A Me Made May and #memademay21

At the end of last summer I bought a RTW skirt in the sales but unfortunately it was too small. I was very disappointed as I really liked the style – a button though skirt with a deep frill at the hem. The mid calf length RTW skirt was made in a linen like fabric with a peach and khaki green palm print on a cream background. As I liked it so much I decided I would try and emulate it by making one. However finding similar fabric was a challenge but I came across a palm print viscose fabric in blues and greens with a touch of yellow in a local store which I bought as an alternative.

I set about looking for a similar pattern and thought I could adapt style 111 in Burda World of Fashion March 2007 (the same edition containing the pattern I used for my denim dress). The skirt pattern was maxi length but I felt I could raise the frill to match the overall length of the RTW one. I actually took measurements from the RTW skirt and cut out the skirt part and frill to correspond. The Burda pattern has a grown on raised waist which is faced but I felt the viscose fabric was quite soft so to add more structure I added a waistband.

The skirt was fairly simple to make with darts on the front and back pieces. I wanted more of a subtle frill than the one on the original pattern and using the ruffler attachment on my sewing machine I did a shallow pleat spaced out every 6 stitches. After attaching the frill to the skirt part the front edges including those of the frill are then folded back to make facings which are stitched down to create the button and buttonhole bands. I had a bit of difficulty finding buttons. I thought I’d found the perfect bluey green ones on the local market but there were only three left in the tube! As I wanted to get the skirt completed to wear and photograph on the last day of #memademay I used some ivory ones I already had in the stash.

After wearing the skirt and seeing it photographed I decided on two things. One that the ivory buttons needed to be replaced as soon as possible with ones that would stand out against the cream background and two that I would shorten the skirt. Although I am generally wearing longer dresses and skirts these days compared to what I have been used to in the past, I felt this skirt just needed to be shortened a tad. So after the remedial work I have ended up with the following garment and am much happier with it.

#memademay21

I just thought I’d put down some thoughts about the #memademay21 challenge.

I joined Instagram at the beginning of 2020 mainly to enter a competition by posting a photograph of a finished garment. I have written about the competition here. A few months after joining instagram I saw a lot of posts about the #memademay challenge and enjoyed looking at people putting together outfits from their homemade wardrobes. I wasn’t sure if I had enough homemade garments to participate in the challenge this year but eventually thought I would join in even if it only meant posting sporadically. Having taken part I’m not sure how I feel about it. I really wanted to see the wide variety of different people posting their makes but the same things kept coming up on my feed and as other people have pointed out it sometimes felt like adverts for particular patterns being promoted. To get a true sense of the range of people participating I had to make sure I searched for the #memademay21 hashtag regularly and scroll through the photos there. In the end I posted about seven day’s worth. I did wear memades on other days too but cajoling family members into taking photographs of me was a bit tiring. I think the weather also dampened enthusiasm as it was so cold and wet throughout May apart from the last weekend.

Below are the outfits I did photograph which basically encompass most of the memades in my wardbrobe. Left to right: black trousers (Burda pattern 6985 ), leopard skirt (Patrones Magazine 408), windowpane check trousers (My Image Magazine 15), denim dress (Burda World of Fashion 3/2007), mustard dress (Vogue 9371), black jersey jumpsuit (My Image Magazine 20) and frilled skirt (Burda World of Fashion 3/2007). I think there were a few tops and one pair of trousers I didn’t get round to wearing.

I know social media can be a bit demoralising at times and I did have days where I began to feel I am thirty years too late for instagram. Many of the memades also seem to be indie patterns and I am not really an indie pattern person. It’s not that I don’t like some of the patterns because I do but I am reluctant to pay £15 plus for a pattern usually a PDF. I tend to rely more on my back catalogue of Burda magazines and generally see what I can cobble together out of those. So to some extent I feel a bit disconnected from that indie pattern community. Although having said that by following #memademay21 I have seen some very nice garments and have made a mental note of some of the patterns that caught my eye. Here is a list of some I like:

Named Reeta Dress

Helen’s Closet Gilbert top

SewHouse7 Free Range Slacks

Closet Core Elodie Wrap Dress

Annaallenclothing Pomona Pants

However, ever the economist I am still wondering how I can replicate these using my current stash of patterns especially as I would be spending a lot of money on PDF patterns which involve all that sticking together.

I was sometimes a bit overwhelmed by the amount of memades some people were showing. I know these may have been made over the course of several years but it made my memades seem a bit feeble. I most enjoyed seeing how some people such as The Steely Seamstress used a limited collection of garments but really experimented with how to put these together to create several new outfits. I have been having conversations with myself about how many clothes I really need in my wardrobe. I prevaricate on this issue. On one hand with the raised awareness of environmental issues I feel I shouldn’t be making superflous garments and possibly ones that are not really me and will never get worn. On the other hand I still feel dressmaking is an art form and a creative outlet like painting and so if you feel like making something because you fancy the challenge, like a particular fabric or want to try out techniques then how does it differ to a painter producing many paintings some which would be successful and others not?

The other thing I realised was that most of my memades are summery and I definitely need to make a few more layering items. So it gave me an opportunity to assess the gaps in my wardrobe. I do need more trousers and by more I probably mean a couple of pairs for summer/autumn. Also I know I keep saying I am going to make my own t-shirts but I always gravitate to RTW ones and succumbed by ending up purchasing a few new ones this week. Outerwear is also any area I need to look at for autumn and winter but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Also knit tops would be useful and these could be handknitted (although I am not the fastest knitter in the world) or sewn as I am more comfortable using the overlocker now. I have realised I have to curb my purchasing fabric on a whim habit. I’ve been doing this a lot over the last few years and then you have the dilemma of what you want to use the fabric for plus tastes and fashions change so you often realise you don’t want it any longer anyway. I have sorted my stash out and intend selling or donating the fabric I no longer want. In future I am going to only buy fabric to fit a particular purpose when I have decided what I want to make.

So the positive of participating in #memademay2021 is that it has definitely made me reflect on my current wardrobe, analyse what works and what doesn’t and also how I want to shape it going forward with new memade garments.

A Denim Dress

Denim seems to be having a moment as apart from jeans and jackets, it appears to be the current choice of fabric for a range of garments including skirts, jumpsuits, blouses and especially dresses. To be fair denim is never really out of fashion but occasionally it raises its game and is used for clothes other than the humble pair of jeans.

Ready to wear denim dresses have been popping up all over social media feeds and so I thought maybe I should join in the craze and sew one myself. When I made this decision the sun was also shining brightly and images of lazy hot days floating around in feminine clothing came to mind but of course since that dream the weather has taken a turn for the worse and is decidedly unseasonable. In fact downright cold! Still not to mind as I now have a dress all ready for the return of the sun.

My first thought was to make the usual shirt/Wrangler jacket style dress. However I was noticing that elements like puffed sleeves were also being featured on the ready to wear models and I was reminded of a lovely frilled denim skirt I had way back when. So I decided to opt for a softer look for my denim dress.

I knew straight away which pattern I wanted to use. Style 109 in Burda World of Fashion Magazine from March 2007 has been one of my most favourite Burda designs ever. Over the years I have had so many plans to make the dress and have envisaged it in a variety of fabrics. So it was with great excitement that I was tracing off the pattern at long last. The pattern can also be used for two blouse designs in the magazine, one of which has a stand collar and I chose to use this on my dress rather than the turn down shirt style.

I also added a couple of inches to the depth of the frill to create a midi length. Although the cap sleeves are sweet I wanted a more current look and so substituted them with a deeper elbow length puffed sleeve which I drafted from a model in the July 1975 issue of Burda Moden. I loved that this added a genuine retro touch to the garment and feeds into that seventies feel so popular at the moment.

The denim I had chosen was a medium weight bought from Boyes a local chain of shops which have fantastic fabric and haberdashery departments at great value. I was torn between a light denim and a darker shade. Eventually I went for the darker shade as I thought the light colour might wash me out and I liked the darker denim ready to wear dresses I had been looking at.

The making up of the dress was not too complicated as the actual body of the dress does not have any shaping apart from bust darts. When I was tracing off the pattern I thought these looked a bit high and so it proved as I had to lower them by about an inch. I thought the frill would be a straight forward gather but the instructions are for actually creating 58 pleats in the fabric. Well I couldn’t be bothered to do all the pleating and thought this was a job for the Janome ruffler attachment machine foot. My first attempt ended up looking like a tutu. The fabric Burda use for the design in the magazine is very lightweight and so I decided that the medium weight denim needed some of the width of the frill removing. My second attempt proved ideal. For those of you who own a ruffler attachment the measurements I first used were 4mm every stitch (see below) but my final frill has a pleat depth of 4 mm spaced every six stitches apart.

When it came to the sleeve I had to remove about half an inch around the armscye as the bottom half of the armhole on the original cap sleeve is bound and fits close to the armpit. I needed to make more room for fitting the elbow length puff sleeve I was replacing it with. I was very pleased that the sleeve fitted well as you never know when you are swapping things around. My final dilemma was regarding the drawstring at the waist. I do like a drawstring but I felt the denim might stick out and not drape like the lightweight fabric used by Burda. Instead I have opted for a wide tie belt to cinch the waist.

Last summer I was a bit disappointed with the Vogue dress I made. I had high expectations and although I like it I know the fit is not what I was hoping for so I entered this project with trepidation but I need not have worried because I am more than pleased with the outcome. I chose a Burda size 38 (UK 12) cutting a size 36 (UK 10)around the neckline and collar where I prefer a close fit. I am very happy that I have finally made this style as I love the result and am now desperate for the warm weather to return so that I can debut it. It might look nice and sunny in the photograph below but I can confirm it was freezing standing in the garden in summer clothes!

Burda 6332: An Experiment with Knits

Early last year before the pandemic took hold I was trying on RTW trousers (yes, remember those days of changing rooms in shops?) and I noticed that many of them, despite being tailored styles, were made in jersey and knits. Although I did not find a pair to fit me I did think about how comfortable and warm it would be to wear a smart pair of trousers made of those fabrics. Shortly after that while out shopping I spotted some medium weight navy pinstripe jersey fabric and snapped it up with the intention of making some smart trousers.

I’d had my eye on Burda envelope pattern 6332 style B for a while as I liked the high waist styling with pleats reminiscent of the 1980s but I knew I would not be able to emulate it entirely as the jersey would not hold the CF creases or pressed turnups. As these trousers were being made for wear in cold weather I also decided I wanted these to be ankle length and not three quarters.

The cutting out of the fabric took a while as with stripes and checks I always cut from a single layer of fabric and flip the pattern pieces over. I don’t trust that even with the fabric folded and pattern pinned together I would get perfectly aligned stripes. However one good thing with striped fabric is that it is easy to find the straight grain! As it was an envelope paper pattern there were instructions and good diagrams to follow although I do change the order of making up as I like to get the zip in early and sew the side seams afterwards in case of adjustments.

The pattern has side hip pockets and I strengthened the openings of these using strips of bias interfacing to prevent them stretching out of shape when worn. There is also a fake welt pocket on the right back piece just made of a strip of fabric sewn on but I omitted this as I felt that as I could not press the fabric flat it would stick out somewhat. In fact if I were to add a fake welt pocket to this type of fabric I would make a proper welt pocket opening and use a facing on the inside rather than the pocket bag. I think welt pockets would look good especially with the pinstripes which could be used horizontally to add some visual interest but really I wasn’t in the mood for sewing welt pockets so didn’t go there this time.

After sewing the inside leg seams and zip opening I always baste the rest of the trousers together – the side seams and attach the waistband – to do a fitting. I usually cut a size 38 in Burda trousers including a little extra on the side seams for fitting purposes but during lockdown and with the lack of activity I felt my clothes were a tad tighter so I opted for a size 40. I need not have bothered as when I tried the trousers on for a fitting I have to say I looked like a clown. To be fair the trousers did fit okay on the waist but from the hip yoke pockets downwards there was so much bagginess. I ended up having to remove at least two inches off of each side seam and also skimmed the inside leg seam tapering from the hip to the hem as I did not want the hem any narrower.

Part of me wondered if some of the problem was down to my choice of fabric and had I been able to iron the centre front creases into the trousers then they would have hung differently. The styling of the trousers is very mannish and so I guess they are meant to be slightly baggy. The pink trousers on the pattern envelope do look loose fitting but the pinstipe version have a narrower appearance so I suppose that is down to how they have been photographed. There are further masculine touches as the zip is sewn onto the left front piece and there is a low crotch. Having made my adjustments I was actually quite pleased with the results. Having worn the trousers several times now they fit comfortably at the waist and the fabric is warm and cosy. It is like wearing a pair of joggers but feel and look a bit smarter. However since I have completed the trousers the weather has warmed up considerably by several degrees and I am wondering how much wear I will now get out of them in the immediate future. I am thinking maybe I should start sewing my Summer wardrobe in Winter and vice versa.

So does knit fabric work for tailored trousers? I guess the jury is still out on that and I will have to wear them more times before I can answer that question. There is the danger that the fabric may pill and that the knees will bag as is so often the case on jersey sportswear. However the fabric is medium weight and I think it will retain its integrity. Being elastic the fabric was easy to manipulate but unpicking stitches was quite difficult as they became embedded in the fabric. In the areas I did unpick I noticed that the white weave on the wrong side of the fabric also began to show through and so this jersey is not as forgiving for making alterations as woven fabric is.

Would I use this pattern again? Although it was time consuming making the adjustments to the trousers to get the correct fit on the legs and as previously mentioned part of this may have been down to my choice of fabric, I am happy with the end result. So I may take a look at the paper pattern and see if it is worthwhile making some alterations to it for future use.

#Makenine2020 Résumé

As usual I started 2020 with grand sewing plans which I outlined in #makenine2020 post early in the year. I thought nine garments was achievable and I really wanted to create a me made wardrobe as I have done so much sewing for other people over the last few years.

I got off to a flying start by my standards but of course fate intervened in the shape of the pandemic. My sewing skills were put to use creating reusable fabric face masks for family and friends but expanded to include making some for local independent businesses and also retailing them through those outlets. Further expansion included the establishment of an online shop, so the production of face masks left little time for dressmaking and to be honest I was sometimes sick of the sight of my sewing machine.

However returning to my #makenine plans after reading the Steely Seamstress and Sea of Teal’s reviews of their sewing year I thought it would be good to do a round up of the progress I made in 2020.

Black trousers: I didn’t blog about these as I felt they were not an interesting enough garment but they have been the success story of the year. I did draft Burdastyle 01/2012 style 122 but felt the rise looked low and I don’t do low rises these days. I remembered Burda 6985 paper pattern in my collection which had a similar simple trouser style but a much higher rise.

I cut out a size 38 and made them up in a stretch gabardine. These made up beautifully, fit well (no alterations necessary – how rare is that?) and the fabric is so comfortable and washes well. With all the wear I’ve had out of them they are beginning to bobble slightly and so 2021 may see a new pair being made. I can’t fault Burda trouser patterns. They work for me. I guess it’s like when you find a RTW brand that suits.

Skirt: I was originally toying with a utility type style but when Sea of Teal posted her prints theme for June a length of leopard print double gauze I had sprang to mind and I used a Patrones pattern to make a simple button through skirt. It was my first time using a Patrones pattern and the only thing I noticed was that the waist to hip measurement is much smaller than Burda and some of the other sewing magazines so although I chose size by hip measurement I needed to remember to cut the waistline slightly larger. The skirt got a lot of wear during summer in the warm weather. Double gauze is a fabric new to me. I found it easy to work with and very comfortable and lightweight to wear although it’s double layer construction does make it look deceptively thicker.

Dress: This was made up using the Vogue pattern and spotted mustard double gauze fabric I outlined in my plans. As I said in the blog on this project I wanted to love this more than I did. I made a 12 going by measurements on the envelope but I really should have done a 10. I’ve worn it and it is okay but I just know it feels a tad large.

Seventies blouse: I love this style with its bishop sleeves and zip neckline. I also love the retro feel of the brown fabric but I really haven’t had the chance to wear it anywhere this year being a bit fancy for wearing round the house. Still it is there waiting for the right opportunity and I did enjoy using the vintage seventies’ Style pattern with its comprehensive instructions. Those were the days!

Knitted beret: I chose some gorgeous mustard fleck chunky wool to create the cabled beret style on Sirdar pattern. I do enjoy knitting cables and this made up quickly. You don’t need double pointed needles and it is knitted in rows starting at the rib edge with decreasing towards the crown. Of course it is getting some use now we are in winter.

Grey knit sweater: One of my goals this year was to use my overlock sewing machine more to sew stretch fabric garments. This jumper project was an opportunity to do just that having just managed to squeeze it in as my last me made of 2020. I used Simplicity and the sweater made up beautifully. I really like the use of the double bands to finish the sleeves and hems as the twin needle method on a standard sewing machine can be temperamental plus it meant that I didn’t have to get two machines set up. I’ve worn this straightaway. It is so warm and comfortable made in a lovely soft knit fabric. Perfect for this time of year.

The ones that got away: Jacket blazer, drawstring trousers and the wildcard. Sewing something like a jacket demands time and commitment both of which I was short of in 2020. The wildcard was going to be an outfit for an event but of course these were all cancelled because of the pandemic. However these projects will be carried over into this year as I have the patterns and fabrics ready and waiting to go.

In the absence of a wild card I did create some other garments mostly quick projects I managed to sneak in between all the mask making which could be contenders for wild card 2020.

The Fibremood Norma: This was my first experience of using a Fibremood pattern. Their designs seem to be aimed towards indie pattern users and in the main that aesthetic doesn’t really suit me. I actually bought Fibremood 9 for the trousers but thought the blouse could be a good lightweight alternative to T-shirts. By the time I made it the good weather had gone but I hope to get some wear out of it this year paired with some cropped trousers.

Jalie T-shirt: For several years now I have been contemplating using my overlocker to make simple T-shirts. However as they could be bought fairly cheaply I never got motivated. Now I can’t find the fit I like in RTW and Jalie pattern 2805 fitted the bill. I only made a trial T-shirt using some stripey jersey from the stash but I was very impressed with this pattern plus the versatility it offers. While only a test piece I ended up wearing it a lot.

My Image Jumpsuit: Another experimental project using a stretch jersey. I’ve used a few My Image patterns now and find the fit similar to Burda. These are comfortable but I’m still not sure I’m sold on jumpsuits as you practically have to undress when you go to the ladies room.

Vintage seventies knitted sweater: I don’t do much knitting but occasionally I get the urge to pick up some needles. The good thing about knitting is you can just do a few rows now and again or while watching the tv. I’d been browsing vintage knitting patterns on the internet and this Sirdar seventies style caught my eye. I actually really enjoyed making this with its vintage styling of a long skinny rib and chose seventies beige to go with the brown cords.

So all in all a satisfactory year of me mades. Yes I’d liked to have sewn a few more things but as I said in my original #makenine2020 post if the end result was five or six items I would regard that as a success.

A cosy sweater

So as we approach the end of 2020 I have just managed to squeeze in one last make which was outlined in my MakeNine plans earlier this year and as luck would have it I have also been able to link it to Sea of Teal’s Sew Your Wardrobe basics theme of ‘cosy‘ for the month of December.

As I outlined in that post way back in April I was eager to replica a couple of Uniqlo sweaters I have had for a couple of years. The Uniqlo sweaters are a simple boxy shape with a funnel neck and dropped sleeves that give a slightly batwing effect. I have one in a light marl grey (shown below) and another in plain black. They are made in a lightweight knit but are so comfortable and versatile making them really useful wardrobe basics.

I’d outlined a couple of prospective patterns – style 118 in Burdastyle 12/2019 and Simplicity 8529.

Later on in the year Jalie also released the Romy pattern which I also liked but these are hard to come by in the UK. There is the option to download PDF but I didn’t feel like the hassle of sticking all the pattern pieces together. However I used a Jalie pattern for the first time this year to make a basic T shirt and was very impressed with it so I was tempted by the Jalie pattern and it could be a future purchase.

Going back to my original choices as much as I liked the Burda sweater I felt that style was a bit too fitted for the look I wanted to replicate and so I settled on the Simplicity pattern. As luck would have it Simplicity had a sale in the autumn and so I was able to purchase S8529 from my local fabric store at a reduced price. Since I have bought the pattern I see there are lots of comparisons of it with the very popular Sew House Seven Toaster sweater and I can see the similarities.

If you have read the post on my MakeNine plans you will know that I refer to some sparkly mustard knit fabric I already had but somehow I ended up buying some dark grey marl knit this year to add to the stash as you do! I felt this would be much more practical than the sparkly variety. I guess we haven’t felt that sparkly this year and perhaps I will feel more like using it next Christmas.

Cutting out the sweater style B was very straight forward as there are only five pattern pieces – back, front, sleeve, sleeve band and hem. The pattern comes in sizes XS to XL. I opted for size small after measuring the pattern pieces against my RTW sweater. The knit behaved very well. There was no curling or fraying and was lovely to work with. I have said many times this year that one of my aims has been to work more with stretch fabrics and utilise my overlock sewing machine more. This project was a further opportunity to put this into practice.

The sweater basically made up like a glorified T shirt. The only different sewing technique was the funnel neck with is achieved quite cleverly by folding the back neck facing over the front facing and sewing the shoulder seam over the facings. You then turn the back neck facing over and have a beautifully neat sewn neckline already attached and held down by the stitching. Otherwise it is fairly simple setting in the sleeves on the flat and then sewing the sleeve and side seams in one continuous action. The sleeves and hem are finished with bands folded double. The whole sewing process was quickly done on the overlocker and there was no need to use a standard sewing machine for any of the procedures. You could easily cut this sweater out, whizz it up and wear it all in one afternoon. The only alteration I made to the pattern was to adjust the sleeve length by about half an inch.

So that is my final make of 2020 and I’m actually very pleased with it. I think the fact that I wore it straight away is the sign of a satisfactory make and I can confirm it is very cosy as I felt cold when I removed it. I can certainly see me making more of these jumpers including the crew neck version on the pattern. I think it is great that using an overlock sewing machine and stretch fabrics will open up possibilities for making my own t- shirts, jumpers and cardigans as these are wardrobe basics that I wear so much of the time.