Thoughts on (Not) Having A Plan

While being stuck on the sofa with a mild flu I began to panic over not having a master plan for sewing. (Ok, I read a shitload of Anuschka Rees / Into Mind.) I mean, I admire people who are able to track their wardrobe needs, plan their sewing ahead (usually with sketches) and actually stick to their plans. For me it’s been more like “oh no my coat is broken, oh no I have no functioning bras, no wait, zero tops for layering”, and so on. You get the point. I think it’s partly because I’ve somehow ended up making almost everything and -let’s face it- sewing takes time. I’m probably slower than average and have no specific sewing space, so for me a quick project would be four hours or so with all arrangements included. And honestly, I can’t spend all my weekends indoors sewing. I also need to go out and wear clothes.

So, most of the time I feel like I’m just putting out fires to make sure I don’t need to walk around naked, and my “sewing plan” is a non-existing list that updates on it’s own. Sometimes I simply get sidetracked because of a new pattern I need to use, even though I try not to do total impulse buys by asking myself stuff like does this fit in, where do I use it and does it go with my other clothes. Or I can’t find the perfect fabric for a blazer, but see something that suits to a wintercoat pattern I’m also planning to use. And every now and then I remeber that I’m in the middle of 1) making a new bikini top, 2) muslining a blazer, and 3) shortening a dress pattern + finding fabric, all while trying to replace my worn out transition weather coats.

What I’m getting at here is that I’d love to have a plan, but I never feel I really do. It all seems to depend too much on limited sewing time, weather not changing as it should (looking at you, Finnish spring 2017), and me not being able to track everything that’s going on with my wardrobe. This year we’ve had a freezing cold spring until now, so my coat plans moved on top of the list. A month ago I had the idea of nobly hanging in there with one stupid coat and one worn out coat “until it gets warm”. It never got warm. As I write this, we’re still expecting snow and I need to feel more polished in my daily activities. So, I’m currently panic-taping together Isla trench and waiting to get bettern so that I can get more ink for my printer and get Kelly anorak printed out. At least this kind of looks like a long term sewing plan? Then again, I also had a plan of replacing my work dresses during last winter, but somehow my Helmi still exists only on paper. (On the other hand, I did make a couple of Inaris.) With Helmi it’s been mostly about not finding the right fabric, but I now have finally ordered some from Atelier Brunette. 

To see just how much I’ve gotten sidetracked this year I dug up my #makeseven (instead of #makenine):


And it wasn’t really that bad. I’m half way through with Beverly bikini, have half a muslin for Michelle (this is also a pattern waiting for the right fabric), have made two long-sleeved Inaris, done with Pilvi coat dress, and as said, Helmi is finally making some kind of progress. And in the beginning of the year I had no idea that I’d encounter bra, pants and spring coat crisis on the way. I’m sort of on the fence when it comes to making that dress top right, because I’m pretty well off dress-wise at the moment. Alexandria trousers might still happen during summer holidy, but I think the need for woven summer tops is a bigger issue. I’d say that the two pairs of Ninni culottes I’ve made fill the summer pants hole quite nicely.

What I’m getting from this in-depth sewing plan analysis is that I might benefit from both having a plan and prepping several patterns at once when there’s time to do that. What I’m also getting is that I should first go through my wardrobe as a whole (from coats to undies) to see what’s not there. Like currently I have many more pairs of pants and pencil skirts than long-sleeved tops (minus wool sweaters), and you can see how that might be a problem in daily life, right? I feel like the collection above was more like a list of patterns I want to use, not really a plan based on what I need.

I feel like I’m still -after several years of picking up sewing again- in the process of making sense of this. I mean, it’s a hobby in a way, and I’ve made choices like I’m not sewing t-shirts (boring) or jeans (broken needles scare me). But at the same time I’m also adjusting my opinions on things like does it make sense to sew coats and bras, and what’s a good way of doing that. It’s like making choices between comfort and discomfort, feeling well dressed or frumpy, spending all my free time at home or actually going out in my clothes. So basically making more detailed plans might be a good idea at this point. I’m also thinking about the sustainability aspect of my sewing here, and being more thoughtful of what to make appeals to me. It’s began to bother me that I’m (despite a small crisis every now and then) pretty well equipped for my daily life, but still making things in a way that often feels random. Because of this I’ve tried to pick “bigger” projects lately so that I’d have something to do / get my mind off work while not blindly producing stuff. I’ve also promised mittens to three more friends, and possibly a coat for one to stop focusing on me as much as I’ve usually done. And to use some of the left-over yarn piles here.

I’m curious, how do you feel about these things? Do any of you get stressed out by having plans and not having plans or making too much and too little?

Basics

As we all know, my sewing lately has revolved around underwear. After getting all my notions (from Tailor Made Shop, Make Bra and Bwear) it was a matter of hours to put together two bras:


I’ve used Ohhh Lulu’s Romy pattern for both, and based on this I’d call it a versatile pattern. (Considering that my first velvet bra is also completely different from these.) The fit varies a little depending on the material, and the lace bra seems to be a little tighter than the strappy one. Actually you can almost see the size difference in the photo, and I think it’s mostly about the open upper cup in the strappy bra being more forgiving in the sense of fit. The upper edge in the lace bra sits lower while the straps find their place on their own. Like this:

The lace bra is fully covered by that same neckline. As you can see, the upper edges dig in a little at armpits, so I might need to experiment with the cup fit a little. However, this doesn’t feel at all uncomfortable and I’ve successfully worn all three bras with no complications. It’s pretty luxurious to have four bras in laundry rotation after trying to survive with three stretched ones for a couple of months! Also, I’m totally wearing the strappy one like this when the summer comes.

Which brings me to a serious issue with sewing your own underwear: it would be so nice to show and tell when you’ve made something super nice, learned to apply FOE so much better, found exellent notions and pretty lace and love all the strap details. And then you end up feeling Saga Noren level socially awkward for either talking about it at lunch (we have a pretty relaxed office) or instagramming pieces of lace. I’ve done both. Usually manage to bite my tongue before going into too much fit details, but still. It feels weird, because I’m used to showing off my self-made clothing, but now I don’t really have anything to present. I mean, I’ve not gone as far as to change t-shirts in an open office.

So I ended up making a top that would show a tiny bit of straps. Not for work, but perfectly ok for more casual events. I feel like a horrible blogger for constantly forgetting to take perfect photos right after finishing stuff, and ending up posting wrinkled clothes after two days of wear. Also I hate taking selfies, so all I have for you is the photo above to prove that I’ve made Ogden Cami from True Bias, in light weight black rayon. I had some doubts about the pattern in the sense that it’s so minimalistic, but on the other hand I’ve been out of basic tops for a while. And it’s actually kind of facinating to have something with basically no detailing what so ever, and I really like the smooth transition between the neckline and straps.

When it comes to fit and construction, I have no complaints abouth either. I made a straight size 2, shortened the body by 5 cm and the straps about the same. The instructions seemed very detailed, but I basically just browsed through to check the order and measurements for hemming. This is just a personal preference, but I like more general “sew until done” instructions and these seemed to be very much geared for beginners. I just like being left on my own when sewing, so I avoid reading stuff like “remember to finish seams to avoid fraying” or “be careful not to cut throug the seam”. To me it feels like someone is watching over my shoulder all the time, but as said, totally a personal thing and I can see how someone else would love those reminders. 

All in all, a nice quick project and I’ll probably make another one when I find the perfect silk. All of these small pieces of clothing have in a way replaced knitting for me: they are easy to pick up after work, don’t take much space and can be folded somewhere while I need the table for something else. But I like change, so I’ve kicked off the massive process of printing, cutting and taping together Isla trench coat from Named Clothing. Because while my bra issues have been fixed for now, I still have a wardrobe hole the size of a neat spring-autumn coat. More on that later!

Harriet vs. Romy

This spring I’ve been making all the things, but haven’t really blogged anything. Just no time, no energy. But now that I have a weekend of no other obligations than recovering from Friday’s massage*, I figured I’d write down some bra making notes.


At first there was Harriet from Cloth Habit. Even though I’m not a huge fan of underwires, I thought I’d give them a chance. I was kind of thinking that it might be nice to have some kind of structure on a bra for a change, and that this might be a safe way of seeing if it works for me. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Not the pattern’s fault, just that my ribs and sternum have very little padding on them. I get bruises if I wear my Harriet for a full day.

The making process was pretty smooth: I did a few muslins to get a starting point. And also because when you spend 50€ on a bra kit (kit+shipping+custom fees), you are not going to use it on a bra that might fit. Nope. I mean, even if you skip the elastics, you’ll get a fairly good idea of the fit by just putting together bra lining (front), power mesh (back) and some spare hooks. I tried three different cup-band combinations before I cut into my actual bra fabrics, starting from 28DD and ending up with 30E. I’ve seen similar Harriet fitting paths around the interned, so I’d say that it runs a tad small. I don’t have to pull the measuring tape that tight to get 27″ chest measurement, but 28″ band was definitely too short for me.

I’m not going to get too deep into the sewing process because 1) I don’t remeber much about it anymore, and 2) as I recall, it was all quick and easy. What I ended up with was a bra that fits, and if I’d ever make it again I’d merely lower the upper cup piece by 4 mm. The band feels nice and snug, the wires lay smoothly against my chest. The shape is more projected than what I’m used to, but it doesn’t make me feel like my boobs are in wrong place. (Like some padded bras have done in the past.) Only I keep getting bruises, and haven’t been able to wear the bra two days in a row ever, because it hurts. I’ve tried to find out if this could be solved some how, but really, the band isn’t too tight, and it seems to be just the even pressure of wires against bones. So, for now my relationship with underwires is over.


But that just means that I can get back to my beloved bralettes. I had somehow forgotten Ohh Lulu, even though I’ve had some positive experiences in the past. Maybe it was because the bralettes began to look too easy or too flimsy when everyone around me seemed to have moved on to Orange Lingerie or the like -more structured bras I mean. But lately the flimsy things started calling my name again for a couple of reasons: all my old bra(lette)s are slowly dying, but my favorite source of unpadded bras (Monki, that is) has began to add padding to friggin everything. I found an exellent bra from Weekday, but they’ve quit Finland and I can’t keep flying to Sweden for bras. On top of these things I kept seeing Sarah’s freakishly pretty photos on Instagram, and figured that I might need to make stuff with straps everywhere. This naturally led to buying patterns for Romy and Ava.

I’m still waiting for my strappy lingerie notions and laces from around the world, but have managed to do some fitting and one functioning lingerie set! I mean, this is what I love about Ohh Lulu patterns: I don’t need a bra kit with eleventy different elastics to make one piece of clothing. And what I need can be mostly gathered from here. I had a notions kit left from planning to make two Harriets, and I used the leftover lace to muslin Romy:


And that became one freakishly bridal bra muslin with too small cups. I actually measured smaller than XS, but ended up spilling from the cups. Naturally I read only afterwards from Sarah’s tutorial that you pick the closest size, but will need to adjust the cups if you’re beyond D cup. And yep, I had to. For some reason it makes sense in practice even if the sizes refer to full bust measurement. I prefer grading between sizes to adjusting the pattern pieces myself, so my fitted version (pictured far above) is size S cup blended into XS band, and it worked really well. The pattern pieces are nested, so no fiddling with tracing or anything like that. For Ava panties I measured a straight size S, and they fit me out of box.

The set is black stretch velvet and it’s awesome. I mean, horrible to work with, but awesome to wear. I’m not sure how it will work with other clothing because so far I’ve only been prancing around my flat admiring my soft and warm undies (hello neighbours), but it doesn’t seem too bulky. More like normal underwear, and I expected worse. I’ve lined the bra cups with some kind of stretch mesh I found from Eurokangas, mostly to get a neatly finished, non-itchy interior. The peach notions I picked out from the muslin, and then got some FOE from Nappitalo to finish the rest of the edges. I think I can still get another pair of panties from my leftovers.

I have plans for at least two more sets from these patterns, and at least one involves straps everywhere.

*I hadn’t had a massage since December, I was super stiff after having all the flus and the pain level was somewhere around dentist. I drank about two liters of water before going to sleep yesterday, and my back has sore spots all over.

Learning New Things At 34

Maybe it’s a combination of yoga, age and comfort candy eaten over the past year or so, but I’m currently in a situation where I’ve had to learn to adjust patterns in a new way. I’ve basically been one standard size most of my life, but last autumn I began to notice stuff like this in clothing made a year or two ago:

(Along with not being able to fit into my Sophie swimsuit top, which I’m still mourning, but definitely not posting to internet in shape of photos.) 

While I think I might still get away with wearing my first Inari in public, I’m not really comfortable with making more in a size that’s clearly not fitting me. I had previously done a small FBA on my Kielo dress, but this was a bit more complex to figure out since the pattern doesn’t have darts to start with. I did some research on dartless FBA at first, but all those systems seemed kind of random compared to a darted one. I eventually went with the tutorial on Curvy Sewing Collective, with a little modification: in my opinion the bottom of the dress is fine as it is, so I cut the front piece in two at waist, and only added more ease to top. I thought it would be easy, but ended up having a medium sized adult tantrum over paper, scissors and tape.

I think my main problem here was that my bust point is pretty high, and it’s simply not possible to draw a straight line from side seam to full bust. It has to be angled, and that messes with the diagrams instructing you to draw the second line upwards, but at the same time in the middle of the underarm curve. As you can see, I tried that at first. I don’t have any photos, but it completely messed up the armhole and almost made me cry. As a side note, I’ve also tried to draft a block following Madalynne’s tutorial once, and hit the same brick wall there, too. At some point my lines just didn’t meet where they should, and I knew why, but not how to fix it and then just gave up.

When I calmed down I drew the line from bust point to armhole notch, and eventually had a pretty normal looking pattern piece on my table. Then I re-fitted the top part to the bottom, took a deep breath, and cut the fabric. My first new Inari is made in mustard yellow sweater weight jersey, and I’m pretty damn pleased with it. 


It’s the most relaxed dress ever, and worked perfectly for getting back to work after two weeks of influenza: you look like you got dressed, but feel like you didn’t. I added side seam pockets, because I always find myself looking for them and left out the slits to make it look more… I don’t know, solid? Cocooned? The only thing that bothers me here is that the darts came out too long and they sort of stick out in a weird way. It’s not as bad now that the fabric has relaxed in wear (yeah, I know it’s also a bit wrinkled) but at first it was bad enough for me to wear a scarf all day to hide the weirdness. 

For the second one I bought light weight black wool which seems to have some kind of in-built stretch. Either that, or it’s not actually 100% wool like the tag says. Not sure what to think, but it presses like wool and feels lovely, so I’m not too bothered by this. I made a small adjustment here by shortening the darts 1,5 cm, and to me they look much better now. I can still see some weird pooling below the darts, but it’s probably something no-one else would notice. I did the same pockets-no slits mod, and would say that I’ve finally achieved something I’ve been wanting for years: a loose fitting, cocoon shaped, super comfortable dress I can wear pretty much anywhere:


Yes, I’m extremely happy with these.

On Admitting Defeat

You know how sometimes you just screw up in a mysterious way you can’t put your finger on? This is exactly what happened here: I had a previously fitted pattern, a seemingly good quality fabric, a vision of what I wanted to get out of them, and I still managed to fuck up. Twice. And today I decided to give up on having fitting faux leather pants, because it’s just not going to happen.

My first issue here was that I hadn’t used the pattern in a couple of years, and blindly assumed that same measurements would equal same shape. Nope. I’m somehow different. Should have probably started over with a fresh, un-adjusted pattern. Now I had one with so many mods already that it just got really difficult to tell what was wrong and how to fix it. And it’s possible that the whole pattern was a wrong choise to begin with. 

My main issue with pants -especially slim fitted- is the size difference between my butt and tighs. This is something I haven’t been able to solve at all: how do you adjust for full butt without adding ease to upper tigh? I mean, I can’t be the only person in the world with stick-like legs, and I’ve even found fitting rtw jeans. So how does this become a huge obstacle when I want to make pants? Like this time it seemed clear that my first version of these pants were too tight in the back but ok at tighs, but I couldn’t figure out where to add ease without adding it everywhere.

So, being in a blinded state of “of course I can solve this” I rather randomly did the same full butt adjustment I had already done once before and got more fabric. I’d really like to kick myself in the face because of this, because it only resulted in too loose pants with all topstitching done being worn once and then abandoned on the chair with “I need to do something about these” status for months. I found the pants today and tried narrowing the leg, but honestly, the fit at waist and hips is god awful, and I’m never ever wearing those things outside my kitchen. Ok, maybe not god awful, but the kind that I don’t want to see when I look in the mirror. It looks home made, and I want people to look surprised when I say I made my clothes, ok? And this more in line with the clothes I made as a teenager, and I’m way past that.

The second issue making things worse might have been the fabric. I’m not 100% sure, but it felt like the pants stretched in use about two sizes. As in, they looked semi good on me right after finishing, but began to feel loose during the one and only day I wore them. I have a vague memory of sucking in my stomach to get the zip closed, but now it’s more like I have to hold the pants up before closing the button. So yeah, it’s possible that there was nothing I could have done to make this work, other than a massive amount of negative ease to begin with. And how was I supposed to know?

All in all this whole project just makes me gringe. It’s like a way too long visit to the dark side of sewing, and I just want to forget everything about it. All the wrong choises, wasted materials, rushing into making something I wasn’t sure about and the feeling I’m a weird shape. 

I think it’s been more depressing -if you want to be dramatic about pants fitting- than usual because I’ve had a pants problem all winter, and feel awkward for not having the perfect skinny jeans I’m used to having. For about ten years I had a go-to pair of jeans, but now it’s gone out of production, and I’ve been forced to settle on a less-than-perfect. It also seems that the shape has changed again from last year (it’s some skinny jean from Nudie, Skinny Linn or something like that), and now I’m back at too loose at leg, too short at crotch and feeling uncomfortable and annoyed.

I’m sort of trying to solve the problem of feeling put together by making new dresses that would equal owning an exellent pants. More on that and learning to make a full bust adjustment at 34 later.

A Striped Raymond

This took some serious cutting effort, I tell you. My starting point with Raymond coat from Republique du Chiffon was fabric requirement of 270 cm vs. 200 cm of striped wool bought for something else half a year ago. Yeah, I make the smallest or second smallest size and shorten pattern pieces, but still. I think it was something like three hours from this:


To this:


Luckily my wool was double sized with a solid grey back, so I was able to cut all facings without matching the stripes. Otherwise it would have been a hopeless project.

I did have my doubts about chevrons on sleeves, but had dreamed of this thick, striped, fluffy coat for so long that using the grey side wasn’t an option. I really like the oversized striping, and eventually began to like the sleeves too. What I still don’t like, is the fact that I fucked up the collar. The cut was good enough to be eased to match the front, but first I somehow managed to clip the CB notch 5 mm off, and then didn’t check the stripe matching. I mean, I checked all other seams, but this one I just pinned and sewed twice over. And then turned open and almost cried:


Also, my seamripper is broken, and anyways ripping would have probably ruined the wool. 

And in the end I’ve been so happy about my new coat that I don’t even care anymore. The wool -backed with a very light poly-something vadding- is super warm, the pockets are deep enough to keep wind away from my wrists, and the collar has turned out to be much more covering than I expected. It’s like wearing a heavy rug really. And to make life pretty much perfect, I found black reflectors:


All in all, this was a fairly easy coat to make. It has about four straight seams, but with a steady wool it’s not an issue. It merely makes easing curves easy in my opinion. The collar -when properly checked- isn’t too fussy, and that’s the only super bulky seam. When I got to sewing, this took me about two days to make -with some knitting in between.


(Not for me, for a small relative.)

Slow Fashion, Fast Autumn

I’ve started to write at least three times since September, only to abandon the draft because there was no time to finish writing. Or no time to take blown-out photos in daylight until today. (Forgive me, I know they could be better.) I haven’t given up making clothes, just haven’t had time to document until everything’s already pilling and a little stretched in use. And there’s still a pile of half finished yoga pants on my table and an uncut piece wool fabric in the closet, waiting for the right moment. But hey, I’ve finished one pair of leggings and two sweaters! Crappy photos will follow:


First, my second Brooklyn Tweed Alloy. I made the smallest size the first time, but didn’t really like the fit. This one’s getting much more use for not feeling too short and ristricting. I made the second size (38?) using smaller needles, and got just the amount of additional ease I was looking for. The yarn is Lett Lopi, which has become one of my favorites: super warm and not itchy at all. The pilling usually calms down after a wash or two, and I’ve really worn this to death after finishing.

Also pictured: boring basic self-drafted yoga leggings. I don’t have much to say about these, but wanted to show them anyways.


And also pilling and being worn to death, my finally finished Docklight. I hadn’t done brioche in about 20 years, and it was as slow and annoying and pretty as ever. At first I tried to work this in heavier yarn, but it just didn’t work on my body at all. This is done using fingering weight Pirkkalanka, again smaller needles and bigger size, and I really like the drape. Downside is that the yarn can’t take much wear, but like Lett Lopi, I’m expecting this to calm down too in use.

It’s been a while since I’ve finished these, so unfortunately I don’t remember much details about the process. Also I’ve been swamped with work all autumn, so frankly, I don’t remember much about anything. Other than that it’s been freezing cold at the office, and these sweaters have saved my life. 

But anyway, now I’ve let you know that I’m not dead, and will be getting back to finishing yoga pants and tracing a coat pattern.