Thursday, December 18, 2014

A very jolly Christmas crafternoon!

It's the most wonderful time of the crafting year! Crafternoons have been on a hiatus for a while between work travel and sewing-sewing, so it was well overdue for a reunion. 

And that's how I came to have all these lovely ladies in my house with snacks, fabric, glue, snacks and more snacks!



We made ornaments and trees using a papier-mache technique but with fabric instead (tissu-mache?!). Here's my dotty number: 

 

Katy displayed her superior skills with a perfectly crafted diamond pendant


While Anna made a Christmas tree which bore an uncanny resemblance to Will Ferrell's hat in Elf

 


Emily put together a rather fancy Christmas tree, and here's Nina showing off her seasonal bike sign ornament, a reminder of our awesome Asia bike trip



 

Hurray for crafty ladies! It was a delight as always, and here's to more in 2015. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pickup sticks wrap dress



Brrrrr it's cold here! I think these are probably the last outdoor shots you'll be seeing at Cashmerette for quite some time. Now if only I had a blank wall in my apartment...  In the meantime I braved frostbite to take some photos of my latest make in the lovely Boston Public Library courtyard.


The fun here is all about the fabric (yep the pattern is the Christine Jonson wrap again): it's a Theory knit that I got a few months ago from EmmaOneSock, and it appears to be a photographic print of bits of black gaffer tape.. very unusual! Linda had nearly run out of it, so she shared the last 4 panels with me, which, as luck would have it, was just enough for a border-print wrap dress and one sleeve. It was printed rather off grain - so much so in fact (maybe 20% off?), that I think it may have been intentional - but I didn't have much option but to follow the pattern. As a result, it sits just slightly oddly.. not terrible, but I can see that it doesn't drape as nicely as my usual wrap dresses.


What do we think of the one sleeve asymmetric look? It's about as edgy as I go.. and I'll admit that I had a back-up sleeve in white all prepared as backup! 


Due to the sheer nature of the knit, I followed the original instructions and made a self-lined bodice for extra opacity - the only downside is that it has a little bit of gape compared to my normal neckline-band finish. I wore a slip to make sure it was also opaque in the skirt. 


So another wrap dress for my stable: I breed them like racehorses. This one's definitely a bit more at the edge of my style, but I think it's going to grow on me over time. 

And thanks as ever to my photography and styling crew... this pic can also help you appreciate how cold it actually was! 




Thursday, December 11, 2014

My top 5 most-worn patterns of 2014

One rather unusual thing about writing a sewing blog is that it's an online visual diary of your wardrobe, which makes it fun and easy to look back over your makes. 2014 was the year that my sewing got a lot better - no doubt I have a long, long way to go, but at the same time, I know that my techniques and accuracy improved over the past year, and there were a lot of firsts. Coats! Swimsuits! Final getting the wrap dress down pat! 

So first up, my top patterns of 2014, as measured by how often I wore them during the year. I'm a TNT girl as will become rapidly evident, but it's also clear to me that they're TNT for a reason: because I wear them all the time. 

First up, the Colette Moneta. I still wear my first one, made of doubleknit from EmmaOneSock, all the time - it's such a fantastic comfortable everyday dress, which looks great with gold accessories and a bright yellow cardi. I recently made another stripy version but this time with contrast sleeves and raised stripes - and this one doesn't even need ironing! Double bonus. A quick hack later and I had a Moneta maxi pattern, and I lived in my black and white one all summer. Sadly the fabric from Girl Charlee was poor quality and was bobbling and tearing within a few washes... I"ll just have to make a new version for next year. And then I also made another maxi with short sleeves which I took on my Cambodian trip, and was the perfect post-bike-ride coverup. 

Clockwise from top left: the original stripy; the arty stripy;
maxi in Cambodia; maxi on the roof

Then, what else but my Christine Jonson adjusted wrap dress pattern? I put together a wrap dress assembly line which was very productive: 4 dresses in a week! And I made another 2 which I didn't even get to putting on the blog. Wrap dresses are my ultimate go-to for work - smart, a bit fun with the right fabric, and they always fit you regardless of weight fluctuations. I wear them with camisoles because I like the deeper v-neck silhouette it gives, and it makes me feel a little more covered up for work.

Clockwise from top left: Oonapalooza; day at the museum;
  black and white; St John knit
Next up, the M6931 skirt. I never would have guessed how much I  would like this pattern when I saw it on Instagram and made an impulse buy - but the combination of pleats and a wide elasticated waist (that isn't too obviously elasticated) makes it smart and fun which being incredibly comfortable (spot a theme?!). It's awesome for all types of floaty fabric - so far I've made it in cotton voile, poly crepe de chine and silk twill. 

Clockwise from top left: Flamingos!; last skirt of summer;
cloudy skirt

On the smarter side, my black ponte and pique Burda dress has been a total hit. I don't think I've ever had an item of clothing so simultaneously elegant and comfortable (yeah, that again...). It suits me really well, and has kept looking good through washings. I wore this to present at a bunch of different conferences this year as it's the perfect neutral option, but I also glammed it up with some polka dot tights and loud jewelry for my office Christmas party. 

Burda Jersey dress

And finally the piece de resistance of 2014: my Simplicity coat! I was so proud of this when I made it at the beginning of the year, and to my delight it still looks great and got tons of use. I'm still slightly amazed that I made it, and a lot is due to the lovely Marc Jacobs boucle and me taking it very slowly. I'm hoping it lasts me a few more years. 

Simplicity 1759 coat
So those are the garments that got the most wear from me in 2014, which is my standard of success! What were your 2014 highlights, readers? Do you gravitate to TNTs or are your faves the one-offs? 

And the winner of Burda book giveaway...

is Rachel Booth. Congrats, Rachel!  I'll be in touch

I'd love to win! I have the Burda vintage book and just love the versatility if their patterns! I'm hoping to sew more work clothing!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Feature on Kollabora

In case you're interested in reading more of my weak jokes and random tidbits about my life outside this blog, check out my interview over on Kollabora.com!

Nora Meets the Maker: Cashmerette


The definition of cake: black knit Winter Dress

I'm as tempted as the next sewist to make party dresses and bright green coats (OK, maybe that's just me), but when I took a break from Christmas present sewing, I thought that a nice piece of dress-cake* would be just the thing. 

And so: a black wool knit Winter Dress. What could be more useful than a knit, scoop neck, black dress? I cannot think of a thing (admittedly that probably just shows my lack of imagination). 


I've never sewn with wool jersey before, but this was just a dream to work with - and it's the same fabric from Mood that Lauren Lladybird made her wrap dress with (yes, I was the person nibbling at her heels to get the end of the roll....). 

The Winter Dress was designed by Deepika over at PatternReview, and it's a simple knit bodice with long sleeves (there's an optional flounce sleeve version but I'm not that flouncey myself), and inverted box pleats at the front and back. 


I made a few adjustments to the pattern. First up, my measurements put my upper half solidly into a 3X, but when I compared it against my well-fitting Moneta bodice it was way, way, bigger. So I cut a 2X, and then once I put it together I shaved another 4 inches off the waistline to get the fit that I wanted (I also sewed this in the flat, doing the sleeve and side seams last which made it easy to keep whittling it down). 

Instead of using clear elastic (which I have yet to learn to do accurately), I zigzagged regular elastic to the waistline seam allowance, although I stopped it just short of the side seams, to prevent it causing a bump. 


I scooped out the neckline by another 1.5 inches - no high necklines around chez Cashmerette. Then to finish the neckline I did my trusty standby neckline technique: put Wonder Tape on the wrong side, fold over, and coverstitch. It works well on stretchy fabrics, and has even worked for me with silks in the past (because it's such a narrow hem). 


I really like the result - it's super comfortable and a great basic dress for accessorizing. The sleeves are a smidgen too long, but I actually like being able to curl up in them on cold days, so I think I'll leave them as is. 


So if you're looking for a basic knit dress pattern, this one is definitely worth a try. The bodice is similar to the Moneta, but the ever-so-slightly A-line skirt and box pleats give a different look to the gathered skirt, and it's a bit easier to sew if you're a total newbie. I whipped this up in about 90 minutes!


Can you bring yourself to sew super basic garments occasionally? I'm trying to do it more and more because nothing makes me happier than wearing homemade every day, and to do that, I probably need to not look like I'm going to a disco (though I know Oona would disagree). 

* In case you haven't heard of this before: the sewing blogging community commonly talks about "cake" projects and "frosting" projects - the first set being "boring" basics you need and wear all the time, and the second set being fun, sparkly but more special occasion garments

Disclosure: I received this pattern free from Deepika. Thanks, Deepika!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Giveaway: BurdaStyle Wardrobe Essentials

As part of being awarded one of BurdaStyle's Top 50 bloggers, I'm now getting occasional goodies. Fun!

The latest that turned up out of the blue was a copy of BurdaStyle's Wardrobe Essentials book.


 It's a hardback, spiral-bound book with 21 patterns included (they are still nested, like regular Burda patterns, but fewer are nested on one page than usual so it's a little easier to see what's going on). There are an array of skirts, dresses, blazers and tops, many of which are really lovely.

This tweed cowl-neck dress got my attention when it was in the magazine: so chic!


I love the lapels on this blazer..


And the curved side seam panel and hidden pockets on this coat are really cool.


Particularly notable in this book are the step-by-step illustrated instructions which are much (much!) more detailed than what you usually get from Burda. They include techniques like installing welt pockets and some tailoring methods. 



However, cue sadface: none of them are in plus sizes. They only go up to a 44, which is a 39.5 bust, 32.5 waist and 41.75 hip (and some go to a 42). My curves scoff at your 44. But, what's bad for me is good for you dear readers, because it means one thing: giveaway time!

So, if you're smaller than a 44 and fancy winning a copy of this book, leave a comment below on why you'd like to win, together with your email address (if you don't leave your email address you won't be eligible for the draw). If you're bigger than a size 44, leave a comment on why you think Burda should publish patterns that go into plus sizes in their books and I'll... pass it on.

Due to shipping costs for this rather weighty book, this is open to US residents only (sorry!). Entries close on Dec 10 at 11.59pm EST. Good luck!

Monday, December 1, 2014

(By Hand London) Kim is a Party Girl!

Those By Hand London ladies really know how to do their party dresses. 

Behold, the Kim!


The Kim comes with two neckline and two skirt variations: I used the sweetheart neckline and the tulip skirt, because we all know I love myself a wrap (even if it's fake). You may be thinking "huh, that doesn't *look* like a sweetheart neckline" and you're sort-of right - the way it's been graded means that the sweetheart becomes less prominent the bigger the size, but there is a little dip in there, I promise! 


 I was a tester for the pattern, and I made it up first in a muslin for testing purposes, doing my usual BHL 2 inch FBA, which worked pretty well and also gave me the little more I needed in the waist too (I'd be a BHL 18/22 if they went up that far - they are ever so nearly in plus sizes!). Once that was done, on to my silk!

This is a lovely, slightly crisp, slightly mad (Rorschach anyone?) silk twill which I picked up on my trip to Vietnam earlier this year and had been hoarding for just the right pattern. I made a few further modifications to the testing pattern for my final version, sewing the straps with a smaller seam allowance to make them a smidgen wider, and making the back of the straps attach to the back bodice in more of a curve, to cover up my bra straps.

I underlined all the silk with silk organza, which is a time-consuming technique but one that's well worth it-  I always feel like my underlined garments are the best looking ones! Then, I lined the dress with creme crepe de chine. I did the bodice as per the BHL instructions - although I did Oona's "flip it over" technique to attach the lining to the zipper by machine (why did I ever do that by hand?!). I also lined the skirt, as the tulip shape means you're going to be flashing to folks whether you like it or not, and I didn't want to be flashing organza (or indeed have it next to my skin). To attach the lining I sewed it right sides together to the curved hem all the way round to the back seam. Then, I flipped it right sides out, and finished the back hem by stitching the lining and silk together (almost like underlining) and finishing that seam with bright pink bias binding, before putting the zip in.



The biggest challenge with this one was definitely print placement! I mean, what do you do with that print?! I decided that my goal would be symmetry, but I wouldn't try to do any pattern matching. I did a reasonably good job - after an Instagram referendum I chose the front bodice motif, and then some "coordinating" (but not matching) side panels. The on the back I took the same approach and managed to do the mirroring pretty well. The eagle eyed among you will notice one error - the underlap piece of the front skirt is not symmetrical with the other side of the skirt.. Sadly I didn't have quite enough fabric to match everything, and I figured that was the one piece that could cope best with being the odd one out. And I'm going to bet that only sewists would ever notice! (The front skirt looks like it's skewed off center in the photo below, but it's just the way I'm standing...).

My only qualm with the final thing is that it's pretty short on me, and that skirt definitely goes a lot higher at the front than I'd usually wear. I may tack down the two pieces and/or just sit down very carefully...  Next time, I'll probably add 2 inches to the whole thing.


So, here's my party dress, which will be paraded around my company Christmas party tout suite. Alas, it will no doubt lead to ever more "Oh I didn't know you can sew! Can you make me a dress?!" comments, though I usually manage to stem those by saying my hourly rate is $500 an hour :)

Are you making something colourful or sparkly for holiday parties this year? What pattern are you using? I think the BHL have a lot of options if you're looking.

I was a pattern tester for the Kim Dress and received the testing and final pattern for free. It probably influenced my opinion. But I like my dress, so I don't really care!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving thanks for sewing

It's Thanksgiving today in the United States, and although I'm not American, I have come to have a fondness for this holiday of my adopted home. One of the nicest things about it (apart from having a chuckle at whoever thoughts of melting marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes) is the tradition of going around the Thanksgiving table and everyone saying what they're most thankful for. Yes, it's sort of mushy, but it's nice to reflect on the great things in your life and share them with others.

So, I thought today I'd share what I'm most thankful for in relation to sewing (of course family, friends, health and my general good fortune come first!). 

I'm thankful for the online sewing community

The online sewing community is how I learned to sew, how I got better, and the source of so much of my sewing-related joy. Until I had sewing friends in real life (of which more shortly!), sewing bloggers were my only outlet to natter on and on about my obsessive hobby, and the wonderful thing is quite how large and welcoming the blogosphere is. I'll admit that to begin with, sewing bloggers seemed like untouchable celebrities to me, and everyone seemed to already know each other, and maybe even be a bit cliquey. But then I found out that if you want to join in, you can! I have to say for a clique they do a very bad job at being cliquey, because arms are wide open. So thanks, online sewing community, for crowd-fixing my green cashmere coat, teaching me how to put a zip in, and always being there for me on Instagram when I'm in a fabric store on a business trip, urging me on to buy!



I'm thankful for the sewing friends I've met in real life

When I first started blogging I didn't imagine for a second I'd end up with friends all over the world who I'd meet in person! My main posse are the ladies (including Katy & Laney, Ping, Carrie, MacKenzie, Jessica, and the two Sarahs) at Grey's Fabrics in Boston, a fabric store three blocks from my house which has Wednesday night Crafty Foxes get-togethers where we drink wine, hem circle skirts and generally make sewing related mischief. However, I've also met amazing groups of women in New York City, upstate New York, Austin and London, and one of the things I now look most forward to on business trips is putting out a batcall on Instagram and seeing who's in the neighbourhood. I think my non-sewing, non-blogging friends think of what I do as a bit geeky and solitary, but it's turned out to be anything but. Also, an observation: women who sew seem to be not only incredibly nice but remarkably intelligent, accomplished and go-getting. If you want to meet more sewing ladies too, just let people know you'll be in town and you'll be amazed by what happens!




I'm thankful for my new body confidence

I've mentioned this before, but there's really nothing like sewing for changing your body image. Forget about trying to fit into a size X - just make something in your size instead! My occasional attempts to buy RTW just reinforce how much sewing has done for my self-confidence. And reading lots of plus size sewing bloggers has also really helped re-orient my mental image of what women look like, and how I look relative to them. To wit, here's a picture of me in a bathing suit that is on the internet. 


I'm thankful for fabric shopping adventures

I travel a lot both for work and fun, and having a hobby like sewing has made my travel so much more fulfilling. Not only do I get to meet far-flung members of the sewing community, but searching out fabric stores has often added so much to my trips. Fabric shops are rarely tourist attractions, so finding the local garment district is often a great way to get into totally different areas than you'd usually visit, and interact with locals - even if they do often seem quite confused about what you're doing there. Additional bonus is you can pick up interesting fabric at often low prices, and then when people ask where your blouse is from you can see "oh this fabric? I picked it up in Paris, DAAAHLING"



I'm thankful for the growth of the plus size sewing community

I'm really proud to have been part of the Curvy Sewing Collective, which goes from strength to strength. We get comments and emails all the time from women who are so happy to have found the CSC, and who relate intensely to the experiences of our contributors. Beyond the CSC, I'm so thankful that some pattern companies are starting to cater more for plus sizes, from StyleArc who have all their patterns up to a size 30, to Colette who are extending their existing collections up. There's still a long way to go - the proportion of all sewing patterns that are available to plus sizes is tiny - but I'm glad that the industry seems to be going in the right direction. 



So that's me. What are you most thankful for, fellow sewists? Let's be mushy for a day.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette unveiled! Or, lessons in coatmaking

The never-ending green coat of doom is DONE! 


My goodness, that was an epic project. I started off foolishly thinking it would be fairly straightforward, because I used the same pattern, Simplicity 1759, as I did for the my coat last year which turned out really well. However, there were two major things I didn't account for: the difference that a different fabric would make (cashmere vs. wool boucle), and the different collar variation - last time I drafted my own big collar, this time I went with view B, which is a sort of standing collar which angles in to the neck.


My many coat-in-progress posts (see them all here!) documented the trials and tribulations I had with the construction... But I managed to perservere with help from the lovely sewing community, and with the exception of some slightly wavy upper right bodice seams the end result was pretty decent.


And perhaps my favourite feature of all is the flamingo lining.. Flamingos for the win! 




But, let's move onto the elephant in the room. Did you notice that so far all the photos are of the coat undone? Yep, that's not a coincidence.

Because..... this.


And this. 


 I'm not sure if these photos do it justice but it looks really, really bad done up in person. As in: friends said to me "Oh, I'm sure it doesn't actually look as bad as you think!" and then they saw it and went "ah, well, I bet you learned a lot!" *sheepish face*.

Of course, we all have wadders from time to time. I won't deny that it smarts to have a wadder be something where you invested in the fabric and in so much time sewing and re-sewing, but there you go, such is life. I'm not sure that it's really salvageable because ultimately, the shape just doesn't suit me - I think it's mostly the collar and the button positioning (which I can't change due to bound buttonholes...) - but others think it's too big around the hips, so let's face it, it all round doesn't suit me.

Sigh. Let's review the things that did work out OK!

The actual collar is kind of fun, even if it doesn't suit me.




Probably my best bound buttonholes to date (thanks again, Karen!)


All said, I did learn quite a few things from making this coat - in addition to what I figured out last year (full list of coat tutorials here!). 
  • Always make a full muslin of something you're going to make with expensive fabric - even if you're just doing a variation of something that worked for you before
  • Always test the interfacing / fabric combination first before you interface the whole thing - it turned out that the combo of my cashmere and proweft interfacing refused to go around curves and therefore had to be ripped out
  • Block fusing sometimes works... and sometimes doesn't. 
I'm left with a coat which I'm not sure will get much wear, but in the meantime, I'm plotting to make another. Before I started sewing I was always a huge coat fan, and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon, coat fail or no coat fail!

Are you working on coat projects this year? Which patterns are you using? And have you ever had an epic coat fail like this? 



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