Wardrobe Orphans

God, I hate February. Every year it’s the same. Several months into winter but knowing that there’s several months ahead of you. Everyone’s sick. It’s cold, dreary, grey and you’re constantly getting sent pictures from your brother, who lives in Sydney, of blue skies, blue water, sunshine, beaches and tans.

Ugh.

And this year it doesn’t look like we’re going to get any snow, so there’s not even that fun to look forward to. I really think I was born to live in a place with year round summer - or at least close to it.

Sorry, envious, self-indulgent moan over.

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Anyway, moving on from misery, let’s talk about Wardrobe Orphans. Those loved items of clothing that languish in your closet despite your affection for them because you just can’t decide how, or with what, to wear them.

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Enter this shirt. It’s TPC20 from Trend Patterns (which can be made into a shirt or a dress) in a really lovely striped Bengal cotton shirting from the The Fabric Store online. I absolutely love it. The large statement collar, the wide elbow length sleeves, the huge cuffs, as well as the volume of the shirt. All of which make a big statement and coupled with the dramatic stripe, I think are really striking.

Although, after my wonderful, but perennially and proudly and highly amusingly inappropriate and rude brother-in-law mentioned, it looks like something a referee would wear, I can’t get that image out of my head. This doesn’t help with the below.

The problem is I’m incredibly particular about how colours, silhouettes and styles work together and with this I just don’t know how to wear it.

I think this type of volume on top requires a slimmer or tapered leg. Enter the only pair of pants I have that fit vaguely this description, but then the hem hits me at exactly my widest part and I don’t think looks particularly great.

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To resolve this, I think I might remove the hem-tie and wear it tucked into high-rise pants, but again all my slimmer leg pants are RTW and the supposed high rise is never high enough on me to actually fit the high-rise requirement.

Perhaps greater contrast in colour would also help.

I think, therefore, I need to make some more pants: which, as much as I love making pants is an annoying situation to be in. Having said that I did just order some gorgeous bull denim from Blackbird Fabrics to make the TPC Utility Trousers, again from Trend Patterns. Sophie and Shauni’s versions are totally wonderful.

I also have a plan to make another version of McCalls 7754 View C in black denim (I have a bubblegum pink pair I made in the summer which fit so beautifully but never made it to the blog), so with a proper high rise and tapered leg, we might be in business. Eventually.

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I’m also going to make the dress version of this in the Spring. It’s gorgeous. And won’t require outfit back up.

I’ve a few of Trend’s patterns and I really like her aesthetic. Modern with interesting shapes and details. The instructions aren’t hand-holdy - assuming you have a fairly decent sewing knowledge already - but they are really clear and very easy to follow. The covered placket on this, for example, was a doddle.

The only thing I didn’t love was the sleeve construction. The turn up is made - really cleverly I might add - before the sleeve inseam is stitched which means you end up with the seam running all the way to the end of the sleeve. This in turn means you have to be super precise to ensure you have a smooth line around the end of the sleeve, which is normally avoided by the hem or cuff being stitched as the final stage of the sleeve.

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Due to the sleeves’ wide design this can be seen when waving ones arms around - which is absolutely within my overly expressive, hand gesticulating nature. That all said, with the cuff made the way it is, I’m not sure there would be another way to finish it - or at least I haven’t tried to figure one out.

I have very few Wardrobe Orphans. It makes me happy that I usually get the balance of what I need with what I want to make about right. So I suppose the only solution to this problem is to keep on making things that fill the gaps. Oh well, that will help dispel that February malaise somewhat!

Do you have wardrobe orphans?

How would you wear this shirt?

See you soon x

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Ruffles

Do you ever think there are a finite number of silhouettes and styles? 

For me it seems that fashions have exhausted themselves.  There doesn't seem to be anywhere to go to create ground-breaking women's clothing.  All bases have been covered. So the only way to appease the questionable "need" for something different each season, is to go back to previous decades and find ways to make those fashions more palatable for now. 

I'm pretty sure that 10 years ago, if you'd have asked anyone if 80s fashion would be resurrected, they'd have shuddered and thanked all the things that there seemed zero chance of that happening.  Yet, as we are aware, we are well and truly in the midst of a huge 80s throwback; wide shoulders, neon, high waisted trousers, dungarees, high necked shirts, turtle necks, culottes, and: All. The. Ruffles.

And I have to say, that whilst I have no desire to repeat the shocking pink polka dotted ra-ra skirt with shoulder padded cropped jacket of my pre-teens, I really like the refined 80s details that are on trend right now. However long that may last for. See I don't hate fashion, I'm just intrigued by the way in which current trends draw on prior ones. I suppose this is like fine art or music - all good creative things must take inspiration from somewhere.

Aaaaannnyway.

I have never in my life worn ruffles. After the ra-ra skirt aberration, I was generally attired in a such a way that, combined with my height and then lack of curves, I was the girl who periodically, and to my horror, got mistaken for a fella. Pink ruffles were categorically NOT entertained.

But now they are.

This confection of a blouse is Simplicity 4122 which I got from Christine Haynes' destash earlier this year. It is very very similar to the Republique du Chiffon Suzon shirt, which I kind of prefer but when you snap up a pattern for a dollar, you kind of feel you ought to stick to it.  The main differences with this are the mandarin collar, the lack of bust darts and the way in which the ruffle is dealt with where it joins the placket. There are also various variations, some with sleeves - this is View F. 

I made a muslin, as I regularly do with tops, which resulted in a few minor changes. I did a forward shoulder adjustment, as well as lengthening the shoulder seam and placing the back pattern pieces quarter of an inch from the fold to accommodate my broad shoulders. And then design wise, I made the ruffle deeper as I wanted more of a statement - more like this. I didn't add to the bodice length as I normally would as I liked the slight cropped look.

I have worn it a lot since I finished it in July but realise looking at these pictures there are some issues.  I used red and white striped cotton (that looks pink) voile (I think?) and a white rayon challis to line the yoke. I obviously stretched the latter whilst sewing as the whole yoke pulls out of shape around the neck. I also failed to take into account, when widening the ruffle, about button placement, so the button that meets the ruffle had to be stitched on top of it. I am pretty sure the bottom of the placket lines up but it doesn't appear to in these photos.

And the rolled hem on the ruffle.  

Oh. My. Word.  What a total pain in the backside that was.  I decided to try and use a rolled hem foot which I've used once before when it worked like a dream.  

This did not. At all. Shouting and throwing things might have happened.

I will here on in revert to my foolproof rolled hem method.

The things I do like? The immaculate (!) bias binding I did on the armholes, the neat collar, and the 90 degree points on the top of the placket.  I've finally realised that trimming and poking through does not a neat corner make. But folding and pressing the excess along the seamline at the corner and using that to push the corner out gets a much better result - I discovered that here a while ago, but it took me a while to get the knack of it.

I haven't had a single nice comment about this and I get some funny looks when wearing it, but despite all of that, I like it.

I think I'll make it again, but in a more dynamic, less saccharine colour/ print, lengthening it through the chest a little and perhaps adding darts to remove some of the excess fabric around the bust. Or I could just bite the bullet and buy Suzon ...

So my first foray into ruffles, whilst not an unbridled success, is positive and I already have a second ruffly pattern in the offing. And I think ruffles have come far enough that I can ignore the comments about Spandau Ballet that my husband makes, as those of a person who is not at all, even remotely, fashionly clued up. Love him.

See you soon x

Pride and buttonholes

So, I'm starting to think there is some kind of sewing karma.  I'm pretty sure that the Sewing Gods keep an eye out for any sewing chatter that could be a little braggy or just a smidge too proud and take exception. And then to make sure that karmic balance is restored they wreak sewing related havoc.

Either that or I was overtired, distracted, complacent and not really paying attention, as this shirt, which funnily I love, is a complete disaster.

Fresh off the triumphant completion of my Ginger Jeans, I dusted off the Grainline Archer Shirt pattern, which I've had for over a year, decided that it would be a breeze (despite the fact I've only sewn one collared shirt before and it was of middling success), shrugged my shoulders at the fact I didn't have quite enough fabric and blithely went to town with my shears.

Aside from having to piece the yoke facing, the button band and the undercollar due to said fabric shortage and marking these with bright pink chalk that still won't come off, the cutting and first steps went pretty well and I got really excited about how well this absolutely gorgeous fabric suits the pattern. It's an off-white cotton-linen mix (I think) with random flecks of colour throughout; again from my summer Fabric Store LA haul. It has enough heft and opacity to become a shirt but is beautifully soft and so comfortable to wear. I don't often get my fabric / pattern combining right but this is a goody and I was especially delighted with the sight of the back pleat - which is just so pretty!  It went downhill from there.

I was watching the Sewing Bee at the same time and in my head smugly telling off the contestants for making 'basic' mistakes that could be easily avoided.  Enter the Sewing Gods again. I had already attached the yoke facing to the outside of the shirt and had to unpick it. Then I looked up from the sleeves I had just inserted sans puckers and was in the middle of congratulating myself as to their beauty, when I realised I'd sewn them on inside out. Oh.

No bother, I thought; I won't unpick them as they're so pretty - and I wanted to flat fell the seams anyway - so I'll just do them from the outside.  Brilliant!  Yes! 

No.

The Sewing Gods aren't so forgiving.  I was slap happy with my seam trimming and managed to cut through both bits of seam allowance so that in at least two places I couldn't turn the top of the flat fell over correctly and had to fix it by zigzagging the botched areas. Not so pretty after all.

Finally, I had two inserted sleeves with flat felled armhole seams and only about a quarter of those covered in 'decorative' zigzag.  Hooray, on to the collar.  No, not onto the collar as the result of trying to avoid unpicking the sleeves was that my sleeve plackets were now, you guessed it, inside out.  Total head slap moment.

Clearly unpicking the plackets was more fiddly and more liable to total disaster than unpicking a more robust armhole seam but I couldn't really start unpicking the held-together-by-whispers flat fell. Fortunately the plackets went back on without mishap.

The collar took a bit of head scratching but I didn't totally balls it up, but, and I found this with the Alder dress too - the collar pieces were too long for the neckline and I wasn't entirely sure what to do with the excess.  I staystitched the neckline so it wouldn't stretch out whilst I was working on it - should I have done this also for the collar pieces?

I would say this though:  I love Grainline Studio's patterns, and without realising it I have sewn two Moss Skirts, two Scout Tees, one Alder Dress and now one Archer and soon a couple of Linden Sweatshirts.  So it's safe to say I'm a fan. However, I found the instructions and illustrations for the Archer a little scant.  The sewalong saved me on a couple of occasions when I couldn't fathom the instructions.  However, this could all easily be due to a gin/tiredness/distracted combination.

Anyway, the collar was satisfactory - although I couldn't get decent points - the cuffs weren't great as I missed catching all the facing when topstitching them down so they look a bit messy inside, but OK from outside, and then the hem was neat, so phew - on the home stretch.  My machine makes really pretty buttonholes and I've never had any problems with them at all. 

Can't say that anymore. First buttonhole just got totally stuffed up and I had to unpick it.  Kapow from the Sewing Gods!  They clearly hadn't forgotten my trying to get around the unpicking task earlier.

And then on the very last buttonhole I was overzealous with the seam ripper and cut straight through the end of the stitching.  Oh for the love of all things shiny! So, more zigzagging. This is an abomination as it just happened to be where I had pieced the buttonstand/band thingy so that seam wants to fray also.  As well as being highlighted pink due to seemingly indelible chalk.  There is not enough fray block in the world to sort this mess out. 

BUT I did finish the shirt, I didn't waste this glorious fabric and it is a beautifully designed pattern.  It fits really well across the shoulders which is often tight for me on RTW shirts and I love it despite its (many many) flaws.  We'll just have to see how well it holds up to constant wear and washing.

The skirt is from Topshop - hence the awful lack of pattern matching across the front seam.

My alterations:

  • Graded up a size at the hips.

  • Added 3 inches to the sleeves to accommodate my monkey arms and HPI

  • Next time I might take some width out of the sleeves as they look quite voluminous in these photos.

Things I've learnt:

  • How to insert a sleeve placket - although I'd like to see if there are other methods that might feel more robust to me.

  • With fabric that is the same on both sides, check and check and check again that everything is the right way around.

  • I will be buying a buttonhole chisel type thing at the first opportunity.

  • Just be humble and not lazy and UNPICK THE DAMN THING!

  • Endless snowy winters are no good for lighting photographs. I'm so sick of being inside.

So, do you believe in sewing karma?

See you soon x