Thursday, March 19, 2015

Winter Wardrobe - a pair of snuggly Lolas

Did you see the calender? It's already mid-March and spring is just around the corner! Actually, today was a very lovely and mild day, and I managed to run some errands riding my (new to me) bike (the old one was sadly stolen in January...). I also had a lovely coffee sitting in front of an Italian café in the sun, and it was warm enough to take off my jacket! Then I had the first gelato of the year. I felt like I was on a short spring holiday in Italy. :)
Now I had better tell you about the last of my winter makes before all I want to make and talk about is pretty spring dresses.

This one is a dress I've worn through most of January. I hardly ever wanted to take it off. Warm! Soft! Snuggly!
The pattern is, of course, the Lola Dress by Victory patterns, and I used a navy sweatshirt fabric with a little star print from stoffe.de. The backside is a bit fluffy and so cozy!
You can't really see it very well but I drafted a hood (well, I copied it from a RTW sweater), and while I hardly ever wear it up, it's perfect for tucking in a scarf and protecting the neck from a nasty draft. Smartly, I haven't actually taken any pictures of it. Oh well.

It also goes really nicely with the Anise jacket. :)
The other Lola is a refashion I made from a cardigan/coat thingy that was gifted to me by my paternal grandma last year. She was actually a seamstress when she was younger, though sadly we were never very close and I didn't even remember about that until a little while ago. She gave me that high quality wool sweater since it was too small for her, and it took me almost a year to think about something to refashion it into.
This is a modified Lola pattern, I eliminated the waist seam and left off the pockets. Even so, I hardly had enough fabric to work with but it worked out just so in the end. I left on the front pockets, which are now placed a little awkwardly right on the hips. I may have to take them off and attach them a little lower at some point... Turning the sleeves into raglan sleeves for the Lola left them 3/4 length, which isn't quite ideal for a winter dress. But then I got to keep the sleeve hem and the little buttons. :)
The dress turned out a bit short for my taste, and the wool is a little scratchy, so I haven't worn it all that often. It is toasty and I like that it reminds me of my grandma, though. :)

Is spring finally creeping into your corner of the world, too?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Winter Wardrobe - The Anise Jacket

So today I'm going to tell you about a project that I'm pretty proud of. I know that a lot of the garments that I sew are rather basic, quick and easy knit dresses and tops that are usually finished within a few hours. That's fine, because that's pretty much what I wear most days. However, it's also neither very challenging nor very exciting. (Hmm, not quite true. I'm always excited about wearing something new, or trying a new pattern.) Anyway - I made a Colette Anise jacket!
I  started making it sometime in mid-November. Cutting it out was a bit of a challenge, since I only had 1.5 meters of this burgundy herringbone wool blend, a remnant purchased at stoffe.de. But I'd been dreaming about a red herringbone coat or jacket for years now, so it had to be this! A game of very careful pattern tetris later, and I had actually squeezed out all of the pieces for this jacket, even managing to make long sleeves. Yay, me! ;) 
It took me until Christmas to finish the jacket, and I think it's the garment I have put the second most care and work into, second only to my Starlet Suit Jacket (and only because I didn't make a muslin this time). There are welt pockets and bound button holes and shoulder pads and quite a bit of handstitching. 
And a cute label. Not to mention it's underlined with fleece (repurposed from an old blanket) for warmth. And of course it has a very pretty polka-dotted lining (that I bought in Italy, near the Lago di Garda). I even bought Karen's ebook on How to Make Bound Button Holes - but in the end I used the tutorial that accompanies the Colette Patterns instructions. It's a bit less involved than Karen's method but I think the results are very satisfying.
The construction didn't go quite without hiccoughs. For one, with all those curves and the collar and sleeves, I kínda missed having a pressing aid, like a tailor's ham or a seam roll. Um yes, I've been sewing for almost five years without ever bothering to buy one. Did I mention that I sew mostly knits? I mostly don't even bother to press the seams when sewing with them. ;) But I can now totally see how they would come in useful when sewing something like a wool jacket.
The other hiccough was the insertion of the sleeve lining. I must have read the instructions wrong, since I attached the sleeve lining to the bodice lining first, then attached the lining to the facing and then wondered how to get the it attached at the cuffs. In reality, the instructions have you attach the sleeve lining to the sleeve cuff first, and then hand sew the sleeve lining to the bodice lining, for a better fit. In the end, I wasn't in the mood to undo my stitching, so I attached the lining to the cuffs by hand. I hear there is a strange technique called "bagging a lining", which may possibly be an easier way. At least there is way less hand sewing involved, and I may try that next time.
My final thoughts about this Anise jacket: it's pretty, but I have the feeling that it doesn't go with everything. Possibly because it's a tad short for my taste. It's works rather nicely with dresses, and also with skirts, but as you can see in the picture at the beginning of this post: the bottom part of my top shows. Thus it's not quite ideal for the cold days of winter, but it's fine for intermediate days and for colder spring and autumn days. I made bound button holes for the first time and love how nicely they turned out! And I think this won't be the last jacket I made. It may not even be the last Anise. :)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

An Oufit with a Twist

This is the story about my new favorite knit dress pattern. 

Although to be completely honest, new is a relative term, since my first version (the one with the flowers) was already made in... October? Possibly even September? Oh my...  In any case, I've been looking for a knit dress pattern with a knot or twist along the neckline for a pretty long time. They show up from time to time in the blogosphere, I think the first one I saw and fell in love with was made by my fellow Berlin sewing blogger Wiebke, who has made several cute versions of Onion 2022. Then there was also Amy, who has made at least two cute versions of a twisted Burda maxi dress, the same one that Allison made. There's also a cute Ottobre pattern (as seen here), McCalls 5484 (which Sarah made a cute green version of) and which looks pretty similar to a pattern from the Dutch pattern company Knipmode. Plus, Desigual got out a line of cute twist-front dresses sometime in the fall, which might have been what tipped me over the edge of actually buying a pattern. ;)
looks like that dress is just a bit too bif on that model... source
After a long bit of dithering, I decided to buy Onion 2022, which was pretty hyped and often sewn in the German sewing blogosphere, oh, sometime in 2012. Call me a late bloomer. ;)
This is the result, although I have to admit that it took me a little while to get there. My first version, before altering the heck out if it, looked like this:
See the uneven hemline and the big fold in the front? Yes, I should have guessed that from the pattern pieces (which featured an almost straight line where the skirt connects to the bodice, even though the bodice, after being twisted, forms a definite upside-down V in the middle). The correction, thankfully, was done easily enough by making the middle angle more acute, as seen in the picture (dotted lines) below.
I also scooped out a bit along the middle of the back skirt to make the fit better. The end result, as seen in the first picture, is still not quite perfect (the back neckline gapes a bit, and the front is low enough that I always have to wear it with a slip or tanktop underneath), but it got to be my favorite dress this autumn. I'm pretty sure I wore it several times every week, mostly with a cardi and tights. :)

I liked the style so much that I used a slinky blue rayon jersey to make a top for work. Actually, the fabric may have been too slinky since it shows every bump, but I never quite noticed in real life and wore it a lot. With a white tank top underneath, of course. No peeks for the patients. ;)
Last but not least, I filled a definite wardrobe gap with that pattern! If you have a look through my handmade wardrobe, there's a definite bias towards cute, fun knit dresses. There are a few everyday woven dresses, a couple of skirts, a whole lot of every day knit tops, some "Sunday Picnic" dresses - but really nothing chic or elegant. Nothing with a bit of sexiness to it. The type of dress that pairs nicely with your man's best suit. So, with Christmas in sight, I thought I'd finally get cracking on a chic dress with a bit of sexiness to it. The twisty neckline dress in a light navy cotton jersey seemed perfect: sexy neckline, chic, classic colour, comfy jersey.

I was actually not sold on it, the first time I tried it on. It looked... boring.

That was before I put on the black tights and lace-edged slip and necklace.
Now it's perfect.
It saw me through two office Christmas parties, Christmas Eve Dinner (which is A Thing in my family, a.k.a. a three-course meal with champagne and wine and all the trimmings, and yes, the men wear a suit or at least a dress shirt), New Year's Eve, my stepdad's birthday party.
I may need to make a sleeveless version for summer. Then we can live happily ever after.

The End. :)

PS: This blog post was inspired by Karen, who wrote about "The power of Story" this morning, and gave me the impetus to finally write another blog post about sewing again. Head over and read it, because she really has a way with words. :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Knitting for Others - X-mas

So I'm still a bit behind on blogging about stuff, but before we begin with the actual sewn garments, I'll show you the X-mas gifts I knitted real quick. :) We don't give gifts in my immediate family (and aren't I grateful - instead we try to spend time together and have fabulous dinners), but there's always a few people requiring gifts: my two grannies, B.'s family, mostly (my tiny half siblings like it better if they get actual toys, not pretend-gifts like me-made stuff).

This is what I made for B's family. The headbands are more or less self-drafted and knit with chunky wool. They're very fast to knit, maybe an hour? Two at the most. The green one was for B's cousin, the navy one for his dad and the teal one for his mom.
His brother got the acid green mittens, he's an IT guy / programmer so I was thinking that mitts he could wear while programming were probably a good gift. The pattern is Maize by tincanknits (free on Ravelry). The fuchsia pair of mittens was for B's grandma, a most lovely old lady. She used to sew and I even recieved some of her stash fabrics some time ago. They're made of Alpaca yarn and the pattern is Cranford Mitts (which is part of the p-hop initiative by Médecens sans frontières).
I also made a pair of self-striping socks for B's grandpa. I bought a book on how to knit two socks at the same time, which is pretty marvellous! Combined with the fact that I used 6 ply wool, these were even knit up within a week, which is definitely a first for me.
The pièce de resistance is the Percy shawl I knit for my granny, though. I started it the fall before last Christmas and didn't manage to finish it in time. It's knit from the apex of the triangle to the base, so every row takes longer and longer to knit... Then at some point, the nupps start, which is where I pretty much gave up last year. ;) First knitting 7 stitches into one, and then purling all 7 stitches together on the back row??! I felt like I almost broke my fingers several times. But I was so happy when I finished it!!! It turned out truly beautiful, and my granny may have shed a couple of tears when she unwrapped it. :)
And because I can't do a whole post just about knitting for others... when there was still some knitting time and yarn left over the holidays, I made a headband for myself. :)
Do you tend to give hand-made Christmas gifts?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sewing Top 5 - Reflections and Goals

I know Gillian has pretty much already wrapped up the sewing top five, but since this post has been half-written for several days (and I really prefer finishing stuff, if possible), here's my last part! :)

I have to say, reflections and goals are not my favorite. I stopped making New Year's resolutions several years ago. I usually just think that stuff went ok and that it's probably going to continue to do so. I mean, I've got stuff like life-goals (like, starting a family before turning thirty and this whole becoming-a-doctor-and-then-a-GP stuff) and very small/short-time goals (like cooking dinner and then taking a bath tonight and seeing "Waiting for Godot" at the theater later this month). Maybe it's that I'm just not all that ambitious about my hobbies? At least not in the I'm-going-to-learn-this-skill-and-then-accomplish-that sense of the word. It's not that I don't want to learn things. I made an Anise jacket last month, complete with welt pockets and bound button holes (yup, still unblogged). I started this trouser thing (similarly unblogged, because unfinished) that I'd like to continue this year. With Ginger jeans, possibly.
Then again, I just looked over my Goals for 2014 (I never looked at them during the year) and realized that, while they were pretty specific, they were actually stuff I worked on. Huh. Seems like I chose goals that was actually more or less sensible. ;-) Let's have a look at it:

1. Close some wardrobe gaps, like making a lacy dress, a slinky top, a denim skirt. No slinky top was forthcoming, but I made several lacy dresses and a twisty, long-sleeved party dress (unblogged) as well as two Moss skirts.

2. Make some clothes for work. No trousers and no collared blouses, but I made some t-shirts/tops that got worn a lot for work.

3. Work on a better fit. Well, it was mostly knits this year, so there wasn't a lot of working involved. Just feels-like-pyjamas garments.

4. Reduce the fabric stash so it fits on my shelves, give the rest away or sew with it. Well. I gave some fabric away and I sewed some up, but mostly I freed up some shelf space to house my new fabric... So that's a no.

5. Try five patterns from the stash that I hadn't sewn up yet. Well, I'm dubious about that. But let's have a look at what I actually sewed this year.

one Simplicity 5421 skirt - already made before (using fabric from stash)
two Moss skirts - from pattern stash (fabric from stash)
six Ottoble raglan tops and a dress - TNT (all using new fabric)
two knit Macaron dresses - TNT (one using stash fabric, one using new fabric)
one Ultimate wrap dress - new pattern (new fabric)
two twisty dresses and a top - new pattern (new fabric)
one Anise jacket - new pattern (new fabric)
two sundresses from Gertie's book - pattern stash (one using stash fabric, one new)
five Lola dresses - TNT (one refashion, two using new fabric, one using stash)
one pair of Espresso leggings - TNT (new fabric)
one Bronte top - new pattern (new fabric)
one unfinished muslin of the Thurlow trousers - pattern stash (stash fabric)
one modified Verity dress - already made before (stash fabric)

Ok, so I used three patterns from my pattern stash that I hadn't used before. I also bought about fifteen new patterns. Well, well, well... That's also eight garments using stash fabric vs. seventeen garments using new (bought in 2014) fabric (and one refashion). Oh well. It's also 25 (point five, counting the unfinished trousers as half) garments in total. Plus five pairs of knickers (from scraps), which I also counted last year. So, 30 garments. That less than last year's 42, but still averaging a bit more than a garment every two weeks, which sounds pretty good to me. :)

Reflections? Well.

1. I like shiny new fabric. And it's best when I use it up right away. There's some stuff in my fabric stash that I'm occasionally grateful for (black jersey, anyone?) but overall, I think it would be better if my stash were smaller and I'd use up stuff before buying new. Because my tastes change, and there's always the lure of new fabric. 

2. I like my TNT patterns best and use them all the time. But it's fun to buy new patterns, too. (So. Many. PATTERNS out there!)

3. I usually sew in bursts, when sewing mojo and free time meet. If I haven't sewn for a while, it's harder to get the mojo up, so I make a Lola dress. Or an Ottobre top. And maybe something else afterwards, because I'm in the zone.

4. I think two garments a month is a pretty sustainable pace of making for me. Enough shiny new things to make me happy, without totally overflowing my wardrobe.

5. I'm too tired to think of another one...

Goals (?)

I really like Gillian's goals, actually. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" So in 2015 I'm going to:

1. continue to sew. As much as is fun.

2. continue to learn and grow my skills. As much as is fun.

3. make stuff. Possibly new stuff, like maybe some trousers. And a bathing suit (Bombshell!). Also, TNT stuff like Ottobre raglan tops and jersey dresses and Lolas. Because. :)

4. possibly find a new battery for my camera remote and actually take nice pictures. Or get one of these funny selfie sticks for my phone? 'Cause B. always pouts when I make him take pictures. (Ok let's be honest, in all probability my photography won't improve this year. I'm not bothered and I hope you can forgive me.)

5. continue to blog. Occasionally, when I find the time. 'Cause I started working at the hospital last week, and there's going to be night and weekend shifts. Thankfully not right away, but soon. So.

Huh. Ok, so I'm not sure if this was quite the note I wanted to hit for a New Year's reflection post. I'm actually still a bit intimidated by my new job, and the challenges that I'm going to face. I'm pretty sure it's going to be alright in the end (and it's just for a year, then it's back to the nice regularity of the doctor's office). So I'm just going to leave you with yesterday's pretty sunset.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sewing Top 5 - Highlights

So I had better blog about the rest of my Top 5 before January is over, right? Not time like the present. :)
The new category this year is non-sewing highlights which I think is a fun category, so thanks for including it, Gillian!

My highlights for 2015:

1. Holding an actual full-time job for the first time in my life.
I did rather enjoy the countless (ok, let's be honest, seven) years of being at uni, wild and free ;) but it's kinda satisfying to actually make money and not rely on the goodwill of my parents anymore. Jarring to not have about 4 months of vacation this year. But it's funny how much more I look forward to those actual free days like week-ends and holidays. Also: I'm a doctor now. (I still kinda feel like a fake when I say that. Lol.)
2. 12 years with B.
I had my 12 year anniversary with my boyfriend B. this year. He's still my favorite person in the world. :) We had a lot of wonderful moments together this year. Spa day. Going to the theater. Macaron baking class. :)
3. Travelling
To Würzburg. To Italy. To Liverpool and Edinburgh. Home. To Westphalia. To the Baltic Sea. Italy again. Hanover. Home.
4. Starting on my PhD
(I think that's what it is. 'Cause you're an MD (physician in Germany) when you finish medschool and do your board exams, right? If you go on to do research and write a scientific thesis/publish papers you get a PhD (Dr. med. in Germany). I think? Systems are so different... ;) )
5. Stuff
Because I think I'm counting it a highlight that I still manage to do the stuff that I love (a.k.a. sewing, choir singing, meeting friends on a regular basis, travelling, growing tomatoes, occasionally writing stories and, on similarly rare occasions, blogging) while still holding aforementioned full-time job. I know, there are people who juggle all that plus family and kids and probably finding a cure for cancer. How'd you do that, peeps?
Um yeah. So maybe not quite the usual sort of highlights. But I feel like it has been a fantastic year overall. Which is pretty much what counts, right?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sewing Top 5 - Hits & Misses

Hi everyone, did you have a good holiday? Mine is still pretty lovely, I've been at my parents' for the last week, mostly eating and drinking and being social (and meeting up with various parts of my family and my boyfriend's family). And knitting. :) It's a good thing that knitting is such a socially acceptable craft, since I managed to make/finish most of my christmas gift after getting here… Blogging, of course, is much more difficult to do in a social setting, which is why there are still some unblogged garments. Oh well. There's thankfully lots of time between New Year's and my first day at my new workplace (Jan. 5). Four whole undisturbed days!

Anyway, since I have a bit of undisturbed time right now, I thought I might join in with Gillian's Sewing Top 5 2014. I love reading about these every year since she started them two years ago. So.


Top 5 Sewing Hits

#1: The award for the garment(s) with the most wears definitely goes to my two polka-dot t-shirts. I wore them at work pretty much all summer long. Almost every day.
(The garment with the second most wears is probably another (yet unblogged) work top: the top with a twist, which I wore almost daily all through autumn…)

#2: The award for the garment that the most time and care went into for construction, and which has seen several days of continuous wear already is my as yet unblogged Anise jacket.
I love it! My very first jacket! Gonna blog about it soon.

#3 and #4: The award for the most unexpected hit this year definitely goes to the two maxi dresses I made. I wasn't sure I'd wear the first one at all, until I finished it and fell so hard for it, I had to make a second one. They definitely get the award for the most effortlessly pulled off perfect look.
Ok, they may have to share that one with #5: the (yet unblogged) Christmas party dress. Yes, it's navy. Yes, it's long-sleeved. Yes, it's jersey. While all of that may scream comfy but boring, it's got a front twist. And a neckline that lets the lace of my slip peek out. It's the dress I never knew I needed. Now I may never take it off… ;-)

Top 5 Sewing Misses

I think I only have one true sewing miss this year. It's the green Lola, made up in an interlock fabric without recovery. I think it may have been worn twice (?) around the house?
I have also ratted out another miss from last year. The plaid Hawthorn never got worn. Maybe twice overall. The fit just wasn't right (I think I mangled my short waist adjustment) and it wasn't quite my color, either. It's now in the to-be-donated pile.
There are a couple more that I'm not quite 100% happy with, that have slight fit or construction issues. I don't love the gaping neckline of the polka-dot dress. The front fly of the floral Moss sits a bit awkwardly. The sleeve length of the (yet unblogged) Bronte top turned out to be completely wrong (but I think I'll just shorten them to elbow length and that will be that).
They do get worn, though, if not quite as much as the rest of this year's wardrobe.
Gotta call it a win, then, this year. :-)