"" the girl who makes things

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Project Runway playsuit

Happy end of Me-Made-May peeps! I hope your month went well. I participated for the first time this year and managed to fulfill my pledge of wearing at least three totally handmade outfits a week. You can see my ensembles on my Instagram account. I also stopped sewing for the full month. Mad, right?? Well, for me personally it was necessary as I had some work deadlines to focus on and I couldn't really afford to get distracted. But, now May is over I've got back on my sewing machine and I have sooooo many plans. 

First up, here's a little playsuit I dreamt up during May. I live in Portugal so it gets quite hot here during the summer, hens the need for an easy breezy all-in-one outfit. 

The pattern is Simplicity 1158 from the Project Runway series. I've used it once before to make the alternative view: long tapered trousers with a loosely fitting faux-wrap top. It didn't work out unfortunately. I used a heavy cotton jersey which looked too bulky and I chose the size according to my waist measurement (which is a size up from my bust) so the top was way too loose and fell off my shoulders - not a good look! The jumpsuit ended up in the charity shop bag and the pattern remained untouched until last weekend.

The good thing about not sewing for a month was that I had time to think, plan and sketch out my ideas. I'm trying hard to be more mindful about my sewing and choose projects that I know will work. For a start, I know that deep V necklines don't suit me as my chest is too skinny so high necklines and halter necks are better. I also chose a much lighter weight viscose jersey fabric which drapes beautifully. 

I made a few minor alterations to the pattern. I extended the front bodice neckline and turned it into a loop to thread the cord through. I omitted the pockets to minimize bulk around the waist. Finally, instead of using facing on the back bodice pieces I hemmed them. 

I almost finished the project in an afternoon but came across one stumbling block: attaching elastic to the waist seam. I used a zig-zage stitch and stretched 1cm wide elastic along the seam allowance inside. Although I'd measured the elastic carefully before sewing, when I tried it on the waistband was really baggy and distorted. I unpicked it and made two more attempts before giving up and throwing it in a pile. When I tried it on the next morning the waistband had magically shrunk back and fit perfectly.

I'm super pleased with this first make of the summer. Now, I'm just waiting for some good weather so I can actually wear it!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Sewing slow

I watch a lot of Youtube while I sew. It's one of the reasons I find sewing so relaxing, I can completely switch off and get immersed in my project with a good video. I watch all sorts of things, but I what I've got into lately is lectures and documentaries. It was while I was browsing TED Talks that I found this video by Dan Ariely on how we value work. I decided to give it a go and found that it spoke to me in many ways.

I'd really recommend watching the video, but if you don't have time, here's the gist: some researchers did some psychological experiments on volunteers to find out how they value work. They told participants to make some oragami with instructions and at the end they had to value their creation. Outside observers also valued the oragami. Of course, the makers valued their product more highly than the observers. The researchers conducted a similar experiment where they told participants to make some oragami without instructions. Guess what? At the end of the experiment they valued their work even more highly, and observers valued it at a lower price because objectively the products weren't as good.

So what does any of this have to do with sewing and fashion? Well, basically value is objective and we're more likely to value something that's taken more effort to create. Why is it so hard to get rid of handmade clothes when RTW can be thrown out without a flinch? Because, as makers we know how much effort was required to make that garment. And the more effort it took, the more likely we are to value it. When our clothes are made by someone else in a distant country, we don't feel any real emotional connection to them. This is probably why I love my Burda Style Parka so much, even though objectively it's a bit ropey. Because it was a pain in the arse to make. From deciphering the pattern lines to assembling without ANY instructions, the whole process was challenging, but I will never ever chuck out that coat.

This is why I've decided to sew slowly from now on. I don't want to 'knock out' T-shirts in an afternoon. I want spend weekends slowly crafting and perfecting everything I make. This May I'm abstaining from sewing to get my head clear. I'm using the time to plan projects properly. I'm making drawings and thinking more about my fabric choices. I'm looking at my wardrobe objectively and trying to decide what I need. Once June arrives I'll be ready to start again.

So what do you think? Does how long projects take make you value them more?

Monday, 30 April 2018

My Me Made May pledge

Have you signed up for Me Made Me yet? If you're not familiar with this annual challenge, it is essentially a pledge that you can make to yourself and the sewing community to maximise your handmade wardrobe. It was started by So Zo What do you know? and you can pledge anything from wearing one piece of handmade clothing a week to head-to-toe handmade outfits every day in May. I wasn't sure if I was going to take part this year, but after some thought I've decided to give it a go.

Here is my pledge:

I promise that I will wear three head-to-toe handmade outfits (apart from underwear and accessories) three etimes a week during the month of May. I will also refrain from sewing any new clothes until the month is over.

The reason for this personal challenge is that my sewing output has been really high since the beginning of this year and I'm feeling the need to slow down and focus on what I've already got. I want to be much more mindful about what I sew and make sure that I get the most out of it. I'm hoping the challenge will illuminate any wardrobe gaps and help me to plan better. Also, I've realised that I'm very reluctant to wear head-to-toe handmade. I'm still quite self-conscious about my hobby and worry that people will notice if I'm wearing something home sewn. I often mix my rtw clothes with my me-made garments in the hope that they'll 'blend in'. I need to take more pride in my handmade clothes and challenge myself to dress in them. I don't have enough me-made clothes to do this challenge every day but three times a week should be possible. Let's see how it goes!

What have you decided this May?

Sunday, 22 April 2018

A Helmi shirt

You know when you finish a very involved project and you have that nice sense of satisfaction, like your creative energy has been sated. You look at your finished garment, take a couple of pictures for Instagram and then decide that's it for the time being. No more sewing..... and then twenty minutes later you find yourself diving into another sewing project? Well, that's how it went down for me.

I'd just finished my Helmi Tunic dress and I was so pleased with the result that I couldn't help starting on another. This time it's a shirt, which I actually had a huge wardrobe gap for.

The fabric is a light viscose twill from Feira dos Tecidos in Lisbon. It is incredibly drapey - perfect for this shirt pattern but an absolute nightmare to handle. I used a lot of spray starch, particularly around the collar, shoulder seams and hem. As a result this shirt took longer than I anticipated to finish.

I'm sure there are some fairly dodgy seams. The shoulder seams are definitely warped but luckily the print disguises the imperfections. I recycled buttons from an old Zara shirt and I think they blend in well too.

I cut a size 34 all over as my measurements for Named a pretty bang-on in my upper body. The only slight alteration I'd make is to widen the shoulders out slightly. I found this tutorial on Colette's website which explains how to adjust them. 

The one change I made to the pattern was to omit the invisible button band. I had no clear reason to do this, I just wanted to see what it was like.

As you can tell from my face, I bloody love this shirt. I think a lot of that is down to the fabric, which, for all the difficulties, is completely divine. Fortunately, I had about half a metre leftover so I made a simple gathered skirt with some elastic and I can even turn this shirt into a 'fake' shirtdress. Check out my Instagram account to see it!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

My thoughts on sewing and sustainability

I feel like I've been reading/hearing a lot about sustainable sewing recently. Articles/podcasts such as from Love to Sew, Wendy Ward, Megan Nielsen and Sewcialists are just a few that spring to mind. Ethics and environmental impact is something that's always on my mind and I strive to act responsibly, but I'm going to admit to you, there are many ways in which I fall short. It's not easy to do the hobby you love, keep creating new things and produce zero waste. I endeavor to mitigate my bad habits, but I don't think it's all negative. I'd like to share a little bit about how I think sewing has had a positive effect on my environmental/ethical consciousness:

1. I value the clothes I make
Creating is not just about the end product. It's about the process. I have a special bond with everything I make because I've taken so much time over it. This is why I love longer, more complicated projects. I very rarely throw away my handmades, I'm much more likely to store, repair them or gift them to someone. I can't say the same about shop bought clothes.

2. I can choose my materials
There are a lot of ethical questions around fabric production, I know, but when you take factory garment construction out the equation you can focus much more on fabric sourcing. This means buying better quality, natural fibers, organic and fair trade.

3. I'm more careful about what I choose to wear
I'm much less interested in fashion trends now. I'm interested in clothes that will suit my style and look special. Again, as sewing takes a long time there's no point in making something that won't be on trend next season, better to go for longevity.

4. I've learnt skills that enable me to mend and alter
Now that I've been sewing for a number of years, I have a much better idea about how clothes are constructed and how to repair them. This means that I've mended and adjusted a lot of shop bought clothes. For example, I once almost threw out a pair of jeans because they were too loose around the waist (a classic problem for me). I fixed it by inserting elastic into the back waistband, and now I wear them almost every week.

Of course constantly buying new fabric and making new clothes isn't that much better than buying from the shops all the time, but as I've said, there are a few ways in which it is preferable. After reading more about the subject I've changed my mindset slightly though. I'm choosing projects that take longer so that I'm not piling through quick makes. I'm also hanging on to my scraps and trying to be more imaginative about how I use them. Shauni on The Magnificient Thread has a good leftovers challenge. Finally, I'm either using second hand fabric from old bed sheets or buying expensive, quality fabric from now on.

And what do you think? Have you changed your sewing habits due to sustainability? I 'd love to know your thoughts. 

Sunday, 8 April 2018

A Helmi tunic dress

In March I turned 29. Seeing as I live abroad, most of my relatives prefer to send me money instead of gifts, on the stern proviso that I spend it on myself and not bills. I'm only too obliging. Around the same time as my birthday Named clothing had a promotion to celebrate International Women's Day with 15% off all patterns. It seemed like a good time to go back through their collections and pick out some birthday presents for myself.

I ordered two patterns: the Helmi tunic/shirt, which you can see below, and the Tuuli body/dress. In Portugal, the summers get really hot so investing in a good shirtdress is essential. I've already made the Alder shirtdress from Grainline Studios and I love the loose fit. That's why the Helmi pattern really appealed to me, plus it has an invisible button placket which I'd never sewn before. I'm all about adding to my skill set!

The fabric is a light viscose by Atelier Brunette, my new favourite fabric brand. They do a really cool range of fabrics mainly inspired by nature and this gorgeous greeney-blue fabric is the stuff of dreams. I ordered it from Minerva Crafts using a voucher I was given as a birthday present.

I cut a size 34 which seemed to match my measurements exactly. I took a massive risk and forwent the msulin stage (sorry proper sewists!), cutting straight into my Atelier Brunette fabric. What's life without risk, eh? Thankfully the tunic seems to fit although I were to make one teeny improvement I'd broaden the back slightly.

I took my time with this make, conscious that I didn't want to ruin the fabric. I did a fair amount hand sewing such as sewing the collar stand down. I actually quite like hand sewing if I'm sat in front of the TV and a good series.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with this make, I definitely feel the fabric and pattern are a good match and I've already got lots of compliments on it.

I absolutely love Named too, it's probably my favourite indie pattern company, and that's going against strong competition. What gives them the edge, for me at least, is that each collection has a strong design element. It's not just, 'here's another shift dress', it's like 'here's a shift dress with a really cool design detail'. They have an eye for aesthetics, and I like that.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

A Burda Style parka coat

Guys, this has to be, hands down, my greatest sewing achievement. Ever. From beginning to end this was a mammoth task, but I some how got there in the end. And just take a look!

Let me present to you my first Burda magazine make. Yes, that Burda magazine of the mind-f**k pattern puzzles. The one that gives you a migraine just looking at it. If that wasn't crazy enough, I made the whole coat without following any instructions.

So you're probably wondering why on earth I decided to do this to myself. I've got one word: challenge. I love a good old simple sew every now and then, but one of the reasons I actually sew, above all else, is the mental exercise. I've always liked the idea of taking on a Burda magazine pattern Plus, I really needed a coat with a hood to protect me against the rain we've been getting recently. Yep, even in Portugal the weather sucks.

The pattern comes from the Burda Style Magazine February edition. I chose the size 38 and, as you can see, fitting isn't really a problem with this coat but I'm pleased with how it fits around the shoulders at least.

I made the following changes to the pattern:
  • drafted a hood and body lining
  • drafted new pockets
  • omitted the zip flap

I spent a long time thinking about all the design details, in fact it took a week for me to decide whether to include a lining or not. In the end I found this African wax print in my stash and when I saw it next to the outer layer I decided I had to use it. The outer layer is made from cotton sateen. 

Not following instructions was a big challenge. I spent a lot of time trying to work out how to attach the hood and lining and found myself studying other people's coats at work, like a creep. I'd never attached metal snap buttons and grommets before so I found the Closet Case Kelly Anorak Sewalong really helpful for this. 

I made a lot of mistakes along the way and had to buy two new reels of thread because I'd unpicked so much. But, without wanting to sound too cliched, I learnt more from my mistakes than successes. By the end of this project I felt like I'd significantly expanded my skill set.

I've also lost my fear of Burda Magazine patterns which is good because they actually do some really nice designs. I think I could definitely take on another one. 

Finally, and most significantly, this project forced me to slow right down. It took weeks to plan, prep and make and I couldn't rush any part. In fact, I didn't want to rush any part. The longer it took the more time I wanted to spend perfecting every detail. If I didn't sew a straight line each time, I unpicked and started again. I think that the longer a project takes the more you're inclined to nurture it. Which is good in these times of fast fashion and consumerism.