Are you ready for some amazement?
Because I know that I wasn’t at all ready for it this time last week. I was halfway through putting together this sewing pattern:
I picked it up from eBay for cheap because it looked simple yet smart, and it’s from Essentials Magazine (which I believe is still published).
I doubt it could be any more Eighties if it tried. By the way, do you like how the girl on the bottom right looks a little like a faded horror movie poster? You might think it’s a combination of my camera phone and her eye makeup, but it’s merely the latter.
So last Sunday night I had the whole thing done apart from – you guessed – the buttonholes, and I decided to leave them until I had had a chance to practise the little feckers some more.
On Monday there was naff-all sewing, just an early night to make sure I had plenty of time in case the snow disrupted my travels the following day;
Tuesday the snow did not affect me at all – I travelled down to London and spent the most amazing day at the Natural History Museum.
There were dinosaurs! Beetles! Giant fossils! Little fossils! Rocks! Giraffes! Termites! Stuff in jars! Skulls! Jaw bones! Lots of stuff in jars!
There was also amazing chinese food, caffeine and all kinds of gems, both in and out of glass cases. It was, someone said, one of those days that you remember forever, and I am not going to argue with that.
Wednesday I came home from work, had an early tea, grabbed two scraps of the fabrics I used in the blouse and spent a good three hours (and a delightful episode of Cabin Pressure) practising buttonhole, after buttonhole, after buttonhole:
I mixed different sets of instructions from different places (Judy‘s manual, blogs and YouTube) and wrote down every single step I made in each attempt.
This wasn’t just a homage to my favourite line in Withnail and I (“Let’s approach this scientifically”), but a way to make sure I changed only one thing at a time and to be able to find out what I was doing wrong.
And I did find out! Suffice it to say that the instructions in Judy’s manual make up 80% of my chosen method, but that was only after I realised that I should actually have been reading them rather than just glancing at them and winging it.
I know I haven’t been doing this sewing malarkey for long, but I am constantly amazed at the difference that Reading The Effing Instructions makes. You see, I am a recovering smartarse.
Thursday I worked an insanely long day and pretty much dozed off on a friend’s sofa, whilst Friday I worked a ludicrously long day and spent the evening thinking of many things other than sewing.
On Saturday I got some rest and in the afternoon sat down to make one last attempt at a buttonhole before making some *real* ones on my blouse, and guess what?
It worked so well that I made a buttonhole on the blouse. And then another one:
They’re not perfect, but they’re mine, as they say.
And frankly they were so easy that it was all a bit of an anticlimax and I started wondering what it was that I was so scared about.
So I went on to make five more and sew seven buttons on my blouse and whilst I was in the middle of what I could describe as a sewing downer, this happened:
Yes, I have loved Tales of the city so much I read each of the books twice.
Yes, I am very excited about the upcoming adaptation to be broadcast on Radio 4 next week.
But I had also been to the library a few hours earlier to borrow The Night Listener, so I was pretty much beyond stoked when I saw that email.
Now, I could mention that I initially intended to make View Two with the short sleeves but mangled them quite spectacularly, but why should I ruin The Week Of Awesome?
In the past seven days I have seen dinosaurs, mastered buttonholes and got followed on Twitter by Armistead Maupin. If this isn’t awesome, I don’t know what awesome is.
A lesser woman than I would now be worried that 2013 has peaked way too soon, but I am not.
There are three-hundred and thirty-eight more days to go, and I know sure they will be as awesome as the past week.
Fabric: Printed cotton, bit too flimsy for my taste. Quite how and why I came into owning four metres of it is beyond me. The why rather than the how. The how it’s easy, I went to the fabric shop and handed over my credit card. Scraps of that curtain instead of interfacing. I really think I should eventually tell the story of that curtain.
Pattern: Essentials Magazine blouse pattern, marked as E4 on the pattern sheet.
Year: 1980s. Let’s not get into painful detail (although I am sure it is the second half of that wretched decade).
Notions: Thread, buttons, elastic for the sleeves that never were and scraps of some other bias tape for the armscye that made the cut. Everything came from stash.
And the insides? Mostly zig-zagged with my new overcast foot, which I luuuuurve.
Hours: Two afternoons and an evening.
First worn: I tried it on and it’s fine, might wear it to work tomorrow but the office is bitter cold on Mondays so I am not sure.
Wear again? We’ll see. There was an odd reaction between the Eighties shape and my usual widening at the hips.
Make again? Doubt it. The shape is just too Eighties and the instructions for attaching the collar were so bad I ended up playing with it for the best part of two hours and then guessing.
Total cost: Everything came from stash! I am not doing too bad with my resolution to stick to a budget.
Fabric: Less than a metre of man-made printed knit. I like it because it’s a bit Seventies and it reminds of zebras. Stashed after my Christmas visit to Giesse Scampoli.
Pattern: Burda Style 11-2012-136, the dress view (as opposed to the top). Here’s a link to the pattern in the shop.
Notions: Thread, bias tape for the shoulder, WundaWeb to stabilise the hem..
And the insides? Nope. This was a challenged to see if I could make a dress in an evening, so the raw edges stayed raw.
Hours: About 4 hours in the course of an evening. My housemate works nights so I could rattle into the night to my heart’s content.
First worn: For work on Monday 14th January 2012.
Wear again? When I find a better red belt.
Make again? I might make the top length, but I won’t be making the dress length again.
Total cost: I can’t find the receipt but it was only the fabric and it’s from the remnants place, so two Euros at most.
How’s January treating you? Here it’s cold, work is as insane as I predicted and every once in a while I like to take some time out to do my own thing, if by “my own thing” you mean “discovering a channel on my new PVR box that only shows music biopics – oh dear I think I might forget to eat”.
After finishing Mum’s skirt and tidying up the sewing room, I decided I wanted to make something easy, something that didn’t need lining, finishing, snaps and waistband. So I got out some printed knit fabric that looks a lot better than it feels (very manmade!) and decided to see how long it took me to make this Burda pattern that I traced during the holidays.
From marking the fabric to hemming the skirt this took just over four hours. The neckline and sleeves are finished with your usual self-fabric band folder in half and pressed, which works really well with this fabric. The bottom was hemmed with WundaWeb (yes, the supermarket variety) and then a small zig-zag on top.
Speaking of zig-zag, this project was a great way to remind myself of what a most perfect zig-zag my Judy produces.
Was I happy with it? Nope. Far from being flattering on me, this adds where no more is needed and takes away where it should accentuate. There is flaunting, dear blog, and there is getting arrested, and I know on which side of that line I like to live my life.
So I decided to wear this with a belt like in the magazine, but problem is, I don’t own many belts.
I hate belts. They sit on my hips like a joke, move around and never really work. For this reason, I don’t own many belts at all. This was borrowed from an Eighties dress I bought in a vintage shop last year:
Whilst I agreeit does a lot for the dress, this belt is too short and it doesn’t have a proper buckle, so I took it off shortly after I got to work, lest it dropped in the middle of the canteen and it all looked like an accident.
I am also not a fan of how the belt makes this dress even short than it already is, which is something else I am not comfortable with.
Why Life Of Pi? Because I was listening to the audiobook once again whilst I was making this, and because when I wore to work last week I felt it wasn’t really doing anything for me, whilst everyone else was madly in love it and I got lots of compliments. Just like Life Of Pi, it’s up to you which story you want to believe!
For those of you who might be that way inclined, here’s my PR review:
Pattern Description: Man-made knit dress in the Loungewear section of Burda November 2012. My Burda is in Italian, but on the website this is described as a “Chill dress”. I am guessing “Chilling” is German for lounging.
Pattern Sizing: The usual Burda. I cut a 42 with extra room at the hips. I am a Burda 42 at the bust and hips but a 50-52 at the hips.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Pretty much.
Were the instructions easy to follow? I read them, but I didn’t use them. Yes, it is that simple.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It’s very easy and Burda doesn’t go on any silly tangent with this, which is rare even on easy patterns.
I have to wear this with a belt so it ends up being shorter than I would like but that happens a lot with modern RTW with me. Also, the armhole are too low, as some other reviewers already commented.
Fabric Used: Synthetic printed knit from the local fabric shop near my parents in Italy. I only cut the front on the fold and this way I managed squeeze this out of less than a metre of fabric.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Wider at the hips. Bias tape from stash at the shoulders, which (from memory) is instructed for the top but not the dress version.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for something easy to start sewing knits, and I might sew the top version again. The dress version is a little too much on my figure (and boy I am not shy!)
Conclusion: Dead easy and flattering, but will do very different things for different figures.
Fabric: Wool, tweed-ish but with a very loose weave. Coarse to the point of resembling Mammoth hide. Roughly one metre, 7 euros from the market when I was in Italy for Christmas. Stripy shiny something from stash for the lining and the usual red duvet from the charity shop for the inside of the waistband.
Pattern: Straight skirt from Winifred Aldrich.
Year: This is a timeless style, unless you are a fan of the Hemline Index.
Notions: Thread, interfacing, zipper, snaps, all from stash.
And the insides? The lining is french-seamed, because it was fraying so much, and the edges of the skirt are zig-zagged.
First worn: Mum got it in the post today and texted to say it fits! I’m waiting for pictures.
Wear again? Hope so!
Make again? Not sure if I’ll make more things for Mum, but I’ll definitely be back at Winifred Aldrich.
Total cost: Seven Euros.
When I was in Italy for Christmas, Mum and I visited my favourite stall at the open air market, where I picked the fabric for my Mod dress back in the Spring.
Mum bought me the most amazing fabric as a Christmas present, which I am trying to pick a project for, and also a metre or so of very thick, loosely woven and coarse wool cloth, all grey and light brown white the occasional fleck of black:
Mum gave me some measurements and then asked for a skirt. “Straight, but a bit flared”, which is something that gave me the giggles slightly until I was faced with the drafting and I was 1500 kilometres away and I couldn’t really ask her to clarify.
In the end I went with my instinct and think it turned out fairly well. I mean, it’s straight. And a bit flared. And it’s fully lined because the wool disintegrates and is very coarse.
As is my luck, the lining fabric was even more fray-tastic than the fashion fabric, so the lining has French and a double rolled hem.
There was just about enough fabric to squeeze out the full 70cm / 27½in length mum wanted, including a waistband. This is all I had left at the end – and Mum had asked for a pleat – A pleat! No chance:
The curved waistband consists of six different pieces and was drafted and painstakingly pieced together over the course of the longest Saturday known to man:
There certainly wasn’t enough fabric for two waistband, and the fashion fabric was way too heavy for that sort of thing, so the wrong side of the waistband was made with the red duvet cover that I bought at the charity shop last summer (yes, my topstitching is horrible, just ignore it):
After Waistband Saturday came Closures Sunday, and I thought that if I practised enough at least one of my two buttonholers will deliver a decent buttonhole for the waistband. The result:
Yes – friggin’, mo-fo’ing snaps. Sewn-in snaps. Read all about it.
After Snaps Sunday came Catch Stitch Tuesday (and In Work For Eleven Hours Monday, but that’s irrelevant). I would have preferred a 2in rather than 1in hem, but once again there wasn’t enough fabric. The hem was stitched by hand on my day off, as I watched a man inhibit my central heating:
(Don’t worry, the blue basting was removed! I like to zig-zag raw edges in contrasting colour so I can see what I am doing when I am clipping fraying threads. And to use up all the thread that wouldn’t otherwise get used).
I took one last picture on Tuesday just before I took the parcel to the post office. Having lived in Italy for a long time I had no idea whether this was going to reach Mum, or whether a postmistress (or a postman with a stylish size 8 wife) would have intercepted this in transit(*).
Luckily it made it to the other side safely instead! Want to know why it’s called Beauty Mark? Why, because it is the title of a great song about somebody’s Mum!
I am pleased with this, mostly because I have managed to make something for someone else (as expressed in this comment on StruggleSewsAStraightSeam and we’re still only in January! Guess I’m off the hook for that resolution, right?
Have you ever made something for someone else? Is there a sewing equivalent of the Boyfriend Sweater Curse(**)?
PS: Fancy having a go at my giveaway?
(*) I’d love for that to be a joke, but sadly I have first hand experience of the incredibly sticky -yet discerning- fingers that a lot of Italian postal workers seem to be blessed with.
(**) That’s a real thing, you know. I was there – 1992-94; 2001-03 and 2006-2010. No risk of an equivalent for me whilst sewing because I’d have to find a man first, and I have a better chance of showing you a cube of a 1/100th of a millimetre each side in my next blog post.
I was going to round up this week by posting the first FO of 2013 but I decided against it, since it is on its way to its recipient and whilst I don’t believe in jinx I still want to make sure it gets to the other side safely.
It would kill me if the construction shots and my pretty poor over-the-door-on-a-hanger photographs ended up being all that’s left of it.
I haven’t yet started anything since the first FO of 2013 rolled off the production line, but this has been a very productive week nonetheless. I did my wardrobe clearout, hang out with friends, watched Stargazing Live and finally tidied up the sewing room:
I was only able to put together those shelves on the right yesterday, and they have made a huge difference. Before you go thinking I am doing well on the hoarding front, the fabric on the shelves is overflow from the white cupboard on the left and two more storage places.
I appreciate that to most people reading this the room looks like your average David Lynch movie-drugs den, but to me this works and I am very happy with it.
But Stefania, I hear you all ask, How are you doing with your 2013 Buttonhole ReSewlution? I mean you’ve had this bad boy since last July:
And even before then you were painstakingly practising four-step buttonholes on the lovely Judy, without any help at all!
And what about that new toy that came in the post last Saturday? Isn’t that helping?
Well, dear readers.
Since you asked, I guess it doesn’t hurt to let you know how I am doing with my journey to making a decent buttonhole, right?
So it is with great pleasure and immense pride that I can unveil the result of four hours of blood, sweat, tears, broken threads and plenty of swearing last Sunday:
Yes my dear readers. Snaps. Feckin’ feckery obnoxious little snaps.
And since I don’t even have a snap machine (which I reckon is Burdaese for a pair of pliers, but never mind, I do have a pair of pliers and that’s a story for another day) these snaps were sewn by hand.
By hand, on Sunday night, while watching an episode of Fawlty Towers, which was quite apt since both my buttonholers currently make me feel like Basil Fawlty when he gives the car a damn good thrashing.
I do think that if two buttonholers can’t work I might well be the machine’s fault, but I can’t use them on my other machine (threads from the side) so I will have to keep trying and suspecting user error.
While I try to decide what to make next, I am experiencing a silly dichotomy, a bit of chasm between intent and ability. I have dress patterns (more than one) already traced, but I really need some shirts, as emerged during the wardrobe clearout. But I’d like to get something finished rather than end up sewing snaps whilst muttering obscenities.
While I take break and try to make up my mind, don’t forget about the La Mia Boutique giveaway over there!
I was off work yesterday, and I had a very productive day. A man came round and inhibited the central heating system (that’ll teach him gallivanting with no clothes on – the system, not the man), I completed the first FO of 2013 (more on this later) and I finally got round to unpack my suitcase from Christmas and put it back in the cupboard.
When I say finally, it’s taken me about ten days. The last time I went to Italy it took me 6 weeks to unpack – in fact until I flew out there again. So I’m not doing too bad.
Since both suitcase and cupboard are in my bedroom, I used the time to also have a wardrobe clearout. Only this one was a clearout with a difference: inspired by this Colette Patterns blog post, I made a (much-less detailed) list.
I listed every single garment I own and every single garment that I put in the bags I will be taking to the charity shop later this week. I left out items clearly marked for refashioning, underwear and hosiery, accessories, shoes and coats, since I feel I have 357 more days to go through this.
Why? I have come to the realisation that my work / exercise / leisure routine is fairly established and I don’t see it changing for a good few years. There is no reason for me to struggle to find something work-appropriate to wear in the morning, something that still happens a little too often. I also want to be prepared if I need to move again.
How much? On to some figures. When I woke up this morning I had 131 garments. Now I have 103. I got rid of 21% of my clothes. It’s a start:
What’s there? Aside from a triathlon suit and underwear, I last bought clothes in January 2012. I had another clearout last March before I moved, and again last August. Even without the level of detail of the Colette post, some of this is hair-raising:
Edited highlights – I own 20 tops that I feel are only useful for sleeping in. That’s 20% of all the clothes I own as of today. Is that right? Not for me it isn’t.
In this instance, “Sleeping tops” is mostly t-shirts that I acquired one way or another (gigs, volunteering and so on) that are not fitted. These days, I will not be seen dead in something that doesn’t emphasise my waist, but alas I can clearly be seen sleeping in it. I need to find something to do with them.
At the other end of this very unbalanced spectrum, as of tonight I only own one pair of non-denim trousers. I would only wear such a thing for work, and I haven’t used them since September or thereabouts.
Do I miss wearing trousers like that? Not at all, so much so that two pairs went into the charity shop bag today. That’s a rounded-up and very impressive 67% of all the non-denim trousers I was in possession of this morning.Incidentally, I also own two triathlon suits, a shortie wetsuit, three evening gowns and a lace petticoat. I am a thoroughly modern woman.
What’s missing? As mentioned, I currently own 103 garments. I don’t really care whether that’s too many for some or too few for others.
Nor do I care how many garments other people own, since it opens the door to all sorts of judgmental to-ing and fro-ing that I try hard to stay away from.
As far as I am concerned, I have no idea how many garments I want to own, and I have omitted that column from my spreadsheet. If I woke up to a 61-garment wardrobe tomorrow it will still feel like too many, in the same vein as when Dag tells his Mum “I don’t want stuff” in the run-up to a Christmas visit.
I always feel I have too much stuff, not because of lack of self-worth (Goodness knows I have too much of that, too), but because I have too much stuff. End of. I have always been more keen on spending money on experiences, or purchases that facilitate experiences, rather than possessions.
I am not after asceticism – far from it. But I am after the correct ratio between the different types of garments, one that reflects my life as it is now and makes it easier.
I am after a set of clothes that serve different purposes: stopping me from getting arrested, avoiding a telling-off in the office, helping me run faster, looking good enough that I forget about them, not driving me insane with mess.
What happens next – I make things. I take my usual longest time ever to decide what I am making, but I make things, and I make sure I make them from my stash.
I might also do a few more blog posts during the year, along the lines of accessories and shoes, outerwear and underwear. But I am not entirely sure about that, sorting out normal clothes already seem like enough of an undertaking.
Don’t forget there’s a giveaway going on next door!
On the last day of 2011, I saw in the new year sat in the best pub in the world with a bunch of cool peeps. This was a break from tradition from me, since I hardly ever go out on New Year’s Eve, preferring to go to sleep at 9PM, be woken up by the fireworks at Midnight and then go back to sleep. I was asleep at 10:30PM on Monday last week, in case you’re wondering.
What wasn’t a break from tradition at the end of 2011 was the fact that I had no resolutions. At all. I did hope for 2012 to be back in touch with two people who had shut me off during 2011, independent of each other, but that was it, and it was mostly down to me being very upset about what had happened(*).
I had only just got my job back, and I wasn’t sure of my future housing situation. 2011 wasn’t by any means the strangest year in living memory, but certainly the daftest, and I didn’t want to make anyone laugh by making a plan.
2012 ended up being one of my best years, but all the great things that happened came out of decisions or ideas that I had long after 31st December ’11, or even January 1st.
For all my being loud and brash, most decisions and plans take me the best part of forever, and 2012 was no exception. I think it’s also telling that my “non-resolution” blog post is dated 8th of January.
So I am starting 2013 with no resolutions to speak of, apart from a jokey one and two that continues from last year:
1. Go for a run with a hangover (**)
2. Master the buttonhole. As pledged on Did You Make That. I have made a start on this and spent last Sunday night sewing snaps into a garment. That tells you all you need to know, but there’s a whole 51 weeks left to work on it.
3. Use up my stash and buy as little fabric as possible, using a monthly allowance to control spending.
(*) Still working on it. Hope springs eternal and all that.
(**) I have already done that, first thing on January 1st. In fact, I make this resolution most years, and it always works. I also reckon there’ll be more of those runs in 2013. Just a hunch, you’ll understand.