My new doll + learning to fit!

I took the plunge! I had been toying with the idea of a bustform, and saw someone selling a “Petite” bustform secondhand in Stockholm fairly cheap. Perfect! (since I have a really narrow ribcage) Though the logistics of getting there would be a bit difficult. Well anyway it sold pretty fast, but by that point I had already been fantasising about what it would like to own one.

A few weeks later, someone was selling a “small” bustform in my town – a little less than ideal given the size, but I figured it was good enough. Besides, I can always resell it if it really didn’t work out. Anyway, by the time I took her home, I was in love 😀

I honestly never thought I could get so much happiness from an object, but there is something reassuring about it. She’s (nearly) my body twin, and somehow I feel more happy about my body.

To better understand how the lines of my body match up with the bustform, I started working with a Palmer Pletsch fitting sheath pattern (McCall’s 7279) which I had in my stash. I hadn’t had a lot of motivation to sew a sheath, since it’s a bit on the formal side for my office.

I worked through the bodice using old ripped bedsheets. I learned so much about my body flaws unique quirks:

  • narrow back and shoulder
  • short/erect upper back
  • hollow chest
  • high bust apex
  • swayback
  • forward shoulder
  • (no front waist dart – round belly)

The number of adjustments is probably also due to working with a size 10 (if I had started with the size 8, probably would not have needed so many adjustments).

I’m absolutely astounded to find out that my upper back is so flat and short compared to the “standard” size. I tried on a RTW sheath dress that I (believed) fit me like a glove and have received many compliments on, and sure enough, there is a huge bubble of fabric floating above my upper back. Now that I’m starting to learn about fitting issues, I can’t unseen them! I also finally understood why RTW button up shirts (particularly Zara) are always too low cut on me.

I bought a really cheap clearance fabric while on vacation in northern Sweden, from a store known for being “the best” in Sweden according to some. Well, when we arrived there, they were experiencing a blackout, but I was determined to buy something. What I didn’t realise was that the 5m end of roll bargain fabric I bought was full of flaws. I thought I could still eke out a wearable muslin, envisioning something like this:

Victoria Beckham green sheath&Other Stories sheath

But the fabric started to look pretty awful, resembling a uniform/pinafore from the 1970s. So I abandoned it and cut my losses. Perhaps if I get inspired by a fabric I might start this again, but I mostly wanted to start on a looming Ralph Pink dress project in the queue.

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My sewing pattern review:

I’m really interested in improving the fit of my clothes, and the Palmer pletsch method really intrigues me, although their courses are expensive. (I own the Fit for Real People book) When I found out that they produced teaching patterns, I thought it was worth a try to try to learn it on my own!

Pattern Sizing:
I had a lot of trouble selecting a size – the envelope suggested 12, I made a size 10, but with all the adjustments I made, if I made the 8 it would have made my life much easier :/

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
I didn’t finish the project.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Generally yes. Since it is a fitting pattern, there are many, many steps! I really needed to refer to the book Fit for Real People several times during the process, so the pattern itself is not all encompassing, though it may get you a better fit than if you had not tried at all.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked the lines on the pattern, they helped reinforce the knowledge and principles which I had been struggling with.

The entire process was quite draining and tedious as a beginner, and very difficult to fit on my own. However, I came away with a lot of new knowledge about the types of adjustments I might need (particularly in the bodice)! I felt like tissue fitting the skirt was not very helpful, or maybe my lower body dimensions are already quite typical, at least in a skirt. While working on this project, I purchased a secondhand bustform, which was a great help.

Changes to the pattern?
I drafted a portrait neckline, which I think will be more flattering, though I didn’t carry out the project to the end.

Fabric Used:
I made several muslins out of an old cotton bedsheet. The green fabric I got on super cheap clearance, but realised when cutting out, it was cheap because the fabric was full of flaws. By the time I started sewing it together, I decided to abandon the project since the fabric quality really didn’t look as good as I imagined it would – it started to look like a uniform from the 1970s :/

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Now that I have my basic bodice and the idea for the end result, I will probably sew it in a nicer fabric, though I need a break from the project.

I would recommend this together with the Fit for Real People book.

Read more on my blog https://swedishseams.wordpress.com/

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McCall’s 6436 shirt dress hack and Kibbe Body Type Dressing

Finally finished the project I started back in January but lost motivation for, due to the long dreary cold winter, until after the hottest and longest summer in memory in Sweden…! I needed to finish it so I could at least wear it once this year.

Last summer I was obsessed with owning a floral stripe shirtdress. There was a dress at Zara which might have fit the bill, except that based on the model’s height, it would definitely be too long on me. On top of that it was in viscose/rayon, and meanwhile I spotted a cotton lawn fabric (a bit of a splurge at 10 GBP/meter) on Minerva Crafts which would be much nicer! I could only buy the fabric by the meter, so I hoped 2 meters of the narrow 140cm/56″ fabric would work by hacking a shirt pattern.

I used McCall’s 6436, my 3rd shirt dress pattern. Previously I attempted a Papercut peter pan dress shirt, an unfinished UFO since I realised just before doing the buttons that the the quilting fabric probably wasn’t very wearable, as well as Butterick B5526 which I was not crazy about due to the size of the collar.

Based on what I read from other reviews of this pattern, I made a muslin, or attempted to make a wearable muslin in a poly cotton navy pinstripe fabric which I bought in the discount bin at my local fabric store. I ended up removing the sleeves, since the fabric was a tad stiff for this shirt style, and ended up being a bit too much STRIPES IN YOUR FACE. In the end, I never finished the shirt since I didn’t have any summer bottoms that went with a navy sleeveless shirt. A pair of white jeans would have looked amazing with it, but my summer wardrobe is seriously limited. Living in Sweden where summer is like a week long, it never made sense to invest in a summer wardrobe. Until this year. If only I had finished the shirtdress earlier I would have been living in it 😦

So anyway, after finishing the muslin, I felt confident enough to dive into hacking the pattern into a shirtdress!… Well, if only I knew what I was in for… The number of design changes, fitting changes, and incorporating new methods that were not in the sewing pattern – well, I really didn’t make things easy for myself! (Read on for my full Sewing Pattern Review of what I changed) Though, the silver lining that I sewed my first sleeve placket! (well, actually, attempted it, ripped it out, practiced on a scrap, and then tried again). Thanks to the fabric, which was so easy to work with! I’m really seeing the benefits of working with higher quality fabric.

Though the pattern is a loose fitting blouse, I just can’t help myself from taking in patterns towards a more fitted silhouette. One of the frustrations I’ve had with buying RTW and with my early sewing projects is that everything is ill-fitting on me, making me look terrible. Parallel to my sewing projects during the past year, I’ve been trying to incorporate the principles from Fit for Real People, and just started fitting a Palmer Pletsch sheath dress learning pattern.

I’ve also learned a lot from my favourite Youtuber, Aly Art, about dressing according to Kibbe body types about what styles and silhouettes look best on me. I’ve often been confused/skeptical about dressing for body type, since it’s unclear whether I’m a pear, rectangle, inverted triangle – none of the traditional advice really seemed to apply to or be helpful for me… Well, according to the Kibbe body types, I’m a Gamine (more specifically, Soft Gamine), best described as looking a bit “teenager-ish”. Yin or rounded in the face, and Yang / angular in the body.

Gamine Do’s:

Small, sharp geometrics. Precision fitted and crisply tailored. Your outline should be sharp, straight and staccato. Many vertical lines and horizontal lines.Details should be small, sharp. Broken up, loads of crisp trim, outline, colors, cuffs, waistbands, lapels. Sharp angular necklines. Sharp and narrow waist definition

Avoid:

Oversized. Large or long geometrics. Unconstructed shapes. Soft edged or rounded shapes. Ornate, intricate or delicate shapes.

More tips on Gamine dressing (basically a reminder for myself!)

Some examples of Gamine celebrities are Mila Kunis, Audrey Tatou, Mary Kate and Ashley Ohlsson.

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Applying these principles on myself, I can see that tailored > loose. These photos are taken days apart (the pencil skirt and tie neck blouse I blogged about last time). Though I know the principles in theory, application of the knowledge takes a bit longer (and maybe I need to either stop wearing the blouse or try to redo it). 😦

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Now, this advice has really clicked for me, since basically for the past decade, oversized, minimalistic, loose, boxy shapes have really been “in”, especially in Scandinavia. And I have never felt good in these types of garments (while simultaneously wondering how everyone else manages to pull it off). I feel much more at peace knowing, confirming and accepting that, really, I should be wearing tailored shapes with waist definition to look my best. Though this makes my sewing tasks harder, at least I have the power to create the garments that look best on me, irregardless of what is “in” at the moment or not. And that is amazing 🙂

Finally, thanks for bearing with me for the photos! I was super proud on finishing the dress, but after taking photos, I’m a bit unhappier seeing the finished product on. The interfacing on the placket is rather bulky and interferes with the dress falling smoothly! Any advice for softening up the interfacing? My local store doesn’t sell thinner interfacing, so I’m not sure when to skip interfacing or not on my next project(s).

As well, I haven’t yet installed the cuff buttons. Advice about what to select? I used some cheap bulk buttons I picked up on a trip to New York, but I don’t think that I’m very fond of it (see my close up photo of the buttons on the placket). Also appreciate advice on my next version of this shirt. The buttons seem a bit too big?! (not sure if I’m just used to RTW, but my other dress shirts have much smaller buttons)

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My Sewing Pattern Review:

The shirtdress is my 4th attempt at making a dress shirt as a beginner (previously tried a Papercut peter pan dress shirt, also Butterick B5526 which I was not crazy about, and now this, a 3rd pattern). I think I finally found a pattern to continue building on for future.

I attempted to make a wearable muslin in a mystery fabric (navy pinstripe poly cotton most likely). The fabric was surprisingly nice, though probably better suited for a loose, drapey summer trouser than a shirt (still learning about fabric since I’m a beginner), so I ended up removing the sleeves since they were a tad too stiff.

Pattern Sizing:
Big 4 is known for having a lot of ease, so I sized down 1 size (size 8, grading out to size 10 in hips) and made fit adjustments thereafter.
This pattern comes in different cup sizes A/B, C and D, and I used A/B.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
I think so. The cover photo shows a lot of ease in the pattern, though I took in the darts considerably and reduced the sleeve cap.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, aside from challenges due to my own modifications to the pattern and methods. I think if I had actually followed the instructions I would have made my life easier, but then I would not have got the result I wanted.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
The high armholes are very flattering!

Generally I like the collar, as I didn’t like the collar on Butterick B5526.
The collar is too tall for my short neck, although I attempted to shorten the collar stand (forgetting to shorten the collar itself).

The pattern uses a 2 piece sleeve, which would making finishing the sleeve placket easier for a beginner, though I made my life harder by sewing a 1 piece sleeve and doing my first sleeve placket! 🙂

The cup sizes still seemed to be too large for me, although it may have to do with learning how to select and grade my proper size due to my body type (broad shoulders, narrow back and chest). Generally RTW that fits me in the shoulder is also too large in the body.

Fabric Used:
2m x 56″(140cm) wide Cotton lawn for the shirt dress // poly cotton for the muslin

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Oh boy! Quite a lot!

Design changes:
– Extended the length into a shirtdress. This was a great way to squeeze a shirtdress out of 56″/140cm wide fabric that I fell in love with, which I could only buy by the meter online (2m used)
– I reduced the sleeve cap height / shoulder ease (approx 1/2″ ease reduction) using Silhouette Patterns Peggy Sagers’ method on Youtube

– narrowed the sleeve width, using a RTW dress shirt I already own as a reference
– shortened the collar stand (forgot to shorten the collar height…)
– hidden shirt placket

Construction notes:
– 3/8″ seam allowance for armholes, 1″ seam allowance on cuffs to be able to skip over the step of trimming after sewing
– French seamed sleeves, so that they will look neat when I roll up sleeves

Fitting changes:
– shortened sleeves by several cm, and then shortened them another 1cm again between the muslin and shirt dress which ended up being a tad too short…
– quite a long, deep back dart, to try to compensate for my erect back and sway back. I learned during the process that I probably need a narrow back adjustment instead, since I thought I only had a sway back and erect back.
– lowered/deepened the neck scoop
– shortened bust dart, lowered by 1.5 cm
– added waist darts for additional shaping

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
It was quite a task learning to sew and fit a dress shirt, as well as make changes to the pattern and methods simultaneously, but I will definitely make this again, taking away all I have learned!

I recommend reducing the shoulder ease / cap height if you want to get a nice streamlined fit on the shoulders as I did.

2 year sewing anniversary!

And a 1 year break from blogging, eeps! I decided to take a few months off from sewing, due to my frustration at selecting appropriate fabrics for patterns, learning how to fit, learning to sew, learning what garments I like wearing, all at once. So I took some time to really analyze what I wanted to wear and what I felt good wearing. Also have started a fabric stash of beautiful fabrics from Sri Lanka and Mood in New York from business and personal trips 🙂

Still I was suffering from some sewing-perfectionism-paralysis for some periods. What broke me out of that was surprisingly, sewing costumes! Since I didn’t need to sew perfectly  for an outfit that only needed to hold up for a night, I could really just jump into sewing for pure fun! As a new employee at my workplace, I was a part of the party planning committee, and I insisted that we dress as clowns a la Clockwork Orange 🙂

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From my workplace’s previous summer costume party as Gogo from Kill Bill, which I never posted. I ordered the skirt online from a Chinese eBay seller which ended up a tad short (eep!) though I figured I was well covered on the upper body at least.

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Pic of Burda cocoon dress just before finishing. Realised I don’t like dresses that don’t have waist definition, so I tapered and took in the sides a lot. Only to not be able to walk up stairs in it. I might put in a back slit, maybe, never.

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Burda tank (my detailed Pattern Review BURDASTYLE MAGAZINE 04-2016-#118 (TANK WITH NECK PLEATS), with some modifications (left the pleats open). Wasn’t crazy about it until I tried it on with a high waisted skirt. The interfacing is a bit too stiff?! But I’m happy about the fit! At this point I learned that I have an erect back (possibly narrow back with “wide” shoulders, as in I need to size up from my bust size).

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My second version of this Burda Bowtie blouse 10/2011 128A (my detailed Pattern Review 10-2011-128A (BOWTIE BLOUSE). Obviously I needed to customise it 🙂

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Self-drafted quarter circle skirt + the skirt just before hemming. Of course made mistakes during drafting and adjustments, and needed to put in a lining since I misjudged how thin the linen (bought in Sri Lanka) would fall. Worst of all, the hem is uneven, and I hand sewed the hem with a single thread while watching a 2 hour movie, so I’m dreading the thought of redoing it… Most likely I will just live with it. The matching top I had planned is a WIP since it ended up being more matronly than expected. Really trying to let go of my disappointment in the result not being as good as hoped for, and trying to see it as learning experiences.

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And the latest project, which I am super proud of! Finally, something that fits amazing and looks store bought! (Or, better than store bought, since I have never purchased a pencil skirt in my life, as pencil skirts never fit me right!) The fabric is from Mood, cotton twill marked with a designer whose name escapes right now… This fabric was an absolute dream to work with! Pattern is BURDASTYLE MAGAZINE HIGH WAISTED SKIRT 04-2012-118 (my detailed review on Sewing Patterns). Oh, and of course I made a number of changes to the pattern design – I really can’t leave it be to follow directions exactly!

Currently trying to finish a shirtdress which I started back in January, and lost motivation for since it was cold… Now that we’ve had the hottest and longest summer ever, trying to rush to get it done before it gets too cold (omg!). I may need to learn to sew ahead of seasons. One thing I realized about my sewing is that I sew like I cook – I almost absolutely cannot follow a recipe/directions without making my own modifications to it, haha!

Feels a bit silly(?) that I somehow feel compelled to blog even when it’s been a whole year since I last blogged, and that I don’t really have followers so to say. I guess I feel that I’ve gotten so much from the online sewing community, that I want to have some presence online, as well as share whatever I can, however little it may be 🙂

A longish personal update

Whew! It’s been awhile since I last blogged or even sewn for that matter. Lot of reasons for that…

  • Started sewing Butterick B5526 over Christmas break. After spending way too much time trying to pattern match the pockets, ripping them out as the pockets are rather high(!), cutting out new pockets, and still having them turn out horribly, I threw the shirt into a corner in a fit of rage. Sewed a simple Burda shell top as a palette cleanser which turned out kind of meh…  And kind of lost of my sewing mojo for awhile.
  • Started a new job closer to home! Meaning no more 3 hour commutes when I would surf sewing related stuff to feed my obsession, instead focusing on adjusting to the over-stimulus of a new workplace while trying to start a healthier lifestyle with my newfound time.
  • Stress of my mother getting diagnosed with a serious illness, flying home for a week while simultaneously worrying about the impression I was making at my new job. Which probably contributed to myself being sick for a month. Luckily my mom is well now ❤

I feel slightly guilty that I don’t really like wearing most of the things I’ve sewn so far, and that some of the patterns I picked up are probably not quite my style and may likely not wear. By wanting to reduce wastefulness in consuming, my own mistakes will also be wasteful. I realize I probably should let go of my perfectionist tendencies, that it will take time before the things I make will even get close to the quality of even fast fashion. (I have so much respect now for women working as sewists.)

For awhile I have been trying to (re)find my style, thanks to the immensely helpful advice from Anushka Rees aka Into mind. I realized I couldn’t continue on my goal not to purchase any new clothing as I simply can’t sew fast or well enough, and the few items that I actually liked wearing in my small wardrobe were wearing out after several years of use. So I went shopping. And miracle of miracles, I found 3 pairs of jeans that fit and flatter me (2 of which were on sale!). Usually pants are hard for me, as I have a “flat ass”, skinny thighs and a “big” stomach, at least according to clothing manufacturers – so pants will be billowing off my backside yet strangling my stomach.

After that, it feels this year has been like a series of events where everything is falling into place. A new job where with every passing week I feel more and more excited that I landed at the right place. Biking to work everyday. Having time to lift weights twice a week just a block from work, which has boosted my self image. Lost 3 kg, probably from leaving the stress of my old job behind me. Taking more time for skincare, while trying to change my inner criticisms of how bad my skin is to instead talking to myself as “caring for myself”. Outlet shopping with my uncle while visiting home, finding a pair of boots that make me feel amazing. Even reflecting on the sewing mistakes I made during 2016 (technically, only August to December). All these things together, along with what has felt like a long time to rediscover my style – my vision of my personal style has finally clicked.

I know it sounds superficial, and this was the inner dialog I had for the past several years. Though having gone through that I much prefer this version of myself. Taking time to take care of myself and do things for myself. Rather than feeling bad about how I am different and do not fit in, I can look at what makes me uniquely beautiful.

And I finally (nearly finished) Butterick B5526 this Easter weekend 🙂 Reviews coming soon.

 

 

Why I started sewing

Welcome to Swedish Seams! (Instead of French seams, get it?) I’m not actually Swedish though, but a Canadian expat in Sweden.

Up to now, my sewing education consisted of a short sewing module in junior high school Home Economics. I hand sewed a pincushion, very hastily sewn with long basting stitches, and a pair of red polka dot boxer shorts. There was one iron in the class, but I didn’t know why we we needed to bother with it.

For the past few years, I’ve been unsatisfied with my wardrobe. A looong time ago, in the last year of studying my bachelor’s degree, as a 22 year old I worked in a clothing store. I remember I used to love dressing up and experimenting with different styles – wide legged trousers, high neck victorian tops, jumpsuits, toile printed dresses. Several years working as the youngest female in a male dominated office, a career change and a move to a new country (Sweden!) at the age of 30 to study design… And now at 37, I feel like I have a complete loss of confidence in myself due to constantly feeling “not good enough” in an extremely competitive industry, feeling like I’ve rapidly aged due to stress, and like I’ve kind of lost myself in a new country where I don’t quite fit in… But I won’t get too deep into that right now.

In the last year I’ve been dabbling with sewing small projects which I’ve found really enjoyable, such as hemming curtains, taking in the flare on an old pair of pants, sewing a sleep eye mask. I used to wear more dressy clothing in Canada, partly because I wanted to be taken more seriously at work, and being a student in Sweden I took to dressing very casually in loose tops. I found quite a huge cultural difference in the way women dress here (but maybe also due to fashion trends) – which is often very loose and practical (and almost always black!) which is somewhat freeing, but I realized that on my short-waisted  slim frame that I simply feel frumpy and washed out. Since finishing my second bout of school, I’ve been constantly looking for clothes to replace my masters student wardrobe which was literally falling apart and filled with holes. I started to make a wardrobe plan using into-mind.com‘s extremely helpful style and wardrobe advice, reflecting over the clothes I bought, and which clothes I felt good in. And I realized that I had bought nearly no clothing in 2015 aside from shoes and underwear, simply because I couldn’t find clothing I liked – the stores are filled with black, polyester, loose tops that fall to my knee… Nothing I would want to wear or would feel good in. In 2016, really desperate for long-overdue new clothes, after searching for weeks, I would normally end up buying something that was “good enough”… but really not, since many of the items were shoddily made or with cheap fabric, despite paying more money for some of these items. And my entire wardrobe was made up of these so-so purchases, bringing me back to the hunt for new clothing items…

Over the summer, I’ve been reading Overdressed, about the fast fashion industry. And one book reviewer said “It’s just not practical to expect people to sew their own clothes!” And somehow, the idea got into my head, almost like a challenge. A google search brought up loads of inspiring people who were indeed sewing their own clothes, like Tilly and the Buttons, Colette, and a huge community of blogging sewers – I completely want in, though at the same time I strangely feel the fear of rejection. So just shy of my 37th birthday, I’ve become completely obsessed with sewing my clothes. For the first time I feel like I have my own “thing”, which combines right and left brain creativity and problem solving, but does not throw me the pressure of producing a result for client – I only need to please myself. 🙂

Now I think it’s time to leave off here and start blogging about several of the makes I’ve already been working on.