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

Oh hello there, LTNS*. And Mara's dress

So. It's been a while.  

(Every time I start a sentence with 'so' now, I can feel the eyebrows of a friend who reprimanded me for such grammatical terribleness hitting the ceiling.

Ah well, it's my party ...)

I've missed this little space, I didn't intend to drop out completely, and I have sewn a few things over the summer, but mainly I've been doing life.  

Life that includes awesome things like the BEACH, and long afternoons of kids playing in mud in the park, and watching Great Britain absolutely kill it at the Olympics, and going on vacation to England and drinking with old old friends, and meeting special babies, and hugging my family.

Life that also includes horrible things like spending three days in hospital with my five year old who, thanks to a fractured ankle earlier in the year, ended up with osteomyelitis in July. She had to endure MRIs and surgery and endless prodding, not to mention the utterly detested IV. And we had only walked into Immediate Care to check out her slightly swollen ankle. 

Thankfully she's recovered brilliantly and is now getting to grips with Kindergarten. Sob.

Consequently, sewing and writing about sewing got pushed from its position near the top of the 'most-important-things' pile for a couple of months.

And now it's nearly autumn and I have all these summery things I want to share, but given that it's still been 30+ degrees and about 80% humidity, I think I can write about summer sewing for a little while yet.

So, (there it is again Mike) shall we take a moment to look at this Mara Hoffman beauty;

Isn't this the most perfect summer dress: cool and breezy but also fitted and spaghetti-strapped, demure yet also not, stripes, mid-calf, gorgeous textured cotton. And feature pockets.  

And also $300.

I almost, almost put it on the plastic.  It's just so pretty.  

But then I saw that 1) the lining was polyester and 2) the stripes didn't match up at the side seams (which for $300 they really should), that 3) the back was shirred and 4) I don't have $300 to spend on a dress, and I decided that I could make a dress that approximated the look of this but didn't have the three things that I didn't like about it.  And for once also save myself a bunch of wonga. 

As an aside, I have to say that the thing that ultimately decides it for me on whether to buy RTW or not is the fabric. Not just the quality and fibre but the print.  It can be very hard to replicate something you see because you simply can't find a print or texture or drape that comes close to the thing you lust after.

But I did find some fabric (in Mood of course) that came within a mile and so I made this:

It's a slubby black and white linen rather than a waffley blue and white cotton but by using the wrong side, it comes close to the lovely fresh blue of Mara's dress.  The linen is a little heavy but actually, I think, works quite well with this style, giving a more structural look.

Next up was the pattern.  I couldn't find a pattern that came close, (although Republique du Chiffon released something similar when I was mid way through construction in May), so I did a bit of cut and shut with an out-of-print top pattern and the skirt from a vintage pattern and pockets from somewhere else.  I want to say Brumby but I'm pretty sure it wasn't as those pockets are so much bigger. This is the problem with it taking a long time to make something and then even longer to write about the details. (Plus having a memory like Dory.)

The top is McCalls 6325 which I remembered from this post and tracked down a copy on Etsy. I based it on view D but obviously added a skirt rather than the hideous handkerchief hem affair (for the record, in case you were interested, I irrationally HATE handkerchief hems). And the skirt was from a dress pattern of my mum's from the late 70s, Vogue 1860, which gave just the amount of gather and flare I was looking for.  (I really have to make that dress in full, it's so lovely.)

And the technical bits:

I made the bodice following the instructions, adding an inch to the length and narrowing the straps being the only real changes.  I followed the instructions for my size, but as you can see the cups aren't a great fit (even though I did make a muslin!) and I should have used bigger, or done something to make them deeper as they're not really form fitting.

I was super careful to match all the stripes across the placket and at the side seams.  I decided not to on the cups, mainly because I liked the way the mis-match on Mara's dress highlights the style lines.

The bodice is fully lined with some white cotton shirting which gives it nice structure.  I came a little unstuck with working the lining around the end of the placket. This doesn't open fully as the view I was making does, and I couldn't find a way to neatly enclose the end of the placket so it's just serged.  It doesn't look great on the inside but it works and actually holds everything securely in place.

The skirt was very simple. I initially thought I would pleat it rather than gather as that is more flattering on me, but the weight of the linen, the contrast of the fullness with the very fitted bodice and the casual nature of the dress changed my mind. I went all out with the stripe matching on the pockets and then gathered it and attached it to the bodice.

I didn't bother to recreate the separate wide band on the bottom of Mara's dress as I'm not entirely sure of its purpose and don't love the awkward break it creates in the stripe.

The buttons are self-covered and are functional, but as I forewent the back shirring and therefore stretch on the back, I needed to find an additional way to get the dress over my hips and / or shoulders, so I inserted a zip on the side seam (rescued from an old dress I might add.) This wasn't as difficult as I thought it was going to be but I did redo it a couple of times to get my stripes matching.

I hand-stitched the lining to the zip tape and hand-stitched the lining down to the waist seam. And, as I don't really need to undo the buttons to get it on and off, I think I will stitch the plackets together to keep them sitting straight, as they pull out of shape at the moment.

Verdict? I love it.  I need to shorten the straps as they keep falling down and I would like it if they joined the bodice slightly further apart, but I couldn't do that without changing the shape of the bodice top, which I wasn't convinced I could make work. The linen is a little heavy for the dress I had in mind, but the structure creates something quite different that I like.  And I kind of wish I'd used the right side of the fabric as the black and white would have been more dramatic. 

Sewing is a funny thing. It feels like it should be very precise and that you should come out with exactly what you envisaged, but for me it often feels like my 'A' level art projects. Something, namely my (in)ability, creates some kind of math aberration where ingredients in, does not necessarily equal ingredients out.

I think the heat is short-circuiting my brain, so it's probably best I go lie down.

I hope you have all had wonderful summers and wishing you much joy with a whole plethora of patterns and cosy fabrics for your autumn sewing.

See you soon(er) x

*LTNS = Long time no see.

ps: Thank you so much to the sweet-souled lady who sent me an email in the last couple of weeks.  She was just checking in, checking to see if I was OK as I haven't blogged in a while.  We don't know each other - other than through social media - and I was so touched that somebody took time out of their life to reach out. I know in the past I have wondered why someone has been so quiet and not thought to check in.  I wish I had.

 

A style about-face: Shadi pencil skirt and Eucalypt tank

It's funny how my attitudes to different items of clothing have changed over time. A few years back there were few things I found more restrictive and uncomfortable and felt more self-conscious in than a pencil skirt.  I wore them occasionally - when I needed to wear a suit or wanted to feel particularly corporate and put together. But my hip to waist ratio just didn't work with what was available on the high street. The age old if-it-fits-on-the-hips-it-gapes-at-the-waist-and-if-it-fits-at-the-waist-it's-obscenely-tight-on-the-hips scenario.

I even went so far as to have two suits with pencil skirts custom made when I was travelling in Vietnam thinking that at least they'd fit me properly (oh yes, I am absolutely travel name dropping here). Alas, having been really really sick when I arrived in Hanoi, by the time I got to tailor central in Hoi An I was substantially lighter than usual and consequently as soon as I got back home and reverted to my usual weight, the skirts were too tight: Like constantly riding up, and only able to walk with a serious wiggle tight.  Which in turn meant it took me a lifetime to walk to the Tube, particularly as I always wore four inch heels, which meant I had to get up earlier which was not at all compatible with my pretty much daily hangovers at that time.

Lets just say I never felt like me in them, not least because I associated them with work and not something I would wear for fun.

Well, that was at least three lifetimes ago and my attitude towards the Mighty Pencil Skirt has swung full tilt as I now view them as comfortable and something that is an easy alternative to jeans to wear day-to-day. I also appear to have lost my self-consciousness about my BF Bottom and the detrimental effects this might have on the general public if combined with a pencil skirt.

So I should point out that the pencil skirts I buy, make and wear now are generally made of knits which obviously makes them a lot easier to wear than those made in wovens.  Er hum. But in my defence I do have at least one woven version on my to-sew (stretching to infinity) list.

I can't remember which came first: my desire for a striped pencil skirt, or my feverish pouncing on this gorgeous dark navy and white wide striped super thick Theory French terry I found at Mood Fabrics, but I suspect it was the fabric. 

I used the Named Clothing Shadi skirt pattern which I've made once before and really liked.  It's super super simple but in true not-paying-attention-because-it's-a-simple-pattern fashion I had to spend a significant amount of time unpicking my serger threads due to a backwards waistband mishap.   I wanted to start and finish the skirt on a navy stripe and to make the waistband exactly the same width as a stripe so that there was no break in the pattern and it looked as if it was just one continuous piece of fabric. However I also wanted it to hit knee length and the two desires were not compatible.

So initially I thought, well there is excess white stripe at the top so I'll have to make the waistband white.  Which looked terrible, so I flipped the waistband and after ALL the unpicking, made it navy and decided to live with the fact it doesn't have that continuous stripe look. The blow is softened by being rather pleased with the stripe matching at the side seams and the nice straight-along-the-stripe-edge hem. 

I really love the bold stripe in this skirt. The fabric is very firm, with only a little stretch, so it isn't as easy to wear as other knit skirts but it is still getting worn a lot (or at least it will do when I can wear clothes with waistbands again.) 

I also love the navy with the beautiful emerald green of this silk cotton Eucalypt tank. This is such beautiful fabric that I've been sitting on for a while and originally came from my mum's Chest of Fabric Wonder, I think having been left over from a dress she made for a wedding in the 80s. She's a serious serious hoarder.  

I had less than a yard so I knew it would be a tank and wanted to revisit the Eucalypt having made a dress from it last year, which I was not entirely happy with. For this version, I added an inch to each shoulder seam, scooped out the neck a little more and slimmed the hips (primarily as I didn't have enough width in my yardage) and I love the fit now.  I really like this top in general even though I deployed contrast topstitching (read, "oh cream will just have to do") as I haven't anything like emerald green in my thread tin.  And even though my trials with the bias neckline and armholes prompted this rather ranty (not 'randy' as autocorrect kept wanting me to say) post, they are sitting pretty flat.

So, the pencil skirt is in favour, the combination of pencil skirt and tank is a goody and can and will be repeated in many many forms over the coming months. And I love that as my lifestyle, my attitude towards my figure and my understanding of fit and fabric change, my eyes are reopened to previously no-go styles. 

Have you had those kind of garment reawakenings? is there something you never thought you'd wear but you've tried and loved? Do you agree that it isn't always necessarily dictated by the changes in fashion?

See you soon x