20 Jul 2010

Spotlight: My Work Place

I have no sewing to post about (although the stripey tee project is calling me as my fabric arrived this morning. Woo!) and I think I whinged enough in yesterday's post and didn't talk once about the joy of the finished project so, now, please consider that box ticked.

I thought I'd introduce you to my workplace by sharing with you the view from my box office where I sit like an ostracised automaton waiting for the request to change the dates on something I just changed five minutes ago and ten minutes before that ... and so on and so forth for the day whilst filling up the spare moments with pointless Twilight quizzes and random TV boyfriend picture hunting to pretty up the desktop. Oh, and discovering just how rubbish my blog looks on a PC instead of a Mac. All the colours and the layout were way off and the photos really dark. Is that just crappy BBC technology, fabulous Apple technology or something I haven't thought of? Do any of you have that problem?

BBC Wales Drama is nothing if not picturesque (well, it is if you ignore the garage). I live on the other side of that hill (mountain, not that you can tell from this pic). And as I am helping out in the Drama Department that means the halls are covered in pictures of David Tennant and the cast of Torchwood. See, there is a reason to love working for the BBC. Wanna see my office?

Titchy, huh? I kicked a Producer out for this office, heh. They've got nowhere else to put me so I am all on my own. The three people I'm PA-ing for haven't been in Cardiff for more than a couple of hours so far, I haven't even met two of them in my PA capacity (I met one of them in my previous incarnation whilst in telly but I doubt he'll remember that). It's all a bit random and weird but with Starbucks and Silent Night lyrics on big A3 pieces of card (long story ....)

Thanks for stopping by,

19 Jul 2010

Sewing: The Lessons, The Frustrations & The Joy

There's a distinct possibility I've bitten off more than I can chew here, but as that's nothing new I'm not going to cry over it.

I'm finding sewing my own clothes incredibly frustrating. I can put together a garment quite easily ... unless it involves pleats apparently. I can insert a zip, sew a button hole (or rather my machine can), insert sleeves and sew collars that are even. I can construct a reasonably well put together garment, not perfect as I can't get my machine to finish edges without eating the material but all in all they're put together pretty well for someone that's been sewing on and off for about two months in all over the years.

But I can't make things fit me and it's driving me insane.

I'm too nervous to finish/ recut any of my current projects in case I can't get them to fit and then find it's a total waste of material. My shorts ... well, let's start with them shall we? Take a look:

About as unflattering as they could be. I ripped the waistband off last week and took the front and back middle seams in about an inch in total which helped some and reduced the sag at the back where my back curved in and the garment didn't (sway back?).

Unfortunately, the side seams (and the zip) are shaped for curves I just don't have and need to be taken in. I'm vacillating between ripping out the zip and taking in or just recutting the damn pattern in a smaller size. I cut size 16 to match my waist but even with the reductions I've made they're still way too big at the waist.

The full extent of my waist curve and the excess fabric and resultant gap at the waist. How can this be?? I've already got 6 darts along the waistline as it is (2 back, 1 front on both sides), I don't have room for more and it would spoil the line of the garment, right?

And what if I recut and it still doesn't fit? How the hell am I supposed to know if a pattern will fit me if I can't trust the measurements the envelope tells me? Why does this have to be harder than it already is? I look at Angie's (with the awesome scalloped edges) and they're fab. Why don't mine look like that? (yes, I'm wailing, I think I'm allowed, right?)

Simplicity 1683 on the other hand is going okay. Well ... I'm terrified of the amount of pleats required to make this dress. I have approximately 3 metres of fabric to pleat for the skirt and then there are pleats in the sleeves too. That's a whooooole lotta pleating! Oh, and the collar issue is still unresolved because nothing seems to match it - the fabric that's all creased at the front appears to be the sticky-outy bit before the collar proper (oh so technical me!). I think the collar is sewn to the curve at the top of the fabric fold in an n shape. I have nothing that fits nor a pattern with a similar collar shape. Whoopsie!

Oh yeah, and my seam binding tape is just the wrong shade of navy but I'm hoping everyone will be too polite to mention that once I, y'know, figure out how to actually use the stuff.

The bodice is only pinned because I'm terrified of having a repeat of the shorts on my hands and frankly I can't afford to buy 5 metres of fabric even though I now have a job (!).

Yes, I'm back at BBC Wales despite swearing I wouldn't work in telly ever again. The Drama department needed a hand, technically I'm PA-ing instead of my actually telly job, and I needed the money. It's also only for 2 weeks, there's a Starbucks on set and I get to hang out with old friends and past colleagues I haven't seen in over a year so there's some good to it but it does mean the sewing is at a standstill but with a better excuse.

I'm waiting for Mum to help take all my measurements so that I can start actually measuring the patterns properly (once she's shown me how to do that!) but in the meantime I think it's safe to say that I'm going to fail miserably at the Summer Essentials Sew-Along. I'm waiting on the red and white striped fabric for the tee and as that's just a straight bodice, no darts, no sleeves and no openings (other than arms and head and bottom I hope!) I'm going to sew that up as soon as it arrives. But for everything else? Probably not so much. This means, unless something seriously changes, I'm going to fail the Self-Stitched-September too, and that just chaps my butt. Any advice peeps? You've all been fab to date and I need a pick me up.

Hhhhmmm, I wonder if I'll get my name in any credits ....

Thanks for stopping by,

18 Jul 2010

Is It A Bird ....

{ Source: Superman Homepage }

I've been rather verbose about my love of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day and Pushing Daisies, not to mention my love for the costumes worn by the leading ladies. Yesterday, after enjoying the episode I taped of Chuck, ogling Brandon Routh unashamedly (I think I'm going to have to add him to my ever increasing list of TV boyfriends) I got the urge to watch the wonderful Superman Returns.

I'm not going to review the film, you either love it or you hate it from what I can tell. I loves it madly and I think Brandon was a fantabulous Superman.

But that's not the point of this post. You may recall that Ali recommended I take a look at 1930's fashions as a better era for my shape. I have been doing just that (whilst also researching that quintessential French style I mentioned in my previous post) and have even gone as far as buying a couple of patterns.

Which is probably why, after my convoluted evening's viewing led me to Superman Returns, I fell in love with Lois' costumes. They're very 30's and 40's in style. Neutral colours, lots of browns. And they're very very nice. Perfect for work, which is exactly what I want. And don't even get me started on Kitty's wardrobe. I wants it. All of it. Yes, even that crazy hat.

I had forgotten the costumes in this film, I watched it because it makes me cry and it's not a traditionally happy ever after story. Now I'm rewatching it for the costumes. All the costumes. Cos even the bloke's clothes are pretty ... except possibly Jimmy's bowtie.

Are there other films out there I should be enjoying for their costumes? What're your favourites?

Thanks for stopping by,

17 Jul 2010

The Ongoing Quest for Style

In my on-going quest for a style of my own I am, once again, trawling through photos of everyone else in an effort to find something I can copy. Crazy huh?

I have a whole love-hate relationship with the French that I think a lot of people in the UK probably share. We have a cultural history of fighting with the French, centuries of inbuilt distrust and sneering has been passed down through the generations. My favourite method of physical swearing (sticking up two fingers) first came about as a taunt to the French*, we like to think of them as rude and arrogant (and forget that we display the same traits more often than not). None of this is verbalised, obviously, but it is felt.**

But I love France. I love their culture, their attitude towards work and the Mediterranean outlook on socialising. I find their relationship to cheese a little strange given the obsessiveness they exhibit over it but as I love cheese too I'm willing to take that in my stride. I absolutely adore their fashion and their furniture. And the biggest compliment I've ever had was when I was asked if I was French. Because there's one thing you have to give the French women, they know how to dress.

It was with this view in mind that I decided that emulating the quintessential French woman's sense of fashion might be a place to start. I can incorporate my love of times gone by into the look. Eagerly I opened google and put in french fashion. And found almost nothing to help.

Because the quintessential French woman's sense of fashion is unique and indescribable and doesn't just come from the clothes she wears but from that certain je ne sais quoi*** she has about her. In an effort to understand this I started looking at books about French women and their sense of fashion and came up with a trooper.

I don't normally review books as I go through so many of them (see the reading list linked above) but this was eye opening and I thought that if there was anyone else out there interested in the French style then it might be useful to share some information.

Realistically, what makes French women look good is that they're wearing classic pieces, tailored classic pieces. And then they accessorise and accessorise well. That's it, that's the big secret.

But they also live in a culture where being beautiful is more important than living. Seriously. Lingerie has a whole other meaning to them and must be matching. Fidelity is unexpected, women are in direct competition. Always. And you are expected to be clever, for you cannot be beautiful without intellect.

The author, Helena Frith Powell, is an Englishwoman who moved to France with her husband and their children and then began to realise how out of place she felt purely because of the way she dressed and thought about herself. In an effort to understand the differences she interviewed gaggles of French women about everything, talked to friends in the UK about the English woman and her habits and compared the two. It's a fascinating look at the behaviours and lifestyles of women in two very different cultures and I devoured it overnight. I'll definitely be taking away some of the things I've learned and applying them to my life and I'll definitely be starting the simple exercises she describes in one chapter in an effort to tone up a little. But I'll be keeping my sense of humour, thankyouverymuch, and my faith that not every woman I know is attempting to steal my lover.

* Our long bows were better than their short bows, and having a greater range meant our armies could kill more French whilst being out of range to their arrows. In retaliation I'm told the French cut off the first and second fingers on every British archer they could find to ensure they could never draw a bow again. The Brits taunted the French on the battlefield by waving those two fingers at them at every opportunity.

** Please note, cultural prejudices aside, the Brits don't actually go around hating the French or the Germans. We just like having someone to blast when it comes to football (that's soccer for all you Yanks, although how you can call a sport where the ball barely touches the foot football, and a game where you kick a ball with your foot 99% of the time not football is incomprehensible to me and my compatriots).

*** direct translation: I don't know what  

Thanks for stopping by,

12 Jul 2010

Project: 20 Min Skirt

Today I took a small break from the vintage sewing and the sheer amount of pleats necessary for Simplicity 1683 for 30 mins or so to make up a skirt based on the Twenty Minute Simple Skirt Tutorial from Kathleen at Grosgrain. It took me an extra ten minutes because it started out life as this:

This is a dress I started but decided not to finish a couple of years back when I first started sewing my own clothes solo. It's Simplicity 3739 but I quickly discovered the neckline didn't suit me and decided not to bother hemming or inserting the zip as I'd never actually wear it. However, the fabric I absolutely adored and have been wanting to refashion for aaaages.

Discovering Kathleen's quick tutorial I thought I'd give my dress to skirt thing a try. And ended up with this. Could I look more Granny?

This is more my fault than Kathleen's, I forgot that the original pattern called for an A line skirt and whereas Kathleen's tutorial shows how to create the skirt without hemming I needed to do something about the fraying edges so just turned, turned again and top stitched down. This resulted in quite an unbendy hemline which added to the problem.

I think (other than I have camera loving pets) that the elasticated waist is not a look I can pull off due to the bulk it adds to my mid section that has enough undefinition on its own without adding to it. I should probably have hemmed after sewing in the elastic to ensure I got the correct hem length (about an inch or so shorter that it actually is) and I should probably have gone for the tutorial on Ruffles and Roses instead. But hey, that's 20/20 hindsight for you!

I should apologise for the tea stain on my vest, the wolf decided to join me on the couch as I was taking a sip and there's barely enough room for us both on a normal day. And more apologies for the crazy scientist look I seem to have going on, I'm not sure where that came from but have a sneaky suspicion I look like it more often than I realise.

And now I'm off to attempt pleating. Lots and lots and lots of pleating! 

Thanks for stopping by,

9 Jul 2010

Catch Up

I'm just nipping in for a quick catch up post, I've had my head stuck in a Nora Roberts trilogy, interview jitters and impending new job nightmares and as a result haven't done an awful lot of sewing (I've also had an extremely enjoyable day at Ikea with two crazy Swedes and the cutest little boy ever, plenty of walks with the wolf and far too much junk food so it's not all bad!)

I just popped in to tell you about this link. This one here. Read it, it might save someone's life. I don't know about you but I know nothing about drowning or what drowning looks like but as someone who lives near the coast and may just spend some time at the beach at some point this summer then this article could be a live saver. Literally. Hell, so long as you're near a pool let alone a beach then this is an article you need to read. The statistics mentioned are terrifying and the descriptions are something I hope I will remember for the rest of my life, someone elses may just count on it.

6 Jul 2010

Project: Simplicity 1683

Simplicity 1683

I'm trying to make view 2 (the green one), I've cut almost everything.

And there's no collar piece! Nooooooo!

Bad Blogger!

Bad Blogger has twice now eaten a comment I tried to post in response to the very helpful quietandsmalladventures' comments. Each time it appeared but as soon as I navigated away from the page I commented on it disappeared. I have no clue why but this is a test post to see if Bad Blogger will eat my posts too. If you've posted a comment today then please repost once Bad Blogger get's it act together.

And because he's so adorable, here's the wolf sparko on the couch (and my stripy ironing board ruining the shot at the bottom there)

Thanks for stopping by,

5 Jul 2010

Project: Simplicity 1683

Whilst I hem and haw* over what to do about my poor 1940's style shorts I decided to move on to something else. Yes, I think I've officially been bitten by the sewing bug!

Simplicity 1683

Simplicity 1683 is probably yet another dress that won't suit me. But, do you know what? Not only do I not care, I've also not actually made one of these yet to be sure!

I'm going to use the navy blue polycotton I originally bought for the playsuit and am going to use a couple of indigo blue type flat sheets (that just barely don't match) for the playsuit as I'd rather this dress were a more 'grown up' colour and suitable for work and, y'know, didn't have any colour mismatches to embarrass me!

This is fun!

* sorry, I've got Seven Brides For Seven Brothers [1954] on and it affects my vocabulary

Thanks for stopping by,

Project: Simplicity 3688

{ Source: Tuppence and Ha'penny Vintage }

In my attempt to make this outfit (blue shorts and striped tee) yesterday I made shorts from ...

Simplicity 3688

... this pattern. It took me all afternoon, I inserted my first zip ever, I had to break a needle, I stabbed myself innumerable times with pins, I screwed up the waistband ever so slightly and I was so proud with the almost finished result that when I had to break the needle at 11pm last night to get my almost finished shorts off the machine I didn't actually care.

Right up until I tried them on. Yup. FAIL! They don't fit! And I'm not sure how to fix it.

I made a size 16 to fit my waist and foolishly forgot to slim down the hips so they bag. I can't take them in because it's a side zip so whilst I could slim one I can't do the other and wouldn't that look wrong?

The back gapes like you would not believe (well, based on her comment on an earlier post perhaps Molly would), even when I hold the waistband closed an extra inch there's still gaping. Is this a sway back? I have a definite S shaped back, perhaps I should be looking at Victorian styles instead?

I thought I'd be clever and use the sheet's hemming instead of rehemming the shorts. Ha ha, nice idea, but it didn't work. One edge is a good centimetre longer than the other on both legs because I didn't measure properly and, actually, they're too long anyway.

But they look fab. Seriously. If they fit I'd be over the moon with how well I've made them. I've never made anything like this. And I did it without adult supervision (namely my Mother). And look at my zip!

(the fabric's bluer in real life)

That's my first ever zip that is, I'm so proud! But I will have to cut that loose thread on the right there.

So what do I do? Do I try to fix it or do I just recut the pattern down a size and start from scratch? I've got enough sheet after all. But that will take me all day. Again. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for stopping by,

4 Jul 2010

Short and Happy

After thoroughly confusing myself over styles for body shapes and disgusted with myself for spending far too much time on the subject I decided to cheer myself up with some simple crafting projects I had been meaning to start/ finish for some time:

On the left is a rose I'm making into a brooch for my Day Bag (finished but not yet posted about) and on the right is a ladies boot key ring in a fabric I adore. I drew the sole on with fabric pens and ironed it fast (hopefully!). It's a little too big for my key ring so I may make it into a handbag charm instead. I'm undecided over whether to sew laces across the front seam as I'm unsure if they would even be noticeable with the fabric print being so strong or if it would make it too busy. Both projects are from Tone Finnanger's Books which can be found here.

And then whilst catching up on everybody's week yesterday via my Google Reader I stumbled across this post by Charlotte of Tuppence and Ha'penny Vintage and instantly fell in love with the short and tee illustration in the second picture (below) and spent an hour or so figuring out how to make it. Not only will it make me happy, better yet, it will fulfill 2 of the 5 spots of my Sew Summer Essentials. It contradicts almost everything I've learnt about dressing for my shape and probably won't suit me but as Zoe pointed out in her comment, fashion do's and don't's are more like guidelines than actual rules and I'm with her and Cap'n Jack.

This is the outfit I want (shorts and striped tee) and the patterns I'll be using:

{ Source: Tuppence and Ha'penny Vintage }

Simplicity 3688

I'll be using the trousers to make the shorts (obviously). I had thought about using the shirt to make the tee but it has no centre seam and a yoke that would make it a little difficult to add a centre seam, for me anyway.

Simplicity 1008

So instead I'm going to use my newest purchase, once it arrives, to make the tee. This is actually a dress with straight sides so I'll be adding the centre seam and adding some shape to the side seams ... theoretically anyway!

I'm using an old dark blue cotton flat sheet for the shorts and have dug out a zip that is about 20" too long. I thought I'd get some red and white striped cotton material for the top as part of what drew me to the illustration was the fabric/ colour choices. Better yet, they match my wardrobe colours. Whoop whoop!

Right, I'm off to start cutting out!

Thanks for stopping by,

3 Jul 2010

It's a Question of Style

Ali and I are having a lovely discussion/ pity party in the comments of a previous post regarding body vs style. The style I love just doesn't suit me, how to find one that does but also suits my tastes?

So I'm doing some research, the tried and true method of determining what style clothes I should be wearing based on my body shape. I am, unsurprisingly, the rectangle or boyishly shaped. My measurements currently stand at 34-29-37 ... ish. It's a little hard to measure yourself accurately. I am also high waisted and have something ridiculous like a 29" inside leg measurement. I'm not even 5'3" tall, I'm all leg baby. This means that the guidelines for looking good when you're short and boyish in shape are contradicted by the length of my torso and legs. I am in a no win situation here. But what did surprise me is that Cameron Diaz and Nicole Kidman are also considered rectangles, and this gives me some hope!

When wearing modern fashions I tend to wear low slung jeans, hipsters rather than the kind you fall out of every time you bend over, to make my waist look lower. But found that it also negated what little waist line I had because it was covered in the drape and billow of the bagginess of the tops I was wearing to cover the almost total lack of curves I actually had. It's a fine line between a top that looks like you've got curves you're covering rather than a top that highlights your lack of waistline due to being 'figure hugging' or so baggy you can swim in it. It's one of the reasons I wanted to indulge my love of vintage styles, the silhouettes hinted that just maybe I might be able to prove I have a waist. I think I was wrong based on the photos of the previous post. Or at least wrong about the styles I chose.

It's rather strange because my first love is the 40's, always has been and I seem to draw that era to me when it comes to homewares (I own a vintage Aga and now a vintage Singer sewing machine but more on that later!). The strange part is that I seem to be fixated on 50's fashion styles. For example:

{ Source: Vintage Pattern Wikipedia }
McCall's 9211

This rather lovely 50's dress with pleats. I tell myself the drop waist and pleates will make my hips look bigger and the sleeves will widen my shoulders. All of which should, theoretically, make my waist look like ... well, a waist in all honesty. Something that goes in or is at the very least smaller than my bust and my hips. Would it though? Or do I once again think that if I wear this dress it will magically make me look like the pictures?

And, realistically, where the hell am I going to wear this dress anyway? I'm currently looking for work clothes and summer clothes. This pattern does not fit that criteria.

But it is pretty!

{ Source: Vintage Pattern Wikipedia }
Advance 7955

Or there's this lovely dress. In my head the raglan sleeves and high collar will accent my piddly bust and broaden my shoulders and the full skirt will accentuate my hips. If I'm really lucky I might even end up looking like Ulrika in her fabulous yellow dress (see here for pictures). But I have to remember the pictures of me and remember that's fantasy. A piece of clothing can't give me what I don't have.

When looking at my measurements, if I could get my waist down an inch I would meet the measurements for quite a few 40's and 50's patterns. But that doesn't take into account my high waist which negates everything.

Ali suggested looking at patterns from the 60's and 70's instead. Or the 20's and 30's as our shape (yes, Ali is inflicted with the same problems too) and measurements more closely resemble those of that period. She suggested choosing a vintage style that suits my shape rather than the styles I'm currently in love with and failing miserably at.

I'm a little wary of the 20's and 30's because I don't need any help to look boxy and I'm worried that's what they'd do. Saying that, I do like some of the fashions of the 30's and may look into that a little more in the near future.

Which leaves the 60's and 70's. Plenty of choice, more so than the earlier periods, at least on eBay anyway.

Except I find myself going for styles like these. Which is really just a 50's style carried over at the turn of the decade.

{ Source: Vintage Pattern Wikipedia }
Advance 2752

{ Source: Vintage Pattern Wikipedia }
Vogue 9967

Or this (which I am actually bidding on because I'm curious to see if the belting and looseness of the dress will work in my favour).

{ Source: Vintage Pattern Wikipedia }
Simplicity 1008

Have I really learned anything? Am I pattern hunting with my shape in mind?

I think, realistically, the answer is hell no! I am not only blind to but also in total denial of my shape and seem to be clutching hold of the firm belief that if I make or buy a dress I like then I will somehow end up looking like the picture that drew me to it in the first place. And that is impossible.

I think the fact that I'm undecided about what I want to make doesn't help. I need some work clothes and I need them fast. I refuse to go out and buy anything but coming from an industry with no dress code to an office environment with a smart dress code my current wardrobe is not only seriously limited but also seriously young. I have no grown up clothes and I hate that. But I have no idea what I mean by grown up clothes. See? Undecided.

But I also need summery clothes. Clothes I can layer. Woollens and knits that are to my taste and warm.

I love everything Mena makes and I catch myself thinking that if I get the same pattern then I'll look like Mena does in the same outfit. But whereas I've the body of a 12 year old boy with a small pot belly, Mena's all woman and her clothes reflect her shape wonderfully. It's hard to come to terms with the idea that I have no shape for clothes to reflect. And even the knowledge that almost all catwalk models have the same shape as me doesn't help in the slightest. I need to wake up and smell the sanity and pick clothes suitable for me and me alone ... just as soon as I figure out what that is.

But as Ali mentions in her post, that's what makes home sewing such a bonus. We can make what we want to suit ourselves and not the mass market. We just have to be realistic about what that is.

Am I the only one out there with a blind spot the size of the moon when it comes to my shape and a complimentary style? Or are there others out there to commiserate with me?

Thanks for stopping by,

2 Jul 2010

Guest Giveaway: My Happy Sewing Place

Quick, Debi of My Happy Sewing Place is hosting a multi-pattern, multi-sized giveaway, get your butts over there! Click here for details.

In other news I am researching clothes for my face and body type, my colours and what vintage styes from the 60's and 70's I like that I've ignored to date. More to follow soon!

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