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what was going to be and what was

It ended up looking a bit like this but not really, mostly because I was wearing it 🙂

This is what it was going to be. I love the pattern and the range of style options. It’s elegant enough for a wedding but not intimidatingly difficult. However, tracing and cutting required more space than I presently have or can create. This is what it ended up being. I’ve made it at least twice before, all the pattern pieces were already cut out and it is indeed an easy sew. It is, however, a 1980’s pattern, which means quite loose-fitting. Perfect. I wanted something more fitted. I measured carefully and reread the instructions, as well as measuring an RTW dress I use for work to ensure that the finished measurements wouldn’t be indecently tight. It worked out well. Both Dr B and YoungB were surprised by how nice the finished article was. (Don’t you just love their confidence in my ability?!)

My wonderful, expensive fabric behaved beautifully and sewed up a treat. Except, sadly, when I was sewing on the right side of the fabric (eg, to make the neckband or hem, or doing any topstitching). Then, no matter what I adjusted, there were skipped stitches. I tweaked all sorts of things, to no avail. Finally with time running away from me, the light fading, my neck aching (from bending over all that unpicking) and my patience fraying ever so slightly, I decided that I’d simply use a smaller stitch length, sew slowly and steadily and accept whatever I got at the end of that process. It didn’t do away with the skipped stitches, but it did minimise their number. And I accepted that result. (You’d have to look closely to notice the skipped stitches.)

I made version 1, including the long sleeves because, you know, cool afternoons  and evenings up in the HIlls, winter on its way and all of that. And, as I said, my end result was, as intended, a great deal more fitted than the envelope photo would suggest.

I changed the neckline entirely. I have interfacing somewhere, but since tidying my sewing room I’m no longer certain of its whereabouts. Therefore, I decided to do something whose construction was akin to that of a t-shirt collar, but I made it with a slight twist. I let the dress hang for a couple of nights before I finally hemmed it. Dr B measured it for me, and estimated I’d need to remove 5 inches. That sounded like rather a lot! I shortened it by 4 inches and turned up a half-inch hem. That gave me a flattering, just-below-knee hemline. Funnily enough, I don’t recall shortening it last time, and I haven’t marked the pattern to indicate that I did. But I haven’t got any taller in the intervening 33-odd years.

Rather than leave it languishing in the wardrobe simply because the neckline could use adjusting, I’ve worn it on Board meeting days.

Also, partly because I have T. Rex arms, I had to chop off some of the sleeve length. I hadn’t made the long sleeved version before, but I ought to have remembered the 1980’s penchant for Very Long Sleeves and taken heed from the pushed-up sleeves in the photo. No harm done and the dress finished in ample time (honestly, I reckon I was done with the last of the threads by mid-morning on the day of the late-afternoon wedding). We ended up being a party in blue because Dr B and YoungB both elected to wear blue shirts. It wasn’t done intentionally to match my dress, merely serendipity.

Serendipity had us all in blue, just like half the wedding party.

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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Sewing

 

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toobs and tubes

YoungB [thought he’d] lost his original toob. I said I’d make him another. He promptly came up with a couple of eminently reasonable suggestions for modifications. For example, he asked, would it be possible to make it so that half was double thickness and half single thickness, meaning he could simply turn it around in the really, really cold weather for extra protection and warmth on his nose? Sure, I said. I even offered to make the second layer in a different colour so it would be immediately obvious to him which bit was the thicker half. The original toob has since turned up, hidden under several others and a jacket or two, on the back of Dr B’s chair. We don’t think it was done maliciously; we know very well that Dr B has a habit of assuming that anything at all likely looking is his! I think I’m probably off the hook for immediate purposes with the toob, though it would be interesting to see if I can come up with something like the one YoungB is after. I’ll update on that if and when it happens.

Tubes? Not good for me if they’re skirts. I never did look terribly good in pencil skirts, which have a tendency to slide around because I have the wrong shape to keep them in place; and I’ve been stung before trying to make a “simple” tube skirt. The differential between my waist and my hip is too great for any of those simple solutions to produce a respectably wearable result. Out comes the old Justknits pattern #96867 and a bit of tinkering takes place. But still, you know, I’ve had a lot of years to accept that a tube skirt is not my best friend. All the same, with winter well and truly knocking on the door – I say that at a time where the week’s outdoor temperatures have been in the mid-20s; most unseasonable indeed for late May – I’m sure I’ll be able to come to terms with any less than happy outcomes of shape if it means having a warm skirt that I can wear at home and/or abroad (in the sense of ‘out of the house’). Then it’s just a matter of finding time and being dedicated and all that. I’ve got as far as cutting out and pinning a new, winter skirt. Getting around to sewing it? Yeah, not so much.

But I did manage to thread my new machine and fill a bobbin. Do you reckon that counts as progress?

 
 

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stress differentials

Eldest Aunt spent Christmas with us and at one stage she and I were talking about dressmaking. I was interested to hear that she’d actually made a lot of her own clothes when she was at school. I wasn’t altogether surprised though, because she’d attended a girls’ technical high school and dressmaking was a compulsory subject throughout her years there. However, I was startled when she admitted that she’d never worn anything she’d made because, according to her, she’s always been such a perfectionist that none of it had ever been good enough. I’ll bet it would have been at least as good as anything RTW that she might have bought; and I am quite certain that insecurity rather than perfectionism drove her refusal to wear anything she’d made (I accept that some might posit a case for perfectionism springing from insecurity and/or vice versa). I was curious as to why she hadn’t been forced to do so (money having been expended on purchasing the fabric, you would have thought) and, yes, aghast at the wastefulness.

In my family, if money had been spent on buying fabric to make clothes, you jolly well wore them whether you liked them or not. Having said that, I should point out that most of the clothes were made by Great Aunt, whose sewing if not perfect was certainly excellent and highly professional. I have a wonderful dressing-gown sleeve lurking in the scrap bag I inherited from her. For some reason, she must have cut something wrongly, because I know that the matching dressing gown (Youngest Aunt’s, I seem to recall) had the requisite number of sleeves. But the seams are beautifully flat-felled and so neat that I keep that little sleeve to provide inspiration. Everything Great Aunt did was of that calibre, whether it was her sewing, knitting or embroidery.

As to not wearing things, I recall having an absolute meltdown over a particularly hated hat – no, not one that anyone had made, just one that I hated – but in those days, hats were obligatory apparel for women in churches so I had little choice but to wear it. It would not have occurred to me that refusing to wear a handmade article of clothing was ever an option. It wasn’t an option. There was a new garment that had been made, which fitted because of care taken with measurements before and during the making; and, heck, who could argue with the professional finish on those woollen dresses with vintage lace collars?

You could disagree as much as you liked with the fashion that dictated crimplene as a fabric of choice, but the dress made from it? You wore it. You could dislike the styles of the day, as I frequently did, but if a new dress had been made from a current pattern, whether it be something for Sunday best or merely a school uniform? You wore it, no matter what. And I did. Maybe, in spite of my more rebellious nature, I knew when I’d be backing a loser by even attempting to refuse to wear a handmade dress, whereas Eldest Aunt clearly won her quiet battle.

I may have been spoilt, having so many handmade clothes. I probably was. Other people my age, the majority of whom wore RTW clothes but perhaps a greater percentage of handknits than today’s youth, were in no way jealous; mostly, they were dismissive of things that were not shop-bought. The world is a strange place and seems to have come full circle. For years, YoungB was happy to wear things I’d made for him, even pleading with me occasionally TO make things for him (“Could you make me a Ninja helmet, Mummy? Today?” Black knitting, at night. Aagh! That’s the one on the left below; both made using my go-to Patons balaclava pattern).

A popular item, the black balaclava, even if you’re not a bank-robber!

It’s not so very long ago that he was as excited to get new track trousers I’d sewn as he might these days be to take delivery of new motorcycle leathers. And his present genuine appreciation of, for example, his grey sweatshirt, recent PJ trousers and the right-hand black balaclava (same pattern, different size, different yarn) to wear under his motorcycle helmet, or the toob that was even more useful for motorcycling purposes, represents one of those strange turnarounds that make life such an exciting challenge.

I have had dips and swings in my dedication to things handmade if it meant I had to make them myself but I’ve never really stopped. Eldest Aunt now neither sews nor knits because she finds those activitiees too stressful. She channels her energies into yoga and a cafe lifesyle because that’s what helps her to deal with stress. Me? I pick up my knitting or I go and sew a few lavender bags. What about you?

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Knitting, Musing, Sewing

 

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when the answer to “Why?” is, “Because.”

So why haven’t I sewn that new top I desperately need? Because I’ve been sewing something needed even more desperately by someone else, namely a long-sleeved T-shirt for Nonno. It’s too complicated to explain why he needed it so urgently, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate that, as we’re coming into summer here, thermal undies are more than a touch difficult to track down in the shops; Nonno needing something to keep him warm presented a dilemma that shopping couldn’t truly resolve. This is not thermal but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s long-sleeved and it’s made from a cosy knit fabric.

Although not sewn according to instructions, the neckband is tidy enough

Why is it blue? Because that was the colour of the fabric I already had in my stash. Why is the fabric so wrinkled? Because it had been laundered and folded less carefully than it should have been and then carted around the countryside a few times. Why didn’t I wash it again to get rid of the wrinkles? Because that would have required more time than I had available to me. Why didn’t I pop it through the tumble dryer for a while? Because that probably would have shrunk it. As a last resort, why didn’t I iron it? Ah, well, as a matter of fact I did iron it, so there’s one question I can’t answer with a because. However, I can tell you that because I ironed it, it’s not nearly as wrinkled as it might have been (or, indeed, was prior to being ironed)!

I didn’t have a pattern for a long-sleeved T-shirt with raglan sleeves, so I had to nut out what additional taper might give me the required result (loose sleeve, no cuffs) using a basic short-sleeved T-shirt pattern (one I’d used to make a sports day top for YoungB some years ago). I sort of followed the construction instructions on the pattern and I sort of didn’t. I sewed in the sleeves, which the pattern called for. Then it wanted me to put the neckband on, but I really like to do that last.

I sewed all the seams and overlocked them as well. Why? Because I wanted to give them extra strength (this will be subject to rougher laundering than it would be if I were doing it at home). Then I did the hems and ran into difficulties with the white thread I was using for the topstitching. Why did I use white thread? Because I didn’t have any blue and I suspect I’ve never had any. I also suspect that I had trouble with this thread when I first bought it (it’s a Coats Drima Polyester thread, so certainly not the cheap rubbish I often use; and it’s not listed on their page which might mean it’s discontinued). I seem to recall it misbehaving with my twin needle even when it was new though I struggled on and topstitched the garment I was making (accompanied by significant amounts of muttering and unladylike language, I don’t doubt).

Then lastly I applied the neckband and I didn’t align its seam with the left shoulder seam of the T-shirt as instructed. Rather than matching notches, I quartered both band and neckline and matched up that way. It’s a funny thing, I suppose, but I like my neckband seams centred at the back and much prefer the way they look. It might simply be that, because that’s how I learnt to do it when I first started sewing with knit fabrics, that’s what has become second nature for me. Do you have a preference for either method, or do you mix and match according to what you’re making?

In any case, I overlocked the band – it wasn’t ribbing, just the stretch fabric – then sewed it. I’m sure some folk would be able to do it all in one smooth operation but I’m not that clever with my overlocker. I’ve done it once or twice, but I then sometimes have trouble with the topstitching. If I do it this way, I don’t tear my hair out battling with the bulk (you can’t trim away all of it) and trying to negotiate tricky curves. Anyway, I think the end result is neat enough.

This morning it was all ready and waiting for Dr B to take to Nonno but it’s still here. Why? Because Dr B has been running around all day doing a thousand other things. So why did I break my neck rushing to get it finished? Because that’s just how I like to do things, I think! Why? Why, because!

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Sewing

 

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