Sew over it Penny dress

When the Penny dress from Sew over it appeared on the scene I wasn’t convinced that I should make one. Elasticized waists are tricky for me. But when I got this fabric from my husband all I could think of was a Penny, so a Penny it became.

I printed my pattern before the recent update. As I understand it the bodice has since then been lenghtened by an inch. If I would make it again (and I will) I would lenghten it too. It’s okay for this one, the micropleats hide a ton of things, but for the fabric I got earmarked for my next version I will lenghten the bodice by about 2 centimeters. I took some flare out of the skirt, because it would not have fit the fabric otherwise and I sized down based on the stretch of the fabric, finished measurements and my impression of the fit.

I used a cotton sateen for the collar and the shoulder yoke to provide structure to the micropleats.

I really like the result and have been wearing this dress a lot. It’s light and airy, but also dressy.

It was surprisingly quick and easy to make. I did not use the instructions so I can’t say anything about those. I’m kind of at the point where symbols on the pattern pieces are all the information I use (does not always work out!).

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Your body IS a wonderland! Colette Dahlia dress in jersey.

Full disclosure: I only know the title of that song, this post has got nothing to do with that song. Before I move on to the story of my latest Dahlia dress, some photos of a couple of years ago (two Colette peony’s and a Moneta):

That lemon dress is my I-love-myself-and-will-treat-myself-to-something-pretty-dress.

Another example of this:

Those photos were all taken when I was at my heaviest weight, around 230 pounds. As you may know by now: I go up and down in weight a lot and often. The biggest difference in weight was two years ago when I went down nearly 60 pounds in two months. This has to do with extreme water retention and it’s a very quick process. I can gain and lose about two pounds a day for a while. Earlier this year I went up about 25 pounds and at the moment I’m quickly losing again. It’s something that I have come to accept over the past few years as just the way it works for me. Maybe it will go away once my hormones are under control again, but who knows if and when that might happen. The weight mostly gathers under my waist and above my knees. Another reason why I enjoy wearing dresses. Fortunately I’m at a place in my life where I’m happy with who I am, about 16 years ago I most definitely wasn’t. In recent months I shared some of my experience with people who were struggling with themselves and I thought I might share some of the things I learned with anyone who’s reading this as well. This obviously is a very personal experience, if it doesn’t resonate with you then hopefully there will be other stories that do help you. If you just want to read about my jersey Dahlia, scroll down, it’s at the end.

You might as well be kind to yourself

It’s hard to be kind to yourself. I used to use food as a punishment or reward and was pretty close to a eating disorder. I used to think pretty bad thoughts about myself and my place in the world. When I tried to research tips for accepting yourself I came across a lot of articles that told people to focus on their good points, the things you like about yourself or are proud of. These tips do not resonate with me or my experience. I was not proud of anything, I did not like anything about myself. But I came to realise that not liking myself wasn’t going to get me anywhere either. If I wanted to live this life instead of just existing I had to change some things. I decided that I might as well be nicer to myself. Being unkind to myself had not done anything for me, so why not try the opposite. At least I would get more enjoyment out of my life. And so I started treating myself as I would treat a loved one. It did not make me thin. It did not make me fat. It did make me happy. I started eating better, feeling better, sleeping better, living better. Again, it did not make me magically thin, but it did make me healthier as a whole. I have to add that therapy helped me here too, but it was really important that I started to think of myself as someone worth helping and worthy of happiness. You might as well accept yourself the way you are, you have nothing to lose by being kind to yourself. Punishing yourself is not going to make you feel better. Enjoy the cake, enjoy all the food you put in your mouth, feeling bad about eating is not going to do you any good.

Your body is the only body you’ll have in this life

Once I started to be nicer to myself I started to appreciate my body more and more. I realised that it was the only body I’d ever have and that I had to make friends with it. Around this time Eve Ensler, playwright of the Vagina Monologues published her play ‘Good body’. She ends her introduction to the book, a exploration of the relationship women around the world have with their bodies, with this declaration:

‘Tell the image makers and magazine sellers and the plastic surgeons that you are not afraid. That what you fear the most is the death of imagination and originality and metaphor and passion. Then be bold and LOVE YOUR BODY. STOP FIXING IT. It was never broken.’ She ends the play (a series of monologues of women around the world interspersed with Ensler’s own thoughts about her body) with something of a mantra in which she finally accepts her body as the good body, flaws and all: ‘We live in a good body, we live in the good body’.

Having health problems means that sometimes that relationship gets slightly complicated. I can’t always trust my body. But the essence remains: nothing good will come from being unkind to myself or my body. Even if it fails me, being kind to myself will make things easier.

There’s always going to be someone who thinks you look fat

The definitive moment in my own acceptance of my body, the realisation that I was completely at ease with it and didn’t care about the world, came when I was reading about Rihanna on a website. There were a lot of people commenting on her looks and despite Rihanna being, I think objectively – even as beauty is a subjective thing – one of the most beautiful women in the world, there were a lot of people being pretty negative about the way she looked and her body weight. It was really liberating to me because it means that we can stop trying. You are never going to make everyone happy, so don’t bother with that and just try to make yourself happy. There’s always going to be sad sacks of people who need to put other people down. Rihanna does not care about the people who try to shame her and neither should we. People who want to punish you for living while not being the embodiment of their idea of perfection just don’t get it. They don’t know it, but they’re the ones who aren’t with the program and punishing yourself for existing whilst not upholding an arbitrary and unattainable ideal set by people who aren’t worth your time is not going to make you feel better. If people try to use the concept of health as a strawman argument for being allowed to discuss your appearance, don’t buy into that. Health is a deeply personal thing that can not be measured by looking at the outside of a person. Sometimes health and weight are related (it’s true for me at this particular moment in my life), but nobody can assess that properly except for you and your doctor (if they do the right tests and actually check you completely out). This fake health concern has to be nipped in the bud.

The right people won’t care

Obviously I care about my husband’s health and vice versa, so I do care that my husband is really skinny at the moment as it’s a bad sign with regards to his health. But I don’t care about the aestethics and neither does he. People who are the right people in your life won’t care about the aesthetic side of your weight. If they do care, they’re not the right people and you need to get some better people or they need to learn about the right approach to the weight of loved ones. Who we are as people and what matters about our character has nothing to do with how much we weigh. I’m not kinder when I weigh less. I don’t gain patience with pounds. I’m not funnier when I weigh more or less. Your value as a human being does not depend on how much you weigh. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of respect. No number on the scale is going to change your inherent worth as a human being.

When it comes to clothes: wear your size

Wear whatever you want to wear, but please, be kind to yourself and wear your size. It’s liberating and comfortable to not feel your waistband dig in your stomach, to take of your clothes and not see any of those red marks on your body. If you fluctuate a lot, like I do, you can wear all sorts of jersey clothes (which can be dressed up for professional clothes too), there’s a whole world of stretchy fabrics out there for you. Just make sure it fits comfortably when your weight is at it’s peak. Here’s a whole blogpost by Jenny from Cashmerette on sewing for fluctuating weight.

On to the dress

Anyway, this is a longwinding way to say: I need and love stretchy clothes in my life. I make and have made lots of nonstretchy clothes, but usually those won’t fit me part of the year/month/week. So I like jersey a lot because it gives me lots of room on the way up and usually bounces back when I’m on the way down again. I like trying patterns for wovens in jersey and I felt I probably could use jersey for the Colette Dahlia. There aren’t a lot of seams and the midriff works in jersey too as I experienced with my Zoe dress.

So while the friggin Penny was languishing in the corner I continued making every single Colette pattern that I own. I had been wanting to try to make the Dahlia in a jersey for a while now.

It’s a pattern I have made with more or less succes before:

It takes some fiddling with the neckline to get it to sit just right (I think I nailed it with the dress on the right, the other ones have moved on to the charity shop since making them). It’s gather, fit, gather, fit, ungather, fit, gather again etc. I added shoulder darts to the raglan sleeve to get it to lie flat better.

This is a straight size 12 with no alterations other than changing the skirt into a selfdrafted half circle skirt. I might tweak the fit at the back some more as you can see there’s some gape at the neck, but first I’ll check if it isn’t due to weird posture when taking photos (I just don’t know how to stand with my back to my phone…), because I really do have weird posture when taking photos, I’ll pull up my shoulders or do weird things with my hips etc.

I wanted a polkadot navy dress for a while now and used my store credit to get this one from Stoff&Stil. I think it’s sold out now. It’s a cotton jersey that’s easy to work with, not too flimsy, but good drape. I usually use the triple straight stitch on midriff pieces and skirts for stability and added some clear elastic for extra stability. I haven’t had any dresses stretch out vertically, so I think it works.

I’m very happy with this dress, I think it looks casual enough and professional enough to wear in all sorts of situations and I have been wearing it a lot since making it. On to the next Colette pattern. I might just re-visit the Moneta next, but am also contemplating an eyelet Macaron, a lace Laurel and a linnen Anise.

Fabric shopping at Stoff & Stil

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by Stoff & Stil with a question. They wanted me to try some of their fabrics now that there is a webshop for The Netherlands too. I had just been browsing their website the night before and had almost broken my ban on buying fabric, so I took this as a sign that the universe wanted me to get some fabric! Here’s my review of the experience. Obviously I got some fabric for free, but I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. My opinions in this review are my own.

Stoff & Stil is a Danish company that produces their own fabric collections. They have brick-and-mortar shops in Denmark, Norway, Germany and Sweden and webshops for a dozen countries, now including The Netherlands. Shipping is done by DHL. If you have shopped online with H&M before they had a distribution centre in Eindhoven, you know this means delivery times of about a week. Stoff & Stil has some wonderful modern designs that I had been wanting to try. The company also sells patterns (going to try some of those next), yarn, sewing supplies and kits with everything you need to make a certain garment (also very tempted by those).

I made a little list of things that I needed for Hanna, Wybe and me and went shopping. In the end I got more fabric and paid for part of it myself because it was really hard to narrow it down! And I managed to not buy any flower prints, which was really, really, really hard. But… I have so many florals that it really was time for a change.

The website itself has some cool features: lots of fabrics feature garments made with that fabric so you can get a good sense of what you can make with it. I also appreciate that there’s information on shrinkage and washing instructions. This information is also labeled on the fabric when you receive it. I almost never pre-wash jersey, but seeing the labels with the estimated shrinkage made me wash it all. Everything came out of the washing machine as it should, no fading on the colours.

I ended up getting nine fabrics.

This navy dotted cotton jersey that I used for this dress:

I don’t know if you can see it on the label, but it’s OEKOTEX 100, which makes me very happy.

These two jerseys for Hanna:

The rabbits I turned into this little dress:

b

The one with hearts I will make into some pants and use as sleeves on a sweater with the remnants of the bunnies.

These two cotton jerseys, that will become a dress and a vest.

These cotton jerseys are all very uniform in quality. Nice drape, but firm fabric that’s easy to work with.

I also got this black viscose stretch crepe, that I’m going to turn into breezy summer pants. I’ll update when I have worked with it. It feels pretty nice!

There’s a section with outdoor fabric where I finally managed to find yellow fabric for a raincoat for Hanna (I think it’s going to be soooo cute!).

Next: the one fabric that disappointed me slightly. It’s called cotton jersey soft, but it doesn’t really feel soft. It actually feels slightly stiffer than the other cotton jerseys I got. I’m going to use this one to make t-shirts for Wybe and me, maybe a jumpsuit.

And finally, my favourite of the bunch. This is a viscose, but it’s a thicker viscose than you usually get. It has all the drape and airiness of viscose, but it also feels substantial and is easy to handle. It washed beautifully and hardly wrinkled. I’m really looking forward to making this into a pretty dress.

In conclusion:

+ Large selection of modern designs

+ Cotton jersey and viscose are high quality and wash well.

+ Large selection of organic fabric and lots of fabric that has the Oekotex label.

+ Lots of useful information on the fabric itself.

+ Pictures of garments made with the fabric.

– Longer delivery times than shops based in The Netherlands.

Will buy again!

Colette Penny

Ah, the Penny! I had such high expectations and ended up slightly disappointed. This is the second pattern I made in my attempt to make every single Colette pattern I own.

I wasn’t sure when the pattern was released if the silhouette would suit me and my preferences. I am firmly in team ‘no-gathered skirts allowed’ and the puffy sleeves didn’t feel very me either. I did see a lot of versions I really liked popping up over the past few months and those made me decide to go for it. And there’s this vintage dress that I own and love and have wanted to replicate for a while now.

I chose a shibori inspired fabric that I got in one of my SewHayleyJane boxes. I felt the fabric might balance the dress so it wouldn’t become sugary sweet.

I made a straight size 12 based on the finished measurements. The one thing that I changed were the sleeves. At first I wanted to make a sleeveless dress, but after fitting I decided that the dress did need sleeves for balance and didn’t want to make the gathered sleeves. I was considering pleating the skirt and I think I should have just gone for it. I always end up disliking gathered skirts and usually change them to pleated skirts. I probably will change this skirt too. Maybe do some symmetrical pleats at both sides of the front like the vintage dress above has.

After the first, disappointing fitting of the dress as a whole, I stalled on finishing the dress. It did not make me feel good in my body. I felt everything was out of proportion. It just languished in a corner, waiting to be hemmed and provided with buttons. Then I lost some weight and tried it on again. The bodice is slightly roomier, but I liked the dress better on me. I didn’t feel as gigantic as I had felt after the first fitting. I’m now committed to alter it to my liking: pleat the skirt and shorten it to kneelength.

Now for the positives:

I really enjoyed the process of making this dress. The instructions are clear and concise and helped me to finally master the burrito method of attaching a yoke. The fabric was lovely to work with and overall I think it’s good to try things even if you’re unsure about the outcome. Making this dress has provided me with confidence in my own opinions on my style. I’m pretty sure that there will be no more gathered skirts ever for me.

So I started a genuine skincare regimen and this is what happened…

I am updating this post whenever I think of new information to add.

On the left: me four weeks ago

On the right: me a week ago

Diabetes has some irritating effects on your body. Well, auto-immune diseases have some irritating effects on your body. Your immune system is compromised leading to unpleasant things like psoriasis and acne. I have some hormonal problems at the moment and my acne was starting to irritate me. I’m not someone who’s concerned about how I look, I don’t enjoy spending time in front of the mirror and I am not knowledgeable on beauty things. But this acne all over my face (one week on my forehead, then the next week all over my chin and then the week after that on my nose) was making me feel uncomfortable at a time when I wasn’t feeling too good in my body because of the friggin diabetes management not going so well. I was using a lot of concealer to hide my acne and got the feeling that it would not go away if I kept putting stuff on it, but I also didn’t know what alternative there was. I had used Clearasil during puberty, but that would not be good for my adult combination skin with dry patches. So I did some research and found out that there are things called acids that you can use on your face to get rid of acne, uneven skintone, scars and whatnot. Basically the acid will remove dead skin and reveal newer skin while also stimulating the growth of new cells.

This is me before on thursday evening:

And this is me the friday morning after my first use of lactid acid:

Those pimples were gone.

This is after a week of lactid acid:

Obviously the word acid sounds bad for your skin and not everyone has a good reaction to it. It actually works by lowering the PH of your skin and the acid comes from natural stuff like milk (lactid acid) and sugarcane (glycolic acid). My skin is combination skin and I now think it’s not very sensitive as I didn’t have any reactions to the lactic acid at all. But you should test it before applying it all over your face and there are ways to tone it down (like using a moisturizer immediately after applying the acid).

As the brand (a Canadian brand called The Ordinary) I used is on the pretty cheap side, I could afford to experiment and started to switch it up at night. I now use vitamin C, retinol, glycolic acid and lactid acid alternately. Vitamin C is for your skintone, retinol promotes cell renewal, glycolic acid and lactic acid both get rid of dead skin and unclog your pores.

During the day I wear a combination of peptides and hyaluronic acid to keep my skin plump and promote cell renewal and finish it off with a moisturizer with a high SPF.

The Ordinary has some examples of regimens for different problems here.

If you want to try using products with resurfacing (as they are called) ingredients, look for ingredients like lactic acid and glycolic acid (these are also called AHA or Alpha Hydroxy Acids), vitamin C or retinol (vitamin A). For extreme hydration try hyaluronic acid. There’s lots of brands out there and lots of places to buy. I buy from Cult Beauty, because they are a good option for someone living in Europe. If you’re American try Sephora. Both have lots of travel size options for trying out things.

Quick results: hyaluronic acid

Some of these take some time to show their benefits (think months), but two of them will show you very quick results: lactid acid and hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid was the first thing I tried. As I said, I have never been into skincare and didn’t know anything about it. For fun I got myself a subscription box to beauty products (I have since canceled my subscription because there were so many products I’ll never use) and it was in one of the two boxes I got that they had put a serum with hyaluronic acid from the brand Evolve.

It’s pretty magical stuff. It immediately blurs your fine lines, pores look smaller and your skin just looks refreshed, all because of extreme hydration. It’s also pretty expensive I found when I wanted to get a new bottle. After that I tried to get my hands on the ordinary’s hyaluronic serum which is a lot cheaper, but also almost always out of stock. I was notified when it was back in stock, immediately put it in my shopping basket and when I wanted to pay, it was already sold out again. Reviews say it’s really good, but I can’t confirm it (yet). Then I got a large sample of Peter Thomas Roth Hyaluronic cloud cream which is amazing stuff, but also really expensive. Too expensive for me at least. In the end I cheated myself to a large bottle of hyaluronic acid courtesy of Garnier Moisture bomb hydrating mask. It’s a sheet mask with lots of serum. What I do is: I cut of a little corner off from the package and squeeze the serum into an empty bottle. You can still use the sheet mask after that. The serum Garnier uses is really good. It’s better than the Evolve one in my opinion and though it doesn’t last as long as the Peter Thomas Roth one (you’ll have to re-apply during the day) it is really cheap, usually somewhere on sale and does have the same immediate effect.

Glycolic acid side effect

Be aware that you might experience a break out after using something with resurfacing ingredients. This happened to me when I added glycolic acid. This usually means that your skin is purging and if you stick to your product the new pimples will dissappear again. This happens because the glycolic acid has the smallest molecules of the acids and is able to penetrate deeply into your skin while lactid acid remains at the surface. Your skin has a cycle of 4 to 6 weeks during which it will renew all skin layers completely. Glycolic acid speeds up that process and brings up every bit of gunk that was forming in your skin. It’s not pretty. I had been kind of spoiled when I used just the lactid acid, but I think it’s good that every last nasty bit of skin is being renewed now.

This photo was taken a week after I started glycolic acid. You can see that my chin has some pimples. I don’t want to be groce, but it’s a pretty groce process. Every blackhead, whitehead, papule, nodule and whatnot will appear at the surface of your skin.

Photo below is a close-up. I haven’t managed to get a really detailed photo, but I can tell you it’s bad, in the middle of my chin it’s all little bumps and nothing on my chin in smooth at the moment. I will post a photo when it has cleared up too.

Vitamin C side effect

Another thing I wanted to add is this weird side effect of vitamin C: looking like you had a spraytan. It took me a while to figure out, but on days after my vitamin C serum my skin has an orange glow. This article explains why this happens and what you can do about it (basically tone your vitamin C down with another moisturizer). I started to layer my retinol in squalane over my vitamin C and though I still look like I had some sun it’s not as bad as the first time (pictured below). As a pale person the orange was looking really weird on my otherwise pale body.

The photo below is what my skintone looks like since layering retinol in squalane over my vitamin C. The glycolic and lactid acids will tone it down even more on the days that I use those (this is before the purge I mentioned above happened).

Overall thoughts

This is kind of fun to do. I like the feeling of pampering myself. I love that the acne has gone and that, whenever a pimple appears, it’s gone pretty soon. It’s been great on wrinkles and fine lines too, though those aren’t really gone yet, you just don’t see them when my face is still fully hydrated. The photo above was taken about 15 minutes after putting on my morning things (toner-serum-SPF) and the light that day was particulary kind to my face. But what I like best is that I’ve basically stopped wearing make-up on my skin. It’s just mascara and a bit of lipstick and I’m happy.

Sew Over It Eve dress

This year’s Sew together for summer challenge involved making a wrapdress. I love wrapdresses, I have a gazillion patterns for wrapdresses and I was actually planning about five of them in some of my most beloved fabrics. So ofcourse I completely froze and started doubting all my decisions. After thinking about it for a while I settled on using this fabric. I got this cotton jersey earlier this year at Naaiplezier (I think it sold out really quickly). I love fabric with leaves on it and this one is particulary good quality. I think it is biological cotton (I can’t find the info, but I’ve been buying organic for some time now).

I kept thinking about making an Eve dress with it. I made this pattern before and knew that it’s key to keep the fabric from stretching out to much. I immediately stabilized the front bodice with seam tape after cutting it out. I finished the neckline with foldover elastic for extra stability. I also stabilized all horizontal seams with clear elastic and use a triple straight stitch thoughout. This stitch provides both stretch and stability.

The pattern itself is really easy to sew up. I cut out a size 14 instead of 16 to account for the stretch.

I’ll add some photos of the back later on to show you the fit.

Frankie shirt and Stella joggers

Since a few weeks I have been on sick leave from my job. Since I gave birth to Hanna I haven’t been able to get my blood glucose levels steady and this has been wreaking havoc on my health. I’m now taking the time and attention I need to get things under control again. I have not really been wanting to sew at all as I was feeling so tired and listless. I tried to find some easy projects to sew like the Agnes dress of last week. I also wanted some simple jogging pants that I could wear outside the house too and I had been desperate for a stripey shirt again. I decided on the Stella joggers and Frankie shirt from the Stretch! sewing book by Tilly. I used a black ponte from Cotton Reel Studio (which doesn’t seem to be in stock at the moment) for the joggers and a striped (biological!) cotton from Studio Spatz. Both are really lovely and comfortable fabrics.

I traced a Tilly size 5 for both. For the shirt I slightly scooped out the neckline (lowering the neckline by about 1.5 cm) as the higher neckline did not look good on me at all.

I was hoping to get a new tnt pattern with this shirt, but I’m slightly dissapointed by how it looks on me. I had been making this shirt for several other people who all looked so good in it that I had developed really high expectations. I think I need more scoop or a v-neck on my shirts or go full bateau/boatneck. I still have enough fabric left to try out another shirt pattern. It is a great pattern otherwise, everything goes together fast and simple, lines up and the lot. And it did look really good on other people and not bad on me.

I’m quite excited by the joggers. I never had anything like these.

I had not expected to like pants with a band at the ankle, but it’s the thing that I like best. I didn’t do a drawstring, but used elastic at the back to keep a smooth front. Again, this was a really nice pattern to sew up with everything coming together perfectly.

Still haven’t finished my Colette Penny (eg the bane of my existence), but hopefully will get to that one soon (just two buttonholes and the hem left to do).