didn't want to go out and buy such a small amount of fabric. The best choice to my mind - contrasting, but not too starkly - was a soft brown crepe, which I think I once used for a muslin for something.

My recently discovered edge-stitching foot (oh, how I love this!) was particularly appreciated when it came to sewing the casing for the elastic at the back:

Something else I liked very much about this pattern was the attention it paid to the finishing on the inside of the dress. Those extra pieces below are to hide the piping seams, and are sewn in along one edge and then hand stitched in place along the other. The self-lined yoke at the back is finished in the same way.

I finished this back in early May, and liked it very much on the hanger. But the couple of times I wore it, something didn't feel quite right. It felt...frumpy. (Me Made May, below - and I still don't know why those mid-grey tights look so very dark in the photo...)

Eventually I worked it out - it was too long. I'd made it knee length, which I've always liked, but the knee length skirts I wear are either fitted or A-line styles. So with more confidence than I felt, I took 10cm/4" off the bottom, and I think it's a much better proportion on me now.

It's also getting a lot more wear! I think it's a much better length now to be worn with jumpers and scarves for cold weather, and the fact that the colours are quite deep and rich mean that it doesn't look out of place or inappropriate as a winter "skirt". (Unlike every summer dress I tried to "winterfy" in my first Me Made May...)

It's funny how sometimes the things we make need a bit of wear, evaluation and adjustment before we're completely satisfied with them. It's been a good lesson to me not to write a not-quite-right garment off too quickly.

Have you ever experienced this with anything you've made? What was your solution or magic fix? 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Complete: A Better-Than-Anticipated Burda 7214

Some patterns are friendly. Some are barely civil. And then there are some that you expect are going to be hard work, but turn out to be surprisingly accommodating. Exhibit A: Burda 7214, a close-fitting, jeans-style pant, with fly front and (in View A) knee panels and zip openings at hem. (I have to apologise in advance for some pretty average photos - I didn't notice the heavy shadows until well afterwards, and, since I'm already so far behind in posts and am finding it hard to get time to photos taken, I decided bad photos were better than no photos....)

I used a grey stretch drill - the pattern calls for stretch fabrics - which behaved very nicely throughout. I do feel after having worn them several times that something just a little heavier would have perhaps been a better choice, but it's not a big complaint. I'd really like to try this pattern some time in a stretch denim.

View A had the option of panels/bands at knee level - hard to see here, but detail pic below - and I while I liked them at the front, I didn't include them at the back. It also called for zips below the front pockets, which seemed like overkill to me, especially since they weren't functional but just sewn on for decoration.

The ankle zips were supposed to be 25cm/10", but that looked a little too long to me, especially since I had to shorten the legs by 6cm. I used 15cm /7" instead, which seemed a better proportion on me.

The main reason I found this pattern so accommodating was because the construction steps made fitting relatively painless. The outer leg seams are sewn up (with zips inserted) first, and since these are meant to be a skinny style, it was just a matter of pinning the inside seams to fit. I ended up taking each leg in 0.5cm at the crotch and tapering down to 4cm at the ankle.

I have a fairly pronounced swayback also, but this adjustment was greatly helped by the fact that the waistband is sewn on before the centre back seam is done. This means the back seam can be adjusted to fit without impacting on any other steps. I had to take a good chunk out, evidenced by the fact that when unworn the pants don't lie flat! Never mind - I'd rather they look better on me than on the hanger. :)

One tiny disappointment, and the main reason for thinking a heavier fabric would be preferable, is the fact that the front pocket linings are kind of obvious - see above. Now all I've read suggests that when that happens the pants are too tight, but I'm not sure that's the problem here since I can comfortably fit my arm down the front of the pant legs when I'm wearing them. (I know that sounds slightly concerning - it was in the interests of research, I promise!) The linings are just a lightweight cotton, so shouldn't be evident; I'm going to chalk it up to not-quite-ideal fabric choice.

First ever fly front attempt here! I had to read through the instructions several times before it all started making sense, and even that only happened after going over Closet Case Files's tutorial with intense concentration. We got there in the end though, and I'm pretty pleased with the end result.

My favourite detail though was inspired by Helen's gorgeous quilted Linden. I loved the effect she created on the front, and had been waiting for the right project to attempt something similar. There was already a lot of topstitching on this project (way more than I'd ever done, anyway!), so I thought more stitching as a decorative feature would tie in quite well. So I sewed horizontal lines at 2cm intervals over the knee panels and, even though it's a fairly subtle detail, I think adds a nice touch!

An enormous help in doing this neatly was the quilting arm/attachment that came with my machine. Funny thing is, I never even noticed it (or my edgestitching foot! Love!) until a few months ago, when I started teaching a friend to sew. Not being familiar with her machine I read her manual and later discovered I had all the same enviable accessories she did, yay! Googled image below - it's the backwards "L" shaped piece, and the long end slots into the back of a standard presser foot; you set it so that the other end sits at whatever width interval you want. Simple, but so very helpful!

The pattern instructed that the ankle zips be sewn on top of the fabric, but I didn't like the look of that and sewed them inside the seam instead.

Back view, and you can see here how the upper back doesn't quite sit flat. The next pair I make of these I'm definitely making the pockets a bit smaller. The positioning is fine at the upper edge, it's just that I think they look way too low by the time they finish. (I'm not sure if you can tell in the above back view, so you'll just have to take my word for it.)

Minor niggles aside, I'm pretty pleased that I've made Complicated Pants/Trousers! It's given me enough confidence to attempt a pair of jeans based on a much loved pair that finally wore out last year. I'm not sure if I want to make jeans-making an ongoing thing, but these were my favourite ever and in theory at least, since I know and love the fit, won't give me any fitting issues. Or does that just sound like sheer blind optimism?? I guess we'll see...
After I've sewn those up, I've decided to take a break from sewing for a bit. (I'm hoping that won't translate to posting regularity, given my project backlog....) See, I finished Me Made May this year feeling really dissatisfied, and that feeling actually intensified during June and July. It's not that I don't like the things I've sewed for myself, it's more that my me-made wardrobe feels really disjointed and lacking in cohesion. In all other areas of my life I try to simplify and declutter, yet in sewing I feel like I've been increasingly driven to buy and make more and more and more stuff. My wardrobe is full, yet I'm still accumulating and wondering what to wear every morning. I'm feeling like the proverbial hamster on a wheel; working harder and harder to no real effect!
For those reasons, I'm taking time out. I've been working through Colette's Wardrobe Architect, which is excellent. I've been reading through pretty much every post written on the Into Mind and Unfancy blogs. I'm getting more and more excited at the idea of a seasonal capsule wardrobe. I want a smaller, more thoughtful and considered collection of clothes that are exactly right for me and that I love every time I pull them on. And it's become patently obvious that I can't do that without investing some proper time and thought into the process.
So, that's the plan and I'm feeling good about it!