Monday, 25 March 2019

Completed: Bowline Sweater

True fact: when Papercut first released this pattern, I thought it was only worth making in a stripe. Couldn't see why anyone would want to make this in a solid. I was actually dismissive of the idea. Thought it was ridiculous. Why would someone chose to make this in a solid? Wasn't the whole point to make a statement of the stripe direction? Hmmm.
I have been wanting to make this since the pattern came out, but it was never high up in the queue for some reason. I finally bought the pattern last year during a sale, although still with no firm plans for actually sewing it. 

This winter I've been trying to inject some colour into my wardrobe. The past few years have all been about sewing and buying all the shades of black and grey come winter. I haven't questioned it, and gone with the flow, until this winter when I didn't want that any more. Its not that I don't like my older winter wear, or that I don't want to wear it. I just don't want to wear black or grey every day. So although I don't need any new winter clothes, I've tried to be a bit more colourful in what I've made, Olya notwithstanding (it gets a pass because it was from the stash). Our office gets pretty warm and meeting rooms are like furnaces at any time of year (particularly fun in summer), so I thought a Bowline would fit the bill for long sleeve but not heavy weight top, in a colour. A solid colour. Because, Olya notwithstanding again, that's my current jam. 

The fabric is modal loopback from Guthrie and Ghani. It's not cheap, but it's lovely, and definitely worth it. It has photographed brighter than it is in real life. It's really more of a burnt orange or terracotta as Lauren describes it. It's very lightweight, pretty much a t-shirt weight which was what I was after. Its maybe slightly too drapey for the pattern as it doesn't want to hold the top of the pleat in shape properly, but I actually don't care. To go back to G&G, I haven't bought much from them, but I am super impressed with their customer care. They do offer swatches on their website, although they are hard to find. When I emailed to ask, I got a very quick response with the link. When I ordered the samples, I got them on a card with the fabric name and price and corresponding Gutterman thread colour. Isn't that genius? So, so helpful. When the fabric eventually came (ordered Thursday afternoon, arrived Friday morning), it came with a little handwritten note too. 

 My plan had been to make this a t-shirt, as opposed to sweatshirt by omitting the sleeve and hem bands, which I thought might also make it look a bit more work appropriate, but I screwed that up by forgetting to add length to the front bodice, and not having enough fabric to cut another. I did try to just hem it at the length it was, but it didn't look right (proportions, remember?), so although I had hemmed it at that length, I unpicked it and added the band. I didn't bother adding the sleeve bands and I think it looks fine without. 

Construction-wise this is an interesting sew. That pleat and dart is really cool and it's very cleverly put together. It's one of those patterns that I bought because I wanted to see how it worked. I am really intrigued by more interesting pattern drafting at the moment, partly for the fun of sewing it, and partly to learn about pattern drafting. I spend too much time trying to visualise how some RTW clothes are put together. I cannot fathom how they figured out how to put this together, but it works. There is a sewalong with photos which helps a bit too. In possibly a record for me, I finished this in a day - including printing and sticking together the PDF. I've never done that. Well, in honestly, I finished it that day, but then went back and fixed the bottom another day because it took a day or 2 to figure out why I didn't like it and how I could save it. But I could have made it in a day had I made it as drafted. 

This is only the second Papercut pattern I've made, the first being the Sway dress. My preference is definitely for PDFs with Papercut as I find their brown paper difficult to trace off, and I don't like the instruction layout on the printed pattern. I know a lot of people wax lyrical over the packaging, but it's not my preference.

I had also planned to sew this entirely on my overlocker but chickened out, and ended up sewing it with a lightening bolt stitch then overlocking the raw edges, because I'd already made the effort to change the thread. My main issue is that I'm struggling to maintain a consistent SA when using the overlocker, so a bit more practise is required, I think, particularly since this pattern is drafted with a 1cm SA. It might be easier with a narrower SA. Maybe.

Anyway, I am delighted with the final tee. It's a great colour and it's a great design. It works with a t-shirt or cami underneath, if I need a bit more warmth - in these photos it was layered over a black Lark tee. I wore it 3 days out of 5 when I first finished it, which is definitely a sign of success! It's a pretty distinctive shape, so I don't see me making millions more, but I probably still am hankering after a striped version at some point...

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Completed: Kabuki Tee

This is the latest installment in my current series known as "Helen Makes Paper Theory Patterns in Insanely Difficult Fabrics".

I've fancied the Kabuki tee since it was released, but it somehow never managed to get prioritised. Probably because I needed to buy both pattern and fabric, and I've been trying to not do that, in order to use stuff up. However, my very kind Mother in Law gave me a Merchant and Mills voucher for my birthday, which I had earmarked for denim, but then Carol very kindly sent me a sample of the Woolsey she had ordered, and Judith did a bit of enabling too, and I ended up going for the Woolsey in the Alta Mare colour.

This is a tricky fabric. It's a linen/wool mix and is like a double gauze in that it has 2 layers. It's pretty shifty, likes to fray and has a loose weave. It was challenging to sew. Pieces seemed to grow and stretch as they were handled, notches literally disappeared in the weave of the fabric and unpicking was extremely not fun.

The pattern is pretty cool. I love the right angles and the wide sleeves. I think you can tell it's Paper Theory's first pattern, as it's maybe not quite as polished as the others. The drafting is predictably great but there are quite a few spelling mistakes and the instructions are less thorough. Having said that, there's a video tutorial of how to sew the right angles (it's the same process as for the Olya), so it's a good overall experience. Top Tip, which I don't remember seeing on the Olya tutorial, if your fabric is prone to fraying (me! me!), put a small L shaped bit of interfacing just right at the right angle. Wish I'd known/thought to do that on the Olya.

It's a pretty easy and quick make once you get your head round the angles, and there are 4 for good measure. With the notches disappearing, I managed to sew my first sleeve on the back to front, which was frustrating since the fabric was so hard to unpick, but also because you snip into the right angle as you sew it, which is hard to do twice. I ended up trying to mend the snip with even more interfacing, which didn't really work. I think it's OK though. As you can see above, I stay-stitched all the edges. It doesn't say to do this in the instructions but I think it's worth doing.

I'm not 100% sure I liked the method of attaching the bias binding at the neck, although it was easier. You sew one shoulder seam, then apply the binding before sewing the second shoulder seam. It is far less faffy, but you end up with a bulky seam at one shoulder, which in this fabric is pretty bulky and wants to poke out at the neck (see below).

As the fabric is bulky, I didn't double turn the hems, instead I overlocked the raw edge and turned once. I actually ended up doing a double row of stitching on the hem because the first line didn't quite catch it all the way round on the bottom, then thought I'd better do the same on the sleeves. I like it although no one else can actually see it. This is definitely one of those fabrics where the stitches sink right in! Other than that, the only alterations I made were to add length to the sleeves. I'm afraid I ca'nt remember how much because I added more, then chopped some of it back off again. I left the sleeves the full width, rather than tapering them at all.

Insides-wise, it's all overlocked. Oh, wait! I have a new Overlocker! I had a bit of a payout on our work sharesaves at the end of last year and so I treated myself. What a difference! I previously had the old Lidl Singer one, which wasn't great. This one is like a dream. It purrs, rather than shakes the house down, the tension is spot on, it's easier to thread and works pretty much straight away when I do. I haven't had a lot of opportunity to use it, as I was making stuff that didn't require it, so it's been nice to use it on both this and the Olya.

When I first tried it on, post hemming and with the longer sleeves, I was completely unconvinced and thought I'd potentially wasted some pretty expensive fabric. But with the hem done and the sleeves shortened slightly the proportions started to look right. It's funny how proportions change something from awful to excellent, isn't it? I still think it's a bit too oversized on me, as it slightly shifts around when I wear it, but this is the smallest size, the 8. The hem is a bit dodgy (you can see it in the photo above when I'm side on). It seems to hang down at the sides, but when measured flat, it's even all the way round, so I'm just going with it. It's possibly the heavy and drapey fabric.

Other things to say? Just that I really love it. It's not super practical. I chose a wool mix for warmth, but the shorter sleeves kind of make that counterproductive, plus the wide sleeves don't fit under any of my cardigans or coats, so it ends up bunched up and creased. Still love it though. And our office is warm, so it's a work top until the proper spring arrives. I fully intend to make more of these in stripes, more solids, maybe a shirting, definitely linen, possibly a sweatshirt version, all the options! I am clearly now a fully-fledged Paper Theory fangirl, having made all 3 existing patterns (hacked LB Pullover not yet blogged) and I have already acquired the new Zadie jumpsuit. Just trying to decide on weather appropriate fabrics...


Monday, 4 March 2019

Completed: Olya Shirt

Let’s talk about stress sewing. Is it something you do? I know that I love sewing for a number of reasons, one of which is its ability to destress me. It consumes enough of my mental energy to allow me switch off from other stuff, whether it be work, Brexit, Euan’s eczema or the state of my garden. I actively seek out sewing as a distraction and a relaxant (assuming of course that a project is going well!). But stress sewing is another matter. Stress sewing is sewing in response to mega levels of stress, and in my case at least, results in a far from perfect results. Unfortunately this shirt was a stress sew.
I should probably give a bit of background here. I mentioned here that I am going through redundancy. Basically we are getting a new system, which will significantly change our ways of working. This in turn is driving a restructure. My current job won’t exist in the new world, but there are other jobs I can apply for in the new team, elsewhere in the company, or I can take redundancy and go. A week after finding this out, we also found out that Paul’s job was also under threat of redundancy. I had mostly been doing the ostrich impression (head in the sand), but with half term holidays came time off work and time to think. I am feeling all the emotions about my job. I anticipated this happening, but didn’t know to what extent or when. The idea of having to apply for a new job is anathema to me, I haven’t gone through recruitment in over 10 years, but what upsets me the most that week is that I will likely lose my flexible working. We have loads of flexibility in my current company and role. I work 4 days, finish slightly early by taking a shorter lunch, we get childcare vouchers, healthcare, an excellent pension and heaps of annual leave. I can’t guarantee my current shift in any new role, so there is a good solid chance I will need to work full time, which I know a lot of parents do, but it's not what *I* want to do. Fraser starts school in August (I know!) and I really want to be able to take him to school at least once a week. Then chuck in the additional child care requirements both term time and holidays, plus what the boys would need to give up. I've never taken working part time as a given, but I didn't have children to never see them. Told you, all the feelings. 

While I was off, I had a day’s sewing to myself, while Euan was at a Bushcraft holiday club, and so I started on this shirt. Emboldened by the success of Paul’s shirt (I know *all* about shirtmaking now!), and loving the design lines of the Olya, as well as having the perfect fabric in the stash made an obvious project, and what better time to do than to also support the So50visible challenge.

The fabric is Atelier Brunette modal challis. It was a limited edition collaboration, I think, from a couple of years ago. Its lightweight and very drapey and it feels absolutely gorgeous to wear. I actually had it in 2 lengths, having first bought a 70cm remnant and then a further metre from a different retailer at another point. The 2 lengths are actually slightly different, with one having brighter colours and the other being more muted. They also feel every so slightly different. I guess much like wallpaper, fabrics have batches! I managed to squeeze the pieces into the 1.7m by cutting the yoke on the cross grain. I even had just enough fabric to cut the collar second time (which happens when you sew the first one upside down), but the rest was minimal scraps.

Firstly, let me say this is a great pattern. It is well drafted and very clever in design and construction. At the front, the sleeves and front yoke are one piece, but at the back there is a sleeve seam attaching it to the back yoke. This requires a very cool right angle on the shoulder which is difficult but satisfying to sew. There are also concealed pockets in the seam attaching the front yoke to the front bodice pieces. The instructions definitely assume a good sewing ability and are not hand holding at all, but there is a sewalong with more details should you require it (I’d recommend it for the shoulder/sleeve seam).

Stress sewing a complex pattern with a slippery slidey fabric was not my best idea, but in fairness I didn’t actually realise I was stress-sewing at first. And actually, it’s not nearly as bad as I first thought . My topstitching is dodgy at best, but not very noticeable. I did sew my first collar upside down, but thankfully managed to cut another (although it’s interfaced in white, not black). My edge stitching didn’t quite catch all the edges, but I rescued this with a bit of hand stitching (collar stand, cuffs and part of the button placket). My pockets are a bit messy, and I had to do a bit of jiggery-pokery to get the sleeve seam to sit right, but honestly all issues were as a result of the fabric and stress-induced slapdashery, rather than the pattern, and even more honestly, literally none of these things are noticeable in the finished garment. It still needs to stand up to repeated washing and wearing, but I am absolutely delighted with it.

I was in between sizes, so picked the smallest one, the 8, as this is loose fitting. Generally my waist is the largest size if I am between sizes, but the waist is not an issue on this pattern. I made no alterations to the pattern, other than to use a different method for attaching the collar, and to sew the bottom button hole horizontally, a trick I picked up from the Fairfield. I have no idea if this serves a purpose, but I liked the idea of it! :) In terms of attaching the collar, I used my preferred method, which is to attach the outer collar stand separately, make up the collar and the inner collar stand, then attach them to the outer collar stand (better explained here). I have tried both methods and this is the only one that works for me. 

I actually forgot about buttons, so had sewn most of it up relatively quickly before realising I couldn’t do any more till I went shopping. It was only when I paused that I realised that I was doing the whole stress-sewing thing, basically sewing as a distraction (distracting me from what I should have been doing which was my CV!), but in a way that was not careful or particular and was pretty dismissive of the bits that I was recognising were crap, as I was sewing them. Ah well, I thought, it doesn’t matter. This after taking such care over Paul’s shirt.

All in all, this could be better, but I love it regardless. I do want to invest in some fray check before I wash it, as I’m nervous about that right angle’s ability to survive the washing machine (it’s sewn in a way that’s impossible to completely encase the raw edge), as I want this to last. I keep stroking myself as I wear it, it’s just so soft and silky. I will definitely make this pattern again. I love the idea of stripes or contrast stitching, something that really show off the design details. In the meantime, I am going full Paper Theory fan girl. My next project is the Kabuki!

Before, I go, I wanted to mention a few things. Firstly, Paul's job is fine, so we are good for the time being at least.

Secondly, somewhere along the line, I have stopped referring to my boys as their nicknames, probably because they are frequently named on Instagram, and probably because they really have outgrown their nicknames. Anyway, in case you don't follow me there, here's a quick key: Euan = Small Boy and Fraser = Baby Boy.

Lastly, my hair. I decided last year to stop dying my hair. There are numerous and various reasons for this, which I won't get into, but it is something I'd been thinking about for a long while. It's one of these things that's a gradual change, so I did get quite a shock when I saw the photos I took for this post. It looks different, whiter, here than it does in the mirror. I'm OK with it turning grey/white but the inbetween process is a lot more noticeable than I realised. I don't really know why I feel the need to explain myself, but at least now you know!

Thanks for reading!
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