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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Reflections and Projections 2015-2016

To wrap up the year, I thought I'd do a post on what I've done this year and am hoping to do for next year. I do have a newly finished dress to blog, but I haven't photographed it yet so it will have to wait until next year.

Reflections on 2015

I'm pretty happy with my range of makes for this year. More dresses (eleven) than anything else, but I am a big fan of dresses. I also made nine tops, including jumpers, sleeveless/short sleeved, and long sleeved makes, and both formal and casual styles. I designed eight of my makes myself, and the rest were made from a variety of different patterns from the big 4 and independent pattern makers. I also had my first attempt with denim making my DuBarry coat dress, which was scary and often frustrating, but I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Getting to know other sewists on their blogs and Instagram has been fun and new to me. The best part was going to Frocktails in Canberra and meeting a bunch of other Australian sewists in person. Sewing can be a solitary hobby, so actually getting to meet and chat to others, to share advice and excitement about sewing, is really special.

The year of sewing has been fun, but there were a few things that I didn't quite achieve. I was a bit erratic in my posting. Pretty good in February and March, then less so through August, and a bit more frequent from September on. Hopefully in 2016 I can be more consistent. I also didn't manage to hit my Vintage Pledge aim. I did set myself a high goal of using 6 vintage patterns AND 6 vintage fabrics. In truth I did make 6 items from vintage patterns, 5 of which are published. The sixth was made as a gift for a friend and has yet to be photographed and so is yet to be posted. I did woefully on using my vintage fabrics, though. I only used two. Although to be fair I didn't check how much vintage fabric I owned before making my pledge, so I really gave myself an almost impossible goal.

And now my best/worst (favourite/least favourite?) makes of the year. Happily I only have one thing I'd really put on my 'worst' list, my slashed sleeve top. Basically, I made the slashed pieces too narrow and they're a pain to iron or keep flat, so I don't wear it.

For best makes, I have a top five. Fifth is my last make, my Tessuti Kate Top. I haven't yet worn it because it's currently the Christmas-New Year's break so I'm not at work, but I can see this getting a lot of wear. And the colours of the fabric are wonderful. Fourth is the Winter Garden Party dress. This is one of the few vintage fabrics I used this year. I'd had the fabric for a few years but couldn't find any pattern I thought suited it, but this one from Honig Design was great. The pintucks are my own addition. Third is my Antheia Maxi. I'd seen this fabric in Tessuti for a few years but never knew what to do with it, because I didn't want to cut any of the print. My self-designed wraparound maxi means all the print is still shown. It's also beautifully soft and great to wear on a really hot day.

My second favourite make of the year is one I am really proud of; my Hand-Sewn Guipure Lace Top. I bought this beautiful remnant of lace because it was heavily discounted. I got in my mind a picture of how it could be a lace top, but really had no idea of whether or not it would work. The entire thing is hand sewn which took a fair bit of time and patience, but I'm so happy with how it turned out - it's pretty much exactly what I envisioned!

My favourite make, though, is my DuBarry Coat Dress. I had a lot of stress making it, with problems with the denim, cutting out the wrong pieces, and even running out of denim before I made the facings (which then had to be completely different fabric), but it was all worth it for the final product. And because I used denim, it works as both a coat and a dress - two garments for the price of one!

Projections for 2016

I have a few big aims for 2016. I've just started a new job, so I'm going to need to make some clothes that are more suitable for wearing in an office. I want to use up as much of the fabric I already own as I can, and be more thoughtful when I buy new fabric. I need to get my overlocker fixed and learn how to use it. I also want to learn to master - or at least be reasonably good at - pants. I've made a few pairs over the years, but it's still a scary prospect. Overall, I want to try and make pretty much all my clothes for 2016, with the exception of knitted things and underwear. I'm not sure if I'll manage it, but I'll give it my best shot.

I sat down a few days ago and started writing a list of what I plan to make in 2016, and it's pretty long. There are twelve items that already have specific fabrics, although I haven't decided on the pattern to use for all of them. For my plan to master pants, I alread have a linen blend fabric and two different denims. Seeing as I already have the fabrics, I really have no excuse. I also have a swimsuit, cream skirt, and sleeveless blouse at the very top of my list to start on today and over the weekend. Hopefully having that list already written down will help me be consistent with making and posting.

So I think that's all. Happy new year!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Silk Tessuti Kate Top aka Grown-Up Clothing Item #1

So I got offered a new job a couple of weeks back! I'd been looking for work for a while, in the meantime doing short-term projects, but nothing with any permanence or certainty. But I had an interview in mid-November and managed to be successful, so yay me! Anyway, all this has to do with sewing because this is a job in an office, where I'd previously been at a university/working from home. Although it's not a corporate or particularly formal office, I do still need to dress a bit differently to how I have been.

Tessuti released their Kate Top pattern in early November, at the same time as I made it through to the first round of the recruitment process for the job. It was a beautiful pattern, plus they had an Instagram competition for making it, so I was already tempted. When I got offered an interview I started really seriously thinking about buying the pattern. If I was successful, I'd need some more grown-up clothes, and a classic shell top is very versatile and grown-up.

The interview went well, and the offices are about a five minute walk from Tessuti's Surry Hills store, so I rewarded myself with a trip over there. Looking around for something that would be good for this pattern I spied this gorgeous silk. It's called Beautiful Spill and is wonderfully soft and vibrant and I just couldn't pass it up. I knew I had to get it and make the Kate Top with it.

Because the print is very bright I decided to make view A, with the lower neckline so that the colour wouldn't be completely overwhelming. I made size XXS, which fits very well. The top is designed to be a bit loose, and the drapey silk works really well with that bit of extra room from the bust to the waist. Being a slight build I probably could have left the bust darts off because they don't add any shaping for me, so in the future I might not include them. 

I was a little daunted about sewing with the silk. I have sewn with silk before, but only a few times, and with taffeta and dupion, not with something delicate and light like this. However it wasn't that bad in the end. I used a new size 8 machine needle, a lot more pins than normal, and went slowly, and I didn't have any issues. I also did French seams as the safest way to treat a delicate fabric, so that the raw edges would be hidden away. The only real problem I had with construction was sewing the bust darts on the wrong side of the fabric and having to redo them. There is a front and back to the fabric, but the colours are still very bright and you have to pay attention to notice the difference, which I obviously didn't do at first when doing the darts!

There were a few new techniques in making this. The side splits were something I'd never done before, and looking at the pattern pieces I had no idea how they can together. But the instructions given were really clear and easy to follow. I did stitch them down slightly differently to the instructions, doing each of the four side split sections individually, rather than doing them all in one with the hem. Although the silk did turn out to be easy to sew with, I thought it would be best to concentrate and get each edge done properly by themselves rather than run the risk of the whole thing going wrong. It might have been fine without my precautions, but better to be safe than sorry.

The other new-to-me techniques were using tearaway vilene and making self bias binding. The vilene on the neckline and armholes works to stabilise it, which is especially helpful on a light fabric like this silk. With it, I was able to hang the top as I went along, making it easier to pin things together and see if it was all coming together right. The bias binding was trickier. This silk doesn't really seem to crease - great for wearing the top, but not so good when trying to press a fold on the self bias. In the end I had to accept I wasn't going to get it pressed much at all, and just had to use a lot of pins and pay extra attention to make sure it was attached correctly. It isn't perfect, but for a first attempt and with a fabric that isn't really designed to be used as bias, I think it turned out pretty well.

So this is the first item for my (slightly) more grown-up work appropriate wardrobe. And I love it. I'm really happy I decided to use the silk and didn't avoid it because it's a scary fabric. The colours and the drape are both perfect for the pattern. And I think wearing this to an office I can pass as a real and responsible adult!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Casual Cotton Summer Pants

Although I love skirts and dresses for hot weather, sometimes pants are good for practicality reasons. Shorts are obviously a great option, but hot weather pants can be a bit trickier - they need to be breathable in both their shape and fabric choice. And I also don't want something that looks too slobby, for want of a better word. Also, I'm not really a fan of elasticated waists, which limits my options a bit.

This pattern is one I've had in my collection for a while, Simplicity 4290, a 1960s pattern for shorts and slim-fitting pants. The fabric I bought at a local op shop for the grand total of $1.50. When I saw it earlier this year I thought it would be a good choice for some casual pants. It's a lightweight black cotton with a pattern of gold foil printed stripes/zig zags. You can feel the foil printing on top of the fabric, but it's not at all stiff, so the fabric still has a soft flow.

The original pattern was moderately high waisted - it was from the early 1960s - but I wanted these to be relatively casual, so I lowered the waist by about two inches. I also widened the legs from the hips to mid-calf, as the original pattern was slim fitting, but tapered back in at the ankles. I didn't want the pants to be too fitted, because they're for summer and need to allow good airflow, but also didn't want them too wide or they'd end up looking a bit clown pant-y. I think I managed to find the middle ground!

The one thing I didn't think about when shortening the waist was the waistband. I'd already decided that, seeing as I had the stripes running vertical for the pant legs, I'd have the wide triple stripe going horizontal for the waistband. The pattern piece was a straight rectangle, so this seemed fine when I cut it out and sewed it in. But where a completely straight waistband works fine when resting at the natural waist, when you move it down lower there's all this extra curve as your body widens down to the hip. The back in particular had a bit of a gape. It obviously needed a fix.

I of course didn't want to lose that nice horizontal line of the waistband that the gold stripes gave it. So I decided to add two small darts either side of the centre back, taking care to not mess up the line of the stripes. You can see in the photo above where I've put the two darts, but I think I managed to avoid making it look like a mistake, and hopefully made it look like it's just a normal part of the pattern.

The pants have a side zip on the left, rather than a fly or elasticated waist. I used an invisible zip to make sure there wouldn't be any bulk or anything showing at the seam. I had initially been thinking about adding pockets, because pockets are such a useful thing, but didn't want to add any bulk. Also, I think it might have been a bit tricky having the side seam and a side pocket, and didn't have enough fabric in case I stuffed it up, so decided not to try and include any. I might be game to attempt it in the future if I make these again, but we'll see.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with these. They fit the bill of what I was wanting just right - they're soft, they're breathable, they're casual but not slobby, and they were very easy to make. The pattern being vintage means I'm also making my way through my vintage pledge aim for the year.