Style

Defining My Style

I’m at the beginning of my sewing journey. That means a lot of things. It means I am still learning how to follow the basic instructions. It means I look at button plackets with something before fear – just blank confusion. It means I’m constantly observing the seams, folds and drapes in the clothes I wear or walk past in the street.

I’m in the early phase of my sewing adventure where I want to dream big. I want to walk around in immaculate self-made clothes from my undies to my winter coat. It’s achievable, I read the blogs of people who do exactly that. Where to start is hard. Every kind of garment seems to have its own subset of special skills. I want to master them all.

However, most significantly perhaps, I don’t know what I want to wear. I reside in the ‘size greater than a ladies 14’ area of life where many shops don’t bother to stock it at all, and those that do have a tendency to create funny size gaps or assumptions about what I’d want to wear. I’ve never truly stopped to think about what I’d wear if I could have ANY clothes I wanted. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point learning to sew t-shirts if you really want to wear a blouse, or learning how to sew a blouse when you’ll wear nothing buy tank tops and blue jeans. I need to prioritise my sewing adventures towards clothes I want and need in my wardrobe.

The Curvy Sewing Collective seems to have heard me, this month they’ve been running posts about capsule wardrobes. I love the idea of capsule wardrobes, only having what is necessary. For now, I mean specifically with my sewing. I’d like to be able to sew a small set of clothes that work inter-changeably with the style I’d like to have. I have no immediate plans to give up my wardrobe. It’s overly large, poorly directed, but it will provide me a stable collection of things I can wear until such time as I can truly sew the lot.

However what I was most interested in was their way of using mood boards for wardrobe concepts. One of the ideas in the post was to use Polyvore, which I remembered vaguely from its height a few years ago though I’d never been keen. So I figured I’d give it a shot. The following are three ‘looks’ I was contemplating for interchangeable clothes.

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Work Readdy Reddy Wardrobe

This was my first foray into the web of Polyvore. I love red, I love to pair it with black. If there’s anything wrong with my current wardrobe its not having the option to do this MORE. This look was intended to provide me a few options without going overboard. I would happily wear this page for a week straight, so that’s a positive thing. Its not quite work ready, I’d probably need to add a pair of slacks, but you can see it can’t you? It is definitely a dress up or dress down wardrobe.

My Favourite Item – the black button down skirt. I’ve been craving these for weeks. Pretty much since I started sewing and encountered patterns that do this. Its definitely one of the things I’m most likely to make quickly.

My biggest concern – Having only fussy blouses. I love blouses, but they are delicate to launder and sometimes prone to creasing. I definitely need some guaranteed lazy lady tops in my wardrobe.

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One Pants, Two Looks

Grey jeans. This is a thing I need in my life. I had a pair a few years ago… Sadly they haven’t fit for many years either. Although I’m probably a few sewing experiments away from jeans, if I can make myself a pair of grey skinnies one day I’ll be a happy girl. This wardrobe is looking at two different looks I love. The red, but also the pale blue casuals. I think I could happily have all these looks in my wardrobe.

My Favourite item – That bottom red top. I love the drape. Drape can be very forgiving when done correctly. I also just love simple red.

My biggest concern – How to fit the pale blue in. I love that sweater, but that’s a difficult to replicate item. I’m unsure if I’d want pale blue to be denim based, but that look also looks pretty good to me.

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Experimentation

I’m unsure if it is a good or a bad thing that when faced with the wealth of the Polyvore catalogue I run out of ideas after two looks. So this page is just me attempting to provoke myself to consider other options. You’ll notice the pants are still grey, the jacket is still leather. I did try to fit patterns into the blouses here, and the texture idea on the black skirt. If you added a second pair of shoes this wardrobe would probably be about to cover the full gambit of needs. However it doesn’t excite me with beauty the way the first to did.

My favourite item – Its hard to pick, for the most randomised set, there are also multiple items on here I really like. I’m going to say the grey shoes though because I was looking for something exactly like those in the previous look and couldn’t find a thing. Definitely need to track down something like those.

My biggest concern – Shorts and patterns. I love shorts and I love patterns. Yet I can’t seem to make rational decisions about them when confronted with Polyvore. Shorts are particularly hard because they are a life essential in Australia. Maybe I’ll just be unfashionable in the summertime.

The Results

As a result of this analysis I have identified a number of things I NEED in any long term wardrobe:

  • Black Jeans – sewable
  • Grey jeans – sewable
  • Black Skirt with buttons – sewable
  • red drapey top – sewable
  • white drapy top – sewable
  • white shirt – sewable
  • chambray shirt – sewable
  • Grey sneakers
  • black ankle boots with silver accents
  • a black bomber or leather style jacket – sewable
  • A cream jumper – knitting

It’ll be interesting having this post to come back to in a year or two to check my progress towards this ideal. Who knows, maybe my favourite colour will be green in six months.

Uncategorized

Project Complete – Zoe T-Shirt

Hip hip hooray! A successful thing has been made! I’m back on the blog, recording my success for my own records. If anybody does stumble across it please do say Hi.

Today I’m documenting my successful completion of the Zoe knit top from Sinclair Patterns. This landmark item shall go down in history as the first piece of clothing I made for myself that I then wore outside my house. That’s a pretty big deal if you ask me. I received this pattern as part of the company’s pattern test. (In case you can’t tell by the size of my blog – nobody is asking me to post this – this is all my own opinions etc.) I’m going to try and step through this in a systematic way.

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Sizing

This pattern is sized from US00 to US22, or in more meaningful terms from a 31.5″ (80cm) to a 48″ (122cm) bust. Although some women may need to take into account the waist measurement because its a knit shirt it’ll be nicely flowy. My person measurements are 44″ bust, 39″ waist and 50″ hip. I made a US18 which is listed for 43.3″-36.2″-45.7″.

Pattern

This is a PDF pattern. I was a child that wouldn’t ever use a sticker for fear I’d want to use it again, differently, later. PDF patterns are the cure for the fear that I’ll mess the pattern up – I can print it out as many times as I want. Each pattern size is a seperate PDF – so you can print it and cut it out and not feel too bad that you are ruining the multi-size versatility. Though if you want to grade between sizes (this is a loose knit so I don’t see it being necessary but do what your heart tells you) this might make it difficult.

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This was my most pleasant PDF experience so far (I’ve done 4 – well 3 I discarded one). I would buy their patterns again just for the features in their PDF. Why you ask?

  1. Their pdfs are not ‘full page’ – good because those drive me bonkers because my printer inevitably prints some on an angle and never prints to the edge.
  2. They PDFs have little grids on every single page to tell me where in the overall pattern that piece belongs – great for when i accidentally dropped them.
  3. There was the cut and paste rectangles – but then the pattern extended through them so I could line up the lines between the pages.

I don’t know other pattern companies with this many features in their PDFs – but they rock – everybody should do them this way.

Fabric

I made this shirt out of a viscose elastane. I was originally going to make it out of pink ponte I have lying around – I bought 6m off a Spotlight sales rack a little while with. However the company suggested that I try the pattern in a lighter knit fabric. Which was as good a reason as any to go to the fabric store. I found this gorgeous red and I had to have it. I, being a fabric newb, would call it light-weight, the website says I’m wrong. Apparently it is a 240GSM, mid-weight viscose jersey, purchased from The Remnant Warehouse.

Construction

This shirt was super easy. If you’re a knit newbie, or just a plain newbie – this shirt is the shirt for you. It has a total of 7 necessary lines of stitching (8 if you count the hem – which I probably should).

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I overcompensated for my nervousness about the fabric a little bit by using a LOT of pins. Nothing was moving anywhere. While this probably blew my times out a lot, I have great seams and my neckband is pretty smooth (there is a small fold but its at the back, nobody can see). I really didn’t have any true dramas. I folded the first sleeve wrong – you just need to fold it over at the seam, I did a weird half over thing – but I asked in the Facebook group and learnt the error of my ways.

This shirt took me around 6-7 hrs to sew and I think it’s realistically a good option for a 1hr sew for an experienced seamstress.

Fit and Finish

The sleeves are quite tight relative to the rest of the fit – but I like that, it gives it some interest. I think if they were much looser they folded up cuff wouldn’t stay as nicely.

In all it is a great t-shirt, I’ve worn it 3 times since I finished it only a week ago. I’m glad I made it in the red. Red is my favourite colour to wear, so this top has propelled itself to the top of my t-shirt pile.

Sewn with care, worn with ease.

 

Practice

Shorts 2.0 – Pick a Pocket

So my boyfriend, very kindly accepted my rather misshapen first pair of shorts. However of all their flaws – including the fact that I originally measured the elastic to the same number as his waist measurement and they completely fell down – the one thing he couldn’t get past was the fact that they had pockets. I was encouraged to try again, but only if I added pockets this time.

Quick Three Things I Learnt
1. There is more than one way to pocket a pant.
2. If there’s a picture in the tutorial, look at the picture. Particularly if it involves cutting.
3. It is possible to turn a ‘mistake’ into a ‘feature’.

Now back to my story

Of my own volition I decided to be a little more structured in my approach to sewing this time around. I admitted to myself that the tracing and guesstimate approach was perhaps a little advanced for my mediocre skills. I hoped that the use of a pattern could move my shorts to the ‘next level’ of wearability. So I scoured the internet for the basic short to end all shorts. The internet told me pretty fundamentally that I should be able to do this without pattern assistance – thanks internet – but I did find some people willing to give a total beginner a bit of a leg up. I ended up going with the Juba Shorts from Imaginegnats.

It seemed basic, yet the drawstring/elastic waist offered room for new skills, and it had a bunch of ‘expansion packs’ in the form of online tutorials listed in the sale blurb. And most significantly…

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Juba Shorts – Pockets for Men Tutorial

Oh yeah baby. A Pockets tutorial. A pretty plain short, for men, with pockets. They seemed like good pockets – the sort you imagine in your head when thinking ‘pockets’. My guy would be so impressed with me when I show him what great pockets I made. AND it has a pattern piece. AND pictures. How could I mess this up?

So I cut out my pattern pieces. I feel pretty pro doing this. (Apologies that I used a manky work shoe as a pattern weight). I put my big green cutting board (a pre-BTI item I own because I’m the daughter of a quilter) on my kitchen floor – because both my tables are circles – and got my roller cutter out to pizza cut all my pieces. So easy.

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Then I got my handy dandy pocket pattern piece out. Stuck it on. I felt really smart – if I folded along the pocket line I could use a single print out for the front AND back of the pocket. (I’m sure I didn’t invent this oh-so-novel idea.) So I cut out my pocket pieces… And then I cut into my two front panels. Like so.

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Right about now the thousand ghosts of  veteran sewers past are looking upon this with a giggle. I’d made a very obvious mistake. Thought not so obvious that it would occur to me. On the contrary, attempting not to make a mistake I’d thought long and hard about how to position this pattern piece. So I decided to put it right there. Right. There.

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From there, still feeling like an awesome professional sewer, I sewed the front half of the pocket to the front side of the pant piece, flipped it ‘inside’ sewed it down and then sewed the two pocket pieces together to create a pocket piece. I was using my cute little sewing clips and feeling super accomplished. Nobody would be able to tell this was only my first pair of shorts. I was making pretty straight stitches and using my zig zag just the way the instructions say. What could go wrong?

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Then, finished my pocket, I took this photo. Look how great it looks? Edges are flush with the original edges of the pant piece. Just like a bought one! Then, as I looked at the piece through the screen of my phone, I realised…. I’d done the pocket upside-down into the pant leg! Aww man! It was a devastating revelation I have to say. I was faced with an excellent pocket…. at the wrong end of my shorts. And the cutting out meant that I couldn’t simply unpick it.

Well. I fixed it. I sewed the pocket together and made a very attractive leg decoration. Just like a bought pair of sports pants. I could totally get away with that if I hadn’t already told the world that I’d messed up a pocket ;).

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The worst part is that this was the first pocket. The other one, already cut, was in the exact same condition…. I had to sew it together, knowing it was wrong. Just so I could cut it off again and make the pants sides equal. I did. They look OK now.

After this I couldn’t do the same pocket again to the top of the fabric. There wasn’t room to do two Vs in opposite directions. Or at least, not without making it really obvious what I’d done wrong. So I needed to find another pocket. I mean, plenty of clothes have pockets, there’s got to be more than one way to skin this cat. Second time around I was going with something that wouldn’t go cutting into my now repaired pattern pieces. So I found inseam pockets. They were, as my boyfriend would say, just the bunny. Exactly what I needed.

So after this minor detour I was off again. On my way to great shorts. I’m going to hopefully put the real deal into my next post.

Made with care…. yet to be wearable.

Until again.

Theory

A Week In Words: Slang for Beginners 1.0

I’ve officially been submerging myself in the sewing community for about a week. I jumped with both feet and no intention of coming up for air. It’s been a lot of fun. However already I’m starting to notice there are a bunch of words which everybody else seems to understand that I need to run away to the Google monster and research. Or simply relearn from the colloquialisms. I figured I’d list a few – maybe it’ll assist a fellow beginner and maybe it’ll simply serve to assist my own memory.

knit vs woven – There are material TYPES? I spent a few months making bags. It never occurred to me to question why some of my clothes stretch and others didn’t. Knits just like if they were knitted with knitting needles but on a teenie tiny scale. Woven fabrics are made with looms or similar. Knits stretch and wovens don’t (except maybe along the diagonal, the ‘bias’). This is probably sewing level 0, but I really learnt this this week. Fabric confuses me a lot. (Apparently some wovens do stretch – the mystery of modern fabrics I guess – some gym fabrics may be in this boat.)

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selvage/selvedge – This simple little word is the name used to describe the trim on a piece of fabric created during production to prevent the fabric fraying along the edge. It’ll often have a little line of branding continuously or periodically, though sometimes it is completely plain.

TNT – ACRONYMS! I do love a good acronym, but that first time there is always confusion…. Particularly when an acronym has a more common use. Like an explosive compound. TNT in the sewing community means Tried and True. This little acronym means a pattern a person reuses because it works. Excellent, I can’t wait to have some TNT patterns of my own.

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muslin vs ‘making a muslin’ – You can’t fool me, I read Georgette Heyer in high school, I know what muslin is. It’s plain, thin cotton material from ye olden times… so why on earth would I be making one? Turns out I was mostly right. There is muslin, the woven cotton material that comes in a range of thicknesses and there is ‘making a muslin’ where a muslin has become the colloquial term for making a first draft item from cheap materials. This blog helped me out a fair bit in my understanding. Muslin – is apparently the same material as ‘calico’ in UK/Australia. I also note that following this I googled muslin or calico hoping to find the cheap solution fabric for my bumbling beginner fingers – but its actually pretty expensive. Like $8 a meter when I can get polycottons or on-sale material for $3-$5.

There are always more words to learn though. That’s why I’ve numbered this post. I’m sure there’ll be a 2.0 very soon.

Until Again.

Uncategorized

First Clothing Attempt – Shorts 1.0

I was trying to figure out where to start. I mean, I have a few successful projects from before BTI that could start the blog off on a high…. But I felt they may overstate the case for my sewing. Where better to begin than the here and now? This weekend, Easter weekend (because I need a LOT of time), I am attempting to construct shorts which look like real shorts. As it turns out – harder than it looks.

Quick Three – The three things I learnt in this project.

  1. Don’t use stretchy shorts as a template for not-stretchy material.
  2. Clothing seams are inexplicably harder than bag seams.
  3. I need a better mechanism for threading elastic.
  4. Do use rotary cutter, as much as possible. (I’m just starting out – I’m learning A LOT)

Back to the Full Story

I began with the conviction that patterns are the easy way out and if I can sew bags without pattern pieces, surely I can sew pants without pattern pieces. The internet largely seemed to agree with me, there are as many more blogs and tutorials dedicated to pattern-free shorts as there are for shorts. I was initially planning to sew shorts for my boyfriend (so he’d stop wearing his high-school pants 10 years post graduation) – but there are even less patterns or conversations about male pants and shorts. Apparently blogging about men’s clothing is boring? So I figured, ‘use a pair of comfy shorts as a pattern’ was clearly the way to go. I fired up YouTube, found This Tutorial, and assumed the ready position.

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So I got out my handy dandy black fabric. This is the sum total of my clothing fabric – 4 metres of black stuff that feels like shorts/pants and 6 metres of pale blue stuff that feels like a shirt/blouse. (I really need to learn more about fabrics – I’ll get there.) The grey at the bottom is a medium weight waterproof grey that I have bought for bag lining – It wouldn’t make good clothes. I’ve discovered that clothing fabric is remarkably hard. I feel like I need to go to Spotlight and spend a few hours just touching fabric to get a grasp of what on earth people mean when they use words like ‘rayon’ or ‘cotton knit’ or ‘jersey’ and so on. I can tell you neither of the fabrics I have are stretch, but that’s about it.

I got to cutting around a pair of super comfy gym shorts. The first side I cut using my fabric scissors. (Thanks to my Mum who quilts I have a collection of sewing tools from long before BTI.) I cannot cut a straight line…. It was pretty bad. The second side I cut using my rotary cutter like I have done for a dozen bag pieces. That worked a lot better. If you don’t have a rotary cutter – one sewing noob to another – totally get one.

I sewed all all the seams up. Fronts together, backs together, legs together – I felt really accomplished. Using first a straight stitch and then a zigzag just like the internet said. Its pretty good, I don’t think it’ll unravel but my zigzag doesn’t seem to have done a great job at stopping fraying edges. I think I was too far in from the edge. This all took about 5 times as long as any tutorial – even the ones that say ‘beginner’. But about 2 hrs of work later I had seams!

Composite Pant Seams

Look at Me go! Shorts. They are so Easy. I don’t know what everybody is talking about. I can do this sewing thing. SO EASY. I’m AMAZING.

But then I tried them on….

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The fit is about as terrible as this photo of it. (Sadly I live at alone and take photos with my phone.) They were way too tight. I didn’t bust seems getting them on… but it was a close call.

However a functional pair of pants was just the optional bonus of this expedition into sewing so I kept going. Onwards; into the unknown. I sewed up the bottom seams.. Using red cotton because the delightfully forgiving black fabric which looks identical on both sides and completely hides black thread was driving me a bit mental and I wanted to be able to see some of my stitches. This was a terrible idea – my stitches look awful. But I did a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch then folded them double up and stitched again. I like the way the red looks on the black.

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Such pretty red stitches

Then I did the elastic waist band. That definitely felt like it could have been easier. I made a HUGELY wide hole… In appropriately wide. but threading the elastic was still a menace. Push one inch in pull half an inch out. I got there in the end. The end result was shorts.

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Ultimately I made, completely by accident. A pair of shorts for my boyfriend. They are bordering on too large for him, in part because I seem to have cut the elastic about 6 inches too long, and even after shortening it seemed too long. (Shortening it did involve unpicking – which made me feel oddly accomplished – can unpick clothing seams.)

I’d show a picture of him wearing them, however he has stated that I’m not allowed to post a picture of him wearing shorts until I make a pair with pockets in them. Next time I’m going to try that. (I’ve actually already started this project and I’ll drop the hint that it’s not going all that well.)

Made with care, worn with ease.

Until again.

Uncategorized

Blog Time Immemorial (BTI)

Hi! Welcome! How’s things? Good I hope, though you’ve somehow stumbled on a fledgling blog’s first post so maybe things are going a bit slow? Then again maybe you are curious about sewing. Maybe its years down the track and you’ve methodically tracked down the first post of my hugely successful blog out of genuine interest.

The purpose of this blog, my blog, Sew Unseamly, is to record the life and times of my sewing adventures. I’ll come and I’ll go (a hazard of my work) but if there’s something on my sewing table, there’ll be a post about it.

For my first post I figured a ‘full disclosure’ of my prior sewing experience is essentially to cement my location in sewing growth. I’m a not-quite-beginner. I ‘discovered’ sewing a few months ago and have made a few things, not a heap. I intend for this blog to document me trying new things and growing in the faith of ‘sewing’.

This post has been entitled Blog Time Immemorial for a very specific reason. I intend for BTI to be my reference to the thoughts, feelings and experiences I had towards sewing, or tried in sewing prior to the creation of this blog. Time immemorial is a fun legal term for ‘outside legal memory’ which if you are a history buff (or – like me – a watcher of QI) you’ll know was once fixed as beginning with the reign of King Richard I on 6 July 1189. That’s no good to me, they certainly weren’t using Janome sewing machines or spandex in 1189. So instead I’ve created my own Blog Time Immemorial, dated today, 11 Apr 2017.

This is the beginning. (I promise I’ll include photos of my previous projects in my next post.)