Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Contain yourself ladies, it's coat season!

Much as I like summer fun, my inner (OK, not very inner) geek is mostly excited about back-to-school season. What can I say, I grew up in rural northern Scotland and there was only so much Ceefax you could read in a day, so I just desperately wanted to go back to school by mid August.

Luckily, there's no need to deny myself these pleasures despite my advanced years (technically I was a student until very recently, but I just finished grad school! Huzzah!).  At this time of year I always indulge in new tights (these are the only ones that matter in the world), a duvet cover and a new pair of knee high boots (three sets are winging their way to me from Clarks now for consideration).

But now, thanks to sewing I have an altogether more satisfying early autumn pursuit: coat making!

This year's make was inspired by this gorgeous emerald green number from Marks & Spencer (purveyor of fine tights):

Coat making | Cashmerette

Be still, my heart. As my best friend from Scotland has pointed out many times, I should wear more green. It goes with my hair and whatnot. So this coat was clearly made for me - until I realized that the largest size was a good 3 inches too small for my bust, and as I can't try it on in a store I wouldn't be able to check the ease. Plus, there's no discernible waist shaping. (On a side note: GBP 120 for a cashmere blend coat? It must be made by small children).

I swear it took me a few hours before it occurred to me to MAKE THE DAMN THING. But make it I shall!

So, on my recent trip to NYC I trawled around the garment district looking for coating in just the right colour. Not an easy feat! Twice I found perfect specimens only to find that they only had 2 yards, which is definitely not enough for a coat for a size 22. Finally, nestling in a corner of upstairs at Mood I found the cashmere section... and an amazing bright emerald 100% cashmere. It took a bit of cajoling and mental arithmetic from the ladies (Lauren Lladybird: "but you have to factor in the entertainment value to the cost!") but I took the plunge. Here it is about to be cut - it's a little brighter in reality than it appears here.

For the lining, I'm going to be using this crazily awesome flamingo poly crepe de chine I picked up at EmmaOneSock, which is currently working its way around the interwebs. I was excited when this arrived at the office. Can you tell? 

As for the pattern, I'm going to use good old Simplicity 1759 again because I really loved my coat from last year, and it is already adjusted to me (swayback and FBA) so it seems silly not to. This time though I'm going to go with front view B which is a fairly slim classic lapel, which is meant to stick up but which I may fold down, because I'm a rebel like that. Although will that be a problem as it doesn't have a collar stand? Hmm. Confusing myself. I must also confess that I am a little hesitant about the size of the collar - I'm not sure if it might make my bust larger. What do you reckon? Or I could somehow hack something between the B and C views but working for single breasted... The tyranny of choice and the ability to alter patterns, I tell you.

I'll be going back to my original coat-making tips post, too, because I've sort of forgotten it all and it'll be blissful not to have to do all that research again.

A bright green cashmere coat will be mine. Will I look like Kermit? Only time will tell.

So a question for you, lovelies. Would you like to see in-progress photos of coat-making? I'm never sure how much people are interested in the guts vs. the end product. And, any top coat making tips for me? I'm going to go the fusible tailoring route again because I loved the results last time and figure I won't mess with (limited) success.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ice ice baby (brother)

In response to popular demand, my little brother returns! And in another Thread Theory creation: this time, the Strathcona Henley.

Thread Theory Strathcona Henley

I whipped this up in advance of our Iceland trip, and Tom wore it on our expedition out to see geysers and waterfalls and cairns (oh my!). I made it using gorgeous Robert Kaufmann Laguna jersey, which I highly recommend. It's beautifully soft, has a great weight and is super duper easy to sew with. The placket is a small amount of Atelier Brunette "Cosmic Blue", which I bought ages ago to make an Archer with but have yet to use. And finally, the buttons are lovely pearlescent numbers from Grey's Fabrics. 

I made the medium, and it fits OK, although it's closer fitting through the chest and looser around the waist than designed, because my brother's very "v" shaped (it's a family trait...). Looking at the photos, I also had a bit of puckering at the seams where the cotton joins the jersey - any idea of how I could avoid that in the future?

Tom was most pleased and graciously agreed to an embarrassing photoshoot in front of various random tourists taking their photos by the fun cairns at the entrance to Pingvellir national park, the historic area of Iceland where governments were convened for centuries. There are stunning views over the vast lake and volcanic hills all around... it's like Scotland on steroids!

(Don't those rocks remind you of the stone trolls from Frozen?!)

I must say that sewing for boys is rather thrilling: no darts! no tucks! limited fitting! Quite the opposite of sewing for me. So Tom's slowly building up a Thread Theory wardrobe, and I'm slowly mastering the ways of menswear. Have you tried Thread Theory patterns? Do you have any other recommendations for men's patterns?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wrap dress sewalong

Ever wanted to make a wrap dress of your own? Or turn into a complete obsessive and make ALL THE WRAP DRESSES?!

Then you're in luck. Over September and October I'll be hosting a "Wrapalong" (see what I did there?!) over on the Curvy Sewing Collective. We'll be making a classic wrap dress, and the sewalong will be suitable for all body types, whether you're curvy or not.

It kicks off today and there will be a few posts on patterns, fabric and supplies, and then the sewing starts September 29. There will also be prizes for some lucky wrapalongers... Head on over!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cotton + Steel shirtdress on tour up north

Behold, my first ever shirtdress! 

Believe it or not, I've never owned a shirtdress before. RTW ones were always out of the question: no stores carry shirtdresses that fit my bust and waist, let alone not gape between the buttons. For some reason, they then got relegated to the "items of clothing that will never suit me" mental category (see also: trousers, blazers).

How foolish I was!

This creation, McCall's 6506, came about due to the confluence of two events: firstly, my dear sewing friend Laney managed to accidentally order the pattern in the wrong size for her... but the right size for me, goddamit! Being the generous soul that I am, I took it off her hands. It still sat in the stash for a while though.. until Mary's autumn of 1,000 shirt dresses. I mean, look at that lady! I figured I'd give it a whirl.

I indulged in one of the brand new Cotton + Steel offerings - the Moonlit cotton by Rashida Coleman-Hale. It's really lovely - slightly lighter than quilting cotton but still with some heft, and it softened considerably after pre-washing. 

It worked well for the pattern, which is a fairly classic shirtdress design, with a proper collar,  separate button bands, and pleats strategically placed at the front and back but not at the hips. The collar as designed is comically large - unless you're going for a hardcore 70s look, scaling back is a necessity - I took 1.5 inches off, but may reduce it even more in the future. Unfortunately I messed up by not scaling down the stand accordingly, so the whole thing sits a bit too high on my neck and hits the back of my head...  To stop any gaping I carefully positioned one button at the fullest part of my bust, and I added an internal snap fastening between that button and the one above to secure the gap.

I used a straight 22 with the D cup bodice, and to my delight it fit straight out of the pattern with no FBA! Quite the thing. That said, there's a weird poofiness at the upper back which isn't evident in these pictures but is definitely there in real life. It could be because the size is too big, or maybe I need to do something else... take out a tuck from the upper back?  But if I do that, do I have to change the collar stand as well? And if so, how?! So many questions.


The pattern generally went together quickly but I have a total mare with the buttonholes. My parents generously gave me a new Bernina 580 for my birthday, and despite lovely features like auto thread cutting and a knee lift presser foot, the buttonhole has been on the fritz since I bought it. I ended up having to get my old Brother out of the cupboard to do them (less pretty buttonholes but at least I *get* buttonholes) after ripping out so many that the placket was getting properly damaged. So much for the "perfect Bernina" reputation... Unfortunately it's a 3 hour round trip to my Bernina dealer, and I've already been once for a "fix" which didn't work, and now I have to find time to go again. If they can't fix it this time I'm going to be climbing the walls.

Buttonhole trauma aside, I'm pleased with the end result, although I'm not entirely sure that high-necked (or at least, not scoop-necked), sleeveless garments are the most flattering on me - I feel like they emphasize my top-heaviness. If these photos are to go by, I also have a bit of a hem problem as it appears to be higher at the front than the back, presumably due to my chest hiking the front up. One to fix next time. The skirt is also notably short: I'm 5'6" but the skirt is clearly a few inches above my knees. 

Anyhow, the dress got road tested on my recent trip to Iceland over Labo(u)r Day weekend... such a fun place to go! Only 5 hours by plane from Boston, and it's like being in a different world, full of volcanos and ethereal blonde men with man-bun hairstyles and large hipster beards. My brother and I thoroughly explored Reykjavik (i.e. ate a lot of Icelandic pastries), including multiple visits to the gorgeous Harpa centre, an architectural marvel of a concert hall (and cafe and restaurant and event space) that's perched on the harbour front. How could I not take bloggy photos in front of the volcanic stone walls? 

And in the honeycomb-like massive windows that overlook the boats... (this was taken furtively while watching for security guards - I'm such a rebel, me)

What's your verdict on shirtdresses, dear readers? Yay or nay? I'm pretty sure more will be coming my way next spring... Until then, I have winter sewing plans in the works!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Swimming ladies everywhere

Remember that mental Amy Butler bag I made a while ago? Well I wasn't totally honest with you. Although the instructions were undoubtedly as batty as an extremely crazy bat, it was also frustrating because... I was making 3 at the same time! 

Any sewist can tell you that is madness, with or without nutbags directions. However, I was practically FORCED to do this undertaking by the sudden appearance on my Instagram of the Swim Team collection by Windham Fabrics: 

I mean, really.

Who wouldn't?

So I broke the no-fabric-buying rule that I had arrived upon that very morning in my car, and immediately ordered a bunch of it, to make a birthday bag for my best friend in the UK, and one for myself as well, because this was too good to be entirely selfless. 

Here is the one side with the delightfully rotund front crawling ladies: 

And here's the other with bodacious sunbathing babes!

Needless to say, the Crafty Foxes were *literally* foraging in the scraps bin when I was cutting this out, so expect to see these ladies popping up elsewhere in the future! I also have some little bits left here and there so I have to figure out some little projects that would showcase them in their full beauty. Any ideas, dear ones? 

The final bag came with me to Nantucket, and served well as a beach bag, not to mention being stuffed into my bike basket all day. It was a touch grubby when we got back, but a quick go in the washing machine and it's good as new! Those ladies are invincible.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Shameless plug

Gosh, I got nominated for the BurdaStyle Best 50 bloggers thing! Want to help me out? Then go on over and vote here. Of course, you should also vote for all your other favourite bloggers - there are tons of well known and less well known ones on there.

Merci, moppets!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jump! Jump! Jump! The (almost) By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit

Hell --> frozen

Pigs --> flying

Jenny --> in a jumpsuit

WHA?! Your eyes do not fool you dear readers. I, Jenny Cashmerette, am wearing a jumpsuit. A onesie. An all-in-one outfit. 

I did not ever expect to see the day. However, when I got the chance to pattern test with By Hand London (I say "got the chance" but in fact, I asked), I couldn't pass over the opportunity to help evaluate their patterns for curvier figures and get a more diverse set of outfits out there at launch. I expected another lovely dress. Then... I found out it was a jumpsuit. Eek! To say I was hesitant is a massive understatement.

However, I decided to give it a go, and worst comes to the worst, write a short comedy post about it. What I did not expect was to LOVE IT TO BITS. Oh my goodness. If this doesn't prove that anything can look good on curvy figures if it actually FITS then I don't know what does. And can I just saw how comfortable it is? VERY COMFORTABLE. Gosh, the caps are getting a bit much. 

Now, before I go any further, one critical thing to point out: this isn't the final jumpsuit that's now on sale. As the By Hand ladies already pointed out, there was a snafu uncovered during the pattern testing process - namely that the original top half of the jumpsuit was very similar to another pattern already out there. Therefore, it's now been changed to a Studio 52 vibe cowl. That said: I loved my original pattern-testing jumpsuit so much, I wanted to share it with you anyway. Just please bear in mind that if you order it now, this isn't the version you'll be receiving! 

Thanks to the lovely Mary, I was totally inspired by these amazing photos of women on the beach at Deauville in the 1930s. Those massive airy linen white trousers must be mine! And then during my trip to Grey's Fabrics (who most generously provided the fabric for testing) I knew it would have to be paired with  a gorgeous Dear Stella ikat-inspired quilting cotton. 
Inspiration source
Overall, I love the look, the pattern was excellent, and the instructions worked well with a couple of exceptions that BHL have now changed for the final release. 

I made a few adjustments, partly for fit, and partly to achieve that dreamy 1930s look. I made a bodice muslin quickly first, and then whipped it up in the final fabric. 

- I started with the size US 16/UK 20, and added 3 inches FBA to the bodice - a pretty standard adjustment for me on every pattern. I used the Fit for Real People approach, as per usual. 
- The FBA added 2 5/8 inches to the waist, which as it turns out, was perfect to put a bit more ease in there that I needed
- And I added 2 inches in total to the hips and then down the entire trouser leg to get maximum floaty effect

For those of you wondering about me making changes while pattern testing: pattern companies need to test lots of things during the development process, including fit, the instructions, the markings on the pattern pieces etc. Fit is best done by fit models, so the type of testing I was doing for BHL was more on the instructions and pattern itself, as well as how wearable it was for plus size women - therefore, even while making making changes I was able to provide helpful input.

I was surprised by how fast this went together - the FBA was very straightforward, and the whole thing was completed in 2 evenings (even with extensive testing notes). I am thinking about making a few little adjustments to the garment: adding white belt loops at the waist to hold my gold belt in *just* the right place, and also moving the straps about 3/4 inch out to cover my bra straps. I should have really tried on the bodice before I attached the straps... learn from my mistakes, people!

In terms of construction, the only thing I did differently to the instructions was to add a petersham ribbon to the inside waist seam allowance to stop the linen stretching out over time - there's a lot of material in those trousers...

If you're wondering about the location, guest star Rebecca and I went down to the beach in South Boston one Sunday evening - I actually forget I live about 2 miles from a beach sometimes because Boston is so inward facing, geographically. Down by the beach is also Fort Independence on Castle Island, which is no longer an island thanks to the new docks, but has a really cool walkway that juts out into the sea and provides for very pleasant breezy walks.  

So the verdict: yep, you can wear a jumpsuit even if you're curvy. It combines all the swooshiness of a maxi skirt and all the comfort of wearing trousers.... I'm sold. I'm also psyched to effectively have a princess seam block for strappy tops. So yay for BHL, yay for jumpsuits and yay for yet more boundary-breaking!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Simple but effective

Another Metro Textiles winner up on the blog today! This gorgeous silk was the first thing I snapped up when I visited earlier in the year - it has a lovely southwestern inspired pattern, and it's absolutely gorgeous to feel. That Kashi has a lot to answer for. 

In my new endeavor to actually wear fabric I love rather than hoard it in my sewing room, I decided that I needed to whip it up into something, pronto. *Obviously* it was going to be a maxi skirt, but then I started contemplating putting a zipper into silk and... ugh. No. So instead, let me present: a gathered tube of fabric, with a hem tube and a waist tube through which some elastic was put. I'd release my own pattern, but I don't want to bring the Big4 down.

This took less than an evening, and now I get to swan about in amazing fabric for the rest of the summer. And when I say swan about, I really mean swoooooossshhhhhh....

It must also be noted that elasticated waist silk maxi skirts are potentially the single most comfortable thing in the entire world to wear. Like, more than pyjamas. The only negative is that if you stand on the hem while getting up from the table where you've just been eating brunch, you may accidentally expose yourself to the entire restaurant. Guess how I know that. 

I make no apologies for the maxi skirt love here at Cashmerette towers, but never fear: more adventurous plans are afoot! Once I've made some more maxis. And maybe another wrap dress.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Liberty Island Sorbetto

Attempting to make woven tops fit my chest is no small feat. Is it any wonder then that I adjusted one to fit and have never even tried another? Oh, adjusted Sorbetto, how I love you, even though you look like a mutant compared to the original version (note for curvy ladies: it's a good pattern to practice FBA-ing!).

So when I snagged some gorgeous Liberty tana lawn from EmmaOneSock earlier this year, what could it be but yet another Sorbetto? 

Check out the design below: have you ever seen anything so summery? Yachts! Dinghies! Huts! Rowboats! Buckets and spades!

I used Grainline's fab "how to get a flat bias neckline" tutorial. Even though I've done bias edging a thousand times, her little tips made a big difference. My favourite one is to understitch the bias first before doing the final stitching... genius! I also do the version where you fold all the bias to the inside rather than having it show on the outside - it's much easier to get a neat finish and I think it looks more RTW.

A simple top, and it's getting tons of use! In the meantime, do you want to see more photos of the wonderland that is Nantucket? I know you do. 

Me showing off my new pad (if only), in a Boden maxidress:

And cycling out to the lighthouse in Katy & Laney tap shorts!

What are your woven top TNTs, readers? Should I go to the considerable effort of adjusting another one, or just make the Sorbetto forever?

Monday, August 25, 2014

The last skirts of summer

Summer seems to have already started winding down in Boston, and while I'm looking forward to the renewed appearance of tights in my wardrobe (I LOVE TIGHTS), I have been feeling a touch sad. So when it suddenly brightened up this weekend, Nina and I got out of town pronto. 

And of course I had to have a new outfit for the occasion. 

Enter: another McCalls M6931 and a trusty Renfrew!

McCalls M6931 and Sewaholic Renfrew

The fabulous skirt fabric is Marc Jacobs silk twill which I snapped up from my virtual sewing buddy Charlotte's stash when she started selling it off on Instagram. I have been visiting it at night and cooing gently to it, but decided it was time for it to finally make it onto my body. Other ladies with extremely good taste have also indulged, so I feel in esteemed company. 

Have I said how much I love silk twill? I really do. I always thought silk was flimsy and hard to sew and clingy on the body, but silk twill and faille give you all the wonders of silk with none of the flimsy hard-to-weared-ness. Delicious.

Also: silk elasticated waist skirts. This is the third I've made one in as many weeks, and it is, dear friends, the way forward. The insides were french seamed, and the hem blind stitched by hand (which I can report takes exactly one episode of Project Runway, during which the contestants make a full length ballgown).

The top is super simple - just a Renfrew with the neckline more scooped out (quelle surprise), and three quarter length sleeves with cuff bands. For the neckline I stuck wonder tape to the wrong side, folded over, and coverstitched. Easy peasy. I used Robert Kaufmann Laguna Jersey which is a total dream to sew with and wear... expect to see more of that around these parts. 

For our little expedition, Nina and I headed out to the World's End park in Hingham, which is about 15 miles south of Boston. It's a really magical place: it was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (also see: Central Park), and has winding tree-lined carriageways looping over hobbit-like little islands jutting out into Boston harbour. I definitely have to have a birthday picnic there one year...

From the top of the hill you can see Boston on the horizon!

I'm super pleased with another colourful, comfortable and unusual little ensemble, and expect to make more separates with this silhouette in the future. Only thing is, I may become actually allergic to waistbands, and then there'll be no helping me. But fear not, dear readers, I shall take the risk just for you.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Want even more Cashmerette in your life?

Then you're in luck! I'm in other places around the interwebs, and you can keep up to date with all my everyday prattling.

My all new Facebook page is here, where you can keep track of new posts and hear other news

I'm at @cashmerette on Instagram where you can see my never-ending Works in Progress and other random everyday musings.

And you can email me at cashmerette@gmail.com!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tips for blog photography!

Hello chickens! About 6 months ago I decided to try to improve the photography on Cashmerette. Put on makeup and brush my hair and whatnot. But I ended up learning quite a bit more than "lipstick makes me look like I have a mouth"and having a lot of fun with it, so I thought I'd share with you in case you're interested! Of course no blog *needs* photoshoot-y photos, but if you're so inclined, these tips might help.

How to improve your blog photos

1. Get outside! And preferably the hour before sundown.

This is probably the single biggest piece of advice I can give you. Being outside makes all the difference to the light in your photos, and hence their quality. If you can shoot in the "golden hour" before the sun goes down, you'll get even more fantastic pics... It's not always possible, but it's worth trying. 

Here are some photos I took inside: 

And here are some outside at sundown in comparison.

If you do shoot at sundown, it's best to orient your body and face *towards* the sun - that way you get some cool shadows, but your garment is shown off to its best. One fun thing is to look up to the sun if you have sunglasses on - it gives a really nice effect. If you can't shoot when the sun is low in the sky, then it's best to get out of direct light - go to somewhere where there's diffused light or stand in the shade.

2. Take lots and lots and lots of pictures

Occasionally a friend will say to me "oh I'm so jealous you always look nice in your photos!" Actually, no, I look nice in 1 out of the 150 photos I took! On average, myself and my blogger friends take anywhere between 100 - 250 photos for a post... Crazy, right? But it actually doesn't take very long (maybe 10 - 20 minutes), and if you keep on moving a little bit for each one, you'll find some gems in among them. This is definitely tricky if you have an impatient person/child/spouse taking the photos, but if you have a little more breathing space, just tell them to continuously shoot. Alternatively, try using a tripod and put your camera on timer or use a remote - I've managed to get some great shots using that approach, although you still need to take a lot!

When it comes to editing your mountain of shots,  if you use a Mac, you can go into iPhoto and "flag" (top left hand corner) the ones you like, then go to the Flagged folder and you can make your choices from the best ones - this speeds things up considerably!

3. Move about!

I always used to stand stock still, one hand on hip, and while that hand hasn't really moved, I do a lot more now! Spin about, laugh, chat to someone off camera, dance, and keep taking photos - so often it's the ones where you move that end up looking the most natural, relaxed, dynamic and fun. Photos with a light breeze are also fantastic - you get wonderful movement in your clothes, and it can make your hair look gorgeous. There's a reason why Beyonce walks around with a wind machine the entire time. 

4. Consider your backdrop

It's pretty obvious that shooting in a Provencal lavender field is going to be cool, but what do you do when you're not in the south of France? Surprisingly, gritty urban backgrounds often look fantastic - something textured, warm coloured, and fairly plain can be awesome. You don't need fancy backgrounds - in fact, often me and my bloggy friends wander past gorgeous places in our neighbourhood but end up shooting in front of a wall where there's good light. 

5. It's all about the angles, baby!

Angles look fantastic. Often you have to stand or position yourself in a way that feels entirely unnatural and perhaps even looks bizarre in reality. But these poses typically look great in photos. Angle one of your legs, put your hand on your head, lean on a fence... Even if you want to do a "stand upright, face the front" pose, it's great to put all your weight into one leg and tilt one hip up as much as you can.

It's a matter of personal preference, but looking away from the camera can also make your photos look more professional. On the flip side, it's less personal, so each to their own!

6. Editing

I don't do very much editing, but when I do I use iPhoto - their retouching tool is great for getting rid of pimples or weird creases - or PicMonkey.com, which allows you to put filters on your photos (a little like Instagram), or put labels and text over them.

Original photo - Photo with "Urbane" filter on PicMonkey - Photo with "Intrepid" filter on PicMonkey

7. Equipment

You can take great photos on an iPhone or basic camera equipment. However, I can't deny that when I upgraded my camera kit a few months ago, the quality of my photos suddenly jumped. I'm far from a professional photographer, but if there's one thing I know, it's to spend your money on a great quality lens and use a basic camera body. I have a Canon EOS Rebel (fairly basic amateur model), but invested in a 50mm 1.4 fixed lens (which means you can't zoom) which consistently gives incredible quality images. One major ability of this lens is to make the background go very blurry (known formally as "bokeh"), which makes the subject in focus stand out, and generally makes the photo look ace - I also ramp this up on my camera by using the "CA" setting, which allows me to choose to have maximum blur in the background, which you can see this clearly in my recent swimsuit photos. These lenses are pricey and you definitely don't *need* them, but they do make a difference if you're willing to spend.

I hope that those are helpful, but I'm far from an expert! What do you recommend for great blog photos? Do you have any tips? 
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