Saturday, January 3, 2015

My first year sewing: In Review

So, my first post of 2015 will be a look back to 2014, the year I bought my sewing machine, my first pattern ever, and the the year I learned that patterns are not nearly as scary as I always thought.

When I got my first apartment at the age of 23, my mom gave me her old sewing machine, and I started making curtains, pillows, tablecloths, even a slipcover for my tiny Pier One couch/futon. None of them were all that great, but considering I was winging it, everything was fine for my purposes. (Except the slipcover, which never quite worked!). I even made a tree skirt with piping, which I use to this day and is really quite impressive given that I knew nothing and I made up the pattern myself. The only complaint to my more discerning eye today is that the piping seam is on the front of the tress skirt. Now I know better ...

Anyway, it has been a good year of sewing for me. I exceeded my goals set at the start of 2014, although as I had no idea what to expect, the goals were just random guesses of what I could accomplish.

In hopes of improving my blog consistency (which all comes down to the difficulty of getting good photos of my finished makes), here is a final round-up of my first year of sewing.

Overall, I am really pleased. While I cannot even remotely compare to so many of the sewists out there (one blogger described her year of 23 makes as measly!!!), I am pleased that I made a total of 16 items, of which 11 are liked and have been worn. (Another two may be wearable with some adjustments ...) I have 2 UFOs, one due to issues with fraying fabric and one due to sizing and the fact that it is a summer skirt that I cannot be bothered with in these cold temps!

My favorite makes of the year are my denim Mortmain Dress by Gather Patterns and my fuchsia Hazel dress by Victory. My biggest fail is probably my second Chardon skirt (the first being wonderful!), as it seemed cursed from the outset and should have been easy as it was my second make from that pattern. Oh well ...

Here is a run-down of my makes since my last post. Apologies for the lack of photos, but I will add them as I can! I really need to work out a system here for taking pics of my new wardrobe as it is being built!!!

Deer and Doe Jupe Chardon

I made the Deer and Doe Jupe Chardon from a lovely and heavy linen that I bought in Paris. Purple, and I added the band at the bottom in light grey. This make came out really well, the pleats are perfect, and the fit is really good. The zip was a bit tricky and took two tries, and as I did not know about interfacing for the zip area, it is unfortunately fraying a bit, as the linen frays like mad!!! I love this skirt and will wear it more, but I need to replace the zip and deal with the fraying. However, as the skirt fits like a glove, I am not sure what to do, as there is not a lot of room for taking it in a bit. Lesson certainly learned in working with linen! I have worn this skirt once and will wear it many more times once I fix the zipper.
Learned: more zipper practice, using interfacing on the zip area, the fraying properties of linen, pleats.

Deer and Doe Jupe Chardon
As I loved this pattern so much, I decided to make a second, out of a light blue, polka dotted heavy-weight linen-like material from Goldhawk Road in London. I do not know what happened but this skirt was cursed from the start. First, I cut into the fabric without realizing that I had folded the selvedges wrong and was not cutting on grain. Fortunately, this fabric seems to have no stretch at all, so it seemed okay. Then, I still do not know what I did, but I messed up the pleats because the skirt was way to small. I let out two pleats in the back. I do not think it is noticeable, but I know and just do not love it because it is not even. Then, my topstiching around the pleats is terrible!!! And it shows because the thread was a bit darker. The zip went in really well, thanks to the free Zipper class on Craftsy, by Sunni. It is a great instruction video, and free too! I watch it before inserting any zips!!! So, in the end, the skirt is okay but not great, so I have not worn it yet. It was very frustrating because I thought making something a second time would mean it would be even better, but perhaps this was a case of being over confident and not careful enough. I certainly learned a lesson there!
Learned: not to rush and take your time, even on second makes, more zip techniques, pay attention to the selvedge (as Gertie says, think and measure before going whak! whak! into your fabric.)

Colette Sencha
Again, thinking something I had already made would be a cinch (ha ha!) the second time, I was again proven wrong with my second Sencha, this one in a purple cotton, super soft and supple. I had purchased it in Paris, having loved the blue Sencha and wanting to make several more, as I always need more blouses. I decided to make a smaller size in the upper chest, grading out to the original size in the hips. I thought this might help with the needed SBA, since I still really do not understand how to make this alteration. That was a mistake!!! It fits just a bit too tight in the neck, and honestly, it looks a bit tight across the bust. With the buttons down the back, it is hard to get on and off, and I cannot seem to button the middle button once it is on, so I need my husband to help me get dressed. There is also something off about the darts at the waist. One seems to be backwards from the other, but I cannot quite tell. I have not worn this one at all, although I am still hopeful. With a good ironing, and as I lost a small bit of weight, we will see ...
Learned: I need to figure out the SBA, more beautiful button holes, did some extra interfacing based on learnings from the last, as the buttons were too heavy and needed some reinforcement

Frou Frou Noisette
This company has the most adorable packaging, and I am a sucker for packaging. So I bought the Noisette pattern, wanting a sweet little nightgown as part of my handmade wardrobe. The pattern is in French, and despite my decent command of the language, I did not understand a few things. Also, as this nightie does not have any zips, buttons or other closures, it needs a tiny bit of stretch to fit over the shoulders and not be too lose around the bust. I am not really happy with the fit overall for this reason and wonder if cutting on the bias would make a difference? The straps also came unsewn within two wearings, and I could not figure out one technique that helps cinch the nightie under the bust. Overall, this is sitting in a drawer and will probably be cut up for scraps, facings, etc. Dommage!
Learned: need to understand cutting on the bias a bit better, and need to work on my French vocab for sewing!
UPDATE: I bought this pattern for a colleague at work who is also starting to sew. She made hers and had the exact same issue with the tie under the bust, and her French is much better than mine. So, this may be a pattern problem, not operator error!!!

Sewaholic Alma Blouse
I love the concept of Sewaholic, as I have wide hips and a smaller top. I was excited to make the Alma blouse after reading so many great reviews of Tasia’s patterns. I used a blue shirting material with tiny red flecks in it, and I bought matching red cotton for the belt. Both came from Annecy, France. Overall, I really like this make, although I got a little aggressive on the sizing so it was a bit tight for me. It fits a bit better these last few weeks, wooohooo. Yea for Pilates! I did not do so well on the zipper on the side. First, I put one in that was not an invisible zip. I did not realize it was not an invisible one, and though it did look fine, I really wanted to follow the pattern and use the invisible zip. So out it came, and to the store to buy an invisible zip. Which I put in wrong, with one side twisted. Out it came a second time, and the third time was a charm. Except a tiny bit of the tail of the zipper tape got caught in the seam and sticks out the tiniest bit. I did not notice until I had finished and as it is under my arm, I have been too lazy to fix it. But I will. I really love this make and am pleased with it overall. I have worn it twice and I have plans to make some of the other versions.
Learned: Pay attention to the zip! Don’t be vain with sizing!

Colette Crepe Dress

I decided to use the Crepe dress pattern to copy a dress I saw in the window of Bongenie, a super expensive store here in Lausanne. The dress in the window was a pink linen, with a sash at the waist, costing over 400 CHF!!!. The Crepe pattern was an almost perfect match. I bought the fabric here in Lausanne, so it was a bit expensive, and I was nervous about the outcome, but overall, it is pretty good and a lot cheaper than Bongenie. The top is still a bit big, and my husband says the dress is a bit boring, but I like it. I have worn it once and received lots of compliments, perhaps because my pink polka dot shoes matched so beautifully.
Learned: French seams on the skirt (thanks Gertie), still not thrilled with the facing on the sleeves and neck

GBSB Pencil Skirt
So once again trying a second version of a pattern I liked, I made the GBSB pencil skirt, this time out of a thick cotton (?) I bought on Goldhawk Road. It is beige with fuschia velvet fleur-de-lys-like swirls. It is so beautiful. Actually, I bought the same material but with a teal velvet a few months back, with a plan to make the Mortmain dress. But I want to make it in a lesser fabric first, to test it out before going whak-whak into the lovely teal. Anyway, back to the fuschia version. When I was back on Goldhawk Road and saw the fuschia, I just couldn’t resist. I bought one meter, and the salesman asked me what I could make with a meter. A pencil skirl of course! I am proud to report that the second version of this skirt is great! It is an easy pattern, with only 6 pieces, and it comes together quite simply. I cut it out on a Sunday afternoon, but it was 3 weeks before I could sew it together. I am pleased with the zip, this time a real invisible zip. The only mistake I made was sewing the waistband facing on backwards, which was just me not paying close attention. An easy fix and no one will ever know! I have the perfect shoes too ... two pairs actually. The top of the zip is a bit wonky, but as I plan to wear a sweater with the skirt, no one will ever see it, and truly, it is not too bad! I am now highly motivated to make the Mortimer so I can use the teal fabric. It is so lovely!
Learned: more practice on an invisible zip, still need to pay better attention!!!

Mortmain Dress by Gather Patterns
This is my best make to-date!!! I want to make this pattern in the beige material with teal velvet flocking that I bought on Goldhawk Road, but I felt I should make a toile first. I had bought some nice thin denim in the coupon bin at Manor and thought this could make a good wearable muslin, as I cannot get excited about sewing a muslin with muslin. It feels like such a waste of precious sewing time!!! Anyway, for this pattern, I was extra careful with the seam allowances, the sizing, everything, and it paid off. Everything fit together perfectly and fit me perfectly. I love the bodice, and I also love the pleated skirt. Maybe next time I will eliminate the pleats at the side seams, as I do not need any extra there with my hips!!!
My only issue: the exposed zip. While easy to insert, there was a big hole at the bottom which I could not figure out how to fix or why it occurred. It did not help that I had an exposed zip that separated, but I could not find a fixed zip anywhere in that length!!! After almost crying at the hole in my skirt, I put it away for a few days, brainstormed lots of ideas  to fix it, and in the end, sewed the back  center seam up a bit higher and in an bit more, to cover it. It is not perfect, but there is no hole and I think it works really well!!! LOVE this pattern and plan to make it many times!!!
Learned: better attention to exact seam allowances, exposed zips

Hazel Dress by Victory
This was the first dress pattern I bought, but I only made it now because it took a long time to find the right fabric. I originally bought some green cotton voile and some black cotton voile, thinking this would be perfect. While the colors would be great for the color blocking on the Hazel, I do not think the fabric would really work, being too thin and without enough body to hang correctly. Then, one day I saw Ladystitcher’s version, made in a fuchsia crepe, without the colorblocking. I love it so I shamelessly stole it. We do not live near each other so I doubt we will ever run into each other wearing it on the same day!!! I hope she does not mind!
Anyway, back to the dress, I made it and am really pleased with the final. It looks nice, not too shapeless, which I do not care for as a style for me, and am looking forward to wearing it. Of course, I made a really big mistake, in that I sewed the neck tie and facing on wrong, so they were on the outside. I had to unpick them, which is hard with the crepe I used, as it is very fragile and frays terribly. I probably need to do something to the inside seams since I do not have a serger. I pinked them but am not sure this will really hold up. I like the lining technique on the dress, although it does feel a bit bulky at the waist. But I am afraid to trim the seam allowances too much, for fear they will fray completely. Will have to closely watch this with wearing. I made one change in the order of directions, sewing the hems of the sleeves before sewing the side seams. I find it too hard to sew these small holes on the machine and much easier to sew them flat. Does anyone else do that? It seems so much more logical to me ...
Overall, I am happy with the outcome. I will wear it this week and see how it goes!

While I was making this, Coletterie posted a piece on the blog on if you have one thing in sewing that always messes you up. For her, I think it was cutting. But, the article really resonated, because I cannot even count how many times I have sewn things together backwards, without the right sides facing. I do not know if it will improve as I build my skills or if I am just cursed with this!!! Probably, I just need to slow down and read the directions more carefully and double check everything before sewing. Some basting would probably be a good step too!!! We will see if I improve in this area! But glad to know that we all have our sewing Achilles Heel!

UPDATE: I now realize why it is important to sew the cuffs together and then hem. The edge of the cuff now stands out a bit, so I will need to apply some bias tape or something to the seam ... But I wore the dress for my birthday and got loads of compliments. I really love it and felt great wearing it!

Renfrew Top, By Sewaholic
I cut the pieces out, view C with the cowl neck and the long sleeves from view A, before I went to San Francisco for 11 days for work. When I got back, it was another 1.5 weeks before I could get to sewing it. It is a very quick sew, even for me, but I still took 2 days and tried to take my time with it. And I love it! The fit is great, the style is great. I love the cowl, which is a style I really like and wear a lot of. I used a pink and white striped knit that I bought on Goldhawk Road, and it is soft and the perfect weight for the shirt. 

The sleeves are a bit long and the cuffs are quite loose, but I still really like it. I will adjust those next time, but this will definitelz be the first of many. I am more and more impressed with Sewaholic each time I make something. I cannot wait to try the trousers, but I am not quite ready for this challenge!!!

I wore my new Renfrew out for some final Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, and it was very festive. I look a bit like a candy cane ... in a good way!

* * *

As for 2015 goals, I want to exceed my 16 makes and improve my percentage of wearables. I also want to continue improving my techniques and learn lots of new approaches. I will not set a number (although 24 makes, 2 per month seems reasonable, given my intense work and travel schedule), so we will just see what happens. I also really want to get a good system for taking photos of my makes, so I can actually blog them and contribute to the amazing sewing community that has taught me so much in 2014!!! Thanks, everyone!

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