#thewardrobechallenge – 6 month review

So, it’s just over six months since I set myself The Wardrobe Challenge, to make one item per month and strive to stop buying high street and make more of my own clothes.

So how have I done?

April – The challenge begins! I started out quite well, making the Lottie Simple Sew blouse just a few weeks in.

wpid-20150411_215041.jpg

May – Still on a roll, I made the New Look 60s mod dress.

wpid-20150525_200345.jpg

June – this is where the summer hit and life got in the way of my still-slow and methodical sewing somewhat. I excused myself by going on the invaluable pattern-fitting workshop from Thrifty Stitcher. Clare-Louise Hardie. I still think this was a great choice, I learnt so much that I use every time I sew a garment now.

July – Again, a bit of an excuse month as I was busy every weekend. I bought preloved/vintage though, and reworked a Julien McDonald dress for my Roman holiday.

wpid-2015-08-24-21.36.12.jpg.jpeg

August – ok, this was a fail month. I’ve hunted high and low and I can’t find a single stitchy thing to attribute to August.

September – maybe not clothes, but I made the clutch bags for the bridesmaids (myself included!) for one of my best friend’s weddings. I also went to a learn-to-knit evening from London Craft Club!

11911726_10153397159145804_592050500_n

October – I made a GBSB sleeveless shell top (very seasonal, I know, but I’m trying to use up my fabric stash!) on a Sunday afternoon, possibly the fastest sew from scratch. Also the first time I really used my dress form in earnest. I’ve also started to crochet a fair-isle inspired jumper.

image

For November, I’ve signed up to Sew Over It‘s Ultimate Trousers workshop. I’m really looking forward to that because trousers are nearly impossible for me to buy fitting off the peg. The design is really nice, with a side zip and a bit of a vintage flair, and you come away from the workshop with a pair of trousers and fully fitted pattern!

So what’s the verdict? I’m a bit disappointed with myself that I didn’t manage to make more, but then again life has to be about balance. In the last six months I have also started a new relationship (around the time I started the challenge, in fact!), travelled to Brighton, Cornwall (twice), Durham, Rome and Portugal, been a bridesmaid, been to a vintage music festival, taken up Lindy Hop, and generally got on with everything else life brings!

The important thing is that embarking on this challenge has made me be critical of my purchasing (more so than even before), and I’m determined to keep sewing and improving my skills.

Here’s to the next six months!

Simple Sew Lottie Blouse

So month 1 of my wardrobe challenge is in motion, I’ve made April’s garment (and it’s only halfway through the month!)

The Pattern: Simple Sew Lottie Blouse, freebie with an issue of LoveSewing magazine
image

image

The fabric: Blue viscose floral bought from the Knitting & Stitching show.
image

Fortunately I had to make minimal pattern alterations on this one, I pretty much followed the size 14 pattern with the size 16 bust. The fabric was very forgiving to sew, the most annoying thing being its slipperiness both in piecing out and on the machine.

Construction was fairly straightforward. Essentially 1) darts 2) shoulders 3) neck binding 4) sleeves 5) close up sleeve and side seams 6) collar/necktie

I am not convinced I understood the neck binding and collar parts properly. I seem to have a spare bit of binding fabric – the pattern says cut 2 but only has instructions for sewing in one – and the second piece on its own wouldn’t be enough for binding the armholes on the sleeveless version. The pattern shows the binding only applied around the ‘keyhole’ of the blouse neckline, whereas I found it actually went up nearly as far as the collar itself. Then later when you apply the necktie, it appears that this forms the back collar and I stitched it to overlap and cover the ends of the binding. This seemed to be the only logical thing to do but I’m not sure it’s the neatest finish, as I have a raw edge on the inside of the collar at the back rather than it being properly bound in.
image

If I made this again I think I would also close up the keyhole a bit, as it’s a bit deep for my tastes although the pussybow does a lot to help conceal that.

I believe this is meant to be quite loose fitting and that suits me for summer but again in a future incarnation I might bring in the sides and make it a tad more fitted.

I am quite please with the sleeves, this isn’t really something I have got to grips with much yet. I used a gathering technique learnt at Celia Banks’ workshop to help ease the tops into the armholes. The sew wasn’t perfect but it looks better from the outside than it does from the inside!!

I meant to post a video of some of the sewing here but I forgot the camera was on so there’s a lot of nothing…and at some point the battery died. I’ll have to do some editing to see what I can actually salvage!

#TheWardrobeChallenge – Current wardrobe

So I am feeling pretty shocked right now. I just did a critical analysis on my wardrobe and took out everything that wasn’t handmade, secondhand, vintage or by an independent label. This is what I was left with:

image

I honestly thought I had more secondhand than that!  Here’s the lineup from L2R:
2 x GBSB basic tunics – handmade
Pair trousers – handmade
60s inspired dress – handmade
Silver beaded dress – 2nd hand upcycled
Turquoise dress beaded neck – 2nd hand upcycled
Gold beaded bolero – upcycled
Fox print skirt – by GetCutie
40s green dress – Collectif
Rocha green top – 2nd hand
Brown trousers – 2nd hand
Purple dress – 2nd hand
White blouse – vintage, reworked

So needless to say I haven’t culled the rest of my wardrobe quite yet, else I’d look ridiculous. It does show me quite how far I need to go though.

And while I didn’t cull it all, I did ditch quite a bit for the next ebay round!

image

#TheWardrobeChallenge – New sewing machine

Ok so in #TheWardrobeChallenge Introduction – Part II, we have my new sewing machine investment.

For the last few years I’ve had a Brother machine which I bought second hand on ebay for about £40. It’s done what I needed it to do, which was to get me introduced to sewing and has been fine for the basic things I’ve made so far.

But, for more technical sewing or for sewing with better fabrics, and especially for making clothes, this really wasn’t going to cut it in the long run.

I’ll admit, until I did the Refining Dressmaking Techniques workshop by Celia Banks at the Knitting and Stitching show earlier in March, I had no notion of needing a new machine. But during the workshop we used the Janome CXL301 and I was blown away. It had adjustable speed, tons of stitches, a needle up/down button, a lock stitch feature…and beyond this is was quieter, smoother….just fantastic. As I explained to mum (who drives both), a bit like driving an Audi as opposed to a Skoda.

So then it was just fate that I got a newsletter offer for a very similar model, Janome 8050XL, delivered with 2 years warranty and accessories, with £100 off the marked price. It took me all of 24 hours to make my mind up! I think the CXL301 must be the model replacing this one, as many of the features are the same, including all those listed above.
image

It is just so much better – a proper free arm for sleeves and fiddly sewing, horizontal spool so you don’t get crazy spin going on, a clear bobbin case and much easier bobbin replacement than my old machine, loads of stitch features including decorative patterns, buttonholes, and straight stitches with automatic locking at start and end…the list goes on.
image

image

image

I am yet to take the plunge with my first big project on it but to try and get used to it and break my old machine habits (such as reaching for a reverse stitch lever that isn’t there instead of pressing the reverse or lock stitch buttons) I sewed up some pattern weights from a copy of Love Sewing magazine.

#TheWardrobeChallenge

Ok, so over the last few weeks I’ve been mulling over some ideas, and I’ve now decided to set myself a challenge.

1) To make a garment a month from now on, until I run out of ideas/budget/wardrobe space

2) To not buy any new high street clothes unless it’s unavoidable (eg. bridesmaid dress which I don’t have the skills to make)

3) To gradually sell off pieces from my existing wardrobe that I replace or no longer wear

For quite some time now I have struggled to buy high street. Either I don’t like the fit, the style, the quality or the material, or all of the above, and that stays my hand at the till. The only new clothes in my wardrobe have been bought for me (Christmas, birthday) and although I do love and wear them, that doesn’t change my outlook.

Aside from the serious manufacturing practice ethics in play, I am also a great advocate of reuse and recycle. I genuinely love vintage fashion but even if I didn’t, I think I would be an advocate of vintage and second-hand shopping (whether that’s Brick Lane or eBay). We waste far too much as consumers and I very much disagree with “fast fashion”.

So it’s either make or buy second-hand from now on!

All of these ideals and ideas have culminated in my challenge above. I know it’s possible, but it will take determination.

I’m going to be blogging my challenge and posting youtube videos of my makes, but I’ll start out with a couple of intro posts. The next one will be on my new sewing machine, an investment that should enable me to make clothes with more finesse than my clunky Brother machine would have, and the follow-up will be a capsule summary of my current vintage / handmade wardrobe.

Wish me luck!