Criticism is Good (Part 2)

I didn’t mean to post and run, but life got in the way and it’s taken me a little while to get around to writing this follow-up post (although the ideas for it have been rattling around in my head for nearly three weeks).  I do apologise in advance for yet another wall of text post!

Before I post any thoughts, I must show you the amazing blog badge that was created by Sewing for Me!

I feel awful that I can only refer to the blogger as Sewing for Me! because I either don’t know or have forgotten her given name. I have a vague idea it is Theresa, but I hate to refer to someone by the wrong name so I will stick to the blog name for now.  In my defence I will admit that I mentioned to Mr RTS recently that I could never remember the first name of a particular actor, even though I have a huge crush on him, and when I looked him up on IMDB yet again, his first name is the same as Mr RTS’s – I am really rubbish with names.

Not Mr RTS 🙂

The reason for my original post about criticism was this post at Sewing for Me.  I know how much work went into the blouse having watched the couture course on Craftsy, and making a dress using a lot of the techniques taught, but I could see something that I thought could be improved. I wrote a comment and then walked away from the computer for about an hour before hitting send because I absolutely hated to be the one who said “nice blouse, but ….”.  I then realised that I would like to know if someone thought something similar about one of my projects and hit send.   That hesitation spawned the first Criticism is Good (Or BitchFest 2013) post.

I think I may have over-emphasised the Bitchfest part of my previous post. I was really just talking about honest criticism.  I honestly thought I might have been alone in my thoughts and really am just a bitch – but from the comments I received I now know I’m not alone.  Just to make it clear, I would never tell someone that their garment looked awful on them, or their sewing was a disaster, or their style choice is bad.  I would, however, suggest that a different colour might look better, or the fabric they used might look nicer for a different garment, or have they considered an FBA (something I still haven’t learnt after more than six years of sewing even though I need to), etc, etc.

I was criticised for picking out Tilly to be bitchy about – it wasn’t personal about her – she just happened to be the one blogger out of the hundreds I have in my reader who was most in the public eye at the time of my post.  If I’d written my post at a different time I have no doubt that I would have used another blogger who has become commercialised as an example.  Nearly every blogger who has turned their sewing into a business has become, for me, a blogger no longer worth reading.  It’s a hobby for me, and I like to read blogs written by other hobbyists.

I keep a notebook by my bed where I write things that I might want to blog about and the comments on my previous post gave me five pages of scrawled notes in my little notebook. I now think that a lot of my ideas aren’t worth writing about but a few have stood out for me.

Always believe it when a blogger says that a garment looks worse than the photos in real life. Over and over again I’ve seen a blogger post about a garment that they’ve made that doesn’t work for them (and I love those posts because it confirms that I’m not alone in making bad sewing decisions) and then half the comments are people attempting to convince them that it does actually look good.  I don’t believe that any of us are stupid and we already know when something doesn’t look good.  I do find it amusing when a post starts with photos of something and I think “Oh dear, that looks awful – I wonder if she knows?” and then a scroll or so down the page the blogger admits how awful it is.  I’m sure that on occasion it’s a bait and switch.  I think that unless you can see an obvious alteration that might make the garment look good then take the writer at her word – she doesn’t like it!  “Let it age in your wardrobe” comments are just advising someone to cram their wardrobe with garments that don’t suit them, or that they don’t feel comfortable wearing.

I would never tell a new blogger that her garments looked bad – I might, however, make some suggestions.  I did make lots of critical (but hopefully friendly) comments on one new blog a year or so ago because I could see that she was making exactly the same mistakes I made when I was a new sewist, and before I’d discovered the sewing community online.  I now have to officially hate her because everything she makes is amazing! 🙂

Obviously, if they say it looks better in real life, then believe that as well.  I’m a rubbish photographer, with a cheap camera and I know that many of my garments look better in real life (or on me rather than Dolly).  My brown stripey Vogue 8764 dress looks awful on Dolly, but looks pretty good on me. My mum, who is always honest, hated it on Dolly (and told me), but though it looked good when she saw me wearing it (unless she was lying – confess in the comments Mum :)).

My personal criterion for whether or not I like a garment I’ve sewn is – if I tried it on in a shop, would I buy it?  Sometimes my answer is “Yes”, sometimes it’s “Depends how much it cost.” and sometimes it’s “Hell, No!”.  Two of those answers get space in my wardrobe 🙂

Last thought – I don’t comment on most blog posts because I read far too many blogs and simply don’t have time.  However, given my last post, and this one, if I do comment that I love your garment I hope you now know that I am being 100% honest and I really do think it’s fantastic!

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Criticism is Good (Or BitchFest 2013)

No, I haven’t sewn anything since my last post, and right now I have zero intention of sewing. I need to sort out my summer clothes first and see if I still have too many before I add more to my wardrobe. I also have a dead washing machine in the middle of my kitchen and it will be a week before a new one is delivered. The dead one is in the middle of my kitchen because I want to make sure that the £9.00 extra I paid to have it taken away was worthwhile (the £9.00 only covers a “professionally disconnected” machine – Huh – how will they know? :)).

Now, on to the title of this post.  I think the sewing blogosphere is just too nice and needs to be bitchier (or, if you prefer – more honest).  The following is just my opinion and, as everything I post, feel free to ignore – or criticise, or bitch about.

I think everyone is either too nice or just not posting what they are thinking.  I occasionally want to comment “I don’t know if you realise, but that’s a bad look on you.” but can’t because everyone else who’s commented says it is wonderful.  I cannot believe that I am the only person who thinks that a particular garment is not a good look – I just have to presume that no-one is saying it.  I tried it once with Gertie’s coat – I asked if the actual garment would have the awful drag lines in the sleeves that her muslin had, and was told off! Perhaps if I hadn’t used the word “awful” I might have got away with it.

If I sew something and then blog about it, I’d like it if my online “friends” would tell me if it’s not good. I can’t trust Mr RTS to tell me because he thinks I look great in almost everything. On the rare occasion he thinks something is not a good look, I already know it and I post about it on those terms.

I’m writing this because I read a post today by a blogger I love reading and I thought there was a problem with the garment that she was so happy about.  It was a great garment, but there was a fit issue that I know another blogger deals with so I pointed her towards that blog. I almost hated doing that because I was saying “that garment doesn’t fit you correctly”, but if I didn’t say anything then she might have made the same garment again, with the same fit issue, that I think could be easily corrected.  The garment, as made, was lovely and as nice as any RTW (actually far better than RTW because of a bit of sewing magic), but I could see that a simple (I think) fit change could have made it perfect.  However, I hesitated for ages before sending the comment because I was worried about appearing bitchy.

The paragraph above wasn’t the whole reason I thought about posting this – it was a post from Peter at MalePatternBoldness that made me realise how stupid not being honest was. Nearly everyone in the comments (not all) picked one of the five styles even though none of them really suited him.

I believe, in general, that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything – but I don’t think should be true when someone is going to make the same mistake again, or it’s going to cost them money.

So BitchFest13, or perhaps BestFriend13 – BF13 at the beginning of a comment could simply mean “I’m not going to be part of the cheering team – I’m going to be honest”. Best Friend or Bitch Fest – they could mean the same.

BF13 – Pinnafore dresses don’t look good on any grown woman. Stop making them. That includes Colette Parfait.  There are a couple of good versions out there, but my guess is that they don’t ever get worn because you feel like you are twelve years old when you get dressed. If you have made one and feel good in it, remove the buttons and sew the straps down – it’ll still be the same dress, but for an adult.

BF13 – Mullet hems – just bad, bad, bad.

BF13 – Tilly is teaching a sewing class even though every single thing she sewed in the Great British Sewing Bee had faults (even her own self-drafted blouse that she should know like the back of her hand). If I were paying for a class I would prefer it if the teacher had actually been successful at something.

OK – all of those were Bitch Fest and I can’t think of any Best Friend right now, but I still like the idea (because it’s mine :)).  I might be all by myself on this (and then, obviously, I won’t use BF13 before comments because that would be stupid.)



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Trying Out New Readers

If you got a notification today that I’d unsubscribed from your WordPress blog – I haven’t.  I’m trying out different RSS Readers after the news of the demise of Google Reader and I thought I’d give the WordPress reader a go – I hated it so unsubscribed from all the blogs I’d added to it.  I’m still reading your blog, just not via WordPress. 

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Taking a Break

I’m going to take a break from sewing for a while, which means I won’t be blogging either.

For the past week or so I have done pretty much nothing (at all, not just sewing) and last night I realised that the WIPs I have lying around are stopping me from doing much of anything.  I’m really not in the mood to sew, and haven’t been for a while, which is probably why I keep making TNTs and I’m not really very enthusiastic about those.  It’s taken me a while to realise that sewing has become a bit of a chore, rather than a pleasant hobby. Because I feel I should be sewing, I’m finding it difficult to do anything else – I almost feel guilty if I spend a few hours reading a book, or playing Assassin’s Creed II*, or even cleaning the cooker, because I should be sewing. Silly, but my mind works like that sometimes. I haven’t even watched most of the Craftsy courses I bought because, again, I should be sewing!

It’s possibly just a time of year thing – in February last year I posted about having too many clothes and it feels the same now. I end up just wearing the same few things over and over as they are all I can get to in my wardrobe because it’s so stuffed.  Half the clothes need ironing before I can wear them because they are so crushed, and sewing just keeps adding to the chaos.  At the moment whenever I wear something out of the wardrobe I then wash it but don’t put it back. I’m trying to see what clothes I really want to wear, and what just hangs there.

If I had a sewing room it would be easier to just fit in a little sewing here and there, but I have to do all my work in the living room, on the dining table, with the ironing board set up in the hallway. This means that I can’t do anything else on my dining table (including eating – it’s only a small table) so when the machines are out that pesky “should” keeps popping into my head.  I put everything away today and I already feel better about not sewing. I think my whole flat needs a spring clean, and it was impossible to get started with half of it littered with sewing stuff (I’ve typed the word “sewing” so often in this post that it now doesn’t look like a real word!).  I now need to find a new storage space for my machines because at the moment they are on a sideboard in the hallway and I just want them tucked out of the way for a while.

I’m sure it’s just a mojo thing and I’ll be back at it before you know. Just in case I’m wrong, though, I didn’t want anyone concerned about me if I disappear for a few months. Of course, being the contrary type, I could be back tomorrow because I suddenly get my mojo back at 6 a.m. and get my machines back out again :).


(*Not a typo – I play games years out of date!)

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When a TNT is Neither Tried nor True

After my last post I realised that I have sewn two version of the Simplicity 3696 PJ top in a size Large and neither of them fits me properly.  This pattern is a TNT when it becomes a knee-length, short-sleeved nightie, but is obviously far too big when sewn as a short, long-sleeved top – the proportions just end up all wrong.  I’ve now bought more of both fabrics and will be sewing them again in a smaller size.  Live and learn.  (I suppose I could have tried to make the two tops smaller, but I refuse to even attempt the unpicking of stretch-stitched and serged seams – I’d rather just start over.)

I didn’t manage to complete my mini challenge of sewing nine (already cut out) garments in eleven days.  Mr RTS had some unexpected time off work last week and we had things to do, so my sewing time was drastically cut.  I did, however, get four of the nine garments sewn before the end of February.

I’m sure that you are bored reading about my sewing the same garments over and over, and I’m getting bored posting about them.  However, this blog was always intended to be a record of my sewing so here are more boring garments.

Simplicity 3696 PJs.  I had cut the top out in a size Large, but I sewed 2cm seams on the raglan sleeves and 2.5, tapering in to 3.0cm, on the side seams which makes it a not too bad fit.

The fabric for the pants was one of the worst I have ever sewn.  I think it was described as a cheesecloth, and was the most unstable cottons (mix?) I have ever had the displeasure to sew.  I am amazed that I got any of the plaid to match up.  They are lovely and lightweight though, so I’m looking forward to wearing them when it gets warmer – although I’m not at all sure how they will survive being washed. I’m half expecting to just find shredded pieces of fabric in the machine after washing.  Once I have re-sewn the previously mentioned two tops in a smaller size I am done sewing PJs for a very long time.  I do need a couple of new nighties, but no more PJs. (Unless, of course, I find another great fabric :)).

The other two garments were yet another skirt and top that can also be a faux dress.  The top is Burda 05-2012-110 and the skirt comes from 04-2007-108 (but somewhat altered).

This is another repeat sewing project that I am done with. I’ve made three of these faux dresses so far and haven’t yet worn any of them. I’m just waiting for better weather.

I will get the other five cut out garments sewn soon.

I’ve also managed to increase my stash, yet again! Two of the fabrics are duplicates of those I used for my too large PJ tops and one is a duplicate of the navy lycra jersey I used for the PJ top posted about about above in case it didn’t come out okay.  My Honey Bear approves of them all:

The navy/white polka dot was bought as a potential Tiramisu, but I think it is maybe too heavy. It felt like the perfect fabric in the shop, but when I pick up the whole 3m length it weighs a lot. I still think it would be great for the dress, but maybe needs some sort of waist stay so that the whole dress isn’t hanging from the shoulder seams. I don’t think I’ve seen a waist stay in a jersey dress so I need to do some research.

The navy with the roses print was bought to be a top. It is a knit of some description and feels absolutely soft and gorgeous.

I think it would look lovely as a Renfrew but I don’t yet own the Renfrew pattern and at around £17.00 (with postage) I’m not sure I can justify buying it. Over the past few days I’ve been going through all my Burda mags to see if I can find just the right pattern for this fabric.  I’ve also just realised that I don’t have a clue what I’d wear it with, other than jeans.

The next three fabrics in the pile are the duplicate jerseys. The purple, and the red print are to re-sew the too large PJ tops.  The navy was to replace the one used for the top posted about above but, as that top turned out okay, it’ll just go into my stash.

This one is a slightly horrible, poly jersey. I don’t love the feel of it, but I loved the print and colours so had to buy 2m.

I have this Suzi Chin pattern and I might use this fabric as a (hopefully) wearable muslin.

At the bottom of the pile is this jersey. It was described as t-shirting on the shop’s label, but feels a lot nicer, and has better recovery than most of the t-shirting they sell.  It was also a little more expensive.

I had my two Suzi Chin patterns in mind when I bought it, and when I got home and looked at the pattern envelopes I realised why.

I am always surprised at how much I can be influenced by the fabric used on the front of a pattern envelope.  Sometimes it is obvious, such as my red/white striped Tiramisu for which I knew I was buying the same fabric as on the envelope – but this one was a complete surprise.

Buying these new fabrics has taken my stash over the 400m mark (it took it to 407.40 but I then sewed the four gaments in this post which brought it down to 401.40).  I do, however, have around 9m cut out for the five unsewn garments and I don’t believe that cut out fabric counts as stash.  Mr RTS and I have had some discussions about this and he now agrees.   I will, however, count my stash as 401.40m until I’ve sewn the cut out garments – mainly because I want to be able to reduce my stash count the next time I post 🙂

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Purple Plaid Skirt – Vogue V1247

After cutting out my purple plaid PJ pants (an even better alliteration) I had enough remnants to also cut out another Vogue 1247 skirt.  With a bit of shuffling I could possibly have just cut out a simple two or three piece A-line skirt, but I decided to use the V1247 pattern because I really want to get more confident about pattern matching and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.  The fabric was fairly stable, the pattern in the fabric was obvious and I had enough odd shaped pieces left after cutting out the PJ pants to juggle the pattern pieces around.

I’m pretty happy with the result – although, in keeping with my February trend of clothes not fitting me, the skirt is a smidge too small (although still wearable). However, as my weight tends to fluctuate and I seem to be at the top end of that fluctuation at the moment, I’m confident that this skirt will get worn at some point.

(Please ignore the unfastened hook and eye in the photo of the back – I am squishier than Dolly, and it does fasten on me.)

I am really happy with my plaid matching at all the front and back seams (this skirt has a yoke piece, strange front pockets, and a waistband) and not so happy with the side yoke seams.  I managed to match up both the main side and back seams, but not the side seams of the yoke.  I can’t remember why I didn’t do this – it may have been due to lack of fabric or, more likely, I got overwhelmed by trying to match up everything so gave up when I was cutting out :).  Although, looking at the photo of the side seam, I do appear to have done quite well with the vertical matching of the red stripe – maybe I did that on purpose?!? I do remember that I was using the red stripes as my markers for pretty much every cut I made.  But, if I’m really honest, I have to admit that I paid absolutely no attention to the vertical stripes so the fact they ended up being quite symmetrical is really just a happy accident.

This skirt could have looked really nice with the purple top from yesterday’s post, but that top is now in my “maybe I can make something else from this wadder” pile.  I washed it with the hope it would shrink – and it did – in the wrong direction! It is now both too wide and too short!  Fortunately, there are so many colours in the skirt that I have lots of other tops that will work with it.  I also know that Mr RTS has a great purple and black t-shirt that I’m fairly sure is too small for him now, so I can steal that as a PJ top, so yesterday’s PJ pants won’t end up orphaned, and I won’t need to buy more fabric.

I’m now almost too scared to sew anything else I’ve already cut out this month because it seems as though nothing will fit me properly.  Then again, I still have too many clothes (as I posted about last year) so it doesn’t really matter.

I think I’ll set myself a teeny challenge.  It’s eleven days to the end of the month and I already have nine garments cut out.  All except one are patterns I’ve sewn before (and four of them are S3696) so it should be easy to get them all sewn before the end of February.  They are:

Tiramisu dress:

Simplicity 3696 PJ top:

Simplicity 3696 PJ pants:

Faux dress (skirt and top):

Simplicity 3696 PJ pants (yet again!):

Another Simplicity 3696 PJ top:

Butterick 5388 (the only garment I haven’t tried before) cowl neck top:

And another Burda 02-2010-104, cut from a previously made skirt:

Eleven days, nine garments – I’m sure you’ll all be glued to your screens wondering if I’ll make it – it’s obviously as exciting as The Amazing Race, or Project Runway :).



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Purple Plaid Pyjamas ….

….. sorry – couldn’t resist the alliteration.

Before I post about my newest sewing project, I have decided that I really should have made a New Year Resolution – I must learn (and bother) to take better photos. I know that I have never taken great photos for this blog – this is mainly due to a real lack of usable places in my tiny flat. I’ve recently re-arranged the furniture and this has just made it worse. I am going to try to do better.  I can, to some degree, blame my camera – I got it free with a £60 printer about three years ago so it’s not exactly cutting edge!  However, I have, on occasion, managed to get some okay photos with it – so I’m going to aim for more of the okay photos, rather than the rubbish ones I tend to post.

On to the sewing.  Before sewing my purple plaid pyjamas today, I finally got around to turning my unsuccessful Tiramisu dress into a skirt.  I didn’t do anything particularly fancy or clever – I simply cut off the bodice, created a casing, and added elastic.  I think I now have something I will wear because it no longer feels as though the fabric is trying to drag itself down into the ground.

It is still a little too thin, but I have white half-slips that I think will make it presentable.  I also have these boots that I don’t wear nearly often enough, even though they are as comfy as slippers (they are red, although they might look orange in the photo – I blame my camera :))

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but my comfy plan also extends to my footwear. I have been gradually selling off a lot of my uncomfortable high heels on ebay (most of them unworn or only worn once) and replacing them with comfy footwear.  Since starting this I’ve also stopped looking at high heels on the rare occasion I now go into shoe shops, and I’ve really starting noticing how many fabulous low-heeled shoes/boots now exist.  I used to be that person who would buy any pretty shoe, especially in a sale, no matter how uncomfortable it was – now I rarely buy any shoes unless they are really, really comfy.  No more “I’ll get used to the height” (even though I haven’t really worn anything higher than 2.5″ for more than ten years), or “they’ll stretch” (even when they aren’t leather), or “they’re only £10, so I only have to wear them a couple of times” (and then never wear them at all because they were so uncomfortable to start with), etc, etc.  I think Mr RTS is still surprised when I don’t look at shoes when we are out shopping :).

After all those asides, I suppose I should post about the title garments.  My purple, plaid pyjamas made using, yet again, Simplicity 3696.

I absolutely love the pants – they are a perfect fit, and I am very happy with my plaid matching.  The top is more of a “meh”.  I used a TNT pattern, but for some unfathomable reason it is too big – almost unwearably too big. I stuck it in a 50 degree wash tonight in the hope that the cotton/lycra mix might shrink.  If it were just too big across the body, then I would have taken in the side seams, but it is too low at the front, and falling off my shoulders. As it is a raglan sleeve, there isn’t any way (that I know of) to make it smaller, without also making it shorter, and I like the length.  I may simply have to buy more fabric and make a smaller size.  I’m also slightly concerned because I’ve got two more PJ tops cut out using the same pattern, although with different fabrics.

I think February is destined to be my “make/buy clothes that don’t fit month”.  I very rarely buy any clothes, but a couple of weeks ago I was in Primark with Mr RTS buying him some new, cheap t-shirts for work. I had previously bought a couple of pairs of £3 leggings from Primark and although they don’t wear very well I don’t wear leggings enough to make my own, so I wanted to pick up another couple of pairs – I managed to come home with one pair size 8-10 and another size 18.  I am trying to see this as a good thing though – I so rarely buy clothes now that I had completely forgotten that the size on the hanger is often not the size on the clothes! Also, because they are leggings and leggings are not pants this isn’t too big a deal because I only wear them with tunic, or longer, length tops.

I also picked up these boots, for £6, that are completely comfy:

I have about a bazillion other garments (well, nine) cut out, so I hope to update again soon.


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