Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Another tunic (Knipmode 01-2017-13)

Finishing up with this season's Almost Pyjamas garments, I had thought to make another two tunics. In the end I've only made one. I've had a change of heart about the second pattern I'd chosen and as I hadn't cut it out yet like I thought I had, I've pushed it further along my sewing queue for now.

The tunic I did make is from Knipmode 01-2017, pattern 13 (also available on their website to buy).

Tunic modelled shot and tech drawing from Knipmode 01-2017

My attention was caught more by the technical drawing than by the modelled shot, which is rather bland. I really liked those interesting shoulder seam/darts, and the overall shape of the tunic with the curved empire waist seam.

My version, modelled by Flossie and me in my hall mirror again.
I used a lightweight purple ponte with a sort of leafy pattern on it in black and lighter purple. I am not usually very keen on florals, but this one is marginally more subtle than most. I originally bought it online thinking I would make a cardigan, but when it arrived I discovered that the wrong side is bright white. I needed to sew it using a pattern than keeps the wrong side completely hidden.

Knipmode sizing is a little bit different to Burda/Ottobre but this is also quite a voluminous pattern. The back, in particular, has a LOT of ease built in. If I were making a more fitted style I would in theory want a Knipmode size 44 through the bust at least, but I went with a size 42 with this garment and I really like how it fits. The slightly unusual shoulder/sleeve arrangement makes it hard to generalize about the shoulder fit (a topic in last week's post) from this pattern.

Sleeve/shoulder/front dart detail; the dreadful zipper insertion
I made zero fitting or design changes, except to leave the zips off the pockets. I never intended to do the zips, seeing no point to them, but if I HAD, the zip installation on the front would have put me right off anyway! The tunic on the whole went together well except for that zip, which went in very very badly.

I translated the instructions using a mixture of Google translate and the (very) few words of Dutch sewing lingo I've picked up, and they mostly made sense with only a little thought here and there. However, the zipper insertion instructions did not translate at all well. I puzzled over the results I got from Google translate for a while, but I still don't really understand what the original instructions were. Luckily, I had been looking at a tunic with a very similar zipped neckline in Burda just a few days before, so I decided to follow those instructions instead... except then I screwed up a critical part of it and made my life 100% more difficult than it needed to be. The final result is exceedingly substandard and home-made looking, which pains me. I mean, it's fine in the sense that the zipper goes up and down and from a safe distance it's not entirely horrible, but still: ugh. Luckily this tunic is part of my Almost Pyjamas wardrobe and won't be too in the public eye much at all.

Zip aside, I'm pretty happy with this tunic, and also to have used another Knipmode pattern! I am encouraged by this experience even with the troublesome zip (which would have been fine if I had just not independently made a major error), and I feel more than ever that I mustn't talk myself out of using my magazines just because there's a couple of extra steps involved in making things.

Next up on my sewing queue is a jacket. Yes, I know I always say that and then shock, horror, no actual outerwear is forthcoming. However, things are getting really awkward now. I have so much outerwear fabric! I still have no actual outerwear to wear as I've refused to buy myself a new coat when I have so many outerwear sewing plans! I have actually successfully made a coat (my red raincoat, which I have worn frequently even though it's totally the wrong colour for most of my wardrobe), so I know I can do it! I have no excuse, in other words.

Monday, 6 November 2017

The 2017 Edition of Almost But Not Quite Pyjamas, plus Fit as a problem

Last autumn, I decided to experiment a little with the leggings-and-a-knit-tunic look for days when I am mainly at home. I wanted some new options for the sort of outfit that is Almost But Not Quite Pyjamas: perfectly respectable to wear if I have to answer the door or run to the corner shop for something, but equally OK to nap in. I didn't want to invest too much time/fabric/money in the experiment, because I wasn't sure how much I'd wear what I made, so I bought two pairs of inexpensive RTW leggings and made four also inexpensive tunics to go with them (see here and here).

A year on, I can conclude that this experiment has been quite successful, inasmuch as it's become my preferred outfit type on days when I don't plan to leave the house. In fact, I wore out the cheap leggings (they went sad and saggy) and two of the tunics are now looking shabby after frequent washes. When I was planning my sewing for this autumn/winter, expanding/replacing this part of my wardrobe was therefore top of my list of things to do. I bought replacement RTW leggings, but picked out four new-to-me knit tunic patterns to go with them. Here are the first two: (please forgive the photos, my main camera is having a problem so all I had was my phone)

Ottobre 02-2010-11 technical drawing, and my version on Flossie

First, an older Ottobre pattern, 02-2010-11, which is (bafflingly, as usual) called the "Journal" tunic in the magazine. It's actually two garments -- a three-quarter sleeved surplice bodice top and a longer sleeveless underdress that peeks out from underneath at the neckline and hem. This pattern has actually been on my To Make list for a long time, so I was pleased to actually get around to sewing it up.

Underdress on its own, and me wearing it
The underdress is extremely simple: the front is gathered above an empire waist seamline and attached to a skirt, but the back is just a flat bodice piece and skirt. The pattern calls for a turn and stitch neckline and armholes but that is not an edge treatment I like much, so I bound it the way I do t-shirts. Other than that, I did a small square shoulder adjustment but otherwise made up a size 44 as per the pattern sheet.

Why did I bother to take a photo of it on me? Well, empire waist has always been a problem for me in the past. In RTW I could NEVER get anything to fit where the seam didn't end up bisecting me more or less at the bust point due to having a large, slightly low bust. The seam position on this underdress isn't too bad, but it's still not quite in the right place! Something to think about if I make it again, for sure.

The two layers on me
The upper layer is very slightly more complicated to make as it's gathered at the shoulders and has the cross-over front, but it was still pretty easy. I again used a size 44 with no alterations except for the square shoulder adjustment. The neckline on this is hemmed first, and I was relieved my fabric didn't stretch out during the cover-stitching process. Actually, in general I made my life more complicated than it needed to be by using a very drapey, floppy viscose knit fabric that didn't really respond well to handling. The front turned out OK, but the back neck, which had a facing that I turned into a binding, not so much. I think if I made this again I'd try for a slightly firmer fabric just because I think it might hold up better to the manipulation required to put this top together. This drapey soft viscose is lovely to wear but not ideal to sew.

This was one of those projects where I went back and forth as I was making it on whether I liked it or not. I wondered if the print of the fabric was too childish. I wasn't sure if the empire waist seamlines were going to fall in the right place. In the end though, I really love it, with one major caveat that I'll come back to at the end of this post.

Burda 12-2016-112 technical drawing and my version as modelled by me in my hall mirror

My second tunic is a very simple short dress pattern from a fairly recent issue of Burda, 12-2016-112. I have to admit I ignored this pattern entirely when this issue came out as it's at the more basic end of Burda's designs. There's nothing much to it, but it seemed to me that it was a nice shape, and handily the pattern is suitable for either knits or wovens. The only real ~feature, however, is the rufflecuffs, which I loathe. I wear a cardigan or sweater like 90% of days, and I find it incredibly annoying trying to shove an extra half metre of fabric down my cardigan sleeve. That was easy to just omit though.

Burda 12-2016-112: Front and back view on Flossie
I made one other big change: I omitted the centre back zip as I was using a knit and cut the back on the fold, mainly because I didn't want to do stripe matching on the back. (Even though the side seams turned out perfectly! I even managed to match ABOVE the dart -- which to be fair was a total coincidence. I usually just work on matching below the dart since everything above it is usually hidden by my arm, but on this occasion it happened to work out perfectly. AND I matched side to side across the sleeve and bodice. Stripe matching win!)

The change to the back piece sacrificed a fair bit of back shaping but I thought the trade-off was worth it. Other than that, though, this dress is pretty much as written for a size 44, with only my usual square shoulder adjustment, and missing off the flouncy rufflecuff.

Stripe matching like a boss -- I can barely see my side seam in this photo! :D
The only tricky part with this was the v-neck, which was faced. I had two problems with this. First, and irrevocably, the neckline stretched a little when I was sewing one side of it (why one side and not the other?! Who knows!) and as a result the finished neckline looks slightly wonky. I didn't realize until I stepped back and looked at the finished garment so I didn't have a chance to fix it. I don't love this at all, but I am hoping it's the sort of flaw I forget about as I wear the thing.

The second problem was just: facings. I don't love them. I don't even like them. I came to absolutely despise the ones on this tunic because they would NOT stay put on the inside of the garment. I did everything I know how to do to make it work -- trim, clipped, understitched, pressed, stitched in the ditch at the shoulder seam, you name it. I ended up topstitching the thing in place. It doesn't look bad, but it's not the pretty clean finish on the technical drawing. I think I can lay the blame on my bulky, bouncy ponte knit fabric. Maybe using a different, lighter fabric for the facing would have been better.

I haven't worn this one yet, and my big qualm about this dress is how comfortable this ponte fabric is going to be. Fit-wise it's OK, if a little bit tight across the biceps, which is something to fix if I make it again. The sleeves are tight in a knit: they'd be unwearable in a woven. The fabric itself though is a bit polyester-y and scratchy. I'm wondering whether it's going to be very comfortable to wear.

The elephant in the room though with the outcome with both of these projects is that I really SHOULDN'T be using a size 44 straight off a Burda/Ottobre pattern sheet. Yes, the things I make fit, for the indifferent definition of 'fit' that 'similar to the fit I can achieve from inexpensive RTW'. I've fallen into the lazy habit of just using a size 44 (or the equivalent) because it addresses what is always my biggest fit concern in general with reasonable success. Above all I want to make sure that I don't draw even more attention to my large bust by having my tops gape or pull at the bust line. At the level of the bust point, a Burda or Ottobre size 44 works out well for this.

The shoulder width problem illustrated -- the line on the left is where the shoulder seam fall. The line on the right is the point of my shoulder
However, I'm really NOT a Burda or Ottobre size 44 at the shoulder. In the splodgy paint print tunic above, you can see how the shoulder seam is falling down my arm. Several of the patterns I've made up using the lazy 'just make a 44' sizing choice have ended up too big at the neckline and too wide at the shoulder, sometimes by quite a substantial amount. In knits, over-sized and loose-fitting garments, which collectively account for the vast proportion of my sewing over the last 18 months or so -- the same 18 months where I've been lazily making straight size 44s -- the problem isn't so obvious and doesn't tend to bother me too much when I'm wearing the garments in question. I will absolutely wear both of these tunics and I probably won't register the fit problems too much.

I have a LOT of woven projects in my queue, though, and very few of the handful of woven garments I've made have been successful from a fit perspective over the same 18 month period. Part of the reason I haven't made many wovens is that I know I need to work on fit before I start cutting into the fabrics I've been hoarding for those projects for a while now. As regular readers will know, the last 18 months have also been very difficult health-wise, so I've not really had the wherewithal to get stuck into a major fitting project. However, I'm now sufficiently fed up with the poor fit I'm achieving that I think I'm going to have to work on it properly.

In the very short term, I have two more knit tunics lined up to sew that are straight from the pattern sheet. I am sure they will have the same fit problems at the shoulder and neck, but it's too late to worry about it as I already cut them out. For other things I have lined up for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, I am going to need to add a lot of fitting steps to the sewing process I think.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Some progress, at least

October has been, on the whole, very dull. The weather has been mostly grey and wet, I have recovered disappointingly slowly from last month's major health setback, and in general very little worthy of note occurred. I didn't sew at all the first two weeks of the month as I really didn't feel well enough to do anything that wasn't lurk miserably under a blanket most of the day. However, the second half of the month was MUCH better and I was much more able to do things.

I decided that in order to get back into a sewing routine I would pick out all the least taxing projects from my autumn/winter queue, in terms of physical and mental effort required. While this approach was very successful from getting-back-into-sewing point of view, I have to admit that it makes for very dull blogging. Honestly, most of my 2017 sewing output so far has been deathly boring even to me -- I'm hoping the end of the year improves a bit!

Top row: StyleArc Estelle cardigan in green ponte, Butterick 5704 PJs in checked shirting. Bottom row: Burda 01-2017-124 PJs (simplified) in hideous red fabric and my t-shirt sloper in green.

Briefly, then: the four things I made this month were:

1. Another StyleArc Estelle cardigan, in dark green;
2. A green three-quarter sleeve t-shirt using my basic t-shirt sloper;
3. A pair of my TNT long PJ trousers, Butterick 5704, in a blue checked shirting fabric,
4. A simplified version of the wide-legged PJ trousers I made at the start of the year (Burda 01-2017-124), without the piping or separate cuff pieces. I described these on Instagram as hideously ugly and seriously UGLY! Yet, I love this pattern and the fabric is silky and delightful to wear, so I don't really even care that the colour is a revolting tomato-y red, weirdly tie-dyed and overall fug. :D

I think I am going to retire the StyleArc Estelle pattern for now as I've made it six times. I've loved the ones I've made and they've all been in constant rotation. One of them, in plain black, I wore out in under a year and it has already gone in the recycling. Two of the others are likely to follow shortly as the fabric is starting to look shabby. As much as I like my remaining Estelles and the pattern in general, though, I think I'd like to make a different pattern now.

The only other thing I have to say about making these four things is that I briefly came to loathe my recently purchased overlocker while sewing the knits. I was having SO MANY problems with it. It kept missing stitches and the thread kept breaking, so I was having to rethread the loopers every few minutes. You know how it is when you're ill and tired and not at your best overall; little annoyances seem a thousand times more dramatic and difficult than they really are. Well, I was so much in that state of mind that I was literally crying over the stupid overlocker because it just wouldn't WORK. I felt like I had tried EVERYTHING -- different thread, different tension settings, completely rethreading the machine a million times, checking all the settings, etc etc etc. Then, paging through the instruction manual "Troubleshooting" section, I realized I hadn't tried one of the most obvious things of all: changing the needles. Two minutes of effort to do that, and hey presto, everything worked perfectly again. I felt like such an idiot! /o\ The only positive is that I got a LOT of threading practice and could now probably thread that machine in my sleep!

Overlocker-related dramatics aside, now that I am back on track a bit I have been making plans for November. First up, I want to make some more knit tunics to go with leggings for lounging around the house. I've got four new-to-me patterns all picked out and ready to start tracing, fabric and notions lined up and ready, and I'm keen to get on with those garments. I also picked up both my cross-stiching and knitting. And, over the course of several of the recent lurking-feebly-on-my-sofa days, I did a little more fine-tuning of my wardrobe plans and spreadsheets, which I will probably write about a bit more soon. One of these days I might even post my years-in-draft post about my colour choices!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Well, that was a month all right

I seem to have settled on a sort of once-a-month blog post approach, though that truly wasn't my plan for September. I actually started the month quite well, and fairly quickly worked through the first part of my "Autumn Essentials" sewing list: two pairs of my standard mid-season PJ pattern (Burda 8271), and two pairs of easy ponte knit trousers (StyleArc Barb, which I made once before and then wore to the point of exinction). I continue to be very happy with and impressed by my new overlocker, which chomped merrily through the task of constructing those ponte knit trousers.

Here are surely the least interesting photos I've ever posted showing those projects:

Two pairs of Burda 8271 in brown satin and black cotton
Two pairs of StyleArc Barb in grey and navy ponte

I had finished all that by mid-September and was lining up my last couple of simple-and-necessary autumn garments. Then I started to feel significantly more ill than I have been for a while. And then I got sicker. And then finally about ten days ago things came to a head and I ended up in hospital. Recovery so far has been pretty slow. No matter how therapeutic I would find it right now to sew and stop thinking about being ill for a while, I'm just not up to it. Just the thought of wrestling with patterns and fabric is exhausting right now, no matter how familiar and simple the patterns in question.

My plans for October, therefore, are pretty loose. If I feel better at all, I'm going to try to get a couple more simple-and-necessary things made, and then move on to some more knit tunic type things to wear with leggings. If I don't... well, I won't.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Bags, a wadder and plans for Autumn

I've been a bit distracted from crafty things this last month by (a) the continued roller coaster of my recovery; and also (b) the landscape gardeners hired to come to do major work in my garden in June actually turning up and landscaping my garden. On the plus side, the garden landscaping is now DONE and it looks fabulous, and I get to do the really fun part of buying plants and putting them in the ground. :D On the minus side, there was a week in there where I was dealing constantly with workmen, which has to be one of my least favourite things in the world, and I got almost nothing done about anything else at all.

As it happens, I didn't have too much left in my Summer 2017 sewing queue. Wardrobe-wise I had already plugged all my major wardrobe gaps bar one by the end of July. The one thing I really needed to make and didn't even start on was shorts. Luckily (?) since the temperature has rarely gone above 18-20C (that's about 65-68F, or "not nearly hot enough for shorts") and it's rained with great frequency for most of the last month, I can't say I suffered for their lack! I did have some wishlist type items that I considered working on this month, and I even got as far as tracing/cutting patterns in a couple of cases. In the end though, I neither had the time nor felt well enough to make anything complicated this month, so I have shelved all of those projects for another summer.

What I did make was, (a) a bunch of random little things that I have no photos of and that you wouldn't care about if I did, like a needle book and a thread catcher bag and similar small items; and (b) two bags. This latter is very timely since the very first things I sewed back in August 2011 were bags. Happy 6th Sewing Anniversary to me! :D

A "Daphne" Tote, in an over-sized floral
First, I made one really simple tote bag that was really all about the fabric. I had a small piece of this designer home dec fabric in my stash for years waiting for me to use it for a tote bag. The big multi-coloured flowers fit perfectly on this pattern (which is the Daphne Tote, by artsycraftsybabe, available to buy on Etsy and Craftsy). This is one of my favourite basic tote bag patterns because it's a really nice shape and size, and it takes very little time to make.

The second bag I made was marginally more complicated. I decided to use the last of a large piece of red fake suede fabric I had to make a shoulder bag with (purchased) plastic handles. I woke up the other day with a brainwave and decided it would be really interesting to quilt the fabric. I therefore dragged out my quilt batting and sewed an easy diamond pattern into the fabric.
Left -- one quilted outer, one as-yet-unquilted above it. Right -- the quilting on the finished bag
The pattern is a free PDF, the City Tote from a blog called Stashmania, that doesn't seem to be available online any more. I've made this pattern once before and I carried that bag for ages, so I knew it worked for me. I used red plastic handles I bought aeons ago, and a cotton print with butterflies for the lining. I also added a plastic bag base, which I sew into the boxed seams between the lining and outer. This gives the bag some shape when you have stuff in it and makes it less sad and saggy. I do like how this turned out (although if I'd thought about it, I might not have tried to pleat quilted fabric!) but I don't know that I LOVE it. It turned out OK though, and I do like the extra weight that the quilting gives it.

Outside and inside of the finished red fake suede City Tote
My final summer project was to look at the blue ponte blazer using Burda 08-2016-134 that I started back in March. I left it then with only one sleeve set in because I felt very dubious about the fit and how it looked on me. I decided to put it away for a few months and come back to it. This month I finished the sleeves and did one or two other little things, up to the point where most of the outer was done except the patch pockets. I am still really proud of some of the sewing. I really worked on the lapels to get all the seams perfectly rolled to the inside and all the top stitching really neat. That said, I tried it on a LOT and tried to tweak the fit for a while, but in the end I went with: no, this is not worth finishing. I hate wadders, but there was no point to keeping on fighting with this and throwing more resources (time, lining fabric, etc) when I already knew it wasn't really working.
Wadder ponte jacket (Burda 08-2016-134)
Fit-wise, you can actually see the problem a bit on Flossie -- there just seemed to be an odd pouch above the bust between the shoulder seam and the lapel. I do have a somewhat lower bust than the Burda draft, but your boobs would need to be attached to your collarbones to fill out that space. The pattern had a armhole princess seam so I tried to see if there was a quick fix by reshaping that seam/adding shoulder pads/etc but didn't have much success.

On the style side of things, I liked the IDEA of this cutaway style, where the lapels meet at centre front but don't overlap, and then below the lapels the shape cuts back over the abdomen and hips. In practice though, I didn't like it very much on me. I felt it looked less like a deliberate style decision and more like I was wearing a jacket that was too small for me. I made a size 44 and by Burda's measurements I'm currently a size 42 at the hip. If anything I therefore had more ease than the designer intended. IDK, it just didn't work for me.

This experience has given me a couple of specific pointers for the future: (a) it's definitely better for me to make a muslin of something like outerwear where there's a LOT of time and materials involved. I mean, I don't really care too much about this fabric, because it was an inexpensive ponte knit that I bought as a remnant for about £2/m. But if I am cutting into wool or anything precious, I don't want to make a fit/style mistake like this too often! And then there's also the interfacing I used and the buttons and lining fabric I bought for the jacket that now have had to go into stash and... you know, it all adds up. Also (b) I think I need to go back to the drawing board a bit with woven fitting. For a while now I've been using Burda size 44's more or less straight off the pattern sheet or with some minor alterations, but I'm increasingly dissatisfied with the shoulder width and some other little fitting issues that seem to crop up over and over. So that's something I've added to my autumn/winter plans.

Speaking of which, it's time to move on from summer sewing for me! My Autumn planning has three parts so far. First up: Boring But Necessary which I am going to be working on fairly immediately. This is half a dozen basic items for my wardrobe that I need to replace for the new season, using mainly repeat patterns. Not the most exciting sewing, but also all straightforward and hopefully quick and trouble free. Second: Loungewear, mainly knit tunics to wear with leggings, for which I will be using mainly new-to-me patterns and several from recent magazines. And third: A Whole Pile Of More Interesting Things. This is all the "nice to have but I don't NEED it" sewing that I'd like to do -- some fitting work, some wishlist type patterns, and so on. I'll be back with more specifics on that when I've worked my way through the more necessary parts of my sewing queue!

Monday, 24 July 2017

The perils of an ill-timed sneeze and other stories

A few things to share from this month so far:

First, a Wishlist Challenge entry! Back in April 2013, I made a top with a printed viscose fabric that I loved. It was a simple New Look woven tee pattern with a dolman sleeve and a scooped neckline. I decided to french seam it but, as this was right back near the start of my garment sewing adventures, did so sufficiently ineptly that sections of the seams shredded after about the third wash.

The original top that I made in 2013
This would not have been a total disaster, except past!me decided that the thing to do would be to disassemble the top by violently unpicking the side seams so that they ended up badly shredded but then cutting through the bias binding at the neckline, etc. rather than unpicking it. Er. What? Why?! At any rate, I squirreled the remnants away in the hope that I would find a way to make use of it at some point in the future, and put "find a way to use that pink floral viscose!" on my Wishlist.

Plan A: something like this Burda pattern (06-2017-123A)
I was inspired to get on with this item on the list by one of the Plus patterns in the 06/2017 issue of Burda. I couldn't actually cut the pattern out of the fabric that I had, but I decided I could definitely make something similar with the pieces I had plus some plain ivory viscose. This had the advantage also of allowing me to cut off the raggedy remains of the previous seams. So, that was Plan A, with a mental note to possibly come back to this pattern and make it up properly in the future.

Alas, Plan A was not successful, for the most ridiculous of reasons. I was nearly finished, and it actually looked great, but then disaster struck. As I was overlocking a shoulder seam, I suddenly sneezed violently and I guess in the process pressed hard on the foot pedal of my overlocker. The whole overlocking situation suddenly got out of hand and I ended up cutting a MASSIVE hole in the fabric near the shoulder. Let this be a lesson to all of us: if about to sneeze, remove your foot from the foot pedal!

Plan B: Burda 05-2015-124
After sneezing some more and then nearly committing violence because after all that work I couldn't believe I'd done something so comically stupid (because no, seriously, who creates wadders by SNEEZING?) I moved fairly swiftly on to Plan B. Plan B involved a pattern I'd previously earmarked as a possibility for this project, Burda 05-2015-124. This is a regular sized pattern, and I made my usual size 44.

This is one of those patterns that it would be really easily to just completely ignore in Burda. The styling of the modelled version is really not to my taste, and the line drawing kind of looks like nothing -- a box with sleeves. But, as is often the case with Burda, it has some great little details. The seamline at the bust creates a nicely shaped dart. The hemline shape is also really pretty. In a drapey viscose fabric, it doesn't look nearly as boxy on as the line drawing.

Burda 05-2015-124 made with remnants of the pink top + contrast ivory
Sorry the photo is so dark! As you can probably JUST ABOUT see, I had to retain the stripe in the lower body section down the side seam from the Plan A version of this top, which is not part of this pattern. I don't think it's too intrusive, but I really had no choice. I also managed to squeeze out enough bias tape to do a contrast binding at the neckline. The only thing I don't really like about the finished top is the neckline. I just omitted the keyhole neckline because I dislike them, but I thought the width of the neckline would fit easily over my head anyway. However, I forgot that I find Burda necklines are often too wide and/or too low, and this neckline is just a LITTLE too wide. If I cut this again, I will have to alter that.

Despite sneezing fits, this was eventually a success, and I am really pleased to have this fabric somehow back in my wardrobe!
Burda 06-2017-126 (images from Burdastyle)
Next, I was idly flipping through my copy of Burda 06/2017 I'd left out from when I was formulating Plan A, and decided to move right on to a Magazine Challenge and make up 06-2017-126. I know, it's yet another wacky top from Burda, but look how adorable the model looks in her top! And I rather like the weird little back drape! 

My sad attempt at Burda 06-2017-126
 However, did mine turn out that cute? No. No it did not. I had every possible problem with it. The fabric fought me every step of the way and point blank refused to go through my overlocker (why, I don't know, I tried for a solid HOUR to get it to work, but the thread snapped after 2-3 stitches no matter what settings I tried). I moved to my regular sewing machine and a stretch stitch, which was better, but then I discovered, 75% of the way through construction, that I had attached the upper and lower back pieces incorrectly, and much unpicking, recutting and redoing followed. Then I screwed up the neckband had to unpick it. I was just thinking about how to rescue the neckband when little seeds of doubt about that back drape feature and the knit fabric I had used made me decide to try the top on, neckband problems and all and... no. A WORLD OF NO, in fact. It didn't drape nicely as in the image, it just sort of sat there and looked like a misplaced lump of fabric in my centre back. Ugh. Sad to say, this went straight in the recycling bin.

To be fair to Burda, most of these were problems of my own making, but if you happened to want to make this top, I STRONGLY recommend a VERY slinky, drapey knit. Mine seemed drapey enough when I picked it out for this pattern, but it really wasn't. Also, this is again what I would call a typical Burda neckline, which is to say: very deep and very wide. If I had finished it, I would have had to wear something under it.

Summer PJs
In desperate need of a unicorn chaser, the next time I went into my sewing room I decided to make something VERY EASY. Thus: summer PJs. The bottoms are my TNT Ottobre sleep shorts (Ottobre 05-2011-02), and the top is a men's tee pattern, Knipmode 07-2017-22. I like my sleep tees large and baggy, and women's patterns are always too fitted for me to be comfortable in to sleep. I tried a simple pattern off the internet previously without much success, but since I had this Knipmode pattern available I decided to use it. I really like it and will use it again, although I need to bring the neckline in a little (again!) It's a very dull entry in my Magazine Challenge for this month, but hey, it's a pattern from this year's magazines! Good enough for me!

The last piece of July's news is that, after a couple of little windfalls, I decided to go mad and replace my overlocker. My old one was second-hand from eBay. I bought it in 2012 for £50, and I've used it a LOT, so it didn't really owe me anything. Recently, I've been getting a bit frustrated with it for various reasons. I was idly looking to see what there was in my price range on my preferred vendor site for sewing machines, spotted a discounted ex-display model and, well, you can guess the rest of the story!

New overlocker!! And my first project with it, a StyleArc Estelle cardigan in a reversible black/grey knit
Once I learned how to thread the machine and practiced a bit to get a feel for it, I wanted to actually make something. I have next to nothing left in my summer sewing queue and no knits at all, so I dragged this unseasonal project forward from my autumn sewing queue: yet another StyleArc Estelle cardigan, this time in a two-sided knit, dark grey on one side and black on the other. Having made four of these previously, I could really focus on getting to know the overlocker while I sewed. It came out really well, and was definitely a good pattern to pick to practice with the new machine, because it has a bit of everything -- long straight seams, curves, a couple of little fiddly bits. I probably won't wear it until autumn, but it won't come to any harm hanging in my wardrobe for few weeks extra.

Overall, I am SO PLEASED that I upgraded my overlocker. The stitch quality is MUCH better, it's a LOT quieter and it's easier to use than my old machine. It isn't particularly easier or faster to thread, but there's nothing particularly complicated in the threading either. It's a little different than my old one, but not so much that it wasn't fairly obvious what I had to do. I did have a couple of false starts with the threading, but honestly, if you can thread a new-to-you overlocker right the first time then I am just going to start shouting WITCHCRAFT! WITCHCRAFT! at you anyway.

And.. that brings me up to date! :D This week I am working on bags, and cutting out a pattern for my August Wishlist item because I want to put some serious thought into pattern placement on my fabric. That wishlist entry and finishing up a jacket are all I have left in my summer queue, which is timely since I plan to start sewing for autumn in mid-August. More about all of that in due course!

Monday, 3 July 2017

One last thing I made in June & a mid-year goals update

First up, I squeaked out a last little project in June, this wearable muslin woven raglan tee in white and black:

Woven raglan tee, Burda 10-2014-135
Last year, right at the end of summer, I made a green and white raglan tee using a Burda Plus magazine pattern. At the time, I said I kind of liked it, but maybe not the boat neckline. So far this summer I've actually worn that top quite often, but I still don't think the neckline is the best style for me. However, I had also picked out this raglan top pattern from the Burda October 2014 issue as an alternative I wanted to try, and hey presto, here it is. This is more or less a test version of the pattern, made with a bargain basement fabric buy (the black and white print on viscose, which was about £1.50 per metre) and a scrap of white viscose (the remnants of the same fabric I used for the sleeves of the green & white top, which was itself a bargain buy).

Burda 10-2014-135 line drawing
It's a very straightforward pattern, as you can see from the line drawing - just three pattern pieces + bias binding - including sleeves with a dart in the sleeve head. The only deviation I made from the pattern as written is (obviously) that I cut short sleeves instead of long sleeves.

I'm always a bit wary of pleats and gathering above the bust (or below the bust, or really anywhere near the bust) because I think it tends to make my large bust look even larger which: no, thank you very much, that's the last thing I need. However, the pleats on this top are actually quite small and not too poofy.

This is from the Plus section of the issue, and I made my usual size 44. The fit is mostly good, except it's a bit tighter through the sleeves than I like. I feel like I should have expected that from the line drawing, though, looking at it again now. When I make this again I will definitely want to fix that. Also, the neckline ended up a tiny bit wider than I wanted, and flirts with revealing bra straps. That's easy enough to fix in a second version, though.

Overall, I'm calling this a win for a wearable muslin.

Second order of business: it is somehow the middle of the year already, and it is therefore time for an update on my goals for 2017, which I wrote about in detail back in January.

1. Money: (a) Stick to my 2017 budget; (b) keep my envelope/PDF pattern spending at the same level as it was in 2016.

My budget goal is well in hand. Although I went a bit overboard on spending right at the beginning of the year I then had a couple of very quiet months for buying stuff, mainly because I was too sick in the spring to even want to look at fabric shopping sites (!!). The net result is that I am quite a bit under budget for the year at the halfway point.

Some of the patterns I've bought so far this year (the line drawing second from the right is the StyleArc Sadie Tunic)
I have bought a few patterns, but again, I'm on budget for the year so far, and I've been trying really hard not to buy stuff unless it legitimately adds something new to my pattern stash. Well, and also shirtdresses, despite my immense shirtdress collection (and lack of any actual shirtdresses, which is a whole separate problem...).

2.  Fabric Stash: (a) reduce my stash to under 200m and then stay at or under 200m for the rest of the year; (b) use two thirds of what I buy in 2017 during 2017; (c) use some of my older "favourite" fabrics

(a) As usual, my fabric stash reduction outcome can be summarized with: /o\. I bought 39m of fabric in the first half of the year, and only sewed 30m. Therefore, not only am I not under 200m in total, I actually have more fabric than I had in January! I really must do better on this. I have yet again gone through my stash and my sewing queue and tried very hard to match fabric I already own to things I want to make, and hopefully I'll have a better result to report at the end of the year.

(b) This is better measured over the year as a whole because I tend to buy ahead of the season, but currently, I have used about 25% of the fabric I've bought so far in 2017.

(c) I have actually made an effort to use some of my older "favourite" fabrics! I can't say I've made a major dent in the deepest, most "precious" layers of my stash, but I have made some impression on it, for sure. I've actually been combining it a bit with my Wishlist Challenge (see below) as both the PJs and one of the maxi skirts I made came from "precious" stash.
3. 2017 Magazine Challenge. Make one thing each month from any 2017 issue of any of my magazine subscriptions (Burda/Knipmode/Ottobre) and
4. 2017 Wishlist Challenge make at least 12 things off my wishlist in 2017.

Magazine challenge projects so far this year
I've only managed to make a couple for my magazine challenge so far this year, mainly because March/April/May was so rubbish healthwise. My two garments were: a draped front knit top from Burda 01-2017, and a striped woven top from Burda 03-2017. I am not sure if I will manage to catch up and make 12 items this year -- it kind of depends on how inspired I feel by the remaining magazine issues this year. As usual, I was less than excited by the summer Burda issues, but August is looking good and (although we have the inevitable dirndlapalooza to wade through in September) the last quarter of the year is often the best with Burda. The A/W issue of Ottobre should arrive in August as well, and I need to actually go through my recent Knipmodes in more detail -- it was just another thing that got pushed to one side while I was ill. I do have a pattern picked out from Burda 06-2017 to make this month, so that's a start.

Wishlist challenge projects so far this year
On the wishlist side of things... honestly, it's not worked out the way I hoped so far. So far, I've ticked off three entries in my list: indulgent silk PJs, two-layer lace knit tank, and brightly patterned maxi skirts. Not that I'm not happy with those things, but this is not the exciting, skill building, one-of-a-kind stuff I was really dreaming about when I put together my wishlist challenge originally. That said, I probably haven't really been up to exciting, skill-building (a.k.a. difficult!) sewing for most of the year so far, but hopefully that should improve as my health continues to improve. I'm not sure if I'll catch up and make 12 things this year, but I've definitely made sure to include wishlist items in my plans for the rest of the year.

Overall, given the circumstances I was working with in the first half of the year, I am pretty happy with where I am on my goals for this year. Now that I am much better I'll hopefully be able to kick quite a lot of things back into gear, both sewing-wise and all sorts of other things. I'm hoping to have a much busier, more interesting and more productive second half of the year now that I feel more or less human most days. In the immediate future though, I need to get cracking on some pattern tracing so I can get started sewing my way through my July queue.