Monthly Archives: October 2010

A coat for Tyo?

So I may have mentioned already that I bought some (other) fabric last week. In fact, it was a bit of a binge-week, fabricwise (gotta love payday), but this is the EXPENSIVE fabric. Not the random metres snagged at the thrift-store, but real, honest-to-goodness expensive bought fabric.

Boiled "wool" camry

As a self-justification (can you tell how guilty I’m feeling about this?) I had a 50% off coupon for Fabricland (up to 5m of fabric) that expired at the end of October. My plan was to finally splurge on some wool melton ($16.50/m sounds much more palatable than $33/m, yes?). Red and a little bit of black. But there was this other fabric, a “boiled wool camry” (all “wools” at Fabricland, incuding the melton, are, in fact, wool blends, as far as I can tell). Its basic price was a little cheaper ($24/m), and it had a really interesting texture to the surface that the melton lacks. It had caught my eye before. It’s also a knit, which is interesting; it has a little give but isn’t what I would call stretchy.

And, this past week, it was on sale for $10/m.

That’s more than %50 off.

So I bought it instead. My precious 50%-off coupon will, it appears, expire, unused. 5m of red wool, 1 of black. The idea was to create something similar to my long-destroyed HBC blanket coat, with pieced-in or applique’d stripes, either for my long-neglected Lady Grey or even a rehash of my Winter Coat pattern (with the standard collar and lapel this time)



I’ve mentioned before that Tyo is in need of a new winter coat this year. And I’ve toyed with the idea of making one (provided I could throw it together quickly enough. But I didn’t think I had a good pattern handy, and am still worried  about whether my construciton techniques will be warm enough to get me through the winter.

Probably I should’ve spent that $60 on a coat for Tyo. Hence the guilt.

Girls' double-breasted coat

Then, yesterday, I stumbled again across this pattern. Cute, no? I originally downloaded it in September off the Lekala website when they were offering free downloads (in limited sizes); it came in a kid’s size 120, a bit small for Tyo.

But, many of the Lekala patterns are available, albeit in limited/fixed sizes, from So it occurred to me to check over there.

Now, I have to admit I’m pretty suspicious of these pattern companies. The few reviews of Lekala patterns have agreed that the instructions are useless and some of the measurements perhaps dodgy. More, I just don’t GET it. I don’t know where they come from, why a Russian site and an English-language one are offering the same patterns (albeit with a different sizing system), one for free and one charging. I guess basically, I don’t know where the money is, so I’m wary.

That being said, there are some pretty cute patterns on the sites, and I’m pretty sure I can throw a coat together without instructions at this point. I showed this one to Tyo and she said she loved it. Especially if it were in red. With, say, a black collar.

So I was able to download the coat off the m-sewing site in child’s size 134, which is Tyo’s

M-sewing pattern image

Burda/Ottobre size, and the measurements SEEM compatible (I should probably measure her again, however, to be sure). The other problem with the m-sewing (but not the Lekala) downloads is that the PDF isn’t tiled for printing at home. Apparently newer versions of Adobe Acrobat will tile it for you, but my archaic version won’t, and the built-in tiling software in my printer is limited to set sizes. I could print it at a copy-shop, but that would require spending actual money (as opposed to money on ink and paper, which doesn’t for some reason count), which I’m disinclined to do on a pattern I don’t trust. So I spent some time messing around with some equally archaic software, “poster printer“, and have what I HOPE is a reasonably-close printout.

Next step, of course, will be muslining. I figure whatever fabric I use for my muslin I’ll re-use for underlining, thus alleviating a) waste, and b) warmth worries. Unless of course it’s a total wadder, in which case, well, I get to use my red fabric for ME. Although with 5m of the red I really should have enough for a coat for Tyo AND one for me, even if I can’t use the Lady Grey pattern.

Of course one other big question remains: will I have time to get this done in November?



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The Business Woman Pants


The Business Woman (AKA Ellen) Pants


Well, I wanted grown-up pants, and it appears that’s what I’ve got. Tyo took one look and said “Mom, you look like a business woman!” Syo concurs.

I’m going to choose to take that as a compliment, I guess ;).

Whether that’ll feel too weird to leave the house in, is yet to be determined, I suppose.



They feel deliciously warm. The wool on the inside of the waistband is a tad scratchy (perhaps this would’ve been a perfect opportunity to face with a different fabric… say, more of my lovely Kasha. Hindsight and all that…) but I think it’ll be fine; I’m not super-sensitive. With the lining, they feel very, very substantial… perfect for winter. We’ll see how the un-lined bottom of the legs interact with the knee-high socks I often wear in the winter.



You will note how smashing they look with my grey blazer. Mmm. I’ve had this blazer since high school. It fits perfectly, has just the right amount of structure, and almost never gets worn because…

you guessed it. The sleeves are too short. *headdesk*

I have an ongoing plan to add black corduroy cuffs, at such time as I come into possession of some black corduroy of the right wale-thickness.

Anyway, although it pains me, here’s a couple of more “fitting” shots. You can see that the pockets are still gaping, showing the lining. However, it’s pretty even on each side, so maybe I could pretend that’s a design feature?


Rear view. A touch tight.


You can see that the waistband is a little, ah, snug. I suspect this is a case of me curving less than the pattern does, especially since I had to take the back in for a swayback a bit (though it seems worse in these pants than in the first pair for some reason). More curve in the back, less in the sides. The pants themselves are actually quite loose through the seat/hips. And I’m not sure what it is, but once again I was unable to match up the seam-lines on the waistband with the seamlines on the pants and have the waistband match for length the rest of the pants. I don’t know if it’s because of the pants stretching (I would expect this of the soft wool but not the firm lining) or the fly somehow not being square in the front (though I tried very hard to make sure it was) or even the fly shield throwing things off (it’s an addition not in the original pattern, as far as I can tell). So basically what I’m saying is the waistband is a bust, but provided it can be covered the pants will be fine.


Front view



Here’s from the front. Again, snug waistband=some distortion at the front closure, though the fly isn’t gaping in this version (yay interfacing 🙂 ). The wrinkles at the hips go away if my feet are together as they should’ve been for taking a fitting photo. Did I ever mention how much I loathe fitting photos? ;). Also, I love this shirt, but pouffy sleeves + sleek pants =linebacker look. Holy cow.

Not much more to say. I’ll try wearing them tomorrow, see how they feel. And how they go with my regular boots! Because I gotta tell ya, the heels are gorgeous but not going to happen. Just not.

I have a feeling this will be my last outdoor photo-shoot of the year, which sucks mostly because our indoor light is not great. But man, it was chilly. I don’t have Elaine’s fortitude to take outdoor pics all winter!


So stylish! (?)



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The inexorable allure of vintage sewing notions

Today I ran errands. This is always rather perilous, as it offers me the opportunity to pop into shops that I really should avoid. For example, while waiting for my husband’s prescriptions to be filled I could a) wander around the pharmacy fidgetting, or b) pop across the street to Value Village.

I don’t really need to tell you which option I pursued.




The mass of heavy denim I had spotted the other day was still there. It is now in my laundry basket awaiting laundering. What I hadn’t planned on taking home: a whole bag of random bias-binding, rick-rack, and piping, and another of shoulder pads. Those little mixed baggies are deadly, I tell you.

So, the tally? About eight packages of bias binding, three of which are in colours I would expect to use.

An four or five pairs of shoulder pads. All but one look like this:


shoulder-pad: end view.


They’re quite thick, but the open ends mean if I want to remove some of the padding it won’t be hard.

About four packets of seam-binding, mostly NOT in colours I use


Mending kit as advertising. And I thought grocery lists were sneaky!



Other side of the mending kit


Two little portable mending kits, including this rather cute one.


Red and silver rick-rack; originally sold at Eaton's for about $0.25.


Two packets of small rickrack (although I’m charmed by some recent uses of rickrack I’ve seen, I still can’t get over the tackiness entirely. It’s an issue I’m working on.) Eaton’s was a long-time staple of Canadian department stores; it went belly-up in the 90s, but I couldn’t even tell you when they stopped carrying sewing supplies. Before my time, anyway.



Blue piping. Probably too grubby and worn to use.


And one rather grubby packet of piping in a lovely pale blue.


Lovely (?) lace


And a bunch of old cream lace with pink flowers. Like the rickrack, I’m torn between “quaintly charming” and “ugh-70s-tacky”. At the moment it’s in the “bag of Petticoat Stuff” in the fabric room. If I decide I can’t live with the coral flowers, perhaps I could find a fabric dye pen or paint them.

I’m not sure why I get such a charge out of these random binges of sewing acquisition. It’s got something to do with my stereotype of the proper stash, modeled on my mother’s long-gone sewing paraphernalia (most of which I plundered mercilessly as an adolescent). Some of these bits I’d almost be reluctant to use—they seem more like museum pieces, to be preserved for posterity. (snerk) I do have to be careful of this, as we’re borderline hoarders in my family. I suppose worst-case scenario I open an etsy shop ;). Except that would require (ulp!) MAILING stuff. (Sad but true… you’ll probably never see me host a giveaway. Not because I’m selfish or ungrateful or even don’t want to give stuff away… but because I’m the world’s worst procrastinator when it comes to posting stuff.

Anyway, Tyo has a presentation tomorrow on How To Make A Zombie. Her ingredient list included sage, bay-leaf, chili powder, red water, ketchup, mushrooms, and eyeballs. When I was out this afternoon, I looked for those round chocolates with foil that looks like eyeballs, but couldn’t find any, so we were forced to improvise. I’ll leave you with the result:





Tomorrow, pants update, I promise. 🙂


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Picky zippy

Inadequate zipperosity.

I don’t have a nice grey metal zipper. Why do I give a flying fig about the colour of the zipper in these pants? I don’t know, but I want one that’s metal, either grey or black, and I don’t have one. The one metal zip I do have kicking around was purchased for my Jalie jeans and isn’t quite long enough. Grr. If I had thought about this I could’ve popped by the Sewing World by the train station on my way home from work today, because while they don’t have much that’s of use to me, they do have zippers (and needles… I need a new twin needle, too… my old one finally died, though it lasted much longer than any of its predecessors.)

While I’m wishing, I’d like some pinking shears too.

Anyway, as you can see, I have not made significant progress on the pants.


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Pocket, that is. Although, a raised, stinging mark on the flesh might not be too far off, either.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and cut another set of Ellen pants from my grey pinstripe wool. There’s actually quite a bit of this fabric—the pants only used about half—so doubtless there’s a blazer in my future.

The pattern comes with instructions to line the front piece to the knee (underline, actually, if you read the instructions). I did want to line, as I’m a bit hesitant about having wool trousers to begin with, never mind against my legs. So I cut out lining pieces front and back out of some of the leftover lining from my coat. Yes, these are going to be winter trousers. (Somehow the term “trousers” seems much more natural when I’m not talking about casual attire.) If any of you have any advice for how to line trousers with a fly, I’d love to hear it. My usual tutorial for installing a fly is Debbie Cook’s, but that, of course, doesn’t involve any kind of lining, and the only advice I could find in my Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (my one and only sewing tome) was to construct separately and slipstitch around the zipper; nor did a quick google yield anything more specific. Maybe I’m over-thinking it, but I have this sinking feeling that I’m going to end up with a bulky mess right at the front of my otherwise-sleek trousers.

Someday I should really invest in a good book on tailoring. And in pinking shears.

Welt pockets---testing, testing, 1...2...

Anyway, I decided I wanted welt pockets on the rear. Now, I have always thoroughly avoided welt-anything to date (including the related technique, bound buttonholes). Not out of dislike, but out of pure chicken-shit-edness. There are any number of excellent tutorials on making welt pockets out there, which I have read over at various times. My tome has a description as well. Most recently, Gigi went over the process briefly, so that was the one I turned to, though it’s not particularly in-depth. Two admonitions stuck out in my mind: practice and precision.

Neither are my forte. Especially when it comes to sewing.

Nevertheless, I dutifully sorted through my scraps and started ironing and interfacing etc. After the first test welt, I decided to interface future welts. It looks fine, but it feels more sturdy with the interfacing, a little less likely to sag and expose the pocket lining.

Note: this is not intended to be a tutorial. I pretty much still suck at this. This is mostly intended to remind me of what I did (and maybe what not to do next time).

Drawing the future-welt box on the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric was easy. Figuring out the relationship between the box-size and the welt (especially depth) took a little more mental gymnastics. I eventually settled on a welt that was 2cm wide (including a .5 cm seam allowance) and a box that was 7mm on either side of the line (the line being about 1mm wide, it all added up to 1.5 cm, the same width as my welt. Oh, good!

Welt pinned in place on right side of fabric, pointing down.

Next, how do you orient this? The whole thing gets flipped through and around, which is quite dizzying to my little, spatially-challenged brain. So, to start, your folded welt goes on the outside, pointing DOWN away from where the pocket will be. Its seam line goes along the bottom edge of the box, the raw bottom edge of the welt (currently pointing up) goes roughly along the middle of the welt. Well, technically 2mm off, in my example, but what’s a mm or 2 between friends?

(And dear lord, imperial people, I can understand inches in the macro range—I use them myself, to my shame—but how on earth do you wrap your minds around measurements like “5/32” of an inch? Mind-boggling! Give me my millimetres any day.)

I pushed pins through the fabric to locate the corners of my box on the right side, pinned the welt in place, and then basted it in for my sanity’s sake. Next the pocket lining goes on TOP of this (yes, on the right side of the fabric!) I used a single piece for my samples but two pieces sewn together for my actual pants. The single piece was a better idea. Probably there’s a different way to do it if you’re going to use two pieces, but what ever. Position the pocket lining over the welt on the right side of the fabric, facing down. I got this right the first time (unlike the welt…I had to rip off my first one)

Stitch around your box from the wrong side, so you can see your lines. Be achingly, brutally, precise.

Did I mention that I am lacking in precision?

People suggest counting your stitches along the short sides. I tried. Usually it took 7, sometimes 6, once only 5. This had less to do with my boxes being uneven than me not letting the fabric feed through evenly.

Blurry pictures of cutting through the welt.

Then… you cut. I love my little dissection scissors as they’re sharp, pointed, and tiny, but I think I need a new pair to keep dedicated for sewing. My husband has been using these to trim his hair and they’re not as sharp as they used to be :P.

The trick is to clip right into the corners, without clipping through your stitches. I did pretty well on the practice welts, actually, but not quite as well on the real thing; I blame it partly on my heavier lining fabric, and partly on being nervous about clipping my stitches.

Tucking everything through.

Once your box is snipped open (cut on an angle into the corners, making little triangles at each short end), you flip the whole shebang—that prolapse of pocketing and weltishness blighting the right side of your fabric—through to the inside, where it properly belongs. The edges of the welt itself show, which flummoxed me a bit when I first did it. For the next one I trimmed the edges on an angle (as you can see in the image above of the welt pinned in place), which seemed to make for less bulk at the bottom corners when flipping through. I have not seen this in other tutorials, and it may very well be a bad idea in the long run).

Sewing the "little triangles" down to the pocketing after pushing everything through.

Once you have it tucked through, you iron everything in place; Tug on those little side triangles and then stitch them down. This is supposed to make sure the welt lies flat and the hole’s edges are nice and rectangular. Sewing it down wasn’t actually as tricky as I had feared (I’m still scared of the button-hole-sized equivalent, though)

Stitch around the edges of your pocket bag, and voila! You have a welt pocket!

The real thing. Not... so perfect.

Well, in theory. I still have some issues getting the welt perfectly flat at the corners, not having it gaping, and other niceties. Precision, precision. I actually did slightly better on my second practice welt than on the pants themselves. /sigh. That being said, I think I’m more irritated with my inability to match the stripes properly (I tried! I REALLY DID!) than with the welts themselves. I may end up putting a small button in to keep them from sagging, as the shiny silver lining REALLY shows.

Also, it’s snowing again. Although seeing as it’s the end of October, I need to stop whining about that. At least it’s not sticking yet. 🙂


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Hallowe’en, Lassitude, and poverty

Punk accessories

Not necessarily in that order.


So this is what it feels like when your sewing mojo takes a break, eh? I have, honestly, been waiting for this (so has my husband… he’d been feeling rather neglected). I’m not gone, but I’m definitely not feeling the itch every spare moment. I tend to cycle in my hobbies… drawing, writing, sewing, dancing… so it was probably inevitable that the sewing would ebb at some point. I’ve been writing, a bit more, though I kinda feel like I should save that for NaNoWriMo coming up. At which point the sewing may really fall off ;). Mostly I feel bad for abandoning the Lady Grey sew-along, but at the same time I haven’t had the money for ANYTHING, never mind the kind of expensive quality materials I want for my Lady. At the same time, though, I won’t really need the coat until spring… so maybe I’ll get on it after Christmas. Broke-assedness really is our basic state of being, but it’s been even tighter than usual the last few months (going to Pittsburgh didn’t help, either… hopefully I can get reimbursed for the flight at least). So not only have I NOT spent my 50% off coupon for Fabricland (expires at the end of Oct.) on 5m of red wool melton (and believe me it’s been in my fantasies), I haven’t even been able to justify spending it on five metres of some comparatively cheap-ass fabric. /sigh. Maybe when my next paycheque comes in… (I’ve been saying that for almost two months now). Add to that, our printer has run out of black ink, so I can’t even print off free patterns at the moment lol!

Although it’s not precisely sewing (it could’ve been, but I resisted), we are in the throes of

Fire Fairy Accessories

assembling Hallowe’en costumes, natch. Tyo is being a zombie punk, while Syo wants to be a Fire Fairy. Today we went and blew the (small) Hallowe’en budget at Value Village: red fairy wings, a couple of wigs, assorted oddments, and skinny jeans for Tyo.

Tyo, bless her individualist little heart, is the only girl in her class (possibly in her school) who has not fallen for the lure of skinny jeans. I quote the following conversation from sometime last winter:

Syo (aged six at this point): I love skinny jeans!

Tyo: skinny jeans are ugly.

Syo: Mommy looks good in skinny jeans!

Tyo: yeah, but on everyone else they’re ugly!

However, Tyo wanted to be a punk last year, wimped out and did a pirate, so this year she was really set on the zombie punk. And while there MAY be punk fashion that doesn’t require skinny pants, that’s definitely the stereotype.

I’m not sure if watching a kid who hates skinny pants try on fifteen different pairs in the search for a set she can stand was hair-pulling annoying, or just amusing, but anyway, she finally found a black pair. They’re capri length but as she’ll be wearing her extra-tall high-top runners with them (see above), it’ll work. They weren’t plaid, but, well, you can only expect so much from Value Village. Especially the week before Hallowe’en. (Most stores do all their business at Christmas. I suspect Hallowe’en is Value Village’s equivalent).

Fun fabrics

Oddly, the fabric selection was better than I’ve seen in some time. I walked away with a mass of black sweatshirt material (something I’ve been looking for for a LONG time but was reluctant to pay $20/m for at Fabricland), and this peculiar tube almost-sweater-knit. It doesn’t feel super nice, but I’m thinking it could make a nice wrap/cozy—another Simplicity 2603 or similar.  There was also a mass of nice sturdy heavy denim (non-stretch) that I’ll get if it’s still there come payday. I hate being broke. There was a bunch of other stuff there today that I need/would like to get (kids’ baseball bat, kids’ winter jacket, scarves and toques, skates for the winter…) but the budget just isn’t there. I hate not being able to afford the five bucks it would take, especially at the thrift store where you really can’t count on something equivalent being there in two weeks when I DO have money. Anyway, enough whining about cash. The end is in sight (or so I tell myself) and it’s not as if we’re going to starve to death or lose the house.

The patterned fabric on the left is actually one of Syo’s picks, bought to play with to replace the yellow border print I made into her sundress. It’s an awful poly-lycra knit, thin and slippery, with a crazy print (I’m not a print person, if you haven’t noticed)… and yet… and yet… I keep picturing it as a shirt. Something with a cowl neck or some fun draping… maybe ruching…

Maybe it’s just the lure of the forbidden. The one piece of fabric I’m not really allowed to use up for myself…

Anyway, I think I will sew something tomorrow. Not sure what. Maybe play with my new fabrics. I’m tempted to turn the sweatshirt material into a “kimono bunnyhug,” not least because those of us who actually know what a bunnyhug is need to stick together ;). Or I could try and make my wool pair of pants. That’s pretty tempting, actually. I haven’t done anything else (like put pockets on) with the ones I made last week, not least because Tyo’s preparations for her costume have involved a LOT of red paint which she managed to get EVERYWHERE… including on my new pants and and my hubby’s white shirt. Grr. So some quality time with the oxy-clean is in order :P.

We’ll see. Am I mentally ready for welt pockets? hmmm….


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Home (and speaking of pants…)

My back yard, Friday. There was actually quite a bit more snow an hour later, but I didn't take a second picture.

Well, I made it back, just in time for two inches of snow Friday.  /joy.

I did not, sadly, get to do any fabulous fabric (or button) shopping in Pittsburgh. We did walk up the Strip district once, and I

Pittsburgh. Note the complete and total absence of snow.

spotted at least one neat-looking fabric store along with several other interesting looking shops, but it was ten o’clock on a Tuesday night, so there was no awesome fabric-shopping for me. I did score a few books I really wanted, but I suspect “Major Transitions in Tetrapod Evolution” really isn’t your cup of tea, so I’ll spare you the review ;).

Ellen, v. 1

Yesterday, rather spontaneously and with my typical lack of forethought, I decided to tackle pants. Pants which are neither jeans nor stretch.

I started with the Burdastyle Ellen pattern. Compared to, say, the JJ, there are remarkably few versions of this on Burdastyle, but it seemed to fit the general bill of “pants that are not jeans and not stretch”: no yoke,  rear darts, a slightly higher (though still lowish) rise, and a close-fitting but straight, rather than skinny, leg. And Burda usually has a good reputation when it comes to pants drafts. I actually use a modified version of the Ellen waistband for my jeans, so that wasn’t a complete guess, either.

The main charm of these pants are the cute little patch-pockets with the unusually shaped flaps, which I conspicuously failed to include in my pair, mostly because it’s hard to spend that much time on details of a pair of pants you’re not even sure will fit.

For the sake of full disclosure I’ll reveal that this is another attempt to pretend that I am, all measurements to the contrary, a

Ellen pants, front

Burda size 34. This time because several people on Burdastyle had mentioned that the pattern seemed much roomier in real life than it looked on the model. This seemed a little too snug through the hips when I tried it on, so I let it out a bit at the side seams (below the waistband), but then it was too loose, so I took it in again. The waistband is snug, but that extra overlap you see beyond the fly shouldn’t actually be there, so if it weren’t I think the sizing would be basically perfect. (I’m not quite sure how it worked out that way, either, since the waistband is in four pieces that match to the side and back seams, and I only had the overlap on one side of the front. Probably something to do with my sewing of the fly). I also added an inch to the length (it seemed ok, but better safe than sorry, right?), which probably wasn’t strictly necessary but did allow me to put a nice, wide hem on the bottom. I did a small swayback adjustment to the waistband, which is deliciously easy when you have a centre-back seam.

Ellen pants, back

Overall I’m passably happy with the attempt.  The fabric I used (an ex-curtain) is, on second thought, a little thin for bottoms, and it seems to bag out a bit; these pictures were taken after a few hours of wear and the knees are distinctly pouchy. In my haste I neglected to interface the fly region (actually, I neglected to read the instructions completely…), so the gaping there is entirely my own fault. The fly installation is not my best, but certainly not my worst yet; once again I followed Debbie Cook’s tutorial. I really like hers for some reason (though I use pins instead of the wonder-tape), though I wish it covered the fly shield. I always forget that part and then it ends up being a bit fiddly and weird.

So that was my weekend’s sewing. I have a feeling my days of daily sewing posts are going to be on the wane for a bit… I don’t even want to think about the amount of work I have to do this month (how did it get to be almost Halowe’en?!?), and November is NaNoWriMo and then it’ll be Christmas… Hopefully once or twice a week will be enough? (Y’know, when I actually have something to talk about? 😉 )

Now, to decide whether to bother putting the patch pockets on the pants…


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