Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Foray Into Pants-making...& a (Mini) Me Made Week

Hello again! You find me a very happy camper this week - it's about 15 degrees cooler than this time last week. Plus, we've had three days of rain - deliciously heavy soaking rain! My garden is no longer whimpering reproachfully at me every time I leave the house. The first evening I just sat out on the doorstep glorying in it all.  What matters it that the weather forecast says it'll be back in the thirties by the end of the weekend - this week has been a reminder that Autumn is on its way! And has made me think of the start of one of my favourite poems:

September has come, it is hers
Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fireplace.

Never mind that seasons/months are reversed here; I relate!  And it's just occurred to me how much of my recent fabrics buys have been wintry ones - subconscious wishful thinking, evidently...

On to projects. I've decided it's ridiculous to be intimidated by making pants for myself. If I can make them for other people, I can make them for myself. So I thought I'd start out with a relatively easy pattern - Style Arc's Leah Pant. (Plus, I can't go past a good pair of wide leg pants...) Here 'tis:

This was my first time using any of Style Arc's patterns, but it won't be the last! Their byline is "fashionable sewing patterns that fit"....and they really do! This pair was sewn as is, with no alterations (I wanted to see how dependable their sizing is), and they fit better than most RTW I've bought. AND, Husband said "they look great", which he has never before said in relation to anything beige.

 If I was being particularly fussy, I think on the next pair I make (oh yes, there will be a next...) I'll take in the back waist measurement ever so slightly. Judging by the photos, the hem could also come up a couple of centimetres, although frankly I'm happy to take any extra leg length I can get. 

So all in all, I'm very happy with both my first pants and my first Style Arc experience. Which is just as well, since I've got five more of their patterns sitting in the queue. 

That leads me to another accomplishment of sorts. I've read up on some of the Me Made May posts and links from So Zo, and had been feeling a bit wistful - the handful of me-made items in my wardrobe are mostly summery ones, and while accessorising can do wonders, there's a point where a summer dress just looks (and feels) wrong in Almost-Winter. Zoe also stresses that Me Made May should not involve any panic sewing. Which it would, in my case. So I figured it'd have to be a 2014 challenge for me. 

BUT, then I was asked to work four days this week instead of the usual two, and it occurred to me that I could have a mini Me Made Week now instead. So I did. Out came the Sari Dress, the Head vs Heart Skirt, a red, vaguely 50s inspired dress I made last year, and these pants. It's funny, but I've always been genuinely nervous wearing out of the house anything I've made myself. Someone might see. (Why is it, incidentally, that we're so forgiving of badly fitting RTW and so hyper-critical of tiny -  imagined? - flaws in our own-sewn things? Or is that just me?). But I think this week really helped to overcome those nerves! I'm actually looking forward to the chance to wear my own things now. And it felt really good to be complimented on something I'd put thought, time and effort into. So even though it wasn't technically following the "rules", it's accomplished something pretty great for me. Thanks, Zoe!

And finally, I had some exciting sewing news this week; I've been asked to help sew some costumes for a local production of The King & I. My husband and daughter are both in the cast (v. exciting!), so I'd put my name down to help out but hadn't heard anything for a few months. But it's official - I'm sewing the King's costumes! Can't wait - I adore costume-making...

Have you got any projects on the go that make your heart skip at the moment? Or have you conquered any sewing-related fears lately? I love hearing about other people's sewing adventures :)

Have a wonderful week :) 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Salme Peplum Top

Last year I read the following piece of sartorial advice: if you're old enough to remember a trend the last time it was in, you're too old to wear it the next time. While I think most fashion "rules" should be taken with a grain (or more) of salt - I have a very dear, very trendy and not-in-the-least-muttony friend of fifty - I was delighted to have a credible-sounding excuse for another very dear friend of twenty as to why I wouldn't be venturing out in a ra-ra or bubble skirt any time soon.

But I think I can squeeze in on the peplum trend; I vaguely remember them in the eighties, but was several years off ever wearing one. (Mind you, my Barbies sported a number of peplum dresses, skirts and tops, including a fairly nightmarishly garish fuchsia and purple one.)

Enter Salme Patterns. I came across this designer on the fantastic list of independent designers at A Good Wardrobe and was smitten. Her designs are so elegant, with a really timeless quality. And I couldn't believe the price - I would as happily have paid double what she charges.

I found a lovely medium weight red bengaline, which is a fabric I haven't worked with much before. It had a bit of stretch to it, but it doesn't seem to have affected the fit.(If it wasn't for the fact that I bought it three weeks ago, I'd suspect that subconsciously I was reacting to the knitting fail from the last post: ("Hello tailored red - take that, shapeless grey!") Here 'tis:

It's the first time I've used a pattern in which I've had to add the seam allowance (very glad I read through the instructions first!) Wasn't too ardous a task, though I'm glad I did up a muslin first. The back (which I've just noticed I didn't photograph - narrow keyhole opening, with a self-covered button - looove those - at the neck) fit like a dream; the front I had to tweak a bit, what with me not being a standard size. I'm very happy with the final fit though.

The pattern instructed that the front opening edges be sewn together. I didn't, simply because it sat so nicely as it was, thanks to the weight and stiffness of the fabric. I'd really like to try it in a similarly weighted but drapier fabric, which would need the neck edges sewn to sit well but also give the peplum a softer "flowier" look. This one's unashamedly a bit theatrical!

I don't often go for patterns that are too obviously trendy; if I'm going to go to the trouble of making them, I want them to last and pull their wardrobe weight. But this one seduced me with how classic the top section is. Plus, once the current trend is exhausted, I figure with a bit of extra labour I can reshape the peplum so it's tailored to the hips. So points awarded for fashionableness and longevity!

I learned a new technique in hemming too - how to ease and steam excess fabric into shape. I'd read - well, skimmed - this in my new copy of Couture Sewing Techniques (highly recommended. Just saying...), but this pattern talked me through it very clearly. Sew the widest possible stitch 5mm in from outer edge, then fold over and pin. Pattern warned that many pins were necessary. And it was so...

Use an iron to gently steam hem. With enough steam (and pins) fabric will shrink to fit. Then fold over again, repeat process then sew hem with normal stitch. There you have a pucker-free, excess-free hem!

So a slightly happier post this time around! PLUS, I've found my fabric for the Sew For Victory 40s Sewalong! It's not from my stash, since I donated all of my stash when we moved house two years ago, so it doesn't tick that particular "make do and mend" box in the guidelines. But I guess with a bit of creative thinking you could call it thrifty, since I chose the best quality I could afford - I want this dress to still be wearable in fifty years. And that, I'm told, is genuine economy! (Besides, I really, really wanted silk...)

I've managed to get past my momentary "I'm never bothering to knit anything again ever" sulk, and so now on the needles we have a lightweight cotton jumper for my almost twelve year old girl (Twelve! Still getting my head around that...) It's top-down and seamless like the last effort, so at least the experience wasn't a total loss (though Nessa gave me some very promising salvaging ideas...). I'm doing the smallest size which may still be a bit big, but since it's designed as a fitted style I'm thinking that for the first year it might just be more of a slouchy look. And it's nice after all to get more than season out of a jumper! 

The more I see of the online sewing world the more excited I become. So many projects, swaps, challenges, sewalongs and more to get involved in! It's so hard to restrict myself. I'm going to have to live (sew?) vicariously through other people's projects for a while I think....

Which projects/swaps/challenges/sewalongs are you involved in? How is it/are they progressing?

Have a wonderful week :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Still Light Fail

Hello again :) I can't tell you how deflating it is that my first ever post on knitting is recording for posterity such a horrendously unflattering item. I was so excited about this one, too! You can find the pattern on Ravelry here. Maybe go and have a look now, before my attempt puts you off for good.

In others people's project notes this looked so cosy and effortless - the kind of rare, friend-for-life piece you can run around in all day looking great, all the while feeling as comfy as if you were actually wearing pj's. AND it was top-down, seamless knitting, which I really wanted to learn. Add to this the fact that my favourite online yarn shop was having a sale on Cascade Heritage Silk (so soft! so sheeny!), and I was hooked.

Somewhere in all the excitement I lost sight of the truth that A-line dresses have never, ever suited me.

A-line skirts? Absolutely. But dresses? Not in this lifetime. And here's the evidence:

 Wrong. So very, very wrong! A big, fat thumbs down, all round. (Even taking the photos was miserable - it's so hot here. I realise that might sound whiny and unappreciative to any of you Northern Hemispher-ians shivering through your icy winter. But it's barely dipped below 30 degrees for 3 months now, with no rain to speak of and my garden reproaches me every time I walk out the door. I've never been more ready for Autumn...But I digress.) The thought of frogging three months of work is frankly too much to contemplate yet. I will eventually, though - the yarn's too sublime not to be used for something wearable. So, the silver lining? 
  •  I've learned  how to do top-down, seamless knitting. Love it.
  • I suddenly have four skeins worth of very lovely silk yarn in my stash.
  • As dreadful as the finished item is, I spent many happy hours knitting it while watching the Little Dorrit box set. And North and South. And Pride and Prejudice. Blissful.
So it's not all bad, I guess. I've got a few friends expecting babies next month, so I might concentrate on some smaller projects for a bit. And maybe skulk around on Ravelry for new inspiration. 

In happier news, look what arrived in the mail today: the pattern I've chosen for the Sew For Victory 40s Sewalong

I've always loved making period costumes, but have only ever done them for theatre productions or fancy dress nights. Much as I love the vintage head-to-toe look that some bloggers out there do so well, I'm not sure I could pull it off with the same enviable finesse - I'd just feel like I was playing dress ups! Besides, I'd have trouble settling on just one era.  

What I really love though is the idea of taking a vintage or vintage-inspired piece and finding ways to make it work with today's wardrobe. That inspires me. And when I saw this dress (3/4 sleeves version) I could see myself actually wearing and loving it. 

So, this'll be my first sewalong. Very exciting! Now, I just have to find the right fabric... 

Have a wonderful week :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ginger Skirt

Well, we're nearing the end of Sew Grateful Week and today's topic is the Sew Grateful Project, namely one that's utilised something gained from the online sewing community. Here's mine, the Ginger skirt from Colette Patterns:

(Hmmm, probably should have taken photo before a full day of wear. Or at least ironed it first...)This was my first experience with an independent pattern company. I only discovered they actually existed when I started reading sewing blogs two months ago. Verdict? Thank you Online Sewing Community - I am absolutely and utterly sold! I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I haven't sewn much for myself; this is because a) I got right into costuming instead (ran a small business for a few years until it became inescapably clear that I am not a, shall we say, natural businesswoman), b) it's much easier to fit other people, and c) I got fed up with so many of the commercial patterns on offer that needed so much design and fit tweaking before I was happy with them. Forgive me if this sounds like I'm yelling, but THIS IS THE FIRST PATTERN I HAVE EVER MADE THAT FITS WITHOUT ANY ADJUSTMENT! It actually is the size it says it is! I am beyond excited about this, and have already bought some patterns from two other independent companies on the strength of it (with several others also in mind). To me that's a big fat win-win - an outstanding product plus supporting small business. Woo hoo!

Since the mock up - as I've gleefully said and don't mind repeating - fit perfectly, I figured I could play a little. When I saw the fabric, thick cotton with a bit a stretch, it was rolled up so that the wrong side was outermost or visible. I really liked the colour of it; it was soft without being too pale. Then I unrolled it slightly. It was really, really ORANGE. Not just orange. ORANGE. (I'm yelling again, but only to give you an idea of just how intense a shade it was). Now I have no particular quarrel with orange per se, but a skirt that colour in my wardrobe would have ended up a sad and lonely shut-in very quickly. So after a quick conversation between Head ("is it really ok to sew a skirt inside-out??") and Heart ("it's my skirt and I can do whatever I like"), I grabbed it and ran with it. (Heart felt quite smug when a friend who saw me wearing the finished skirt exclaimed, "that's such a pretty colour!". Heart 1, Head 0)

I added pockets, because pockets are important. I'd seen on the Colette website a tutorial for sewing flat piping, which I'd never tried before. I thought that a was a handy way to use some of the ORANGE side (sorry, can't help it). I'm always intrigued by ways to use the main fabric of a garment as a design element rather than trims. Excellent tutorial - I highly recommend it. Plus, there was another tutorial on how to make bias tape using the continuous method. I read it and frankly, my jaw dropped. Genius. I tried it and it worked beautifully. The only hiccup was that using the 10" square left rather a lot of joins. It was fine for the pocket sections, but I wanted one long continuous piece along each side of the waistband. So I just cut strips from leftover fabric for those. I'm thrilled to have found the method though, and next time I use it I'll just start with a larger square.

I did notice that annoyingly some of the piping is a little uneven in places. I've gone back and measured minutely and I'm pretty sure I can chalk that up to my cutting rather than my sewing. Even a millimetre out can make a noticeable difference at this scale. Lesson learned for next time, and anyhow, I'm satisfied with for a first attempt.

So there we are. Definitely a new piece of Wardrobe Cake to figuratively munch on. And I have two more Gingers lined up on the desk. Hurrah for go-to patterns!

Have a wonderful week :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sew Grateful Week - Grateful Reflection

Hello again! Something a little bit different today - I'm taking part in Sew Grateful Week 2013 ( and today's topic is a Sew Grateful Reflection. It's been lovely to take the time to recognise what gifts sewing and the online sewing community really are. So here's my two cents:

I'm grateful for a whole new appreciation for sewing lately. It's always been something I've loved to do, but mainly as a creative outlet or challenge, or even as a way to help out friends and family. Last year though after reading Lucy Siegle's book To Die For, an expose of the global fashion industry, sewing took on a whole new sense of purpose. It's become my way of opting out of the whole insane, exploitative juggernaut that the fashion industry has become. Sewing is my way of making a difference, however tiny in global terms, of ensuring that my wardrobe isn't at the expense of the environment or some of the world's most vulnerable people. Sewing has become empowering, and thus satisfying, in a way that it really hasn't been before. And that's something to be grateful for, I think!

I'm really just getting to know the online sewing community, so it might seem a bit odd to writing a Sew Grateful reflection on it. But I'm already incredibly grateful for the wealth of inspiration I've found. People are just so generous with their projects and knowledge (and whoever first thought up online tutorials deserves a special place in heaven...) I've never been more motivated to sew! I only have one other friend who sews, so it's lovely to think that there's a whole online world of amazing, creative and talented people to meet out there. even after only a month or so, I'm grateful to be part of it all.

Funny how satisfying it is to stop and "count your blessings" like this. I must remember to do it more often in other, non-sewing areas...

Have a wonderful week :)