Monthly Archives: July 2010


The Lake... we may or may not make it this far this year.

So, the sewing is about to take a break as we head off for the yearly “vacation” back home. I love going home—it’s way more exciting to visit than it was when we lived there! And I miss my kids. Older daughter is turning 10 tomorrow; she sounds so grown up on the phone. House is almost clean, laundry’s mostly done, keys are with the housesitter. No empty house this year—we learned our lesson (and you don’t ever want to wake up at one in the morning while camping, with crappy cell coverage, to a dropped call trying to tell you your house an eight our drive away has just been robbed. Thank goodness for tenant insurance. Anyway).

So, the sewing is going to be a little light for a while, but I hope to hit up the thrift stores in my home town (which tend to be a little more exciting than my local Value Village) so hopefully I’ll trip over some cool fabric or patterns. And when I get back—it’s time to prep hardcore for Self Stitched September!

On that front, a little bit of planning.

I’ve done not too badly on the tops front, assuming any of them are still wearable by then (the cowl-necks out of that really thin knit are not holding up well). I still need:

  • at least one more pair of jeans (two if I get ambitious; I think I have enough fabric for two)
  • something warm. My hubby has been trying to get me into one of those convertible cardigans that are basically just a big rectangle with sleeves attached. Actually, he’s been trying to get me into anything that isn’t a slouchy hoodie. The storebought ones always have too-short sleeves, but obviously I can fix that if I’m making my own. There’s a tutorial out there but I’m too lazy right now to track it down and link it—sorry.
  • more tops. I still need a long-sleeved shirt or two or three or five. I foresee more experiments with the Lydia pattern. Will need to find more good knits for that.
  • And lastly (and maybe not something I’ll tackle in time for September)—in my efforts to make myself a winter coat, I’ve been neglecting something. You see, I’ve made it through the last five years or so without a real winter coat. I had a long, black wool, fall-weight coat that I just stuffed layers and layers underneath. Not ideal, but it worked, especially after moving here three years ago, as the winters are not exactly severe by Canadian standards. But, as of this spring that coat has been declared dead, so not only am I out a winter coat, I’m out my fall and spring coat, too. I do have a backup that works in a pinch, a gorgeous flowing tan jersey trench-type thing, but, in its stylishness, it HAS NO BUTTONS. I understand why. They’d totally wreck the flow of it. But it does limit its utillity a bit (which is, no doubt, why I found it for a song at the thrift store ten years ago, and why it’s remained in largely pristine condition while I’ve worn my way through any number of other long coats). So, once it gets too chilly for my jean jacket, there may well be a period of time where it’s not yet cold enough for my uber-winter-jacket (even assuming I have that finished in September, which is a big if). Obviously, I need to make a fall-weight coat. In my ideal world, this would be a Lady Grey Hudson’s Bay Blanket Coat.

Hudson's Bay Company Point Blankets

Perhaps a bit of backstory is in order. The Hudson’s Bay Company started out at a fur-trade company across the Canadian Northwest, however many hundreds of years ago now. They set up trading posts across much of Canada, trading the highly desirable furs trapped and hunted by First Nations people for a variety of European goods. Including the now-famous Hudson’s Bay point blankets, heavy pre-shrunk wool creations. The most famous are cream with four coloured stripes across one end, and of course the black points. My personal favourites are solid red, with a black stripe. These blankets were valued for many things, not the least of which was making coats; originally of course, only the blankets were sold/traded, and people made the coats themselves. More recently, as the HBC expanded into one of the largest department stores in Canada, they began to sell coats made from the blankets themselves. Fast forward to the late 1970s, when my parents were first married; my father bought my mother a Hudson’s Bay blanket coat (if you knew my parents, you would understand this says a lot about them). A full-length, black-and-red, wonderfully warm blanket coat. I imagine my mother wore it, although not overly much.

When I was 17 or 18, I discovered it. It was my first full-length coat, and the first time I ever felt like anything other than a blob during the winter months.

A crappy picture of a gorgeous coat

People on the street stopped me and told me I looked like a movie star. It was awesome. I wore it to death (I still feel bad for that), until the lining was ripped (I patched it), the armpits were pulled out, and the back was almost worn through from my backpacks. That’s it on the right—the only picture I seem to have of if (a terrible one of me, by the way, but the coat still holds its own, I think). You can, however, observe the too-short sleeves. Yes, even my favourite coat of all time had too-short sleeves.

Anyway, I would love to have another HBC blanket coat. And I would love to have a Lady Grey coat. So wouldn’t it be awesome to combine the two? (The bonus—the shorter Lady Grey coat presumably wouldn’t require quite as much fabric as a full length coat. Those blankets are EXPENSIVE!). The only worry I have is that the blanket might be a bit too heavy for the pattern; it’s heavier than a standard wool coating, that’s for sure.

I don’t know if this will happen in September, or even this fall. I still don’t even own the Lady Grey pattern (I am promising to reward myself with it when I finish two of my current three projects at work, but it’s not going well). I certainly don’t have a HBC blanket or two kicking around, and they are not cheap as material goes.

But man, it would be sweet, sweet, sweet.

Anyway, until  next post, au revoir!



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The front, finished. Still uneven.

Believe it or not, it is actually a different picture than the one I posted this morning. I unpicked the one hem, re-measured it against the other side, re-sewed, put the last three buttons on, and…

Still crooked.

I suspect some of my buttons are spread a little too far apart.

I suspect I will fix this at some point in the future, when it really starts to bug me.

For now… middling success. I trimmed a little too much off the back shirred panel, so it’s a bit snug. I’d like it longer, particularly in the front; that couple of inches of flesh at the bottom of my shirts is something I’m trying to avoid these days. The belly survived two pregnancies with remarkable resilience, but I find that as thirty creeps up some of that damage is reappearing (or maybe it’s just age and my tendency to put any and all weight

Back looks pretty good.

right on my middle).

On the upside, I think the back looks really good. I actually appear to have a waist! (Still no hips, though.) I am always kinda torn about halter tops; sometimes I think they’re good for showcasing (my) broad shoulders, other times I feel like they just make me look like a linebacker.

How about this: use the pattern for the bodice of a full-skirted sundress? Mmm, I like. Of course, by the time I get it made, we’ll be mostly out of summer here…

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Summery black shirt—another whine.

Black halter top... so close!


Well, I was progressing along nicely. Shirring the back took forever (and used up all my black elastic thread). It’s kinda boring, really. Thank goodness for podcasts. And it took three or four different attempts to get the triangle tops put on with the gathers distributed nicely; they’re still not perfect but I think they’ll do. And then I hemmed it and measured the front and put in the buttonholes (why does it always mess up on the very last buttonhole? why?) and started merrily sewing on the buttons and…

My fronts aren’t even.

There is a significant gap where the buttonhole side is longer than the button side.

Back looks pretty good.

WTF? The pattern pieces were identical, I promise you. Were the top parts sewn asymmetrically? Possibly, but not by the inch-inch and a half that they’re off.

No, the culprit in this case is my eyeballed hemming. For some reason when I was ironing the hems I couldn’t find the little hem measurer that I keep downstairs with the iron, so I eyeballed it.

My bad, apparently.

Not un-fixable, but yet another seam to rip out. Maybe I’ll remember to pick up a seam ripper today.


Like my buttons? Unlike my uneven hems?

But the shirt as a whole is looking pretty good, if a little scanty in the bottom-half coverage. I’ll have to think about drafting that downward dip in the front that was there in my original drawing.

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I wish I had more progress to show you, especially as I’ll be disappearing for a bit in a few days. As usually happens when I venture into “my own design” (even when franken-patterning), progress is, shall we say, not so smooth. I was progressing at a good clip this morning (barring my usual haven’t-thought-things-through construction errors), got everything together except the buttonholes, and realized I need to re-adjust the position of the triangle tops and their gathering. The first iteration of this top, in the sundress, was a little

Showing: gathered triangle on left; shirred back on right.

too spread out and flat. This version, a little too concentrated and gathered. Not quite in my “just right” zone. Of course I didn’t discover this until I not only had both tops attached, but had bound the edges. Fortunately I didn’t trim (much) off, but that means I have about three times as many seams to pick out. And I still haven’t remembered to get a new seam-ripper, by the way.

My original length of shirring was too loose, so I shortened it by a couple of inches; now it’s very snug. This thing is going to need a lot of buttons. What do you think—boring black, or bright and vibrant? Might have to spend some time tonight digging through the button collection! 🙂

Hopefully I’ll make some more progress tonight. I’d really like to have this to wear on the vacay, and I am running out of evenings to work on it.

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Les croquis

I like to flatter myself that I can draw. Technically, I’m reasonably good. Creatively… perhaps less so. In high school, when I doodled all the time, people used to ask me if I wanted to design clothes when I grew up. I laughed. Fun as the idea sounded, I didn’t really doodle anything I thought anybody would really wear. The fashions I was drawing belonged to the worlds inside my head, which was where I chiefly lived at that point in my life.

Almost every time I make a pattern, about a dozen possible variations flash through my head. Normally,  these pass like lightning and I end up doing the pattern pretty much as is. When I’m at my best, I actually try to sketch  them out.

I’ll tell you something I’ve noticed over the years: the biggest difference between the doodles of “artists” and the doodles of “non-artists”?

The “artists” don’t apologize for how crappy their doodles are. 😉

I should probably give in and make myself a proper croquis one of these days. I can draw out a decent human figure if I try (of course, it was better when I was less abysmally out of practice) but it takes effort that would be better spent getting those folds of drapery right. I love drawing fabric. Actually, I love drawing clothes. I really do (see above comments about high-school).

So the top picture is the current variation I’m working on. The bottom (which is going to be straight across, not that nice downward dip… maybe next time) is my adapted/butchered version of the Anna top. The top is the same pieces from the sundress. The back I am planning to do as smocking, so I can cheat bypass some of the fitting issues I had with the Anna. It’s cut out but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to sew it. I guess if the back’s elastic, I don’t really need the buttons in the front, do I?… oh well, we’ll see. The placket’s already cut out and ironed.

The bottom picture is some other (simpler) variations I’d like to try. See what I mean about crappy doodles?

Anyway, I know you came here to see sewing—sorry, I have none to show just yet, so I gave you (half-ass) drawing instead.

Sewing tomorrow, I promise.

PS: another thing I’ve noticed about “artists” is that most people’s drawings of people tend to look something like the original person themself. Probably because we all spend more time looking in mirrors over the years than we ever do at models. Normally this kinda sucks, but when you’re sketching fashions for yourself, it’s actually an advantage!

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I hate fashion.

Or at least, I hate it when it dictates to people what they must wear contrary to their personal inclination.

The only relevant questions should be: does it fit? is it fun? is it flattering?

Not necessarily in that order.

In everyday life this doesn’t creep up on me too often (except last winter when I was looking for a good pair of jeans that didn’t come with holes in already… hence my Jalie Jeans pattern purchase), but it really pisses me off when I encounter it in the sewing world. We come to sewing (or I do) so we can have the garments we want, as we want them, when we want them. So that we’re not limited by the imagination and pocketbooks of designers and manufacturers who have absolutely no clue about our lives and personalities. Sewing makes us free to choose: our colour, our hemline, our silhouette, our style. When I hear fellow sewists who I admire so much worrying that their hemline is too long(short, wide, narrow), or that a garment is (twitch) “dated”?

I start seeing red. I feel as pissed off as I did in gr. 4 when our socks “had to be” folded at the ankle and our pants had to be cuffed, but the cuffs could not be more than 2″ wide. As pissed off as I was when I gave in and bought my first pair of bell-bottoms. As… grr.

Make what you want.

Wear what you want.

Rock it.

The rest of ’em can go shove it.

/end rant. Whew. Sorry about that, folks. Please return to your regularly scheduled sewing.


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Quick, practical, a tiny bit less plain.

Tank top V. 2: Blue

Ok, I lied. Why clean the house when I can sew?

A second tank top, made out of my lovely robin’s-egg blue knit. I added elastic at the centre bust and along the hips to add ruching; it worked nicely on the bust, not so well on the hips (I think the stitch I used there was a bad choice. Oopsie). I guess I could add more rows of ruching on either side of the seam to intensify it, like vertical shirring. The ruching is formed by sewing a stretched elastic to the back of the fabric; it makes a nice, stretchable gather if you get it even. I haven’t used this technique since I was about 12, and never on a stretchy fabric, so I’m a little out of practice. More than a little.

It’s a little bit looser and a little bit longer in the body than my first tank top, but still fairly comfy. Full time sewing: about an hour and a half. These really are ridiculously easy (and quick) to make—and use hardly any fabric. Even including the price of elastic, and fabric at $8/m (hooray for 60% off clearance!), it can’t be more than $5 for the whole shirt. Even the construction time isn’t that much more than it would take me to run to the mall to buy one.

Tank-top V. 2: back


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