Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Miss Lotta Bundles Up: Ottobre 05/2018 -- Autumn Warmer Cardigan

Good morning, kittens! I'm taking a break from Kibbe ruminations today to share my latest project, the Autumn Warmer sweater from the latest issue (05/2018) of Ottobre Woman. This was the last project I cut out before tumbling into wardrobe revamp plans, but it actually aligns nicely with some of my forthcoming style changes. 

Over the past few years, I've increasingly turned to sewing magazines for both inspiration and patterns. It began with Knipmode, when they expanded their sizing to a European 54 on every pattern published, and has continued with Burda, as they've improved their plus size (EU 44-52) collections. Every time I review a pattern from those magazines, however, someone always comments with how much they love Ottobre Design. The Finnish family-owned magazine mixes what I like about the other two publications--they have an English version (Knipmode doesn't) and they publish every pattern in every size, up to a EU 52 (Burda doesn't)--then adds a modern, practical design aesthetic on top of it. This fall, I finally gave in and purchased a subscription to Ottobre Woman

Y'all, I'm so glad I made that decision! This issue has quite a few patterns that caught my eye, from the elegant pegged pants to that simple surplice dress, and one that I absolutely loved. Their cover pattern, the Autumn Warmer cardigan, rocketed up my to-sew list. The hood/shawl collar combination is such an interesting design feature, elevating the pattern from just another sweater to something I desperately needed in my closet. 

I wasn't alone. My fellow Curvy Sewing Collective editors, Michelle and Megan, also fell hard for this pattern and we all agreed to make it for a "Same Pattern, Different Bodies" post on the CSC. Even better, right after we committed to this plan, winter arrived early in Texas. Our first freeze this year was in October and it's been cold front after cold front ever since. We actually have snow chances in our forecast, later this week! In Central Texas! This is definitely the year for all those cozy, snuggly projects that I usually put off.

I ordered a few sweater knit options from Mood, then settled on this gorgeous red bamboo French Terry as my first version. Let's be honest, the moment I see a hood in my future, my thoughts drift to Little Red Riding Hood and red is a foregone conclusion. Fairytale archetypes live large in my fashion sensibilities, it seems. Now that I've made it up, I don't think this was the right fabric choice. While it's a gorgeous terry, it's also a bit too much of a classic sweatshirting for this project, bagging out with wear. A sweater knit with better recovery is an ideal choice for this draping silhouette. Not all sweater knits are created equal and terry really is better suited to something boxier, like a Linden Sweatshirt.

I also made a mistake in choosing my size. Having never sewn with Ottobre before, I erred on the side of caution and made this up based on my full bust measurement, which puts me in a size 50. Like with Burda, however, I would've been better suited to a 48. I had to take in the shoulders considerably, the sleeves are much too baggy, and the whole thing just feels big. If I don't pay attention to how it's laying, the sweater shifts around and looks messy, because there's too much excess fabric. With this combination of fabric and the wrong size, this sweater can easily look too messy, which is a shame because with other choices it would be gorgeous. 

This is actually a problem I always have with sewn sweaters. I've had legions of failed sweater projects that haven't made this blog, y'all. I never go with my instincts and size down, then am disappointed with the baggy, saggy, shapeless results. A few years back, I made a Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater that almost sent me over the edge with sizing rage. Finding the perfect combination of pattern and appropriate fabric is key to a wearable sweater, but it's a balance I rarely find. This sweater is actually pretty close to ideal, when compared to those past failures. 

Red Riding Hood or...Handmaiden? It's a close call. 
All that being said, this sweater is not only wearable, but beloved despite its problems. There's something about the brightness of this color and the way the hood opens up into that wide shawl collar that I adore. One of Kibbe's recommendations for Soft Dramatics is a large open neckline like this and it's easy to see why. The proportions of that collar are rocking my world and reiterating how desperately I need to sew up the Butterick 6604 coat.

Additionally, this terry is cozy AF. Throwing this sweater on over jeans and simple blouse looks dramatic and daring, but feels like I'm wearing a bathrobe out into the world. It's not nearly as warm as a merino wool version would be, but perfect for the crisp, blustery days we keep having here. 

Let's quickly talk construction, shall we? For a magazine pattern, this was a joy to assemble. Ottobre's pattern sheets are less cluttered than their competitors and it was easy to find my pattern pieces and size. Twenty minutes later, thanks to the dynamic duo of bee paper and a double tracing wheel, I had a traced off a pattern with seam allowances. (Seriously, get a double tracing wheel if you trace off patterns! It makes adding seam allowances to magazine patterns infinitely easier. That, or  use my shoddy, but reliable method: tape two classic Sharpies together for a perfect 1/2" seam allowance.)

Like most knit patterns, this was a really quick, easy pattern to make up. I used my sewing machine (a Janome Magnolia 7330) to do all the seams and hems, deploying a lightning bolt stitch on the seams and a decorative stretch stitch on the hems. The neckline and shoulders are reinforced with clear elastic, to keep them from stretching out, and the bottom hem is stabilized with wonder tape. My only complaint about the construction is that, because the hood is part of the collar itself, cleanly finishing the neckline is a challenge. There's a pivot from the shoulder line to the back collar that I needed to redo three times, before I got it right. Baste it first, then sew a stretch stitch once you're happy with how it lays. 

All in all, this pattern was a moderately successful introduction into Ottobre, and one that I'll make again before the season is out. With the right fabric--ideally a drapey wool knit with springy recovery--this can be such a chic, unexpected twist on the classic hooded sweatshirt. For me, this was also a nice entree into Kibbe's recommendations for my body type. If I ever doubted my ability to pull off bold color and large details, this sweater would quiet those doubts. 

Next up, I'm taking on a dress for the holidays! If you're interested in the Autumn Warmer pattern, be sure to check out Megan and Michelle's great versions over at the CSC blog. I always find it enlightening to see different sewists try the same pattern and share their thoughts. 

Note: Any Amazon links on this or other posts are affiliate links. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sewing Kibbe: Planning a Soft Dramatic Winter Wardrobe

Good morning, my dear marmosets! Last week, I posted about the Kibbe System and my incipient plans to overhaul my wardrobe. Your interest in this process--and the fact that anyone still reads my sadly neglected blog--took me by surprise. I'm not alone in this rabbit hole, it seems!

Today, I thought we'd go further into the actual nuts and bolts of my plans. While Kibbe is a deeply flawed system, it's also a useful jumping off point for these changes. Shifting my lens--thinking about my body in terms of bone structure and softness, not just measurements--is altering how I think about clothing. A lot of the suggestions need to be taken with a grain of salt, whether because of impracticality or a decidedly 1980's sensibility, but others are proving pretty insightful.

According to Kibbe, I'm a "Soft Dramatic." He goes into the concepts of Yin/Yang and starts getting florid in his descriptors, but that's all a bit saccharine for me. It just means I have a large, angular bone structure with voluptuous curves on top of it. Think Christina Hendricks, Tyra Banks, or Sophia Loren, for platonic archetypes of this category. Tall, curvy, and extravagantly formed in every way possible.

The rule of thumb for dressing such a body is that the clothes should be proportionate to that feminine drama. Delicate details look fussy or mumsy (a problem I often have!), while overly tailored pieces look too stiff or prim. Fabrics should be soft and draping, silhouettes should have strong vertical lines and large, feminine design features.

Key Points of Soft Dramatic:
  • Long lines
  • Ornate feminine details
  • Strong shoulders 
  • Draped silhouettes,
  • Open or dramatic necklines
  • Avoid: fussy details, small details, overly tailored and simple garments, small prints, the look of separates, stiff or hard fabrics, wide shapeless silhouettes 
All of that sounds gorgeous, but it can also get absurd really quickly, which we need to acknowledge. According to Kibbe, following these guidelines to a tee would mean I walked around looking something like this: 

While this is my favorite dress of all time (an off-the-rack Tadashi Shoji, worn for a fancy awards ceremony), such gowns are not great for running after a toddler, working at a computer, or doing anything other than standing around and looking pretty. Impracticality is a true risk of my particular Kibbe type. The trick is to balance such exalted recommendations with how a real thirty-something human lives her life. I'm intentionally adding draped designs, vertical lines, soft fabrics, and large, feminine details to my wardrobe, just...not necessarily all in the same garment. 

Based on the needs of my drastically reduced closet, I've picked up quite a few new patterns to make over the coming months. When the weather warms up, I'll need to reassess again, but this plan gives me a chance to experiment with new silhouettes while still making pieces I need right now. 
Purpose: Anniversary Date

Later this month, Sam and I will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary! I cannot believe it's been that long, y'all. It somehow feels like we've been married both forever and for no time at all. Time is a funny thing. 

Since our anniversary falls so close to Christmas, we're always visiting my parents in Austin at the time. Not only does this guarantee childcare (Yay for wonderful grandparents!), but it allows us to get dressed up and have a truly fancy dinner date. This year, I'm making McCall's 7429 for the occasion. A knit knot-waisted dress that fits so many of my new requirements--slinky fabrics, draping, and a cohesive look--this pattern is begging to be made up in stretch velvet. 

Purpose: Holiday Parties

In addition to our anniversary, there are also a whole slew of holiday events happening this month. My initial plan was to make McCall's 7801 before any of them began, but I encountered some bumps with the bodice of this pattern. Even though it has cup sized pieces, this pattern wasn't drafted for the bustier among us, when it comes to neckline proportions. To fix it, I'm going to sew View C, but substitute a Burda woven wrap bodice that I already know works well. The ruffles may be a smidge undersized for Kibbe's recommendations, but I think the draped skirt and those feminine details still win out. 

Purpose: Day Dress

For everyday wear, I'm planning a few long-sleeved versions of McCall's 7534, a mock wrap dress with a shawl collar and extended shoulders. This hits Kibbe's recommendations on almost every level--strong shoulders, softly draping fabrics, long vertical lines--while still being practical for my normal day-to-day life. I have a couple of pretty rayon crepes in my stash that are going to be killer with this pattern! 

Purpose: Casual Top

And now for something completely different. Burda 6391, a artfully ruched knit top, is one of those patterns that I never would've made a few years ago, but I absolutely love now. That draping knit bodice! Those gorgeous swishy sleeves! Everything about View B screams Soft Dramatic, but also gives me low key Stevie Nicks vibes, know it's at the top of my list. 

Purpose: Casual Top

There aren't many indie patterns that fit the Soft Dramatic recommendations. Many seem to be designed for people who look great in boxy, simple shapes or more casual, laid-back silhouettes. As we've discussed, I've never done casual terribly well. One lovely exception to this indie drought is the Cashmerette Dartmouth Top, a surplice wrap top that has a gorgeous deep v-neck and ruched side seams. Made up in a cozy sweater knit, this is exactly the sort of top I want these days. 

Purpose: Casual Sweater

Spoiler alert: I've already made this Burda sweater. With the giant cowl neck and ability to become an off-the-shoulder neckline, this fits all of Kibbe's recommendations and channels my love of somewhat ridiculous sweater silhouettes. I love an oversized cowl. Making this was a no-brainer, but making it a cream colored wool knit was perhaps a bit dim. I spilled spaghetti sauce on it, first thing, and needed to have it cleaned, before taking photos. 

Purpose: Casual Sweater

I actually made the Nina Cardigan years ago and it's one of the most worn items in my closet. The graceful, but dramatic, waterfall has always suited me and I'd really like a few more of these in other colors. Thrown over skinny jeans and a camisole, it's an elevated look for running errands or dropping Louisa off at nursery school. The waist cinching of the Nina separates it from other waterfall cardigan patterns, giving it just enough extra shaping to avoid looking boxy. 

Purpose: Everyday Coat 

Finally, the grandest of my plans! I always want to make a winter coat, but look up to discover it's mid-February and I still haven't decided on a pattern yet. Not this year. Come January 2nd, with the holiday hubbub behind us, I'm cutting into Butterick 6604. View C, with its large collar and flared sleeves, is exactly what I want in a coat, while also having easy-to-fit princess seams. I've got all my supplies prepped and can't wait to start this "someday" project. 

What do you think of my winter sewing plans, friends? Do you have a list of projects waiting to be made this season, or are you focusing on a few special pieces? I'm really excited about trying new shapes and details, thankful for Doctor T's Kibbe series for sparking such creative motivation.

Currently reading: Becoming by Michelle Obama