Weddings, making things, and Eley Kishimoto for Clarks

I have some loose ends to tie up. If I was a sensible blogger I would probably get three posts out of them but instead I’ve awkwardly welded them together into one. You’re welcome.

Confession time – I’m not making my own wedding dress

This is actually Ginger Rogers, not me in my wedding dress, sad to say
This is actually Ginger Rogers, not me in my wedding dress, sad to say

I’ve been getting loads of hits from people googling ‘sew your own wedding dress’ and similar keywords so I have to come clean – I have bought a wedding dress. And it’s not even vintage. But neither is it a big white meringue, or even an ‘official’ wedding dress. I’ll post some pics after the big day so you can see what it looks like. Place your bets now!

I have mixed emotions about this. It would be so perfect to wear a dress I made myself, but I just can’t handle the stress of such a big project right now. I barely have time to sew at the moment, and I’d rather prioritise other projects over one mammoth dress that will fill up the next 5 months with untold amounts of stress and weeping and french seaming.

This strategy seems to be paying off, as I have a new skirt and (drumroll please) another pair of skinny jeans to show for it! Pictures will follow as soon as free time and daylight coincide.

Blog Awards and making, not consuming

Two sewing bloggers nominated me for awards – gorgeous Hazel of Disaster in a Dress for the ‘Liebster’ Blog Award (Hazel works in Mandors fabric shop in Glasgow, I am green with envy), and the beautiful Almond Rock for the ‘One Lovely Blog’ award. Go and check out their blogs ASAP, they are ace.

I’m not very good at doing all the questions for these kind of things, so instead I thought I’d recommend a great post I read recently from Vanessa of A Fanciful Twist. It’s called ‘On Finding Yourself Back’.

It’s about the need to stop and do something, however small, rather than just trawling for more and more inspiration. It’s a long read but worth it, I think.

Eley Kishimoto for Clarks is coming on Monday!

That is all. Apart from the fact that the launch also coincides with payday, which is handy. And the question of which pair to go for.

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Clarks can do no wrong in my eyes after this.

Jumpsuits – the good, the bad, and the onesie

Let’s talk jumpsuits! Would you wear one?

I know that they can go horribly wrong. Like this one from ASOS.

ASOS Jumpsuit

It’s called the ‘Sexy Boiler Jumpsuit’ but really it’s a mechanic’s overall with lapels. It looks like something the Kwik Fit fitters might wear for their annual dinner dance.

But jumpsuits aren’t all like that. They can also be sublime. Check this out:

pucci jumpsuit

This is a vintage Pucci stretch silk jumpsuit. It can be yours, if you have £600 and a lifestyle to match. Wish I did.

There’s a lot of semantic confusion about jumpsuits. Here’s a handy guide:

  • If you can wear it on the sofa while eating takeaway, or if it’s been spotted on a member of One Direction, it’s a onesie
  • If it ends above the knees, and you could wear it with a floral headband to Glastonbury, it’s a playsuit
  • If it’s made of terry-cloth and sized for a 6 year old child, it’s a romper
  • If it’s made of denim or canvas, and you could wear it for damp-proofing your house, it’s a boilersuit

Then there are the jumpsuits that are properly named, but still a bit dodgy-looking. I think the key is the trousers. If they’re cinched at the ankle, like this Burda pattern, you’re on dangerous territory:

burda jumpsuit

But if they’re narrow-legged all the way down, now you’re talking. Or if the legs are wider and 30s looking, that’s even better, like this truly amazing blue jumpsuit by Paul & Joe, which I really, really want.

paul and joe jumpsuit

I think I’m going to tackle sewing a jumpsuit this summer – I’d love to wear one to a wedding (not my own wedding, although I did try on an interesting wedding jumpsuit in a vintage shop in Brighton).

How awesome would it be to rock wearing something like this blue number? I realise that visiting the loo after a few beers could be slightly problematic, but Iooking good is worth it, right?

74872412527184799_KXDQ7fHa_c

I have to confess I’ve never actually worn a jumpsuit, and I’m a bit hazy on the mechanics. I can just see myself cobbling one together and ending up not being able to get in it. I assume zips are usually involved somewhere?

An initial trawl on Etsy has turned up all kinds of patterns, not all good, including an ill-conceived empire line jumpsuit, and a pattern that includes an ‘evening-length skirt’ option.

If you know of any amazing jumpsuits (to buy or to sew), let me know! I have a board on Pinterest where I’m collecting them.

Burda 7863 jeans – all the details

So as promised, here is the epic post about the jeans I made, with all the stuff I can remember. Be warned, it’s pretty boring if you’re not interested in making this pattern, so you might want to go and read something more interesting instead.

Now they’re not perfect, but I’ve been wearing them loads. Here I am enjoying the many and varied delights of Basingstoke station in the rain, and in my jeans.

jeans on station

One thing – I’m sorry, but the pictures for this post are still pretty rubbish. We haven’t seen the sun here for 6 months, it feels like winter in the Game of Thrones universe, and quality photos are a distant memory. Also these are all from my phone so they’re slightly crap. But I was fed up with waiting to get this post up, so hopefully you can put up with it.

Pockets

jeans pockets

I lost the pocket piece that came with the Burda pattern, so I just copied the ones on my favourite Uniqlo pair. They’re very tapered at both sides, especially towards the back seam. This seems pretty common on skinny jeans – these Acne ones have the same shape.

In terms of pocket placement, I relied heavily on this informative post about avoiding ‘long butt’. The basic theory is that you sew the pockets right at the curve of your posterior, avoiding the illusion that your bum is ridiculously long and drawn-out, which is not a good look on anyone.

You can see that the back seam is a bit puckered. This is because I tapered it in too sharply at the top. I’ve drawn in a smoother curve for next time. Next time I’d also sew the pockets a bit closer together.

Fabric

jeans4

It used to be that sewing your own jeans would always result in a tragically handmade look. How would you get the fading and whiskering at home, the rivets, the weird embroidery?

Luckily, following 8 years of despotic rule by our skinny jean overloads, these things are TOTALLY UNCOOL. In fact they’re so uncool, they are starting to come round the other side and wearing a faded 90s pair of light blue denim will gain you massive style points in Dalston. For normal people though, I reckon the solid-colour/minimal embellishment style will stay in for a good few years.

The denim I used was this one from Tissu Fabrics. I think it’s actually a bit too heavy and high quality for the type of jeans I was trying to make. When I look at my Uniqlo jeans, the fabric is very thin and stretchy, and black on the underside.

It’s hard to buy stretch denim and stretch trouser fabric in UK shops. I managed to get some from Mandors when I was up there at Christmas but they don’t sell online, annoyingly. Another good option looks like the Fabricland website. I know it’s insane-looking but if you’re not epileptic you should check it out, they actually have a lot of nice stuff. Check out this page for stretch denim, and this page for stretch cottons in loads of random colours including ‘mango’.

Altering the pattern

So basically I just sewed and hoped.

I did take a customised trousers course a few years ago at the now sadly defunct Oh Sew Brixton, where they took all your measurements and plugged them into a programme that spat out a personalised trouser pattern. Unfortunately, the style was not really my thing (wide, straight-legged trousers), but I did compare the crotch curve on the Burda pattern with the curve on the personalised pattern and tried to make them look similar.

I also narrowed the legs right down, again using my Uniqlo jeans as a guide (just measured each leg and then transferred that to the pattern, plus seam allowance).

I added two inches length to the legs, but it turns out that most of my height must be in my torso rather than my legs, cos they were too long.

jeans 2

The fit is pretty good, but not perfect. I have folds underneath the bum, and they are a bit too high-waisted. There are some wrinkles at the crotch, as you can sort of see in the photos, but they come and go with movement so I’m not that worried about it.

For my next version, I’m shortening the crotch-length by 3cm, which I hope will solve the folds (you can see how to do that here on Sunni’s website). I have also ‘scooped’ out the back crotch cuve a little bit, but I’m not going to elaborate on that because I probably did it wrong. Search patternreview.com for ‘scooping’ and you’ll find loads of baffling information.

Sewing the pattern

So the fly instructions, as usual with Burda, were incomprehensible. They might as well have been in Spanish for all the sense I could make of them. Instead, I used this excellent jeans fly tutorial by Stitches and Seams. You need to draft a fly shield as there isn’t one included in the pattern.

I added a little coin pocket, and sewed the legs up in a slightly different order – inside seams first (then overlocked and top-stitched), then the crotch seam, then the zipper, then the outside legs, and finally the back. The great thing about this pattern is there is a seam in the back waistband to make fitting easier. Thank you Burda! But not for your fly instructions. They were awful.

The strange world of trouser fitting

I will say this about trouser fitting. Researching it online is a short slide to an endless vortex of confusing fitting wrinkles and weirdly-named pattern adjustments (‘clown-butt’, ‘fish-eye’). There is no escape.

Sewing trousers forces you to closely visualise in 3D areas of your body you never gave a second thought to. You’ll start to diagnose yourself with knock knees, bow legs, short crotch, flat bum, high seat, etc etc etc. You’ll find yourself frantically googling weird search terms, peering closely at blog photos of disembodied legs wearing muslin and denim, and combing online shops to examine images of models wearing trousers.

Try and stay strong. Remember, that weird wrinkle you’re obsessing over is unnoticeable by 99% of the population.

Stupid mistakes

Here is a list of dumb mistakes I made, in the hope that others can benefit from my stupidity.

  • I forgot that if you add a fly shield, you need to make the waistband longer to match. So, don’t be like me. I didn’t have any fabric left so I basically stretched my waistband to fit, which made it a bit ripply.
  • The waistband pattern piece includes the facing – you interface it then fold it in half lengthways. This is great, except that I forgot that if you taper the back seam and waistband in, you need to have a waistband facing that tapers out to match it. Handmade by Carolyn explains this better than I can here. Next time I will make a 8 piece waistband (two fronts and two backs, plus facings for all of them) to make fitting easier. I could do with taking in the side seams a bit.
  • I installed a rivet button on the wrong side….TWICE. It took a lot of messing around with pliers to get it off, I can tell you that.
  • I sewed the buttonhole vertically – it should be horizontally, obviously.

Miscellaneous

jeans1

I used a plastic zipper, but next time I’m using a metal trouser zipper for sure. Apparently you can shorten them by removing teeth with a pair of pliers if you can’t get the exact right length. I will report back.

I sewed the pocket linings in a very thin cotton.

The pockets have extensions that reach towards the fly front. However Burda tell you to trim one side down, for some reason to do with their strange fly installation method. Don’t do this – just incorporate both extensions into the zipper when you sew it. It’s like built-in Spanx!

I got my button here from Jaycotts, along with some rivets that I hope to use in future. I am wary of sewing that involves hammering after my last experience, but the neighbours will just have to put up with it.

Haircut – not actually jeans related

You may also notice I’ve had a big old haircut. It was done by Rockalily on Kingsland Road, and they were lovely, and I’m really pleased with it. However I was a bit disconcerted to realise it’s exactly the same as the haircut I had from ages 6-12. Evidence:

katie haircut

I guess classic ‘dos never go out of style (not sure about dodgy coral smocks though…)

Sew Grateful week, making things, and mountain climbing

Here is a quote from one of my favourite books ever:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

This is why I sew. Learning and getting better at something is the best feeling in the world (especially when you get new clothes out of it).

The only problem is that the better you get, the less happy you are with your work. Because your knowledge of what you don’t know keeps expanding.

It’s like being at the bottom of a huge mountain shrouded in fog. You start off blithely because you can’t see the top, but the more you climb, the more the fog recedes, and you start to realise that it’s actually a really, really long way up, and your feet hurt, and you left your museli bars at the bottom (might be pushing this simile a bit too far now).

Here is a photo of me actually climbing a mountain. Visual metaphor ahoy.
Here is a photo of me actually climbing a mountain. Visual metaphor ahoy.

So the biggest high is when you first knit a holey swatch, or sew an elastic-waist skirt from quilting cotton. You don’t realise how crap it is, you’re just happy you made something.

But pretty soon you need a better hit. Tote bags and aprons aren’t enough – you move on to the hard stuff. Welt pockets and hand-picked zippers and Burda patterns with cryptic instructions. And it’s not enough just to make something, it has to be perfect.

Addiction symptoms include diagnosing innocent clothing wrinkles as bad fit, an obsessive need to finish seams prettily, and the making of totally impractical ‘couture’ garments.

That’s why I think Debbie’s Sew Grateful week is a lovely idea. It reminds me to be grateful of everything I’ve learnt, everything I’ve made, and the fact that I have the time, money, and privilege to be able to sew my own clothes for fun. And to enjoy the process rather than focusing on mistakes in the outcome.

Personally I am very grateful for:

  • People who take the time and effort to photograph sewing tutorials and tips, and then share them online for free. They have saved my bacon many a time.
  • The lovely people I’ve met, all from combining two solitary activities – sewing and blogging.
  • All the amusing, inspiring, informative, and interesting blogs out there, and everyone who writes them.
  • The fact that some people actually read my blog and even leave nice comments. You are all awesome.

Here’s another quote from the poet Sharon Olds (in Oprah magazine, of all unlikely places), which sums up why we need to keep making things:

Writing or making anything—a poem, a bird feeder, a chocolate cake—has self-respect in it. You’re working. You’re trying. You’re not lying down on the ground, having given up.

Here’s to everyone who hasn’t given up.

Sweatshirt skater dress + frozen fabric in Tottenham

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments about my jeans! I am working on a second version in some strange brown stretchy fabric, and my post about how I made the first ones will be up EXTREMELY SOON.

In the meantime though, I wanted to show you this dress I made. I said I would only sew separates this year, but I made this in less than 3 hours so it doesn’t count.


sweatshirt dress wide

It’s inspired by sweatshirt dresses I’ve seen in the shops, like this one from Madewell, and this one from poor old Aubin & Wills (shut down for good, although I got some nice jumpers in the closing sale. Every cloud…)

This was ridiculously easy to make. I used the basic t-shirt from Sew U to make the top half, and then a half-circle skirt for the bottom. The neckline is my old standby, and the sleeves are just turned up twice and stitched in place. I zig-zagged elastic to the waist seam allowance, and then topstitched it down.

dress bodice

It’s all sewn on the overlocker except for one feature that you might recognise:

tiny stupid pocket

Yes, it’s the return of my faithful friend, the Tiny Useless Pocket! How I’ve missed it.

This fabric is from the semi-mythical knit warehouse in Tottenham. I ventured there one day with Julia of The Secret Life of Seams, and we both returned to tell the tale, with only the first signs of frostbite and enormous bags of fabric to remind us of our epic journey.

It was one of the coldest days in January, and my feet slowly lost all sensation as we rifled through hundreds of rolls of fabric, but it was worth it. I got all this for £11.50.

knit fabrics

I think you can tell how cold and miserable it was that day by the fact that I subliminally chose only monochrome fabrics.

Anyway the sweatshirt stuff is on the far right – it’s not really sweatshirting, but some kind of double-knit that resembles it. On the far left we have sequinned knit (£5 a metre! Pricey!), then quilted grey jersey, then knitted ikat, and finally some brown and black giraffe print that is destined to be a Dixie DIY Hot Cocoa sweater, if I can ever remember to print off the pattern.

EXCITING SEQUIN CLOSE-UP FOLLOWS

sequin

I was wildly enthusiastic about this when I got it home, but then I googled ‘sewing with sequinned fabric’ and my enthusiasm rapidly faded. The plan was for something like this, but I might put it on the back-burner until I feel in the mood to remove sequins from seam allowances (urgh) and then sew individual ones on to cover bald patches (double urgh).

Anyway, back to the dress. I have no idea what the fabric content is, but it feels like a poly/cotton mix. It’s incredibly comfortable. And, bonus, it has enabled me to levitate!

sweatshirt dress jumping

Happy February!