Knitting Bright

Well, today was the first Jumper day of the autumn. This was my summer knitting project (running alongside my Temperature dress). I do love a cardigan, but I’ve not had a brilliant result with cardigans from other patterns, so I thought maybe working it out for myself would be more successful. It’s done me ok with the self-drafted jumpers I’ve made recently.

I still prefer the speed of an aran, or a chunky, but I’ve come to appreciate a DK yarn. I looked at all the lovely Stylecraft Special DK colours online (at Wool Warehouse), and opted for “Bright Pink” and it turns out Stylecraft don’t mess around when they’re naming their colours. It really, really is. I debated with myself on how to deal with the brightness of it, and it turns out “lean into it” was the way.

My design concept was a top-down, circular yoke, all-in-one kind of thing, with moss stitch edgings. I did write a pattern down, based on my measurements and my knitting tension, but I was tinkering with it as I went along. I was aiming for vaguely Chanel jacket vibes. I think it ended up pretty close to the image I had in my head for this before I started, so that’s a win.

A very bright pink jumper

One thing I’m kicking myself about, is that I got the buttonholes on the wrong (boys’) side, but by the time I’d realised it, I’d got about a third of the way down, and I couldn’t do anything about it without undoing the whole thing, and ain’t no-one got time for that. I’m considering it a design feature, and a lesson learned. To be honest, once it’s done up, I don’t think anyone would particularly notice.

I originally had the idea of adding black pompoms to tie in with the black buttons. But when it came to it, I decided against them, as they looked a bit too clownish.

So it’s all done & dusted and I’m calling it the Cherry Cardigan.

Ready for a very bright autumn

P.S. I’ve got another jumper completed, so hopefully there’ll be another knitting post soon.

Leggings – Take 2

I published a post a couple of years ago, about making a pair of leggings. However, I went into it to add a new tag to it, and WordPress’s new (not-so-new now!) editing system threw a wobbly and deleted all of it except for the title and the tags. Turns out my deathless prose isn’t quite so deathless after all.

But the whole point of this blog is to record my sewing adventures. So this post is an attempt to revisit my now-vanished leggings post, while at the same time recording my latest leggings.

This is a self-drafted pattern, but it’s based on a pair of leggings that fit me just right. I mended them and mended them for as long as I could, but at some point I had to accept that they were beyond patching, and I needed to let them go… I did, but not wanting them to have died in vain, I used them to create a paper pattern. It’s not perfect. Technically it’s not identical to those original leggings, because they used four pieces, with a separate front and back for each leg. However, when I spread the whole leg piece out on the paper, it lay very flat, so either the separation of front & back was purely aesthetic, to permit a little piping down the side of the leg, or my body had stretched and shaped it into something that would lie flat, so that’s the shape I would need. This was maybe 9 or 10 years ago.

It’s a bit rough and ready, but it works!

I made a pair of leggings at the time, and then the pattern lay in a drawer for a good long while. Until November 2020, when I decided I needed a new pair of leggings, for when I was teaching dance on Zoom.

Here is how the November 2020 leggings came out

These grey/brown (I’m choosing to call it “pewter”) leggings have a higher rise than this original pattern, because in 10 years, I’ve got more tummy and bum than I used to, and it feels more comfortable to have a waist elastic rather than a hip elastic. I also made them a bit longer in the leg, because that used up the length of fabric I had available. Then the pattern went to sleep again, until this week.

It came out again when the sewjo came back – I didn’t like to waste that impulse! This entailed a dive into the dance-costume-making stash. I had a leftover bit of bright cerise pink lycra (basically a swimsuit fabric) which fitted the bill perfectly. I had enough fabric to incorporate the higher rise, and the longer leg. I still haven’t got around to changing the pattern piece, but I knew that I needed to add 10cm/4″ to lengthen the rise.

I sewed the crotch-to-waist seams first, to sew the left and right sides together. I used a narrow zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine and I did a second seam very close to it, for reinforcement, because nobody wants any seam popping in a pair of leggings – not me, and certainly not my dance students. Then I did the leg seams the same way, doing the two legs separately, starting at the crotch and sewing down the leg.

When it came to the elastic waistband, I used my usual method. I cut a length of elastic (I was using 4cm/1½” wide elastic) to a bit less than my actual waist measurement, overlapped the edges, and did a few zig-zag passes, to create a loop.

It’s still a zig-zag, for stretchiness

Then I quartered both the elastic and the fabric of the waistline, and pinned the elastic to the inside of the leggings at those quarter points. I positioned the elastic about 1cm down from the edge of the fabric, and turned it over the top of the elastic edge. Then, using a wide zig-zag, I stitched close to the top of the elastic (wrong side/inside facing upwards), stretching the elastic to fit.

It’s not actually this bright! That’s what you get when you photograph your sewing under artificial lighting

If I’d wanted the finish to be absolutely clean with no elastic showing, I’d have turned the fabric down into a tube to cover the elastic instead. But this lycra is good quality and won’t fray, and I don’t mind having the elastic next to my skin.

I thought carefully about whether I wanted to hem the legs. But, as I said above, this is a firm, substantial fabric, and won’t fray, so I’ve just left them.

So we’re all done.

Oh lordy, I seem to have gone all Tory Power Stance!
With hip belt

These will do great for teaching, next month, but also for wearing out and about, and if push comes to shove, going for a swim.

Easy Peasy Jersey Trapeze-y

Well, you can tell I’ve done no sewing for months, on account of the tumbleweed that’s rolling about here. But this weekend, hip hip hooray, I finally dusted down the sewing machine and the overlocker and made a couple of dresses. I KNOW! TWO! 

I was prompted by the fact that I’m supposed to be going on holiday in a week, and it includes a big family get-together, so I wanted to have something new and summery to wear. It needed to be quick, so that I didn’t lose momentum. So I started with something good and familiar, what I have come to call my Shammon pattern. It’s very loosely based on the Simple Sew Shannon dress/top, but I’ve made so many adaptations to it over the years (mainly a narrower neckline, shorter sleeve shaping, sleeve extension option and no t-shirt neckband) that it scarcely resembles the original.

I wanted to make a sleeveless version of my Stripy Teal Dress. I like the shape of it, and it’s definitely an easy make. I was using a thin and very stretchy jersey that I got in a fabric swap a few years ago. I had 2m of it, and it was perfect. I got the bodice out of 65cms of it, and the skirt front and back used up the rest, as two rectangles consisting of the whole width of the fabric. It was almost zero-waste. This is all that was left.

Almost Zero-Waste

Even if you don’t have the Simple Sew Pattern as your starting point, the basic bodice is dead simple.

I was supposed to add some length to the front bodice piece on account of my full bust, but forgot about it. It didn’t matter because the bodice is drafted to mid hip level (for tops), so it was plenty long enough for me to take length out from the back instead, before adding the skirt. I sewed the shoulders and side seams, then tried it on, to see where my waistline fell, marked it and trimmed it to about 4cm lower than that, as I did want a slight drop-waist.

No need for me to set out all the sewing details, go look at the stripy dress post. It’s basically the same. The only difference is that I left the sleeves off and the bodice is a smidge longer. But like the stripy dress, it’s good and swishy!

Well this came out just how it was in my head, which is always a good thing!
New Dress Number 1, ready for my Summer Hols

By Sunday morning, I’d done everything bar the hemming, and was wondering if I wanted to make another one in the same style, while I was on a roll. I decided against it, for now, and pulled out some other pieces from my jersey stash, for inspiration. I got a blue and white jersey in France last year, and it’s such a big bold graphic print that I knew it needed a really simple shape to make it shine.

The Fabric

I’d originally thought of doing something like a Keilo wrap dress with it, but on reflection had decided that since I have no waist to speak of, that’s a no-no. As I was contemplating, my eyes alighted on a dress I made 3 years ago., hanging up against my wardrobe door. 

This one – an A-line trapeze-y sort of dress

I’d hung it out to see if I could actually get round to fixing the shoulder problem that’s been bothering me since I made it (I still haven’t fixed it yet – I’m not sure it’s actually fixable, but I’ll worry about that later), and I realised there was nothing to stop me making something like that, using my beautiful graphic print jersey, my Shammon pattern and that blue dress as a template. Basically, I used the bodice pattern, from shoulders down to the side notch which is around bust apex level. Then I laid my blue dress (folded in half lengthwise) onto the folded fabric, and marked where the side seam angled out and how the lower hem curved around.

Trapezing the Shammon

(I realised, very much after the cutting process, that the apparently random print does have a direction. There’s a leaf pattern. If I didn’t see it initially, I’m going to assume that most other people won’t see it. And if they do, I’ll tell them that’s the way it was meant to be, like Wisteria cascading down…) 

The sewing was even simpler than the black and white dress, just the shoulders and side seams. Piece of cake!

I left the hemming for both dresses until Monday. I got them all tacked and ready to go on the Sunday evening, so that all I needed to do was load up the double needle and whiz through. I gave them a good press and left it till today to photograph them in daylight.

It’s not a massive Trapezium. But there’s a pleasing A-line summer waftiness to it, and although I’ve made it for the holidays, it’s work appropriate (both MS Teams and face to face!), so it will get lots of wear, not hide at the dark end of the cupboard.

Yay! Two new dresses!

MMM Thoughts

Not gonna lie, this one was not a super soaraway success. It started out ok…

“I Béa of BeasSewingAdventures.wordpress.com (aka @missbeacurtis on instagram) pledge to wear Me-made clothing and jewellery/accessories throughout May 2022…”

That was all fine. But that was the easiest of all the pledges, since I wear MM pretty much every day.

“…to document my daily outfits on Instagram and to comment positively on at least 10 other people’s MMM posts each day.”

That’s where it all went a bit meh. I don’t know why, but I lost my Insta mojo two thirds of the way through, and skipped nine days. I managed to pick it up for the last couple of days, so we’ll call that a qualified success. But this:

I will also do some actual sewing.”

Absolutely failed this one completely. Not one stitch stitched. I knitted – the ongoing Temperature Dress and a cardigan. But no actual sewing.

The Temperature Dress – this pic is from the end of June, when we’d had a little heatwave

Ah well, next year, I will hopefully do better.

And what did I learn? That I’m still happier wearing dresses than separates. That I need a couple more late-spring/summer dresses (and even though I know this, I still haven’t sewn any yet).

And weirdly, that even though I’m much more into dresses than separates, I still feel like making tops/shirts. I suspect this is partly as a result of having top/shirt sized pieces of fabric in my stash. But also, it could be that one of the reasons separates don’t speak to me right now is that I don’t have many me-made tops that I really love. Maybe having more nice tops and shirts might get me back into wearing separates more regularly.

What I have (kinda, sorta) decided is to revisit the Sew Over It Alex Shirt/shirtdress pattern (from their City Break E-book). This meets my need for more summer dresses, and scratches the tops/shirts itch. I made this shirt at one of their workshops a few years ago, and I wasn’t that happy with the way the pattern worked for me. However, I’ve used it as a nightshirt, and the chambray has softened up and become more drapey over the years, and that’s made the things I didn’t like much less noticeable. Also, I have learned by now that making a new-to-me pattern at a workshop is essentially making a toile. If it’s wearable, hooray! Either way, I end up knowing what I need/want to tweak. So I’m thinking a) I could make a shirtdress in a more drapey fabric and it would probably be ok and also b) I could work on amending my pattern so that if I’m making it in a more structured fabric, I will have incorporated the changes I think it needs. My instinct is to make it as a dress first, in something floppy from stash, and if that makes me happy, then I can make it as a shirt, and see how that goes.

I’ve also found new people to follow on instagram, so that my feed isn’t full of thin, flat-chested people looking gorgeous but who will never make me think “actually that would look great on me”. Instead my feed has a lot more people who have a body type closer to mine, looking gorgeous, in clothes that make me think “that looks like something that would make me happy to wear”. I love seeing my non-curvy friends on insta, and I gain inspiration from them as well as the curvy girls. But it’s good to have representations of different body types for inspiration.

So that was my Me-Made May 2022. Roll on next year, and hopefully by then I’ll have a better, more motivating pledge worked out.

MMM22

It’s that time of the year, when I fangirl Zoe of So, Zo (http://sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.com) all over again, and wonder how I can up my Pledging game.

I’ve been doing Me Made May since 2014, and after all this time it’s getting really hard to set myself a challenge that is meaningful. I wear me-made every day. I don’t have that many remaining shop-bought clothes – a few, but not many. So it’s not about wearing me-mades more often. I guess it’s about being a bit more thoughtful about what I wear, or pulling out those items that I don’t tend to wear so much and maybe identifying why not. But I kind of do that anyway, so I’m not sure how much I would gain from that, as a challenge element.

My main personal challenge, over the last year or so, has largely been a lack of inspiration to sew. I have ideas (lots of them), I have fabric and patterns, I just haven’t had the urge to get round to making the things that are in my head. So part of my pledge will include actually getting some sewing done. Ideally, I’d like to make a couple of work wearable dresses, as I am frankly bored with all the ones I’ve got, especially as some of them go back a long way. Two or three more would see me through the Spring and into Summer and onwards. I hope they will also help build my wardrobe with more items I will reach for regularly. I’m not going to be too specific about Goals, how much sewing, how many items made, how many WIPs finished. I’ll know how I feel about it at the end of May.

I’ll be instagramming my progress. I’m aware that it isn’t a necessary element of MMM, but for me, part of the pleasure of the challenge is how it brings together the whole sewing/knitting/making community. To be part of it, for me, means contributing to it. Last year, part of my pledge was to comment on other people’s MMM posts, and I enjoyed that a lot, and it meant I found a lot of new people to follow and be inspired by. So I’m going to stick with that for this year.

If I’m going to be posting daily pictures, then I’m going to try and make sure I look reasonably put-together in them, at least for the weekday ones. So that’s going to mean wearing me-made jewellery/accessories and at least a lick of make-up.

Last year I discovered the MeMadeMayPlus range of hashtags, for us larger ladies. Heaven knows how I’d missed it before that. So I’m going to be looking into those hashtags a whole lot more this time around.

So… all that is to say, yes, I’m in for yet another fun-filled Me Made May, and this is the pledge I’ve decided on:

“I Béa of BeasSewingAdventures.wordpress.com (aka @missbeacurtis on instagram) pledge to wear Me-made clothing and jewellery/accessories throughout May 2022, to document my daily outfits on Instagram and to comment positively on at least 10 other people’s MMM posts each day. I will also do some actual sewing.”

I usually find that in addition to my official Pledge challenges, I end up setting myself unofficial mini-challenges, that I haven’t formally committed to. They sort of creep up on me, so we’ll see what happens this year.

For the purposes of internet accountability, Me-made is going to include any garment I’ve made myself, as well as any RTW that I have altered/mended/upcycled myself. As far as jewellery is concerned, I have a couple of pieces that are hand-made by someone else that I would still like to wear, so I’m going to permit myself jewellery made by a named person (can you tell I’ve got a background in law? I’m fluent in legalese!)

Some Knitting

I’ve been knitting more than sewing over the last few months. When I say “more than sewing”, what I mean is, I’ve done hardly any sewing at all. It’s a combination of factors. Firstly, I don’t really need any more clothes right now. I’ve got a full wardrobe, and with all the working from home and not going places much, I haven’t felt that I’m lacking in appropriate clothing choices of a morning. Secondly, my sewjo pretty much always goes awol in the winter months, so no change there.

But mainly, my niece has just had a baby this very morning, so the last few months have been focussed on knitting snuggly winter baby things for her beautiful boy.

I’m still waiting on buttons to arrive for the blue & white stripy jumper

It’s so nice to knit baby things, they’re so small, and they get finished in no time. I’ve used the smallest size on all the patterns I’ve used, but they’ve all come up in different sizes, so at least mum will have a selection as he gets bigger. I’ve used this Plain & Simple Baby Cardigan pattern as the base for most of the cardigans/jumpers, but I used the Wee Stripes Pullover pattern for the blue & white stripy one, and patterns from Cheval Blanc Laines, that I got in France in the summer.

I’m now in the process of using up my white blue and red yarn, in a tiny colour block cardigan, using a new pattern.

And while I’m on the subject of knitting, I’ve started a major project – a Temperature Dress. For those not in the know, knitters and crocheters have been in the habit of making blankets that record the temperature for each day of the year, by colour. Since I don’t need blankets, but I do like knitting clothing, I decided to try this, but making a dress. I didn’t have a pattern already picked out, so I decided to do what I’ve done on my last couple of jumpers, and that is, work it out for myself, based on my knitting tension and my measurements. I’ve already made a couple of “top-down” raglan jumpers, knitted in the round, and that seemed like a good start. Using one row per day would make it basically a long jumper!

The Temperature Dress so far

I haven’t quite worked out what I’m going to do about the sleeves yet. My initial thought was to keep the dress sleeveless, but since it’s going to be a winter wear dress, it would make more sense to have sleeves on it. I’m not sure of the practicalities of knitting them as I go, but I don’t have to worry about that until mid March, when I get to the end of the raglans, so I’ve got time to work things out!

I decided to use Stylecraft Special DK, because I needed a wide colour range, and I needed this to be an easily washable garment. I decided on double knit, as my yarn weight, because it was going to knit up to the right sort of length for a dress. I think it’s going to end up a bit below knee length.

My rules for determining what the colour is for each day is that it’s the temperature at noon, where I live, unless I’m on holiday, in which case it’s the noon temperature wherever I am on holiday. I’m using this website (Historical weather data for any location | Visual Crossing) to verify my data.

Cool to Warm

I decided on a blue-through-to-purple colour range, and got myself eight different colours. Then I had to decide on what temperature range to apply for each colour. I started by looking at average temperatures for where I live, over the last few years, to get an idea of what the range this year might be. I’ve gone for increments of 4°C, with white being my “anything 0° or lower” colour and the colours going from pale blue (1-4°C), through to lilac and on to a deep berry purple (25°C and over). Since starting, though, I’ve made a mental note that if it looks like it’s going to get REALLY hot, I’ve still got the option to add a deep midnight purple for 25° or more. But I’m not going to buy that yarn unless it starts looking likely that I’ll need it! Plus I’m adding in a strand of silver, on the 1st day of each month and I’ll also add it at the end, on 31st December.

So far it’s going well, but ask me again in March, when the rows are longest!

A l’eau, c’est l’heure*

Or the “Are you a matelot?” top**

Having identified that stripes are fun, and nicely nautical, I decided to make a marinière top. Not a proper official French navy 21 white stripes version, but my own version of it. I was shopping online at Fabricland, and popped an extra metre of stripy jersey into the cart, for a bargainous £3.99. It arrived in double quick time (excellent service, thank you very much!).

I’ve decided I’ve made enough changes to the Shannon pattern to call this top mostly-self-drafted by now. There’s really only the side seams that remained untouched, as I’ve tinkered with both the sleeves and the neckline. I made a version to t-shirt length, with my favourite 3/4 length sleeves. I used my usual construction method: Sew the shoulder seams, then sew the sleeves in flat, then sew the side seams.

I tried it on, once it was put together, to see if there was anything I wanted to change about it. I decided it was a smidge too huggy around the hips, so I opened up the last 8cms of the side seams, to create a short side split. Oh boy, that was a job and a half! This jersey is quite a spongy fabric and the stitches sink into it. Plus my stitches were quite small. It took AGES to unpick neatly without making any holes in the fabric.

The other thing that trying it on revealed is that really I should be adding a curved bit to my front pattern piece. Here’s a picture of the side view:

Longer in the back than it is in the front

You can see how the bust pulls the fabric up at the front, It looks ok front on, but next time I’m going to add an extra 5cm at the centre fold, and curve it up to the outer edge.

I had done my best to stripe match while cutting the pattern pieces out, but I could tell that something had gone slightly wonky, around the neckline, and I haven’t been able to work out why. It’s a printed stripe, rather than a woven one, so maybe that’s something to do with it. But I wasn’t going to spend all evening trying to identify the problem and fix it, when it really wasn’t that much of a problem, and the whole point of this top was to make it quick.

I made a band to go on the inside of the neckline, to stabilise it and finish it nicely. But I did bog-standard turn-it-under-twice hems for the sleeves and lower edge. I did them by hand, on the train up to that there London to go to the V&A Bags exhibition. Very good exhibition, lots of beautiful handbags, including the design and making processes.

I was trying to do a Sailor’s Hornpipe, but realised, I didn’t know how a Sailor’s Hornpipe actually goes…

So that’s the story of this super-quick top, all ready for the summer. I highly doubt I’ll be able to go to the seaside in France this year as I normally would, so I might have to wear it for walks along the canal instead.

* The motto of the French Navy***.

** An extremely niche Steeleye Span/Peter Sellers reference.

*** No, of course not! It’s a Barry Cryer joke! Try saying it out loud.

The rosy pink, or is it ruby red, dress – Part 1

I decided to try another online workshop, a couple of weekends back. This time it was with Sew Different.  It was taught by Tree of Stitchless TV. It was to sew Sew Different’s Everyday Chic dress.

The premise of the workshop was to sew a pattern-hack which would turn it into one of these new Buffet dresses, by making it more gathered below the bust line, and adding an extra flounce. I had bought a length of fabric to do this with, as I didn’t have a stash piece long enough to cope with the gathering and flounces.  It was a floral viscose from Fabricland. But on the day, I realised that although the pattern does go up to large sizes, it was still going to need some alterations. I didn’t want to waste my lovely fabric on a toile that might not be wearable.  I did a quick stash dive, and settled on this cotton which I had bought in France about 3 years ago.

Officially, it’s a khaki/beige colour, not really me at all. But it has a beautiful wrong side, which is a deep ruby red. At least the thread is, but the way it’s woven with the khaki, it’s two-tone and comes across as a rich pearly pink. And just look at that selvedge… There’s no way that was going into the recycling bin – I had to find a use for it somehow.

The change of plan on fabric did mean that the dress in my head stopped being a buffet dress and started becoming one of those loose floofy dresses that I had been eyeing up during Me Made May.  So I wasn’t feeling so bad about that change.

So the first thing, after taking measurements and decision-making, was to make the various alterations to the pattern. I basically needed to add 14cms around the bust.  Tree’s suggestion was to add 2.5cms to the width at the side seam and to add 1 cm on fold. Once that was multiplied by 4 (the two front and two back halves) that gave me my 14cms in total. But… it meant that I had to add 2.5cms to the raglan sleeve pattern piece.

I have to say, I already feel a bit conflicted about raglan sleeves. I’ve been coming to the conclusion that they don’t do me any favours at all.  They always seem to have quite a lot of spare fabric flapping around around the bit between my shoulder joint and my armpit. This just draws attention to my upper chest, making my bust look even bigger than it is.  I’m all for body positivity, and I love my breasts, I think they’re amazing. But generally my aim is to try and balance out my silhouette because I’m top heavy with narrow hips, and it looks a bit weird.

I was also concerned about the size of the sleeve. Even before adding an extra 5 cm to them, the armscye (armhole/sleevehole) was very low, a good 8/9 cm below my actual armpit. Freedom of movement is a good and fine thing, but this was running the risk of turning into Shapeless Sack-ery. With a floppy viscose it might have been ok, but this cotton had structure, it wasn’t so forgiving. But I decided to trust the process, make only the necessary amendments, to see how the basic pattern worked out. It’s just a toile, a hopefully wearable one, but this is why I’d changed fabric.

Because I was making all these alterations to the pattern, I was trailing behind everyone else in getting my fabric cut and prepared. It was starting to be stressy. It was a really hot day, and I hadn’t eaten, because I was trying to catch up on the fabric cutting during the official lunch break.  By the time we started some sewing I was already feeling pressured on time, and still playing catch up. It was starting to turn into an Unfortunate Experience…

As a group we took the decision to sew the bodice first, rather than the skirt.  My own reason for wanting to do this, was that the bodice was the part of the dress that needed the most fitting. The first thing we sewed was the facing for the front of the dress.  I’m not sure mine turned out brilliantly, but it’ll do.  Then it was on to the raglan sleeve seams.  We were leaving the side seams until last, but I pinned my sides together to see how the bodice had come out.  I was pleased to see that the bodice sat quite nicely.  But oh my stars, the sleeves were… humungous. They stuck out like Dumbo’s ears.

Sorry about the light – it’s supposed to be midsummer, but you wouldn’t know it. Also sorry for the grumpy expression!

Too bad, there was nothing I could do to rescue them at this stage. Tree suggested elasticating them. Nah! Not my style. Too Little Girly. And again, it’s just pointing out to the world: Hey look – Béa’s got massive norks! Though to be honest, even without elastication, the sleeves are still broadcasting that message. Tree explained how you could create a dart in the sleevehead of the pattern piece and rotate some of the excess fabric out of the arm that way, but it was too late for any of that with this make, it was already cut out. I hated those sleeves. But I told myself I could find some way to fix them, later.

Tree then moved us on to the remainder of the facing. I don’t know how, but when I tried to add the back facing to the front one, my facings were too short. I had next-to-no seam allowance. I must have stretched the fabric somehow and/or sewn with a wrong seam allowance… Again Tree made some helpful suggestions, sewing the facing pieces by overlapping and zigzagging together, or overlocking them together, but there wasn’t even enough for either of those. So I wasted even more time cutting out a new back facing piece with longer “arms”, so they would actually join up.  I was so behind already and with having to cut this new piece I was even more behind, so I missed pretty much everything that Tree said about how to actually sew the back facing on. I’d have to do that based on my own skill & judgment. More stress…

At that stage I really did feel like throwing the whole bundle into the bottom of the cupboard, never to be spoken of again. I was getting really hot and bothered. The Unfortunate Experience was turning into an Impending Disaster.
I decided to call Time Out on the sewing of the bodice.  If I continued with it, I would be out of time for the rest of the entire dress. Also, I needed to do a load of overlocking for neatness, and I wasn’t set up for it. And it was making me stressed and angry with myself, and I could feel the distinct possibility of bursting into tears in front of everyone.
But then we were going on to the skirt. Trust the process, Béatrice,  trust the process… 

Things went a lot more easily with the skirt.  We created the pockets first and I really enjoyed that technique. It worked, which put me in a better mood. The only thing I worried about was that the pockets themselves were possibly too deep and at some point I’d have to shorten the pocket bags so that I can actually reach the bottom of them.  But until I’d actually sewn the skirt on to the dress and tried it all on, I wouldn’t know how  far down the pockets went.  Once the pockets were done, I was able to get the skirt front and backs gathered, and stitched to the bottom of the bodice front and backs.

At that point, it was officially past the end of the session, and Tree had said she’d stay on a while longer. But I decided that I’d quit while I was ahead(ish), and do the finishing work another day. I promised faithfully to let her know how I finished it.

I still have quite a lot to do. I have a bodice shell, but it still needs overlocking on the raglan seams, and the facing added. I have to decide if I’m going to do anything about fixing the humungous sleeves, and if so, what possible options I have. The waist seam needs to be overlocked, and it turns out that yes indeed the pockets are massively too long, and the bags will need to be shortened. Once I’ve got all of that sorted out, I can sew the side seams and do the hemming. And I want to try and use that selvedge as a hemming decoration somehow or another.

There will be a Part 2, and I’ll add the link once there is one, when I’ve worked out how to fix the things that aren’t working for me. I’ve got some ideas, so it’s not all doom & gloom. In fact, trying it on a week after the event, it’s not quite as horrendous as I was remembering, so giving it a bit of distance has already helped. I’m sincerely hoping I can rescue this. I don’t want this dress to hang in my wardrobe unworn, because it has horrible associations for me. Or worse, end up on the WIP pile, never to be heard of again.

So, see you on the other side!

Me Made May Reflections

As ever, it’s good to look back over the excitement of Me Made May with a bit of analysis and clear-headed reflection.

My original pledge was to wear me-made during the month (the low-hanging fruit of my challenge tree – tick!), and to post daily outfit pictures (harder work, but also – tick!). As the first couple of days of May went by two additional elements crept into this part of my challenge – wearing make up (I think I did for all the weekdays, and most of the weekends) and wearing me-made jewellery (again, I think I did for most days, with just a couple of weekend can’t-be-bothered days), so although they weren’t official pledges, tick and tick!

Here’s the final round up image from my instagram profile.

The final part of my pledge was to comment on other people’s MMM posts, and I set myself the goal of 10 comments per day. As I mentioned in an early round-up post, this was harder than I thought. I started with comments on my friends’ posts, but that was easy pickings again. My intention was to reach out and participate more in the wider community, so I put on my big girl pants and started commenting on complete strangers’ posts/outfits. It was hard work, because it meant spending quite a bit of time each evening going through all the MMM posts in my feed, and finding new people’s posts to comment on. Sometimes my comments were just a row of heart-eyes emojis, especially for non-English instagrammers, but it turns out, people still appreciate that! I was following the #memademay2021 hashtag, but I’m certain that Instagram wasn’t showing me everything in that stream. Sometimes I was refreshing my feed time & time again, to get some new posts I could like and comment on! It was a great way to get to know other sewers/knitters/makers on instagram, and I’ve got a whole new set of people I’m following. Technically there were days that I didn’t meet my 10 comments, but I did enough extra on other days for it all to even out, so I’m counting it as my final (and official) tick.

This year I discovered and followed the #memademayplus hashtag. There were lots of plus-size hashtags for MMM, and I feel like I should maybe have followed more of them. I’m glad that I’ve started to be aware of it. It meant I got to see a whole load more people who look more like me. I love seeing how people with my sort of shape make their clothing work for them. A lot of instagrammers were adding, not just the pattern they used for their outfit, but the size range that those patterns came in, which is heartening for us curvier ladies. Some were choosing not to @ or # pattern companies and patterns that weren’t size-inclusive, which is fair enough – why support companies that don’t see us as part of their market? Yeah, yeah, I know all the reasons why it’s hard for a small pattern company (and large ones too) to create extra sizes (at both ends of the range), and if a company wants to stick to safe medium sizes, that’s fine, but grading is a pain in the posterior, and I’ll think carefully before spending £10-20 on a pattern I’m going to have to completely re-create.

Which leads back to my own wardrobe thoughts from this year’s MMM. I didn’t want to do too many repeats. Which is rather ridiculous, because left to my own devices, I’m perfectly happy to wear clothes two days in a row, never mind two weeks apart. But that’s all part of the Outward Facing aspect of MMM. The weather here in the South-East of the UK was pretty cold and wet for most of May, and it was really only in the last couple of days that we got any sunshine and warmth. This had quite an impact on my choice of daily outfits. With previous MMMs, I’ve been able to transition from early Spring to late Spring to Summer, which has allowed me to use a wider range of my wardrobe. But this year, it was all jumpers and cardigans.

I’ve also realised that I’m now much more into dresses than separates. I did wear some separates, but I always wanted to be wearing dresses! I just didn’t have enough winter-wearable ones. This realisation, made quite early in May, led to me making the two new dresses in my wardrobe, the black & ivory one, and the stripy teal one. I know MMM isn’t necessarily about making more, but I’m really glad that it inspired me to do some more sewing, because lockdown has been a real sew-jo killer. It’s nice to be creative again, and to make some inroads into my fabric stash.

Finally, there have been a lot of lovely outfits going past my eyes throughout the whole month, and some items/patterns have found their way onto my list of things I’d like to make/use/wear:

  • Wrap dresses – It started with close fitting Diana Von Furstenberg style ones, but then I started noticing quite a few lovely BHL Hannah dresses, and they do them in an inclusive size range, so this one is now on my radar as a pattern to investigate sooner rather than later.
  • Plain cotton shift dresses – To showcase lovely prints – and I’ve got plenty of those in deep stash. I’ve just bought the SOI Ultimate Shift Dress (despite it not yet being in their inclusive size range, so it will need a shedload of grading, sigh).
  • Big floofy dresses. There were lots of different ones, but generally they were fairly loose fitting dresses with an empire line and gathered skirt from below the bust. I saw a lot of Hinterland dresses from Sew Liberated and I might go for that as a pattern, or I could wing it and self-draft something. The BHL Hannah would also work for this as well.
  • The Pona Jacket from Helen’s Closet, as a casual blazer.
  • Swiss dot cotton – because if you have to work with plain colours it’s nice to have some textural interest.

I’m repeating to myself very severely: “These are not plans, they are ideas and inspiration. Do not feel obligated!”

So that concludes a, for me, successful Me Made May. Zoe you are a total star for keeping this tradition going, and keeping it fresh and inspirational and fun for us all. Thank you!

The Stripy Dress

So, remember I said I was probably done with the Shannon pattern for a while? Turns out I was mistaken!

I had a beautiful stripy jersey in teal, that I’d used before in my Sweatshirt dress.

Imagine this being a much greener/teal-ier colour

I had nearly 2½ metres left over, and I’d been mentally putting that aside for making a Tilly & the Buttons Coco (because I’ve had that pattern for years and still haven’t made it). I took the Coco pattern out, and looked at it, and it looked like it would basically need completely re-drawing, because it’s drafted for a pear-shape, and I’m an upside-down pear. So I put it back in its envelope, and had a re-think for this fabric. I thought about the Shannon, and decided, no, I’ve got enough of those for now.

But then I got an idea of a dress in my head.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can’t draw for toffee! Especially legs, it would appear.

And I thought, actually, yes, the Shannon would work for the top of the dress. And the bottom is just basically two rectangles, gathered. So that’s how I played it. I worked out (from one of my other Shannon dresses) where I wanted the waist to sit, and cut the Shannon pattern, as a top, cropped to a little longer than that for the seam allowance. I did my usual sleeve add-ons, but I cut the sleeve tops on the body pieces a bit shorter than the pattern calls for, because I wanted it to look more “dropped shoulder” than “grown on sleeve”. That meant my sleeve add-on pieces needed to be a bit wider at the top.

I added a strip of tape at the shoulder seams, as I knew the skirt would be fairly heavy, and everything would be hanging off those shoulders.

I cut into the two skirt rectangles from the remainder of the fabric and stitched the sides to make a tube. It was quite wide so the gathering at the top was a monumental task.

Next I had to join the top and the skirt. There was a lot of gathering to manage, so took my time over it. First, I didn’t want the stripes to look out & out wrong. So I had to work out how to match them, horizontally. I did a lot of pinning, and then I did two rows of tacking, because I wanted it to be as stable as possible before I did any machining. I added an elastic, again, to support the waist seam, with all the heavy skirting. Finally I stitched it with a suitably stretchy zigzag stitch. I had to redo a couple of sections where the gathering got caught up, but that’s what Nature gave us seam-rippers for.

Seen from the top, looking down towards the skirt

As for the stripe matching? Well, let’s focus on the fact that I started with good intentions. As the French would say, it’s beautiful from afar, but it’s far from beautiful. And as I would say, it’s good enough for jazz.

Finally I had to decide on the hemming. Oh the hemming! Hand stitching or machine? It was a no brainer – this skirt has a LOT of hem! Machine it was, stitching with a tiny zigzag to maintain some stretchiness… And that worked out fine for the skirt and the sleeves. But the neckline was a whole different ballgame. I’d cut it as a slash style neck, shallow so it would sit on my collarbone. But however I pinned it, a normal turn-under-twice hem just looked hideous. I tried with just one turn under (not ideal, but I could overlock it for neatness, which wouldn’t be so bad), and that looked better when I pinned it, so I tried tacking it to see better. But it was still not quite right. It was a bit flappy, not sitting nice and smooth against my throat. What it needed something to pull it in & make it slightly smaller/tighter. Elastic? A neckband? Neither of those solutions were floating my boat, for a range of reasons. Then I had a brainwave. I could use some plain white jersey (I’ve got plenty of it in my stash), to create an internal bias binding finish, and use that to gently tighten the neck hem a smidge, and get it sitting just right. So that’s what I did.

And voila! I reckon it’s pretty close to the original picture in my head.

It feels slightly “Hallo Sailor”, but I’m choosing to see that as a good thing.

I really love it! And it’s making me think that I need a bit more Nautique in my wardrobe. Maybe some t-shirts for the summer.