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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Sew16 update

Now that fall has arrived, the end of 2016 seems to be just over the horizon… so how am I doing on my Sew 16 Challenge? I’m pretty sure I’ll manage 16 challenges by the end of the year; many are in progress but there are some which I can confidently tick off:

1. Newbie – Sew a type of garment you never have before.
Success! My original plan was to sew pants, two kinds of them: American pants (trousers) and British pants (undies). And I managed both! I sewed two pairs of corduroy pants:

pants

And a selection of undies, which I’m not posting pictures of, but imagine some basic briefs in jersey leftover from my other projects and you’ve got the idea.

7. Share the Love – Sew for someone you never have before.
After one of my best friends complimented me several times on my drapey-pockets cardigan, it finally dawned on me that I ought to make her one. It was an easy sew; the only change needed was to shorten the arms a bit. The green one went to her and I’ve seen her wearing it several times – no higher compliment than that!

IMG_4186

8. Stash Stretcher – Sew something entirely from stash materials: pattern, notions, and all.
Actually, my recently-finished ginghamalong top was all from the stash. The pattern is my go-to button down, the fabric was bought last spring, the thread and snaps were leftovers, and even the bias-binding hem was from some other project.

finished collage

12. Same Same, But Different – Sew the same thing from different fabrics.

One of the first things I posted on this blog was a green skirt, copied from one of my favorite RTW skirts and improved by adding pockets. The original and my first copy were on the bias, but last spring I re-found the pattern and realized I could just as well cut it on grain and get a skirt out of a minimum of fabric (the black one was a 65cm remnant). So I made three in quick succession:

black denim skirt

crazy skirt

 

 

maroon canvas skirt

18. Piles of Styles – Take one homemade garment and style it as many ways as you can.
Yes! Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been taking daily outfit photos, an incredibly painful and humbling experience. The upside is is that it’s given me a great insight into the things I’ve worn, how I wore them, and how I felt in them. A good example would be my maroon self-drafted pencil skirt, which I’ve worn frequently and loved every time.

skirt (1)

On the other hand, there’s this dark purple bolero / cropped sweater thing that I wore in several ways but never really got into.

purple bolero

And, inspired by Carolyn’s 6-different-ways posts, I tried to see how I could make one single item look different by combining it with different things. Like this bright sunny yellow cardigan:

yellow card

Or something like a basic striped shirt:

striped

19. Sew Less Frosting – Stop sewing pretty, photogenic things that you will rarely wear. Stop sewing impractical things.
I mentioned at the end of my ginghamalong post that I thought I had fulfilled this goal: instead of a pretty floofy picture-perfect dress that would have sat in my closet, I made a boring-but-useful button-down shirt, and that was a good feeling.

 

So… that’s 6 challenges done and dusted. A handful more are also finished, but I don’t have nice pictures to accompany them, so that’s a later post. Several are in progress, and will probably be done before December 31st. Or not, no worries 🙂

 

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Ginghamalong / gingham top

Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed the Ginghamalong coordinated by Karen of Did You Make That? It was inspiring to see the awesome awesome projects on Instagram and on blogs. And I was finally prompted to cut into the 2 meters of teal-blue gingham I bought from Van Gool Stoffen (Tilburg, Netherlands) when I was there last Easter.

cutting

The top is a self-drafted princess-seam button-down that I’ve made several times before. I cut the side pieces on the bias, which is both a nice detail as well as a clever way to avoid pattern matching.

bias sides

There was a considerable amount of matching involved in the back, in the darts, the yoke, and the joining the yoke to the back.

back

The original position of the back darts put them in the middle of a stripe, but that looked kind of odd so I picked them out and moved them inward.

back before and after

When the basic shell was finished I ran into some questions… what kind of collar? What kind of sleeves? What kind of buttons?

Recently I updated a shirt dress  whose collar bothered me by taking out the upper collar and just leaving the stand. I decided to do the same here, just using the collar stand without the upper collar.

The sleeves were the next hurdle. I had originally planned it sleeveless but having asked for opinions (on Instagram, plus whatever friends happened to be online when I was asking) and got a landslide vote towards sleeves. I had a good long think about it and realized that in addition to looking better, the sleeves version will get more wear.

IMG_5288

I made matching bias to hem the sleeves, but I hemmed the bottom using a bit of leftover. Because why use matching when I could use a totally different blue gingham instead?? The pearl snaps up the front are from my stash.

hem

I’m really happy with the result (despite my faces in these photos…). The color is so cheerful;  plus I have a pair of matching shoes.

fronts

The back also turned out brilliantly, it fits my sway back like a glove.

back and sides

close up

One last great thing about this top: it definitely fulfills one of my Sew 16 Challenges, to sew less frosting and more cake. I dithered about making this fabric into a pretty, theme-y, photogenic gingham dress, but in the end I went with a garment that I know I will get more wear from.

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