#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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

A botched cami and a pattern fitting workshop

So #thewardrobechallenge didn’t go so well in June. Somehow the month ran away with me and so a couple of weeks ago I decided to try and bust some of the fabric stash and make something quick and easy for summer – the Cami top from the 1st GBSB book. Adapted slightly – just made simply in cotton without the ruched detail or lace trim. Since I took notes on the last GBSB top I made from the same book, I cut the size up and didn’t worry too much about alterations or testing the pattern.

As it was a simple sew and I wanted to get cracking, I also constructed most of the garment and didn’t actually try it on until I needed to find the strap lengths.

At which point it clearly wasn’t going to fit at all. I’m not sure why two patterns from the same book can be so different in fit but it’s not even close, and I haven’t changed THAT much in size. So I threw the half-made thing back in the pile in annoyance and spent a few days trying to think up ways of salvaging it (mostly involving adding panels) before giving it up as a lost cause. At some point I’ll rip out all the stitching and the fabric is probably destined for some other random project.

I then sat down to read the “Sew your Size” supplement that came with Sew magazine a few weeks ago. Literally 2 pages in they recommended a pattern fitting workshop run by Clare-Louise Hardie. I looked it up and there was one such workshop running this Sunday (I was free) and it was within reasonable distance of my boyfriend’s place in North London. Fine, I thought, let’s achieve one thing in June at least, and hopefully avoid similar future cock-ups!

I would 100% recommend this and probably any other workshop run by Clare-Louise. There were just four of us during the 3-hour (+ a bit, we overran!) session which meant that as well as general principles such as measurement-taking, we all had the chance to study our own foibles and understand the likely pattern alterations we’d come across time and again. We had sample patterns to look at but we’d also all brought one of our own from home. I definitely found having a “live example” much more practical to understand what changes were being made and why.

We talked about the way the big pattern companies work in how they design their products – apparently it is quite common for them to allow for the fact that people will be in denial about their size and cut too small – so if you do actually try and cut your ready-to-wear size it will probably come up big. Add to that the fact that their measurements per size all vary and it’s really a lottery – unless you measure properly and study the information given on the pattern pack to work out what you really need.

We learnt about wear ease and design ease too – an important factor that I hadn’t previously considered at all when looking at measurements. Practising with our patterns, we all tissue-fitted a garment so that we could see any glaring issues straight away, and learnt how to fix these. In my case I had a bit of a revelation, because I have always thought that full bust alterations were inevitable to get things to fit right. Not so! Instead we added some width at the side seams, and it turns out I have broad shoulders so we also added at the centre-back, and did a sway-back alteration to improve fit. Having added at the side seams, a bit more shaping was necessary because I do have a fairly defined waist, so we pin-fitted that in order to re-draw stitching and cutting lines on the pattern.

This workshop was really such good value, I can’t overstate my recommendation. If you have been finding it frustrating getting home-sewn garments to fit, find the commercial pattern packs confusing or get easily lost in the minefield of online resources, really just get booked on to one of Clare-Louise’s workshops because there is no substitute for in person tutorial and discussion, and the group environment adds to the benefit because you can also learn from other people’s body types and alterations too!

July is going to be pretty hectic for me (I’m away 3 out of 4 weekends) so I don’t hold out much hope of a great leap forward for home sewn clothes – but my trips do include Brighton, Rome and Birmingham so I will be on the lookout for vintage or indie bargains!