Monthly Archives: August 2010


Skull Applique for the Monster's bag

I still suck at freehand machine embroidery.

Actually, I probably still suck at all embroidery (I haven’t tried any hand embroidery for a few years, but last time I definitely sucked. Oddly, it was on another piece using this same blue/black coating, too)

The Monster, AKA the ten-year-old, has been working away on her bag. Well, occasionally. When she’s not off camping or having sleepovers or watching her dad play video-games in the evening. Yesterday she managed to topstitch the strap and flap. Today I worked on the applique. I suck at applique.

I feel the need to mention, briefly, my introduction to machine embroidery. Not computerized machine embroidery, which I still have experienced only from afar, but the freehand kind. It begins with my mom’s sewing machine, a gorgeous Pfaff dating from the late sixties. This is the machine I learned on, and in its day, it was the shizznitt. It was an Embroidery Machine. It has settings for about a bajillion different embroidered stitches, all variations of the zig-zag, but every variation you could think of! Scallops, crenelations, triangles, blocks… the list is endless (or at least very long), and there is a large, circular plastic chart you turn to show the stitch you want and all the settings to get it. Width, needle position, number of stitches to motif, all completely adjustable. And the controls were actually far more intuitive than the ones on my much simpler modern Janome. Anyway, in addition to the chart, there was the manual, with extensive examples of things you could do with the embroidery stitches. Monogrammed letters, eyelet lace… I can’t even remember all of their suggestions. It was staggering. Everything was gorgeous.

Of course, nowhere in all of that did it say anywhere how hard it was to get them looking that nice.

Needless to say, I don’t think my poor little skull here would be appearing in that book. Or anyone’s book. But the kid is happy enough, so that’s ok by me. In hindsight I should’ve placed it much further down on the flap (I was

And, the strap, adorned with skull ribbon.

actually going for bottom-to-the-side placement, but the kid wanted it centred, and i moved it up too much when I centred it. So if the bag is full half the skull is going to be on the top. Oh, well.

I also used some of the ribbon from this splurge, finally,  sewing it along the strap. This is actually the first time I’ve adorned anything with ribbon. Not super hard (though I wasn’t particularly scientific about it). I still worry about putting it on clothes, though—would it shrink? Hold up in the wash? I am doubtful. On a bag, though… should be fine.

And that, except for hemming some de-cuffed pyjama bottoms for the ten-year-old (apparently they are totally uncool if they have cuffs, but just fine if they don’t), has been my sewing for the past few days. Bleh. Wasn’t I resolving to sew stuff for me?


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One last thing…

Of course, the week that the Selfish Seamstress links to me would be the week that I get next to no sewing done. Sorry, folks, we had company and my sewing machine hasn’t been unbanished from the basement yet. Soon, though.

The days are dwindling. I’m not ready for September for so many reasons (the least of which is my 30th birthday :P). I’m not sick of summer! I need at least a couple of weeks of solidly brutal heat to prepare me for the winter to come. Even though the winters here are fairly pansy-ass compared to what I grew up with, they still bite. I am not mentally equipt for moderate climates. Instead, what we got was a weekend that didn’t get above 20 C the whole time. Yesterday and today won’t get above 15. Brutal!

Anyway, I feel like there’s just time to plan for one last garment before September really begins (I will obviously attempt to keep sewing in September, but it’s going to be limited, and probably focused on my winter coat). So what should it be?

My problem is that what I want to do is fabric shop. I am sick of my (admittedly limited) stash, with the exception of a few pieces that I have garments in mind that I’m not ready for yet. There are all kinds of (comparatively… it is Fabricland, after all) glorious sweater-weight knits at Fabricland that are tempting me, not to mention coating (for the Lady Grey of course). I want to play around with my Lydia pattern more, too, and I don’t have any knits for that. I’d really like some killer denim; I have enough for one more black pair, which is all right, but I’d really prefer a dark indigo wash. Not that there was anything like that at Fabricland last time I checked, mind you. And while you’d think I’d be able to justify some birthday splurging, the always-tight budget is even tighter than usual (still recovering from the summer splurges, and September is always a pricey month with the kids’ school starting). We’ll see. I also need to order the Lady Grey pattern, and if I’m going to do that I might as well order the Ceylon at the same time, right? (I think I’ve talked myself out of Beignet… if I decide I can’t live without it I’ll make up a regular pencil-skirt with a button front instead.)

I did receive some small relief last night in the form of some last-minute hand-me-downs from the Selfish Seamstress. I can see one of the fabrics becoming another JJ. (Because, y’know, I really need another one of those). But I still want sweater knit! I want long sleeves!

Now to reclaim my machine. I have a scheme to set it up on the computer desk, which would be an improvement over the kitchen table where it’s been lurking all summer, and the Monster (aka the 10-year-old) needs to finish her bag… but first I have to do a ton of running around. With no car today, I might add. Argh.


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Oh my goodness!

I am beautiful! You are too!


I got a “beautiful blogger” award from Sherry of Pattern, Scissors, Cloth! I feel so… connected! So loved! Like I’m finally becoming a part of this wonderful world of blogging I’ve been watching from the outside for so long…

Anyway, like all good memes this requires two things: one, I have to list ten things about me you’d never guess, and two, I have to pass the award on to five other beautiful bloggers. Must keep the chain going, after all ;). This may be the hardest part since I’d prefer to name people who haven’t been tagged, I mean won, yet.

Hmm, this is going to take some thought.

Ten things to know about me…

By the way, I don't actually recommend a bikini top for field gear. I got a wicked sunburn.

1) I am studying to be a palaeontologist. That’s dinosaurs and other less cool (dead) things. Early in my university career, I couldn’t decide between palaeo and classical archaeology. However, since there’s plenty of palaeontology in North America and no classical archaeology, I figured palaeo was a little more practical (believe it or not). If I’d been born in Europe, I would totally be an archaeologist.

2) I have trouble finishing things. I tend to get about half-done and lose interest. This is a major flaw in my character, not just in my sewing.

Hmm. It didn't shrink very well.

3) In another life, I would’ve loved to be an animator or comic-book illustrator. There are a couple of sewing bloggers who actually are, and I am very jealous of them.

4) In another life, I would’ve loved to be a stay-at-home mom with twelve kids. Well, maybe eight. Four. Many sewing bloggers are stay-at-home moms, and I am jealous of all of them.

5) I’m an immense nerd (Well, maybe you could’ve guessed this). If it’s long ago, far away, or never existed at all, I am probably interested. This is the theme that underlies a lot of the other entries.

6) I’m an atheist.

7) I’d really like to go to Iraq. This has to do with my love of classical archaeology and early human history. I would love to visit Ur and Babylon and Sumer. This will probably not happen in my lifetime.

8 ) I was a teen mom for five weeks.

9) My life’s ambition is to be a professional writer of fantasy novels. Actually this ties into sewing as the barbie outfits I started out making were all fantasy costumes to illustrate the magical worlds my best friend and I were creating.

10) I have participated in, and ‘won’, National Novel Writing Month, twice. Now if I could just get the book I wrote edited into readability (see # 2)

Five beautiful bloggers:

1) Zena of Blood, Sweatshop & Tears

2) Heather of Sewing on Pins

3) Adey of The Sew Convert

4) Beangirl

5) Jenny of Byrdie Couture

If I got a bonus one I would also name Seemane, of Sew, Incidentally, since she leavers me such wonderful comments, but as she doesn’t appear to actually use her blog, I don’t know if she’ll divulge.

Thanks for reading, and Shelly, thanks again for the tag!


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Imagine the scene…

The Location

A crisp summer evening (did I mention the climate here SUCKS?) in the perilous region of the city known as “Downtown”. This is the natural habitat of the stylish and hip, such as the Selfish Seamstress, but an area I usually view only as on safari, through the glass of the train windows.

I arrive early, having allowed myself both getting-lost time and finding-parking time, and end up needing neither. There it is, the appointed coffee-shop, lurking in all its trendy glory (and it’s open late). Such places used to be my stomping-ground, back before domestic bliss replaced teenage angst, back in the days when I, too, lived Downtown. I take up residence on one of the several benches outside, and pretend to play with my ipod. Mostly, I am watching.

For Her.

My thoughts race back to the chance comment left on her wonderful blog, months ago, that revealed my general location. Although I read religiously, I rarely comment since there are usually fifty or more comments before mine that have said everything that could possibly be said. My surprise at receiving an email a few days later admitting to being in the same general vicinity (and shopping at the same depressing fabric-store chain). This when I had no idea we even shared a country! A few more emails, and by a miracle we are even in the same city! (Not such a big miracle, as it’s the largest city in the province). In fact, we are associated with the same University, although in very different departments and at very different levels.

And then—there she is! So petite and stylish and elegant in her Hikaru Jacket and her Jalie Jeans! Her topstitching makes me want to cry. She shows me the nearby newstand that carries Burda (my first Burda Magazine!)… and buys me a hot chocolate! (made with melted chocolate! With whipped cream!).

She gives me patterns. Including THIS one! (Since she never actually made the dress, I assume she decided it fell into the Frumpy category. Nevertheless, it is a charming gift, despite the fact that Her Selfishness buys patterns in the 6-10 size range and I normally fit a miss’s 12 ;) )

We talk about sewing, and dance, and sewing, and driving vs. not driving in cities, and sewing, and (amateur) modeling, and sewing, and how we started sewing, and cell phones, and sewing, and not having real-life sewing friends, and sewing, and…

all of a sudden it is  ten o’clock at night. The handsome Dan comes and plucks the Selfish Seamstress away, and I drive home in a floaty haze of happiness, cradling my Burda in my lap. And yes, it is sometime on this drive home that it occurs to me that we took no pictures.

The next day, still on a brush-with-blogging-and-sewing-greatness high, I traced out this jacket… and we all know how that went (it’s currently wadded in a ball under my bed, waiting for resuscitation).

It wasn’t until later, in the cold light of Wadderville, that it occurred to me to wonder about the Selfish One’s motivations. Obviously she could not be really enjoying my company. This concerned me quite a bit. But then it dawned on me… The Selfish Seamstress may have no friends, but she adores flattery. And really, aren’t I the perfect agent? My sewing skills are no match for hers—I am far below the level of a Nemesis—and I am perfectly willing to gush more-or-less endlessly over her sophisticated creations. And if I do grow boring, or stalkerish, or too demanding, well, she’s leaving the country in a few weeks.

Which means my brush with greatness will remain just that—a brush. But I can now say it, the way my Grandma still talks about having tea with the Queen as a little girl… I once had hot chocolate with the Selfish Seamstress!

And, as a bonus, her shout-out (besides bringing unprecedented hit-numbers to my low-key little blog here) brought to my attention the fact that an old friend from my dance-costume-making days, whose skillz (especially in the finishing department) I have long admired and envied, has started her own blog, Blood, Sweatshop & Tears! Nifty!

So if you did come here via Her Selfishness, thank you for taking the time! And if you didn’t, well… you can always say you knew me first! (LMAO)


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Fall Re-fashion

Former capris

Is it still a re-fashion if it’s an alteration to a piece you already made, and never fully finished?

These are my first pair of Jalie jeans. I made them capri-length, but never got around to hemming them. But I have since made another pair of capris that I like better, and I had just enough of this denim left to piss me off (without being enough to do anything with unless I want to make another  Kasia with denim hip-inserts ;) ), so I made panels and sewed them to the bottom and now I have a pair of (hopefully) interestingly-seamed full-length jeans. I may actually have hemmed

Crappy topstitching.

them a little short… we’ll see. I should probably re-do the topstitching (something went wrong with the bobbin-thread), but I may be too lazy too. It’s not like the rest of the jeans are a great piece of work to begin with. There’s a slight difference in colour between the jeans (which have been washed a few times) and the new fabric, but that’ll either fade or not… either way works. But they will be much more useful to me during Self-Stitched September as full-length pants than as capris.

I still want to make another proper full-length pair, though :).

How they would actually look

The back view


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I’ve created a monster!

Diana Bag cut out

Oh dear.

I was thinking about when I started sewing (about nine) and the fact that the kind of  messing around self-directed learning that was the beginning of my sewing journey really isn’t my older daughter’s style (the girl doesn’t do anything unless it involves other people. Have you ever heard the phrase “they can’t stand their own company”? This would be my daughter.) But learning to sew with mom…

… so…

I suggested she might want to learn to sew on a bag. Maybe a messenger bag (she was ogling some out shopping this morning, but opted to save her money for an army-style coat instead). So we went scrounging, and shortly after downloaded the Diana bag pattern. Now if it were me I would probably just have made up my own pattern (really, it’s just some rectangles, right? I had probably been sewing six or eight years before I ever even looked at a pattern…) but she was really excited by the idea of a pattern. So we just spent an evening printing out the pattern, cutting and gluing it together (it goes nice and quick when you have someone else to do the gluing!), and then I sat her down at the sewing machine with (OMG!) no thread and paper. And started her sewing lines, lining the edge of the paper up with the 1.5 cm marking. And then some curves. I never thought I’d actually use the no-thread-just-paper method. It sounds so boring. Can you imagine anything dumber? But… it saves me thread. And she really is pretty bad at it. Impressively so. And she seemed pretty excited and intimidated by even just the paper, so starting right in on fabric probably would’ve been a disaster.  I think I’m going to mark the stitching lines right on the frabric, when we do get there. She was astoundingly into it, hyperventilating, panicking at the thought of her seams not being straight enough. Kid needs to chill out. But it was cute.

And then, of course, the seven-year-old had to get in on the action. I swear, those two can’t even look at each other without it starting a fight these days. School cannot start back up soon enough. (Yes, and I’ve only had them home for two weeks! Why do you think I send them to their cousins for July?)

This morning we finished laundering the fabric, ironed, and laid out the bag. She did about half the cutting herself; she really improved when we put some music on; I think it relaxed her.

In other news, Styling the Kasia!

Kasia outfit

Kasia outfit---rear

I don’t do style or outfit posts much; they’re not really that interesting to me. But I’m going to burden you with this one because figuring out how to wear this skirt is such a mental stretch for me. I wore the Kasia out of the house for the first time today, styled as in the photos. I’m much more comfy with it with a shirt un-tucked. Yes, I realize that pretty much defeats the purpose of a high-waisted skirt. Sorry. Oh, and you can thank the 10-year-old for the edgy photography ;)… now I just have to remind her to include my head and feet in the photos.

The skirt is comfy and fun to wear, although I do have to remember not to take the stairs two at a time ;).

Kasia outfit... nice pose, no head.

Kasia outfit


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Fix or Flunk?

Port Elizabeth Fail

I’m thinking flunk.

This is my first attempt at the Burdastyle user-uploaded Port Elizabeth top. The issues started with me picking the wrong pattern size—I made a small, and it’s a teensy bit snug, mostly around the arms. All the other problems stem from me: not cutting out carefully enough, not stitching carefully enough, not following the instructions, and generally doing a half-ass job. Sometimes I can get away with this, say on a well-behaved cotton when my brain is actually functioning. On this lovely, drapey, slippery purple fabric, which I’m thinking is rayon, I can’t. Too bad, because I think this kind-of boxy top would look

Port Elizabeth Fail back

really nice in the softly draping fabric.

Also, it ended up way short (partly due to my crummy hemming job, partly due to not having quite enough fabric). Even as recently as five years ago, this would’ve been my preferred length. Twelve years ago, it would’ve been way too long. Today… not so much. /sigh. Also I was hoping it would tuck nicely into the new Kasia, but I think it’s too short even for that.

I do really like the little cut-on sleeves and the wide, scooped neck. I tried to do a facing for the neck, which is kinda being a pain in the butt although since I haven’t understitched or anything it’s still me that’s the problem. Also I should’ve made it wider. I’ve never done facings before, so I didn’t really know how wide to make it (of course, I could’ve googled it, but that would’ve been, I dunno, thoughtful of me.)

Also, I could probably do that swayback adjustment that straightens out the back hem. I had tried to add darts, too, but they didn’t end up being in a good place so I took them out (and needle holes don’t heal in this fabric, another reason for this top to be a flunk). I think they would help with the shape, though.

So, I think this one I will give to the Kid (that would be the ten-year-old) and see what she makes of it. Probably swiss cheese.

Now… focusing sewing chi… must… interface…coat pieces…

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I cut out my coat!

Yes, that is what you think it is.

It’s what, until a few hours ago, was 5 m of 60″ wide “unknow fibre” coating. Yup, this stuff.

Winter Coat Supplies

This is Progress On The Winter Coat. The project that, really, started it all.

I might just pass out with excitement. Or is it exhaustion?

I’ve probably rambled about this before, but not in a few months, so here it goes:

I wear long winter coats. Now, I live in Canada. The climate I grew up with is very similar to the climate of Siberia. The area I live in now is somewhat more moderate, but still, a nice warm winter coat is a must.

A nice, stylish winter coat, on the other hand, is almost impossible to find. Those which are warm enough are mostly down-filled parkas with all the flair and panache of the Marshmallow Man, and those with an ounce of style are never, ever, ever warm enough.

All right. I admit—I have not worn a full-length fur coat out in real cold. It’s possible that would be warm enough, and still stylish, depending on how much you wish to enrage the PETAns. But even this delightful, and very Canadian, Hudson’s Bay Blanket coat I had in University wasn’t really warm enough. Shortly after I

Old Winter Coat

tearfully acknowledged that I had worn it to death, my mom scrounged the coat to the left out of a duffel bag found in an alley. Thrifting at its best, right?

It’s lovely. (Well, it was, except for the sleeves being too short).  I would call it a fall weight, however; it’s a single layer of medium-weight wool coating and a thin lining. No tag indicating fibre content, but it certainly feels like wool. Made in Belarus, if that’s of interest. I’ve worn it for the last four or

My worn-out winter coat

five years, through two sets of buttons and some serious pocket surgery. I got through winter by the practical but not overly stylish method of layering two to three hooded sweaters underneath it, at least one as long as the coat itself, depending on the temperature. By this past spring, however, the back was getting… a little worn out. I won’t even show you the lining.

But—I had a plan. After Christmas, when I was searching out patterns for my girls’ coats, I had also stumbled upon this:

My Winter Coat Pattern

Butterick 5425. Everything I could possibly want, as far as I could tell, in a winter coat. I was going to make my own! It would be lined, underlined, interlined, and super-duper warm! It would be classy and stylish! It would have long enough sleeves! And really, considering that the kind of coats I like really cost hundreds of dollars, and still wouldn’t be warm enough and would have too-short sleeves, I could spend an awful lot of money on fabric and still come in cheaper.

Now, I will make a confession: if I were picking a pattern now, I might not choose this one. I’ve seen a lot more patterns for coats now, and having made the muslin I’m not totally thrilled with the armscye of this one. But I still love the princess seams and the full, long skirt and the pattern was almost twenty bucks, so I’m going with it. I made some alterations to the upper bodice (shortened the whole thing a touch) and I’m going with a different, two-piece sleeve. With any luck this will fix my dislikes, although given my recent track-record with jackets I’m not feeling as optimistic as I was a few months ago.

This spring, in the depths of the spring clearance at fabricland, I found my fabric. Like the pattern, it’s probably not perfect—I don’t think it’s pure wool, for one thing—but it will do. At least for this first coat. More recently, I finally got my other materials together. So for the last month or so I’ve been dodging around actually starting the damn thing.

But—as of today—it’s cut. Progress! I actually gave up on tracing the pattern, as that step was blocking me too much. Yes, I confess, I cut a pattern. I’m disappointed, too; I’m sure I’ll regret it later. I’d like to have it finished by the end of September, so I’ll be able to devote my full attention to the Lady Grey Coat Sew-Along!

(I know, a little weird to be making the winter coat before the fall one. Sorry, can’t be helped.)

All right… that was a lot of words for not a lot of actual progress. But it is progress, nonetheless.


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Lydia… progress

Lydia, v. 2: pulled down

I was actually hoping to title this post “Lydia—Redemption” but… well, we are not quite there yet. However, v. 2 is a world better than v. 1. In case you need the reminder, we’re discussing the Lydia pattern from, my only paid downloadable pattern to date. $1, woo big spender.

I cut a straight size 36 (my usual Burda size) this time. I also lowered the neckline quite a chunk, since it’s quite high in the original (especially since I use a bound neckline rather than a facing, so there’s no seam-allowance taken in). My binding isn’t great, by the way, but it looks decent in the photos so it will probably pass muster.

This was a vast improvement of fit, especially in the shoulders. I’m also quite happy with how my cap version of the sleeve

Lydia, v. 2: after moving around. Note the looseness between bust and shoulder.

turned out, since I basically had no idea what I was doing (but no way in hell did I have enough fabric left for another try at the long-sleeve version.) They are a little snug—maybe I could spread the pattern a touch next time.

But—and there’s always a but, isn’t there?—there are still some changes to make. Most seriously, the neckline gapes if not pulled way down: when wearing it the whole thing creeps up until it looks more like the picture on the left. This bring the neckline up to a more comfortable point (yes, I lowered it a wee bit too much, even for my dubious modesty). I am going to try the “cheater” method of just taking a tuck out of the pattern along the neckline to bring it in about 1/2″. Another possibility is that it’s the tightness of the cap-sleeve that’s pulling it up; I really don’t think the entire armscye region needs to be shortened (if the problem is the sleeve cap, I will still need to raise the neckline). The bust-to-waist portion of the shirt does need to be shortened; the narrowest point of the curve is definitely a good inch below my (rather high) narrowest point. This also doesn’t help with the riding up. I also brought in the sides a good

Lydia, v. 2: back

half inch each (for a total of 2″ less around the whole shirt, so that’s another alteration to make.

The back view looks pretty good aside from the usual puddling at my sway-back. I’m not sure it’s actually possible to fix this without doing wonky things like adding back seams, so I’m not going to sweat it in a knit. Every other shirt I’ve worn in the last 10 years does the same thing.

All it needs now is a hem!

By the way, that’s 2 shirts from 1m of this fabric, which cost about $8… even if I include the cost of the Lydia pattern and notions, that’s still less than $5 a shirt.  I’m not going to get much better than that, even at the thrift store. And the time it takes to sew up is not much longer than a shopping trip, either. This one was cut and sewn in about 2 hours before bedtime last night—including piecing together the pattern.


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Kasia---view 1

Well, for better or for worse, it’s done. I am going to need some major help styling this… so far the black JJ (pictured) is the best (though it doesn’t show up well at all in the photos). I’m wondering if it would work well with a

Kasia---view 2

Port Elizabeth top—something blousier. I don’t know. This is a foreign concept to me. Also this skirt craves heels. It demands them. For a girl who lives in ballet flats, this could be problematic. I can rock a pair of platforms if necessary, but those wouldn’t be right, either. And I just can’t imagine wearing these pumps all day. I would cry. Maybe with my big kneehigh boots… I could see spending a whole day post just trying on different wardrobe items with this skirt.

Kasia---view 3

I’m not sure if the red buttons are for keeps; they’re the only big-enough ones I had a set of lying around. I do like the colour, but I wonder if something silvery/blue, more in keeping with the colour scheme of the skirt, would be more flexible.

Sorry for the crummy pics; the indoor light isn’t great and

Kasia---view 4

the neighbour was out in his yard so I felt kinda funny clomping around on the deck in my (loud) heels taking pictures in front of him.

In other news, I bought a remnant of ivory tulle at Fabricland yesterday when I picked up the topstitching thread. So fun! I want to use it with the mass of ivory chiffon left over from my sheer JJ blouse to make a crinoline/full petticoat. Y’know, for all those full-circle fifties skirts in my wardrobe.

Well, if I have the petticoat I might make one, right?

This is assuming, of course, that I can get the tulle away from the seven-year-old.


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