Sunday, 29 April 2018

April Review and trouser/pants update

I decided that I’d like to put up a blog post at the end of each month - my sewing speed doesn’t merit more than that, usually. I have very little completed to show for the month. My time has been more limited than usual and motivation even more so!! My sew-jo is critically low! It has been a time of rethinking and evaluation. I’m posting today even though there a couple of days left in the month and I might achieve a bit more.

Trouser progress

Yes, there has been progress. Slow progress.

My original block was almost at the stage of making up in proper fabric when I put it aside last year. Almost, not quite, as there was an ongoing question around the crotch point. Add to that that I’ve put on rather a lot of weight, and it was important to re-toile. Rory fitted me and I made another toile with extra fabric at the hips for the extra weight. I’m somewhat lopsided and originally I was making 4 pieces, left front and back and right front and back.  However, for this last toile, I made symmetrical pieces to the larger measurement of the two sides and reckon that is fine. This is so much easier! Rory re-fitted this new toile which wasn’t a million miles away. I needed to remove a little of the front rise by tucking out in the pattern - I have a very sloped waist. The other change was that I needed a little more space at the bottom of the upright back crotch seam - this is the opposite of crotch scooping. I found it difficult to get my head around the different pattern changes which might be required but understand better now that I have seen the changes marked on the toile and carried over to the pattern.

I redrew the pattern to get a clean copy. I started to draw up a contour waistband as I really like them, but Rory asked me to do the first pair with a standard waistband

I was going to use wool - after all, I bought loads of wool fabrics for this purpose. However, I was sure more tweaks would be required - and we had two days of summer heatwave just at that point, so I thought wool might be too warm. The first cotton I prepared was really too thin

I finally decided to start with a thickish bottom weight navy cotton. I washed, dried and trued the fabric. It crushes rather a lot. I found a fade mark down the centre so will have to avoid that. I could have had 3 pieces side by side, but just cut back and front on the fold which wastes fabric but avoids the marked crease.

I made up the trousers in sewing bee as far as needing zip and waistband. I found them snug to say the least on my left high hip and the back waist height was still too short - I had allowed a 1’ waistline seam allowance but I needed it all and more at the back. Rory marked the waistline with only a ½ cm seam allowance at the back. There were no other major adjustments and I planned to finish the trousers over the next few days.

I inserted an invisible zipper in the left side seam, the snug side, and allowed just a touch extra for hip space. It seems that I perhaps didn’t really need that. I tried on the trousers and asked David to mark them for good waistband position. This is way easier said than done!! At the second attempt, I've fabric marked on the right side (I can’t really try on inside out as I’m asymmetrical.) as the original method d didn’t work - the pins kept falling out. This is okay as I’ve decided these are a further toile, perhaps wearable - I forgot to finish the seam allowances before I sewed up. I did it afterwards but to say that it isn't perfect is a master of understatement. In addition, the trousers are a bit short - they seemed okay until the trouser was hitched up to the right place. Also, I really don’t like the fabric - it has poor drape, shows every crease and is quite firm. It picks up dust and lint and looks filthy just a short time after being washed and pressed. It’s similar to a pair of golfing trousers I have which, likewise, never look smart.

I’ll try to finish today so I can show Rory on Wednesday to see if she agrees with what I’ve done.

I'll adjust the pattern to reflect what we decide. The next pair should be better and I’ll use a nicer fabric.

Rory feels I suit wide leg trousers best and I may alter this pattern in that direction. I do like wide legged trousers but have a hankering for a slimmer fit. A princess seamed pair is also on the cards as that will make fitting my ‘muscular’ front thigh much easier - as it is, I get a bit of pulling across the front. I suspect that a slight lengthening of the front crotch point, tapering down the inseam a few inches would help that but I’ll leave it for the moment.

MAGAM and wrap dresses

I didn't manage my garment for MAGAM's Alternative April - in April, anyway, as I haven’t started even to think much about it. I might still do it, late as is often the case. I like the idea. MAGAM is something that doesn't have rigid timeframes, just suggestion of a theme. Come to think of it, I didn’t manage March’s MAD make a dress. I did have a plan for that, but I’ve shelved it for the moment.  I might rectify that one by trying to make a wrap dress for #sewtogetherforsummer (#stfs), which is by midsummer day, 21st June, which is probably achievable even for me! A wrap dress has the advantage, I think, of being more flexible for disguising fluctuating weight - or perhaps I should say fitting better over a wider range of weights.

While I was doing my textile course, one of my pieces was a Vogue wrap dress - this was made in a polycotton fabric.  I looked back at the photos and David commented they looked frumpy. 

I know I could make this dress with much better technique now as I have improved a lot. I didn’t really like the dress because of the skirt - it was much shorter and much more flared than I anticipated. My tutor commented to be wary of a pattern without a photo of a model wearing it. There were only illustrations.

I gave the completed dress away to someone who appreciated it. I think it would be okay longer with this degree of flare. Or I could reduce the flare. Though I’m not too keen on the tucks at the shoulder either… Or I could start with a new pattern. I could even use a pattern for a stretch fabric. What do you think? #stfs has put up a lot of pattern suggestions and I have one or two of them already. I think I’d like a proper wrap rather than a mock wrap and one that includes both bodice and skirt. Slimmer fit skirt. Comments please!

Pattern Alteration

I liked the top I made for myself but felt it needed a few more tweaks, especially when I’m heavier. The previous fabric had a touch of give and was more forgiving than the quilting cotton I tried to use a couple of months ago.

My first top is still the most successful though my weight gain has made it a little uncomfortable at present.

I increased the width at the sides, 1” at the hem, tapering to zero at the armscyes. I made the back deliberately longer than the front and added a hemline split. I added seam allowances to neckline and armscyes. I adjusted dart position. I made a toile, which was pretty much okay, and further adjusted the dart.
I've pinned along new stitching line to show how much I had to take out.

I cut out and made up the front and back in class. I found that it was much too big around the waist area in particular - this is where the French darts start. I had quite a few problems with those darts! I’m not sure I’ll use them again. I’ll finish my top. Darts slightly remodelled. Sides taken in. What a difference a fabric makes even in a woven with no stretch! I need to rethink a TNT in a woven fabric

Raincoat - alteration

I bought a rather nice teal raincoat in a charity shop last year, while I was away at my bridge weekend. I thought it fitted nicely but the sleeves were too short. I hadn’t thought they were much too short, or I wouldn’t have bought it but now realise they were shorter than I thought! Last year, I took down the hem of the sleeves. While there was a lot of fabric, enough, just, to get a nice length, the lining was considerably shorter, of course. I discussed this with Dan at Sew Club. She suggested adding a facing to the sleeve and then stitching the existing lining to the new facing. She also suggested that I could stitch along the old hemline mark to disguise it - there is quite a bit of topstitching on the coat already.
Overall view of coat

Taken to show old hem mark. How obvious is it?

Sleeve turned back to show added facing and junction with original lining

So, eventually, last week, I got around to the alteration. I added a 7 cm interfaced facing piece in a teal-ish heavy-ish cotton from my stash. I understitched and pressed. Then, the process was like bagging a lining, which I have done before. The seam on one sleeve lining was opened up, the sleeve extruded through it and the lining sewn raw edge to raw edge, some anchor points made (so the lining doesn’t fall below the sleeve) then everything put back together and the seam resewn. The second sleeve was clearly how the original constructor got into the garment - but it was easier to do the cuff from the sleeve on the same side rather than trying to get to one sleeve from the other. Originally, I hand stitched the seam closed, but realising that the original seam entry point had been stitched by machine, I did that on both sides. Easier and neater - my hand stitching isn’t great

The coat looks quite nice but feels a little tight at the moment. I decided not to stitch the seam mark on the cuffs as I thought this might draw more attention to it. I’ve been advised to steam well. I’ve put it away for the moment. Even if I never wear the raincoat (though I probably will wear it) I feel I’ve learned quite a bit about this type of alteration which I need regularly as I have long arms and RTW garments are invariably too short.

Wet hair wraps

When I’ve washed my hair, I like to wrap it in a towel wrap. Over time I’ve ‘lost’ most of my wraps and decided I’d make some new ones from an old disintegrating towel - it’s a towel we love because it dries so well but it is rather disreputable! The body of the towel is absolutely fine but the edges and ends are something else!

I took my one remaining wrap and drew up a pattern from it.

However, my towel has no stretch and the wrap does, plus there is elastic in the band. I decided not to use the old towel, but bought some stretch towelling from Minerva, hoping I might get around to making a couple of head wraps.
I ended up thinking that my time is more valuable than this exercise and I bought 3 online (my local supplier didn’t have any in stock when I visited). It’s true, I could have made them more cheaply (and I don't know yet what quality these will be!) but I still have the time and the gorgeous towelling and I’m thinking I could make something rather nicer!  One day.

The towelling has quite a loose loopy texture


I've carried on doing a bit of knitting and I've enjoyed that. I had to rip back a large chunk as sadly I'd made an error and hopefully now I'm on the right track. It looks better, certainly. I feel the instructions didn’t tell me how to decrease around a cable area as I thought I had followed them. Now I’m knitting by the seat of my pants as I’m trying to copy the pattern photo. Hopefully it will be fine.


There have been two discards of diy garments or potential garments this month

First was a skirt that I was trying to let out again (after having taken it in last year!) but I felt that there was too much to do as the waistband would need replaced as with the much smaller seamline I couldn’t see how I could get the zip back in. I reckoned that the waistband was short by about half an inch on each side. I never did like the fabric; I think I gave it away so possibly couldn’t have replaced the waistband even if I had wanted to. The skirt has gone; it’s in 2 pieces, a fully finished back with kick pleats etc and a fully finished front - the two pieces just need joined together and a zip inserted. Okay provided whoever takes it is a bit slimmer than I am currently! One of my sewing friends was keen to take it - but not keen to sew it up.

Photo I posted in my 2017 fails post. The skirt is much worse now!

Second was a kaftan that I bought last year very cheaply for the fancy dress murder mystery weekend I attended but it was too tight and I didn’t use it. I asked advice and we decided that I could take out the stitching down the sides. The thread used, and therefore the needle used, was huge and there are some pretty big holes left in the fabric, but no tears. It seemed possible that washing and ironing etc might get rid of these. However, when trying the finished neckline on to see where I should put new seamlines, I then noticed that the design on the front is off centre. I can’t just sew up the side seams - I couldn’t live with this. Others agreed that it was unacceptable. I may use the fabric for something else or it may go the same way as the skirt (not lost forever; it’s been put into the sewing class cupboard!)

Other discards

We’ve been continuing our plan to get rid of a lot of ‘stuff’. David is working on contents of garage and of side loft area and we’ve had trips to the dump AKA Recycling Centre. I’m working on clothes and shoes. Already a lot has gone to the charity shop. However, we have scarcely scratched the surface as yet! I had originally planned to alter some clothes if possible but there were so many, and this seemed such a big task. It wasn’t a case of taking in which would have been easier. Lots of nice stuff has gone to the charity shop so hopefully someone will enjoy the items and the charity will benefit from the sale.

We’re way behind in our plan to downsize and move south but what we’re doing is a necessary part of the process.

I have way too much fabric but that's not being included in the culling process! I am planning to sew more of it. There will be some that gets donated.


I’ve been reading a lot more as I used to do. Some of my reading has been sewing books. I love buying old sewing books after I see them recommended. I bought a couple of Claire Schaeffer books about pockets.  They are pretty old fashioned and don’t have photographs but are full of marvellous tips. I’ve come across a technique that might improve the pocket with gusset (I now know that’s called a Bellows pocket) on Helen’s red silk dress - I’m going to be making one in green silk. I will need to modify the pocket ever so slightly, I think, but will have a look at the pattern pieces this coming month. Helen may not find any modification acceptable so unless it’s imperceptible in the finished pocket I may have to rethink! Anyway, I did manage the pocket by the original method. I was planning to buy the fabric for the dress on a trip to London over Easter but that got postponed. Hopefully we'll manage to get there next month.

I’m also reading Sandra Betzina’s Power Sewing book and think it’s great.

So what have I abandoned?

Another ‘Twin Set’

I hope/had hoped to get another Blackwood cardigan finished by the end of the month. I have the pattern. I have the fabric. It really doesn’t take long. I just need a bit of motivation! Maybe that trip to Cambridge and London will be the incentive required. This is a temporary abandonment only.


I have a skirt from a few years ago in colours I like in a fairly heavy cotton/linen. I didn’t ever feel comfortable in this skirt as it rode up a lot at the back due to my shape. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to lie nicely and be acceptable even when I tried to remodel it. It was also rather on the short side for me. I generally prefer skirts straighter and knee length. This was A line and above knee length. Another ‘what was I thinking of?’ moment.

Anyway, I thought of trying to make it into a top and enter it into the Pattern Review Recycling Contest.

I took the skirt apart - this took quite a while surprisingly. I should've realised before, but all the pieces are cut on the bias! I decided to make a waistcoat for myself with the main pieces in this fabric and the back in plain contrast cotton (the cotton I’m using for my trousers). Then I thought - why?

I’ve decided not to pursue this at the moment. I may later as I do like the colours in the fabric


I’m not much into making craft items but there are a couple of things I have wanted and need.

  1. The large bags I carry to class are not strong enough and rip. I’d like to make a strong canvas bag and maybe even have a couple of internal partitions or pockets. I’d also like to use some machine embroidery to decorate it.  In the meantime, I’ll be using supermarket heavy duty bags.
  2. I’d like a bag to hold my knitting, so I can carry it around. It needs to be long enough for the needles and fairly capacious. I’m sure somewhere I do have a knitting bag (though I seem to remember the needles always stuck out) but we haven’t come across it in our culling as yet. I’m sure I’ve also got more knitting needles. I don’t want to buy more until I’ve checked properly but I could really be doing with a second set of 5.5mm.
  3. Thread catcher/pincushion. This is on my someday list. However, my Thursday sewing class has set a pincushion as a voluntary project this term, so I may just do it! I have some patterns.
  4. If I had loads of time, there is a bag I’d really like to make. S in class is making it and it’s fabulous.

Only number 3 has any chance of being completed in the next few months!

I'm going off now to try on some tops from my wardrobe, to see which I'll keep and which will go. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

First Quarter Update 2018 - RTW Fast 2018, EYS/7STS, 2018makenine

I’m involved in the RTW Fast 2018 meaning that I have pledged not to buy RTW (Ready To Wear) garments (with certain exclusions including underwear) in 2018.

I am also involved in the Evolve Your Style(EYS)/7 Steps to Style (7STS) Programmes which involves me examining what suits me, what I might need, the right shades and colours etc to fit my personality, shape and lifestyle. This means that eventually I would get rid of those items in my wardrobe which are doing me no favours and purchase (or in my case make) items which suit. I originally started 7STS 3 years ago but didn't complete for a variety of reasons. I am just starting to look at it again. I didn't do the EYS part previously for some reason; I purchased the programme last autumn, got started but as I got overstretched I side-lined it but am again looking at it. It involves posting photos and this is an element I'm struggling with.

Both groups have very active and supportive Facebook communities

RTW purchases - zero.

It isn’t difficult for me to avoid buying RTW for myself as I found little that fitted me in any case even when I was actively trying. The challenge is to make one more thoughtful about our clothing in view of environmental concerns in our throwaway society.

As this is a sewing (and knitting) group, primarily, there is a focus on identifying what you might need and making it. There is no necessity to make anything, though. There is an active and supportive community.

Remakes of existing clothes (but not those specially purchased e.g. from charity shops) are allowed.

Remakes - in progress (none completed)
  • Lengthen sleeve of teal raincoat by adding facing. I need to buy suitable fabric for the facing. All I've done so far is release the existing hem and lining. I need  to decide whether I need raincoat fabric or whether cotton would do - perhaps mercerised cotton

Garments discarded
  • 1 cotton rib sweater - didn't fit well, tight, sleeves too short and fabric rather harsh
  • 1 blouse - didn't fit well, tight, sleeves too short
  • Various tops discarded as sleeves too tight and short. These did appear to fit when originally purchased. I think the garments shrink on an ongoing basis when washed - or am I deluding myself?
  • One chambray/denim shirt with embroidered detail. Nice shirt and in a suitable colour but too tight and short in sleeves
  • Various tops discarded as too short for my body. They ride up exposing too low trouser tops - worse with excess weight as I have at present.
  • PR Winter Street dress as too tight around high hip - pleats look awful and rides up at back. Fits the much slimmer friend I gave it to beautifully.
  • There might possibly have been a few others
  • As yet, I haven't discarded much because it's the wrong colour or intensity for me. I am a 7 Steps to Style ‘Serene’ palette - cool, light and smoky with medium value contrast and low to medium colour contrast meaning that I am best in neutrals plus a (suitable, preferably signature) colour and not too much tonal contrast. I'm aware that some of the colours I previously loved are too intense for me now, really (but I still love them!) - this is because of ageing. They'd be better greyed down a bit. There are several items I can't afford to throw out until I identify suitable replacements.

Garment plan
  • I intend to focus on basics where I have a gap in my wardrobe plus trousers/pants which I really need as the ones I have are on their last legs. I still have several black pairs which will have to stay for the time being. Navy and grey are better neutrals for me. I haven't been able to buy RTW trousers/pants in any case.
  • I intended to make a mini capsule wardrobe and enter in PR Wardrobe Contest (3 tops, 2 bottoms and 1 topper) but not managing the trousers meant I abandoned the idea.

What I have made

Kimono - using pattern and fabric I had left over from daughter's kimono - Simplicity 1108. Success. This wasn’t so much a basic but with the fabric and pattern to hand, I had to make it. I've had good use from it so far, even though it's not in my best colours. I do still have black RTW trousers though. Blogged here

Paprika Patterns Jasper sweatshirt - bought fabric specially. I already had the pattern, from some considerable time ago. Successful. This was intended to go with jeans that I hoped to make. They're on back boiler until I sort out a trouser block. Blogged here

Helen's Closet Blackwood cardigan - I bought pattern and fabric specially. Success. I want to make more. I especially like my New Look/Helen's Closet twin set. Blogged here

3 tops  - New Look 6481 ‘free’ with sewing magazine. Two are successful. Matching tee for Blackwood cardigan and 2 others from same pattern. One is too tight as I failed to take into account that the fabric had less stretch. One of my daughters is visiting at the moment and was pleased to be given the top as she likes grey and the top fitted (I thought it was rather loose for her but she was happy with the fit also it may shrink further with laundering). I hadn't been sure if she'd like the style. Blogged here

Garments started but abandoned - at least they're not UFOs! No photos on blog.
  • PR Winter Street Dress - previous version was a bit tight overall and at high hip specifically and it rode up at the back  because of my FB so I modified the pattern and made a new dress with sister fabric. I hated it. It was intensely unflattering and frumpy. Discarded unfinished.
  • Waterfall coat by Lisette for Butterick - B6244 - I like this on others but it just isn’t my style. Abandoned at toile stage. Positive - I learned a few new things and didn’t waste my good fabric. I have identified a jacket I want to make with the fabric but not until the end of summer.



Finished Chanel-style jacket - successful. It hadn’t been abandoned, I had just run out of time to complete before Christmas because of all the hand work required and put it away until January. Blogged here

Finished gilet I was knitting - okayish I suppose. I might yet redo the shoulders as I feel they are too wide. Blogged here


Culottes started last year. I had high hopes for these. I liked the fabric. I worked on them a bit last week. They fitted not too badly but were incredibly unflattering on me - too much fabric. I gave away both pattern and fabric. I forget the pattern number - another ‘freebie’ with a sewing magazine. No photos.

In progress

Skirt I made - last year I think. I needed to alter as it didn’t fit - I had taken in at the side seams as it was a bit loose and it still needed the waistband adjusted. Unfortunately, it was now too tight! I’ve taken the side seams back out - they’re okay and I now need to insert zip and adjust contour waistband. Previously blogged, maybe, but I'll wait until it's finished.

Garments not yet started
  • A further top or cardigan from specially bought fabric - but fabric is off grain and I'm trying to work out how or if I can use it. I can’t return the fabric as I had cut into it. No hurry
  • A further Blackwood cardigan from fabric left over from the second New Look top above - I want another twin set. I found the cardigan a speedy make. Again, no hurry
Garments in progress

Knitted gilet (different pattern from first one); chunky yarn. Back knitted and first side front is at armhole level. My knitting skills are struggling a little with decreases while keeping cable pattern correct. I'm not sure if I'm doing it properly but when class starts again after Easter, I have someone I can ask.

Major task of this quarter and probably of the next too but hopefully not of one after that!

Trying to get pants to fit!! I've made so many toiles it’s untrue! I'm not sure I'm much nearer as yet.

Thoughts  this quarter so far
  • I really don’t like waterfall styles or styles with lots of volume. I have a few waterfall cardigans that I never wear - time to get rid of them!
  • For some reason many of my cardigans have very narrow sleeves so don't fit over anything other than a sleeveless tank. There's a place for this but I mainly prefer tops with sleeves. I think they'll be going too
  • I'm better in dresses without a waistband or waistline seam.
  • I don't suit pleats or gathers at the waist because my full high hip distorts
  • I'm better in straighter skirts rather than full skirts.
  • I prefer a sleeker, more tailored look.
  • I like classic styles with a bit of a twist
  • I know my skirt length preferences
  • I need to find a smart casual style that fits my style recipe and of course my lifestyle.


I haven't entirely identified my ‘style recipe’. I asked the daughter who is visiting at the moment to complete the style questionnaire which is part of an early section.
Like me she identified classic and elegant chic as the key elements but also a strong creative element - a surprise to me. My husband added feminine and I added relaxed. I do have elements in each of the areas. I can identify with classic relaxed elegant chic but less so with creative and feminine, until I researched what those mean a bit more. I think these two components have become stronger since I retired.

However, I know what I like! I believe I have a reasonable idea of what I suit though age related figure and colouring changes have meant some necessary modifications. I have made mistakes with RTW purchases and of course it's a much bigger deal if I spend time making something to find that it's just not me. Ideally I would have tried on a RTW version but this isn't always possible, sadly.

I think part of the issue is my inability so far to include the 'twist’ into my ‘classic with a twist’ wardrobe. Many of the added twists just haven't worked for me. I reckon this is me trying to express my creative element. I haven't got there yet in a way that satisfies the rest of me!

Feminine is more to do with colours and fabrics with me rather than frills or flounces which are so not me. I have been feeling the need to add a bit more of a feminine element to my wardrobe.

Future plans

I'm afraid that I have a couple of family issues which are impacting severely on my time and which are causing worry. I still intend to include sewing and planning (for the sake of my sanity!) but just won't have as much time as previously.

I reread planning post for 2018 - if I can manage a quarter of what I listed I'll be doing well!!

I did commit to 2018 make nine and the garments I've made contribute to that. Pants/trousers are a key component of that too, though. I'm still hoping! One of the 9 was the PR Winter Street Dress or other dress - it will now have to be ‘other’. I like shirt dresses and wrap dresses so I'll have a think.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...