Ahem, well hello

(Weirdly, I posted this in May 2020 but it didn’t seem to upload properly – a fact I only noticed in February 2021 šŸ™„. So here it is now, 9 months later…)

Well it’s safe to say it’s been a while since my last post. And gosh, hasn’t the world changed in the meantime?! Multiple gold stars on the psychic front for anyone who saw this coming from how our lives were in 2018.

I’m not sure I can say what triggered me to finally write this post after such a long absence. Reflection? Contemplation? Gratitude for the role sewing plays in my life? It certainly isn’t extra time, as – like so many others – my time is pretty comprehensively taken up with juggling working from home, attempting to provide consistent and useful schooling for our two children, cooking every meal under the sun, sorting the shopping for making the aforementioned meals and trying to make the house look slightly less like a tip. Oh, and drinking what may possibly be a bit too much wine…

I think I can have a guess though at why I stopped writing blog posts. And it’s a bit of an uncomfortable truth for me. Put simply, I gained weight. When I started this blog I was in the middle of losing weight, after years of fairly unsuccessful dieting. My weight was finally consistently going down on the scales and I was really enjoying seeing my body gradually get back to where I wanted to be, hopefully heading back to round about how I was pre-children. However, my method for weight loss was a pretty restrictive way of eating (super low carb, no sugar, no wheat or in fact any starchy carbs, no processed foods, no artificial sweetener and no alcohol at all). Now I knew this wouldn’t be something I could keep up long term but it was working in terms of weight loss and I felt healthy. I just planned to eat that way until I got down to the right weight for me and then I would transition back into a slightly less restrictive way of eating. It all seemed very sensible to me. I was in the right mindset zone. It was all good. Ha!

So of course what happened was, before I got to that “ideal weight” I had a wonderful, supremely special, family wedding to attend overseas and after about seven days into that magical holiday the low carb no alcohol went out the window. Never mind, I told myself, I’ll get back on it again once I’m back home.

But when I got back home I found my previous ‘in the zone mindset’ had simply vanished and I struggled to get going again. That’s still a journey I’m pushing forward with, taking a less restrictive and more ‘normal life-friendly’ diet approach. It’s working, or at least it was until Covid arrived, but that’s another story…

The real point of my rather lengthy post so far, is the uncomfortable realisation about how that all affected my sewing and my blogging.

Now I didn’t stop sewing. I still do a lot of that (current time-pressed circumstances allowing). But I had more fails. Things didn’t fit as nicely, even though I regularly remeasured myself and used those measurements. The garments I made just didn’t look on me the way I envisaged them in my head when planning them.

Even for the ones that didn’t go in the ‘fail’ category I found that I just didn’t want to take photos of myself in them and share them with the world (well, the very small part of it that reads these blog posts anyway!).

Embarrassment at how different I looked compared those earlier blog photos, anger at myself for yet again failing at this continual weight loss battle, annoyance that the newly made clothes just didn’t look the way I wanted (whilst the ones I’d made before hung forlornly in the wardrobe). These were the feelings that kept coming up whenever I thought about blogging something I’d made. Which is ridiculous given that I don’t notice or care about these sorts of changes in anyone else. Or see other people in terms of their size at all. Just myself.

It was easier just to put the blog out of my head. Ostrich-style.

So that’s just all a bit glum, bleak and navel gazing-esque. Which wasn’t actually meant to be the point of this post!

The positive view I’ve now reached is that it feels good to acknowledge to myself why I stopped writing posts, to face up to it and move on from it. Because I am able to see things from slightly older eyes and with the mental distance you get from looking back on things. Not to mention from a present world which is providing a stark reminder of priorities and what is truly important in our lives.

I’m making peace with my body as it is now, whilst continuing to put effort into losing weight and getting healthier – just with the acceptance that it will be a long process and that’s ok. Small incremental improvements are still a good thing and can be enjoyed and celebrated too. Sustainability is a big and important word in today’s world of environmental considerations and so too can I apply that to my health and weight.

So enough of that. On to the sewing bit!

Rather than retrospectively try to record all the things I’ve made in the intervening (nearly) two years, I thought I’d dip my toe back into the blogging water by covering a few of my favourite recent makes.

And so, in no particular order (and leaving aside making NHS scrub bags and masks, which are important at the moment but probably don’t fall under anyone’s definition of ‘favourite makes’):

Shelby – True Bias

As someone who spent her most of teens and and early 20s growing up in the 90s, this dress leapt out at me the moment I saw it released. I had a dress just like it when I was about 19 but in a cream colour with small print flowers in various other colours that are equally unflattering on me. Here was my chance to make the dress again in a much better colour palette for my skin tones.

I hit the Stitch Festival back in February (when the world still included things like sewing shows) with a firm plan. Buy a nice, drapey, woven viscose in my colour range with a floral print that isn’t too ditsy print looking (it’s just too small a scale on me) but sort of ditsy-esque whilst not being large scale. Happily (possibly miraculously, now that I type out my oh so specific list of criteria), almost at the end of my visit to the show I found the exact type of fabric I was after. I’m pretty sure I got it from the Textile Centre but if not it was M Rosenberg & Son (aka Stitch Fabrics, my all time favourite stall holder at these sewing shows).

I also picked up these perfect buttons at the show too, from Italian Buttons:

The Shelby pattern is excellent and came together very smoothly. I muslined this one, something I am doing a bit more now after the sewing fails mentioned at the start of this post. It gives me a chance to check all the ‘standard’ pattern adjustments I’m now realising I need to make (in addition to the full bust adjustment and sway back adjustment I’ve known I had to make since my early days of sewing). It also means I can get an idea of whether the style itself actually works for me, before I lose the time involved in sewing up the full garment.

Just for illustrative purposes, here is the full list of the adjustments I made to this pattern (in addition to the grading between sizes that I did based on the pattern’s size and finished garment measurements):

    Lowered the bust apex by 2cm
  • Did a 2cm full bust adjustment
  • Did a 1.2cm sway back adjustment
  • Did a 2cm full bicep adjustment
  • Sewed the mid part of some seams at 3/8 seam allowance to give a bit more swingy room through the waist and hips
  • And, a new adjustment to me, a high round back adjustment.

I’ve known for a while that I am proportionally smaller in my shoulders and neck area than my bust etc. I had been dealing with this by cutting the size for my high bust and then doing the FBA, which is unquestionably the way I need to approach things. But it wasn’t solving the problem completely. It showed up most obviously on patterns with higher necklines at the back neck and even more so in patterns with high front necklines. I don’t make a lot of these latter kinds hence it hasn’t been as obvious to me what the problem was.

It was making the Maven Patterns Somerset top that really brought it home. I had previously been making forward shoulder adjustments to patterns, which had helped a bit, but the Somerset top involved a facing with stretch percentage factoring so I tried to further adjust the neckline size in my second version but that still didn’t sort things.

I then did a bit of reading about high round back adjustments, as some recent blog posts I read which referred to these started to ring notes of familiarity as to the fitting problems I was having.

So I tried it out with the Shelby muslin and it noticeably made a difference. The neck sits nice and closely at the back. The front neckline / bust line doesn’t keep wanting to riding up towards the back. Hallelujah. Although it’s yet another standard adjustment I apparently now need to add to my list. Sigh.

And on that point, I undoubtedly fall into the camp of “will make a pattern far more than once”. Or at least successful patterns anyway! Because I most certainly can’t just whip up a pattern as drafted. Even the ones that come with cup sizes (and blessed be the pattern companies who do those) I still need to make further adjustments to most patterns. I’m faster at doing that now than I used to be, but it all takes quite a bit of time. So if I have a pattern I’ve worked on to that extent, it fits well, I like the style on me once made, then hell yes I will make it in all the versions / hacks / colours / possible varieties of substrates!

Alcott – Cashmerette

I love this dress so much. The cut of it fits me so well and the style lines are right up my street. The fabric is something I got from Hobbycraft, of all places. Not usually a store with great dress making fabrics but this is a lovely quality cotton Lycra jersey in my favourite cornflower blue colour. From the approx 5 metres I bought I’ve made this dress plus a Somerset top from Maven patterns as touched on above (with the bishops sleeve, my favourite sewing trend ever, long may it last) and a Givre vest top from Deer and Doe.

I also did this new-fangled high round back adjustment as mentioned above (1.5cm this time) and again I could see a clear improvement in how it felt at the back neck, better than anything I’ve worn for a good while, even with a jersey pattern and their theoretical forgiving fit.

Safe to say I have dug out some suitable jersey fabric from my stash to make another one of these as soon as I can manage šŸ˜

Dylan trousers – Designer Stitch

Let’s just start this off by saying I don’t suit elastic waists. Ever. My waistline isn’t my favourite feature. I am hour glass-ish, but my narrowest waist part is much higher up than average, which means combined with my large bust I don’t have a very long look to my torso and elastic waists just want to ride up to this very high ‘small’ point. Plus my hips mean the gathering you get with elastic is deeply unflattering on me.

Nonetheless, I love the idea of a pair of trousers that have a bit of give and don’t dig in, but still give the sleeker look of fitted trousers or jeans. I’ve been tempted to try a few in recent times, such as the Mountain View jeans by Itch to Stitch, or the Pietra by Closet Case Patterns but it is the Dylan trousers I bit the bullet on to purchase. I think because the style lines and lack of fly details made me feel I could use these to get the different looks of sleeker cigarette trousers as well as jeans, not just one of the two.

I made a wearable toile using some very loud and not very me fabric from my stash. It had the right weight and stretch woven requirements for the pattern and I thought could be a very summery, holiday resort (in the back garden, natch) sort of trouser.

With a bit of body vs pattern measuring and using the excellent amount of measurements that you are given with Designer Stitch patterns, I was able to pick the size blending I needed with reasonable confidence, including the height of the rise I thought I’d need and knowing to do an increase to the back rise straight off the bat.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with the fit. For my proper pair I will add a little more to the back rise, shorten them by 3cm and perhaps come in a size at the waist and also from the calf down, but otherwise I’m quietly happy with these. Which makes up for the loudness of the fabric.

The one thing that isn’t great is the waist area. I don’t know if it was me, the fabric or the elastic, the method in the pattern (I doubt it’s that to be honest, Designer Stitch patterns are very well drafted in my experience of them) or perhaps if I need a smaller size at the waist (happy days if so) but the waist facing and top edge don’t sit well. It is a tad loose, stretched out and all wobbly at the top edge. Despite understitching, top stitching and stitching in the ditch at the side seams, the back facing comes out entirely when I’m wearing them and rolls out a bit at the front too. Fine for this wearable toile pair if you cover it with a slightly longer top but I want to play around with this a bit in the next pair and see if I can do it differently. Or better than I managed this time at least!

I’ve got some nice stretch dark denim with a faint animal print pattern on it in darker navy planned for the ‘proper’ pair. I’ll keep you posted on my success or otherwise with the waist on this version.

And a half fail / half favourite is the Iris by Collette patterns.

The favourite bit to it is that I made these shorts in a navy lightweight denim last summer and loved them, they are comfortable, flattering, summery and go with a ton of stuff. So I wanted to make another pair. However, my first pair were getting quite loose. Hooray, I thought. I can make the size down. Turns out no, I can’t. I’m not sure whether it was just a difference between the stiffness of two fabrics, or that my first pair had stretched a lot, but the sized down pair I made – and which look beautiful and are perfectly sewn and finished (if I do say so myself!) – are unbearably tight. Although at least they do up, which is of some comfort. Metaphorically.

So I made a third pair in navy polka dot cotton sateen in the original size and these will be great for this coming summer.

And so for my next plans for me (with a couple of bits for my daughters planned too), I have a crazily long and probably unrealistic list at the moment:

  • The second Alcott mentioned above
  • A second pair of Dylan trousers with the tweaks mentioned above
  • The Fern top from Scout Patterns
  • The Lulu cardigan from Scout Patterns
  • The Whitney wrap top (first) and then wrap dress (second) from AK Patterns
  • The Cerra Alto jacket from Itch to Stitch
  • The Passiflore dress from Deer and Doe
  • The Rhapsody blouse from Love Notions Patterns
  • The Zamora blouse from Itch to Stitch
    And perhaps another Crystal Cove Cami from Itch to Stitch
  • Ooh and I’ve just seen the Romy dress released by Scout Patterns too…

Happily, all of the above patterns (that involve a bodice) apart from the Passiflore come in cup sizes. Allelujah.

Here endeth this meandering and lengthy essay. Thank you for making it to the end šŸ˜

ps in the time has taken me to get this post ready to upload I have made another garment that I’m really happy with. None of the ones on the list above, of course. That would be silly. No, I randomly decided I wanted a new top to wear for home work outs, as you do. So I made a Valencia from New Horizons. I made one ages ago that I wear as an over-workout-gear sort of top and it occurred to me that a) another one would come in handy and b) I had some navy and white striped fabric in my stash that would be right for the pattern and which I had previously had no idea what else to do with (one of those online orders that wasn’t what you expected when it arrived). So a bit of fabric vs pattern tetris followed and a new top was born.

I even managed a small amount of stripe matching (cue random shot that looks like I’m trying to show you how well my deodorant works…)

Right, now it really is the end of this post!

One thought on “Ahem, well hello

  1. Pingback: Musings on sewing in a lockdown plus ten recommended patterns – Tailored by Kate

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