Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Pink & summery: New Look 6936

Hello hello! Well we're all back to school and everyone's talking about their next season's sewing plans - but I've got a backlog of stuff to show you, so it's summer at Jo Sews for a little while yet. I do have thoughts on autumn, but you'll have to wait! For now, and without further ado, here's New Look 6936...

Now I'll talk about the making of this in a minute. But first, can we have a little look at the pattern envelope? What the hell is going on with the model?? She looks as comfortable as an arthritic Barbie. I guess maybe she's been stunned into her wooden pose by that disgusting fabric.  WHY do pattern companies do this?!

Anyway. Look past that, and there's some excellent comfy summerwear potential here. Which is what I saw when Philippa of Gloria and Me very kindly offered this pattern for a giveaway, having decided it wasn't her thing after all.  Easy stretchy things with elastic waists are most definitely my thing, and I'm very grateful to Philippa for picking my name out and sending it on - thank you!

When I got it, I immediately surprised myself by being most drawn to the flutter sleeves, which I've never really liked before. (Maybe it's the comparative ugliness of the straight-sleeved version...?) I was won over completely by the curve of them on the pattern piece, and the resulting shapeliness is a happy but coincidencidental outcome.  But yes, they flutter - in a most breezy and flattering manner.

Much as I like this pattern as it is, I did some tweaking. Of course. Because Must-Tweak-All -The-Things - and because my post-baby waist area does not cope well with empire lines. In fact, empire line dresses generally make me look distinctly pre-baby. Not a good look, when you aren't. No, for the avoidance of early-(non)pregnancy misunderstandings, I lengthened the bodice by enough for it to hit my natural waist, and then added some more for blousing.

All well and good. You'd think.

I can't remember exactly how it happened, but I then decided I needed more length at the centre front. Like a kind of pretend-FBA. I suppose it had its roots in my years of trying on pretty, blousy RTW dresses, only to find that without exception they stretched unflatteringly straight down from my boobs to my waist - with no nice blousing at all. Yes, I was the teenager wishing her boobs were smaller. Fair enough. But of course, there is such a thing as going too far - and when I put the finished dress on, I discovered a kind of empty front-stomach hanging over the centre waist. It was like one of those "after" pictures on Embarrassing Bodies when large people have lost a lot of weight quickly (sorry...)

Being determined not to undo it and start again, there followed much fiddling with the extra fabric until it sat in a kind of twisty knot that I tacked down in the middle, and in the end, I quite like the effect. I'm just not even asking myself whether it looks deliberate, and I still see the empty front-stomach whenever I look at it. Needless to say, if/when I make this again, I'll be undoing that part of my pattern adjustment.

So yeah, self-inflicted errors aside, it's straightforward to make and wear. But what is it with knit patterns by the Big Four? This one would have had me turn over a double narrow hem, not only at the lower hem but also at the neck and sleeves. Seriously??  Does nobody proofread these things for stuff like, inappropriate instructions?  A much made complaint, I know, but come on - this is exactly the kind of thing that puts new sewists off. It's a recipe for things looking homemade in about the worst way possible.

That said, I like this pattern. It's the kind of simple everyday wear that the big pattern companies do well. Not particularly fashionable, just nice, and the sort of thing that'll happily slot into the everyday wardrobe of a multitude of different women.

As long as they know enough to ignore the how-to and just use the pattern pieces...

What's your experience? Have you sewn any good knit patterns by one of the big companies? Or do you stick religiously to indies?

And are you into next season's sewing already? Tell me what's on your list! Mine's coming up soon...

Monday, 8 September 2014

Ooh, pineapple!

There are some astonishing jobs out there, aren't there? It never ceases to amaze me, the myriad things to which we variously devote our working lives - and just how many of those things are so invisible, quite probably even unimaginable, to those of us who don't do them.

Official full time Viking blacksmith, for example. Medieval village fish-gutter.

This little dress, worn to visit the above Norsemen, benefited from the personalised services of a Professional Pineapple Placement Advisor.  Otherwise known as Measure Twice, who stepped into an instagram discussion on the relative merits of Pineapple! Or no Pineapple?? with the revelation that she spends much of her time writing technical placements for garments and, I quote, "knows all the sneaky tricks for label positioning".

Indeed she does. I did what she told me, and whaddya know? It really did come out looking just like a swanky, branded shop-bought item, instead of the cheap-as-chips fabric+free pattern birthday dress it really is. The only remaining doubt was whether this was all just a little bit too silly for the "take me seriously!" seven year-old destined to receive it.

I held my breath. She opened the parcel, shook the dress out, and took it all in as quick as she could. And then, with just the briefest of pauses, she shouted - "Oooh!!" - "PINEAPPLE!!!"

It was a good call, label-placement ladies of instagram. Very good call!

She also got a big box of make-up. Can you tell?

:: :: ::

What about you - do you do something unusual for a living? Or one of those invisible, essential things that nobody has ever heard of? What's the strangest professional occupation you've come across so far?

:: :: ::

Pattern: Crafterhours Racerback sundress (it's a freebie!)
Fabric: cotton knit from Moens, a great bargain at 2 euros/metre.
Ribbing: little scraps from the stash.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Big merino seed stitch scarf

It took six months to find the perfect light to photograph this scarf. From Belgium to Britain, Spain to Scandinavia - it's already well-travelled, and well-used. But perhaps I should have guessed from the beginning that its photographic home would be found in Sweden.

There is something rather Nordic about how simple yet stylish, and colourfully understated it is.  But I don't really think it's that. It's rather the absolute luminosity of this yarn; those dramatic, cool tones really glow. Just like the sun setting over the deep blue Baltic, the clear pink light glowing on the sand.  Those who were reading this time last year might recall a post-holiday knitting post full of enthusiasm for Scandinavia, and, well - one summer wasn't enough.  We love the landscapes and the way of life, and the cooler summer climes suit us far, far better than sweltering southern Europe. You just need to be prepared for those evenings when yes, the wind drops - and so do the temperatures.

What you need then is a huge, incredibly warm, soft and drapy merino wrap.

I've blogged about this scarf before, here, when I was half-way through - and really, I have nothing to add about the process of knitting it. It was simple and big; a perfect project to cart around on trips to the playground, or weekends away, and then to just plug on with while chatting (or while mindlessly thinking about nothing. Knitting is so great for that too, isn't it?) Towards the end I could hardly squeeze it into my knitting bag - so I made another, bigger one, and thus solved about the only problem of the whole project.

What was quite scary was the blocking.  I had recently read this post by the yarn harlot, who by the way is an extremely talented and hilarious writer as well as a wonderful knitter, and decided that I was going to Do Things Properly. What that post didn't say, though, is that getting an absolutely enormous scarf out of your bathtub and onto a big-enough flat surface, all without stretching it, is virtually impossible. Also, it takes DAYS to dry. Who knew??  In the end it actually went fine, and the scarf is indeed better for it - but it took me about a week to recover from the stress.

But that's all behind me now. As, sadly, is this year's Swedish holiday.  We walked the forests, then the coasts, met real Vikings, baked pie with the local farmer's apples, ate almost all our meals outdoors.

And when night fell, we cosied up by the wood stove with the next knitting project.  Of which more, soon!

Pattern & yarn both from Purl Soho: Worsted Twist Seed Stitch Scarf, and the yarn kit.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The joy of pockets: field trip cargo pants & raglan tee

It's been a while since we had some kid projects around here, hasn't it? Rest assured, I haven't been entirely neglecting them (the kid projects that is, not the kids themselves - they can be annoying, but in general I do try to keep them well fed and watered at least).  Today, I'm finally getting around to showing you the outfit I made T for his birthday in May.

Excuse the dirty floor

If you sew for kids at all I hope you've tried at least one Oliver & S pattern - they're absolute treasures, delightful to sew, and well worth the money. I always learn something new and valuable, and this was no exception. It's the Field Trip cargo pants and raglan tee. The tee is a pretty straightforward basic, the beauty of which is in the impeccable drafting and pocket detail. But for me the real winner of this project was the linen trousers - I had SO MUCH FUN making all those pockets!  The whole process of construction was a joy from start to finish, and the only thing I changed was to sew a double layer at the front knee panel, because boys. They go through knees like nobody's business. (There's a great flickr tute for doing that on this pattern, here).

Now the other thing about boys is, of course, pockets. Why is that? Part of my glee while sewing this up was knowing how into the pockets he'd be, and I wish I'd managed to video his reaction to them because it was hilarious. Instead, I've got the second best thing - a blow by blow demonstration of each one and exactly how much playmobil you can get in them. I didn't actually know they were full of playmobil until he started taking it out - I was killing myself laughing, which is why these photos are all at different angles.

Fig. 1: right side seam pocket.

Contains two policemen.

Fig. 2: right-hand cargo pocket.

Contains two knight on horses.

Fig. 3: left-hand cargo pocket.

Contains two foot soldiers.

Fig. 4: left side seam pocket.

Contains two more foot soldiers (he has quite a collection).

Fig. 5: the back pocket pièce de resistance.

Contain two hands.



Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Viscose knits: a sonnet

Ah viscose, beautiful viscose knits...  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

OK it won't actually be a sonnet (did you guess already?)  Let's call it an ode. I have been steadily falling in love with viscose knits this summer, and thought I'd show you just two of the ways - in my opinion two of the best ways - I wear them.

The items on display here are a Maria Denmark kimono tee (free pattern!) and a basic quarter-circle skirt with wide elastic at the waist (thank you, By Hand London circle skirt app!) Both very simple shapes and both excellent everyday clothing.

And both elevated beyond their basic-ness by the cool, fluid drape of the fabric. This, readers is why I love viscose knits. They hang wondrously, and they're incredibly, breathably fresh to wear. Lightweight but rarely transparent, they have excellent stretch recovery, and hold up ever so well. Honestly, I know about this: a black maxi skirt worn by the mother of small children generally comes in for a lot of accidental abuse.

This particular black maxi skirt is my replacement for an even-more-basic rectangular H&M maxi I had that died at the end of last summer: the stretch was gone, and it had always been a bit see-through.  No more cotton! I vowed. Only to find that all the black viscose had sold out everywhere in Brussels (I'm clearly not the only fan). I had to go to Antwerp, and once I'd finally got it, I grabbed enough to make a BIGGER skirt than the previous one - because, um, more fabric is always better?

See? Lots of fabric.

The tees, I've been living in - I made three. This one, a black one and hot pink. All viscose, and all easy to wear with almost anything.  They're long enough to cover your bum, which means they're ideal paired with leggings-as-trousers, and they're on just the right side of oversized to let the air circulate. That's the air coming through the lovely, breathable viscose...

Maybe I sound a little obsessed. It's been hot dammit!

Turns out it's quite hard to photograph the wide swish of a slinky maxi skirt. You have to do silly moves.

What do you think - are you a fan of viscose knits, too?  What's your favourite fabric?

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