Monday, 31 August 2009

Prep for the Wardrobe Competition

Okay, so I have decided I will enter the PR wardrobe competition. One look at the sea of black and grey on my washing line this weekend convinced me once and for all to get out of my rut and embrace some new colours. From what I have been reading on the discussion boards people seem to have a lot of great ideas and I can't wait to be a part of it!

My plan is called "A Parisian Spring in Perth", being of course in the southern hemisphere where we are going into spring rather than autumn. My plan started from the fabulous hand woven silk tweed I bought a couple of years ago when I first started working at the fabric shop. It was the end of the roll so I was stoked there was enough for a jacket - Chanel style of course! The fabric and its equally gorgeous olive silk satin lining have been waiting for me to attend to them ever since so finally I can get this fabric out of the sewing room and onto my back where it belongs! I have debated joining the Go Chanel or Go Home as everyone is doing such a great job over there at offering support and advice, but I think the commitment of posting to two blogs plus writing reviews of all my patterns on PR, whilst maintaining a pretty high production rate might be a bit much. I'll still be reading though.

The colours in the tweed have really inspired the palette of the wardrobe. I have all the fabrics I will need but may slightly tweak a pattern or two here and there as I go along (I am particularly concerned about the pattern for the pale lemon lawn). The wardrobe will consist of:

1 topper - the aforementioned Chanel-style jacket
4 bottoms - Dark olive pants and skirt, taupe skirt, navy pants
5 tops - ivory tunic, lemon top, floral blouse, teal and cream t-shirts

This plan is not only going to be a challenge time-wise but style-wise too - THERE IS NOT ONE THREAD OF BLACK ANYWHERE! I don't wear head to toe black all the time or anything but, like most people, I do tend to fall back on it pretty readily. Also, I am usually pretty timid about prints and mixing a floral with a tweed is pretty out there for me, but I am confident they compliment each other quite nicely.

I am itching to get going but I can't cut anything until the competition starts tomorrow. I have cut out and altered most of my paper patterns and have toilled the jacket. Actually I have done that twice since I was originally going to make McCalls 5007 but I ended up not liking the style on me, I switched to McCalls 4972, convinced I wasn't going to like it but am now in love - the shape of the jacket is going to be fab!

I have also made a practice pair of pants from the altered pattern I've been posting about lately. It worked, they fit really nicely. Sorry no pics yet as my fella is working nights at the moment - as soon as I see him in daylight hours I'll get him to take some photos.

So I am as ready as I'll ever be, and can't wait to get cracking.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Thinking About the Next Challenge

Hi everyone,

I'd like to start out by thanking everyone who commented on my last post, it feels a lot better to know I am not the only one who needs to make more than just the odd 'tweak' to make a pattern fit. I'd especially like to thank Marianne, who is currently going through the same pants-pattern process (nice aliteration!) as I am. Marianne's finished pattern looks a lot like mine, which is a relief to say the least! I love her analogy that commercial patterns are drafted for 'a b-cup butt'!

I still have not made up a final pair of pants, I haven't done any sewing for 2 weeks now. I have been experiencing really low energy for the past few weeks, I feel like I am three-quarters asleep pretty much all the time. What's worse is it makes me really clumsy - I banged my head on my car door on Friday and ended up with a big lump and bruise so I spent most of the weekend sitting around with an ice-pack on my head. I have just started seeing an acupuncturist about my sciatica and he thinks that it is all related and can be fixed at once - I am very excited about that!

Fortunately my physical inactivity has not spilled over into mental inactivity. I am seriously considering entering the PR wardrobe competition that starts on September 1. I have the fabrics, the patterns, the desperate need for clothes. plus the desire and motivation to challenge myself. However I am concerned that I won't have the time or the energy to actually do it. I am currently acting 'as if' I'll be entering, cutting out patterns and pre-washing fabrics, and I have told myself that if I can make a toille of the jacket before Thursday then I'll sign up.

The main issue being that my chosen plan is fairly involved and my time is so limited. Making 11 garments in 12 weeks would likely be a challenge for anyone, and it's well beyond my usual production rate. Plus there is the need to document everything which doesn't take too long, but would steal valuable sewing time.

I've written up a schedule which incorporates 1 hour a day on about three days of the week and 3 hours on a Sunday, this really is the most I can hope to fit in. It sounds like a lot of time, and if I keep everything simple and stick with patterns I know will work without too much fiddling I should be fine, but the jacket I have in mind is a Chanel jacket! There, I've said it! Do you understand my reservations now?

I won't make my final decision until Thursday so stay tuned for the plan! Chances are, if I don't enter I'll sew along anyway.

Monday, 10 August 2009

A Pair of Pants that Fit - I Hope!

Let's talk about pants. This immensely practical garment is a nightmare for me - buying, making, you name it. I have a large, low, wide butt and it is a body challenge I am still trying to embrace. I have been reduced to tears from jeans fittings and at the very least become incredibly sulky at the thought of trying to find a pair of pants that fits. Fortunately I have managed to find a couple of pairs that fit passably well and have worn them to death.

Just make them you say? Hah, that's even worse! While I can take on pretty complex fitting issues generally and I have made fantastic pairs of pants for other people, I just have not had any success on my own body.

The worst thing about pants is it targets all my attention on my number one body hangup - my rear end! Normally I go about my business, completely ignoring it but it becomes front and centre (not literally of course) when the topic of pants comes up.

Anyway, in the interests of becoming a well rounded person I have decided I need to make a pair of pants for myself. After reading the reviews on PR I decided that Simplicity 2700 would be my victim. I like the idea that at least some of the work would be done for me in the shape of separate pieces for 'curvy' people. Of course I knew there would be more to it than that, and that the distance around your derriere is only one part of the equation, but it's a start.

I took my measurements honestly and compared to the envelope. By my hip and waist I should be a 16, but my crotch length was off the charts even for the curvy shape (I knew this would be the case and wasn't surprised). I looked about at all my fitting references and felt that I would be best served by adding a wedge to the centre back seam (4cm) to lengthen the straight part of the seam above my actual butt. The reviews I read suggested the pattern runs quite large so I decided to go with a size 14 to start with.

I made a toille, had a little cider and tried it on. What did I see? A depressing mess that's what. A saggy front crotch, weird vertical folds in the front, the back 'crept into the body space' (as Simplicity so delicately puts it, but note that 'crept' is an understatement!), smile lines under the butt, and that 4cm I added - well I had to pinch all of that out again. About 5 seconds away from giving up in despair my fella walked into the room and said 'those pants make your legs look well long'. Given my stumpy pins are my number 2 body hangup I figured that was good enough motivation to persevere!

Back to the drawing board. This time I referred to Threads 122 and its discussion on body space. I left it alone for most of the week (as I started my new job and was exhausted) and then came back to it refreshed on the weekend. This time I took my flexible ruler and formed it around myself to get my actual curve shape, size and length. I laid this on the back pattern piece to compare. I am telling you I really had to let go of a lot of pride to go through this! I kept telling myself 'it doesn't matter what you have to do, if the pants fit great you'll look great in them - no one will know what you had to do'.
Here is the flexible curve laid on the back pattern piece, with a cutting line marked

I split both pattern pieces along the crotch line and slid the front crotch in by 1cm and the back crotch out by (you guessed it) 4cm. I also took a 3cm tuck out of the front crotch length, tapered the extra size created on the side of the back piece back into the pattern piece at around the knee and added and extra 1 inch to both side seams all the way down (turns out I probably should have started with the 16 but never mind!).
Here is the pattern ready to go for toille #2:
And the back piece on its own: Now the second toille. I only made this one to knee length as I was short on calico, had another cider and tried it on. What a difference! This was closer to what a first fitting should be, I only had to make minor tweaks - shorten the front crotch a little more, remove 2cm from the front crotch point (note - my front crotch is now almost straight, but it's working), scoop out the back seam a fair bit more and fine tune the side seams (ie. took off 1cm of the 1 inch I added so I only ended up adding 1.5cm to the side seams in the end - make sense? Sorry, I switch quite comfortably between metric and imperial!).

Here is my final (I hope) pattern - doesn't it look strange?
I know that the side seam will need further refining but I can easily do that in the fabric.
So where am I at now? Time to make the actual pants, wish me luck! I must say I am feeling quite enthused about it now, although I still cringe when I look at the back pattern piece! But if it works it will be well worth it.

Is it just me, or does everyone have to go through such massive alterations? I know many of you out there can make direct from the pattern and I am so jealous, but this process does highlight to me the wisdom of using TNT patterns.