Saturday, October 11, 2014

Taking a Break

Now that I've gotten that Burda monstrosity off my plate, I need to get something off my chest. I'm tired of blogging. It's become a chore. I have too much work to do to get much sewing done, it's hard for me to get good pictures taken when I need them, and my heart is just not in it right now. I'll finish up posting about the couple of things I still have commitments to write about and I'll still post from time to time on the Curvy Collective blog, but for now, I'm just irritated and I have more important shit to get done. Like trying to graduate and working. It also doesn't help that I have major anxiety issues (like it's a mental health issue and a disorder that I deal with), and even though it's just a small segment of the sewing world that does it, feeling like someone's going to bitch about me and mock me every time I write about something isn't pleasant either. I have enough anxiety issues right now over legitimate concerns to let internet trolls also frustrate me.

Maybe once I'm back on medicine again and can handle stress better, I'll blog some more. Maybe once I've graduated and have moved out and have a much more pleasant off-blog life, I'll feel compelled to blog again and it won't feel like a chore. But for now, I'm just tired. I have too much stress in my life and I'm trying to cut out some of my stressors, and unfortunately, blogging is one of them.

So peace out, for now. I've got shit to get done.

FO: The Draped Dress for the BurdaStyle Plus Size Blog Tour

Or perhaps a more accurate title: "The Wrinkle Dress for the BurdaStyle Mystery Sewing Tour".

Backstory, the other month Burda approached the Curvy Sewing Collective with the offer of trying out some of their plus size patterns from their new kits for free. We were wary, but decided to give it a shot. A certain post of mine blasting Burda's plus size designs is to this day my most popular blog post, so I figured I would at least give them the benefit of the doubt and try out one of their patterns that I actually thought looked nice. To be fair, these kits they've put together are some of their best looking plus size designs. I chose to make the Draped Dress from the Plus Size Essentials Collection.

...and then came the actual sewing.

I suppose in Burda's defense, Jenny, the other Mary, and Tanya all had good results (despite frustrating sewing). The rest of us, though... Well. Let me take you back to Monday. A couple of days prior, I had printed out the pattern and cut out my pieces. I had decided to make my version of this from a ponte knit because it was a nice midweight fabric that looked like it would be a good match for this dress's silhouette. Also, the idea of wearing fitted long sleeves made from a woven sounded horribly uncomfortable to me, so a stable knit seemed like a good alternative. Consequently, I didn't bother adding seam allowances to compensate for the fabric's stretch (this pattern is "European" and therefore does not include seam allowances).  

I didn't feel like sewing on Sunday because I had work, so on Monday I resumed this project. Pardon my French, but holy fuck. The instructions. Are the worst. I have ever encountered. I thought the one's that came with Burda's printed patterns were bad, but yikes. Based on the experiences of the rest of the Collective, my thoughts on these instructions are not unique, so I think I can confidently say that these instructions are pure shit. 

Anyway, I was originally scheduled to post about this that Tuesday, but Sophie, Tracy, and I had a conversation about flipping dates around because all of us were having such a shit time. On top of that, my laptop cord had been left across town at my friend's place, leaving me without a method of blogging until it was returned to me on Wednesday. Sophie was going to post on Friday, but she finished early enough to post on Thursday, leaving today open for me to post about my own trials and tribulations. And yes, I realize that it's now technically Saturday, but I just worked an eight hour shift on my feet with no break and idgaf. Pretend it's Friday. 

Ok, you probably want to see my dress now, don't you? Behold, the Wrinkle Dress Draped Dress:

See what I mean about wrinkles? It is impossible to photograph this dress without it looking like a wrinkled mess. It doesn't look that bad in real life- I actually got a compliment on it at school (where I took these pictures)- but in photography, all that ruching looks very wrinkly. That ruching is the main problem with this dress, actually. The silhouette is flattering. This dress design had a lot of potential. However, all of that ruching, a "plus size design element" put in place to supposedly hide belly fat or whatever (that's what I always hear said about ruching on garments) ruins it. 

That's my main problem with a lot of Burda's plus size offerings. So many of their designs would look better if they made them sleeker, whether that means making it closer fitting or removing a fussy design element. Like all that ruching. Seriously, there is just entirely too much. When I was gathering the fabric, I checked and double checked that I was gathering the right amount and attaching it in the right places and I was spot on with that. There's just too much damn ruching. 

Here's a better picture of what the gathering looks like:

I know I could have done a better job at getting the gathers more even, but I would have had an easier doing that had there not been too much gathering to begin with. I feel like this dress would look so much better if it had been sleek with no ruching on the front.

Anyway, enough on that. It was pretty easy adapting this for a stable knit. The only real change I did was fold the facings in half and sew them on like bindings, and then turned them to the inside and topstitched them down. You could make this in a ponte knit and do traditional facings, but I feel like my method works better with the fabric.

Regarding the drafting, over all it's pretty sound with the exception of the yoke placement. If you attach the yoke to the dress fronts where it's indicated, the neckline ends up being higher than pictured, and it also tugs at the yokes a bit there. I don't really mind that since the higher neckline makes the dress teaching/work appropriate, but I feel like that should definitely be noted. 

I made this dress almost entirely on my serger. I'm really glad I chose a ponte, because with the grief I had constructing this (I can't say enough how awful the instructions are), I just wouldn't have been bothered if I was working with a woven. I would have said screw it and tossed it in the scrap bin. And if you're wondering how my cutting it out without seam allowances turned out, it fit fine. That was a good move. If you're motivated to try making this dress in a ponte as well, if you pick the size that matches your measurements, you can safely say "lol no" to the seam allowances like I did. 

Also, if you attempt to make this, have fun interpreting the instructions for how to attach the yokes. I read them through like five times, said screw it, and then figured out how to do it myself. Between omitting the zipper (again, yay ponte!) and using my serger, I figured it out.

So here's my final verdict. While Burda's pdfs go together well and the drafting is mostly sound, Burda's instructions are dreadful. Their plus size patterns hold a lot of promise, but ultimately the design details make their offerings fall flat on actual plus size people. I could only recommend Burda to advanced sewists (or at least skilled intermediates) who fall within their straight size range. I think plus size sewists may have better luck with the more simpler plus size designs that Burda has, but let's be real, other pattern companies likely have something similar out already and your sewing experience with them would probably be much more enjoyable.

And because I need to start remembering to add these disclaimers, the pdf copy of this pattern was provided to me for free, but my opinions (if you couldn't tell, lol) are entirely unbiased and my own. I feel less guilty about writing that post years ago completely blasting their plus size designs because this was easily the most unpleasant sewing experience I've ever had (incidentally, the two runners up to that were the times that I tried sewing with Burda's paper patterns). 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

FO: Papercut Patterns' Clover Dress

Heyyy speaking of some selfish sewing, here's something entirely for me! I became enamored with the Clover Dress pattern that Papercut Patterns released in collaboration with designer Brooke Tyson, and ordered it along with the Rigel Bomber pattern.

After having made this dress up, I am quite impressed with the versatility of this pattern.

I made up my version in a cotton/rayon/poly blend from Girl Charlee. I was actually rather disappointed with this fabric when it arrived. The color looked a lot like grey and nothing like the "black" as described on the site, which on my screen matched the black stretch lace that I also bought to go with it. I discussed it with Girl Charlee's customer service and wasn't particularly pleased with the outcome, but whatever, I didn't feel like sending it back. The color wasn't what I wanted, but the fabric consistency was perfect so I used it anyway. 

This pattern is described as being ideal for both knits or wovens, and having had made it, I am inclined to agree. I highly recommend two things to do, though, if you choose to make this pattern. Pick your size based on your high bust measurement (as in match the bust measurement on the sizing to your high bust) and staystitch the neckline.

It shrunk back up a bit after I washed and dried the dress again, but holy poop balls it had stretched out a lot over the course of sewing it! I actually took in the dress along the back seam by an entire inch to help fix the problem.

Anyway, other than that this pattern went together very quickly. I made it almost entirely on my serger and it took me maybe about three hours from cutting to finishing. Due to the type of knit I used, I didn't need to hem it, so that took out part of the sewing time. 

I like this dress on me both belted and unbelted- despite being a loose and swingy style, the drape of the fabric makes it flattering and un-sacklike on my curvy figure. The pattern comes with instructions on how to make a braided tassel belt like the one in the pattern picture, and I decided to give them a try. I ended up subbing out the embroidery thread listed as being needed with a cotton yarn because I wanted a belt with a little more heft, and it wasn't particularly hard to adapt the instructions for my chosen substitution. I've never made tassels before, but I think they turned out nicely. For some reason the belt shows up as being grey in the pictures, but in real life it's black (lol the opposite of my Girl Charlee problem...).

Here's one more picture of the dress belted with a RTW cinch belt. It's a lower quality webcam picture, but I still like it. And yes... That is my bathroom in the background. Shhhh don't ask. Just look at the pretty dress that looks good with different kinds of belts. 

I'm thinking of writing a more thorough review of this pattern for the Curvy Sewing Collective's website. Unless I'm mistaken, I think I'm the first larger person to post about making this pattern, and based on my experience with it, I think this pattern would work nicely on a larger range of figures than one might think.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

FO: Plaid Rigel Bomber for Minerva Crafts

I'm going to start off this post addressing something that's been bothering me. I feel bad that I've mostly been posting sponsored stuff lately, but I'm in between sort of a rock and a hard place about it. Primarily, I've been very busy this year, between working and school. With non-sponsored content, I probably wouldn't post much at all because I seem to hardly have time to sew for myself lately. The posts I make with Minerva Crafts materials and the various pattern testing stuff keeps me posting even when I'm too broke to do some truly selfish sewing.

On the other hand, I kind of cringe at myself for doing mostly sponsored stuff through the summer simply because I haven't had much time to do anything else. I think after I finish out this round of projects for MC (network members sign up for three months at a time), I'll take a break from them for a while and see what happens in terms of the personal sewing that I'm able to get done. I've strayed from the cosplay-inspired stuff I used to do more often and the vintage-inspired stuff I sew for swing dancing, and I'd like to do more of that again, especially with NCComicCon and Lindy Focus both approaching. I'll still do the occasional pattern testing and review for the Collective, but I'm going to attempt to refocus on my personal sewing.

Anyway, I've lusted over the Papercut Patterns' Rigel Bomber for aaaaages and have had visions of a version with faux leather accents since when the pattern first came out.

And lolll of course my hair ends up covering the key parts of the jacket in one of the few good pictures I got. My photography plans for this fell through so I ended up having to coerce one of my family members to take some pictures for me. 

Anyway, I envisioned a plaid bomber jacket with black faux leather at the shoulders and the pocket welts, and I think I achieved that pretty well. The fabric I used was a midweight poly/viscose blend suiting, poly ribbing, and a stretch faux leather.

I was super careful with the plaid placement and I cut everything out in single layers. The sleeves don't quite match up, but other than that, I was able to make the plaid placement symmetrical across the front and back, as well as making it match up along the side seams and across the front. 

It's a little off on the back, but I don't think it's glaringly obvious. Moreso one of those things that you notice only if you're actively looking at it.

This was my first time sewing in a separating zipper, and I think that turned out really well. The pattern instructions were nice and clear.

These were also the second pocket welts that I've ever sewn and I think they turned out pretty decent (or better than my first welts, at least). They aren't perfect, but I can live with them, especially as I was working with faux leather that doesn't really press. This faux leather was perfect for garment sewing- it's nice and soft on the reverse!- and it stretches so I think I may use the scraps in some leggings in the future, but it certainly wasn't the easiest fabric to use for pocket welts.

The one thing about this pattern is that it's unlined. All over the internet, the makers of the various versions that I've seen drafted linings for their respective versions, but I decided not to because a) I don't feel comfortable with my skills for drafting that sort of thing well, and b) I need more midweight jackets (it doesn't get super cold here in NC) and I was concerned that a lining would make this jacket too warm. The jacket did end up being the perfect weight for what I wanted, but I agree with what other people have said about this pattern- the insides with the welts do look a little messy without a lining to cover them up.

Some changes I would make for future versions of this- it may have been that my ribbing wasn't as stretchy as what the pattern was intended for, but I feel like the ribbing at the wrists and at the waist wasn't long enough. Next time, I think I will cut a straight large (for this version I cut a large at the bust and waist and tapered to the XL at the hips), but but cut the XL length of ribbing. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

A change in hair and fall planning

So I depinked.

I'm going back into education and I have a teaching practicum this fall at a local high school and it was strongly suggested by the teacher ed department that I go back to a natural hair color before then. I tried fading my hair back to blonde, but the pink was stubborn, so for the first time in my life I now have dark hair.

As weird as it feels and as much as I miss the pink, it does feel nice to be able to wear red and brown again without horrible clashing. Between my hair color change and my return to teaching, I now feel a hankering for fall sewing and changing up my wardrobe. I suspect that my color palette for this season will revolve around navy, mint, pink, and brown, with some red, purple, and black also thrown in for good measure. 

One of the main things on my sewing list is a new winter coat. I have this purple one I got from Rue 21 years ago that I have worn to the point that it is falling apart and I really want to replace it with something nicer, but also purple.

For your reference, this picture was taken in 2010.

For some reason, year after year a purple coat just works really well with my typical winter wardrobe. As for its replacement, I've decided to take part in Lladybird's Ralph Rucci sewalong.

It satisfies all of my main requirements for a coat- length (I tend to favor longer coats), flair, and doesn't have set-in sleeves (which I find to be painfully restrictive in winter coats). I scored this awesome wool/poly melton on sale in the perfect shade of purple for this project.

The rest of my essential fall sewing list revolves around teacher clothes. I find that I prefer more menswear-inspired styles when working with high schoolers because they give me a professional look and style, without straying into frumpy territory that's easy to accidentally traipse into when wearing feminine yet "modest" clothing. My ideal dressy-casual teacher outfit for the fall would be a nice pair of pants, some brown oxfords, a button-up shirt with some sort of interesting detailing, and a coordinating cardigan paired with my brown leather satchel. 

The first item on the agenda is pants. I don't wear pants very often, so I want something that will do double duty for both professional and casual wear. I decided that I want to make a pair of classic chinos using Simplicity 1696 and this stretch twill from Mood.

I have enough cardigans to satisfy my cardigan needs (though I'm really hankering for a navy blue and brown suede Newcastle cardigan), and for the button up shirts I have been really inspired by Rochelle's Archers.

I would love to make some button up shirts from dark solids and coordinated prints for my fall professional wardrobe. That's the thing about teaching- "professional" doesn't mean boring suits and tame outfits. You can be whimsical and colorful so long as it's also modest and practical. I'm thinking I'll end up using either the Grainline Archer pattern or this McCall's one with cup sizes.

I also have a few dresses in the works for this fall/winter, and a few coordinated knit accessories. I haven't blogged about any of my knits here before, but perhaps I will this season.

What all have you been sewing for the fall? Have you all been following the Curvy Sewing Collective? We've had some awesome contributors and posts made since our launch this summer. If you haven't already checked it out, get on that!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

FO: Portside Duffle for Minerva Crafts

Long time, no see? Between work and a boyfriend who lives an hour away and in two weeks will be back at his college 9 hours away and therefore monopolizing most of my free time while he and I are still in the same state. I haven't been much for sewing lately. But Minerva Crafts always lures me back because let's be real, free fabric is awesome.

Something my weekend trips to visit my boyfriend has taught me is that I have no adequate bag for these sort of trips. All I have is tote bags and backpacks and then the next size up is a suitcase. Nothing appropriately sized for being away for a few days.

Enter Grainline's Portside duffle bag.

I decided that I wanted a luggage set to match the last Minerva bag that I made. 

The duffle pattern is part of a set, which also includes a dopp kit (a toiletries bag, basically) and a pouch, and I will likely get around to making those as well. For now, I just made the duffle bag, as it's my most immediate need. 

Some notes on the materials: I quite like this gaberchino fabric I keep using. The colors are vibrant, it's nice and sturdy, has enough poly content to keep it from wrinkling too badly, and over the usage of my purse (which I carry with me quite often), I've found it to be quite stain resistant. I feel like the interfacing that I ordered for this duffle is too stiff, but once I stuffed it with a blanket for taking pictures, I think I'm glad for the structure, though I do kind of wish I had gotten fusible fleece instead.

Also, Minerva did not have a closed-end metal zip in the right length for this project, so I got an open-ended one and it turned out quite well. The end extended about an inch longer than the bag (Minerva had a 20" zip and a 22" zip, while the pattern asked for a 21" zip, of course), so when I was sewing the ends, I made sure to sew a little gap over the metal of the zip in the seam line. In fact, it worked out quite nicely having an open-ended zip because it allowed me to separate the zipper to more easily insert it- otherwise I would have been fitting in a lot of fabric into the throat of my sewing machine. 

I've been quite into embroidery lately. I decided that I wanted to personalize this bag a bit further and embroider a motif from Sublime Stitching onto the front (from their Mexican Loteria collection). I had thought that I had centered my embroidery quite well, but when I was assembling the front I discovered unpleasantly that I had not. Oh well. I tried.

I used to be very into archery (my cousin is a national bowhunting champ, actually) and I am still quite fond of arrow motifs. 

Another note on the materials- the hardware for the strap is topnotch. Seriously, I feel like this bag will last me for quite a while, the materials feel so nice. The cotton webbing is pretty heavy duty, especially the wider version that forms the handles. It was rather difficult attaching it, but I feel like it was worth the effort.

Consequently, my frustrations in attaching the handles and attaching the bag bottom (There are some wrinkles there. It happened. I don't give a fuck because that was so frustrating attaching it.) made me decide that this bag was worthy of one of these tags:

Bags. They always seem like a great idea and then I end up hating myself while sewing them. My Cooper bag also has one of these tags. 

Anyway, how fun is this lining? I LOVE IT. I may use it in place of the black fabric when I make the matching pouch and dopp kit. Hell, I may end up getting more of this from Minerva for a very Ms. Frizzle style dress because I love it so. 

There's a lot of SPACE inside this bag. Both literally and figuratively. :D

A change I made to this bag's construction- the instructions say to slipstitch the lining to the zipper, but knowing how hard I am on my bags I kind of laughed at that notion. I pinned the lining to the zipper and then machine stitched it, going back over the topstitching of the zipper.

It turned out quite well and is much sturdier than I know it would have been if I had handstitched it. 

It's not perfect, but I think it's pretty and it feels very solid, like it will serve me well for a long time. The extra effort to make it was kind of a birthday present to myself. I turn 24 on Wednesday and I haven't felt much like sewing lately. I got some nice fabric to make a birthday dress, but I've felt no desire to sew it up. I typically have horrible birthdays and this year I suspect the horror will be from having to dye my hair brown. I have teacher education stuff at school this fall and I can't have pink hair for its school practicum, which makes me very sad. I love the pink, and I'm going to miss it. I absolutely hate myself with dark hair, but brown is the only thing that will cover the color (bleaching it out is out of the question, I assure you), so I'm just going to have to come to terms with hating my hair for the next couple of months until the pink undertone is faded enough that I can bleach my hair back to blonde.


At least I have a nice duffle bag. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

2 Years Sewing + Some Notes on Pattern Testing

I can hardly believe it, but about two years exactly, I convinced my mom to teach me how to thread her old sewing machine. In the summer of 2012, I was at one of my lowest points in life. I was out of school, depressed, and feeling like a complete failure at life. I'm someone who has always had to try hard to be good at something- I'd eventually be competent, but nothing ever was easy. Sewing, however, was magic. For the first time in my life, something came naturally to me. I'm not saying that sewing isn't a challenge, but it's a challenge that feels so natural for me. I was in love from my first stitch.

As it happens, the first garment that I tried to sew was a Silk Spectre costume that was doomed to failure. Now, two years later, I finally accomplished it and wore it to HeroesCon:

I doubt I'll get around to making an FO post about it- all I did was make a chiffon overdress to wear over a purchased corset and shorts, but still, if some better full-length shots surface, I'll share. And how fitting is it that I share a picture taken with my friend Alyssa, who I met and danced with at HeroesCon last year!

Now a few notes on pattern testing- I've encountered some internet nastiness after I started pattern testing, and I feel like part of it is out of people misunderstanding the pattern testing process. The issues that I have encountered with patterns that I have tested on this blog are discussed with the designer and corrected before the pattern is made available for public purchase. Some issues are unique to specific sizes, especially since some designers draft the larger sizes from a different block than the smaller sizes. Some issues are just a matter of personal taste. When you test a pattern, you're supposed to sew it as drafted for the sake of catching any issues the designer may have missed. In the case of my Betsy skirt, I knew it was drafted to be a longer pencil skirt. I thought it would be worth trying the longer length on me. I tried it, and I didn't like it, so I chopped off the excess length to make my garment wearable. The longer length as drafted was just not flattering on me. 

Sometimes issues come up in the sizing. With my Tap Shorts, some people pointed out that they are too tight. I personally like this style as being tight, and feel that the sizing issue for me with that pattern would be remedied by simply using a stretch fabric (which I have done, btw, and will blog about at some point). However, I did bring up that issue with Katy and Laney during the testing process and after rechecking the ease on the different sizes and versions of their pattern, they noted that the sizing was a little off and adjusted the pattern accordingly. I forgot to mention that in my post on my shorts and later when I remembered it, I didn't think it would be that big of an issue given that it was rectified before the pattern was made available for purchase. 

In any case, if you have specific concerns about a pattern after seeing a post on the pattern testing, you should always feel free to email the designer and ask them about it. I know that Abby at BlueGingerDoll and Katy and Laney would be happy to address any concerns.

Anyway, looking through my old posts, I realized that the first finished garment that I ever posted here is one that I still wear!

It's certainly not perfect- nothing I sew is really perfect now, two years in, and it certainly wasn't back when I made this after having been sewing for like three months- but it's still perfectly wearable.

Out of curiosity, what is the oldest this that any of you all have sewn that you still wear/use?