Call for Pattern Testers!!

Introducing the Judit Top, the first pattern from Empty Hanger Patterns:

For a few years I’ve been wanting to write up some of my sewing patterns to sell, and this summer I finally got around to starting. It’s definitely more work than I anticipated, but I’ve been enjoying it, and now I’ve gotten to the point where I’m ready to reach out to the amazing online sewing community and ask for some help.

I’m looking for sewers to pattern test the first pattern, which is the Judit Top. It’s a pretty, feminine top with a flowing, gathered front ending in shirring at the hem. You can make 3/4 or short sleeves, and add an optional bow to the front for maximum twee! Or leave it off if that’s too cutesy.

Maybe this top isn’t your style, but you’re interesting in pattern testing a great fit-and-flare knit dress, or a loose cardigan with huge drapey pockets? Those will be coming soon, so if any of these sound interesting, please send me an email at emptyhangerpatterns@gmail.com. And within a few weeks my pattern shop (Empty Hanger Patterns, on etsy for now) will be up and running, so go and check it out.

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Pepernoot Coat #3, sort of

How much can you alter a pattern until it stops being that pattern? At what point does altering a tried-and-true pattern become more work than the work of finding and testing a brand new pattern? These were the things I pondered while planning my newest coat:

Pepernoot coat #3

You would be forgiven for not immediately recognizing this as the Pepernoot Coat from Waffle Patterns. I’ve made this coat with fairly minor adjustments twice before (winter version and spring version) but this time I needed to change things up. Mainly because I wanted a different style coat this time around, but also because I was working with a very, very small piece of fabric – just 110 cm (for comparison, the original pattern calls for 3.3 meters).

But how gorgeous is this fabric? It’s an Italian wool (is Italy famous for its sheep?) and I bought the last bit of it from a local fabric store. I wasn’t sure about the color but it’s grown on me and I think it’ll be great for autumn and winter! The color is truest in the outdoor photos, of course, but this is also not a bad representation:

Pepernoot coat #3

There was some intense pattern Tetris going on to be able to cut everything out, but in the end I only had to piece a bit of the collar.

Pepernoot coat #3

In my other two versions I removed 4″ of ease from the sides and sleeves. In this version I removed another additional 2″ from the sleeves (so, 6″ total removed from the sleeves, and I can still wear it with a sweater underneath – this pattern has a LOT of ease).

Pepernoot coat #3

The front and back bodices have lost the yoke pieces and are cut as one piece. The sleeve also ended up cut as one piece, although that wasn’t the original plan; I just ran out of fabric.

Pepernoot coat #3

The waistband of the original Pepernoot is fairly high anyway, but I took it up another half inch. The “skirt” part of the coat is the most immediately obvious change – considerably shorter, and with pleats added.

Pepernoot coat #3

Instead of the sleeve tabs, I cut the sleeve shorter and added a cuff at the wrist – this is a technique I use pretty often on knit things, when I’m trying to squeeze a cardigan with long sleeves out of a too-small piece of fabric.

Pepernoot coat #3

I replaced the zipper with a front overlap and buttons. Ideally this would have been a double-breasted coat but there just wasn’t enough fabric.

Pepernoot coat #3

Instead of the hood, I cut a simple folded rectangle for the collar. Again, with more fabric I would have made a bigger collar, but since I’ll always be wearing a scarf it’s fairly moot anyway.

Pepernoot coat #3

And of course, pockets! Somehow this was the first time I’ve ever sewn a welt pocket? Not sure how that’s possible… Even with this great tutorial from Colette, it was ever-so-slightly nerve-wracking but I think they turned out fine.

Pepernoot coat #3

The insides are a bit of a disaster; I lost my head while cutting out the lining and instead of cutting the lining *slightly* bigger than the main (like, 1/2 a centimeter would have been good) I cut it *hugely* bigger (almost 2″). So it flops around all over the place, and occasionally peeks down below the hem, despite my best efforts to tack it into submission. Never mind, the collar / hanging loop looks nice.

All-in-all, I’m really pleased with this project. I’ve been wearing it nearly every day since I finished, and if the weather stays as it is, I hope I can keep wearing it right through the winter!

Pepernoot coat #3

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Me Made May 2017

Less than a week before Me Made May 2017 kicks off, and I have yet to set out my official resolution! In 2015 (my first year) I resolved to wear one me-made garment every weekday. In 2016 I pledged to wear all me-made outfits on weekdays. At the end of last year I thought I already knew my pledge for 2017; it seemed like the next logical step: all me-made everything, every day of the week. Well. While I appreciate former me’s enthusiasm, my actual goal this year is something more relevant to my current life.

Long story short: health problems, doctors, being told to make some major changes to my diet and lifestyle, and since last fall I’ve dropped at least ten kilograms. Which , sidebar – despite living in Hungary for over a decade and being thoroughly used to using metric in everyday life, sometimes my imperial roots pop up in weird ways. Example: ten kilos seemed like such a tiny number to me, I mean 10? That’s barely even a number! My brain couldn’t reconcile that tiny number with the significant changes I saw when I looked in the mirror. When I finally got around to checking how many pounds that was (22!) things started to make more sense.

Despite losing weight steadily since November, basically I’ve been in denial about it the whole time. I even wrote a post about sewing skirts to fit my new shape. Those skirts were one size smaller than my normal size, and they fit at the beginning of February. But since autumn I’ve lost SIX INCHES off my waist – not something that going one size down is going to help with – so even those skirts are mostly too loose for comfort.

I don’t like change. I’m still getting used to my new body, and I know that I’m healthier and more fit this way, but the change is unsettling. On the other hand, what’s even more unsettling is dreading going to my closet every morning because I know I won’t find anything that fits properly. At the moment I have one skirt that fits me (and only because there are safety pins pulling the waist in) and a handful of dresses. This does not make me excited to get up in the morning and get dressed.

But there’s always a silver lining. I have a pretty wonderful opportunity in front of me: a chance to restart my me-made wardrobe from scratch. How cool is that? How many people get to do that, especially once they’ve been sewing for a few years? So my goal for Me Made May (and April) is a simple one: building up a wardrobe of coordinating pieces suitable for spring, and recovering my enthusiasm for getting dressed in the morning.

Specifically:

  1. putting together a spring capsule wardrobe of a handful each of skirts, dresses, tops, and cardigans (mainly but not entirely me-made)
  2. measuring out a new skirt block and sewing at least one skirt from it
  3. remeasuring/ redrafting my bodice block and knit bodice block
  4. using the blocks to sew new tops and dresses
  5. retailoring a few of my favorite skirts to fit again

There are currently more than 200 people signed up for the challenge, and I’m sure many many more who will play along on Instagram. I’m looking forward to the inspiration of seeing everyone else’s creations!

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February MAGAM: Fit and Finish

The February theme in the MAGAM group (Make a Garment a Month) was “Fit and Finish.” A perfect theme for me this month; I made three skirts which fit my new body, and I used three different finishes inside!

All three skirts are from this free papavero pattern. I’ve made it twice before; this time I altered the pockets to leave out the pleats, and I tapered the bottom to give it more of a pegged shape.

Method 1: underlining as seam finishing

The first skirt is a mystery fabric I found last time I went up to Budapest. From a distance it reads as navy, but it’s actually a blue and black weave with tiny cream dots.

three skirts in February

three skirts in February

For the lining, I used Nicole at Home’s brilliant method for underlining and seam finishing. This gives such a beautiful clean finish, plus the seams are very easy to adjust later if need be.

three skirts in February

With this method, there’s no perfect way to finish the vent on the inside, so I just finished the edges and left it. I fully intended to hand stitch a patch of lining fabric over the vent to cover all the stiching neatly… but I’ve been wearing the skirt too often to get around to it!

Method 2: fully lined

The second skirt uses a mustard wool blend. The color and fabric are beautiful, but this skirt was a hassle from beginning to end. First I turned a whole load of whites yellow prewashing the fabric. The first lining was totally off and I had to buy more. The second lining, despite being cut as precisely as possible, came out too short in some places and too long in others (I think the wool fabric was to blame, it seemed to grow and shrink as I sewed).

three skirts in February

three skirts in February

In this version I wanted to make a fully and “properly” lined skirt, including a lined vent. I tried to follow along with this lined vent tutorial, which was very helpful after I figured out the drafting part of the process using paper models.

three skirts in February

The skirt was such a problem from beginning to end that it’s hard to find nice things to say about it, but I can admire the fact that with this method, there is exactly zero visible stitching on the outside of the skirt (or inside, for that matter). Even the skirt vent doesn’t need to be stiched down.

Method 3: bound seams

The third skirt, made from a remnant, was an attempt to duplicate the most beautifully finished skirt vent I’ve ever seen. Since the example skirt is unlined, I underlined mine so I could treat it as a single layer. And of course, on the inside of my dull gray skirt I used a wildly bright scrap of quilting cotton for the bindings and waist facing.

three skirts in February

three skirts in February

three skirts in February

The “fit” part of this skirt was different in this one; it seemed a little tight at first. After wearing it a bit (okay, I liked it so much that I wore it three days in a row) it loosened up just enough to fit perfectly.

Conclusion:

The first and third methods were the clear winners: easy to understand, easy to draft, easy to execute. But I’m not writing off the second method; I think the majorty of my problems came from bad fabric choice. All in all, I’m glad I tried some new ways of finishing!

ps. these skirts ended up being most of the “bottoms” in my entry to Pattern Review’s Sudoku Wardrobe contest – more about that later! 

sudoku wardrobe

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Pepernoot Coat from Waffle Patterns

You can also read this review (and other reviews of the same pattern) on Pattern Review.

pepernoot coat

For a long time I was very proud of (ahem, stubborn about) not paying for patterns, only self-drafting and using free patterns. I finally took the plunge and shelled out a precious €12.30 for the Pepernoot Coat from Waffle Patterns. In my small Hungarian city, €12.30 can buy a lot of things – a couple of books, several bottles of nice wine, dinner out for two people – but no regrets here. I’m happy that the first pattern I ever paid for was this one.

Pattern Description:

From the website:
*Functional coat with a high neck hood.
*Front zipper open.
*Zipper pockets on the sides.
*Rounded yoke on the front and back.

pepernoot coat

Pattern Sizing:

*EUR 34-48 (US 2-16) (UK 6-20), I sewed size 42 based on my body measurements. The pattern has a lot of ease in the sides and sleeves, but the collar/neck/shoulders fit perfectly true to size.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

More or less. I made some alterations, described below.

pepernoot coat

Were the instructions easy to follow?

There’s not much hand-holding or details about techniques, but since the pattern is for advanced sewers, I think the instructions were adequate. The illustrations were very clear and helpful.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

The main thing I didn’t like about the Pepernoot was the back curved yoke, so I redrafted it to be much straighter and match with the back arm seam.

pepernoot coat

Although printing and taping together the separate lining pattern was a pain, it was well worth it to have a nice-fitting lining. I really like how well the pattern came together, even the places where you need to ease pieces together (shoulders, armscye) were so easy that I didn’t even need to use basting stitches to gather. The waistline is a bit high and hits at a very flattering place for me.

pepernoot coat

Fabric and Notions Used:

The outer fabric is an 80/20 wool acrylic blend. I really like the texture of it. The lining is just cheapo lining fabric, I assume polyester, but it’s interlined with another layer of 95% wool for warmth. The two layers of wool make the coat super toasty, in fact it might be a little overkill for a Hungarian winter, but oh well.

pepernoot coat

The pattern says to buy 3.3 meters of main fabric. I bought 3.5 in case it shrunk (it didn’t shrink at all, naturally) and had a lot left over, more than half a meter. I think because I narrowed the sleeves I could get away with less.

pepernoot coat

At first I bought a 65 cm zipper (the pattern calls for a 70 cm but the store was out) which turned out to be comically short. I think 70 cm would also have been too short; I ended up using an 85 cm zip and it was perfect!

pepernoot coat

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

Based on the incredibly helpful post by Mari of Seamster Patterns about sewing her boucle Pepernoot, I took a few centimeters out of the hood vertically, simply by folding the two hood pieces up a bit. I also added more match marks to the hood pieces.

pepernoot coat

My muslin was okay, very promising, although as basically every other reviewer of this pattern mentioned there is a LOT of ease in the sides and sleeves.

pepernoot coat

So I took 2 inches off both sides (1″ from the front, 1″ from the back) as well as 2″ from the sleeve. I did a fairly lazy adjustment by just folding out 2″ from the under sleeve. This way all the match marks still lined up.

In the Pepernoot sew-along, Rhonda suggests checking the position of the sleeve tabs before sewing them in place, and this was good advice – I moved them a few centimeters up to hit my wrist better.

pepernoot coat

She also made the suggestion that instead of the zippered pocket, the same pocket shape can be made into a simple patch pocket and I ended up doing that. I didn’t like the look of the zippers I had, and since I always have my hands in my pockets I didn’t want to scrape them on the zipper all the time.

The other big change I made was to fix the irritatingly-off-center front band. It was as easy as finishing the band on all four sides and then top-stitching the band into place, centered along the zipper.

pepernoot coat

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Yes and yes! I’m already thinking about a spring raincoat version with a zip-out lining…

pepernoot coat

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2016 in Review: Reflections and Plans

It’s that time of year: Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow is hosting her annual Top 5 event, a chance to look back at your sewing year and evaluate yourself. Last year I wrote just one post evaluating my “year”, but I’m breaking 2016 into a handful of posts: my hits and misses of the year, a round-up of how my Sew 16 goals turned out, and today: my reflections on the year and plans for the future.

Towards the end of 2016 I made some major changes to what and how I sew. When fall came and I had to put away my summer dresses (one of my hits of 2016), I found myself in a wardrobe slump – I’m perfectly happy with my uniform of skirt+top+cardigan every day, but somehow I just couldn’t put together me-made outfits that made me happy. Gradually I realized why:

IMG_6021

Above is a picture of fabric scraps from everything I’ve sewn in the past few years. Below are the fabrics of the garments  I wear most often and really enjoy wearing.

IMG_6022

See the difference? The things I like to sew were not the things I like to wear. I like to sew bright colors, flowery prints, crisp cottons, flowing Marcy-Tilton-style dresses and tunics, look-at-me original garments. I like to wear black and navy, solid colors and muted textures, knits, fitted garments, blend-into-the-background garments. So the first mindset I changed was to replace “I want to sew that!” with “I want to wear that!”

In a similar vein, I need to plan better that I want to sew, and plan how it will fit into my existing wardrobe. I was greatly inspired by The Vivienne Files and used her series of posts about building a wardrobe from scratch to make up an imaginary capsule wardrobe for myself, based on the pieces I wear most anyway. Going through the steps was a great way of evaluating what I have, planning how I can wear it, and seeing what is missing.

 

wardrobe building - black, gray, wine and mustard

 

Now that I have a plan, I’ve been making steady progress on it. And it’s a great feeling knowing that instead of sewing garments, I’m sewing a wardrobe.

 

wardrobe building - black, gray, wine and mustard (1)

 

One thing I like about The Vivienne Files’ approach to wardrobe building is the idea of “core” sets in the same color. If I have a selection of tops, skirts, cardigan, dresses, etc in a single color, then a garment in an accent color becomes much easier to wear. But it means that first I should focus on building up my core sets, and then later add in the accent pieces. Instead of buying interesting fabrics – you know, those ones that catch your eye with their unusual colors and then sit in the stash unused for years – I need to buy fabrics in my core colors.

Likewise, I should be less hesitant about sewing duplicates of garments I know I like and wear. Instead of “I already have a black skirt!” I should try “Would a longer / slimmer / more formal black skirt be equally useful?”

 

wardrobe building 2 - navy core

 

My last resolution has to do with quality of garments, and letting things go when they’ve done their duty. Those boots with the little tiny I-can-pretend-invisible-but-not-really holes at the heel, that top with the hem falling down, that stretched-out sweater with pills… I wouldn’t give them to a friend or consider them nice enough for donation, so what am I doing putting them on my body? I rarely feel good wearing ratty clothes, so I’m changing my mindset from “Is this nice enough for me to wear?” to “Is this nice enough that I would loan it to a friend without shame?”

So those 5 mindsets are my main goals for the future. I’m curious to see where my wardrobe will be a year from now! As for concrete sewing plans, here’s my montage for Lucky Lucille’s #2017makenine:

make 9

See you in 2017!

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2016 in Review: Top 5 Hits and Misses

It’s that time of year: Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow is hosting her annual Top 5 event, a chance to look back at your sewing year and evaluate yourself. Last year I wrote just one post evaluating my “year”, but I’m breaking 2016 into a handful of posts: my hits and misses of the year, my reflections and plans for the future, and a round-up of how my Sew 16 goals turned out.

The Hits

Looking back on my daily outfit photos, the weeks that stood out where the ones when I wore the same three summer dresses, repeatedly, over and over, again and again. These dresses really pulled their weight this summer! I wore them so often that I stopped bothering with the daily outfit photo and just reused the same picture again and again:

weeks of 2016.07.04-2016.08.08

In February and March I made 10 garments to enter in Pattern Review’s 2016 Wardrobe Contest. Of those 10, the yellow cardigan is by far my favorite, and the most-used piece. Who knew such a bright color would be so versatile?

yellow card

After 4 muslins (FOUR!) and multiple in-progress alterations, I finally managed to sew myself a fall jacket. By the time it was done I only got a few weeks wear out of it, but at least I have it ready for next year!

fall coat

Sometimes the simplest things are the most successful: using this free papavero pattern I sewed a black linen skirt. It was comfortable enough to wear in the hottest days of summer, and when the weather cooled down I added a temporary lining for warmth and so I can wear it with tights.

black bacon skirt

I sewed  several  bags, as usual. The light brown fake leather was hair-tearingly painful to sew but the resulting bag is lovely (if you don’t peek closely at the top-stitching, woof).

brown fake leather bag

For winter I needed a new black bag, and again simple is best. It’s basically a duffel, narrower at the top and wider at the bottom:

black bag

The front zipper opens wide so I can get at everything, and the shorter back zipper is a separate pocket for papers and folders so they’re not crushed by everything else in the bag.

black bag front and back

The Misses

I tried to like this shrug, but it just didn’t work. Luckily a year later I could buy more of the fabric and turn it into a proper cardigan.

shrug

This is technically from 2015, but oh well. I spent a long, long time suffering with making this black skirt suit and I never wear it, neither together nor as separates. I don’t have a good shirt to wear with the suit. The skirt is too floofy for my current style. The jacket might have a chance to redeem itself, but I’m not hoping. And the whole thing is cotton and wrinkles like crazy (that second picture even hurts to look at).

black suit

I sewed several short-sleeve shirts and wore none of them more than twice. Lesson learned: short sleeves aren’t my thing.

This origami boat raglan top is so pretty by its own, but I don’t know how to work it into my wardrobe. This is only a partial fail, because I like it enough to keep trying!

origami boat raglan top

And finally, the pants that were so unsuitable for me that I only wore them once. Since then they’ve been at the very very bottom of my “someday I’ll fix this” pile, but I doubt they’ll ever see daylight.

2016.06.13

Hit or Miss?

And finally, two things that were part hit, part miss. I like my red corduroy pants (pictured just above), I wear them occasionally, and it was great to finally work out a nice pants pattern for myself. On the other hand, for a girl who wears mostly skirts, a bright red pair of pants was not the wise choice, and nor was the corduroy.

The other hit/miss would be my daily outfit photo project. Although I did succeed in taking a picture every day for nearly a year, I rarely posted them because the quality is pretty bad. Oh well, from a distance they make a nice collage 🙂

some weeks collage

 

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