Me-Made May update

It’s nearly halfway through Me-Made May! I didn’t make a specific pledge but I’m following along sporadically on Instagram and taking it as my usual opportunity to look at my wardrobe and personal style with an analytical eye: What do I really wear? What do I feel my best in? What are gaps that I can fill with a new sewing project?

Well, one obvious answer for a start is I wear 100% me-made trousers…

Week 1: Philippa pants, M7445 pants (twice :D), and Ginger jeans (from 2015!)

Week 2: Trend TPC12, Ninni culottes, Lander pants, Philippa pants

I ‘ve also had one of my big semi-annual wardrobe clear-outs, in particular of my tops which are generally more RTW than me-made. I don’t buy a lot of new clothes or sew as prolifically as I did when I was learning, but things still seem to stack up: generally through items I’ve hung onto for nostalgic reasons or me-mades that didn’t quite work out and I’m on the fence about keeping, altering or recycling.

As I batched my things back onto their matching hangers, it was interesting to see that there are fairly clear groupings around colour theme, both in the hue – I only need five different hanger colours to cover almost all of my tops – and the specific tones within. I started to divide the colours into groups based on frequency in my wardrobe and tangential thoughts about how often I wear each hue and how good I feel when I wear it. I counted up each group and this is what I came up with:

My categories seemed to be:
Neutral: The basics: black, greys and cream/white. Stuff to wear when I don’t feel like deciding what to wear, or as a background to the other colours.
Primary: The colours I wear the most as accents and usually feel great in. I’m pretty sure these are the colours that suit me best and they all happen to work well as crayon-style all-over colour blocks too.
Secondary: A bit of a riff and extension of the primary palette with perhaps slightly quirkier or more fashion-led tones: lilac, chocolate, olive and sky blue.

I then pulled these colours into this little palette, which I think will be a very useful thing to keep pinned to a Pinterest board or even to physically print out and carry with me when I shop for fabric or clothes to guide purchase decisions.

Finally, my friend happened to post this little colour meme on Twitter which I posed on Instagram, and it was interesting and probably non-surprising to see that most of the answers that came through were firmly within the same colour themes: blues, browns and neutrals. Funny!

And, more importantly, all useful info to help me keeping making sure I choose to sew things that have longevity and high likelihood of regular wearing. Is anyone else using Me-Made May as a chance for a bit of wardrobe introspection?

Trials of the Trend Trousers

I spent the Easter bank holiday weekend tackling a heck of a project – some Trend Patterns TPC 12 Utility Trousers. It wasn’t easy but we survived and having road-tested these pants in the following weeks I feel they were worth the effort. I’m especially enjoying wearing them twinning as a black crayon with my cat, who wanted to join me for these photos yesterday.

I’m typically loath to spend £20 on a pattern but I couldn’t get Shauni’s gorgeous version out of my head and as an almost permanent member of the trouser-wearing brigade these days (seriously, never wear dresses any more) I’m always looking for ones with interesting design details to add my my collection.

I guess with Trend – one of the more high-fashion-forward indies out there – you are paying for the drafting and design rather than lovely hand-holding guidance (or indeed an inclusive size range – my hip measurement skims the largest size on the chart). I’d already been forewarned by Charlie, who has also just made an excellent pair, that the instructions were on the skimpy side, and got an extra sense from spending an entire evening cutting the many pieces out on a single layer that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park kind of make. To that end I procrastinated on getting started – but when I did, while there were painful bits here and there, I did have finished trousers after two half-day sewing sessions.

Fit-wise things were quite straightforward. I cut a 14 based on my hip measurement and it was easy enough to bring in the waist at the centre back and side seams to fit my smaller measurement there. There’s a nice curvy waistband so no gaping and the length is great. The only thing I altered as I went was to lop two inches off the rise as I didn’t want that super-high/super-long-crotch look. I did this straight from the waistline but I’ll alter the pattern to take it off lower down (and maybe add back half an inch) for next time. I could possibly also size down generally but I do like how comfortable these are.

The rest of the pattern however…. there were certainly parts that were cool and interesting to sew – like the origami-folded vents and an unusual but smart and intuitive fly/waistband construction – I feel like some improvements would make all the difference to the overall usability and enjoyment of this pattern, such as:

– The order of some of the steps made things harder than they needed to be at times. For example, you are instructed to close the outseam before finishing the leg topstitching and vent construction. That makes it harder to manoeuvre under the machine to reach the vents as it’s a little leg-shaped tube. There’s no reason not to sew the side seams after the vents are in which would make access much easier.
– The pattern pieces aren’t numbered and many have really similar names, which makes it hard to know which one to pick up and use at each point. Or indeed to accidentally sew (+ trim + understitch) the ‘front facing’ onto the pants instead of the ‘front fly facing’ #askmehowiknow. Similarly, notches and marks which are referenced in the instructions like the vent stop point are not labelled on the pattern either.
– The instructions have photographs for some steps, but they’re on a cream garment with white stitching so you can’t really tell what’s going on. Sometimes what’s caught in the shot doesn’t really help either e.g. if the fly one was more zoomed out I might have seen I had the wrong piece but it was a fairly useless close-up of the bottom end.
– The written instructions are needlessly confusing and need a proofread. Why write ‘attach’ ‘mount’ ‘close’ etc when you just mean ‘sew’?
– Some finishing-off type steps are not covered so a bit of judicious gap-filling is needed. Like anchoring the end of the fly and the unsecured edges of the waistband facing.

The Fly of Pain

And here are a few extra tips which if you make the pattern you might want to consider too:
– It’s generally not necessary to pre-overlock the raw edges as instructed. I did it as I went which I much prefer; much less tedious.
– I would recommend pressing in creases for the hem and vents while they’re still flat as you will lose your notches after overlocking the raw edges.
– I would certainly toile or wearable-toile to get the fit and construction down before cutting into good fabric. I used a fairly cheap cotton-linen from Abakhan and it got a bit battered from unpicking in places, though I am glad these are definitely wearable.

For all my gripes about the instructions, I did mostly enjoy this project and I really like the finished pants! They feel cool yet comfy and super wearable – they’re gone into regular rotation since Easter even though the cotton-linen I used creases like a mf so needs constant ironing. I especially love those leg vents, which I’ve tried to show in motion above. I think a white denim pair would be pretty cool and I’m sure it will all go easier the second time around.

Creamy True Bias Yari jumpsuit for spring

I toiled the True Bias Yari Jumpsuit last year sometime and for whatever reason (…winter, I guess) had a massive delay before picking it up again. But then I saw Sarah’s winter-white version and this Asos cutie and got on the lookout for creamy fabric to make my own. Just in time for spring, hint hint weather.

I cut a straight size 12 for the toile to fit my hip measurement but the top half turned out way too baggy, so this time I cut an 8 graded to 10 at the hip. It’s actually still turned out quite loose through the leg so a straight 8 probably would have been fine. I could possibly benefit from a small FBA on top, which would be easy to add through the princess seams next time. I love how flat the crisply-faced neckline lies though and there’s no gaping even with only three buttons. (The buttons are vintage milk glass from my endless stash. )

I was going for a relaxed silhouette but tried the suit on partway through construction and decided it did need waist definition. Also the crotch and pockets were hanging very low like it was too long in the body. I didn’t fancy the side D-ring ties included in the pattern – they look a bit awkward and unflattering to me – so I sewed a drawstring channel to the inside waistline and made skinny ties to feed through. The slight blousing effect this resulted in also fixed the length issue!

Here’s the channel from the inside. Mmm, I love all these creamy stitch tones against each other.

The only other tweak I made was to level off the top of the pockets to straight rather than slanted, to match the Asos inspiration suit better. I like that the deep hem at the top of the pockets matches the width of the little cap sleeve cuffs. This pattern was lovely to sew overall and unusually for me I followed the given directions almost completely, adjustments aside.

I grabbed the fabric with exactly this project in mind on a recent trip to the wonderful Abakhan in Manchester, a pre-cut piece of slubby cotton-linen blend that reminds me of silk noil costing about £8 for around 2.5m – in Abakhan you pay by weight so I wasn’t sure of yardage at the time. With creative cutting I could just squeeze the Yari pieces on (3m is the recommended yardage).

I got some of this fabric in black too and I’m tempted to use it to make a Yari sister as I reckon this will get a lot of wear as soon as it warms up a little.

Philippa pants: fitting and adding a ‘tummy stay’

After a few sewing fails in a row (some Lander pants in a frankly hideous fabric choice, a vintage jumpsuit that looked 80s in the wrong way, some patchwork jeans that looked straight-up weird) I was so happy to finish these trousers and be 100% in love with them. They are Anna Allen Philippa pants in a stretch corduroy from Minerva, which I received as part of being in their blogger network. My main blog post about the pants will be going up over there later, but I thought I’d go into a bit more detail on the fitting and construction process over here.

I don’t often toile patterns but I did in this case as I wasn’t at all sure what size to cut and thought I may need some adjustments to cover the size difference between my waist and hips on such a close fitting design. The pattern comes with a complete separate booklet of useful fitting tips and I also sought some very helpful advice on Instagram.

The main consensus pointed to a full stomach adjustment, reducing the crotch depth, and giving more space in the thigh.

Thanks in particular to Evelyn @slowintention who sent me these diagrams showing how she did the full thigh and full stomach adjustments.

Toile 3 – which repurposed the aforementioned horrible-fabric Landers by the way. What was I thinking. Pinching out the crotch wrinkles with pins.

Over the course of three toiles I made the following adjustments:
– 1” full stomach adjustment (I added space both horizontally and vertically as you can see in the main slashed areas above)
– Graded up a size at the inner front thigh, tapering in again towards the knee
– Took 1” off the rise all around, and wedged a further 3/4” out of the crotch curve at the lengthen/shorten line
– Scooped out the back crotch a bit at the seat (low butt adjustment)
– Omitted the back darts completely (?!)
– Sewed the outer leg seams at a 3/4” seam allowance, mainly to compensate for the stretch in my fabric
– Shortened the leg length by 1″
– Converted the waistband from straight to curved (a tutorial is included in the pattern for this; I only needed it because I lowered the rise to where my body curves in). I sewed cotton tape into the top seam of the waistband to prevent stretching over time.

The fit is still not perfect! There are some diagonal drag lines on the back leg and there is excess fabric bunching around my knees – I was focusing on the waist/hip area and only toiled down to the mid thigh. The grainline seems a bit twisted too which I wonder is down to maintaining the straight side seams. But I don’t really mind! They’re crazy comfortable and I think they’re the kind of trouser that will need minor adjustment each time it’s sewn due to fabric variances.

I pretty much went my own way with the construction. I cut-on the fly facing pieces to the main front leg and used my preferred Sandra Betzina method to do a zip fly instead of the button fly as in the pattern. I’m proud of this fly front, it’s super flat and I interfaced the surrounding area inside to keep it sturdy. The cool matte black button came as a spare with a RTW pair of jeans!

I also decided to add a sort of tummy-tuck stay piece into the front for a bit of firmness in this area – similar to a pocket stay/holster but as these have no front pockets it’s just a layer of self fabric. I used the front pieces to draft them off and anchored into the fly and side seams as they were sewn. I stretched the pieces a little as I sewed them in and I think this really helps in smoothing out the front area.

Next time I sew this pattern I will try using a non-stretch fabric as recommended, but this pair is so comfortable and I’m pleased with the fit I ended up with.

A month of #dresslikeacrayon

It’s has been SO nice to see #dresslikeacrayon resonating and taking off a little bit with other people on Instagram during January. I started it primarily to kick myself into re-sharing outfits and thinking about new sewing plans, so for other people to get on board was a huge bonus. It ended up being incredibly inspiring seeing how other people crayoned; I found a lot of new folk to follow and added a lot of ideas to my sewing list!

I have to give a shout out to some of the most dedicated crayoners in particular: jessiejessyg who I think was the most frequent hashtagger and most dedicated to complete-crayoning with a really eclectic range of outfits. KatieKortmanArt who again really took the theme to heart, especially with bright colours, and invented the crayon box dance! And Charlotte who shared some wonderfully textural outfits as well as a cute armful of crayons.

Personally, the crayoning theme largely achieved what I hoped. I was able to look at my wardrobe with new eyes, combine items that I hadn’t considered before, and come out with quite a clear idea of what I might be lacking in terms of adaptable pieces that my wardrobe would benefit from to unlock a load of new outfit combos. I also learned what I already expected; that since I gravitate towards a fairly constrained palette anyway I had a fair amount of crayoning choice and it definitely often reduced the time it took me to decide what to wear. I also learned that I CAN wear bright(-ish) colours and not feel horribly self-conscious. The red and green crayon outfits were some of my favourites, even if I didn’t feel completely myself in them..

That said, the theme became really difficult to follow the crayoning theme over the last couple of weeks as it got really cold and my only completely full-length pants, and winter boots, are black! So I did end up either defaulting to boring black-crayoning quite a bit or my usual pair-anything-with-black outfit formula. I fully expect to keep crayoning all year round, and I think it will only be easier and more fun in the spring.

What has been added to my sewing plans as a result? Definitely pants in more colours to pair with my collection of sweater and tops. Tan/brown was a really popular colour on the hashtag and I am scouring the world for the perfect shade of corduroy for wide-leg trousers. Likewise I’m fond of the idea of more powder blue, which seems to span a nice area between the logistical difficulties of wearing full-on white and the ubiquitous boringness of denim. And more jumpsuits/overalls! I wear my small collection of all-in-ones so frequently and they are the first thing I turn to on indecisive/nothing-to-wear days. Instantly dressed, layer-able for all weathers, instant crayon.

I have saved just some of the posts from the hashtag into colour-themed Instagram stories which you can explore from my profile, and I highly recommend browsing the hashtag for a dose of colourful crayon inspiration. Thank you so much to everyone who’s taken part, it’s been such a joy to ‘host’ and kick off this fun theme. Keep at it!

Two frosting frocks

I’m a million miles late joining the fun #sewfrosting challenge started by Heather and Kelli before Christmas, but I finally got around to photographing two fancy dresses I’ve made in the last couple of months, both of which have been successfully party-tested already.

First up a jazzy dress I wore for my birthday party last weekend. I bought this amazing outer space embroidered tulle from Stonemountain & Daughter last year (it still seems to be in stock!). It cost me an absolute fortune in shipping and custom fees but luckily it was worth it. I only got 1.5yds so had to do some very careful cutting to get the midi length dress I wanted with decent pattern placement. I had basically zero scraps and the shoulders with no embroidery are eating riiiiight into the selvedge, heh.

I wanted a dead simple pattern and used this Stoff & Stil pattern that I threw in out of curiosity in a recent fabric order. They have an awesome range of patterns for cheap prices in very cool, wearable styles. They come single size, and unusually come pre-cut in whole (non-halved) pieces and made out of a lightweight fabric-like material. I imagine you could tissue-fit the flat pattern with pins very easily prior to cutting. I liked working with the pattern a lot, the grippy fabric pieces made cutting really easy and the nice big bellows envelope makes it easy to re-store the pieces.

I had to adjust the fit as the size that fitted my hips was way too big on the shoulders and chest, so I sliced down from mid-shoulder to hem and overlapped the pieces, tapering to less as I went down. Otherwise the fit is great and will likely become a TNT for simple tee dress shapes.

I thought carefully about seam and hem finishes in this very transparent tulle. I tested French seams but they looked pretty horrible, so in the end decided to overlock then press and topstitch down to one side. Similarly for the neckline and sleeve hems I overlocked the raw edge, finger-pressed it back twice and topstitched. The hem is still raw! I confess I was finishing the dress five minutes before I got out the door for my party but hey, sometimes fuss-free (non)finishes are the best and who’s looking that closely when you’re covered in sparkly planets and stars.

The transparency also necessitated an under-layer which I hadn’t really considered; in a pinch I wore an Inari knit dress I made a while ago. It’s not ideal as it’s looser fit and the ties add some bulk, so at some point I’ll make a simple close-fitted tee dress to wear underneath.

Here’s the dress looking cool under a blacklight in a bar, and doing some serious karaoke, my two preferred birthday activities.

I used the same pattern before Christmas to make a mini dress for my company’s Christmas party. It had a ‘red, green and/or sparkly’ dress theme so this excellent snake-y sequin fabric I bought a year or so ago (also from S&S but sold out now) was perfect. It is also quite sheer so I’m wearing a black Ogden cami slip I made a while ago underneath.

This was my very first time working with sequins, but luckily it was a gentle introduction! Crucially the sequins are pliable enough that they could be cut and sewn straight through, no need to remove them from the seam allowances. I finished the neckline with purchased black bias tape facing, which I handsewed down – stitching into the mesh means the sequins cover it and it looks invisible. The other hems are rather shamefully just overlocked and left plain. I tried the same bias finish on one of the sleeves but it made it flute out weirdly, and actually I like the weightless look and near-invisible finish of the black overlocking.

The great thing is this simple tee shape is so comfortable and forgettable to wear, but the fancy fabrics make them still feel special. That’s ideal frosting for me!