Wow, this blog has been a wasteland recently, huh? I have found that buying clothes that fit is so much easier now that I have lost weight, so sewing for necessity just hasn’t needed to happen. And sewing for fun/curiosity has gotten pushed down the life list thanks to some other projects that I’m involved in. The most I’ve done since Christmas has been to clean up my sewing area (a bit) and buy the newest two Knipmode magazines.

Pattern Review is sponsoring a ‘new to you’ pattern contest; from mid Feb-mid Mar, sew a pattern from a line you’ve never used before. I am tempted. I’ve made something from Knipmode and LMB, so those are out, but I could finally make my Cake Hummingbird, or one of the Deer & Doe Plantain tees (free!) that’s sweeping the sew-o-blog-o-sphere, or maybe kick it up a notch and try one of the free patterns from Marfy (sleeveless top, skirt and jacket) that Leisa @ A Challenging Sew has been running a sewalong for. That’s not even mentioning the new collection from Named, a new indie PDF outfit from Finland. Their first collection last fall only went up to size 44 and was one-sized, but now all their patterns go up to size 46 (41/34.5/44″ bust/waist/hip) and are multi-sized nested, which I find really handy since I am a size bigger on the bottom half. I really dig the Selja Knot Tee, an interesting minimalist offshoot of all the twist tees of a few years ago.

The best laid plans

I have drafted an iteration of my Sorbetto with the bust dart rotated to neckline gathers, which I’ve been wanting to try for a while since I’ve had several summer RTW tops with this feature that I like (and I suck at sewing darts, tbh – they always end up different on one side than the other). I had planned to make a {wearable?} muslin out of a skirt I had gotten from the thrift store – straight ankle length, black print rayon, very 90s – but I need a inch or two more of fabric to make it fit the pattern. Grrr! I have looked through my fabric stash to find something suitable but nothing has leapt out at me. This project will probably get pushed to springtime, if I’m honest – sleeveless tops would be a little brisk right now, even in my sunny climes.

The first of the November Knipmodes are up on the digital pattern store. I hope that they add more because the November preview looked very cute, but there are some interesting items there already, including a bra pattern for those of you who are into making lingerie. Not sure what’s up with all the capes/ponchos, but the plus-size skirt is super-cute.

That’s as done as it’s gonna get

I think I mentioned a while ago that I was working on a Colette Sorbetto in my new smaller size. It started out as a muslin and then it was going so well, I decided to try to make it a wearable muslin. I got as far as binding the neckline and then it sat there for a month or two on my sewing table, taunting me. This weekend I tried it on, looked at myself, and said, “Self, get real: you are never going to wear this out of the house, no matter how decent the fit is. The colors are loud and not your style, the way the center stripe isn’t at CF bugs the crap out of you, and besides, you hate bias binding armholes even more than you hate bias binding necklines (so true – why is it in every beginner pattern ever? It’s fiddly and it never ends up even).”


So here it is, my unfinished Sorbetto. It was made out of a remnant which is why the front is pieced. Actually, the back is pieced too, vertically, with an amazingly good match of stripes at CB which happened mostly thanks to luck rather than hours of slaving.


I am pleased about the fit, even though I didn’t end up with a wearable piece, and I am hoping that this can be my base bodice for alterations in the future. The only alteration I made, besides blending sizes and adding length, was an additional narrow shoulder alteration of 1/2″ following the directions from Colette. This made so much difference – all of a sudden the neckline isn’t too wide and the shoulders sit where they need to. There’s a touch of swayback-y-ness (technical term!) and the darts are a little high, but the amount of ease feels right and the fit over the waist and hips is good (always my trickiest part, since I have to blend sizes).

My next desire is to try a version with the dart rotated into gathers at the neckline, because I’ve got several summer tops with that feature that I’ve worn a lot (plus I suck at sewing darts; the sides never end up symmetrical). I’ve drafted the altered bodice already, but the fabric I wanted to use for my test run is not quite wide enough so I’ve got to move to plan B.

Thinking about new patterns and their reception

We in the sewing forum/blogosphere can be real magpies at times. Whenever there’s a new pattern line coming out, we flock to it. Then it seems like someone always gets disappointed and there’s a backlash. I always feel badly for indie lines, in particular, when this happens. Not every figure type can be served by every pattern, and not everyone’s preference in ease, style, and instructional method can be satisfied either.

That’s not to say that accurate criticism isn’t valuable – take Debbie Cook’s issues that she’s been blogging about with the new Cake Red Velvet pattern. The only Cake pattern I’ve tried yet was the Hummingbird and although it seemed well-drafted I got totally confused by the bust sizing and haven’t finished my muslin.

This is the dilemma – Steph (who seems like a lovely lady online, and I wish her all the success in the world) has a cool idea about how to remove ‘sizes’ altogether and replace it with something based on measurements, but for some of us that just makes things more confusing. Or StyleArc – everyone on PR fawns over their drafting but they only come in one size, not a range. Every few weeks I have a little internal fight with myself about StyleArc: “Oh, but everyone says they’re so great! Why don’t I buy one?” And my practical side comes back with “but they’re only one size, and you’re a range of three sizes on their chart, and the darn things cost over twenty bucks each with shipping. You’re going to spend that much and still need to alter a lot? Makes no sense, save your money.”

I could go on – how there’s always someone that says Colette patterns are too simple and a waste of money, how people on PR always recommend Silhouette patterns but their policy of sizing based on finished measurements drives me batty… All of this is very reminiscent of the battles over Hot Patterns that were happening nearly a decade ago when I first got back into sewing. First everyone loved them, and then everyone hated them, and it was a whole big thing. The more things change…

It’s such a personal choice, what to spend money on and what you won’t – after all, it’s not like all my purchases of Knipmode patterns are entirely rational. I don’t even speak Dutch! Speaking of which, when I was trolling Knipmode reviews on PR, I came across this great blog of a German gal written both in German and English. she’s got great style and obviously great sewing skills: Sewionista.

And now I’m going to actually go into my sewing room and do some sewing. Have a great weekend, and Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians!

Drafting and larger sizes

This recent post on Already Pretty about how to dress while losing (or gaining) weight pretty much describes my wardrobe woes recently. I’ve been culling a lot, getting rid of things and working with a much smaller set of clothes, which has been illuminating and irritating in turns.

Taking this in a sewing-related direction: it seems like every few months, on Pattern Review or on someone’s blog, the plus-size sewers protest the lack of plus-size patterns, especially in indie pattern lines. Someone always replies saying that grading up isn’t as easy as it seems, and most of us roll our eyes and think it’s about fat-shaming instead (hello, Abercrombie & Fitch!).

I thought so myself, but now I’m realizing the issue is more complex than I thought. As I’ve lost weight, my tops have gotten too wide, but they’ve also gotten too long – armholes are too big and necklines are too low. I haven’t gotten any shorter, but the length required to travel over my girth is less. Even my feet have gotten smaller, about a half-size. And, because the RTW grading rules are averaged over a general abstracted figure, all the pants I try to buy are too short. So I’m stuck with too-short pants and too-long tops, which is a charming combination, let me tell you.

What I guess I’ve learned is that it’s true that grading isn’t as easy as “just making something bigger,” because everyone’s got a different build and proportions, and gains and loses weight in different places. So offering a pattern in a very wide range of sizes is challenging, especially when it’s quite fitted. Not impossible, clearly, but challenging, so thanks to those pattern lines that give it a go.

The benighted moulage experience*

Earlier this month I signed up for a moulage/sloper drafting class at a local quilt shop. I’ve always wanted a personalized sloper designed to my measurements, but I’d never gotten around to drafting one on my own. I attended the first class meeting before my sciatica interruptus put me flat on my back for a week and kept me from the next class. I decided to opt out of attending the remainder. This was made easier by the fact that the class I had gone to had been painfully slow and rather frustrating to me, and that I’ve never felt at home at that store, which is one of those places where they’re all quilting fanatics who not-so-subtly look down on garment sewers (I’m not mentioning the store name, because I think someone who’s less mental than I probably wouldn’t even notice most of this stuff, and as my grandmother used to say, bless their hearts, they mean well.)
This always seems to happen to me when I take sewing classes. I’ve tried a few crafty classes through my local parks & rec, and one class at Canada College – which has a truly admirable slate of fashion design classes and is basically in my backyard; it should be my nirvana, except I hated the experience of the one class I took and haven’t tried it again since. I always feel like the classes move too slowly and are too pedantic and repetitive. (Canada has to cater to both hobby sewers and folks who are getting their degrees and want to work in the fashion industry, which is a tall order, so I don’t fault them at all.)
I think it has to do with the way I approach learning new things. I like to do my research, and learn how things work before I try them. Then I sign up for a beginner level class to confirm my research, and then I’m frustrated and bored. Despite having never made my own moulage, I already knew 75% of what the moulage instructor was saying, because I’d already read about it. Knowing and doing aren’t the same thing, certainly, but when it’s a hobby, why pay to listen to someone tell you something you already know?
The good thing is that now I’ve got the book on which the class was based (Suzy Furrer’s Building Patterns: The Architecture of Women’s Clothing) and there’s no reason why I can’t finish the moulage on my own. Unfortunately, I was counting on the class to motivate me to finish asap. Anyone want to come to my house and stand over me until I’m done?
*Good band name, y/y?

Made-It Monday: Fail edition

It’s still Monday here for a couple hours so I will tell you about the total fail project I just gave up for dead and stomped off from my sewing den like a kid having a tantrum.

I wanted to try the free MariaDenmark kimono tee pattern in my new size, so I made a muslin out of a print knit remnant. It fit reasonably well but was basically a belly shirt, so it occurred to me that I could add a contrasting remnant as a gathered peplum and maybe make a cute tunic.

Putting it together worked reasonably well but when I tried it on, total ick. I haven’t worn anything so unflattering since I was allowed to pick out my own clothes. I think the main problem is where the peplum seam hit – it needed to either be higher and empire style (not my best look but tolerable in drapey knits) or down at the natural waist, not a few inches above. I have a substantial ribcage (all those years of choir when I was a kid) and anything that emphasizes the below-the-bra-band, above-the-belly-button area is horrific on me. This is why I can rarely shop for fitted dresses with a waist seam, since I’m tall with a long torso, and the waist seam always falls too high on me.

The spouse agreed that it was not a good look. I’ve restrained myself from tossing the whole thing in the trash – maybe I can reuse some of the fabric for trim or contrast.

(I did get close to finishing my Sorbetto and I think that’ll at least be wearable, so only a soupçon of despair over here.)

Made-It Monday: 30-minute skirt

I’ve had so much fun with alliterative blog post titles I figured Made-It Monday would be a good one to show off a finished project. It turns out the first finished object from my recent sewing is not the Sorbetto, because I still need to pick up some bias binding so I can finish the neckline and armholes.
But I was on a roll  Sunday, so I also cut out a couple other things, including a new version of the (free) 30-minute pencil skirt pattern. I had tried it last year, although apparently I never wrote a review, and found the resulting skirt too tight but promisingly cute. Even with being smaller now, I (based on the flat pattern measurements) added some additional to the size XL. Then I ended up taking most of it out in the side seams because the slinky remnant I used is quite stretchy.

Sorry for the uninspiring mirror selfie, but I don’t have a non-phone camera right now. You can see it’s basically a black slightly-shaped rectangle with an elastic waist, so you’re not missing much. Honestly, although I ended up with a wearable result, I’m not sure I’d recommend this pattern. True, it’s free, but I don’t understand why I keep having so much trouble with the sizing. I suppose the amount of ease you need in this kind of style varies a lot based not only on your figure and how you like to wear things, but on each individual knit and its stretchiness and drape. Something like the Pamela’s Patterns Magic Pencil Skirt, which I haven’t tried myself but have heard good things about, might save you frustration in the long run.

But still – wearable result, I wore it all day and it was comfy and worked great. Finished wearable clothes are a step in the right direction, I’d say.

July! Sales!

Happy Canada Day, and early Fourth of July, all. This week is a little crazy for me work-wise but hopefully I’ll have some time to get in the sewing cave on Thursday (preferably before it gets too hot in there – evenings are a bit unpleasant now that it’s 90+ degrees outside). I finally unearthed the fabric I bought in Europe, so stay tuned for a photo of that soon, and plans for its use.

Speaking of Canada Day, Tasia has a one-day sale on Sewaholic patterns, 10% until midnight PDT. I finally gave in and bought the Alma and Pendrell top patterns (because I am way behind the curve).

There are some other neato sales happening right now too. Maria has a bundle deal on a 3-pattern set of her MariaDenmark patterns – one skirt and two tops – that’s good until the 8th. And Melissa just posted about a 20% discount code for Claire’s SA curve doohickeys – I’d been eyeing one for a while so I ordered one of those too. I also read on someone’s blog that Papercut Patterns currently has free international shipping.

And it’s not a sale, but Knipmode have listed a whole bunch of additional patterns in their digital pattern store, including a bunch of patterns from the April 2013 issue which I just love.

I must say that all the great features in the blogosphere for Indie Pattern Month and people’s great results in blogs and on PR have gotten me rethinking ever buying a Big 4 pattern again. All they do is frustrate me and don’t fit, and the only nice thing is that they’re cheap. That’s like buying all your bread at the expired bread store and being frustrated that it’s getting stale.

June Knipmode rises again

Funny postscript to my tale of downloading a KM pattern digitally – I was traveling in Europe at the beginning of the month. In my 90 unoccupied minutes in the Brussels train station, I managed to eat a surprisingly good slice of pizza a la fromage from Sbarro (!) and buy a copy of Knipmode from the station news agent. It was, of course, the June issue, so now I own the top pattern in two formats. Ah well. I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to buy Knipmode from (nearly) its home turf, and the June issue is a nice one anyway.

Interestingly, there was also a pattern mag that looked to be made of Simplicity patterns, but provided in a pattern-mag traceable format rather than in envelope form.

I also picked up a little bit of fabric in Germany, and an English-language copy of Burda Easy in the Munich airport. They also had the regular BurdaStyle in German, Sabrina Woman (the German edition of LMB, I think), the German-language version of Ottobre, and a couple others.