Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Trousers update

The trousers are so close to being ready to try on, I can taste it. I started the fly zip last night after I got back from the gym. I stitched up the crotch seam then sewed the zip to the left hand-underlap. Of course, my zip's too short, and I'm buggered if I'm going to get another one. So I pinned the two sides together and sewed the seam further up. Opened out the pants and of course I'd caught the zip in the seam so it showed on the right side. Id. I. Ot.

That was the point that my voice of reason (bless it) spoke up and told me to stop sewing. I listened to it, which was very wise.

Tonight though, I will be sewing again, and I hope to get the trousers to a state where they're ready to be tried on. Thrilling.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Back to School

I'm on a learning kick at the moment.

Paul and I are learning Spanish together, and I'm currently working my way through Learn Ancient Greek by Peter Jones. Yes, Ancient Greek. It was a whim inspired by Donna Tartt's novel The Secret History, a literary thriller about a group of US college students who murder a colleague. And, erm, speek ancient Greek quite a bit. The general reaction of my friends when I said I was thinking of learning it was 'um, why?' And I can entirely understand that reaction.

But the book was quite reasonable, so even if I didn't get past the alphabet, it wouldn't matter too much. In theory. In practice, I wasn't prepared for how much I'm actually enjoying this. Every night on the tube I'm scribbling out my little translations while the person sitting next to me gawps at my notebook thinking 'WTF? And the mornings too -- I was gutted this morning because I couldn't get a seat, and couldn't carry on with chapter 3.

There's something immensely fun about learning for the pure sake of learning. Let's face it, what use is ancient Greek to me really? Spanish I can use, even if the extent of it is ordering beer and tapas (and I can do that now). But that's not the point, is it? I'm doing this because I want to learn something new. And there's nothing newer than ancient Greek, right?

I also want to learn to cook. I can sort of cook at the moment, in that I can fling together a soup from a bunch of vegies and some pasta. I operate under the school of 'chuck everything in'. Beans, pasta, bacon, onions. Lots of onions. And garlic. Don't forget the garlic. But I don't know that I could say that I know how to cook.
Paul bought me Jamie Oliver's new opus last night, and we've had a brief flick through it. This is part of his attempt to get the whole nation cooking. Simple looking recipes, basic with reasonable ingredients. I have some reservations about the show -- in it, I've heard, he takes a woman who has almost never given her children a home-cooked meal in their lives and shown her how to make spaghetti meatballs. Lovely, wonderful, fabulous. Except then he returns to her later and they're back on junky takeaways because she's overwhelmed and is struggling to pay the bills. He's trying to get the nation to cook, but who is going to buy this book? Not the people who really need it, evidently. They're not going to pay out £25 (although admittedly mine was a tenner from Sainsburys. Pukka!) on a cookery book, are they?
While I don't mind Jamie Oliver and quite like his books/shows I do find the implication that he's on a purely humanitarian mission slightly tiresome. He is, after all, making quite a lot of money from these books -- let's not forget that, although it's great that he's trying to increase awareness,
The book itself seems pretty good although I need to sit down and read it cover to cover. He asks you to pledge learn one recipe (at least) from each chapter and then teach them to someone else. I'm not sure about the second half of that pledge, but I would definitely like to spread my cooking horizons and try cooking more than soups and the odd stews.
Here's to learning something new.

Monday, 6 October 2008


Well, the Hong Knog finish was a bust. It added too much bulk to the seam allowances, and wasn't that exactly what I was trying to avoid? Cutting the continuous bias strip was easier than I'd thought, and I will definitely be using that technique in the future. I'll have to find a better way of marking the fabric. The water-soluble blue pen I used was only just visible on the black satin I bought, and I was having my first Spanish lesson with Paul while I was trying to cut it out -- result? Not altogether sure that I stayed in the lines. Also I should have made the strips wider. Mine were just over an inch (yes, the instructions said an inch and a half. Yes, I'm an idiot) and the one strip I tried was a little fiddly.

I'm (of course) hand-overcasting the seams now. They're pretty much done, so the worst is over. The next project I do is going to be much less work-intensive -- French seams! Ha!

Both the trousers and the blouse are starting to take shape. The blouse facing is in, finished and more or less pressed. It's the sleeves yet, and I just have to figure out if I'm going to add extra reinforcement to the buttonhole area. The blouse fabric is pretty flimsy, so it would probably be wise. The trouser legs are ready to be sewn together. They are quite wide, but I will always be wearing these with heels, so that shouldn't be a problem.

I'm beginning to realise my decision to work on the blouse and trousers simultaneously was a mistake. The intent was to finish both garments at the same time, so that the entire outfit is complete. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in practice it's too much of a PITA. Bloody multi-tasking -- I get enough of that at work. It means I can't give the garment enough of my attention, because I always have to plan the other one in my head. A bit like cooking two seperate recipes, which have to be ready at the same time. And I know, I know -- I realise this is a self-imposed rule so it's utterly silly for me to fret about it -- but I like the idea of completing an outfit in one go.

It's not going to happen next time though. One item at a time, damn it. Well, more or less, anyway.

Friday, 3 October 2008

BWOF 03/2006

This dress 108 is a current UFO of mine, currently awaiting finishing details. I made it up in a very white cotton-tyupe fabric with black embroidery, and added a banding of black ribbon at the hem. It stalled because I left off the self-fabric belt. Without that it looked too baggy on me, rather like a nurse's outfit in the white fabric. With a belt it might look nicer and I intend to dig it out and revisit it.

110 and 110 (A jacket and skirt). I like the skirt, but not so sure about the jacket. I do, however, like it in the linedrawing though, although maybe it's a little boxy for my tastes.

106, -- this blouse. There's an interesting effect at the button band, but the busy print they've used in the magazine (for both versions) makes it hard to see. I'm undecided how I feel about high-necked blouses like this. Maybe they're a little prim for me. On the other hand making my wardrobe a little more ladylike it one of my goals.

114 and 115 -- Jacket and skirt. Have I mentioned my deep, abiding love for white suits? Love. This. I made the skirt ages ago, but I suspect I threw it out as it was made up in a cheap polyester.

Cute blouse (104) for Spring/Summer. I'd like to make it, but it won't be for a while. Perhaps TMI, but every time I read this, 'Boom for big blossoms', I read 'blossoms' as 'bosoms'. *sigh*

Trousers (107b). I know it's a terrible idea. I know it's utterly, horribly wrong. I don't care. I still want a pair of patterned capris. With flowers on. For spring obviously, and I'd shorten them as that is definitely not a good length for me.

Blouse (118) -- Not keen on this. It's a little too cutesy for me, and it looks like its shorter than I usually like my tops to be. Also the fronts don't overlap, right? I don't really want to be flashing my bra-band to the world.

Skirt (105) -- I've made this skirt recently -- haven't posted it yet, though. While I like the pattern,. I'm not sure it worked too well in the fabrics I chose for it -- I used a patterned silky type for the body of the skirt and a solid matching pink for the yoke. Pretty fabrics, and I'm not unhappy with it exactlty -- I just don't seem to have anything to go with it. Also it's another summer garment, and that isn't where my mind is at, currently. Otherwise, pretty skirt and I plan to post and review it.

I want to make this petite dress and coat (127 and 126). Pretty and elegant and sweet, although I have absolutely nowhere to wear it as a matching outfit. Very formal, and I love the lines of both the dress and the coat.

They have made it up in silk dupion, which could work out quite costly if I made both garments. I would possibly use taffeta instead.

There's also some pretty wedding dresses -- for obvious reasons I doubt I'll ever make any of those, although I do quite like 117 (which could make a beautiful party dress in non-white fabric) and 125, because it's so very pretty. Also like this coat/dress combination, 102/122, which is a fascinating alternative if you wanted to be a bit different. That coat with the train? Oh my.
The plus section has a selection of casual clothes, including the ubiquitous parka, a very smart looking denim jacket, that would look great in a variety of fabrics -- linen is the first to spring to mind. The line drawing looks more like a blazer than an denim jacket. There's also a smart tracksuit and some great trousers in a variety of views. Pretty good selection, if all very casual (except for the jacket).
And finally, clothes for the sprogs. All very pretty and brightly coloured. 138 is a very pretty flouncy summer dress, which could work well in a more formal fabric for a party. There's also a pair of unusual pants. And another pair of unusual pants.

Seam Finishing

It has come to my attention that I have no idea how I'm going to finish the seams on the trousers. The blouse? Easy -- I'm overcasting the seams by hand. Not as onerous as it sounds, because I'm stitching both allowances together, rather than overcasting them separately. My fabric is quite lightweight, so that seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

I favour overcasting by hand because it adds very little bulk, and I rather enjoy handsewing, although it does make the process of constructing a garment much slower.

The trousers, on the other hand, I haven't yet decided. Overcasting doesn't seem right, either by hand or by machine. I don't want flat-felled seams on these pants. So what to choose?

I think I'm probably going to go for a Hong Kong finish. This is when a bias-strip of fabric is used to bind the seam allowances. It's a higher end finish that I've been wanting to try for a while, and it gives me the opportunity to try cutting a continuous bias strip from a length of fabric --another new technique for me, and I think it'll add a nice detail to the trousers. Even if it is a detail only I know about.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I think I might be in love...

...With this pattern. Oh my.

It's not often I fall for envelope patterns. Whenever I browse the main catalogues, I remember the stash of patterns I have tucked away in my stack of magazines. Blouses, skirts, tops? It's rare that I can't find something in BWOF that I love more and that, crucially, I already have.

This, on the other hand, may well be sneaking its way into my collection. Why? Well, just look at that skirt. And the lines of that jacket. I need a fancy schamcy suit (why? I'm not certain), and this might just be the One.

The only thing I'm not quite sold on is the sleeves. I'm not 100% about those flounces. But then they do sort of echo the peplum.

One other point in its favour? It doesn't look like it would take a lot of fabric for the entire suit. Three metres according to the fabric table on the Vogue site. That can't be right, surely?


In other news, I've resubscribed to I subscribed for a year a while back, and while they had some lovely fabrics, I never quite managed to bite the bullet and order anything. I'm now trying to aim for better quality fabric, so we might be better for each other. Their prices range from about £8 t0 £25, which isn't too eyewatering, and I think I've already fallen in love with one of the samples on their site. And no, I'm not going to tell you which one.

Progress -- The jacket muslin

So the jacket muslin is finished. And I don't think I'm going to progress onto the finished piece. The fit doesn't seem quite right on him -- it seems tight around the chest and loose around the collar. Mainly it's because of the concerns I had before I sewed up the muslin -- firstly, that it wouldn't be appropriate as a coat, and secondly, that it wouldn't look right on my slim sweetheart. Double-breasted RTW doesn't suit him. He looks better in slimmer fitting coats and jackets. They suit his body type better.

Please ignore the terrible sewing, by the way. This was a fast and dirty muslin, flung together with no real due care or attention. The 'buttons' in the top picture are circles of fabric left over from the last dress I made. :P What a slattern I am.

It's sort of a shame, because I quite liked the pattern. Possibly I would still sew it up if I could get hold of enough leather. It might work as a more casual jacket. But for the fabric I've got, I want to make him a more traditional coat. So this pattern, sadly, ain't the right one. I had a feeling it would turn out like this.

Here's a full length photo to show the way the coat fits on his body. It makes him look a little too top heavy.

We discussed it and I think we both agreed it wasn't right, so it's back to the pattern search. Not that it's going to take too long. The pattern offerings for men are sadly limited -- most of the pattern companies offer little more than pajamas and 'scrubs', which are apparently what doctors and nurses wear in hospitals in America. Am I right about that?

Vogue used to have a few more patterns, but for some incomprehensible reason chose to stop printing them. They now have a couple of suits and waistcoats and... that's it. They don't even have a pattern for a shirt! True, perhaps they don't sell a lot of men's patterns, but it still seems a real shame. There are a couple of men sewing and posting reviews on patternreview, but if a young man wants to sew for himself what chance has he got with the uninspiring collection of patterns available? Thank god for Burda, but not everyone necessarily starts off with Burda. The most obvious pattern company I always found is Simplicity and their collection of patterns for men is.... not huge. At least they have shirts.

Ah well, rant over. In the end, I guess men's patterns are never going to sell as well as women's and that's all that really matters. You can't blame them -- they're businesses after all, and it's not the easiest market. Perhaps we're lucky they exist at all.

Back to my original topic -- coat patterns for men. I think we're going to go with a simple single-breasted three quarter length coat.

Enter Burda 8275.

I'll have to make another muslin. I'm wondering if it could do with slightly more shaping in the waist, or a belt perhaps. It's a simple plain-cut coat, and I'm pretty sure it's the one I'll go with, partly because there isn't a whole lot of choice. Vogue used to have a similar pattern, but I think that's OOP. I do like Burda though (like you haven't already guessed?) and its slimmer fit suits Paul quite well.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Waisting Time

The pieces for the trousers and blouse have ben cut out. Now there's just some fusing and marking to do andthen I should be ready to sew. The good news? I think I love the wool I'm using for the trousers. It feels lovely, definitely worth the money I paid for it, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to get some more to make some trousers for Paul. The even better news? I even have enough left over for a waistcoat.

When I realised that, I dropped everything (I was cutting out the trousers at the time) and ran to my collection of Burda WOFs to see what choice of waistcoats (vests to the Americans) they had.

Waistcoat #1
Waistcoat #2
Waistcoat #3

The current front runners are from left to right:
-- #1) 09/2006 - 128
-- #2) 04/2007 - 115
-- #3) 02/2008 - 116

I'm flipflopping back and forth over which one I want to make. I kind of think #1 iz the sharpest, but I'm also drawn to the others. I don't have enough fabric for the flounces on 3. so I'd have to adapt it to be totally sleeveless -- probably not too hard, since I'll probably be lining it anyway, but still... Right at this moment I'm leaning towards #2. Actually no, wait... 1.
*sigh*. perhaps I should ask myself how I envisage wearing it -- as a top in it's own right, (like #3) or over a shirt, (a la #1), and it's the latter. But that hasn't got fancy pockets! However, I could always add pockets to it, which could be an interesting challenge.
Right, I'm going to take a closer look at the magazine, but right now it looks like I'm going to go with #1 with added welt pockets. Sorted. For the moment.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Next Up: Black is the New Black

Yes, no longer will I be sewing grey fabric, stylish and dull and work appropriate though it is. My next two projects will be black.

This is my first go at sewing a full outfit. Whether the two actually go together remains to be seen. However, I do need a black blouse in my wardrobe.

The blouse is BWOF 05/2006 124, a blouse with gathered section seams. I'll be using a black polyester from my favourite local fabric shop.

The trousers are BWOF 08/2008 105, Marlene Dietrich men'style trousers, with wide legs and a welt pocket in the back. They also have turn-ups but I'm going to leave those off for a smarter look. I'll be using a wool from the same fabric shop as as above.

Wow, I'm really going to have to sew something colourful soon. I'm off to do some tracing.

Finished Object - BWOF 10/07 105 -- No Mouse Dress

My quest for perfect photos continues. Paul took this one, but Arsenal were playing and he didn't quite have his mind on the job. Also, I appear to be turning into a flamingo. What the hell happened to my other leg?

My Review

Pattern Description: From the Burda website:
'No little grey mouse here! Clever details turn this dress into an eyecatcher! It sports a trendy empire waist seam, a skirt with unpressed pleats, a self-fabric belt and seam pockets accentuated by button-down tabs.'

Pattern Sizing:The usual Burda sizes, 36-44. I made a 40, which is the size I normally make. It is, as other reviewers have noted, very close fitting, especially in the bust.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, very similar. My pleats don't seem to be showing too well, but they look lovelier in person, honest.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't take too much notice of them, but yes -- I didn't come across any problems with them. I used the same construction method I'd use with any dress like this.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The pleats! They give the skirt a lovely swingy shape. As for dislikes, I don't really have any. One thing I will mention is the pleats in the back accentuate the burves of the bottom -- e.g. they made it look bigger. This isn't something I have an issue with. I like my curves and as long as they're kept in proportion and my waist is defined I'm all for clothes that make them look curvier. Other people may not feel the same way.

It is very close fitting, definitely designed for a stretch woven. It is a little tight on me, something which is more evident in the back, but it's not so tight that it's unwearable, and it's fine over my breasts. I'm very happy with how the dress looks in the front. It's pulling a little in the back and at the arms, but not too badly (standing with hands on my hips doesn't help).

In all, I'm happy with the amount of ease, but I think I probably hit on a fabric with the perfect amount of stretch.

I finished the seams with hand overcasting, my favourite method of finishing when I'm feeling a tad masochistic. Makes the process slower, but I enjoy hand sewing and find it very relaxing.

I self-lined the bodice only, not the skirt. The fabric has enough weight not to need lining.

I also used vilene bias tape (what Burda used to confusingly call 'fuse and fold) to stabilise the neck and armholes and I love it. This stuff makes stabilising curves so much quicker and easier. It's a strip of interfacing cut on the bias with a chain (?) stitch along one edge.

Fabric Used: A stretch woven from the sadly missed Croft Mill. I can't quite remember what it was, but I have a feeling it was mostly cotton. Whatever it was, I llove it and wish I'd bought more. I bought it specifically for this pattern, and honestly I don't think I could have made a better choice. They were perfect for each other.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: None. Well, I left off the pocket tabs, but that doesn't really count. The dress has a cleaner look without them.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?I would definitely recommend it, however I would definitely suggest using a stretch woven. As for making it again, I probably won't because... really, how many dresses do I need, and there's plenty more patterns that I'd like to try.

However, one thing I am contemplating is leaving off the bodice part and turning it into a high-waisted skirt. The one issue would be figuring how to line/face it, but I think it would look beautiful with the right rabric.

Conclusion: Interestingly, Burda have made this into one of their regular patterns, 7759. At least, it looks very similar indeed. The fabric recommendations are 'Poplin, crepe fabric, flannel, tweed', nothing in there about stretch, that I can see, so perhaps it's sized differently.

If you do find the perfect fabric, then do consider this. It's a simple classic pattern, which is smart and work-appropriate, with a flattering shape. It's also not too low cut, which is rare for Burda. Although, admittedly, my definition of low-cut may not be the same as yours.