Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Sewing Retrospective

I don't keep good track of what I sew, but in spite that, I'm pretty sure that this has been by far my most productive year ever, sewing-wise.  There are a lot of possible reasons for this - my work was very part-time in the fall, so I had more free time than usual; my study and my sewing room are the same room, where in my old place they were two separate rooms and out-of-sight-out-of-mind often kept me from working on projects; I got a coverstitch machine, thus making knits more enjoyable to sew (in theory - more on this below); and probably most relevant of all, I think I've finally achieved a level of skill where I have a success to failure ratio that isn't too miserable.  I still get discouraged by failures, but I have enough successes that my motivation doesn't usually vanish for too long.

I did abandon thing-a-week after not too long, but with good reason - I spent a few weeks making many iterations of the Cashmerette Concord tee to get a good fit on the armholes in a heavier knit with a much firmer stretch.  These things didn't count towards my thing-a-week goals, since they were not finished nor meant to be, but I was sewing actively, and that's what the goal was really about.  And I did, in time, get a fit I'm very happy with.

The 14 G/H was perfect in lightweight summer fabrics, but too snug in the back and sleeves when I used a heavier cotton lycra with very firm stretch:

The 16 G/H was too big, and I got weird vertical folds in front of the arm holes (most obvious from the side view, but they're there all the time):

A 14 G/H with a bit added to the waist, and armholes raised about 1", is great:

(I could maybe use a bit of  swayback adjustment, but I am entirely unconcerned about that; I don't see myself trying to fix that.)

My next project planned is a Concord with the Sewaholic Renfrew cowlneck on it.  I've long admired the Renfrew's cowlneck, but as I am decidedly not-pear-shaped, I've never attempted it.

The biggest step my sewing took this year was the addition of a coverstitch machine.  I mostly wear knits, so I should mostly sew knits, but I've never been really happy with the hems I get on a traditional machine.  I could never conquer tunneling with a twin needle, and the narrow zig-zag gets the job done, but I wanted a more professional look.  So in the spring, I got myself a Janome 900CPX.

And although I loved the ability to coverstitch, the machine itself drove me batty.  So very temperamental.  I'm sure that a large part of this is user error, as some people seem to manage just fine with the 900, but it had turned hemming knits into something I dreaded more, not less.

So just two weeks ago, I got myself a lavish birthday/Christmas gift, and got a Babylock BLCS-2.  I haven't had it for long, but even so, it's worlds of difference.  The very first test run I sewed on it was a bit iffy, but everything since has been so easy and great looking.  I am madly in love, and consider it well worth it, even though it was plenty expensive.

My sewing goals for 2017 are pretty much in line with my goals in late 2016: keep sewing actively, make things I (or intended recipient) will actually wear.  It would probably be good to plan some skill-building projects - make myself something other than a skirt out of a woven, probably - but we'll get there.  I'm tentatively going to attempt a modified thing-a-week for 2017 - a goal of making fifty-two things over the course of the year.  (Not necessarily one a week, to allow for some projects being faster and some slower, plus busy times, etc.)

I'm going to try to keep better track of my sewing, too - what I spend (I know it's "far too much" but getting specific would be wise), what I use, what I make.  It's a good time to start keeping track.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Thing a Week, Weeks 2 and 3

Thing-a-week continues, but without much passion.  For week 2, I decided on a Concord with mid-length sleeves out of a cute euro knit.  Although this came together well in terms of construction, the fabric was enough different from what I've used on previous Concords that it's really too snug.  It looks okay from the front, but the back isn't good - I could really do without fabric clinging to the roll my bra creates - and the sleeves are really a bit too tight too.

It's wearable, with a cardigan over to hide the back, but not a success.

For week 3, I decided to try out a new pattern for boxer-briefs, the Comox Trunks by Thread Theory.  The main draw for these is the butt seams, which should make it easier to use a print with obvious up-and-down (the grainline can be vertical on the butt panel, but also on the side panels).  Since they are a first run at this pattern, I let coverstitch troubles go uncorrected.  Thus, no pics, they look like a mess.  But they're just a first draft to see if this style works for my partner.  But let the record show, I did complete week 3's thing.

Once more, I find myself in need of an easy, likely-to-be-successful project to keep sewing morale high.  The concord was meant to be that.  Perhaps this week I'll trace off the 16 G/H and give it another go?  I'll definitely want to make it out of heavier knits like this one sooner or later.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ottobre 5/2016 #7 Miniskirt

After sleeping on it, I decided that the coat wasn't worth finishing.  Even if it ended up looking okay - not a certainty by any means - there were enough places where it had gotten distorted that I would have known it wasn't okay, even if no one else noticed.  So I decided to give my first Ottobre pattern a try, and cut the split-front miniskirt (#7) from the 5/2016 issue out of the plaid-ish ponte I'd used for the body of the coat.

Even though I don't anticipate I'll wear this all that often, it was just what I needed sewing-wise after the things that went wrong with the coat.  This was my first time using a pattern from a "roadmap" style pattern sheet, and it took a bit to get the hang of tracing off it; I had to go back a few times because I'd missed markings.  But once that was figured out, this was a beautifully easy and tidy sew.  Everything lined up perfectly, my coverstitch behaved itself (mostly), and I finished this project in a day, from tracing-off to hem, which I almost never do.

There are things that could be better - for example, it didn't take a press as well as could be ideal, and that shows in the seam between the yoke and the skirt.  But even so, this feels like a success, even if it's likely to spend more time in my closet than on me.  And who knows, if I can make leggings that actually fit me right and stay opaque all the way up, maybe shorter skirts will play a bigger role in my wardrobe this fall and winter.

I made a size 48, based on my waist and hip measurements of 35" and 44" (or 46" if I use the accomadate-your-tummy method.)  The fit isn't 100% perfect - I'm not sure if the lines in the front picture are drag lines or just because of how I'm standing - but it's fully wearable.

So thanks to a very satisfying little project after a week of struggles, thing-a-week week 1 is a success!  I'm not sure yet what to plan for week 2.  The coat failure has made me a bit intimidated by the prospect of trying something else well outside my realm of experience, but I do still need a transitional jacket, and have both pattern and fabric picked out for one.  But this time, a muslin for sure.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Butterick 6254, not working out

Only two days left in the first week since I started my thing-a-week plan.  Finishing this week's project in two weekend days is definitely possible, but I haven't decided if it's worth it.  Some things have gone awry in my attempt at Butterick 6254, and I'm not sure I'd be that into it even if they hadn't.

I've had a lot of issues with things growing during construction.  Even on straight, with-the-grain seams, my double knit fabric stretched a lot, and I had all sorts of things not lining up properly as a result.  (The interfaced facing and the front piece lined up perfectly when pinned, but the non-interfaced piece grew over an inch as I sewed them together!)  It's somewhat frustrating since I'm not sure what I should have done differently, but obviously something!  I staystitched where told, but perhaps I should have stabilized everything before sewing.  Or used the walking foot?

I also tried using bits of washi tape to transfer some of the pattern markings, since chalk usually rubs away before I need it, but the washi tape peeled off too easily and I lost some semi-important markers.  (The impact of this was fairly trivial, since after all the distortion from stretching, they wouldn't have lined up anyway.)

Now that it's close enough to done to put on and get an idea of what it will look like, I'm not sure I'd like it even if it were perfectly constructed.  I haven't done the side seams yet, so I can't be sure, but it's looking like it will be huge, and although I still like the idea of it, I'm finding my combination of fabric choices pretty drab.

All in all, I'm thinking this project is bound for either the trash or the giveaway bag, depending on whether I finish it or not.  It's a learning experience, of course, but I'm disappointed.  I had envisioned this as an easy success while broadening my horizons, and it shows me that in some important ways I'm still lacking in basic sewing know-how.

I have another transitional jacket in my sewing plans, but as my sewing ego is fragile, I think a super-easy project, virtually assured to be a success, is a better next choice.  Probably another Concord, or perhaps a very simple skirt.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Thing a Week?

Unsurprisingly, I didn't complete all that many of the things I had planned in my previous post, and now that it's mid-September, most of them are off the to-sew list.  It's still hot for now, but this is Wisconsin - it won't be for long.

What I have completed:

The greatest success was my striped Cashmerette Concord.  The stripes aren't quite perfectly across, but they're pretty close, and since this was my first attempt at a striped anything, it's definitely a success in my book.  None of them are perfect, but my me-made tees are quickly becoming my favorite thing to wear.  (This has nothing at all to do with the fact that I've gained weight and my RTW tees are mostly too snug now, shh.)

I also made another pair of Greenstyle's Walbrook boxer briefs for my partner.  I always like the idea of making him underwear, since it should be quick and easy and takes so little fabric.  But my coverstitch machine hates the narrow binding on the fly, and what should be a two-hour project ends up involving more than two hours just of unpicking!  (It is nice to be reminded of how agreeable my plain old sewing machine is by comparison.)

I also made a few muslins of the Cashmerette Springfield top, but have shelved that one for seasonal reasons too.  Muslin 2 was pretty close, but then I tried muslin 3 as a meant-to-be-wearable muslin out of this polyester silky I had.  It didn't fit, but in a completely useless way - the fabric was so slippery during both cutting and construction that I couldn't tell if it was that my alterations still needed work, or just cutting and sewing errors.

My next planned project - and I've already traced it off and prewashed the fabric, so it should actually happen - is a lightweight jacket using Butterick 6254.  I've got a black doubleknit for the sleeves and collar, and a black-on-grey plaid-ish ponte knit for the body.

I'm planning on setting a sewing goal for myself for the rest of the year.  My partner and I both have summers off and have just gone back to work, but while he's full-time, I'm only part-time, so I've got a lot of hours at home alone.  I was content to be lazy during the summer, but I want my excess free time to be productive now.  So my goal is to complete one sewing project per week for the rest of the year.  That's sixteen weeks, so even if I fail to meet my goal half the time, it would still be my most productive period of sewing ever.  (There's a reason I'm still pretty much a beginner fifteen years after buying my first sewing machine.)  Who knows if it will happen, but that's what I'm aiming for.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


After a mix of successes (Concord tee came out good) and failures (Jalie 3243 looks terrible on, and So Sew Easy Summer Drape Top wasn't looking promising enough to finish), my will to sew hasn't been too much lately.  But there are several things I want or need in my closet for the final month of summer or for when I return to work in the fall, so hopefully getting a clearer sense of what those things are - and how easy most of them should be! - I can get back on track.

Summer clothes - there's still at least a month of hot weather left, after all!
  • Tees and tanktops.  Most of my RTW tops fit poorly or were never all that good in the first place.  Several basic, solid-color tees and tanks are called for.
  • More interesting short-sleeve or sleeveless tops - basics are nice, but I also have very few non-tee/tank summer tops.  Even a simple cowl neckline or some ruching would add some interest.  McCall's 6963 is probably the first one I'd try, though I need to check reviews for it.
  • Knit gaucho pants (Butterick 4807).  My RTW knit gauchos are my preferred summer bottom, but the only pair I have is wearing out and in the laundry half the time I want them.  I hope this project will be quick and easy.
Work clothes
  • ITY knit loose pants - for when it's too warm to want to wear trousers.  Lots of pattern possibilities, so picking one is probably going to be the hardest part.
  •  More short-sleeve tops.  I'm good on sleeveless and on sweaters, but transitional wear that's good on its own or under a cardigan is somewhat lacking.

    Sunday, June 19, 2016

    Vesta Patterns Grail Tee

    The more I sew and read about sewing, the more aware I am of the problems with my RTW clothes.  I've tolerated my t-shirts stretching to semi-sheerness across the bust, and irritatingly snug armholes, for a long time, but with multiple curve-friendly t-shirt patterns now available, it's time I improved my t-shirt options.

    Vesta patterns puts out each of their patterns - only two at this point, the Grail tee and a princess-seamed dress - for three different body shapes, and the "S" shape is pretty much spot-on for my measurements.

    I added a contrast neckband and sleeve cuff, and increased the length of the sleeves a bit for the sake of personal preference.

    What I Liked:
    • I love that this fit me without any adjustment. I need to get comfortable doing FBAs, certainly, but FBAs on knits are another matter entirely.  Every FBA-for-knits tutorial is different, and half of them say to use a dart, while plenty of other places scoff at the very ideal of darting a knit.  So bypassing that whole issue with a tee pattern that fits without adjustment is fantastic.
    • Aside from the fitting-me-specifically aspect, I like the fit of the tee in general - it's got enough ease to drape nicely and be more comfortable in hot weather, without ending up shapeless like many looser-fitting tees are meant to.
    • I don't care for the finish of the tee.  The neck and hems are all finished by folding under 1/4" and stitching.  I don't like the look for the neck, and 1/4" is pretty skimpy for a hem.  I added a neckband and folded up 1/2" instead of 1/4" for the hem.
    • While it worked out fine for me, it would be cool if the pattern sizes went bigger - I usually wear a 14 US in RTW, and I was in the largest size, XL.  So people in the plus-size range aren't going to be able to use this pattern without modification.
    There's also a tank-top option, with a snugger fit.  I'll probably try that in the future, but I'm planning on the Cashmerette Concord next.  Two options for full-busted tees, hooray!