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!


  1. Your shirt is lovely. On the flexibility front, I think that lots of people assume that where they work is the only place that offers any kind of flexibility. I really think that’s no longer the case. And working a day a week from home is much more the norm. Go for full time roles and ask to do 4 or 4.5 days over 5 with one at home. You never know - they might just say yes! And while the process is happening sort your CV out (and pay someone to help you) - much better doing that while you still have a salary (ask how I know). And if you end up taking redundancy try and finesse the timing so you have a nice summer off with your kids. And good luck and try not to worry - it’s scartpy, but you’ll most likely be absolutely fine!

    1. Thank you Miriana. Deep down I know you are right and I go through periods of calm, periods of denial and periods of panic. I figured that if I am offered a job, I can say "well, everything I've told you about I've done in 4 days" as a prelude to what you suggest. I have been in my current company for over 12 years and am completely institutionalised, so it's hard to get a grasp on what else people offer out there. Thank you for your kind words, it really helps.

    2. I took redundancy (my choice) after 12 years too so totally understand the feeling of being institutionalised. And think about what is really important to you in a role (it may well be the flexibility) and make that the thing you dig your heels in about (and you may need to not care about other stuff). And my other tip is networking - it sounds hideous and the very word makes me shudder. But what it actually is thinking about people you’ve worked with who you genuinely like and meeting them for a coffee and a char. Of the 4 solid ish opportunities that came up for me after I left my job, 3 were through the coffee with work mates route. And assuming it comes with money - have some time off where you don’t give it any thought.

    3. Thanks, that's definitely food for thought. Thanks for sharing your experiences. x

  2. What a lovely shirt! I've seen quite a few versions in this pattern and I can feel myself being slowly sucked in by it...I'll end up sewing it this year. Lovely fabric too. I bought some Fray Check from Guthrie & Ghani. Like you, I'd used an easily fraying fabric, an Atelier Brunette rayon, and managed to trim too close to the collar seam...I think it's ok now. As for your grey hair, good for you for being brave and I think you look great!

  3. Thanks Joyce. I probably shoudl have said that I avoided trimming any seams unless absolutely necessary (like the point of the collar for instance), as I've ended up with fraying seams too many times in the past.
    You should go for the Olya. I think you'd really suit it.

  4. Hi Helen, really sorry to hear about the situation at work. I think it's always hard when you've been somewhere a long time as it's an emotional experience - even before the worries about part-time & what is next. I hope you find something suitable where you are now, but if not I'm sure you will elsewhere - nothing more boring than CVs and applying for jobs but it's worth it. When you're out of practice I think it sometimes takes a few to get into the swing of interviews, but it pays off in the end. x

    1. Thanks Charlotte. Quite often the thought is worse than the doing. I just need to get off my bum and make a start. x

  5. Beautiful blouse!!! The horizontal button hole is interesting. I might try that on one of the blouses I'm sewing! I hope you find a position that is a good match for you and your family!

  6. Oh I was so relieved to get to the bit where you said that none of the issues mattered because I was peering and mystified, it looks amazing. So do you. When I read about the grey I had to scroll back to see what you were talking about - never even noticed. My hair is abut as grey as yours I'd say and I never coloured it cos I am a cheap skate, but I do throw bright temporary colours over it and the streaky pink and dark thing is fun. But I understand that experimenting with crazy hair while possibly job hunting is maybe not ideal?
    I have the feels about this. The shop has been our only income since end of June last year and it's just not enough. I started work again this week, part time also, so I can also work the shop. I am loving it, and also the relief of an income again. But I have a very specialized area of work and contracts relating to it don't come up that often. ALl the very, very best, you got this!

  7. Sorry to hear about your work situation, I hope you end up with a solution you're all happy with! The shirt looks great, I don't think anyone would notice mistakes or issues... And as for the hair, it suits you! I found my first greys at 21 and never really tried to hide them (maybe just distract from them from dyeing parts of my hair green) and now I barely notice them!

  8. Wow! this is Amazing! Do you know your hidden name meaning ? Click here to find your hidden name meaning


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