I consider my sewing hobby as beginning in March 2013 when I started attending six months of sewing classes. It wasn’t actually the beginning of my sewing adventures and at the time I didn’t really know that my interest in sewing would turn into a large component of my life. But if I had to draw a line in the sand then I would mark that date as the beginning.
Shortly before that beginning I tried to make an elephant. I saw a nice thing in a craft stall and wanted to make that nice thing, with no regard to level of difficulty or lack of skill. I really had no idea what I was doing and the result is pretty terrible.
I’ve always thought about revisiting this pattern (by Heather Bailey) in five years time to see my improvement but I kept getting distracted by making the next garment. But when I shortened a dress to a top I had a nice big strip of fabric that seemed perfect for an elephant. So here it is, what 5+ years of passion and hard work can achieve:
Making a soft toy is a lot quicker than making a garment but I think it is much more challenging. I’m so proud of myself.
There are quite a few me-made garments that I simply don’t wear, though thankfully that number has declined as I have gained experience. Some of the garments are simply awful – bad pattern, wrong fabric choice, bad sewing. There were also some garments that aren’t all that bad, I just don’t wear them. So I’ve been asking myself: why? What is it that is stopping me from putting the garment on?
This self-reflection has been very useful and has enabled me to modify and “rescue” some pieces. Though not all of them. Take this top. It marks a real turning point for me when I started to take sewing seriously and started to actually press the fabric properly. That was the best garment I had ever made at the time and I am really proud of it. But I have only worn it a few times but will happily wear a top of the same pattern that was not sewn as well. Why? The instant answer is the ruffles – they don’t work with my cardigans. (Also not a fan of the tie). But if I removed the ruffles (and tie), would I start wearing it? No. There’s just something about the print that doesn’t gel with me. As special and meaningful as this top is to me, it isn’t me and I will not wear it.
Some of the changes have been really easy. My very first piece that I ever made felt too long. Raising the hem above the knee has turned the skirt into one of my favourites and gets plenty of complements (except I’ve gained weight so it’s a bit tighter than it should be). I’ve also turned a few dresses into tops. (Excuse the bad photos. I stopped trying)
Some modifications are more complicated. Those are the ones I have sitting in my to-do pile for months. This dress is just too small and a slight weight gain has made it unwearable. But I absolutely love the fabric and didn’t want to give it up. So I (eventually) cut some strips from my leftover material and added it to the sides. The material is dark enough that it probably isn’t obvious and even if people do notice it, they’ll probably think it’s an intentional design element. I still feel like I look pregnant in the dress but I can comfortably wear it. Yay!
And then there’s pants. I’ve made a total of two pants and neither of them fit. One of them I made for class and are made using yuck cheap material so I see no point revisiting them. The other one was made in 2016 and it is a dog’s breakfast. The size was wrong and I had to expose the zip (which is not a good colour match for the fabric) to make it “work”. And I don’t know what I did with the waistband but in my attempt to make it thinner I managed to cut it way too small so the pants ride up and the crotch isn’t all that comfortable. I did wear the pants for a few years (with tops that covered the zip) but eventually it became unwearable.
There wasn’t much material to work with but I took the seams as far as I could and had enough fabric to cut a new waistband. The zip still had to be exposed but I chose something that is a better colour match. It still doesn’t look the best and I did fail at lining up the waistband but it is a huge improvement. The difference is striking! And so comfortable too. I have a few more years of wearable pants 🙂
Patterns: New Look 6705, 6843, 6345, 6431 Craftsy’s Sewing With Knits by Meg McElwee Simplicity 2373
We’re already into February and I’ve only managed to finish one garment. This dress is made using fabric I purchased at Tomato Fabrics in Japan and Burda 7739. It really is the wrong choice – the fabric is too light for the pattern. But it is what I envisioned when I chose the fabric so I stubbornly tried to make it work.
I really struggled with making this dress. The fabric was absolutely awful to lay pattern pieces on. I think I tried four times before I decided that it was good enough. I also got an overlocker/serger for Christmas/birthday (I love you mum!) so this was my first knit dress using an overlocker. Easy to use but perhaps hard to master. The ultimate result is a slightly wonky dress but I don’t think people tend to notice so I don’t mind.
I couldn’t find a zip that matched the main fabric colour but I did find one that matched the pink dots. Which led me to deciding to expose the zip. I think in these situations it’s better to make it a design feature rather than try to hide it and have bits of coloured zip pocking through as you move. The problem here is that the zip doesn’t sit nicely so it looks wonky. But whatever.
The collar was a total pain. The fabric really is too light to handle the weight of it but I really really wanted it. There were two problems: 1) the collar highlighted the wonkyness of the dress 2) I could not for the life of me match the collar to the neckline. It’s the wrong damn shape! As I said, I really wanted that stupid collar so I ended up cutting a new shape and then attaching it by eye do that it looks symmetrical and in line with the rest of the dress. The collar does pull the dress because of its weight but I am really pleased that I was able to make it work well enough. No regrets.
The end of the year tends to spark a restlessness in me. I like having a fresh start with the new year so I try hard to finish up all my creative projects (and video games…). But I have too many projects and it just isn’t possible. They hang over my head and I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough and oh crap Christmas is almost here and I have so many Christmas parties and we’ve just agreed to dog-sit over across the festive period and I just want to sleep through this stupid month…
So here I am, trying to tick things off the list. Hooray, I completed a thing! That thing is New Look 6452, made using my lovely new Japanese fabric. I am in love with my new fabrics and so excited that I finally get to wear one.
Choosing the right pattern size is not my strong point so this year I’ve been making toiles for most of my garments. For the most part I’ve made no adjustments after making toiles but this time the shoulders were extremely tight! I ended up grading the pattern from size 12 to size 8. Thank goodness I did make a toile!
I was planning on including the cord across the chest. But it looked awful. So I stuck with lace, which I think is a good choice. It was my first time sewing lace and I don’t think I did a good job. Thankfully the stitches are not visible. My sewing machine really struggled, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising as it is an entry-level machine. I later realised that one of the walking foot screws was loose. Ohhhhh
I was very excited to browse Japanese fabrics. I mean, Tokyo has a Fabric Town. How amazing is that? And I had heard online about Tomato Fabrics, which sounds like five floors (plus sister stores) of heaven. As luck would have it, we went to Fabric Street on Health and Sports Day so a lot of stores were closed. Including Tomato Fabrics ;_;
I was still blown away by the shops that were open. There is so much gorgeous Japanese fabric. And a lot of it is really good value (from an Australian perspective at least). I had packed a minimal wardrobe to ensure room for purchases but I was mindful how quickly fabric can add up and I did also want to visit Kitchen Town (again, amazing! I seriously regret not buying more things there) so I tried to set up rules to stop me from getting carried away and Buy All The Things.
In Takayama we managed to stumble across a fabric store by accident. It was geared more towards making yakutas and selling made ones to silly tourists. Which leads me to the issue of hand gestures. A British couple asked the shopkeeper how many meters they needed to make a kimono and the woman responded with “six” and gestured in the Japanese style – one finger resting on the open palm of her other hand. Seven would be two fingers on an open palm, eight would be three fingers etc.
The couple interpreted this gesture as five. I guess they thought the woman was pointing to her open palm? Regardless, there was so much confusion that the couple ended up leaving with 4 1/2 meters…I just don’t know how that happened…
Anyway, I was very torn by the small selection of fabric on offer and ended up getting a nice one with a print called San Go, which corresponds to the number of vertical and horizontal lines (three and five). And I got a few pre-cuts that I thought might be nice to make into bags (except I haven’t made a bag before so now I’m not so sure…).
We had time at the end of the holiday to revisit Fabric Town and check out Tomato Fabrics. To describe it as overwhelming was an understatement. There was so much fabric that my brain shut down. I found so much fabric that I wanted…but then couldn’t find them again…I set out to get stripped knit and ended up walking out with a dotty knit…It is a common issue that the more choice you’re given, the less capable you are making any choice beyond walking away with nothing. So I guess I should be amazed that I got anything, right?
So there we go – over 20 meters of fabric for 18715yen (~$235AUD). Now what to do with them? One of the first things I did after arriving home (after napping of course) was to go through my pattern stash and pull out anything that felt suitable for my new fabric. Only four patterns stood out, two oldies and two I haven’t tried yet.
The other fabrics will take a bit more thought. Lander pants? Morgan boyfriend jeans? Any suggestions are much appreciated.
I have fallen in love with Butterick B6168. It is a gorgeous pattern that had minimal issues and was really fun to sew. And it fits really well. I recently purchased a pattern adjusting class on Craftsy and was prepared to use this pattern as my first attempt at properly pattern fitting only to discover that I was already happy with the fit!
I made this dress whilst dog/house sitting (for three weeks. I miss my home). The home owners have a similar sewing machine and all I really needed to do was remember to take my own bits and pieces. We do dog sit for these people fairly regularly so I’m glad that I realised I could take my sewing with me.
Is it weird that I chose a fabric colour that matches the dress on the pattern envelope? I feel like it’s weird. Whatever. I like it and I’m really happy. The colour suits my upcoming autumn holiday in Japan. I found the fabric in a pop-up shop selling left-over fabric from a designer clothing store. I don’t know what it is. Some thick synthetic thing that I was worried about burning.
One benefit to the thicker material is that I didn’t need to use interfacing (which is great since I forgot to pack some). But the downside is that the gathers did not look good at the back of the skirt. They are meant to gather at the center but it made an unsightly bulge so I spread the gathers more evenly across. That in turn led to the side seam being prominent in the front. But I actually don’t mind it. It creates an interesting look so I’m just going to call it a design feature 😛
Let’s talk about zips. I don’t know if it’s me or my zipper foot but I have a hard time sewing invisible zips. It is incredibly frustrating that I can’t get it right. I couldn’t find a matching zip for this dress so I tried extra hard to make it invisible. So I did it again with hand-stitching. There is still a little bit of brown zip showing at the waist but it is pretty much invisible. Hooray! With this dress and my first coat I have gone from hating hand-sewing to loving it. It really does make a difference.
And hey, check out my instagram account. It is still fairly new so not too much content but I do hope to add photos there I don’t put up on the blog, such as WIPs.
I have poured months and months into this cost and it is finally done! It felt like it would never end. I was worried that I wouldn’t finish before winter ended.
To be honest, this isn’t the coat that I wanted to make. I pictured a sweet baby blue wool and even selected the lining first, in anticipation of a light colour. I mean how could I possibly pass up pink geese? But for the main fabric I had enough difficulty finding wool (let alone in my budget) and did not find any light colours. People of Melbourne are known for their love of black so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising.
I wasn’t willing to spend a fortune on wool when the colour range was not what I wanted so I shifted my search to other materials. Again, there was a lack in colour range. I despaired. I purchased fabric online (something I haven’t done before) then decided it wasn’t right for this coat. I began to lose hope. In the end I went with a gorgeous suiting with blue and brown threads, creating a more interesting look than a solid colour. And I used the wrong side to make the buttons, which I think it’s a nice, subtle detail.
The toile went smoothly with no alterations needed. (I used calico but quickly ran out do I cut out some old tablecloths my mum use to use for her market stall. Hence the odd look). That was back in April.
The coat itself did not go as well as the toile. I fucked up my seam allowances at the beginning (see this post) so my pockets don’t look as nice as I would like. Things then went smoothly until I got to the buttonholes. Do not talk to me about buttonholes. Urg.
Now my goal is to finish a dress for my overseas holiday in October. Will I finish it on time? Given my track record this year I’m guessing no but let’s find out.