Thursday, 30 January 2014

Wardrobe Architect Post 2

The more I do these wardrobe architect posts, oddly, the more I wonder about posting them on my blog, because although I would have said that these posts are ‘just’ about clothes, the more I’m starting to realise that my feelings about what I choose to wear, and how I feel in certain clothes, can actually be very personal indeed! Sorry again if you find these boring, feel free to skip 'em!

I have to admit, I feel like these exercises have been really useful for me, because they're making me take a real look at how I feel in relation to certain styles. I started this blog partly as a way of encouraging myself to branch out into more interesting, and 'girly' clothing, and I've come to realise that actually, it's fine if I don't feel comfortable in full-skirted dresses, and that I can still look feminine and ladylike without them! The more I look, the more I see that there are definitely ways in which I can tweak my wardrobe to fit my desire to feel more 'put-together' and 'classy' without having to sacrifice feeling comfortable and 'myself' in those clothes. It's okay for me to love other bloggers' vintage styles/50's style dresses/colourful outfits, without wearing them myself! But you know what? If I DO decide to branch out into these areas, that's fine too! Having a solid grip on what does and does not work for me personally will only make it easier for me to branch out, in ways in which I'm comfortable!

Uncover the styles that make you feel like yourself and attach words and images to them.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc)?

Confident, elegant, strong, adaptable, adventurous, free, energetic, vibrant, classy.

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

Uncomfortable, self-conscious, sluggish, bulky. 

I hate anything riding up or down, or anything at all restrictive to movement.

I struggle to feel comfortable in anything 'cutesy' or overly 'girly'. Anything that is particularly fussy or frilly just makes me irritable when I'm wearing it. I've also noticed that I may wear one item of clothing with a print on it, but anything too loud, busy or flowery makes me very self conscious.

Anything animal print. I love it on other people, but for me, just no.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

I’ve come to realise that I don’t actually think I have any style icons! Or, at least, I can't think of any person in particular that embodies my 'ideal' style... This has kind of irritated me, and I'm now actively looking to see if I can find a style icon, more out of interest's sake than for any other reason.

The closest thing to a style icon I can come up with is Katniss Everdeen's everyday clothing in both movies. Natural, functional, but ladylike and flattering. I think it's more than the clothes she wears though, she's an intelligent, competent, strong female character.

I suppose I have some brands that kind of epitomise my idea of style: Roxy (although probably the stuff on the dressier end of the spectrum), Fat Face, and Joules. For me they often seem to mix the casual with elegant and ladylike, which is what I'm after I think!

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

Retro/Vintage - I LOVE LOVE LOVE these looks, but I hate to feel at all 'costumey' in what I wear. I love these looks on other people, and really wish that I could pull them off, but I just don't feel remotely comfortable in anything too obviously 'vintage'. :( 

Anything 'hobo'esque. I'll admit I like wearing some slouchy cardigans, but too many loose layers just don't do me any favours.

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activi­ties, location, and body. List at least 15 words that you associate with your answers. Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with these things:


Are there other words you would like to add to this list? What other words describe your core style?

Honestly, it was hard enough coming up with just those words.... I don't think I can possibly come up with anything else at the moment!

Look over the answers to all of the questions above. If you had to narrow your list to only 3-5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?

Collect 15-20 images that represent these 3-5 words for you. You could create a pinterest board, a folder on your computer, a moodboard, or a collage. Be creative and have fun!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Finished: Lace Plantain Top

Trying to get the remote to work!
Just a super quick post to say - I made something! Woo! 
This month has been really busy, as Mr Cuckoo and I have decided to move, and then have been house hunting, and then going through all the lettings application process yadda, yadda, yadda....

So I haven't really had anywhere near as much time as I'd hoped to sew, but last Sunday I finally had a little bit of time to myself, so, looking for a quick project, I downloaded, taped and cut out the Deer and Doe Plantain pattern. (It's free! FREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! Ahem. Sorry. I love freebies.)

I've been wanting a new long-sleeved top that was a little bit dressier than a t-shirt, but comfortable and warm and that would go with most of my wardrobe, as part of my Capsule Wardrobe Project, so I decided to use some black doubleknit material that I'd bought before Christmas for a project that I didn't have time for in the end, and then layer some white stretch lace that has been hanging around in my stash for ages over the front, and use some more for the elbow patches. 

In the end I just pointed the remote directly
at the camera, which seemed to work!
Not very pleased.
I made a couple of little adjustments to the pattern. I lengthened the bodice front and back by 1.5", since all tops are too short for my absurdly long torso (I wouldn't mind if my legs were long too, but as you can see, they're pretty short and 'sturdy') and I also raised the neckline up a couple of inches, because I wanted a fairly 'solid' front bodice to properly show off the lace. I also went up a size to a 40, because I knew the doubleknit would not be as stretchy as normal jersey, but to be honest, I should have graded up to a 42 in the bust and tapered it back down at the waist - it's pretty snug up top to say the least!

Here's a close up of the lace front:

After cutting out the fabric, I basted the lace bodice front onto the black doubleknit one, and then just sewed the top as instructed. And the best bit? It only took about an hour and a half! I literally sewed that sucker up, and then wore it out to coffee with Mr Cuckoo!

I was hoping that the weather might perk up a bit this weekend, so I could get some photos taken outside, but it's done nothing but rain and storm all weekend, so I'm afraid my photographs are pretty crappy and dull because I had to take them inside with all the lights on, so they're pretty fuzzy. Also, I've finally got a camera remote, but it only worked about half the time, so I'm looking pretty grumpy in all the photos I took, and there were literally only two that were usable... oh well. At least I finally made AND photographed something in the same month. That's something right?? (I can't believe this... but as I'm sat here typing, the SUN has just come out and is shining through my sewing room window. ARGH.)

ANYWAY, if you're thinking about trying the Plantain pattern, I definitely recommend it! It's super quick and easy, and is a great way to stash bust any of your jersey!

Anyone else fallen under the Plantain spell?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Wardrobe Architect Post 1

January is just one of those months that I generally find a bit miserable, and neverending! And this January is a little bit more stressful than normal, because we're in the process of trying to move, so I'm totally behind on blog stuff! I think I'm starting to catch up a little bit now though. 

I filled in the first Wardrobe Architect worksheet, but wasn't planning on putting it on the blog, because it's pretty in-depth, and basically is just all about me and my life, and seemed a little navel-gazey to have on the blog, but whatever! It is my blog after all, and I'm going to want to talk more about the Wardrobe Architect stuff later, so I might as well have all my WA stuff in one place. Feel free to skip this, since it's just me talking about myself. 

How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallize? Have they changed over the years, and why?

I guess my childhood and teenage years probably influenced the way I dress more than I realise. I went to Catholic schools, so I wore a uniform every day until I went to sixth from college when I was 16, which basically meant I didn't have to think about what I was wearing most days. This might be part of the reason why I struggle so much to put together ‘outfits’ in the morning. I definitely wasn't much of a ‘girly’ girl – when I wasn't in school, I was either lounging around reading, playing on the computer (yep – I've been a gamer all my life!) or out having ‘adventures’ or playing street hockey or basketball with my elder brother and his friends. I pretty much lived in jeans and tshirts out of school. Since most of the books I read (and I read all the time) were sci-fi or fantasy, I think I always that clothes either had to be eminently practical (for during the quests and adventures) or very elaborate or beautiful (for those scenes at court or whatever) So I relished the few occasions where I had to wear a pretty dress, but I was always happy to get back into my jeans and t-shirts. 

How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

I guess I’m a humanist. I just want to do right by my fellow man, and the world we live in. I think that’s a big part of the reason why I try not to buy fast fashion anymore, and why I try as much as possible to think how to use whatever I have as much as I can before I get rid of it. More and more I’m starting to realise that material possessions are not necessarily what makes me happy. 

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

I really struggled with this one, and actually had a look at other people’s responses to try and give myself an idea of where to start. Um… Okay, so I’m English, and I partially grew up on the coast in the North-West, but because of my dad’s job, we did a lot of travelling to visit him when I was small, and we actually moved to Port Moresby in PNG when I was 6 months old, for a few years, so my earliest memories aren’t of England at all. I definitely think that having a dad who spent at least half of the year travelling has definitely given me my wanderlust, which has in turn solidified my love of practical clothing. I lived by the sea (in various places) up until the age of 21, and definitely feel that I'm most at home next to, on or in the sea. Also (I guess this belongs in culture??) I’m a massive nerd and I guess it’s fair to say there’s something a little ‘preppy’ about the clothes I like.

How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I have community of pretty close knit friends and family around me, and I think it’s fair to say that we’re all pretty sociable, are very into doing things ourselves (pretty much all of us brew our own beer) and we all tend to go surfing and camping and skiing together, and generally like to enjoy the big outdoors.  

How do your day to day activities influence your choices?

My job is 100% desk based at a university, and we have a totally casual dress code, which effectively means I can wear what I want to work. In some ways, this is a blessing (I never have to worry about whether or not I can ‘get away’ with an outfit) but in other ways, it’s a curse. With no particular outfit ‘rules’ I find it very hard to choose clothing to wear. I want to be comfortable, yet ‘professional’ but not ‘frivolous’. I want to look feminine, but not girly. I want my clothing to be practical but aesthetically pleasing. ARGH. My attitude towards clothing feels very very contradictory and slightly schizophrenic! When I’m not at work, in the week, I’m generally in the gym! I lift weights and kickbox, and I need comfortable workout clothes, with bottoms that are tight fitting but not restrictive in any way (particularly so that I can kick at head height etc) and tops that aren’t going to ride up and expose more flesh than I necessarily want.

At the weekend, I like to be practically dressed, so that I can spend all day walking around either in the woods or in the city, so I can curl up on the couch all day and read books, or head to a local coffee shop and, er… read books, or go to a nearby bar for a drink with friends. I might be heading to Wales surfing, and need warm and comfortable clothing that is easy to put on and take off (the LAST thing you want after stripping off your wetsuit in a windy, rainy car park on the Welsh coastline is to find that your jeans are difficult to pull on, or your top is a bit tight in the shoulders!) BUT, despite all this, I don’t want to look frumpy, androgynous, or masculine. I want to be able to make the most of my ‘curves’.

Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

I live in the Midlands in the UK! There aren’t any extremes of temperature requiring any specific clothing, but rather, clothing that can do for cool days and warm days alike. It rains pretty often and can often be pretty grey, but then we also get occasional bursts of sunshine! The clothes that tend to get the most use are those that you can layer up when it’s cold, or wear alone on warmer days. 

In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

I love what Sarai herself said: ‘body acceptance is a daily practice, not an achievement. It can ebb and flow with little relation to physical reality.’ I think that generally, I have a relatively good body image. However, I’m fairly hourglass-shaped, and I can sometimes be quite self-conscious about my bum, hips and legs, but then, these are part of the reason I can kick so hard at kickboxing, or squat with a heavy barbell on my shoulders, so on the days when I’m irritated at my muscly thighs or big bum, I try to remember this, which does help. I like to try to wear things that accentuate my relatively small waist, but am uncomfortable in any clothes that restrict my movement at all.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Operation: Capsule Wardrobe

This is not exactly what I think my wardrobe will look like,
by the way, it's just a representative illustration!
Do you ever find that sometimes, you can sit and ruminate for a while over something, turning it over in your head, and then as you come to a conclusion about it, you find that other people are having that same realisation?  And suddenly, you're relieved to find that you're not the only one, that the topic that you've been pondering has been in other people's thoughts too?

That's happened to me this past week, and I'm thrilled about it!

January is all about re-evaluation for me... although this year I've decided not to put any particular pressure on myself 'sewlution'-wise (It's unlikely that I'll keep it, anyway, and 'failing' it will only serve to make me feel bad about myself!) I've decided to take action on a couple of things that have been bothering me for a while.

I've been coming to the conclusion that my wardrobe and fabric stash need a serious overhaul - I need to simplify, and find items that I really want to wear, that I feel comfortable in, but also fit my 'aesthetic'. I've decided that this year, I want to try to sew myself a 'capsule wardrobe' of items that can be mixed and matched with each other in many different combinations, fitting my own aesthetic and needs, and in doing so, hopefully reduce my fabric stash to a manageable state.

Luckily for me, the sewing blog-world is clearly on the same page! Sarai is discussing the capsule wardrobe in her Wardrobe Architect post, Tasha is looking at the way you see your perfect wardrobe, and for my need to reduce my fabric stash, there's Stashbusting 2014 with Emsewcrazy and Cation Designs, and there's the Stash diet - I need to do all of it basically! And looking at all the comments on their blogposts, I'm not the only one who feels that way. This is one of the things that I really love about the online sewing community - no matter how you're feeling, there's likely to be someone else that is in the same boat, and so you can encourage and support each other. It gives me the warm fuzzies!

So, I've decided to start Operation: Capsule Wardrobe - as outlined above, I'm going to sew myself a capsule wardrobe of approcimately sicteen items, using patterns that I already own (or that are gifted to me/I buy with birthday/christmas money) and where ever possible, using fabric from my stash. I don't think I can really be absolutely strict about this, or at least I won't be that strict about this, because I really want to make sure that I'm making items that are very interchangeable, so I think there's going to have to be a bit of a palette going on. (Which basically means I'll probably have to learn a bit about the 'colour wheel' as I know nothing about 'fashion-y' shizz like that).

These are the (tentative) sixteen items I'm going to make:
  •  2 x jeans
  •  2 x skirts
  •  3 x tshirts
  •  1 x jumper/sweater
  •  2 x cardigan
  •  2 x shirts
  •  2 x dresses
  •  2 x woven tops

I'm hoping that, if, along with Operation:  Capsule Wardrobe, I join the Stashbusting challenge and the Stash diet, and pay particular attention to Sarai and Tasha's posts, I should be well on my way to an uncluttered and simple wardrobe, and hopefully, by thinking ahead and planning, and by having a few self imposed constraints on fabric, I should be able to avoid any frivolous makes that don't get any wear because they're not very 'me'.

It's going to be a bit of a challenge I expect, but I'm actually really looking forward to the prospect!

Now, if only I could work out how to add more hours into the day!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Finished: Newcastle Cardigan!

Mr Cuckoo's Newcastle Cardigan
I know, I know! More selfless sewing! I don't know what happened, but last autumn I was so productive when it came to sewing for Mr Cuckoo. He officially now has an entire outfit, made by me! Jeans (not worn here!), shirt and cardigan! Honestly, I was so thrilled to find Thread Theory, and I loved all their patterns, that I just snapped each one up as they came out! This cardigan was the first thing I started on after I'd finished his jeans, and it was super easily to make up! 

I chose some charcoal ponte/doubleknit stuff for the main fabric, a contrasting aubergine-y coloured knit for the yoke, managed to find some buttons that matched the contrast fabric, and away I went! I made up Version A in a straight size Medium, and had no problems with the constructions whatsoever, until I got to the buttonholes. Argh! I don't know what the problem with my machine was, but the one-step buttonhole stitch absolutely would not work properly. It just got halfway through the buttonhole, got stuck and then sat there, creating an irritating mound of thread that I would then have to rip out. After ripping out the top button hole three times, I just gave it to Mr Cuckoo to wear, and promised that it would eventually have some buttonholes, and then he'd be able to close it!

I'm super proud of my straight topstitching on the yoke! Normally my stitches are all over the place!

It actually went into frequent rotation in his wardrobe for a good month before I could pluck up the courage to have another go at those button holes. Finally, after a lot of research into the automatic buttonholer on Brother machines, and creating button holes on stretch fabric, and using gimp thread with a one step buttonhole stitch, I finally decided to give it a go. And it still stuck. But I just gave it one last attempt, and kind of forced the fabric through the machine where it tended to get stuck, rather than let it do its own thing, and that worked! One buttonhole down, four more to go! Only, when it came to the next button down, it just sewed the buttonhole automatically, no problem. Same goes for the rest of them. So whatever my machine's problem was, it was only with the very top-point of the placket. UGH. Whatever, machine. Needless to say, I was pretty triumphant when I handed it back to Mr Cuckoo!

I really like this pattern, and I'm actually thinking of doing what Morgan did and making one up for myself! I like to think of it as a kind of 'classy' hoodie/sweatshirt. It has all the comfort of a sweatshirt, but it doesn't look anywhere near as casual. Mr Cuckoo often wears it to work, and has had compliments on it! I felt a bit smug after he told me that! The arms are pretty long on this pattern, which is fine for Mr Cuckoo, because he actually has really long arms, and hates it when sleeves are too short, and these are perfect for him but I think that's definitely worth keeping in mind when you're making this up.

I also love the collar, although Mr Cuckoo wasn't 100% sure about the larger collar in view B to begin with, I think he might be coming around to it now. If I make myself a version, I definitely want to go for the larger shawl collar, because it's not something I'd usually go for, but it would make the cardigan extra snuggly, which is definitely what I'm after at the moment!

I worried a little bit at first when I was sewing the collar that it might not match up properly, or that it might look a little strange or rumpled, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out! From what I remember, the instructions were very straight forward - and considering I didn't have any sewing mishaps or times when I had to rip something out when I'd gone wrong or didn't really understand what I was supposed to do (this happens to me all the time), this suggests that they're pretty good!
ECU of collar!
A couple of final little points about the construction (from what I remember.... it'd be a lot easier if I either a) took photos and blogged about the make more quickly, or b) made notes!)
  • Since this was a (relatively stable!) stretch fabric, I used a ballpoint needle, but just used a straight stitch for all the seams and top stitching, and had no problems!
  • I made sure to use a knit interfacing for the collar, facing and placket pieces, but because it was such a thick fabric, I didn't interface the yoke as I was worried about bulk.
  • There were times when the seam allowances made things pretty bulky, and I definitely recommend grading them, particularly around the placket!
If you're on the fence about this pattern, I'd definitely go for it! It's a relatively quick and easy project, but I think it looks like a lot of effort went into it when it's completed!

That's it for selfless sewing for a while I think! I need to do some serious wardrobe overhauling, which means more sewing for meeeeeeee! Yay!

Triumphantly fastened!

Friday, 3 January 2014

January Wishlist!

Happy New Year all!

I hope everyone had a lovely festive break! I ate and drank obscene amounts, and am quite frankly shocked that any of my clothes still fit me...

When I wasn't gorging myself or opening my (many! yay!) presents, I was internet windowshopping! Although I can't really afford to buy myself any new clothes, and I tend to stay away from buying new RTW clothes, I still like to look, if only for a bit of inspiration.

Here's what is currently inspiring me:
1: White Stuff 'Woodland Tee' The print on this top is actually feathers, but from a bit of a distance, I think they look like little trees, which makes me like this top even more!

2: Fat Face 'Mevagissey Military Jacket' Unfortunately, since I saved this photo and the link, Fat Face seem to have stopped selling this, which is probably a very good thing for my bank balance. I have a major thing about military style jackets (see what I did there???) and I could definitely see myself buying this!

3. Peter Storm 'Jack in a Pack' This is a bit more of a practical item, but I really do need a waterproof jacket. When we camp (and it inevitably rains) I've been using Mr Cuckoo's plain black 'kag in a bag', that quite frankly smells fusty and horrible. I'd much rather have one with a pretty print while I'm at it. This is one thing that I will probably just buy new, because I'm not sure I'd really be able to make something completely waterproof.

4: Roxy 'Torah' Jeans I know I mentioned these jeans already here but I do really like them! I hope I can work on a good fitting jeans pattern for myself so I can try to make something similar.

5. Joules 'Marsha Fox Intarsia Jumper' A jumper with a dandified fox on the front of it!!! Need I say more? I need this in my life! (Maybe one day when I have enough cash to warrant dropping 70 quid on a jumper)

6. Neve Mia 'Weekender Bag' I really need a good sized weekend bag, since we seem to spend so many weekends visiting people, and I end up using 2-3 small bags for all my stuff. I really like the size/style of this one, and I love the print!

7. Fat Face 'Darcy Jacket' More jacket love. Oh Darcy jacket, how I love thee! But I cannot afford thee!

8. Joules chambray shirt I definitely want more shirts in my wardrobe, and I think that this one would go with a good percentage of my wardrobe.

I'm hoping that having posted my wishlist, I can stop surfing the 'net windowshopping, and start doing something a little more productive!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Finished: One long overdue Negroni shirt for Mr Cuckoo!

He looks pretty grumpy in this photo, but
all the ones where he's smiling are blurry!
This shirt is long overdue in pretty much every sense of the word. I bought the fabric and pattern LAST October to make a shirt for Mr Cuckoo's birthday, but er, his birthday came and went with no real progress made. Oops. I got pretty overwhelmed with the idea of making something as labour-intensive as a shirt, and so it just never really happened! (I DID get Mr Cuckoo a thermal rash-vest for his birthday too, and some other little treats, so I promise he wasn't presentless on his birthday!)

It was actually watching the Great British Sewing Bee that finally got me moving on this shirt. Watching Ann carefully make tailors tacks in her pattern pieces just inspired me to take action! For once, I didn't cut any corners, I didn't rush, I diligently inserted tailors tacks (although they just kept coming out again, which I found SO frustrating. Clearly I either wasn't sewing them properly, or I was handling the pattern pieces too much.)

I let Mr Cuckoo choose the fabric and buttons (OH, those buttons cost more than the fabric did! I nearly passed out when those 9 buttons came out at about £13! Needless to say, I get a veto on any of his button/fabric choices from now on!) and I have to admit, I don't think the fabric is really 100% suitable for a shirt. It is super super soft and has a lovely drapey hand. I told Mr Cuckoo at the time that the shirt might look quite wrinkly in that fabric, but he said that he really loved it, and wanted the shirt to be casual, so I went ahead.

(Unfortunately, trying to take photographs of a navy blue shirt inside on an overcast day, WHILST laughing my ass off has basically meant that the majority of these photographs are on the blurry side!)

You can see that the fabric at the front hem kind of buckles a bit where it's attached to the front facing, presumably because the front facing is interfaced, and the shirt front isn't, but although it really bothers me, Mr Cuckoo doesn't seem to care at all!

I traced the size Medium for the shirt, and expected this version to be a wearable muslin, but apart from the wrinkles created by the drapiness of the fabric, the only problem with fit seems to be the cuffs, which are a little too tight, and create a bit of bunching in the wrist area...  I will definitely make those a little looser next time!

Mr Cuckoo totally cracks me up with his poses! I had just said 'Turn around so I can photograph the back' but he's like 'HUH! HANDS ON HIPS!' He made me laugh so much taking these photos, that about 80% are massively blurry, and totally useless! Oh well.
Checking out the slightly too small cuff

This photo kind of shows a more accurate idea of
 the drapiness of the fabric
Because the fabric was so drapey, I did struggle a little bit getting a crisp collar, even with interfacing. If you look closely, you can see that it is a little rumpled looking. Fortunately, with the relaxed camp collar on this pattern, I don't think it's quite as noticeable as it would have been if the pattern had called for a collar stand!

I also added the collar loop and button, but I will probably leave this off next time, since Mr Cuckoo is never going to use it, and I feel like it makes the collar look a bit 'busy'.

This pattern is definitely going to be revisited time and again! It's definitely the type of pattern that can be made to look completely different, just with a change of fabric, and since Peter has a tutorial to add a collar stand, it can be totally versatile! 

It might have taken me seven months to actually make the shirt, and another six to photograph the damn thing, but I'm happy with how the shirt turned out overall (although I'm definitely using a crisper fabric next time!) and I'm even more pleased with how happy Mr Cuckoo is to have it, so I'm calling this 'GREAT SUCCESS!' I'm also getting serious brownie points with all this selfless sewing!

Father Christmas, have you SEEN how good I've been this year???

I will leave you with this VERY silly photograph of Mr Cuckoo doing an impression of a lazy-eyed hummingbird. You're welcome.