well made

I’m not going to lie – I almost failed at the starting blocks when it came to realising my first Wendy Ward pattern. Before cracking on with any of the projects in her Beginners Guide to Making Skirts, there’s the not so small hurdle of tracing off the pattern. And after half an hour of staring at a jumble of lines, I was almost ready to quit. But I’m a tenacious bugger, so I did the sensible thing and took a bit of time out to re-read Wendy’s instructions on Using Paper Patterns. And as if by magic, what seemed indecipherable began to take on coherent form and the markings for each pattern piece began to emerge before me.

After wavering between the Granville Wrap Skirt and the Roehampton Culottes, I settled on the latter and embraced the opportunity to attempt a pattern with two key measurements rather than one. Whilst my propensity for A-line is driven by an aesthetic preference, it’s also the best silhouette for my bottom heavy frame. But I’m conscious that I’ve been limiting myself by sticking to patterns that don’t call for much in the way of adjustments and decided that the time had come to step up.

I used the Sizing and Taking Measurements guidelines, to work out which line to highlight with my trusty Frixion. With a hip measurement of 107cm, I traced on 109cm from hem to hips and then blended between this and the next size down at the waist. However, I knew there would be further adjustments at the toile stage, as there’s at least two sizes between my waist and the hips I prefer to keep under wraps.

To bridge this gap, I increased the width of each dart by 1 cm and shaved up to 1cm off the front and back pattern pieces from hip to waist, making a total reduction of 6cm. I traced off the waistband piece which corresponded with my actual waist measurement and hey presto – it all came together like a dream.

Wendy’s book is split in two – the individual projects, followed by a techniques section at the end. This format empowers you to get into the driving seat and customise each pattern according to your whim. It also forces you to slow down as there are decisions to be made and skills to refer to at various key stages. It took me a while to adjust to the toing and froing but it wasn’t long before I was completely on board.

Thanks to the mode of presentation and clarity of instruction, these Roehampton culottes are by far my most well made make to date.

#miymarch17    #miymarch17

pocket love

What is it about pockets?

And I know I’m not alone in this – every time some kick ass receptacles appear on Instagram, my people emerge. As I was finishing off my second Marcy Tilton Vogue 8813, it occurred to me, that my pocket love might stem from a subconscious desire to climb into their gargantuan folds and hide from the world.

My first attempt at this pattern was documented in a guest blog for Minerva Crafts and I’ve not much to add, except to say that I still hate gathering and will be avoiding any garment that involves this technique for the foreseeable. I’m particularly happy with the finish around the v-neck, as I used a strip of lightweight fusible interfacing to prevent any stretch from mishandling. If I were to make a third, I’d interface the areas which call for reinforcement too, as the notches weakened the fabric and got me reaching for some fray check.

It’s been a week where I haven’t been able to shy away from the fragility of existence and the reality that bad things happen to good people. I’ve been on the receiving end of glowing praise and harsh criticism, observing their opposing effects on my mental state. And I’ve sought comfort in wisdoms gleaned from Buddhist teachings – that everything is dependant related and lacks its own permanent, fixed identify. I’ve sat with uncomfortable feelings and when they’ve got too big to countenance, I’ve grabbed my trainers, took to the streets and worn them down.

At 43 I’m ripe for a mid life crises but thankfully I’m ahead of my time and got that emotional unravelling out of the way in my 20’s and 30’s. There’s been a radical shift in how I relate to myself and others but it’s one I embrace. However, change does not happen in a vacuum and comes with internal and external resistance. I’m concerned some of my relationships won’t weather the metamorphosis and I falter, triggered by old wounds and the fear of rejection fuelled self-annihilation.

Looking back, I was forever lost and sought solid ground through my interactions with others. In adulthood I’m appreciating a seismic shift in my functioning. Through anchoring myself inwards, I’ve learnt I can do hard things. And on the days where I can’t, I’ll retreat awhile and seek solace in the comfort afforded by these cocoon-like pockets.

wants and needs

‘Wants and needs Aimee … wants and needs. Love is finding someone who can meet both of these’.

This, the opinion of my uncle which he foisted on us, as he held court at the dinner table – his personality expanding to fit any space into which he entered. I guess he’s the closest to a father that I’ve had and one thing I’m sure of, is that he loved me dearly. But love was an emotion that remained stifled in his heart and throat, demonstrated only by the annual ritual of a fistful of cash thrown on the floor.

Memory lane is not one I wish to meander down very often. I’m increasingly compelled to spend as much time as I can in the present and as Eckhart Tolle suggests, taking short journeys into the past or future if it serves me well. But sometimes, life events take you in a direction not of your choosing, as they did last summer when I made the journey back home to the place of my birth.

In a montage befitting of the silver screen, I revisited my childhood haunts – the town centre, our favoured busking pitch, the park on the way to my old school, the dreaded tennis courts and finally all the way to the crematorium. At this point things took a tragicomic turn, as I hid behind a tree waiting to see who turned up and wondered if my father would emerge from the shadows. Whilst the likelihood of this was slim, it was not not beyond the realms of possibility as the last I heard my uncle had kept a proverbial window open, albeit one step removed.

Despite significant mental gymnastics inside my head, there was very little to be seen from my vantage point. Four men in a smokers’ huddle looking suspiciously like rent a crowd pall bearers and a lone woman on a bench, wasn’t quite the send off I’d imagined. Nor was walking down the aisle holding the hand of his estranged daughter to the sound of Orinoco Flow accompanied by his backing vocals. His love for Enya knew no bounds. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been my life and by the third song it kind of was. Even in death, he’d managed to blast his presence into every corner of the room.

My mother and sister were out of the country, experiencing an altogether different musical experience on a Strictly Come Dancing cruise. And my partner was adventuring abroad with his three children. So here I was on a solo fact finding mission, my face pressed hard against the glass of my past. I listened as the few supporting actors in his passion play, relayed the final alcohol soaked years and months. The most sobering discovery was that his walls had remained literally covered with pictures of us – the people he’d severed ties with one by one.

This image of my uncle living estranged and yet surrounded by photographs of his family had a profound effect on me. It’s become a visual reminder that no one owes you shit – not even your family. That the time, interest, friendship and love people offer us is a gift. If like he suggested, we seek partnership with those who are able to satisfy our wants and needs – what happens when our respective desires are not aligned? Is the value we place on a person as insubstantial as our changing whims?

I’m more inclined to believe that the ability to forge sustaining relationships stems from learning how to be at ease in our own skins. To find out what motivates, inspires and compels us to get out of the bed in the morning. To steer our own ship regardless of the storms without. And when we find our passions, to spend as much time as we can pursuing them. Then, instead of approaching others from a position of need, we can meet as equals and embrace our intersecting trajectories with curiosity.

That I’m writing this is almost laughable. It seems like forever my focus was firmly fixed on losing myself in others to make life more bearable. I completely overlooked the fact that my greatest ally was staring me in the face. I will never leave me. I know what I like and what I don’t. I can take myself out to dinner and buy my own fucking flowers. It’s taken decades for me to work out that without a creative outlet, I’m an empty shell. And relating to others from a position of need has only ever resulted in a feeling of lack.

Through writing and making, I’ve found a way to express myself and a place for my thoughts to rest when existential angst has worn them out. And from others, all I long for is to feel connection, to be accepted and understood and to feel free.

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what a feeling …

Ever since I saw the film and heard the anthem, I’ve lusted after the slouchwear aesthetic so artfully channelled by Flashdance’s Alex. The type of clothing that allows you to break into a run or slide into a yoga pose at a moment’s notice. So many life goals encapsulated – her style, her single pointed ambition, her flat, her welding skills.

I saw the pattern for this sports luxe sweatshirt in a recent issue of Simply Sewing magazine and I knew this was as close as I was going to get to living out a childhood fantasy. Not only that, it also looked like a super quick win – with only one pattern piece what could go wrong? Surprisingly, quite a lot if you decide to dispense with reading the instructions and let your intuition guide you.

The back is one piece cut on the fold, whereas the front is two pieces sewed together to enable some top stitchery. You’ll notice my front and back both have seams which wasn’t intentional – it’s because I cut them out before realising I should have folded the straight edge of the back pattern piece over 1cm before pinning it to the fabric. At this point, I’d like to point out the lack of top stitching was a considered choice. I figured the colours and contours made enough of an impact without bringing anything else to the party.

I cut the pattern on a size 14-16 based on my bust size which produced a voluminosity which did my frame no favours. Paring the underarm and waist seam to the lowest size and taking the sleeve length down one size, brought the shaping I was looking for. I overlocked the shoulder seams together and serged the front and back central panels individually before seaming with a narrow zig zag (0.5 width, 2.5 length).

My desire to clean finish my insides tripped me up on the side seams. Read the instructions here and you’ll get the result I achieved second time around when I slimmed down to a size 6-8. Here are some of the details of which I’m quite rightfully proud. Lining up the the central seam with the waistband join was a moment to savour … until I realised that shifting the joins to the side seams would have been the calling card of a seasoned sewer. Ah well – I pulled it off, so I’ll let my central lines sing.

I’m learning not to pay too much attention to the recommended band sizing as it’s all about your threads and how they work together. For the body, I sourced this French Terry Brushed Teal from Dragonfly Fabrics and teamed it with some green ribbing. The 75% differential suggested resulted in visual pollution of the highest order so I experimented a little, until I achieved the look I was after with a waistband 8cm smaller than the circumference. The neckband is reduced by 5cm and next time I’d probably shave off another cm or two for a bit more traction.

I could tell you how my second dry month of the year is going but that would eat into some valuable sewing time. What I will say is that not drinking has bought me shed loads of time which I’m itching to fill. So I’ll leave you with some pictures taken at my fella’s house this morning, living the dream in my sunday slouchwear.

 

 

 

 

 

slouchwear – his and hers

A while back I made a bold announcement – slouchwear the name and comfort my game. I soon realised that the swift progress I hoped for was hampered by a severe skill deficit and until I faced my fear of knits, I would remain firmly in the structured stable.

I’m happy to say there has been some movement and I’m making tentative steps towards vanquishing my fear. A full range of slouchwear has yet to be realised but I’ve fashioned a his and hers which I’m happy to be seen in daylight at a distance:

‘His’ is my second attempt at the Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt.  I cut on a straight 12 and the only modification was to add thumbhole cuffs – again shamelessly copied from The Last Stitch. My first attempt came together relatively easily but boy did I struggle with the neckline on this one. Following the pattern’s neckband measurements produced gathers befitting of a clown. So I developed a close relationship with my seam ripper and detached and reattached it numerous times before I got a length which achieved a traction I could live with. I’m guessing different fabric compositions affect the length of your neckband? I’d love to hear from any of you who’ve learnt this the hard way?

‘Hers’ is my first foray into the world of Ottobre Design and I don’t mind saying I think I picked the cream of the crop with this New Boheme Jersey Tunic (Woman Autumn/Winter 5/2014). Tracing these patterns off is not a task for the faint hearted and I was eased out of my inertia by entering into a #patternpledge with Grace over at @beyond_measure_uk. We resolved to bring an Ottobre pattern to life by the end of March and encourage each other along the way.

It’s such a good idea to get involved with little projects like this and without the knowledge that we were in it together, I would have given up at the first hurdle. I’m not going to lie – tracing of this magnitude is meltdown inducing. But, it was sooo worth the effort – this is a pattern I know I’ll be making again and again.

I cut on a straight size 40 but added an extra 1cm seam allowance at the sides to accommodate my hips. Turns out this pattern has ample design ease for my pear shaped figure but I’m glad I erred on the side of caution as I did utilise the extra allowance from underarm to cuff. If you stay true to the pattern you may find the sleeves a little snug and as I have a propensity for layers, I’m glad I had that room to play with.

After tracing and cutting, construction is pretty straightforward and the only sticking point for me was the neck pleats. The pattern had me in a quandary and eventually I decided that the central markings were for an inverted box pleat. I used a long straight stitch on either side to secure it in place but when I googled other versions, I couldn’t see any top stitching. It’s like they’d all discovered the formula for creating this pleat which eluded me. If you know the secret, please please have pity on me – I need entry into the Magic Circle before my next iteration.

For the seams I dug out my walking foot and used a long straight stitch before finishing them on my serger – I’d need to undergo a serious course of counselling before overlocking from the get go.  Attaching some Steam to Seam Lite to the hemline and sleeves before stitching with a narrow zig zag (0.5 width, 3 length) worked a treat for me but I’d welcome other suggestions on fusible hemming tape for knits?

Like the Linden, I came unstuck again at the neckline. When adding the facing I stretched it disproportionately and the back lacks the tension I achieved at the front. As for the top stitching … I almost don’t want to draw your attention to it. I reduced the length of the narrow zig zag to a 2. 5 and now I’m wondering if a 3 would have made for a more subtle finish or whether to opt for a neckband next time.

Regardless of the flaws, I’ve faced my fears and for that I’m rightfully proud. This is a very wearable toile in an unremarkable fabric and hue which I’m itching to revisit in different textures, colours and patterns.

Slouchwear – it’s ON.