Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Today I'm going to write the sort of post that, when it pops up in my blog reader, generally makes me "mark as read" immediately and move on.

It goes like this...

"Oh my god I never thought I'd sew my own underwear but hey guys it's SO COOL because you hardly need any fabric and it's quick and FUN and seriously NO KNICKERS HAVE EVER FIT LIKE THIS before!!!!!!"

Here, have some more exclamation marks: !!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, so the teenage indie kid in me - the one scornfully mocking the cool kids, safe in the knowledge I will never be one of them - has issues with the crazed way in which the sewing blogosphere has taken to making its own underwear. And now, in a way reminiscent of my little sister who was NOT copying me but just wearing whatever she wanted which HAPPENED to be exactly what I was wearing at the same time, I am going to state here that yes, OK, I made myself some knickers - but ONLY because I FELT LIKE IT.  The fact that all the other sewers in the entire internet have also made their own undies and raved about it is IRRELEVANT, ok?

I don't know, maybe I have some unresolved issues.

It's just underpants, after all.

We have here two different styles. I started out with these black and white ones, having been lured, finally, into buying a pattern on sale from Measure Twice Cut Once.  They're the Charlotte knickers, made with leftover poplin from my Darling Ranges dress - the only woven scraps I had that were large enough to cut the pieces on the bias.  In retrospect, though, poplin was probably not the best fabric to use: although it's nice and airy and cotton-y, it's a bit stiff.  But I think these will come into their own in summer, worn with dresses without tights, or loose-fitting shorts. When I finished them I didn't think they looked that comfortable, but they really are.

As you can see above (maybe - the colours don't make it easy to see details), I didn't manage a particularly neat finish. This pattern calls for the elastic to be serged to the right sides, then turned to the inside twice and topstitched without stretching. Perhaps it was my too-thick fabric choice, but I found all this folding and not stretching and stitching over all the gathers really difficult. I think next time, in addition to using a smoother fabric, I might just topstitch on some picot elastic instead.  In any case, I definitely need some more practice with these before they'll look like fancy pants.

In contrast, however, the second undergarment pattern I tried this week posed no finishing difficulties whatsoever, I suspect because I know what I'm doing with nicely-behaved knits. And look, two pairs immediately! One pair with optional topstitching, one without:

This is the new Barrie boy-cut briefs pattern by Kitschy Coo.  I jumped on it yesterday as soon as she released it - partly because I had in the meantime become slightly obsessive about underwear patterns, but also because everything Amanda does is awesome.  I've been wearing these all day (one pair, not both - I hope that's obvious...) and they are as advertised: super comfy, no-wedgie pants that stay put.  Plus, they are the absolutely ideal opportunity to use up large scraps of Lillestof - which Amanda also just happens to stock, in an array of brilliant prints, in her shop. (Click through at your own risk - it's all tantalisingly gorgeous).

Wait, I was dissembling there. "Ideal opportunity to use up scraps of Lillestof"?

Actually, I had been single-mindedly hoarding the scraps of Lillestof for exactly this purpose since last June.  And yes, I shall be wearing these garments simultaneously when summer comes. WHO WOULDN'T.

By the way, does anyone know why knicker patterns leave one end of the gusset unfinished and unstitched down (see picture above)?  I've read that it's to allow for a cotton gusset in non-cotton underwear, but that doesn't actually explain why it isn't finished/attached. Or that it's for ventilation, but - really?? The other, and most-cited reason is to avoid a seam where it could be bulky or uncomfortable - but then there are plenty of underwear patterns out there with a separate gusset pattern piece, which is finished with seams at both ends (like this). Wouldn't the bulk thing be an issue there too?  During my week of pants-sewing I have become increasingly - possibly unhealthily - curious about this question. If you can enlighten me at all, please do!

Well, to wrap up, I don't this post would be complete without a picture of them in action, would it?  Mid-rise for more coverage, and I utterly failed to get an acceptable picture of the back view.

I think there's more than enough on display here as it is, anyway.

OK, post over.  Have you crossed to dark side of sewing undergarments, too? Or are you resisting?

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Two skirts and a cropped Linden

Exciting news guys!! I made two more office-appropriate skirts and a top that goes with!


OK, so there's nothing earth shattering to see here.  But still, these three makes have had a disproportionately monumental impact on my wardrobe.  Here's the nitty gritty:

  • Top: Grainline Linden sweatshirt, view B, straight size 12, sleeves extended to three-quarter length. Made in a wool sweater knit from Paris that I gently washed and dried in order to deliberately felt it slightly, resulting in the absolutely perfect combo of body and drape for this sweater. It's all spongy!
  • Skirt 1, above: Betty from La Maison Victor 1/2015 - the pattern isn't available separately (yet) but if you want more details, they're selling fabric kits with a clear picture of the style here. Fabric is a stable medium-weight herringbone knit I picked up at The Fabric Sales last autumn. I'm not 100% sure but I think it's a wool mix.
  • Skirt 2, below: another Colette Zinnia v.2 in denim. Shortened, I can't remember by how much. The only other change I made was to do an exposed zip, mainly so I didn't have to go out shopping for an invisible one.

Pretty pleased with how that turned out, if I do say so myself - first exposed zip ever!

So anyway, I don't really have anything to say about the construction of these, they were all straightforward and turned out fine.  (Side comment though, every time I use a pattern from La Maison Victor I realise just how well put together the whole magazine is - the pattern pages are clear, the instructions are in tutorial format with diagrams and, give or take the odd blooper, the designs are usually pretty on trend and wearable. All good!)

No, the real deal here is the silhouette.


Basically, these two skirts are not that different from this one. (The denim one is not at all different!) They're high waisted and, with either gathers or pleats, flared. But while I'd always previously paired flared skirts with a fitted cardigan or top, as modelled in my previous post, ever since making this Linden I've chosen to wear all three skirts with it exclusively. Nothing else gets a look in. And it doesn't get boring - as you can see here, it's very easy to mix things up, just by changing shoes and jewellery choices.

Now I'm not sure I could say why I like this look of things so much. I just find it more comfortable, more fashionable I suppose, and in any case definitely more ME. The boxy, slightly cropped cut works for my shape in the way I want things to. I have to be honest though - this was a totally random, if pleasant, surprise.  Trying out Linden view B started as an experiment; I had no idea beforehand if I would like it or not.

I've never really felt fashion-literate. All that stuff about shapes and cuts and textures and styles, and that's all before we get to on trend or off. I know series like Colette's wardrobe architect are specifically there to help sewers think through many of these things, but I don't even know if I could have identified this silhouette, or any other, as 'my style', before actually wearing it.

It's all got me wondering. Is it inevitable, if we sew our own wardrobes, that we end up as our own individual fashion designers? And do we need to know what our own unique look is, in order to carry that off?

Friday, 6 March 2015

Big gingham Zinnia

Haha you guys - see how much I like wearing office clothes again?  This much:

That's my face for "f*** this getting appropriately dressed at 7am sh*t".  Yes, back to the office = back to the dress code. In my case it's not a particularly demanding dress code, but there is nonetheless a line - it falls somewhere in the middle of business casual - that can't be crossed. As I've expanded slightly around the waist since last winter (outrageously and inexplicably!*), some new clothes have been called for.

(*ok it's not inexplicable. I'm outraged nonetheless).

Now here's the thing. While I was off work last year, I enjoyed a long run of highly successful sewing. Almost everything I made during that time was a hit one way or another. I chalked it up to good luck and did my best not to tempt fate by getting smug. And, as expected, in the end that luck has started to turn: recently, the inspiration-sewing-wearing process hasn't been turning out quite so serendipitously well. Not badly, but still. And as I was sitting down to write this post, it struck me that that's probably not a total coincidence.

You see, from May until December I'd pretty much had time and free reign to both sew and wear whatever I wanted. Which I did. (I was going to say that I did so with relish - but honestly, relish didn't come into it. At some point in early June my incredibly helpful doctor advised me to find a hobby or creative pastime to keep myself occupied, not knowing that I was already spending my days obsessively, maniacally sewing as if my life, or at the very least my sanity, depended on it. I just sat there thinking: oh, I'd laugh - if only I could.)  It's hardly surprising really that with the time to plot, fit and sew, I turned out a bunch of things that could be worn immediately, comfortably and often. The clothes I sewed last year were clothes to put me at ease and make me happy.  While I won't credit them with saving my mental health (thank you, pharmaceuticals and therapy!), they did give me a real sense of my own style: those clothes were and are 'me' in a way I'd never quite been able to identify before.

They're also, pretty much without exception, not office appropriate.

This might sound blindingly obvious, but I'd never really thought about it before: I don't have a 'me' to wear to the office.  For all the time over the years I've spent there, I've never been able to just get up and get dressed for work without agonising over it. I know what I want and what makes sense - some kind of uniform of my own, a mix and match bunch of things I like that'll take the stress out of dressing - but I just can't quite get there.  And those recent makes, the ones that've felt like my luck's running out?  Of course, they've all been attempts to fill exactly that gap.

Take this skirt.  It's a Colette Zinnia. I've made it before and really like it - the shape of those pleats really works for me.  And woop woop check matching!  I won't exactly call that a disaster.

Indeed, all elements of this pointed to success. Inspiration hit immediately when I saw the big gingham in Ikea - I KNEW it was meant to be a mini-ish Zinnia. The pattern was tried and tested, the shape pairs well with cardis & simple tops, and in monochrome too - this should all add up to an ideal work skirt. And yet... I re-measured myself and went up a size. Guess what? It's slightly but irritatingly too big. The fabric of course is meant for upholstery, and as I should probably have guessed, it neither holds the pleats nor drapes particularly well. Worse, it wrinkles and doesn't iron nicely either.  My buttonhole placement isn't great and all in all it feels a little, er, homemade.

None of which means I don't wear it.  Maybe none of it is even that bad. I have come to realise that part of my problem with 'waisted' skirts is that I need the waistbands curved when they're frequently not (coincidental recent tutorials on that by Heather and Sunni). Or perhaps it's simply that given the choice I'd ALWAYS rather be wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and loud trainers instead of pretending to be tasteful in dresses.

Either way, I think it makes perfect sense that ambiguous feelings about the wearing will translate into mixed success in the sewing.  While I can muster up plenty of enthusiasm to sew pretty things for work - wrap dresses, shirt dresses, and plenty of excuse to wear them! - I can't help but feel that my underlying feelings about office wear in general might let these projects down.

What do you think? Would you agree? And what do you, wise readers, think I can do about it??

Because, let's face it - business casual is never going to get as casual as I want it to.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Knitter sweater

Greetings earthlings readers! Tell me, have you been reading Karen's tips on blog writing? I've long admired the writerly and editorial skill with which she crafts her posts, and I'm finding this mini-series inspiring. True fact: when I was a kid (and in fact not-so-secretly still) all I ever wanted to be was a Writer: capital W, obvs, I'm talking about actual Literature here (capital L). Anyway, Karen said out loud what I've believed all along, which is that of course, not all writing has to be Literature. Us blogging seamsters?  We're writers already! And you know what? If someone in publishing said it, it TOTALLY counts. Childhood ambition: achievement unlocked!

So yay, there I was, all fired up and inspired to tell you a story.  But ok, it turns out that 37 year-old me runs into the same problem as 7 year-old me. Sometimes, you just don't have much of a story to tell.

Totally had not realised how not-black my black leggings are these days.

I made a sweater.

I love it.

The End.

Ok, not The End.  I'm presuming you want details :-)

I also presume you've already guessed the biggest one, due to this pattern's total ubiquity at the moment: yes of course - it's a Grainline Linden sweatshirt.  Plain black, because I happened to have 5 metres of this lusciously stretchy sweatshirting on hand (and will totally make matching Hudsons with the rest!) and then tarted up a bit, because why not?  Though actually, I can think of many reasons not to emblazon a slogan across your boobs. I don't think I've ever before bought or worn a top embellished in such a way. Partly a placement thing: rtw slogans don't so much splash across my boobs so much as splurge between boobs and neck, and that does not look cool (it looks ridiculous). Also, what slogan? I'm not exactly going to shout BABE with my bust, or something.

But I had this silver sparkly fusible flocking. I found it in Hema and couldn't just leave it there.  And the idea of slogan-ing this sweater wouldn't let go - all I needed was a word I could wear, if not with pride then at least without embarrassment.

Once I had one, all it took was a few hours minutes of font-finding, fifteen minutes to cut it out with a craft knife, and five minutes more to iron it on.

Now, can I brag shamelessly about that piping? (It's stretch piping btw, found in a local shop and compulsively bought for the novelty value).  Here's an underarm seam junction for you, from the inside:

And here it is again, from the outside:

BAM! See that join?  PERFECT! << Little smug happy dance >>  I don't know what it is about matching up seams, but I am quite obsessive about it. In the rarely-visible armpit region, I will usually allow seams to not line up with absolute precision - but on this, with contrast piping involved, I would have got the heebie jeebies if they didn't. Seriously. (Sometimes I do worry about whether sewing is actually good for my mental health).

Ah, tea and knitting. These two things in combination can cure almost all ills.  Except the one where you rip out your attempted thumb gusset six times before getting it right.  Then it gets a bit love-hate. Sometimes, wine is needed.

I got there in the end, and conquered second glove syndrome while I was at it. I'll have a pair by the end of winter! Or more like AT the end of winter, but they'll be happy enough in a box until next year.

So, that's that. A knitter sweater. It goes without saying that I've made more Lindens, doesn't it? I'm experimenting with sizing: this one is a size 6 at the shoulders with a 2cm full bust adjustment (slightly fiddly, as you're also adjusting the length of the sleeve seam - would anyone be interested in a quick'n'dirty raglan FBA tute?), and I graded out to a 12 at the waist/hips.  For my subsequent two Lindens I've made a straight size 12 - they're a bit boxier than this, but slightly more comfortable - this one pulls a little at the shoulders. I'll show you them soon; this pattern has so much scope for customising, they're both completely different. The one I'm wearing right now is a rather unexpected view B...

Would you, or do you, wear slogans on sweaters?  And how do you feel about embellishments?  I've rarely tried them before, but now I think I'm a convert!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Not a bomber jacket

I'm not sure whether Rigel Bomber January kicked my butt into gear or just kicked my butt.

It seems I'm not the only one to have purchased the pattern and promptly sat on it for over a year.  I really wanted to sew it too, but it just kept getting queue-jumped. So when I read Sonja's post about a January bomber jacket sewalong, I knew I was in. What better way to start a new year than by ticking off a big unfinished idea from the last?  My butt --> kicked into gear!

However. I also started the new year by going back to work after several months off (see here).  It was not really a good time to set myself ambitious targets. Or any targets. It was a good time to tread carefully back into the routines and go easy on myself. Which, to my own surprise, I did - no late night sewing, no rushing, no self-imposed stress. Go me!  But of course, this all added up to no finished Rigel bomber either --> my butt kicked.

Now that it is finished, can I just say? TOTALLY kicked ass on my Rigel bomber, January deadline or not.  First ever welt pockets? BAM perfect! Slinky satin lining complete with pleat? Yes thank you ma'am, I has it! And ooooh I so, so love me a neat and tidy metal zip. I could just look down at that all day (if I didn't, you know, have to look where I was going and stuff).

The outer, pre-quilted fabric was a coupon from the Chien Vert, the lining and ribbing  from the bargain basement of Berger. Black polycotton scraps for the pocket bags, and the zip came from Gold Fingers - which, heads up for those in or around Brussels, stocks the most amazing selection of zips at equally amazing prices (that's amazing as in, cheap, in case of doubt :-).  The whole lot had been sitting ready in a bag, with matching thread, since about September - I could hardly have been more ready to sprint out of the starting blocks come January!

Mid-January, I opened and examined the bag of Rigel-to-be. I got out my pattern, did some head-scratching. Puzzled over the pattern pieces and scratched my head some more. In the end, I had to suspend disbelief and admit that whichever way I looked at it, this fabric - which I'd bought specifically for this project and by now had my heart set on, and I remember checking the yardage requirements and everything yes REALLY - just, well. It just wasn't big enough.

I would insert some gnashing of teeth here, for the sake of storytelling. But the truth of the tale is that my thoughts, quite surprisingly and indeed almost gleefully, went: OH WELL. Necessity is the mother of invention!

Oh, did I mention? It's not actually a bomber jacket at all.

Because when faced with a fabric shortage, by far the most obvious thing to remove from a raglan jacket pattern is the sleeves. Raglan sleeves are fabric eaters!  Not only that, but for months I'd actually been keeping my eyes on the high street for a gilet that met my exacting requirements, and until the "but how am I going to get sleeves on this coat" moment, it hadn't occurred to me at all to just make one.

Once that thought process had happened, it was just a hop, skip and jump to mashing up the Rigel Bomber with the Undercover Hood, un-raglanned and with armholes from the Purl Bee's vest drawn on.

I honestly have never felt much desire to draft patterns from scratch, and I still don't. But this process of creating an entirely different design out of three other separate designs was heaps of fun. And so satisfying, remembering to add or subtract seam allowances where needed, re-drawing curves that looked and worked better, figuring out the whole thing by myself.  I am so incredibly pleased and proud of how this turned out. Not only did I 'draft' it without a hitch, it's also basically my most utterly perfect vest. I couldn't have planned it better.

Bonus husband comment:
Ooh nice fabric! I like this one very much.  It's a... <looks searchingly at me> ... oh right, a gilet. Can you make me a gilet exactly the same? Except, without the fur. Or a hood. And with sleeves.

All man-bomber-jacket pattern suggestions welcome, on a postcard adressed to:

c/o Just Let Me Finish All the Other Sewing First,

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