Monday, 1 January 2018

2018: Goals and the 2018 Magazine Challenge

Happy New Year to those celebrating today! :D Hope everyone, no matter whether you're a New Year goal-setter, a forgotten-about-it-by-7th-January-resolution-maker or a hibernate-through-January-to-avoid-it-all type, has a fabulous year ahead. :D

It's surely no surprise to anyone that I'm a big goal-setter/planner at New Year.

This year, there is a big over-arching story to my sewing goals. Towards the end of 2017, I spent a bit of time cleaning up my sewing room, which had become very disorganized. As I was tidying it up, I found myself admiring my fabric, thinking how well it all fits together, and how great it would be to have actual garments made of it rather than folded rectangles on a shelf. In a fit of organizing zeal, I then tidied up all my envelope patterns and magazines as well. Again, I kept thinking how many great patterns I already own and how much I wish I owned those clothes.

This is not by chance. Over the last eighteen months, I've been gradually sorting and culling my fabric stash so that it only contains things that would look good in my wardrobe and that I like and I've made sure any new additions would fit in well, especially in terms of the colours I've been buying. I did the same to my pattern stash, so that it only contains patterns for things that I would actually like to wear. Organized on shelves, it looks remarkably pretty and surprisingly cohesive.

At the end of my tidying up, my sewing room was looking great. However, I still felt quite dissatisfied. Nobody who sews buys fabric and patterns to look pretty on shelves. We buy it because of the potential of it all. So why exactly is all this fabulous potential that I've been collecting still sitting on shelves as fabric and patterns, sometimes for years, and not hanging as garments in my wardrobe?

Partly, of course, the answer is that I've been ill, and I'm not beating myself up too much for the sometimes lengthy delays in turning plans into actions as a result. Partly the answer is that it's taken a while for my sewing skills to catch up with my ambitions. The other big constraint is ridiculous though, because it's just fear: not wanting to use my 'best' fabric in case my idea doesn't work out, or my sewing skills don't stand up to the challenge. But, really, that's silly: it's just fabric. It's just clothes. What is the worst case scenario, after all? Everything goes disastrously wrong when I try to make something and it all ends up in the bin. I mean, that would be a shame, but there's no actual calamity there. On past experience, I know that, once I've complained about it a bit, I'll get over it, and I'll probably learn a great deal in the process.

With this pep talk in mind, I sat down with my wardrobe plan spreadsheet (because, c'mon, this is me, of course I have a wardrobe plan spreadsheet!) and asked myself some questions: What does that "fabulous potential" wardrobe that I keep comparing my real wardrobe to really look like? What part of it do I already have right now, and where are the gaps? How many of those gaps can I fill by sewing up the stash I already own? What's left over, in terms of things I want to sew that I don't have stash to cover, stash that doesn't quite seem to fit in anywhere, and things I don't generally choose/want to sew and might need to buy?

I've done this before -- in fact, I've been doing a version of this kind of planning for a couple of years -- but this was a big new refinement of my wardrobe plan, and it's left me feeling really excited and optimistic about what I might make this year. My big sewing plan for 2018, therefore, is really a simpler, but much more complete version of what I was trying to grope my way towards with my Wishlist Challenge last year: This year, I want to use the things I have, and try to make the things I really want to own.

More specifically:

1. (a) Stick to my 2018 sewing budget. Living within my budget is always my first goal! I am starting this year with the lower number I ended 2017. My focus is going to be really strongly on using fabric and patterns that I already own, so hopefully apart from notions, gap-filling fabric and the like, costs should be lower overall compared to other years. I'll see how that goes over the first half of the year.

(b) Stick to my specific envelope/PDF pattern spending limit for 2018. This is basically the same budget as I have limited myself to for the last two years.  Honestly, I don't need any more patterns at all. Between my huge magazine stash, a sizeable envelope and PDF stash, and my magazine subscriptions I've already got pretty much everything imaginable and a whole lot more headed my way over the course of the year. However, I'm guessing that somehow there will still be a few things released this year that I just won't be able to resist. This goal is really here therefore just to keep a lid on that spending.

2. (a) Use at least 50% of the fabric I buy this year. I do know I'll need to buy some fabric for immediate use in 2018, because I've got some holes in my plan. As with patterns, I am not optimistic that I won't also see and buy a few things 'just because' now and again, not all of which might get used this year. But the theme of this year really is "use what I already have" and "fill in gaps", not buying for stash.

(b) Reduce my overall fabric stash to under 150m by the end of the year. Even though I've planned big stash reductions before and never achieved it, my attention this year is going to be on turning the fabric I already own and love into the garments I've imagined it could be. Logically, if I manage to make my imaginary wardrobe a reality, an overall reduction of my fabric stash should follow. I'm starting at almost exactly 200m so I am aiming to reduce my stash by 50m overall. That sounds overwhelmingly huge as a goal, but, put another way, it means on average I have to use 1m more than I buy per week all year, which sounds a lot more reasonable!

(c) Increase my envelope and PDF pattern utilization. The vast majority of my PDF and envelope patterns are unused. I didn't buy them to look pretty on my shelves: I bought them because I really liked the idea of owning those clothes. Right now, I've used 18% of my envelope patterns and 24% of my PDF patterns, so I have plenty of room to improve.

I don't just want to make great new things this year - I also want to make them well and for them to have good longevity (as I discussed in my second review of 2017 post). Thus:

3. Focus on quality and longevity in my sewn and RTW wardrobe. The specifics of this are based on my wardrobe vs. 30 Wears analysis I did at the end of 2017, which produced some pretty clear ways I could improve. For one, I'm going to try changing up my laundry practices in order to try to keep certain types of garments from degrading so quickly. I'm also going to try, when buying new fabric and RTW clothes, to buy better quality (in particular with knit garments and fabrics). And finally, I'm going to make sure I use fitting and construction methods that are suited to producing a garment that at least has the potential to last for 30 wears

On the fitting front, I think what I need to focus on this year is (a) incremental improvement of fit for those types of garments where I have some idea of how to get things to fit reasonably well and (b) the big missing piece: "anything lower body" but particularly trousers. Provided I stay healthy enough to face it, I will have to attempt another at least one giant fitting spree for that, though probably not until a bit later in the year. I am very tempted to try to book and attend a trouser fitting multi-day class, but I can't be certain enough of my health to commit that money right now.

Overall, my idea is that 2018 is mainly going to be about executing a lot of plans. However, because all plan and no whimsy is no fun, I'm also going to add another goal/challenge:

4. The 2018 Magazine Challenge: Make one thing from any 2018 issue of any of my three subscriptions (Burda, Ottobre, Knipmode) per month. This is a more relaxed version of the Burda challenge a lot of people do. I'm allowing myself to use any of my magazine subscriptions, and I won't restrict myself to the current month of the magazines except, for obvious reasons, in January. Ottobre only comes out twice a year, and Burda and Knipmode are both bonkers in the summer, so I prefer to give myself some flexibility.

I think this challenge is a great way to lighten up from the planned wardrobe mode I hope to be in the rest of the year. I'll try to draw from my fabric stash, but I'm open to buying fabric specifically for the challenge garments, my only limitation being that I need whatever I make fit in, in terms of colours and broad silhouettes, with the rest of my wardrobe. I'm far too practical to make things I'll never ever wear, like ball gowns or something. However, I do think that I want to pick out and make patterns that are more trendy, unusual or interesting to sew. Although I only managed to make a few things last year for my 2017 challenge, their outcomes ranged from spectacularly successful to total wadder, and I am strangely OK with that trend continuing.

With all these ideas and plans buzzing around, it was hard to decide where to start! However, first up, I'm going to be plugging another major gap in my outerwear wardrobe, using fabric I've had stashed for this exact purpose since 2012. I've also picked out my January Magazine Challenge item. :D

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Finishing up December

I had plans for three things in December, and I ended up crossing one thing off the list, changing the pattern for the second, and made the last one exactly as planned. Pretty typical for me and my advance plans! At least the thing I took off the list was for a happy reason. I thought I needed another knit tunic because I somehow misplaced one of my existing ones. I put it in my sewing room in order to do a small repair to it and then, poof, it vanished! I turned the room upside down looking for it to no avail and convinced myself I must have accidentally put it in my fabric recycling bag and lost it forever. However, it eventually turned up again (in a very obvious place, idk how I missed it when I was searching) and has now been repaired and put back in my wardrobe. So the knit tunic has been struck from the list for now as I have enough.

That left me with a cardigan and a tunic length woven top to make.

1. Cardigan: McCall's 6844 view C, in purple ponte knit

McCall's 6844 pattern envelope and the version I made, view C
I've owned this pattern since it came out in 2013, but I've been mired in indecision about making it ever since it arrived in the post. McCall's patterns are often divided up at exactly the wrong place for me and they don't always overlap the sizes the way some other brands do. This pattern was divided up between XS-M and L-XXL, and I, of course, would very much like to choose or blend between M and L. When I originally bought this, for some reason I decided that the Medium was the better starting point. Ever since then I've second guessed myself and thought I should have bought the envelope with Large in it, and this sapped any enthusiasm I had for actually making it.

My version, in purple ponte

This month, having made and discarded multiple different cardigan plans, I finally bit the bullet and cut out a straight size medium in the hopes I might get at least a wearable muslin out of it. I made no changes to the pattern except to omit the interfacing from the collar. My ponte knit was already quite firm and when I tested it I didn't like how the fabric felt with the interfacing attached.

Irrespective of my particular outcome, it was very evident from making this that it is a great, easy, and well-designed pattern. I mean, no kidding, right? That's why everyone and her mother has made it repeatedly since 2013 and there are eleventy billion positive reviews of it on PR. Still, it's worth saying again, I suppose: it went together really smoothly, I love the overall shape and the way the shawl collar looks. I normally don't wear the whole peplum/butt ruffle thing but I kind of love it on this cardigan.

However, this particular version, more or less straight off the pattern sheet, is not a great fit on me. Funnily enough, the thing I worried about (enough fabric at the bust) isn't an issue at all, even though a Medium is notionally far too small for me. Instead, the biggest problem is that the sleeves are quite narrow, so I don't have much room around my biceps. Since my ponte knit doesn't have a great deal of stretch it only just fits. A second fairly major problem is that the waist is too high -- at least 2cm above my actual waist. I'll fix these and also some smaller fit problems if I make the pattern again. I am not sure I need a second peplum version, but I like the idea of view A/B without a waist seam.

2. Woven tunic 1: New Look 6527 view A (mostly), in dotty black viscose

I made this top specifically to wear over the holiday period for dinner with family.

New Look 6527 views and technical drawings
I was actually, strangely, tempted to make view C or D, with the full bell sleeves, because the one other review of this pattern that is online used that sleeve and it looks great. Then I decided that the bell sleeve was too trendy and I wasn't going to wear it often enough before that went out of style. Also, I thought that I would probably only like the full sleeves right up until the moment I tried to fit the extra fabric down a cardigan sleeve or dipped the entire thing in gravy by mistake. So I went back to my original plan, which was view A, except without the front/back overlay because I didn't have enough fabric.

According to the New Look measurement chart, I am closest to a size 18 bust, size 16 hip. Based on recent experiences, I ended up cutting the neck and shoulder at size 14 and then the armscye, sleeve and rest of the bodice is an 18. I did some other typical adjustments as well for square shoulder and high round back. I wondered, when I first looked at the pattern, where that seam on the front bodice was supposed to fall. On me at least, it curves up well above the bust, and actually produces quite a nice shape. Not that you can see the seam, or any other detail, on a black top with a random dot print!
New Look 6527 in block dotty viscose. As you can see I used the hi-lo hem variant

Astonishingly, given that the size adjustment I made is more or less fudged rather than a classic FBA, this actually fits remarkably well. Most encouragingly, this is probably the best shoulder fit I've ever got from an envelope pattern. It's not quite perfect, and I might have been better off either cutting a 12 at the neckline or doing a small narrow shoulder adjustment as well. However this is a HUGE improvement on the inches of excess length falling down my bicep that I have ended up with in the past

As modelled by me
Other than that, I really REALLY love this pattern. The shape through the waist and hip is the perfect amount of flare for me, and this drapey, floaty viscose moves beautifully. I can definitely see myself making this pattern again. The only problem is finding a fabric that has a nice "wrong side" as it is very visible with the hi-lo hem at the back. The wrong side of this particular fabric is only very slightly different from the right side (don't ask me about the time I spent unpicking the front bodice....) so it was a very good choice for the top.
Details: terrible cuffs, but decent work on the neckline
The only negatives are problems with the sleeves, and they were all entirely created by me. First, I accidentally cut the sleeve pattern to a size 14 (like the neckline) instead of an 18. When I adjusted the sleeve so that it would actually fit my arm, I didn't do it the way I normally do, and as a result I lost the shape of the sleeve in the pattern (which is rather nice) and ended up with something much more rectangular and also, weirdly, a bit shorter than the original sleeve.

Then, when I was actually working on the sewing, I kept pushing to finish this top even though I was tired and starting to make mistakes. As a result, the cuffs are just awful. Awful, awful, awful. The gathering into the cuffs didn't stay even while I was sewing it, the actual cuffs themselves aren't at all well finished or well shaped, and overall they look crappy and hand-made in the bad way. Unfortunately, by the time all the little problems had started to mount up into a big mess, it was too late to fix anything because I'd trimmed off the seam allowances and understitched a lot of construction seams. Trying to make it better would probably have made it worse, once all the unpicking was done, and I didn't have enough fabric to recut even the cuffs let alone the sleeves.  So frustrating, because I actually do know better and there was absolutely no need to rush to finish!

I wore it as seen in the photos for a day, but the sleeves/cuffs are annoying -- the bad sewing doesn't bother me too much in wear but the shortened length of the sleeve is very irritating. I might cut them off to the short sleeve length as per view B in order to make the top less annoying to wear.

Nope! I could get this pattern on the fabric, but I couldn't match the print
My last plan was a always more of a maybe. I did try to make another woven top, using a vintage Vogue pattern. I did all my pattern alterations and everything, but in the end I was stymied by the fabric I'd picked for it. I could just about squeeze the pattern on the fabric but I couldn't match the print no matter how much pattern tetris I played. The most important was obviously the centre front seam match, which needed to match both horizontally and vertically, but if I got that to work then either the side seam or the sleeve/bodice match was going to be miles out. I think I may have to come back to this pattern with a plain or more randomly patterned fabric.

We're not quite at the end of December, but I think that I'm more or less done for this year. I'm going to use any remaining sewing time left over these last few days of 2017 to make a gift for a January birthday and also trace a pattern and make a muslin of the coat I'll be sewing early in the New Year. :D

Thursday, 21 December 2017

2017 In Review: Wardrobe Outcomes (inc. What I Made And How It Lasted)

My second post for this end of the year review is about what I made, how it worked out for me, and how my wardrobe overall has turned out this year. For the purposes of this post, I've put the bit I think most people are interested in (my sewing and various top 3s) at the start, and my long-winded wardrobe analysis at the end where it's most easily skipped by people who dislike that sort of thing.
  
Numbers: Patterns and pattern sources

I sewed 36 garments this year, plus 3 wadders that I discarded without finishing. Including the wadders, I used 29 different patterns, of which 18 were new to me and the remainder were repeats.

My patterns were split between:

Magazines: 15 patterns (8 Burda, 4 Ottobre, 2 Knipmode, 1 Other)
Big 4 Envelopes: 9 patterns (including 4 Burda envelopes)
Indies/PDFs: 4 patterns (including 2 StyleArc)
No pattern: 1 (gathered waist maxi skirt i.e. a giant rectangle with elastic at the top)

This is a very typical pattern source mix for me -- plenty of Burda, a sprinkling of Big 4 and Indies.

Of the three wadders that I discarded unfinished, two were down to poor fabric choice (a Burda knit top pattern that needed a much drapier knit and a Grainline Linden sweater in a fabric so horrible that I don't know why I ever cut into it), and one was due to not liking the shape or style of the pattern on my body (a Burda ponte knit jacket, about which more below).

I also finished two hand-knitted jumpers this year, one of which was flawed and the other a wadder. I do not have what you might call a stunning knitting success rate, and I have to admit my enthusiasm for knitting has waned considerably this year.

Challenges: Magazine and Wishlist Challenges 2017
Wishlist Challenge garments: indulgent silk PJs (Burda 01-2017-124), two layer knit stretch lace top (Diana Moden), border print maxi skirt (no pattern) and refashioning a top made in 2013 with this printed viscose fabric (Burda 05-2015-124)
This year my only specific goals for my actual sewing were that I planned to do two challenges: a Magazine challenge, using one pattern a month from any 2017 magazine issue; and a Wishlist challenge, making one thing each month off my long-established wishlist of things I really wanted to sew, many of which are more challenging/complex.


Magazine Challenge items (Burda 01-2017-119 Draped front knit top, Burda 03-2017-126A striped top, Knipmode 07-2017-11 (Men’s) Tee (as pyjamas) and Knipmode 01-2017-13 purple tunic)

Sadly, the whole challenge idea was kind of a damp squib this year, mainly because I was so ill for so much of the year. Even when I could sew, I often wasn't up for sewing anything challenging, or really even for the effort of doing a lot of pattern tracing from magazines. That said, I did manage to use four patterns from 2017 magazine issues successfully, (plus one wadder); and I made four things that were on my wishlist. As you'll see below, several of the things I chose to make for the Magazine challenges were my favourite things I made all year, so in that sense, I regard that as a success. I don't think the Wishlist Challenge worked overall at all, and I shan't bother to do it again. That said, one thing I do love is my silk/cotton "indulgent" pyjamas, so they were definitely a worthwhile thing to make that I might not have done without the Wishlist Challenge to inspire me.

What I Made

You can see everything I made in 2017 on my Completed Projects: 2017 page. The only things missing are the handful of projects that I am still working on this month or haven't taken photos of yet -- they're in my numbers, just not on my blog yet!

Overall, as has probably been made abundantly clear already, this was a really difficult year for me health-wise and the things I sewed reflect that. In fact, if you look at my sewing chronologically this year, you can pretty much chart how ill I was at any given time. In the short periods where I felt genuinely well, I actually made some interesting, challenging things. The rest of the time I either didn't sew at all, or I made easy knit items, mostly using patterns I've made several times before, and of course my perpetual I-want-to-sew-but-I-feel-grotty standby: pyjamas. I made a LOT of pyjamas this year. My pyjama drawer is over-flowing.

Anyway, some things worth highlighting (or lowlighting, I guess, in some cases):

OVERALL TOP THREE:

Top 3: Burda 6461 Jacket (left), Burda 03-2017-126A (top right), Burda 01-2017-119 (bottom right)
These are the three things that I think are just overall the best things I made this year: best fabrics, best sewing, best pattern choices. There should be no surprises here at all that my number 1, best thing I made this year is the boiled wool jacket I finished this month. Nothing about wearing it over the last couple of weeks has changed my mind about it: I love it, it fits really well and it looks great on. Overall: A+, still patting myself on the back so hard I'm going to sprain my wrist.

My other two favourite projects this year are two tops, both of which I made as part of the Magazine Challenge in January (the draped knit top on the bottom right) and February (striped top on the top right) respectively.  The striped one in particular, made with Burda 03-2017-126A, is a real eye-catcher of a top. I get so many compliments on it when I wear it, and it's really different and interesting without necessarily being trendy, so I think it will have decent longevity. Definitely worth the extreme amount of time it took me to cut it out to get all my stripes perfect! The knit top, Burda 01-2017-119, is less spectacular, but it's got such a great drape to it, and I used really nice fabric, so it's also a big favourite.

FLAWED FAVOURITES

Knipmode 01-2017-13 tunic (left); Tapestry Tote (upper right); Lichen jumper (bottom right)
These three are the things I love, but that definitely have flaws. The Knipmode tunic is a favourite that I've worn a LOT since I made it in November, but the zip insertion/neckline is definitely not my best work. Or even remotely LIKE my best work, if I'm honest. It doesn't really affect how much I wear and love it though. I really like the tapestry/faux suede overnight bag that I made (upper right), but I wish I had done a better job with putting the leather handles on. As for the Lichen jumper, I was originally more than a bit dubious about it, but I came to love it, and again I get a lot of compliments on it. The major flaw is that it's made of a linen blend yarn that grows so badly in wear that it starts off around hip length and ends up a mini dress by the end of the day.

MISSES 

Il Grande Favorito jumper (left); Burda jacket 08-2016-134 (top right); Burda top 05-2015-125 (bottom right)
My three misses have one thing in comment: they all took a lot of time or effort or both and the outcome was subpar. The jumper on the left, knitted with the Il Grande Favorito pattern, is the most obvious example of time/effort not equaling the reward! I finished it in January and by that time it had taken approximately forever to knit it, and it was actually... not great, but it was OK. And then I washed it and it shrank about 4 sizes and was a total disaster, and I didn't even wear it once.

The wadder jacket, Burda 08-2016-134, on the upper right,  I spent a long time sewing it as far as I got, and I am still really proud of how well the cut-on top-stitched collar came out, but it fit very poorly and I hated the shape of it, so I discarded it unfinished. I am very sad for the loss of that fabric still!

And finally, that Burda 05-2015-125 viscose top on the bottom left was something I thought about for a really long time. I ended up wrecking the first attempt at making something with this remnant, and then although I was positive about it in my post on the topic, making this and seeing the result is what really put me off making any more wovens until I could start to address my neckline/shoulder fitting problems. It is the only one of the three that actually made it into my wardrobe and I have worn it a couple of times, but eh, I don't think it's going to get a huge amount of wear.

While I was writing this post I kept going back to my page of the things I made this year and thinking: but these other things were all also really great! But they're really boring! But they're also really great, and I wore them SO MUCH, how can they not be in a top 3? But they're really too boring to be in a top 3! And so on. So, I guess I want to say that even though very little of my other sewing this year was in any way remarkable, it mostly worked out really well! I made things, including all those many many pairs of PJs, and multiple StyleArc Estelle cardigans, and various simple t-shirt-y type things, that I've worn a lot and that I really like enormously. My sewing output overall was really not at all exciting, but I still feel like it was a really successful sewing year.

Wardrobe analysis

Acquisitions

This year, I acquired a lot of clothes (104 garments) and discarded fewer (66 garments in total), so my wardrobe grew overall after a couple of years of decreases in size. That was a big year for me, in terms of new acquisitions -- essentially two new things a week! In previous years I've acquired more like 60-70 items. However, although substantial, this increase was also largely intentional as I deliberately expanded my wardrobe in particular areas. I didn't entirely get this increase right, inasmuch as there were things I bought/made that I ended up wearing less than I expected, but that's fine: none of the extras are things that I don't want to wear, they just didn't get their turn as often as other garments this year.

Of the acquisitions, as I've described, only about one third (36 garments) were hand-made rather than RTW. This explains why, as I said in my previous review post, more of my money went into my RTW clothing/shoes/etc budget than into my sewing budget over the course of the year. The relatively high proportion of RTW isn't entirely what I want for my wardrobe, but:

1. I was sick for long stretches of the year and so some sewing plans got set aside in favour of the ease of buying RTW.

2. I needed to replace/add quite a lot of things in categories of garments that I don't currently make anyway, like jeans and other trousers, certain types of t-shirts/knits, knitwear and active/gym wear.


Living With My Wardrobe

One thing that I don't think comes over at all well in this blog is how hard I've been trying to actually build a wardrobe rather than just making/buying random clothes -- that is, a set of clothes that mix and match and work together easily. This is because (a) you only see the new things I sew, in a rather piece-meal way; (b) you obviously don't see my RTW wardrobe; and (c) I am not the kind of person who "styles" their photos of the things they've made and shows how some new thing I've made goes with one or more existing garment in outfits. So I guess it probably looks like I just make a scattershot mess of things.

I'm going to be doing things a bit differently next year so hopefully that impression will fade. However, in the meantime what I know, because I record it and can check, is that this year I did have a pretty successful mix and match wardrobe! I definitely have favourite ways to wear some garments, but I don't own anything that can only be worn one way, which was a problem I used to have a lot.

Another thing that is totally in the past now is opening my wardrobe and feeling like I hate everything and don't have anything to wear. In fact, I think this actually might be the first time in my life where I've stood in front of my wardrobe in a morning and thought "I want to wear this! Or, no, maybe this? Or this!" and had to choose between many favourites. I had plenty of choice of things that I liked in pretty much every circumstance I encountered in my (admittedly rather circumscribed) life in 2017, which is definitely more than I can say about many previous years. Of course, I could have achieved this without sewing, I am sure, but sewing has been the impetus for all my work on my wardrobe, so I'm grateful for that. I do feel like my ideas about what I want to wear and the wardrobe I want to own is really starting to coalesce, and I'm going to post something early in the New Year that explains what I want to do next on this front.


Discards and 30 Wears

I think that looking at discards as well as what I actually wear is also really revealing about how things are working out in my wardrobe. On a simple examination, a big pleasing change was that of the 66 things I discarded this year, about two thirds (45 of 66) I threw away because I judged them to be worn out -- that is, that they looked worn and in poor condition. This seems like a big improvement on previous years, where I shed a lot of things that I just never wore, that didn't fit, and so on. Nothing tells me my sewing/purchasing/wardrobe planning is working out well for me better than loving my clothes to death.

One concern I have though is how much wear I get from the things I make and buy. That is, it sounds good to say that I've worn my clothes to the point where they aren't wearable, but not so much if that turns out to mean that I wore something 5 times and then it disintegrated in the wash. This ties in neatly something I first read about at the beginning of this year: the 30 Wears Challenge, originally proposed as a kind of shortcut to more sustainable buying practices by Livia Firth. The upshot of the "challenge" is that you should aim to acquire only things that you think you can wear at least 30 times. This has an impact on your choices in terms of both the versatility and longevity/quality of garments: not only should you be asking if yourself "do I really see myself wearing this 30 times?" but also "will this last through 30 wears?". The figure of 30 is of course just an arbitrary number, not an iron-clad rule, but it's an interesting benchmark that I wanted to investigate.

As I've been collecting data on what I wear every day since 2015, I've increasingly got quite a lot of complete information about the garments I own. By this I mean that I actually know exactly how many times I have worn most of my active wardrobe and a good percentage of the things I discarded. There is zero guess work involved.

Of my 66 discards in 2017, therefore, I know that 31 of them in total have been worn 30 or more times each, some of them substantially more. All of those garments were discarded because they were no longer in wearable condition. That seems like a relatively encouraging percentage (47%) of the total to start with.

The next group of 19 discards are those I know for sure were worn more than 10 but less than 30 times each. They are noticeably mostly knits (14 of 19), both RTW and hand-made. Most of them (12 of 19) were discarded because the fabric had deteriorated badly after their 10-29 wears and I judged them no longer wearable. The rest either acquired marks or stains or were damaged in some way that I couldn't fix or didn't think was worth fixing. I tend to think there are always going to be things in my discard pile that for one reason or another get worn a moderate amount but don't reach the 30 wears mark. However, from this alone, it seems like improving the quality of some of the knit garments and fabrics I purchase would be an obvious way to increase the overall longevity of my wardrobe.

The last group of 16 are the most troublesome. They are garments that I wore less than 10 times in total. Most of these (13 of 16) fall into a category probably best described as "never should have been in my wardrobe to start with": RTW clothes I should have returned rather than keeping, "walking wadders" that I knew from the outset I wasn't really going to be willing to wear after I made them for one reason or another. The remaining 3 were all laundry disasters -- one got put in the wrong load of laundry and came out the other end a weird colour, and the other two shrank. Again, it's likely that there are always going to be a few mistakes and laundry disasters, but I think there could be definitely be fewer "never should have been there" outcomes with a bit of effort.

This prompted me to look bit harder at the wear statistics of my active wardrobe, this year's discards and previous years' discards. As a result, I also reached these two more detailed conclusions (I'll spare you the underlying numerical analysis though!):

1. As this year's discards seemed to suggest, the quality of my knit fabric and knit garment purchases is a problem. One conclusion I've reached, quite sadly, is that buying good quality basic t-shirts when I can get them at sale prices is a better use of my money than sewing my own. This is really quite frustrating: the cost to me is about the same but the RTW t-shirts last a great deal longer and definitely look better over their lifetime. I've managed to find some RTW tees that are about 90% as well-fitting as the t-shirts I sew myself, and so long as the length isn't the 10% mis-fit (I hate too-short t-shirts!) I can live with that level of difference. However, although I am willing to concede on the basic tee side of things, since they're unexciting to sew anyway, I really do want to make other kinds of knit tops. I therefore either need to source better quality knit fabrics or else learn to live with short lifespans in my knit garments. Something to investigate further in 2018, I think!

Alas, this woven top from 2016 did not last. It looks pretty good in these photos, but the collar shredded in the wash.

2. Woven tops are a real problem, longevity wise. This wasn't too obvious in a single year of discards, but when I looked across the last several years, it really stands out. I am very intolerant of fit problems with woven tops, so they form a disproportionately large number of those "walking wadder/never should have made it into my wardrobe" outcomes. I also have more laundry problems with woven tops, which is actually easier to solve if annoying: basically, if I want my woven tops to have decent longevity, I need to stop tumble-drying them. Too many of the things I've both bought and made have shrunk in the dryer and become unwearable (even though, yes, I do pre-shrink all my fabric. Apparently just not enough!). Of woven tops that make it into the 10-29 wears group, I have more failures due to poor construction than in any other category, like the black and white viscose top in the photo above, which suddenly shredded all along the top collar seam during the 12th wash. Fabric choice is also again potentially problematic. Some of the viscose prints I've used, including that same black shirt, lost the surface texture and colour very quickly and looked in poor condition as a result after relatively few washes. It's again a case of find better fabric or live with short life spans.

My two hardest wearing/longest lasting hand-made woven tops: a chambray top I made in 2014 and a 100% cotton gingham shirt I made in 2015, both of which are still in my wardrobe
Very few of the woven tops I've either made or bought in the last few years have achieved anything like 30 wears. There are a few exceptions, including the chambray shirt that I made back in 2014 (above left), which I have worn 40+ times so far and which is still in my wardrobe. There are definitely common features between all the higher wear woven tops in my wardrobe: they are all made in high quality cotton fabric; I took extra care to get a good fit; and for those I made myself I spent extra time making sure they were sewn well with good seam finishes. So, that's a pretty clear set of guidance for how to improve that part of my wardrobe, especially when I have so many woven tops in my wish list for 2018.

In conclusion: these kind of arbitrary wardrobe rules (30 Wears, Project 333, whatever) are always a bit suspect to me. However, I do think there's some validity to the 30 Wears idea. Of course, I'm not going to stop wearing something because it's hit 30 wears if it still has plenty of life in it -- and for sure I expect some things, like coats or hard-wearing garments like jeans, to last considerably more than 30 wears. On the other hand, I'm also not going to keep wearing things that are falling apart or that are uncomfortable for some reason because I've not managed to wear it 30 times yet. However, I think it's a nice benchmark to look at and I feel like examining my discards against it actually gave me quite a lot of information and ideas about where I could improve my sewing and wardrobe plans in the future.
 
My next post in this series, which I will publish on 1 January, is about my plans for 2018, and I'm going to try to fold a lot of the things I've talked about here, and that I've learned from my discard pile, into how I plan to approach what I sew next year and how I sew it.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

2017 in Review: How I Spent My Money

For the last couple of years I've written three posts at the end of the calendar year/start of the new year: one about money, one about the sewing I did and the state of my wardrobe, and one about what I want to do in the year ahead.

This is my first post about 2017, and is therefore about how I spent my sewing budget this year.  As my fabric buying habits and stash situation are interlinked, I've combined the two topics in this post. Here are my previous posts on the subject: 2014; 2015; 2016.

My goals in these areas for 2017 were:

1 (a) Stick to my 2017 budget;
   (b) Keep my envelope/PDF pattern spending at the same level as 2016.

2 (a) Reduce my stash to under 200m & keep it below 200m for the rest of the year
   (b) Use 2/3rds of my 2017 purchases during 2017
   (c) Use some of my older "favourite" fabrics

As it turned out, I actually ended up reducing my annual budget in September by 16% and I hit my revised, lower target dead on. (Well, I was £1.62 over. Close enough!). I transferred the extra money over to my RTW clothes/shoes/etc budget, so it's not like this was a "saving" -- more of a re-allocation of resources between RTW and hand-made this year.

Here is the breakdown of my spending:

(i) Major purchases: OK, so this is a bit of a cheat in a way. My "major purchases" don't appear on my spending pie chart or, indeed, in my budget generally because both of them were made with unexpected, non-budgeted "windfall" money, which in this case basically means some gifts people gave me this year. In general, my philosophy is that it is more satisfying to buy one or more specific things with windfalls, than to just put the money into my regular accounts. I always feel like if I do the latter, it will just get nibbled away to nothing by little purchases and I'll have nothing in particular to show for it when it's gone. Thus, big sewing purchases were the order of the day.
My two major purchases of 2017
I am extremely pleased with both of my two major purchases this year! I replaced my overlocker with an ex-display Janome model in July, and I bought a steam press at the beginning of December. It's a bit soon to have a proper feel for how the steam press has worked out, to be honest, though my early impressions are very positive. After 6 months of ownership, though, I can say that despite some teething troubles, I really love my new overlocker. It is a big improvement over my old one (bought second hand in 2012), which was very noisy and the tension disks didn't seem to work correctly. I can't imagine I'll upgrade again in the foreseeable future unless I win the lottery and can afford a self-threading Babylock. :D

At one point this year, I also did investigate replacing Flossie, the tailor's dummy I use that was originally purchased (and named) by my mum in the 1960s.  I use my dummy pretty much every time I sew, but I don't really use it for fitting at all. Mainly I use it when need to pin on a body shaped surface and as a place to hang things I am working on without risking them stretching out weirdly. I did think about whether I wanted to buy a dummy I could use for fitting, but the only ones that seemed to offer the ability to modify for particular figure issues I am most concerned about fitting -- low bust, shoulder height and width, etc -- are wildly expensive. Nothing in my price range really offers any advantage over continuing to use Flossie, and of course Flossie also has sentimental value. For now I have shelved that whole idea.

On the regular spending front:

Graph of my spending this year

(ii) Fabric (30%): As usual, the largest category of regular spending for me was fabric, at just about a third of my total spend. This year I bought 63.2m of fabric, which is just under half of what I bought last year. To be honest, though, my fabric buying in 2016 was completely out of control so pretty much anything was going to look good by comparison. However, 63m is also my second lowest purchase amount in a year since I started sewing, so I feel pleased with my relative restraint!

In the out-going column, I used 81.85m of fabric, 18.65m more than I bought. The good news is therefore that, admittedly right at the very end of the year, I did finally manage to just about squeak below the 200m-in-stash mark (as of today, my stash is 199.15m!). There isn't really any "rest of the year" for me to say I stayed under the 200m mark for, as long as I keep away from any fabric shops until the 1st! :D

I did a much less good job of using ~2/3rds of the fabric I bought in 2017. My figures were more like 40% used and 60% stashed. However, when I looked more closely at what was still in stash at the end of 2017 that I had bought during course of the year, I realized three things:

1. The numbers are heavily skewed by a few very large pieces of fabric. For example, in the spring I bought two pieces of African Wax/ankara fabric, which are sold in 5.5m packages. Both of these were purchased for immediate use in summer garments. However, those plans were scuppered by how very ill I was for most of the late spring and summer. So that's 11m of fabric -- 17% of my total purchases -- right there that I fully intended to use but couldn't.

2. I did a much better job in the second half of the year of not buying to stash than in the first half. If I can continue the trend of the last six months into 2018 I will be pleased with myself.

3. There aren't any "OK..... but why did I buy this?" fabrics left over from 2017. There are things that didn't get used, but all of them are good quality fabrics that I can definitely see myself using in the near future. So at least my excess fabric from 2017 isn't regrettable fabric!

This year I also intended to make a special effort to use some of the things I was keeping in stash because they were "too good to use". At the very beginning of the year I actually did do this a little, and I made silk/cotton blend PJs and used a favourite fabric for a maxi skirt. Somehow though, over the course of the year this plan morphed into finding uses for older fabrics I hadn't previously come up with a use for. Most of those fabrics dated back to when I first started sewing garments in 2012. I bought a LOT of fabric that year, and not all of those purchases were very sensible. This year, several of those fabrics ended up as PJs (because I don't really have any strong colour preferences in my pyjama wardrobe) and I used other pieces as muslin. Overall, about 30% of the fabric I used this year was from the oldest archaeological layers of my stash (mainly 2012 and early 2013). This was not quite what I intended at the start of the year, but I still think it's a positive outcome from a stash management point of view.

(iii) Pattern Magazines (21%):

My three subscriptions: Burda, Knipmode and Ottobre
My second largest expense category is pattern magazines. This year, there were no special issues released that I wanted and I didn't buy any back issues or other magazines, so my spending was restricted to just my regular subscriptions. I have three annual magazine subscriptions: Ottobre, Knipmode and Burda.

Overall, I'm convinced that annual Burda and Ottobre subscriptions are very much worth the money. Despite Burda's wackier months, and the fact that Burda reflects the catwalk and fast fashion very accurately and I genuinely dislike many current trends (we cannot move on from jumpsuits and off-the-shoulder looks soon enough for me) I still always find several things to like in Burda every month as it arrives. I also regularly come back to issues of Burda and especially Ottobre to use a pattern I totally overlooked the first time through. I therefore plan to renew my Ottobre subscription in January, and I have already renewed my Burda subscription for 12 months starting with 01/2018.

Knipmode is where my question marks are. I renewed in July for another year, but between the exchange rate and the postage costs, the magazines are quite expensive per issue. I don't necessarily feel like I am making the most of the subscription, and I am not really sure why that is. In part, I do still feel dubious about the fit/sizing choices, but that's a product of not having made up many of the patterns and I am sure I would get over it if I made more. The patterns I HAVE made were easy to trace, went together easily, and turned out pretty well. There is the problem of the Dutch instructions, which adds an extra step and complexity as I have to translate it. That said, Google translate isn't perfect but it gets you most of the way there and I am experienced enough now not to need hand-holding for every little thing, so this is really just laziness. I do feel that there just aren't as many attention getting patterns as in, say, Burda. In Burda there's always something I like from first glance. Knipmode doesn't always grab me the same way. I'm going to continue to think about this -- and maybe try to make up some more Knipmode patterns -- in the first half of 2018 before I decide whether to renew this summer.

(iv) Envelope and PDF patterns (13%)

I set myself a specific, limited pattern budget because, to be honest, I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to patterns. I absolutely want the shiny new thing all the time, and I only have to see someone's post about their latest garment to want to buy the pattern for myself. My pattern spending, like my fabric spending, has therefore gotten a bit out of control at various points, and this is how I have re-imposed some discipline.

A few of the envelope patterns I bought this year
The main limitations I put on purchasing patterns, other than overall budget are: that I need any new patterns to add something new and above all useful to my pattern collection; and that I purchase only in the (relatively infrequent) sales or otherwise at reduced cost. I've also done a series of culls of my patterns, making sure I only keep envelope patterns that I can genuinely imagine myself using (or re-using, in some cases).

A few of the PDF patterns I bought this year
This year I added 16 envelope patterns to my collection. I sold or otherwise disposed of 7 envelope patterns, for a total increase of 9 patterns. I also acquired 11 new PDF patterns, more than half of them from StyleArc. Money-wise, I went just a little bit over budget, though this was off-set by selling some of the envelope patterns that I no longer wanted.

One thing I've really noticed though is that even though I feel like I'm being careful about what I buy, and try to only buy things I think are really nice, suit my lifestyle, and would be useful, my pattern utilization is woefully low. I have SO MANY unused patterns, and every time I go through my pattern collection I think how great many of them are and how much I want to make them. So, I have been mulling over my 2018 pattern buying/using goals with this in mind. 

(v) Notions (16%), Knitting (4%), Books (5%), Other (11%)

The remaining categories are pretty stable year to year. This year, there's a lot more than usual in "Other" because I also bought a few cross-stitch kits and that is where I ended up recording those costs. Since I have thoroughly enjoyed my cross-stitch activities, I am not at all concerned about this increase. I will break cross-stitch and embroidery supplies out as a separate category next year.
Some of the cross-stitch kits I bought and used this year
Other than that, there's rather a lot in the notions category because I ran out of some things that I bulk buy this year. My notions spending tends to be quite lumpy -- just a few pounds some months because I'll only buy a bag of buttons, and then like, £60 the next because I bought a whole bolt of interfacing. Overall, however, I've no concerns about these minor categories.

In conclusion:

Major purchases aside, my spending was pretty restrained this year. This is especially pleasing to me because (a) my 2016 spending was the absolute opposite of restrained; and (b) all the factors that usually lead to me over-spending were present by the bucket load and I didn't give in to the temptation.

In particular, although there are ways in which my health has improved significantly over the last twelve months, I've spent long stretches of 2017 feeling violently unwell and unable to do very much. In previous years, I've definitely been sucked into online shopping as a way to cope with being bored and miserable. This year, I tried really hard not to do that, especially in the second half of the year, and this effort paid off to a large extent. It's hard to measure things you didn't do, but I definitely know there were several occasions when I closed tabs and emptied shopping carts and even physically walked away from my laptop because I decided I was buying things to try to make myself feel better rather than because I really needed them.

My next post, on what I sewed and the state of my wardrobe, will follow in a few days :D

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Operation: Outerwear II, The Blue Wool Jacket (Burda 6461) (Part II)

THIS JACKET IS FINISHED


I HAVE FINISHED MY JACKET, and I absolutely, one hundred percent LOVE it. I am so pleased with how it turned out that I can't even quite believe that I made it myself. :D



The pattern I am using: Burda 6461, view B



At the end of my last post on this subject, I was at the point where I had done a bunch of fitting work with my not-very-interesting pattern (Burda 6461, view B) and was ready to cut into my fabric.

Between a lack of daylight at this time of year and really terrible, wet, and gloomy weather, I was forced to take all my photos indoors and without much natural light. I've had to over-expose a lot of the photos that follow in order to actually show the fit etc, but I did manage to get one this one that more or less accurately shows the colour of the fabric, which as you can see is navy with a lighter blue fleck:

This is the best shot I managed that shows the actual colour of the fabric
I had concerns about fitting even this simple pattern onto my piece of fabric, but in the end I had just enough, though I had nothing but strips and bits left over. Luckily, it was a fairly substantial boiled wool (a.k.a. loden), which meant no fraying edges and therefore no extra seam allowance required. It was an absolute dream to sew and it pressed beautifully as well. The only downside is that I'm concerned that the fabric might pill or bobble in wear, but I guess I'll just give it a periodic shave if it does. I'd definitely sew with boiled wool again based on this experience.

Front view, buttoned up, on Flossie, over-exposed to show the details
I interfaced the whole centre front piece, the hem and sleeve hem, armholes and back neck and the back facing using my new steam press. I used a lightweight tricot/knit fusible interfacing because the wool had so much give and movement, and this seemed to work OK although I don't think the glue adhered very well to the textured wool surface.

Rear view, also over-exposed.
After all the prep work, the actual construction of this jacket was all really straightforward except for the collar. When I was making the muslins, I did at one point attach a mock up of the collar to one of them just to get an idea of what kind of size and shape it was. However, I didn't make the whole collar or even, to be honest, read the instructions for how to put it together and attach it. When I got to that point in constructing the actual jacket, I was all O.o at the instructions. It was seriously the ODDEST way to attach a collar I've ever seen. I have to admit that the description of what to do baffled me initially to such an extent that I actually put it aside and spent some time making my sleeves in order to mull over what it was that the instructions wanted me to do.

Side view, over-exposed

The front facings of this jacket are part of the center front pattern piece, and they extend back to the shoulder seam. Once you have your front and back bodice constructed, first you attach the back facing to the two front facing shoulder seams to make a big loop. Then you sew the under-collar to the back of the jacket, and the upper collar to the facings, then re-arrange the facings and collar so that you have right sides facing, and then you sew the collar construction seams together. When you turn the collar, you therefore flip the whole facing part of the jacket into position.

Good things: collar seams rolled to the under-collar; Bad things: disappointingly non-pointy collar points.
However weird the instructions were it did work out perfectly in the end! I was pleased that Burda supplied separate pattern pieces for the upper and under collar, which made rolling the seams under for a nice collar finish much easier. My only problem with the collar in the end was that I spent ages trying to get my collar and the neck edge nicely pointy, but though I trimmed and pressed and poked to the best of my ability, this fabric is just too bulky to form a perfect point. In the end I decided I had achieved "good enough" and moved on.

One thing new to me in this jacket is that I used a piece of pre-made sleeve head to add some definition to the upper curve of the sleeve attachment seam. I am definitely a convert to this for future jacket and coats, as it really improves the look and shape of the sleeve cap and it's (a) a very cheap product, and (b) a very quick and easy process (I used the instructions on how to attach it that I found in the Singer "Tailoring" book). You definitely get a good return for taking just a few minutes to do this extra step in the construction process.

Lining and front facings
I lined this jacket in a blue and black polyester satin animal print-ish fabric, which I bought on Goldhawk Road in 2013. Burda's instructions for lining things always involve a metric tonne of hand-stitching, which I am basically never willing to do. Instead I bagged the lining using the instructions in a book called "Easy Guide to Sewing Linings" by Connie Long (which is an invaluable little guide to all things lining, I can't recommend it enough). That said, as usual I got to the point where I was trying to turn an entire bulky jacket through one sleeve and asked myself how I possibly thought this was easier than a metric tonne of hand stitching. Overall the lining process was mostly straightforward, although for some reason I struggled again with the sleeve caps despite removing about a mile of ease.

Buttonhole
My final job was the installing the buttonholes and buttons, or as I like to call it, How To Ruin Two Weeks Work In Under a Minute. The pattern calls for 4 buttons, but I decided on 5 for one good reason (it enabled me to put the buttons at well-spaced intervals round my bust point) and one bad reason (my buttons came in a pack of 5). As always, my machine was a total diva about the buttonhole process. Either everything is situated EXACTLY PERFECTLY and the buttonhole sensor works fine, or else it is a catastrophe. I put in 5 buttonholes and 4 came out perfectly and one was a catastrophe, which is about par for the course. Luckily, the problematic buttonhole isn't in the least bit obvious, to the point where I doubt anyone who isn't me will ever notice at all.

Wearing the jacket: open.
I'm really pleased with the fit. To recap, I started with a size 44 and then made the following fitting changes: lowered the bust point, narrowed the shoulders, added length in the upper back with a high round back adjustment, raised the armholes, and removed (a HUGE amount of) ease and height from the sleeve cap. I make a square shoulder adjustment in most patterns, but I achieved the same effect in this pattern by sewing it as designed but omitting the shoulder pad.

So I should also have a photo of me wearing the jacket buttoned up to show the fit except, uh, this is what I took:

This is a very helpful photo.

So you will have to make do with a naff Instagram mirror selfie for a buttoned-up view:

Instagram front view

I think all my fitting changes worked out well except I was maybe a little over-enthusiastic with my high round back adjustment. There seems to be just a little excess fabric just below the collar when I'm wearing it. Next time I do this adjustment I'll scale back the size of my change a little.

The most important thing for me however is that I feel like I can move around really well, including the crucial "reach forward to hold the steering wheel" test. I am going to start raising the armhole on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g in the light of discovering what a difference that adjustment makes to ease of motion. I am also delighted by the fit at the bust and shoulder, which is a significant improvement on, well, pretty much every coat I've ever owned.

Side-view

Rear view, hugely over-exposed to show the fit

In conclusion: Quite a lot of the time I feel something of a failure on the sewing front. I make a lot of easy stuff and I am quite competent at doing so. However, when I try to make anything remotely more complex or try to get something to actually fit well I don't seem to do so well. Now, to be fair, this is not a particularly complicated pattern either BUT the end result fits really well and it is legitimately well-sewn, and that's an enormous confidence boost. I feel really encouraged about working some more on fitting, in particular, because I definitely see that I improved the fit quite significantly with the changes I made between Muslin #1 and the Finished Jacket.

Overall, I'm not sure I can actually express how thrilled I am with this jacket! It's definitely going to be the best thing I've made this year; it's probably in the top three things I've EVER made! And I finished it just in time to wear this weekend, when the UK is about to turn quite a lot colder than usual! :D

Next up: after this more complicated project, I'm going to go with something fast and easy. I've prepped the pattern pieces for a McCall's 6844, a.k.a. That Cardigan Pattern That Everyone Else Has Made A Million Times Already, which should be a snap to cut and sew. This is a slight change to my plans -- originally I was going to sew an Ottobre cardigan in purple ponte, but I've gone for a McCall's pattern in blue and white scuba for ... reasons, I am sure. :D

Saturday, 2 December 2017

November Round-Up

November was a MUCH better month for me, sewing-wise. I actually made some things! Things that weren't the most basic sewing imaginable and used new and different patterns! \o/

This month I made: three knit tunics (see here and here) and made a substantial start on a jacket using Burda 6461. Since that last post, I've actually made even more progress on the latter, though rather less than I'd hoped because the first few days of this week I felt a bit grim. As a result I was only able to cut out my jacket in very short bursts. I did finally get it mostly done by Thursday except for the pieces I wanted to block fuse.

On the subject of which: this week I was also waiting to be able to go collect a very useful new toy: a steam press! I've wanted a steam press for AGES -- ever since I started sewing, really, as I started out making bags, which use a TON of interfacing. I rapidly came to despise the process of applying fusible interfacing using a hand-iron and by all accounts these machines get it done much faster and more evenly. However, up to now it's always been one of those "nice to have, totally not necessary" items that I could never quite see my way to buying. However, it was my birthday recently and I was given some money, and there was a serendipitous, extremely well-priced second-hand listing for this Singer ESP 2 on eBay that I could easily collect. Obviously it was Meant To Be!

A Singer ESP 2 steam press, a birthday present to myself :D
Initial impressions from fusing my jacket pieces this week are very positive. I block fused a section of the fabric for all the smaller pieces (collar, collar stands, etc) and a second large piece for the centre front pattern pieces and then cut them out, and that process was overall extremely successful. I also fused strips at the hems of all the pieces and around the armholes, for which results were more mixed for some reason. I think maybe I didn't fuse some of them for long enough.

(I also ordered some expensive dressmaking scissors with what remained of my birthday money, but they are taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R to arrive.  Maybe next week!)

Jacket so far! The collar hasn't been pressed at all yet, it won't stay so puffy and sad!
At any rate, I got through the whole preparation stage and I actually started sewing my jacket today and made really good progress! The bodice went together super fast, I put the sleeves together though I haven't attached them yet, and I did the WACKIEST COLLAR ATTACHMENT EVER (which I will no doubt talk about at GREAT LENGTH when I write up my finished jacket because: wacky as hell). I still need to finish off the collar, attach the sleeves and the patch pockets and do the hemming before I embark on the lining. I am never excited by Burda's lining instructions as they are heavy on the hand-stitching. I may have to give that process a bit more thought before I actually get started. Also, I just remembered I haven't replicated my adjustments through the separate lining pieces, so um, I guess I'll be doing that as well. Even with all that to do, however, I am hoping to be done by the end of the week.

Other than tunics and my jacket, this month I also did a bunch of random little sewing tasks for other people (hemming stuff, making lightweight drawstring laundry bags for travel) and I did an absolute PILE of cross-stitching:
Christmas cross-stitch stuff using Vervaco card kits
Each row above is a different Vervaco cross-stitch kit, each of which makes three cards, though I plan to use them as decorations rather than sending them to anyone. Of the three kits, I like the cats best as finished pieces, not least because that is authentic cat behaviour right there: if you have a cat and a Christmas tree, you will have a cat IN your Christmas tree. I also really like the Christmas Elves in the middle, but they weren't very interesting to stitch. There are big blocks of colour that you later add embellishment to in order to give it that Nordic/Fair Isle sweater look. The embellishment was fun, cross-stitching the big blocks of colour not so much.

I now have another, larger, single-piece cross-stitch underway which is another Christmas themed thing, and obviously therefore I hope to get that done over the course of the month.

Other than finishing off the jacket and my cross-stitch, my plans for December are:

December plans: New Look 6527, Ottobre 02-2017-08, Ottobre 02-2013-12
- A woven tunic using New Look 6527, maybe view A (the red version) exactly if I can squeeze it out of my fabric, but if not then I'll leave off the overlay on the bottom part, in a spotty black viscose.
- The last knit tunic to wear with leggings that I had planned to make in November and ended up putting off because I had pattern doubts. I have picked out a new pattern, Ottobre 02-2017-08, that I think will work a lot better with the fabric, which is a bright blue mid-weight knit.
- A purple ponte knit cardigan using Ottobre 02-2013-12.

Vintage Vogue woven top; Burda 11-2015-116 modelled image and technical drawing.
And then the "maybe"/"might start but not finish this month" list is: if I have time at the end of the month, I'd like to make a top using a vintage Vogue pattern I've had in stash for a while now in a blue/navy ikat patterned stretch woven. Then, in January, I want to at least muslin Burda 11-2015-116, which means I probably want to buckle down to that tracing job in December even if I don't get anywhere near starting it. I honestly can't decide if this coat with the GIGANTIC lapels will suit me or not, but I'm obsessed with the idea of it! And I also have one piece of gift sewing to do in early January for a birthday and I want to get the prep done for that if not the entire gift is possible.