Friday, 19 June 2015

Pondering grief and sewing and blogging and probably some other things too

This is one of the top google images for pondering - an awesome pondering baby!

I'm writing this at 4am after having been awake thinking about it for an hour.  Insomniacs unite! It's one of those things I have had half-formed ideas about for a while but never quite felt like putting them down in writing.  I don't know if I will even hit "publish".

This feels like a weird post to write.  Since the sewing category was added to Bloglovin my blog has got quite a number of new followers (welcome - and thank you for following! If you don't blog you may not realise how much that Bloglovin new follower email makes someone's day!) and this seems like an odd post for people to start with.  It's not my usual way and normal sewing-related service will be resumed shortly!

As I have blogged about before, my dad died in November just over a year after his stage 4 cancer diagnosis.  As he lived in the US and I am in the UK, my brother and I had several last minute dashes to hospital to see him.  His death wasn't a surprise - in fact a year of relative health after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is pretty good as these things go.

I'm not sure I have had a typical grief reaction in that I have (and still do) feel a bit numb to the whole thing.  According to Dr Google, this is fairly normal and part of the grief process but it doesn't feel like anyone else is grieving in the same way.  I have a family who need things to carry on relatively as normal and a demanding job (where I was supposed to change teams in January but a recruitment issue has meant I am actually still doing 70% of my previous role, which trying to take on a new one which has been exhausting.  For 6 months).  This week was my dad's birthday on Wednesday and it's Father's Day here on Sunday so it's been a tough one.

And unlike other forms of blogging, blogging about dressmaking is tied up a lot in how we feel about how we look.  Serious comfort eating since my dad's diagnosis has meant I have put back on most of the weight I was so happy and proud to lose.  Isn't it annoying when you find yourself becoming a statistic for diet failure? And who wants to put pictures of themselves up on the internet when they don't feel good about how they look?  This post is partly inspired by thoughtful posts from Jo Sews and Karen from Didyoumakethat about body and style changes and also posts from Jo Sews and Miss Demeanor about mental health.  The sewing blogging community is such a positive place and it seems like it is rare for people to admit that they are finding it hard.  Maybe increasing use of Instagram perpetuates that - I read recently that IG is seems as a much more positive place than Twitter as it is full of pretty, carefully chosen images of a moment in time, whereas Twitter is a bit more ranty.  The difference to my mind is that a thoughtful Twitter conversation is a lot more supportive than a lot of IG likes (although IG likes are lovely too, don't get me wrong). But it's hard to talk about feelings on IG when there's no pretty picture to accompany them.

In the aftermath of all of this, my sewing productivity has suffered.  I have definitely been finding it hard to summon up the effort to sew after a day at work and long commute home.  I only realised recently that this sort of lethargy is part of the grieving process.  I have tried several ways to bust out of this - making quick and easy gratification projects - multiple makes of patterns I have already fitted, knit projects, quick to sew projects, all of which have resulted in some great and really useful wardrobe additions.  I am currently wrangling with trouser fitting which has been a slow process, partly because trouser fitting is hard, and partly as I'm not happy with how I look and so I'm not sure I want to wear the trousers right now.  However I am almost there and pretty proud of the end result!

All of which brings me to blogging.  I have quite a backlog of things to show you, most of which need photos.  I think I will have a big photo taking session with hubby and get as many of them photographed as possible to show you and then I can move onto new makes. I have some great summer dresses planned which I can't wait to sew up and wear, and I haven't felt like that about a project since my winter coat!

Sometimes I think we have to force ourselves to get back to the things we like doing and build back up that habit again. For me that goes for sewing and blogging.  I used to be very good at sewing for a block of time each day (even if that was half an hour - it's amazing how quickly garments come together over several 30 minute sessions) but I haven't been doing that recently.  I thought that one day I would just feel like doing it, but I guess it's kind of a habit that I have fallen out of the way of doing.

 As for blogging, I'm not really someone who writes weekly or monthly round ups of what other people are doing/ sewing or shopping links just to have something to post on a particular day.  My favourite blogs post when they have something to say or show, rather than posting on a schedule that it says you should have in some blogging guide or other. That's not really going to change around here - I'm not one of those bloggers like Karen or Gillian who has great ideas of topics that the whole community responds to and ends up writing their own blog posts about.  So I'll get back to showing you my self-made garments and hopefully hearing your thoughts, feedback, ideas and comments on them.

Have you ever experienced a lack of desire to sew or take part in another favourite hobby even though you know you love it?  Any tips for getting back into it you can share?

Friday, 5 June 2015

Me Made Everyday!

I hope you all had fun in Me Made May.  I didn't use the Flickr group this year as I have got into Instagram (you can find me on there @jolittletime), but I loved seeing everyone's self made garments being shown off on IG!

I did pretty well with my own pledge (just don't mention that I was meant to have made trousers - I'm working on it OK?).  I wanted to see how far i would get without repeating a garment and did pretty well - my first repeat was on 23rd May.  If the weather had improved and I could have rotated in a few of my more summery items I might have gone all the way to the end.  Still, there's always next year!

I blogged about how much I like this aspect of sewing last year and on Twitter we discussed using the hashtag #memadeeveryday to share outfit photos on IG and Twitter.  I noticed a few more people talking about carrying on photographing their me-mades in real life now that May is over so I thought I would revisit it.  There's no rules, no need to do it 7 days a week, get any kind of fancy photos, or even photograph at all if you don't want to!

The lovely and very talented Katie of What Katie Sews made a blog badge you can grab below or from my sidebar.  Feel free to share it on your blog or whatever social media floats your boat!

Hope to see your me-mades in the wild the rest of the year too!

PS Did you see that there's now a Sewing category on Bloglovin?  See Oona's post about it here and add your blog in so that people can find you more easily!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

In for MeMadeMay

Almost missed signing up this year - April has gone by so fast!

I have struggled with pledging this year as I wear me mades most days anyway and since I wear a lot of dresses it tends to be a whole me made outfit. I do want it to be a challenge so I have decided to tackle my sewing nemesis - trousers!

So here goes:

I, Joanne from Sew Little Time pledge to wear at least one me made item a day for the duration of May. I will also make a well fitted pair of trousers during the month.

I'll be posting outfit pics on Instagram daily (I do this anyway when I am wearing mades, under the #memadeeveryday hashtag). You can find me on IG as @jolittletime. There will be a round up post or two throughout the month but I'll be trying to catch up with the big backlog of items I have waiting to be blogged.

Are you joining in this year? I feel like I haven't seen as many pledges as usual on blogs. Good luck if you are!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Don't look back...

... in anger I heard you say.  

Now that you've got that earworm, let's pretend you are reading this post in early January when I meant to write it rather than the end of January when I actually did.

I was going to write a nice post about top 5 hits and misses and so on, but then I realised - I don't want to look back at 2014 in great detail. It was a crappy year for me personally. My dad was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2013 and  died in late November. Hence the big blog gap and the lack of interest in reviewing the year.

So I'm looking forward at 2015 instead!

There were some good things about 2014 I am going to bring forward:

Wardrobe architect was great! It really helped me to define and refine my style and colour palette. But I struggled when it came to the final task of creating a capsule wardrobe. I think this is because I don't like the idea of a few mix and match pieces. I'm not someone who buys a couple of great quality investment pieces each season. So I'm enjoying the understanding of colours, prints and silhouettes that I gained without making a specific sewing plan out of it.

I loved Marie from A Stitching Odyssey's vintage sewing pledge (pics of my finished garments are at the top of the page). I managed 4 out of the 5 I pledged and the items I made are in pretty heavy rotation in my wardrobe. It's made me very keen to work with more vintage patterns and I have signed up again for this year to make 5 items. And a few new vintage patterns may have fallen into my Etsy cart!

This year WILL be the year I conquer trousers. The fear I have of fitting them is stupid and if I can make bound buttonholes and welt pockets, I can make trousers! I am starting with the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers so I can get a steer on fitting without worrying about a fly front, and moving onto Colette Junipers. I also want to give jeans a go, so I have the Iconic Patterns Jess jeans and the Jalie pattern to try.

This year I am going to revisit some of my favourite patterns I have made in the past. I've done all the fitting and muslining work already so I can concentrate on the fun bit of sewing and wearing! In particular the Emery, Mortmain and Anna dresses really lend themselves to pairing with different skirts to make a new look with minimal fitting effort. The bodice from my Christmas dress was pretty awesome too.

I am planning to sew up fabrics stash. This isn't a stash diet, but I have some really lovely fabrics that I want to use before I buy much else. The exception to this will be knits as I really don't have any stashed.

So no specific plans that I won't stick to beyond the next couple of garments.

Hope your new year has started well. Are you planning for 2015 or going with the flow?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Operation winter coat - fabric prep

As I had some lovely (and more expensive than usual) fabrics for this coat, I wanted to treat them right. Since I asked for a lot of advice and googled a fair bit, I thought my findings might be useful to others.

Starting with the outer fabric which is a wool blend - 90% wool, 10% poly. This is a good combination for me as I am sensitive to 100% wool  A lot of people can get away with wool in a coat as it doesn't sit against the skin but I particularly dislike it against my neck and this coat has a collar so wool blend it was. 

After a lot of googling I found 3 main methods for pre shrinking wool. First is taking to the dry cleaners.  Easy but pricy so not for me. Second is steaming with the iron (as Tasia did here). Simple but time consuming. Thirdly is this method outlined by Pam from Off the Cuff (this is a link to her new blog but her old one here is a treasure trove of tips, especially for shirtmaking).  To save you a click, you wet large towels with hot water and put in the tumble dryer with your dry yardage. That's it!

I was concerned about trying this with my whole yardage so I tumble dried a swatch first for the recommended 40 minutes.  There was no obvious change to the look of the fabric so I put the whole yardage in the dryer with 2 damp (wrung out as much as possible) bath towels. It worked perfectly - but if you do this be careful taking it out of the machine as it was still boiling hot! A quick press later and my wool was ready to go.

The lining is viscose acetate.  I had planned to wash as normal but when the fabric arrived it had a dry clean only sticker on the tissue it was wrapped in. I considered not prewashing as I plan to dryclean the finished garment but advice from the lovely Claire Louise from the Thrifty Stitcher that it's really important to pre wash linings as even a bit of sweat can cause shrinkage.  So I decided to put in in a delicate wash and it came out fine. Another great tip from Claire Louise was to iron it damp to get the creases out properly. This worked brilliantly and not sure why I haven't tried it before!

This just left the interfacing. I ordered Speed Tailoring from Gill Arnold on the advice of Anne from Mercury Handmade and it came with really detailed instructions on how to pre shrink,  which I have never done with fusible interfacing before. I soaked it in hand hot water for 20 minutes, rolled it up in a towel to take out excess water and hung up to dry. When applying, Gill recommends a steam shrink, where you place the interfacing on top of the fabric and steam from a couple of inches away, smooth out fabric and interfacing and then press using a press cloth to adhere.  This method worked really well and the interfacing is really lovely stuff.  It stabilises without stiffening and adhered perfectly and easily to the fabric.

Hopefully some of these tips might help if you are making a coat in future!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

My Christmas dress

This is my last vintage pledge make of 2014 and number 4 of the original 5 I pledged.

Fittingly, the pattern came from Marie at Stitch Odyssey as she added it to the vintage pattern pyramid before it came to me. I fell in love with the gorgeous asymmetric neckline as soon as I saw it and snapped it up as my pick from the parcel.

Why can't I flip this to landscape?  Grrr Blogger!

I bought this John Kaldor fabric from the sale at Sew Essential a while ago and had it earmarked for this dress as soon as I nabbed the pattern. It was marked as a french crepe. It washes fine and pressed reasonably well with a medium iron.  It's lovely to wear and barely creases.

The pattern was for a 40" bust and I thought I was going to have a bit of work to make it fit, but it was actually pretty good from the start. I lengthened the bodice and skirt by 2" each and lowered the bust darts by 1.5". Other than lowering the darts, the main adjustment was a square shoulder adjustment. I took it in at the sides once it was constructed which meant a bit of tinkering with skirt pleats to get them even. I'm never keen on that just above the elbow length of sleeve so I shortened by about 1.5" to make it easier to wear with a cardigan.

As usual I didn't quite think how the drape of the fabric would affect the neckline and the piece at the side. It meant this piece was a bit floppy and didn't quite sit properly. I fused an additional piece of interfacing to the facing and the bodice front which fixed the problem.

Closer shot of the neckline (with bonus derp-face)

I didn't add the bow at the neck in the end. I may make it and attach it with a pin - in my experience these details don't do well in the washing machine so making it removable seems sensible.

I used Hug Snug to make a waist stay and also machine sewed it around the skirt and sleeve hems before catch stitching by hand.  This was really time consuming on such a full skirt but it gives a lovely finish.

Operation winter coat - the reveal!

So here is my final coat!

I am so happy with it and it's an absolute pleasure to put it on every day. Of course the cost/effort per wear on a coat comes out pretty well which is satisfying! 
In this post, I'm showing off the final pics and will talk about fitting adjustments I made, and I'll show you details in another post. 

On comparing my actual measurements to my pattern measurements, I found I needed an FBA (no surprise), a little extra room at the hips/ bum level (another non - surprise) and more ease in the arms (I appear to have weirdly big elbows!). I also added 1/2" shoulder width and did a small square shoulder adjustment.

The front pattern piece was tough to adjust as it looked like this:

On the advice of lovely Brooke from Custom Style I had planned to cut it apart at the waist, but as I needed extra room at the hips too I was able to slash the pattern piece all the way down and add in some extra in the right places.

Should have taken my hands out of my pockets to photograph the back - that pulling isn't there without them!

The weirdest thing is that I did no length adjustments in the body at all! The waist was in the right place and the hem length was perfect.  In hindsight, the pockets could stand to be perhaps 1.5" lower  as it feels like I pull on them slightly when I put my hands in. But they are totally functional.  I also lengthened the sleeves to full length from bracelet length and as a result had to taper them slightly.

I muslined one sleeve and also the collar piece as I was concerned it looked a bit small in the picture (it's fine). However I decided to add darts to the back to take out some excess fabric at back waist. This was done by pinching out the right amount of fabric at waist level, splitting that between 2 darts and measuring where I wanted them to end top and bottom. I had a bit of trial and error in the dart positioning at first as I placed them too close to the side seams so I was glad I had just pinned them to begin with. Me and the seam ripper are too friendly as it is!  

In the final fabric I ended up taking in the side seams more to narrow the bodice to the waist as the shape as drafted  just wasn't working for me. Unfortunately I feel like I took a lot of the vintage flavour out of the coat, but it definitely works better for me this way. 

Details of the construction to follow! 

One last pic as it's a nice background!