September 12, 2014


So I finally did it--something I've been meaning to do for more than a year, maybe more than two years: I replaced my messenger bag.
The old one, as you can see, was hideous. I've had it since 2008, although I don't think I used it much at first. For the past three or so years, though, at least, it's been my regular bag, and for something as lightweight as this, that's a lot of use. It's actually in better condition in the photos here than it was; I sewed up a number of good-sized holes along the edges several months ago (although I did this only after one too many times of getting to work or home from work, opening the bag, and having the "where's my [small-to-medium-sized object]? I swear I put it in. Damn it, it must have fallen through one of the holes again" moment).
 orig damage
To be honest, aside from where you can see the top support poking completely through the fabric, the outside photos look pretty decent. But it's really the inside that was most messed up: the lining is so torn up, and continuing to disintegrate, that every time I took something out of there, it had little pieces of black plastic stuck to it. And the bag itself didn't hold its shape anymore. So.

It was long past time for a new one.

I didn't use a pattern. I didn't want a complicated project--this really only took me an hour or two--and I liked the shape of my old bag, so I just measured the various rectangles and copied it. Then I cannibalized the top and bottom supports and the shoulder strap to reuse in the new bag. (The original bag has a little briefcase-style hand carrier, too, that you can't really see in the photos, but I left it off the new bag because I never used it.)
I did make the patch pocket wider, and sectioned off an inch and a half or so at one edge to put my fork and spoon in, so I don't have to rummage through everything (because they always end up on the bottom) when I want to eat my lunch. And I used two buckles and straps for the flap closure, rather than Velcro. I think that'll give me more room for adjustment, while still keeping the flap down securely. (And I won't have to worry about it ever snagging my tights.)

Speaking of the buckles, they're actually reused from old bike helmets. They're a bit smaller than what I initially had in mind, but I wanted two that matched and that's what I found. And they do get the job done.
The fabric isn't exactly what I was going for, either. I have in my stash some quantity of thick white canvas, acquired for reasons now unknown. I've been trying to use it up over the last few years, but it's slow going. Anyway, I figured it would work for a bag (the old one is canvas, too, albeit with the weird plastic-y lining). Obviously I didn't want a white messenger bag; it would already be unspeakably soiled by now. So I dyed it. I cut the fabric first, because I didn't want to dye all of it, and because I figured with less fabric, the dye would sink in and be darker. I was hoping to get black, or at least a dark grey. I wound up with a light grey (with a hint of purple), which is about what I should have expected using pearl grey dye (it was what I had on hand). (I should have expected the purple, too, because almost everything I've ever died has gone a bit purple.) At first I was worried it might be too light and look weird with the black straps, but now I think it's fine. I used black thread instead of grey to tie things in better, too.
hanging clean
Being plain canvas, the bag isn't at all waterproof, and in Portland, that may be a problem. In light rain, it'll probably be okay, and I have a decent-sized drysack that I can toss inside and use for some stuff, but it's possible this may wind up being a summer-only bag, and I'll have to figure something else out for the rest of the year. For now, though, the rain hasn't started yet, so I'm happy. We'll see what happens.

Project details:
Fabric: White canvas (dyed) from stash, so old I can't remember and am saying free
Pattern: Measured off existing bag
Year: n/a
Notions: Shoulder strap and supports cannibalized from existing bag so free; two buckles and strapping from SCRAP, $1.00; one package Rit dye, probably $1.80 when I bought it
Made before: no
Make again: in the foreseeable future, no, but I guess if/when this one wears out, I might
Sewing soundtrack: ?
First worn used: not sure exactly, but I've been using it regularly for a few weeks now
Wear use again: oh yes.
Total cost: $2.80

September 1, 2014

This Is My Playsuit / I Don't Do Playsuits.

I first made this three summers ago. Based on the very poor job I did, I would've guessed it was longer ago than that, but there's a picture of my younger sister wearing it while holding our newborn cousin, and that cousin just turned three, and I remember I finished sewing the romper like five minutes before we left to meet her. (And finished the belt in the car.)

Originally I made it for myself, but it was way to short in the torso, so I gave it to Rat, who's slightly shorter but with similar horizontal measurements, but it didn't really fit her any better. Since it was a romper, she loved it anyway and I let her keep it, but then a while later, when I was visiting, I decided it was too awful and went and took it back. For "repairs" or to replace, I don't know. (I have since then made at least two other rompers for her.
romper orig
(Yeah, I can get it on me, but it's really unpleasant to do. I think you could probably tell that without my saying, though, just from looking at all the places it pulls.)
I don't remember now why I was so determined to make this fabric into a romper, especially with how little I had. I think there was one yard. And I really like the fabric print, so I do wish I'd saved it for something else. (That seems to happen a lot.) Now I'm kind of impressed that I squeezed this out of that... except that, oh, it didn't actually work because unwearable. I even added a (horribly, horribly, horribly done) white waistband in between the bodice and shorts to lengthen it, and it probably is only because of the waistband that I could get the garment on at all, but it was still incredibly uncomfortable.
(Seriously. Atrocious. Even with the belt keeping it covered, I don't know what I was thinking to decide this was acceptable.)
I'd been meaning to do something about this for quite a while. There was the possibility of replacing the waistband with a longer one, because neither the shorts nor the bodice seemed to fit that badly on their own (the only problem was inadequate length) but the waistband would've needed to be probably four to six inches longer to work. And that would've made it quite obvious. The original waistband was narrow enough to be covered by the belt (which is probably why I made it that size and not longer) so it was okay that it didn't match the rest of the fabric. But a solid swath of plain white in the middle of the romper? Eh, not cool. Also, three years ago, I really wanted a romper. Now, well I guess if I had a romper that fit me, I'd wear it, but I'm not as excited. I don't know if I would feel really comfortable wearing a romper. It isn't who I am any more.

So. Eventually I decided the best course of action would be to just toss the waistband and make separates. Although when I say make... all I really did was remove the waistband, finish the newly raw edges, and reapply the closures. The rest was already sewn and I didn't mess at all with it, top or bottom.
(Eh, no. (So flattering, this is, by the way.))
I wasn't really sure what to do with the top. I'd need a separating zipper to close it, or else some other kind of closure, and there wasn't enough fabric for the sides to overlap. So, first I was going to do buttons with loops. Then I thought, nah, I'll put loops along both sides, and lace it up in between them. And then finally I thought, no, that will take too much work, and I'm never going to wear this anyway. I'll just use some of that massive stash of eyelets. So the bodice back has ten eyelets and laces shut.
(Sorry, it's a crap picture, I know, but I didn't get any close-ups of the back, and I didn't want to go through the rigmarole of putting it on again.)
Obviously this is the kind of thing that's much easier to put on and take off if you have a maid who dresses you. This is, in fact, only another reason why I won't wear it. The real reason I will never wear it is that it bares the midriff, and I cannot think of any scenario (including lounging on a beach or poolside, which I never do anyway) in which I might wear a top that bares the midriff. Really. I'll wear a bathing suit about once a year, and I'm fine with that--I have no issues with my midriff--I just hate having skin showing between what I'm wearing on top and what I'm wearing on the bottom. Holdover from growing up as the super tall girl whose clothes never ever fit, I'm sure.

Anyway, the shorts are a bit better. I stuck in a purple nylon zipper because it was the right length (and I wanted to save the original long white one for when I actually need a long white zipper). I was figuring that I'd never wear the shorts out, either, so it wouldn't really matter. (This is also why the zipper application is not my best.)
(This is the original zipper that went through the whole romper. I was a bit sad to have to take it out--I'd hand-picked it, and did a really nice job.)
But then I kept trying the shorts on, and then I wore them around the apartment for a while taking photos, and they're actually really comfortable. They're fully-lined, everything is French seamed, and they have pockets. And they fit my crotch, and the inseam is long enough that I don't feel self-conscious, and the legs are narrow enough that I bet the won't even gap when biking. So maybe I will wear them out from time to time, for very casual outings. Like groceries.

Obviously not with the matching top, but this isn't so bad.
Actually, this isn't even probably the best top I have for it, either; it was just the first thing I found that had an acceptably similar color in it. But the shorts do look decent with a normal top, don't they? I think they'd be acceptable for public use. At least I hope they do, because I wore them out to the market whatever day that photo was taken.

I honestly wasn't expecting to get anything useable out of the romper, no matter what I did with it, so I'm pretty happy. Granted, I still won't wear the shorts to work, and work clothes are what I really need right now, and I don't really need any more non-work clothes, but at least that's one more thing I've gotten out of my sewing pile. That was my real goal, so yeah.

Project details:
Fabric: 1 yard cotton(?) taken from Mom's stash, ages ago, then made into a romper in 2011--free
Pattern: McCall's 4535 for the bodice; can't remember on the shorts
Year: 1975/?
Notions: lots and lots of bias tape, but I mostly used that the first time around, so I'm not counting it. This time maybe one yard and I'll round up and say $0.25. Also--from stash--ten eyelets ~$0.45; and 7" zipper $0.45.
Made before:no
Make again: if I can figure out what pattern I used for the shorts, I might attempt those
Sewing soundtrack: nothing
First worn: bodice--not yet; shorts--eh, Thursday a couple weeks ago, I think
Wear again: The bodice, um, maybe as a costume. Or as a joke. But the shorts, yeah, probably I will.
Total cost: $1.15

August 27, 2014

Summer Carmes.

Recently I've seen a number of different posts talking about how it's almost fall. To which my internal response is always something like, 'What? Don't talk like that! Don't even think like that!' We're just slightly past two thirds through calendar summer, and it's not like the rain immediately commences at 12:01 am on September 22. (At least I hope it doesn't.) Even after that, we should have a few more, perhaps intermittent, nice days still.

A question that was posed in at least one of those fall-is-coming posts was whether you've started sewing for fall and winter yet/how long you keep sewing for summer. Me, I pretty much keep sewing for summer until the weather gets so bad that even I can no longer delude myself. Sometimes even then.

In the past, that focus has meant I've wound up with a lot of sundresses. This year, as I've mentioned before, I'm trying to do more separates. Here are three of the last several tops I've made.
where i'm doing something stupid
Bam. Bam. Bam.

As you can see, they're all the same pattern: a bit unrecognizable, perhaps, but it's the Pauline Alice Carme blouse. I grafted the yoke, minus the pleats, onto the shirt front, so it's all cut in one piece. And I left off the sleeves entirely.

Really, I did this mostly to conserve fabric. (I really like the Carme as originally designed, too. The next one I make will have sleeves, and eventually I'm sure I'll also do one with a yoke.) All three of these were made with very small quantities of fabric. With the first blouse, I think I would've had enough to do a yoke--with pleats or without--or short sleeves, although not both (I don't mean not enough fabric for two sleeves; I mean not sleeves and yoke together), and certainly not long sleeves, but I'm happy with the simplicity of it this way.

The second version, on the other hand, I actually re-cut from a (really awful) dress that I made years ago. (It's this dress--the Wednesday one--if you want to see a picture.) I originally wanted to make a different top, but that didn't even come close to fitting the fabric. I barely squeezed sleeveless, yokeless Carme in, and it's several inches shorter than the other two. And I was really scraping the barrel for the bias tape--I managed it, but there's a join about every three and a half inches.

For the third version, I used an uncut piece of fabric again, but it was really small--39" from selvedge to selvedge, and only 34" long (it's vintage I know, but I'm also guessing it was a yard originally and shrunk). Plus one of the corners was faded; I tried my very hardest not to use any of that part, but ultimately I did have to use a little. Fortunately I was able to place it so that the fading falls in the bottom corner of the back piece (so it's actually at the side), so hopefully it won't be very noticeable.
collar up
I also had to piece the inner collar, and I do like the diagonal stripes from cutting the placket on the bias, but it wasn't a design choice that I did it that way--it was the only way there was enough fabric for the pattern piece to fit. Instead of self bias tape, I used plain navy blue store-bought, because seersucker bias tape is weird--which is just as well, because it would have been incredibly tedious to piece all the tiny scraps together to make it. Let's just say there would've been even more joins here than there are with the green tape. 

One thing I'm excited about, particularly with the first blouse (with the others, it's not because version one showed me otherwise; more because the fabrics are kind of too obvious, I guess), is that I'll be able to wear it in the summer by itself, and in the rain with a cardigan.
(Side note: I read somewhere, several years ago, that Portland doesn't have spring-summer-fall-winter. We have summer and rain. (Rain takes the place of the other, usual, three seasons.) And I thought that was the most accurate description of Portland weather I'd ever seen. I still do.)

The first version is, like most slightly-too-big tops, incredibly comfortable. (The fabric is also super soft and smooth, which helps, too.) I cut a size 34 (the smallest size) and lengthened it by three inches without making any changes to the width. Obviously I didn't need to deepen the armholes quite so much (well, you can kind of see), and with the added length, it's borderline tunic on me, almost longer than I'm comfortable with. RTW tunics are laughably short on me, and I've never thought to sew one, so I'm having to get used to something that's clearly shorter than a dress, but also longer than a shirt.
For the second version, I took in the sides by 3/4" at the top of each piece, grading to 1 1/2" at the waist and then quickly tapering out to nothing at the hips (i.e. I left the hip measurement alone). That took care of the underarm gaping. Unfortunately, in the second version, the main deterrent to being super comfortable is that that armholes are too far forward. I could easily fix this by cutting the fronts out a bit, but it's not so much of a problem that I've bothered. Besides, I'll probably only wear this blouse at home, where I don't need as much arm range of motion as I do when I'm at work or biking.
That--not wearing it out much--isn't because of the length (it's just long enough) or the armholes. It's because, as I said before, I recut this one from an old dress. Apparently I wore it a lot in the early years (not so much more recently) because the fabric faded a lot. That means it's really soft and feels wonderful (especially considering I'm pretty sure it's a quilting cotton) but also that the parts that were inside the darts are significantly darker than the rest. And there are fairly pronounced needle holes where the thread was before, holding the darts together. And even some probably-permanent creases. I've washed it once so far, and that helped smooth things a bit; I'm hoping that after a few more trips through the wash, it'll all fade out, but until then... it's kind of a Monet blouse, I guess? So, indoors only.
After the second blouse, I redrew the front armhole. (The back was fine.) I'm not sure how these changes will affect the fit of the sleeves, once I make a Carme that includes them, but for the third version, the front armhole is great. Back armhole--slightly too big. I think that's because I decided version two was slightly too tight across the bust and added a quarter of an inch along the side of each piece at the top. I don't think the back needed that, so I've taken it out of the pattern again, and hopefully that'll solve the problem next time I make this up.

I don't know, probably it's one of those things where you're always either going to have to have it skintight and uncomfortable or else a bit gappy, unless you're using a stretch fabric, and you just have to settle for as close to the middle as you can get. Obviously, I'd prefer it if there was no gaping around the back armholes, but it's very minor (especially compared to the first blouse) and I'm probably the only one who'll ever notice it. Other than that, fit is spot on.
Blouse three falls right between one and two in length. It's two inches shorter than number one, the same length number two would have been (two is so short only because I didn't have any more fabric. Actually, while the third version is exactly the length I wanted, it's good that I didn't want it any longer, because fabric limitations mean it's also exactly as long as it could possibly be).

I should also mention that, after finishing version three and having worn each blouse around for at least an hour or two, I went back to the pattern and moved the shoulder seam forward about half an inch. (Taped the front and back pieces together, and cut off part of the front piece so it'll in future be part of the back.) I did a straight line all the way across, because the seam is still straight, rather than being too far forward at one edge and back at the other, as I've sometimes found with other patterns. This won't change the overall shape of the blouse at all (maybe it'll do something with sleeves?) so I don't see how it could affect fit, either; I guess it just looks better to have the seam right down the middle.

All of these blouses are incredibly basic makes, I know. (They don't even have placket buttons! I wanted to put them on the first one, really bad, but I went through my entire, not inconsequential, button collection and I didn't have any that would work. Well, I had one that would've been perfect. But only one. So they just have snaps to hold them closed. (A few more on version one, because it's looser and so has more potential to be revealing. Versions two and three have just one snap each.)) But I think that, with the collar and placket, and light shaping, they're not so basic as to be boring or too casual. I mean, they are casual, but in a nice, classic way.
I really like them. And it's nice to have such a quick project at hand--now that I've got the pattern sorted, I can make up one of these in a few hours. I'm not a fast seamstress, so that's really saying something. Obviously when I make the pattern up properly, it'll take longer, but I like to think that with all the practice I've gotten on these, it'll still be a faster project than it might otherwise be.

And right now I really need fast top projects. I realized after Me-Made-May that I owned like four work-appropriate shirts. (Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but something really low.) And most of my shirts, work-ready or not, are not super wearable during the hotter days of summer.

So. Let me conclude. I really like this pattern. I like the details (even if I haven't sewn them yet) and I like the fact that it can be made up quickly and simply, too. And I really like the fact that I was able to get it to fit myself with only minimal adjustments.

I bought the Carme in PDF, right before Pauline Alice launched the new webstore and started releasing paper versions of all the patterns. (This really annoyed me at first, until I realized that even though I don't like PDFs, I probably would've bought that version anyway, partly because of the lower up-front cost, but mostly to avoid having to pay shipping from Spain.) It cost somewhere around $11 (it'll vary now, depending on the exchange rate), which, with one long-ago exception (for something I still haven't used yet) is the most I've ever paid for a sewing pattern. I've already used it three times, though, and I foresee more in the future. I think it's pretty safe to say it was a good investment.

Project details: #1
Fabric: 1.25 yards from Knittn' Kitten, $4.00
Pattern: Pauline Alice Carme blouse (with a few modifications), $10.70
Year: 2014
Notions: three snaps from stash; self-made bias tape
Made before: no
Make again: yes; I'm thinking lots
Sewing soundtrack: nothing really
First worn: Monday for work
Wear again: yes
Total cost: $14.70

Project details: #2
Fabric: Refashioned green dress, free (and the fabric was a gift originally, so free that way too)
Pattern: Pauline Alice Carme blouse (with a few modifications), previously used so free
Year: 2014
Notions: self-made bias tape; snap from stash
Made before: yes
Make again: yes
Sewing soundtrack: Sin Fang
First worn: Thursday
Wear again: yes
Total cost: $0.00!

Project details: #3
Fabric: 1 yard navy blue flowered seersucker from Knittn' Kitten, $1.00
Pattern: Pauline Alice Carme blouse (with a few modifications), previously used so free
Year: 2014
Notions: maybe 1 yard of navy bias tape from stash, I'll overestimate and say it was $0.25; snap from stash
Made before: yes
Make again: yes
Sewing soundtrack: nothing
First worn: not yet
Wear again: yes
Total cost: $1.25

So that makes the total cost for all three $15.95, or an average of $5.32 each. And (assuming I keep the fabric price down) each subsequent version will just cost less and less. So, again--yeah, pretty happy.

August 23, 2014

Summer Sewing: Month Two Check-In

Guh, I can't believe we're already two months into summer. I feel like I've been more productive with my sewing this month, even if my blogging has not necessarily reflected that.

But let's see: my official progress. From July 21 to August 21 I:
  • sewed four tops (one blogged here; the other three not blogged yet (the writing-up is done, but I still need pictures)
  • finished a UFO dress from late 2012 (also unblogged)
  • refashioned a me-made romper into shorts and a top (alllllso unblogged)
  • chopped the ruffle off a (me-made) denim pinafore and re-hemmed it (not going to blog this)
  • sewed two pouches for my sister to take to college, one as a "commission" from Mom, and one as a gift (not blogged)
  • sewed two dinosaur-appliqued dish towels (not blogged, though I should)
  • and, for some reason, attempted to sew a bathing suit, which I did not finish and never will (I have in fact thrown it and all remaining fabric away, and took great pleasure doing so) (not blogged)
 In terms of fabric usage, I:
  • used up three (small) pieces of stash fabric and a few very small scraps, and used/destroyed a fourth (which was nearly a scrap anyway)
  • used up all the fabric salvaged from an old, disassembled me-made dress (which is now one of the as-yet-unblogged blouses)
  • finished one UFO and used up the remaining uncut fabric to go with it
  •  refashioned two previous me-mades (still recognizable, not taken apart)
  • and the only fabric I bought was a single fat quarter for the commissioned pouch, yay!
dino towel
This next line I have copied and pasted from last month's post:

I still have more than half my pile of T-shirts to convert, and I've made absolutely no progress on the crocheted cardigan that I was supposed to start working on. Maybe that will happen this month...

Also last month, I identified three sewing projects I wanted to do. None of those have appeared on the blog yet. Two of them I haven't done any work on, but I did sew a blouse using the third fabric (the abstract one I hadn't decided what to do with yet) and I'm really pleased with it.

As for the other two--the not-peplum blouse, I decided I didn't want to deal with the re-drafting, and also that even if I did and got it perfect, I wouldn't wear it much because of the fabric. This is one of the fabrics that I've been debating for a while whether I should keep or not, and while I do think it would look good made up in that pattern (assuming I could get it to work without facings, because the fabric's sheer and facing it would look awful) it's no longer a fabric that really feels like me. Every time I look at it, I love it again, but I think it's too cute for me to actually wear. I still kinda want to keep it and try, but I know that I'll probably never do anything with it (or if I do, it'll just languish in my closet and I'll feel bad about the waste). I'm pretty sure now that this is one that's better off finding a new home.

The sailor dress--the fabric print is also a bit precious, but I'll definitely wear it. It's pretty sheer, too, and I was thinking at first I should line it, but didn't have any lining fabric; that stopped me for a while. Then I decided lining was unnecessary. I haven't made it now partly because I haven't decided yet what I want to do with the collar (piping? contrast?) but mostly because I don't need any more sundresses right now--and this one, for some reason, feels a bit dressier to me, and I wouldn't have anyplace to wear it--and I wouldn't wear this to work, and what I need are work clothes. Rest assured, eventually this dress will get made. I just don't know when.

The maroon abstract blouse, as I said, did get made. I'll have a proper post up about it soon, so I'm not going to discuss it now, but here's a quick teaser picture:
collar cu
I went back and forth on whether to talk about the swimsuit attempt here; I have no plans to do a proper post, at any rate. I was going to just say it was an experiment that I didn't really expect to work, and leave it at that. But I like wring, so here's a rambly bit more.

I said "for some reason" up above--no idea what that reason might have been. I certainly don't need a swimsuit--I already have two, and I go swimming maybe once every other year. I actually made one of the suits, in spring 2012 (and did not blog), and I think it, along with this recent swimsuit project, was about the most exasperating sewing--possibly anything--I've done in my life.
 swimsuit attempt
I think (hope) the problem is not me, but rather my materials and equipment. I used the same fabric both times, and I swear, it is the devil's own. Compared to my RTW suit, and my sisters' combined dozens of RTW suits, the fabric is very thin and slippery. (I've used thin and slippery fabrics before, but for impossible to work with, this takes the cake.) This go, I backed every piece with that beige swimwear lining stuff, and my machine still wouldn't sew it. So many skipped stitches.To be honest, I could barely even cut the fabric. Maybe--probably--I'd have had more success with a sturdier fabric, but it's also true that my sewing machine is a straight stitch from the early '50s. I was able to replace my regular needle with a knit-specific one, but that's it for fabric accommodation. It doesn't have stretch stitches (did stretch fabric for home sewing even exist in the early '50s?) or even do a zigzag. It's great for what it does, but the more I sew, and the more my sewing improves, the more I'm starting to feel its limitations...

Anyway, though. I love my sewing machine.

I'll wrap this up with my plans for the next month. (No collages this time, sorry.)

I have several pieces set out to make skirts, and I still need some more tops--even after the four new ones this past month, I'm finding myself woefully low on separates (mostly tops) that I can wear to work. (And I'm super confused--I'm trying to remember what I wore last year, and I have no idea.)

I also want to sew up at least one not-yet-sewn vintage pattern this month. I signed up for five in the Vintage Pattern Pledge, and so far, I've only managed one. I have been using modern patterns a lot more lately, but this still really surprising to me, though I guess a lot of the vintage patterns I do use are repeats, and I'm not counting those. I've got a few likely candidates, but haven't decided which pattern (or fabric) will be first. I had picked out a dress that I was already to do, fabric and everything, but now I've decided to save that until Fall for Cotton (because the chosen fabric is one of the only pieces I have that I know is 100% cotton).

The messenger bag that I use for work is in horrible condition and I've been meaning to sew up a new one for, um, years. I'll try to do that this month, too, so I can have something without holes in it before the rain starts again. I really like the look of the Colette Cooper, and almost bought it when it first came out, but I think it's a bit more robust than what I need. Certainly I could still change my mind, but right now I think I'll probably just copy the very simple one I have now.

I'm still trying to sew from the stash and not buy anything new, although I'll probably check out the Pendleton Woolen Mill outlet's fall sale in September, and if it's marked down as much as it was last year ($2.50/60" yard) I may come away with a few pieces.

And that's about it for me. How's your summer sewing going?

August 20, 2014

Pushing the Envelope.

Let me start by saying that I am well aware this is not the most flattering blouse shape for me. In fact, I knew that well before I started the project. When I'm not the one wearing them, I really like the delicate look of tucks and pleats and gathers, and breezy, loose-fitting summer tops. And I knew this probably wouldn't take much time (or fabric) to make, and I got set on trying it.
I like how the blouse turned out. I just don't like it on me. Actually, I like the back (elastic included), and the peplum, and the armholes. Those all fit really well. It's just the bodice front that doesn't suit me.

I want to talk about the pattern a little--or rather, about the pattern company. This is a Papavero pattern. Probably no one has heard of Papavero, unless I have readers in Poland; then maybe. Papavero is a Polish sewing site that is, from what I can tell, similar to Burda or maybe Pattern Review (although I'm not really that familiar with either of those, either, so maybe not). There are forums, blogs and photo galleries, articles, and an active community, in addition to the patterns. All of which are free. Yes. All.

Of course, that free comes with a price. (Not monetary, but--) Obviously, everything is in Polish. There's a button on the main (and most) pages to translate all the content into English (or any of a number of other languages) but it's just a machine translation from Google, and I think we're all aware that Google Translate, uh, has its limitations. Like this blouse. (Go on, translate it to English. I'm pretty sure "shirt for tall cupcakes" is not the name they intended.) Note that each time you go to a new page, it will appear in Polish first for a few seconds, then (depending on how fast your internet connection is, I'd guess) translate back to the selected language. Just give it some time.

And, if the website is in Polish, it follows that the directions for the patterns would be, too. (Actually, I was surprised to find several English words on the pattern. I can't remember what, though, now.) Except there are no instructions. (Unless I entirely missed them, which impossible.) Not really a problem, though, as I don't always use pattern instructions, and even if I did, well, instructions in a language I can't understand would do me no good, anyway. There is a cutting layout, yardage requirement, and they do tell you how many to cut of each piece, but as far as how to put them together--you're on your own.

For this pattern, which was pretty basic, that wasn't too much of a problem. But for patterns with more detail (and a lot of their patterns do seem to have some very unusual details) I can see where issues might arise.

That's why, with this blouse, I did actually make a full muslin. Three reasons, in fact: 1) I'd never worked with a Papavero pattern before and had no idea how accurate the sizing might be, 2) Re the absence of instructions, in case I did need them, well I wanted to work out any possible assembly quirks before I got to the nice fabric, and 3) I knew I'd have to lengthen the bodice, and with the rather oddly-shaped pattern piece, I wasn't exactly sure how to do that (what if I accidentally made it wider instead of longer?).

As it turned out, my muslin was actually too long. (It was also much too big in the bust and front waist, which should have told me not to bother making up the final version, but somehow I was able to delude myself into thinking that the lengthwise adjustments, and maybe also tacking the two pieces together where they crossed, would fix that.) I will concede that it's possible that, because of the aforementioned oddly-shaped pattern piece, I inadvertently lengthened the bodice even more than the two inches I intended, but I'm about 99% sure that this happened because the blouse was designed for someone more buxom than me. (Proof: the back bodice wasn't too long at all. Although to be fair, the back pattern piece was also a normal shape.)
open side
In the final version, the bodice is the correct length, but still very blousey. And the part where the one side overlaps the other is very... open--observe below. I tacked the pieces together at the top where they cross, and that helps, but I still very much doubt I'll ever wear this without something underneath.
(Cos yeah. It gets real gappy sometimes.)
That said, I think it mostly looks, on me, like Papavero's sample blouse looks in the pictures. But I think it looks even more like the sample when I'm not wearing it. I think it just isn't my shape. That's that.
In case anyone is interested in making this up, but a bit wary of going it with no instructions, I'll do a brief rundown of the changes I made and the construction steps I went through. I used this pattern--translated into English, it's called Envelope for the Summer. There are multiple sizes, for 30-48" busts.

August 12, 2014

An Almost-Modern Blouse.

Wow, I can't believe it's the second week of August already. And I guess it's about time for another blog post. I know I've been a bad blogger lately--a few months ago, I wasn't sewing much and had nothing to post about; more recently, I have been sewing a fair amount, just haven't blogged anything. (I was really dragging my feet with this, too--I started this post like a week ago.) I actually have several finished projects lined up to talk about after this one.
But this blouse first. I made it around a month ago, at the beginning of July. I used Butterick B4985. It's out of print now, but only from 2007. I guess that's been several years now, but it still feels pretty recent to me. And the blouse (with the pattern's multiple hideous sleeve options omitted) has a fairly modern silhouette, I think. But then I went and added covered buttons--and I don't really think covered buttons are all that common in contemporary clothing, at least outside of more formal stuff, so those probably make it seem a bit less modern. That's fine with me, though.

I think that I often write that I don't have much to say about a pattern or project and then go on for days and days, but in this case, I really don't have much to say.

I added an inch and a half (at least I think it was an inch and a half) to each of the top and bottom bodice pieces. This put the bottoms of the armholes exactly where I like them, but I think the seam where the top and bottom pieces join is a bit too low. So next time, I'll remove one inch, vertically, from the top pieces, and add that back in, plus two additional inches (the blouse is just barely long enough) to the bottom pieces. I think that should make it work.
side gap
I want to point out that when I stand carefully, the vertical fit does look pretty close to perfect. But if I move around some, the front of the neckline starts to fold on itself and get all gapey. It's not super evident in the pictures, but the diagonal line on my right/photo left gets real weird (and spreads to the other side). I didn't use interfacing like I was supposed to (because I don't like interfacing to begin with, and also because is such a sheer fabric that it would've shown through and looked awful) so I guess that could be the cause, but I really think it's just that the pieces are slightly too long. I mean, see how much better it looks when I do this?
(Okay, in the photo, it doesn't look that much better, but trust me--in real life, doing this improves the fit.)

Speaking of the fabric, if it look familiar it's because I used the fabric from this blouse. I don't mean I had extra of the same fabric and used that--I mean I chopped up the old blouse to make this one. I don't think I ever wore the old blouse except for that one day, taking pictures, so this is a definite improvement. (Because I think the fabric is great.) I'm trying to get my UFO/re-fashion pile down, so I've been doing this kind of thing a lot lately.

It does mean some compromises have to be made--the sleeves, for example. Not that I wanted the puffed sleeves with ruffles that the pattern suggests (no, I'm serious; check that view D) but I was hoping to at least be able to do a full set-in sleeve to check for fit. (This was kind of a muslin.) As it is, the cap sleeves are pieced together, and I didn't ease them in properly, so they're a little tight and the shoulders look kinda wrinkly (actually, the wrinkles are probably from the bias tape) but oh well. The armhole edges are finished with a self-made bias tape left over from another project, as are the edges of the front facings. Everything else is French seamed. (Muslin or not, I wanted it to be wearable, so I did a nice job.)
(Except I ran out of bias tape at the very end of the second facing, so the last three inches or so are beige, but eh.)
And guys, that really is me not having much to say write. (If I was actually saying this out loud, I would probably say 'I made the top of the bodice too long,' and that would be it. But I don't talk a lot.)

Overall, I'm happy with this. It's a nice, feminine blouse that'll alternate well with Simplicity 3260 (which is more of an unfitted, unisex style). I think that once I make the vertical changes for the next version, it'll fit me quite well--and I look forward to making that next version. I'll still wear this one, probably not as much as I would have hoped, nor to work often, because of the weird gaping (and, to a lesser extent, the tight sleeves), but there are plenty of other times. Plus, it's practically sheer, so it's perfect for summer, but has enough coverage that I don't feel overexposed. All in all, I'll call it good.

And now moving on to the next thing...

Project details:
Fabric: This blouse, refashioned, so free (but the fabric was also only $1.00 to begin with)
Pattern: Butterick B4985 from Knittn' Kitten, $1.00
Year: 2007
Notions: seven self-covered buttons from stash, $1.00; self-made bias tape left over from previous project, free
Made before: no
Make again: yes, gladly
Sewing soundtrack: not sure--maybe nothing
First worn: last week to work one day
Wear again: yes
Total cost: $2.00

July 24, 2014

Summer Sewing: Month One Check-In

I'm always a few days later than I mean to be. Technically, the end of the first month of summer was the 21st, and that was the intended day for this post, but better late than never, I guess.

A while ago, I wrote about my sewing plans for the rest of 2014, and particularly for this summer. Since I sometimes don't blog about finished projects right away (or, sometimes, ever), I thought it might be useful, or at least interesting, to do a monthly wrap-up of my sewing "progress."

So, in the first month of summer--June 21 to July 21--I:
  • sewed one pair of shorts (blogged here) for the Skirt Fixation challenge (and they also fit for the July Monthly Stitch challenge)
  • refashioned five T-shirts into tank tops (blogged here)
  • sewed a very quick, small case for my phone (unblogged)
  • and sewed two other garments (also, as yet, unblogged). 

In terms of fabric usage I:
  • used up one piece of recently-gifted fabric (I'm counting all of what I was sent for the shorts as one, and there are only scrap-sized pieces left, so also counting it as used)
  • used half a piece of stash fabric
  • refashioned five RTW shirts and one me-made blouse
  • but I also bought two two-yard pieces of fabric (both for the same project, one of the unblogged ones, and then I decided neither fabric was right and ultimately used a stash one. But at least my intent when I bought them both was immediate use).

I still have more than half my pile of T-shirts to convert, and I've made absolutely no progress on the crocheted cardigan that I was supposed to start working on. Maybe that will happen this month...

Speaking of this month, the past week or so I haven't felt like sewing or doing anything sewing-related at all, but this morning I made these little images to help me along. (Forgive my lazy photoshopping. I could've done a better job making the fabric look even, but I didn't.)
blouse collage
(I also could've redrawn this so it doesn't have what looks like a peplum. I think I'll just extend the bodice part to blouse length, and not use the skirt pieces at all.)
dress collage
These first two have jumped to the top of the sewing queue because they're both very summery (the blouse fabric is sheer; the dress, well, it's a sundress printed with sailboats...) and I'd like to actually wear them this summer.
fabric collage
This last fabric, I've been wanting to make up for ages. (The fabric doesn't look like me at all, does it? (Admittedly, I actually bought it for Rat. But there wound up not being enough for what I intended, and then I decided I liked it so much I wanted to keep it for myself.) In the picture it looks very animal print/camo, but I promise in real life it's more abstract-looking, and what shows up as black is actually navy blue. Plus it's super soft.)

I haven't used it yet only because I have so little of the fabric--barely a yard--so I'm very limited in what I can actually do. For a long time I was thinking a Sorbetto with buttons on the fake placket, but a couple months ago, I finally muslined myself another Sorbetto and, while the fit was better than the first one I made, it was also, I think, the fastest I've ever given away a me-made garment that was originally meant to keep. Maybe in a few more years I'll try again, but for now, I think it's really just not the top for me.

And there aren't a lot of other things that can be made with only one yard of fabric. (I don't want to do color blocking or print mixing or whatever the term is for pairing it with another coordinating fabric in order to have enough to make up the whole thing. In most circumstances, I don't think I'd be opposed to that, but I don't want it here.) I'm definitely thinking a blouse of some kind, and pretty sure it'll have to be sleeveless and fairly fitted. Maybe even collarless, but who knows; collars arn't that fabric-hungry, are they? I've got a couple patterns I'm thinking about, and hopefully one of them will work, but nothing has jumped out at me yet as this is it! and I also haven't measured anything yet, so... Anyone, any suggestions?

Beyond those three, my core plans remain intact: shirts for work. Maybe a skirt or two. Trying to get started on the sweater. Sewing from the stash; no new fabric purchases (or notion, or pattern, purchases if I can manage it, and I've got enough stockpiled that I should be able to manage it). Moving along.

Don't be surprised if you see other projects on the blog before the above. Now that I've noted specifically what I'm meant to be working on, I have no doubt that I'll soon find any number of other things that I need to spend my time on. As long as it's going forward, I guess...