Cashmerette Retreat Sydney 2018

Last weekend I headed over to Sydney for the first 2018 Cashmerette retreat. I’ll be honest with you, I was a little apprehensive about this at the start because I just wasn’t sure that it would be good enough to justify the cost. The two day course isn’t exactly cheap but I also wouldn’t call it expensive for what it is. But add in flights to Sydney and accommodation there and it was a real luxury purchase for me, so the stakes were high. I also wasn’t sure how much I would get out of it, given that I feel reasonably confident in my sewing and fitting skills. I justified it because I can’t make March craft camp so I figured it was the slightly more expensive version of that.

I’ll just cut to the chase and say it was absolutely 100% worth it.

There was a meet and greet the night before but because my plane was delayed I missed it. I think most if not all of the other attendees had been and so already knew each other, and there were a few people who were already friends and were attending the course together. But it quickly felt like I’d known everyone for ages. I was going to say that we lucked out with an absolutely stellar group of people but honestly, I think most random groups of sewists are pretty excellent, to be honest.

Me diligently trying to trace out my pattern in front of a fan, screenshotted from Jenny’s insta stories!

Jenny started off with a statement about how our bodies aren’t the wrong sizes, if a pattern doesn’t fit you it’s the PATTERN that’s wrong, not you. Given that we were all people of size there was plenty of honest talking about where our lumps and bumps sit, how stomachs expand and boobs droop and larger shapes are different to smaller people’s shapes. Lots of grabbing boobs to demonstrate things! It was really refreshing and relaxing to be in that atmosphere, it felt accepting and safe.

Jenny demonstrating sleeve adjustments while Carrie supervises

There was a real range of ages, skills and expectations in the group, which was really wonderful. Everyone was welcome to do whatever they wanted independently and Jenny and Carrie went around helping where needed. Periodically Jenny gave specific little talks about fitting and adjustment covering things like picking a size, grading between sizes, FBAs, full bicep adjustments, narrow shoulder adjustments, and a whole bunch of other things that I didn’t write down. ūüėõ

Nat brought cake!!

Jenny also showed us a bunch of tips and tricks. Most of them were things I’d already heard about, like this collar turning trick, but hadn’t tried because they seemed too fiddly or complicated. Seeing them demonstrated was really helpful and confidence boosting. I’m self taught, mostly from the internet, and I just hadn’t realised how much of a difference it makes having someone showing you in person. All the things Jenny covered (and more!) are in her online courses, which you also get access to when you pay for the course. I’m definitely going to go back and watch some of them over again.

Also screenshotted from Jenny.

I had brought the Ames jeans to muslin because I am intimidated by fitting pants. I actually haven’t worn my Ginger jeans I made because I decided I don’t like the fabric, and I haven’t made another pair because I wasn’t happy enough with the crotch fit to justify it. The Ames were so much better straight out of the packet, but it also definitely helped having Jenny and Carrie there. They had so much knowledge of fitting and of that pattern in particular, and were so encouraging. I feel like I would have been much more frustrated and unsure on my own and maybe felt like I was doing things wrong or gotten in a negative body image space. Instead it just all felt like part of the process, no big deal. I had meant to muslin them beforehand to maximise my time at the course but in the end I’m glad I didn’t since Jenny and Carrie were really helpful with picking the right size and version to cut out. I’ve since sewn them up and I’ll try to get photos and do a blog post for them soon.

Guys it’s SO HARD to photograph jeans in a mirror.

Once I was done muslining and fitting them, I also muslined the Lenox dress, which I’ve been meaning to make for ages but there are enough pieces to make muslining it and then making it feel tedious. I feel like I would have made the same changes by myself, but it would have taken me much longer to get there. I also learnt a few better or easier ways to make the adjustments that I usually make for every pattern. It turns out Jenny and I are almost exactly the same measurements which I wouldn’t really have picked from just photos. I guess we’re shaped different? Bodies are weird like that.

I definitely learnt a lot at the course but I think what will stick with me is the joy in that room the whole weekend. Jenny and Carrie are just wonderful, funny, smart, warm people. It was a delight to spend the weekend with them. And it was so unbelievably wonderful to see people at the end of the course with a finished (or almost) object tearing up because they’d never had a fitted dress or shirt or anything before. It was pretty magical I have to say.

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I’m told there’s still a couple places left in the second Sydney session that was added. Not to sound like a shill, but honestly if you’ve been thinking about it but are on the fence, I would highly recommend it. Like I said, I wasn’t sure going in and now I am so glad that I went. I have a feeling that the memory of that weekend will stick with me for a long time. Thanks Jenny and Carrie!

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Carolyn pyjama shorts

Here is another in my discouraging backlog of ‘fine but not quite right’ – a pj/lounging set made up of Carolyn pj shorts and a springfield hack. I’ll cover the springfield at the end, since I’ve made a similar hack ¬†before. But first, the shorts!

As I keep yammering about, I’m trying to up my loungewear game. I thought a pair of nice pj pants might help matters, so I decided to give the Carolyn pjs from Closet Case Files a go.

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I made the largest size in these, which is what my measurements indicate. I’ve misplaced my notes on these so I’m guessing a little bit about the specific adjustments I made. Hopefully I cover everything. I muslined these up first because my experience with the ginger jeans led me to believe this crotch curve might not work for me. I was definitely correct in that suspicion.

I had way WAY too much fabric at the waist and, like the gingers, this was all focussed at the centre seams. When I pinched it out the side seams sat perfectly. I ended up taking almost the same adjustments as the gingers – 2″ total out of the front crotch and I think not quite 4″ out of the back. I was originally going to just elide the faux fly but in the end I chopped it off and reattached it to my adjusted pattern, so it is there. I didn’t bother unpicking the basting on these though.

I also found the back¬†of the legs way waaaaaaaay too wide. Like just sticking way out and I knew that would also result in chub rub, from too much fabric at the inseam. I slashed and folded out some amount of width – I think maybe 1″? The fronts were fine. I couldn’t find any other larger ladies who have made the shorts – I suspect in full pants I would appreciate that extra room in the back, but in the shorts it was just ridiculous. I also lengthened them 1.5″ to get them below where my thighs touch, to reduce chub rub. I had to adjust the cuff as well – the bottom of the shorts is the same size as the cuff so I just measured and chopped.

I was a bit worried they’d be too tight across the bum – there’s just a slight bit of pulling there – but actually they’re ok.¬†They are snug though, and I would consider doing a full butt adjustment next time – one like this or this, not like the colette blog one which adds to the inseam. I don’t need more width at the inseam I need it across the widest part of my butt, basically in the middle of the pattern piece. You can see the pulling more clearly in some of the photos below. It’s ok for this pair – I have movement room and I’m not worried about busting them or anything but I think it’s worth fixing in the next go round.

I was feeling a bit (unreasonably) cranky about the amount of changes I had to make to these, but in the end, I absolutely love them! They feel elegant and comfy at the same time, even though they’re just a simple pair of shorts. The only thing letting them down is that the elastic I chose is a bit firm and I should have made it a bit longer. They are fine, but they are firm enough that I will wake up in the middle of the night needing to go to the bathroom, because they are pressing on my bladder. Not ideal. I don’t think I’ll bother going back and making these looser (the elastic will get a bit less rigid over time anyway), but when I make this pattern again I’ll make sure I don’t go too nuts on that negative ease. I’m also not sure I’d make the pockets again – they’re a bit too tight to use – too much thigh! They add a nice touch though, I guess.

I am definitely keen to make a longer pair, and I want to make the matching top – I’d like to make it out of this same fabric but I need to see if I can get more. I’ll also be planning a warm pair when it gets colder again. I am also seriously seriously considering just making them up in a linen or something and wearing them as actual pants. Do you think I can justify them as fashion pyjamas? I’m on trend! I also think the shirt would make a nice casual camp-shirt style top if you made the collar pointy. Tell me, dear readers – am I losing my grip or is a shirt a shirt?

As for the top I made to go with this, I did the same Springfield/lakeside hack I’ve done before:

I couldn’t find the same pieces I used before, though, so I had to re-draft them. I don’t know if I did something different or if it’s just the vagaries of fabric differences, but there are… issues with this one. The back flaps definitely don’t overlap as much as my last one did, and it drags the yoke down. I think it needs to have a wedge taken out of that yoke – you can see the extra room in it – and the flaps need to overlap much further. I considered unpicking this to do that but honestly I don’t think I’ll bother. Although this is lovely to lounge in (and gets a big thumbs up from S), I do always feel a bit exposed in it. I think if I can find more of this fabric I might just replace the back overlaps with the regular Springfield back. That way I will also be able to sleep in ¬†it without getting myself all tangled!

I actually thought through the finishing on this one and bound the bottom edge all in one. But unfortunately by the time I got to the neck and arms, I had run out of fabric for binding – I cut one of the backs wrong and had to recut so I was short. Instead of doing something sensible like using a different fabric for the binding, I cut what I had in half so it was 1″ instead of 2″ and did THE dodgiest binding job that has ever been in the whole world. It’s truly awful, flips out, is fuzzy… So essentially, this top is pretty much unwearable until I fix that. I mean, it’s fine. It won’t fall apart or anything. But I can’t look at it without wincing. ¬†This is why I don’t like to sew on a deadline – I tend towards rushing enough anyway, I don’t need the help. I was trying to finish this to take with me to Bali and I shouldn’t have.

The back of the pants – you can see faint straining over my butt. I never thought I’d be posting my butt on the internet and telling people to look closer… what a time to be alive…

I did wear this a bit in Bali but I think the top is going to be put away until I can source more fabric to fix that back. I’m glad I tried this style but in the end, I just don’t think it’s for me. The original Springfield back will make it perfect pjs though. At least it goes with my robe?

100% unfaked yawning

Springfield experiments

Like a lot of people, I’ve been watching Cashmerette patterns with interest and excitement. There’s so much promise in the premise of plus size patterns actually drafted for plus sized bodies, which are often very different than smaller bodies. Patterns with a swayback adjustment already in? And properly proportional armholes? Sign me up!

Jenny’s style is different from mine though so I hadn’t yet bitten the bullet. I don’t wear wrap dresses although the Appleton is still tempting me and I might have to concede when the weather is warmer. The Washington is not for me, I bought Concord but have yet to make it because I just can’t bring myself to be excited about another knit shirt (maybe when it’s warmer?) and I like Upton but can’t see myself getting much out of a sleeveless dress. I love my sleeves. I had the same reservations about the Springfield top (give me¬†sleeves) but in the end, I couldn’t resist.

Here’s my lovely, unironed muslin of the top. I followed the pattern instructions to pick a size and made up a straight size 18 in a C/D cup – I’m high bust 41″ and full bust 45.5″ for those playing along at home. And it fit. Perfectly. Right away. Immediately. With no adjustments.

I’m¬†astonished. I admit I was starting to get a bit eye roll-y like yeah yeah, everyone loves cashmerette, but guys. It’s¬†real. Actually here is my real first muslin:

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I decided that the straps were a bit widely placed for my liking, and I moved them in an inch. However now they’re too far in and my shoulder and underarm nuggets are too exposed :P. So I’ve now mashed the pattern up with my adjustments so I’ve really just brought the neckline in.

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My initial adjustment to bring the strap in – I cut the strap off and moved it over 1″, smoothing the armhole out. I then took a tuck out of the back yoke so it would match.

I left the adjusted top as is though because although I was hoping for a wearable muslin, this fabric – ¬†I can’t remember where I got it, maybe as a freebie at craft camp? – is very polyestery and I can’t see myself wearing it. The neck and arms are just folded under and stitched which is why they look so crap, but you can get the idea of the fit and that’s what I care about. I’ve kept the muslin and I’m idly considering adjusting it for sleeves, so we’ll see. Here’s the back:

With a vague attempt to pattern match. Princess seams are not the best for gingham but they’re what I wanted to try out! I did go back and sew the upper back with smaller seam allowances (and have adjusted the pattern to reflect this), as well as extending the back yoke each side, to give me extra room in the upper back. I also sewed the side seams a bit smaller at the hip and adjusted the pattern to add and extra 1cm there. But look at that FIT.

You can see my undershirt there and my bra sits just under that so it’s definitely been brought in too much. But the straps as is showed my bra on the¬†other side.

I do have a couple of small complaints. The first is that the seam allowance on this pattern is 1.2cm, which makes sense I guess since that’s 1/2″. But it means that to do french seams one would have to either sew VERY carefully and neatly, or remember to add .3 to the sides. I wish it was just 1.5cm or even 1cm because that would be easier to remember to add to, I think. I know it’s a small thing but it made me scratch my head, I don’t think I’ve ever sewn another pattern with a 1″ seam allowance. The second is that I found the pdf quite hard to tape together. A couple of the pattern pieces were placed so that there was only a teeny tiny scrap hanging over onto another page, making it hard to tape accurately. And I found it totally impossible to tape the bottom of the front bodice in a way that lined up. It’s possible this was user error but I tape a lot of paper patterns and I’ve never had quite so much trouble. I unstuck everything and tried extra carefully to line it up and it just wouldn’t, so in the end I just taped it in place. I wonder if my having to adjust out the hip was because I was adding back in the room that was meant to be there if the pdf had lined up properly.

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It just would not line up at all.

However, those are things I can work around, and I think this pattern is worth it.

Once I had my first muslin¬†done I decided I wanted to try something a bit interesting. As I said last time I’m trying to up my casual wear game which is currently made up of not quite successful makes and almost worn out things, which doesn’t make a gal feel put together. I decided I’d like to try a loungewear style singlet. I tend to sleep in as little as I can get away with (TMI? Sorry not sorry) or relatively close fitting things because I roll around a lot in my sleep and in looser clothing I get tangled up and uncomfortable. But I was thinking I’d like some nice, casual things to throw on when I’m planning to spend the morning¬†wafting around looking elegant and having breakfast cooked for me.

Tada! No iron!!

This fabric is one of a couple of rayon sarongs I bought in Bali last year with the intention of sewing up. When I was buying it the shop attendants said it was ‘second grade’ and you know, they’re were not kidding. This fabric was a NIGHTMARE to work with. It had stretched all off grain and was really tricky to cut out and stretched more as I was sewing it. So this is not the elegant thing I was intending, but I guarantee it will still get wear in summer. The back is the pleasing bit, though.

My idea for loungewear was given this specific direction when I saw Lauren from Lladybird’s silkLakeside pjs. I’ve admired this pattern but it doesn’t go up very ¬†big – I could get away with using my high bust and an FBA but the shorts are never going to fit. Plus tbh since I wouldn’t wear them to sleep in, I’m probably always going to wear it with a bra because I am not comfortable walking around without one. Even – especially – when it’s hot! (underboob sweat, anyone? And you thought I was done with the TMI.) Flashing a bra strap doesn’t feel fancy to me so the lakesides were out. But a mashup? Perfect.

There’s now a law that there needs to be one ‘you’re a KITTY!’ face per blog post.

I was going to just draft the back piece myself since it’s basically just a big curve but a friend lent me her copy of lakeside¬†(thanks Lucy!)¬†so I could trace it off and line it up with the view A plain back of springfield. This essentially involved just lopping the top off the largest size of the lakefield back piece so it was flat to connect with the yoke. I did not think the construction through though and I finished the backflaps with bias before sewing everything together. I should have sewn the side seams and then finished the back and the front together (duh). As a result, the front is a very dodgy double fold and sew, and the bit where it meets the back is very sloppy. That’s ok because it’s sloppy anyway because of how the fabric stretched out.

That is NOT meant to dip like that. Yikes! The other side is the same so maybe it looks like it’s on purpose?

This fabric. Was. A nightmare you guys. A nightmare. I mean to be fair it was not intended to be sewn as fabric, but hoo boy. A nightmare. I finished the neck and armholes with self bias too but I had some issues with it – I think a cutting error due to stretchy, foldy fabric and then a stretching out (I did stay stitch everything as soon as I cut but it is just that loosely woven) means that one armhole is not wide enough and flashes my bra:

Sigh. It’s extra low and wide at the back, which the other armhole isn’t. Just focus on how I used the edge for the yoke, instead. Although then you can see how loose and stretched the back neckline is…

I have another sarong in a different print and also some of this sarong¬†left. I was planning on making some shorts to go with it but… I don’t think I can face it. Nothing good can come of this fabric you guys. Nothing. I think the other sarong is destined to remain a sarong.

What is this poise? We’ll never know

So all up, this one is a bit of a fail. I bet it will get worn in summer but it isn’t exactly going to up my loungewear game, since it’s yet another not-quite-right make. Oh well.

This is the widened straps, by the way, and I’m really happy with them. I’m also happy with the unintentionally great pattern placement on the front and the fact that I will never have to sew with this terrible fabric again. AND the fact that I have a winner of a pattern on my hands in the Springfield!

I do have limited need for sleeveless tanks but one or two will be incredibly useful so watch this space for some non-muslin versions. I will also definitely be making another, better, Lakeside/Springfield mashup in a better behaved fabric.

A partial success still counts as a success, right?