Monthly Archives: April 2010


I’m going out of town tomorrow, and am still (ok, perpetually) broke, so I won’t be doing a whole lot of sewing for a while, but a girl can dream, right? I want to make the Burdastyle JJ blouse. I’m not super-keen on the ruffles, although they are cute and I think it might look a bit bare without them. Mostly I would just really like to have a nice, princess-lined bodice pattern to play with… and the price is right ;). There’s also a variation posted with a bib front that’s cute as well. And when I mess up, it’s not a whole lot of fabric wasted. I am also looking at a lot of blazer patterns. I used to really love a nice, fitted blazer, before the fact that the sleeves are all to short for me really hit home. I really like the Eva blazer, too, but no jackets for me until the winter coat is finished. I’m also beginning to be temped by some of the pants patterns… I am so picky about how my jeans fit… and I pay SO much for them… but what are the odds of my sewing skillz reaching the point where I can actually make jeans that fit me as good as my old Buffalos? Better try a few JJ shirts first and figure out if I really can sew at all, anyway 😉

Eva blazer


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Coat “Muslin”

So I made (finally) a hip-length muslin from that Value Village wool. Nice fabric (except for the colour). Really nice. I was hoping the muslin might turn out nice enough to make into a coat for my mom, but at this point I’m thinking not. At least, not without a crapload of re-sewing. Maybe.

Winter coat muslin

I decided to cut a size 12 (the largest size in my pattern packet). According to the measurements on the pattern, I’m in between a size 10 and 12. (Technically speaking, I’m a 12 in the bust, a 14 at the waist, and a 10 in the hips, but anyway).

The 12 was huge. I mean, I know it’s a coat, it’s supposed to fit OVER clothes (I’m wearing my sweater under it in the pictures because that’s what I pretty much ALWAYS wear in the winter. I made it through the last 3 winters with a fall-weight jacket (Canadian winters, mind you… REAL winters) just by increasing the numbers of layers under the coat. At times I did look like a stuffed sausage, but you look like that in a parka, too ;). So I took the muslin in by a 1/2 inch at each side seam (so a total of 2 inches less around). This improved it a lot; it might be a trifle too snug at the waist (I tend to underestimate things like overlap, as we discovered from the “Anna top” disaster). Anyway, I think I will cut the 10, and go with that.

Sleeve caps:

The other thing I did was shorten the sleeve cap (basically I blended the sleeve cap from the 12 width to the 6 cap height). I did that to both sleeves. However, when I went to sew them on, I was in a quandary, since by taking in the side-seam I had made the armscye a full inch smaller. (In hindsight, perhaps I should just have taken it in along the princess seam. Ah, hindsight.) So I had two alternatives—sew the sleeve narrower by the same amount, or sew it with a normal seam allowance and see how much extra puff that generated. Since I was planning to sew the 10 next time (but with the same 6 sleeve cap), I figured this would at least show me the range of puff I was going to be dealing with. So the left sleeve has the normal seam allowance (more puff) and the right sleeve has the increased seam allowance (less puff). I think I might actually want even less puff than either, but they’re both tolerable. (I shudder to think how pouffy the original ones are)

Right sleeve---less pouffy

Left sleeve---pouffy

Sleeve length:

I had measured the sleeve pattern and was pleasantly surprised at how long it was. In the photos it’s very long, but I hadn’t folded them up to the hem length; even folded in an inch for the sleeve hem, they’re not bad. I could probably increase the length by half an inch, but not much more than that, and even at their current length I think they’d be better than any other coat I’ve ever owned… and with an inch of fold-over to play with, I could probably just lengthen them a bit out of the hem allowance (cuff allowance?) if I decided they really weren’t quite long enough. Decisions, decisions…

Shoulder Pads:

The pattern calls for 1/2 inch shoulder pads. Now, I have broad shoulders to begin with… 1/2 shoulder pads is getting me into 80s territory, which is not really where I want to go. In the muslin, I don’t have anything in. I looked at the shoulderpads in my current coat (which was a pretty awesome coat, as I may have mentioned, before I wore it to death) and the “pads” in there are really just a thin, thin layer of foam sandwiched between some iron-on interfacing… enough to smooth the lines but not really adding much bulk.  I think a double-layer of thinsulate or something would be plenty (plus I am planning on doing a sleeve-header, if I can get the sleeve cap nice and smooth). I do want the coat to look like it has some structure, but I still think, for me, 1/2 inch pads would be overkill.

Other issues:

The skirt widens really abruptly below the waist, which I’m not sure I like, but hopefully with a full length to pull on it that pouffiness will be toned down, as well. I don’t think I’m going to try and mess with it at this point (though it would be really fun to draft a pattern that was fitted down to the hips and then flared from there… maybe some time in the future when I am better at this.

I have a small issue with the bust of the princess-seam as well; it seams really low. Like, droopy low. It doesn’t stand out to me as badly in the pictures as it did in real life, so maybe it would be fine to leave it, but… I think I’d like it if I lift it up a bid. I wouldn’t need to move the curve really, just cut off the lower portion of it, I think.

But, in general, I think it’s looking promising. I had cut the variation for the round standing collar, but I’m still thinking for the final I might go with the traditional fold-back lapels. Although that would look nicer with a black wool or something for the facing… I think lapels in my patterned grey might be too busy (or just fade in with the rest of the jacket). Have to think about that, too.

Still, progress, however halting. Next things to do: find lining and interlining. The lining won’t be too hard, though it will be pricy unless I can catch it on sale (If I end up paying more per metre for my lining than my coating, I might have to kill myself). There’s apparently an outdoor textiles store downtown that I want to check out for insulation options, although their website appears to be non-functional. I hope they’re still there… otherwise I’m stuck with what I can find at Fabricland :P.

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Ah, yes. I remember this feeling now. I was feeling so good after making the girls’ jackets… /sigh.

I was trying to make my version of the “Anna top” off Burdastyle. The pattern is only available in the one size. Should be ok, I thought, her measurements aren’t THAT far off mine.

I was good. I made a muslin that confirmed (what I thought) that the shirt was, in fact, a little too small in the waist and a little too big in the bust (sigh). Also it seemed to need a major sway-back alteration (which I don’t REALLY know how to do) So I reduced t the cup size (no big deal) and did my best to figure out how to shorten the back, while also widening the whole thing (easy) a bit and the waist especially (less easy). Also the pattern has basically full-length darts which I wanted to re-draft as princess-type seams since I have had good luck with princess seams and no luck at all with darts.

And I thought I had it. I measured myself. I measured the pattern. I added movement ease. I added overlap in the front. I actually worried I’d added to much (at the underbust part, which had pretty much fit me on the original pattern). I measured again.

And then I cut it out of my “good fabric” (a remnant of black cotton with black embroidery leftover from another project, so not a huge loss, but pretty). I had pretty generous seam allowances, just in case. I pinned the waist pieces all together, just to make sure they went around me. They seemed to.

Black Anna top... only problem, it doesn't fit.

And I sewed. I sewed and I sewed and I sewed. I did hot pink topstitching (a whole nother learning curve… apparently my topstitching is worse than I thought it was). I got the gathering under the bust mostly even. I even managed, after a couple of tries, to turn neat little straps for it.

And then, once I had the straps on and the facing sewn in (its own private nightmare) I tried it on again.

It’s too small. Like, at least two inches around too small, in the whole ribs-to-waist section. I spent half the day trying to convince myself that I can probably get the extra width from the back seam allowances (which are generous, like I said), but I think that won’t even be enough.

Back to the drawing-board, I guess. Maybe my daughter will be able to fit it in a few years…


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Oldies but goodies: Pantaloons

Because I should be in bed right now, I’ll start working on a post about an older project.

In case you didn’t know (and why should you?) I’m a long-time hobby-level bellydancer (I did mention I have way too many hobbies, right?). The best part about bellydancing is how totally awesome it is, but the second-best part is the costumes. Dance costumes (and a few club costumes) were the first full-size things I tried sewing, in my late teens. One of the staples of bellydance costume is pantaloons—aka harem pants. By themselves for a more athletic dance or under a full skirt to show when spinning, they really finish off—and fill out—a costume. And the best part (for my neophyte seamstress-skillz—is they don’t require a pattern, really, at all.


My first pair of pantaloons

These are my first pair; I was 17 or so when I made them. I was totally digging the side slits. I always meant to jazz them up with some gold trim, and tack the side-slits closed in a couple of places, but I never did get around to it. The waistband was a rectangle. The cuffs were rectangles. The legs were two big rectangles with a bit cut out at the crotch. can we say simple? (though not AS simple as pantaloons can be… the absolute base-line would be just an elasticized casing at waist and ankle. Which brings us to my next major pair:

These blue satin ones were made from a pseudo-sari type fabric. Aside from the gold pattern in the blue, there’s a wide, ornate gold border on top and bottom (which of course you can’t really see at all in the picture). These are absolutely-basic harem pants: two panels, elastic casing at hip and ankle. And they were MURDER. Almost enough to get me to give up on sewing. I mean, it doesn’t get much easier than harem pants, right?

I knew the satin was ravelly, so I figured I would serge the edges of the pieces. I did. The serging fell off. I hadn’t heard of fray-check at this point, so I muddled on, ending up with some truly massive French Seams. It’s a good thing the fabric itself is so gorgeous, because there’s nothing great about the workmanship itself.

Blue satin pantaloons... "simple"

My most recent attempt at pantaloons was in a cream damask. These ones are easily my most complex pants to date. The fabric was a light upholstery weight, so bulky, and I wanted them HUGE. I mean, HUGE. The fabric was almost two yards wide and I used a full width for each pant-leg. (For reference, the blue pants were a metre width for each leg, ok maybe a yard after all the fabric I lost to ravelling, while the first pair were even less than that). To accomodate this bulk, I wanted to pleat the top onto a yoke, and I used another trick I’d read about on the bottoms: I gathered the ankles onto a smaller doughnut of fabric, and put the cuff on the inside of the doughnut. My aim on these was to have the inside be as nicely finished as the outside (my main issue with my costume-grade sewing), which I almost achieved.

cream pantaloons: ankle circle

Maybe at some future date I’ll add more on my latest pair of dance pants, the rufflies…


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Apparently tenacity pays off. Today was my fifth (or something like) trip to a Fabricland within the last month. And I would’ve sworn I’d looked over every coat-weight bolt in the store. Apparently not, because today I discovered this:

Tucked on a bottom shelf under a bunch of other stuff. Description: “Coating”; fibre: unknown. Regular price: $20.00, 50% off. Yes, I got the entire bolt for $10/m. It’s thick, warm, soft, doesn’t seem to ravelly. It’s not wool (no scratchy) but it’s nice, and the price was awesome. Only problem, as far as I can see, is that there were only 4.5 m left on the bolt, and the pattern suggests almost 5 1/2 yards… According to google, 4.5 m equals just under 5 yards. The cutter also usually gives a teeny bit extra every yard… so maybe there’ll be enough to make up for that last 3/8 of a yard. So we’ll see. Worst case scenario, I can only make the knee-length version.

In any case, it’s not quite was I was envisioning, but I think it will be just fine. A real wool would’ve been extra nice, but I’m not going to complain.

So I guess I should quit procrastinating on that test version…

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Baby steps

This is going to be a slow process.

Went home over Easter and took the opportunity to visit a couple of fabric shops with my mom (who knows a lot more about this kind of thing than I do). There’s a fabric and lining at Fabricland that would work… and they’re on sale… and there’s no WAY I have money for it this month. /sigh. Maybe next. The plus side is that every Fabricland I’ve been to has had that same fabric, plenty of it. It’s not exactly what I want—it’s a purple boucle, for one, and the more I look the more I realize I really want a dark charcoal grey/black with some kind of texture or fleck of lighter colour (basically the fabric of the coat I have right now, that’s on its very last legs. But the purple would be nice, and I haven’t found a black or grey that really sings to me. And I really don’t know my fabrics well enough to order online.

So that was informative but basically frustrating. I’m also still up in the air about an interlining… Thinsulate (assuming I can figure out where to get it) appears to be the default, but I read somewhere about a stuff called microfleece they make for active gear that is warm and thinner… I’m just not sure if it’s warm enough (or where to get it, either). My mother also suggested a layer of chamois in the bodice to break the wind, which seems like a really good idea too. I’m not too worried about a *bit* of bulk—I want a winter coat, warmer than my current one, which is really a fall weight (I’m in Canada, remember) that I end up stuffing two or three sweaters under to make it work. But I also want a nice drapy skirt, so while I can interline the crap out of the bodice I don’t want to stiffen up the skirt.

But I did mention baby steps, right? At Value Village (the VV in my hometown is SO much more satisfying to shop at than the one here. Possibly because it serves the whole city, while this one just serves our little patch of suburbia) I scored three yards of a 60″ wide jacket-weight wool for five bucks, that I can use for a test version of my coat bodice. The colour’s not me, so I told my mom if it works out I’ll make one up for her. There’s not enough to make a full skirt, but I should be able to manage something hip-length, get a sense for the fit, the sleeve cap (which I’m shortening to remove the visible gathering) and whether I will actually need to lengthen the sleeve. I was thinking I would need to lengthen it, as all my ready-to-wear jacket sleeves are always too short, but having measured the sleeve length on the pattern (yes, minus the seam and hem allowances) it’s at least an inch or two longer than the sleeves I’m complaining about, so maybe I won’t. We’ll see how the test goes :).

So I have the outer portions of the pattern traced out, and the test fabric washed. It’s probably still not as heavy as I’d like (and it will be quite a bit different if I do go with the boucle) but it’s a start. It really is a nice fabric, except for the colours. With any luck I’ll get a test shell sewn up this weekend. Now, I’m off to think about shoulderpads. I’ve been reading up on sleeve headers and how Armani finishes their jacket shoulders… lots of fun… 🙂

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