Most sewed patterns

Posting on the blog is going to be a bit spotty for the next couple of weeks – I have a pile of teaching and report-writing to catch up on and haven’t touched the sewing machine for a while. I am really looking forward to the end of the academic year so I can start clearing my queue of sewing projects!

So in the absence of any new sewing to post about I thought I’d post about my all time favourite pattern, McCall’s 5799, and share the love. I’ve made this up no less than four times and I have plans for a fifth. It’s a really simple A-line sleeveless dress with french seams. It comes in a range of cups sizes so fitting is straightforward, and it lends itself to a multitude of fabrics and variations. But McCall’s have gone and discontinued it. I’m surprised, but I suppose it wasn’t selling well enough. The envelope picture was slightly off-putting. I’ve got nothing against appliqué but it doesn’t scream ‘classic dress you will make again and again’. More ‘one for your inner ten-year-old’.

After 5799 the pattern I have sewed up the most is McCall’s 2401, which is still in print.

This is a sheath dress with multiple sleeve and neckline variations. I only made it up once as-is, but I’ve used the pattern as the basis for several other things. My favourite adaptation is probably the Star Trek dress.

This pattern has also morphed into my TNT T-shirt pattern, and I’ve used the sleeves to add sleeves to other patterns. So this one comes highly recommended.

Apart from those I have a couple of patterns I’ve made up twice and everything else has been once only. Do you have patterns that you make over and over and over again? What are they? Do share!

Fabric selvedge

Just had to share this. I got out the boring black poplin I bought last weekend in order to prewash it, and noticed this on the selvedge:

Who knew the Evil Empire made fabric? Seriously though, I can’t find out anything about this via Google. Anyone know if it’s a manufacturer or a type of fabric?

Fitting aggravation

I finally sewed up my muslin of Burda 132-04-2011. And the result is a resounding meh. The line art is below.

The original pattern is designed for leather, and maybe this is the problem. My muslin, obviously, is in a woven: a fairly coarse, loose weave fabric that feels like linen or a linen blend. There’s no single glaringly obvious problem with the fit, but everything – and I mean everything – is a little bit off. So much so that I don’t know where to start to improve it. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures right now so I’ll just have to try to describe it. The shoulder seams are quite a bit too far back. Ok, that’s fairly normal for me. The waist is too low. That’s not normal at all. I’m really tall and most of my extra height is in my torso. Waists are never too low. The bust darts are too high. This is starting to sound like I went seriously wrong when lengthening the pattern, which I could believe. But even after that there’s something really odd going on with the underarms. There’s clearly too much fabric there when my arms are by my sides, but if I pinch it out I can’t reach forward! And yet the amount of ease around the bust and across my back seems about right.

The one thing I do know how to fix is the gapping back neckline. So that leaves me with about four other problems that I don’t really know what to do about. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that you should fix fit problems working from the top down, as one fix affects another. That makes sense as I have the impression that fixing the shoulders is likely to make the low waist and the underarms worse.

Apart from the fit problems I also managed to cut the skirt front as two pieces, instead of on the fold as I intended, but I seem to have also added seam allowances in the right places so that isn’t the end of the world. It just looks odd. I’ll just have to remember not to do that with the real fabric, assuming I ever get to the point of cutting the real fabric. Right now that’s looking unlikely! Hopefully it’ll look better tomorrow. I’m giving up for tonight.

Goldhawk Road meetup

Thanks for all the wise comments about how much yardage to buy. Good advice, which I have completely failed to take.

Karen of Did You Make That? organised a great trip to Goldhawk Road yesterday. There were about 30 sewists and we had a great time scouring the shops for fabric and talking about sewing. I am in awe of Karen’s organisational skills. She even had maps for us. And she made shopping bags!

So here’s what I got. Black cotton poplin and flame coloured lining for Vogue 1239. Black and white chiffon, the same stuff I made the Blake’s Seven top from, for Vogue 1240. And a cotton print to make a kimono – well, a dressing gown – from. That one has photographed really strangely…the print is not really fuzzy like that in real life.

So that should keep me going for quite some time. And now I’m off to catch up with all the blogs of the lovely fellow sewists I met. Thanks for a great day, Karen!

How much is too much? Planning for shopping

My muslin of Burda 132-04-2011 is still sitting there, looking at me accusingly. And I’m still pretending I can’t see it. Ever have a pattern you just can’t seem to get started with?

I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with the pattern, I know I like this style and I love the fabric. I’m just too tired right now to work on anything new. So it’s obviously the right time to start planning for fabric shopping at the weekend. I always try to take a list with me when fabric shopping because otherwise I get completely overwhelmed by the choice and make really bad decisions. But of course I will make exceptions for fabric that I fall in love with.

What I do have trouble with is buying the right amount of yardage. I make a list of the patterns I want to make, and their approximate yardage requirements. Fabric in the UK is sold by the metre not by the yard, but as I always need to lengthen patterns I just look at the number of yards the pattern calls for and then buy that many metres. And then I add a bit more on, to be certain. Can you see where this is going? My stash is full of small pieces between half a metre and a metre in length that are left over from projects where I bought far too much fabric, and my mother is never short of fabric for her quilting. On the plus side, when I do mess something up I almost always find I have enough fabric to cut the problem pieces out again. This has saved a couple of projects in the past.

Do you always buy the exact yardage? Does it work out for you? I have a couple of patterns with huge yardage requirements to buy fabric for this time around, so I am going to make more of an effort to get the amount right – just buying the yards in metres would be silly when the pattern calls for four and half yards to start with.

Creative procrastination

I’ve been procrastinating. A week ago I cut out the pieces for a muslin of Burda 132-04-2011.

There are a lot of them. Sixteen main pieces, plus the pockets. The original pattern was for leather but I shall be making mine in a black stretch woven, so the real thing will have even more bits because it will need facings. The pieces have sat there on the ironing board all week, waiting for me.

Not that I have not been sewing. I made myself a new make-up bag out of the remains of the skull print dress fabric and lined it with some orange poplin I used to make a balloon dress last year.

I used this tutorial (thanks Jane!) to make the bag, but I made mine much larger than the original. I never seem to be able to find a bag large enough to hold all my make-up, despite barely wearing the stuff. This one has plenty of room.

Then I decided to turn my version of Simplicity 3833 into a sleeveless dress. The long-sleeved version isn’t getting any wear because the fit on the sleeves isn’t very good, so I cut them off and finished the armhole edges with bias binding.

Amazing what you can accomplish when you’re avoiding something. That pile of muslin pieces is still staring at me though. I can see my marking is going to get done early this weekend!

Style ruts

Vogue UK used to regularly run articles about getting out of style ruts. These are or were pretty formulaic: take one woman (usually someone who already writes for Vogue) who is allegedly stuck in a style rut. Get her to wear anything other than her preferred style of clothes for a month. This is usually achieved by the fashion editor’s picking out a range of fabulous new outfits for her to wear that will allegedly change her life. At the end of the month the test subject invariably writes an article about how she is going to go back to her regular habits but her eyes have been opened and she will be a little bit more adventurous in future. So far, so predictable, which isn’t to say the articles aren’t interesting reads. I have an insatiable interest in how other people choose their clothes.

I guess it’s good to try new things once in a while, but are style ruts really so bad? Maybe we get stuck in them for a reason. There was a period of a couple years when I only ever wore black. These days I wear a lot of bright colours, but I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see pictures of myself in black. For some reason it works on me despite my deathly pallor. I have a friend who has a very classic, pulled together, preppy look and is rarely seen in anything else. When we go shopping I can predict exactly what styles she will pick out. Another colleague always wears dresses in neutral colours but always has some slightly edgy detail like an exposed zip or darts sewn on the right side. They both look great and make it look easy. Admittedly there’s more to it than style consistency – remembering to put your lipstick on clearly helps too.

So hooray for the style rut. Maybe we could call it a style groove instead – being in a groove sounds better than being stuck in a rut! I am going to embrace my groove and buy more black fabric. Anyone else have a style groove that they love? Colours, shapes, fabrics?