Friday 29 March 2013

SWAP and changes in plans

A post about wardrobe planning, purges and sewing lists...

I never came around to blogging this, but past fall I made a big wardrobe clean out. What prompted it was the constant feeling of having nothing to wear while my closets were brimming over with clothes and shoes. I decided to take a new approach to planning my closet, and instead of starting with what I had, I made a list of what I needed.

Different occasions in my life were listed, such as "Work", "Dance", "Work-out", "Town/dinner at friends", "Cozy at home" etc, then each occasion split into types of garments, and seasons where needed.  The types of garments became categories and the occasions/seasons became sub-categories. Then the real planning began, for example: how many winter skirts would I like to have for work? How many would be too few/too many? What is the minimum amout that would give sufficient variation?

I looked through my closet: what did I already have that I actually used for these categories? (Or could use, for example if I had a piece that worked with it). I filled it in, and noted how many I wanted to make.

It looked something like this:

Skirts 16
Winter 5
Blue wool
Brown/plaid vintage
Brown/blue plaid me-made
Green wiggleskirt
Deep red 30s A-line
Spring/Fall 5
Grey plaid
Green halfcircle
Black wiggle
Blue fullcircle
Beige wiggle
Summer 6
Blue pleated x2
Blue A-line/halfcircle
Provencale patterned
White 30s

And this is just one category of the list's total 15 categories...

Armed with this list, I set out to ruthlessly purge both closet and sewing list. In real life, it wasn't that simple. I ended up splitting my closet into 1) On the list-items 2) Throw away 3) Sell/donate 4) Maybe-pile 5) Save for sentimental value. It doesn't really matter if I will never again wear the dress my aunt wore to my parents wedding, I'm saving it anyway. I have a whole bunch of family heirloom pieces, like a mink stole, a traditional folk-dress etc, and both those and my me-made medieval clothes are VIPs in my closet =)

Before and after photos of the three closets for hanging garments:

And no, it does not look this neat now. There were more pieces to add, like the VIPs. Also, it's funny how nice it is to have clear closet floors, and how practical they always seem whenever one has something to store away.

Even armed with the list, it was so hard to remove stuff that fits/I like/I've worn a lot before. In fact, I couldn't, I'm weak when it comes to clothes... Instead, I removed everything (one closet at the time) and didn't have to choose what to remove, but what to add. Much easier. The maybe pile got really big though... It was a good thing the mr helped me look through it all, and actually stopped me from some rash purges. For example this 70s dress from my aunt:

I never wear it out as it just seems too much and isn't really my style. It hadn't even occured to me it's a great housedress! It stays =) Overall, it felt good to make this purge, and even though I liked some of the pieces I've removed, I haven't missed a single one of them.

Like I hinted, this also made a huge impact on my sewing list. Before, it's been more "Yeah, I would like some more jersey dresses" and then I'd plan a bunch of dresses (too many, but that's ok, I'm a slow sewist so I never make everything I plan). Now, I have a list of different categories, and it's actually fun to plan after it! I want to make a little bit of everything, so instead spending the year just sewing the dresses I need, I'll maybe make one dress, two t-shirts, a jacket etc. Some pieces for winter, some for summer. Some for leisure and some for dressing up. Diverse, flexible, keeping me interested and motivated, but with an overall plan. The organizing-nerd in me almost keeled over with glee over this chart (I'm showing just a part of it here, 3 out of the total 15 categories):

3 winter
4 spring/fall (2)
3 summer (1)
5 work/winter (3)
5 dance/summer (3)
5 semi-formal (2)
5 All dressed up (1)
5 winter (2)
5 spring/fall
6 summer (2)

The numbers indicate how many I need, and the (x) how many I'm short, the last column how many there's to sew. So now I'm Sewing With A Plan (SWAP)!

Of course, even the best laid plans can go awry... We're going on a sun trip! In May me and the mr has booked a trip to lovely, sunny Spain. I've never been there, and just the thought of 20+ C and sunshine will make the coming weeks of melting snow and dust-filled air bearable. However... I don't have eunough to wear! Having lived far north and not usually travelling to warm places, my closet for hot days is very limited. And dated. And I don't like most pieces. In fact, I might have purged most of them past fall. Eh... I need to sew for hot summer! And yes, to me anything over 20 C is hot weather. There's a reason I'm going to Spain in May, not July ; )

A little mind map of what I would like to bring along... The garments marked with an X I already have. The rest is 10 pieces (fabrics from the stash, no buying new). Seems like a lot to sew before mid-May? What can I say, I'm an optimist =) I'm also a bit realistic, and pieces that are fast to make and most versitile to wear goes first in the sewing que. The blue silk blouse is last in line, and I'm very doubtful it will get done in time.

The sad side of this is that I won't participate in Mad Men Challende 2, the 60s Joan-inspired dress that was next in the sewing line has been moved to fall. The fun bonus-effect of sewing a travel-wardrobe for Spain is it would mean I'd have a functioning and corresponding me-made summer-wardrobe. Before summer! Wish me luck ; )

First up: finish lining the 30s jacket I made for Amanda's wedding. You know, after I make the last stitches on the wool dress...

Happy holidays!
Love, Erika

Monday 25 March 2013

Work in progress and some tips for wool

I mentioned a few posts ago that I'm working on a 40s dress in wool, and I thought I'd show you all how it's coming along. A little WIP (work in progress), with a tip for pressing wool at the end.

Dress almooost ready

I've made some changes compared to my last version of this dress. This is my third make (see first here and second here), and I'm still tweaking the pattern! I'm hoping third time's the charm... For a better fit, I shortened the neckline, to prevent gaping, and added a fitted underlining to the top front bodice pieces, to control the spread of the extra fullness from the gathers. Stylewise, I reduced some fullness in the sleeves,  and also turned the gathers into pleats (on sleeves and both front and back bodice).

First sleeve-placket!

I've also for the first time ever made a shirt sleeve placket!

I love working with wool, it really is the most amazing material! Eh... yeah, I might have said that before... The yoke and the midriff is top-stitched here, easy for the yoke's straight lines, but the midriff piece has a curved top, which can be tricky in other materials. Here's why wool is awsome...

The piece is cut out, interfaced with fusible lightweight, and the edges are overlocked with a right needle 3-thread seam (zick-zacking works great if you don't have an overlock). Using a measuring guide, I pinned down the seam allowance.

Then basting. Here the seam allowance is 1,5 cm, and the basting line is approx 3 mm from the edge.

Remove pins after basting, and behold the surpluce fabric!

Insert a piece of paper (mine was standard writing block weight, so I folded it double) between fabric and seam allowance.

Place a press cloth over the whole thing, and with the iron on the highest - steam it while pressing down. Do not move the iron around! The presscloth will protect fabric and interfacing from the heat, the steam will shrink the surpluce seam allowance, and the paper will protect the right side from pressmarks. For a presscloth I use a very lightweight 100% cotton. If one wants to go fancy there's always silk organza. As long as the presscloth is see-through and natural fibers, it's good.

Remove iron and presscloth, place a clapper on the fabric if you have one. Continue all the way around =)

And here the difference is quite clear.

Instead of this multi-step pressing procedure, one can of course just trim and snip the seam allowance, letting the snipped pieces overlap each other, but I think this way is less bulky, makes a nicer edge and is more durable as the fabric remains intact. It's also really easy to topstitch on this clean and distinct edge!

This pressing technique - paper, presscloth, hot iron, steam and a clapper - is how I press every seam along the way I sew. With a little less steam and pressure of course, as I don't want them to shrink =) It makes the seams flat, and protects the right side from pressmarks.

Different fabrics of course demands different pressing techniques, this is just the one I've come to prefer on light to meduim weight wool. Heavy wool deamands a bit more, I find. What do you say, is this something you already do? May try? Or do you have another method that you'd like to share? Chime in!

Love, Erika

Friday 22 March 2013

A red blouse

I've made (another) blouse! Using my self-drafted blouse pattern and leftover fabric from my red rayon dress, so... hmm... not much new. But it does mean I have another blouse! =) And one that's appropriate for winter, which I really needed.

Maybe I need to start on another blouse pattern now? Three of the same pattern might be eunough... =)

Usually, I see theese thin and airy, often floral, fabrics and think "yes, perfect blouse material!" And they are, but then I never use them during winter as they just feel too summery. This one, though thin, has a quite heavy drape, and a colour that goes beautifully with most of my winter skirts.

Yay! =D

Oh, and something is new! I've finally mastered the rolled-hem foot! All this time I've been wondering (well, not activly wondering, just not using the foot because I didn't like the result) how to start and finish the hem in a neat way, and how to pass the rolled hem-foot over a seam neatly, when I ought to just have looked it up on youtube. So easy, once you know the trick!

Someone else finding the rolled-hem foot fiddly? Here's a tutorial I found helpful... Not the shortest, but good information.

I still opted for my favorite handsewed rolled hem for the sleeves, as the handsewn hem stretches and moves with the fabric better than the machine-stitched one. Eh... so you don't actually see the machinestitched one in the pictures...

This was a really fun, fast little project. So much easier when there's nothing to tweak with the pattern and I've even worked with the fabric for another project. I didn't even have to buy thread! Only thing for me to watch out with is so these projects don't end up in an UFO-pile, as the very simplicity of them doesn't tickle my imagination and inspiration. So I'm quite pleased - I sewed something with minimum fuss, and it turned out good and very wearable. Not terribly exciting, but... pleasant. Horay for finished projects! =)

Love, Erika

Monday 18 March 2013

I've sewed not one, but two skirts!

A post long overdue... I've finished an everyday wearable skirt! I first wrote a bit about here, and it's a wool/poly blend that I bought the fabric for ages ago. Of course, at the time I didn't know it was going to be a skirt... Ever had a moment when you suddenly just know what to make with something, and it's so obvious that you can only marvel that the idea hasn't struck sooner? This was one of those moments for me =) After stashing the fabric for three years, and lamenting the fact that I had too few fall/spring skirts, that all my skirts were blue, that I had the sewing funk and just wanted to make something fast, then I finally put two and two together and made this fabric into a very wearable but easy to make skirt.

It's a halfcircle, cut on the straight of grain with no front- or backseam (only sideseams).

The zipper is lapped and inserted in the sideseam. To make my life easy I just cut all the sideseams with extra wide seam-allowance =)

The waistband is in one single piece, the whole of it interlined with a stable woven fusible. The back of the waistband is stitched down with a stitch in the ditch (from the right side).

That's really all there is to it. I actually finished this skirt before the Stockholm trip in October, but for some reason I just haven't come around to photograph it until now.


The second skirt is an UFO from last winter. After I finished the coat I wanted to make something easy, something fun and fast. An A-line skirt in wool seemed to fit the bill, and I had the perfect TNT pattern and a good fabric. So how on earth did it become an UFO? Basically, I have a very, very hard time to keep things simple. To stick to the plan.
"Wouldn't it look a lot more interesting with the plaid on the bias?"
"Pockets would be fun to add!"
"Let's try out this cool new method for the waistband!"
Nevermind the fact that I hadn't done pockets on this pattern before, and only once added pockets to any pattern (not a huge pocket fan) so drafting and sewing those took a lot more time than I thought it would. I hadn't sewn on the bias before either, nor matched plaid to this extent. Not very advanced things, but they did slow the project down a lot!

The pockets and inside of the waistband.

To make matterns worse, when laying out the pattern I had a hard time fitting all the pieces on the bias on my 1,5 metres of wool. I made two pattern pieces and refused to "waste" time and paper on drawing up two more so I would have one piece of pattern paper for every final piece of fabric. Not a mistake I'll ever make again... After playing around with different pattern layouts, I finally figured "Well, this looks like it might not work, but then on the other hand it just might! I'll just start by cutting these two pieces and then I'll see how I can cut out the other two." If by now you're wondering "What was she thinking!!!" then you're totally justified and I'm pleading temporary insanity ; )
I could not cut out two or even one more piece. So I set about puzzling together these pieces instead.

From the inside...

And from the outside.

Matching these up and making them lay still while I sewed was no mean feat. There was basting on all sides involved! But I doubt the casual observer will notice the patchwork =)

The final straw (this past fall/winter), was when I had finally sewn the whole thing together and hemmed it and it was done - and the zipper boggled like crazy. Unpicking tiny stitches in thick, wholly wool was for a time my perceived version of hell ; ) I handsewed it back in, even gathered and steamed the skirt to counteract the stretch of the bias, but I'm still not happy with it.

Boggling zipper

This is a bit weird, but my measuringtape says my waist is 3 cm smaller than in October when I last tried on this skirt (and it looked good). I made it a bit roomier in the waist, very comfy for days when I... just need a little bit of extra room in the waistband, let's not dwell on that, right? Also good for layering stuff underneth it during the very cold months =) Smart thinking, but now a few extra centimeters has become too many extra cm's! The skirt sits too low in the waist and therefore falls wrong. It feels... just wrong... in the waist, and I'm pretty sure that's why the zipper goes crazy.

If I pull the skirt up to my natural waist (where it's meant to be) the zipper looks good. Problem is, the skirt doesn't stay there...
I'm undecisieve on what to with it. Scrap it, sell it, save it in case it will fit later in life? I have no illusions that I will keep my current waist-measurment for the rest of my life, but do I like the skirt enough to store it until it fits? Also, it's a style that I fear would look very old lady on me in 10-20 years. On the other hand, who knows what will happen the coming year? Maybe next winter it will be the only thing fitting in a closet of skirts just a smidge too small =) It get's to stay, for now. If it hasn't been worn in a year or two, I'll re-evaluate.

It took over a year to finish this project, but I learned something important: when I want a fast and easy project, I need to stick to the basics and not start adding "interesting features". Keep it simple, and leave fancy for when I feel for a more demanding project. And if a project becomes an UFO, measure again to make sure it still fits =)

It feels good to be done with these two projects. The green skirt was an overall nice experience, from inspiration, planning, sewing and all the way to wearing. I managed to keep it simple! The plaid was an interesting learning experience on many levels, and even though I didn't end up with my comfy warm winter skirt, the work was not in vain. And who knows, maybe it'll come into use eventually.

Love, Erika

Thursday 7 March 2013

Sewing while in hibernation

It's been quiet here for a while, but it's not because I haven't done anything! However, it's been a while since I finished a project (and that project I still haven't had a chance to photograph...). I'm currently working on a late 40s inspired wool dress. This fabric is lovely, lots of drape, light and with a beautiful luster, and I love working with it. So why has it taken so long to finish? Basically, it's been February. Simple as that. Years ago I was always so surprised at how tired I was at the end of winter. Then I started narrowing it down to late January-early March, and have been moaning for a few years about lack of daylight accumulating during winter until February hits and I'm almost a zombie.

Pictures taken on my way to work. Love that it's daylight when I leave the house in the morning!

Then this year something occured to me: during winter nature calms down. The ground rests beneth the snow, the top soil frozen. Ice covers the river. Animals hibernate or move away, those few who are still mobile up here try to use as little energy as possible. Ever gone out into the forest on a really cold winterday and experienced the quiet? It's something that's felt in the marrow rather than seen or heard. I like to think nature takes a break, resting after a glorious fall, gathering strength for a lively spring.

Instead of hunting energy and planning for productivity, maybe one can just rest in the calm of winter? Slow life down a bit, let things take time, not chase anything (sewing finish-lines, fun experiences, blogposts etc) but just be in the moment. Let the mind follow winter's cue and semi-hibernate. Doing fun things brings more energy, but when you don't have the energy to do any fun stuff to begin with, then it's all just draining. Then it's ok to take an evening at home and not do anything more spectacular than the dishes. Or take a whole weekend like that. Just resting in the stillness of winter.

However, now we're a week into March, and as on cue my energy is creeping back, waking up from hibernation. During February I've slowly been making a third version of my late 40s dress, inspired by The Swing Dress, but drafted from my block pattern. Third time might be the charm! I'm trying to give it time, do things in a speed I'm comfortable with and be happy with it. Not so easy when I know I'd be done weeks ago had it been any other time of the year, but I try to keep in mind that it's not summer, it's winter and I'm in hibernation. Any creativity that happens is for fun and relaxation. It'll be spring soon, and then the garments will come flying out of the sewing machine =)

Today is another spectacular late-winter day, plenty of snow on the ground and a strong sun from a clear pale-blue sky. I'll take a walk on my lunch (as always) and revel in the light, dream about future projects and not be stressed about that I won't do them right now. I'll get to them eventually.

Love, Erika