Monthly Archives: December 2010

Almost me?

My best friend is in town for a day or two before Christmas, so not much sewing has been going on (although I did get the Lady Grey collar padstitched).

However, one (actually two) really exciting things have happened. The first is that she wants me to teach her to sew! Soooo exciting!!!! Of course it’s going to be a bit difficult what with her living two time-zones away… but if we can ever manage to be in the same city for more than 48 hrs we’ll take a whack at it. In the meantime I gave her the Singer  Reference Library “Sewing Essentials” volume, which has lots of pictures, and she’s going to see if she can procure a sewing machine, either her mother’s old one or a second hand one (if she can’t find a nice second-hand machine in Toronto then I don’t know where you can)

Duct-tape me

But the other, more immediately exciting thing was that she and the girls helped me make my duct-tape double!  Tyo and I had tried previously with some paper tape, but it was wax-backed and didn’t stick to itself and was pretty much a disaster. This time we used regular old duct-tape and it went much better.

It’s still not perfect, and certainly not particularly attractive, and I think I didn’t get the stuffing quite even in the hips or the shoulders, but she does fit my clothes more or less the way I do, and the measurements all match. Currently there’s a hanger in the shoulders, but I’m not sure how long that’s going to last as the weight of the whole thing comes pretty close to breaking

Flesh-and-Bone me.

the hook already. It has a cardboard base that it stands fairly well on, too, although I think lying down on padding to support her swayback is the best way to store her. At the moment that’s not a problem but if I ever clean up the disaster that is my “sewing room” it might take a bit more thinking.

Anyway, this does open the door for all sorts of fitting adventures… Ceylon, I’m thinking of you…. 😉



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Side seams

Lady Grey---all seamed up

What with (not) finishing Christmas cards, kids’ Christmas Concert, and general craziness, not a lot of sewing has gotten done this week (shocker, I know). However, I did manage to find a few moments (and I do mean few) to sew the side-seams and shoulder-seams of the coat together.

I think this is one of the most magical moments in garment-making—when you go from two or three flat pieces of cloth into something you can actually try on. Setting in the sleeves is a close second, but I still think sewing the shoulder and side-seams tops it. So here we go with some (ulp) fitting shots—unglamorous, no makeup, bed-head, and all.

The first thing I noticed was that the full hair canvas of the front and front side

Lady Grey---Front

pieces (as per Gertie’s sewalong instructions) was way too stiff. I don’t know if it’s just because my coat fabric is quite stiff to begin with, but it looked wooden, and was forcing the side-seam of the peplum back and making the excess flare at the back even worse. So I cut it out—everything below the waist on the front side piece, and curving down into a narrow front panel on the front piece. This helped a lot, though it’s still a bit stiffer in the front, as you can see (all these photos are from after I took it out).

Lady Grey---Side

Raising the roll line really does reduce the lapel, doesn’t it? I think I kind of miss the big, from-the-waist look, but we’ll see. It’s too late to change now, anyway. (The anti-droop alteration I made probably reduced the lapels as well, although I tried to add it back when I re-drew them.)

The side—there’s that swayback! It’s still loose, as in the fabric is not actually following the curve of my back, but it’s not pooling and puddling, so I guess we’ll call that wearing ease. There’s still a lot of fullness at the rear. I added a full two inches to the hem at the centre back, which I thought would be too much but it actually looks about even, although faintly like I’m wearing  a bustle. Perhaps I just need an Edwardian skirt to go underneath? 😉

Lady Grey---Back

In the back view, you can see the gorgeous smoothness of the lower back, and still a bit of excess between the shoulder blades. Does this mean I have a narrow back (?!?) or just reflect the fact that I used a size larger pattern? No idea, although I guess next time I tackle a Colette, I’ll make the 0 and just do whatever brutal, soul-destroying alterations I’ll need to the waist. I’m not sure if I want to bother fixing it or not—I think I’ll wait until I get the sleeves on and some shoulder pads in to decide. The main thing holding me back is that I already catchstitched down the seam-allowances in this area.

From the rear it looks like there might be a little extra length at the back hem, although I’ll have to trim it smooth (joys of a knit) and then check again.

Can you guess what I forgot to do when I stitched up the side seams?

Got it one—pockets! *headdesk*

Now where’s that seam-ripper…


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We interrupt your regularly scheduled coat sewing…

First Family Xmas card cover, from 2007

…to bring you the Annual Tanit-Isis Family Christmas Cards

I think I outsmarted myself.

You see, we’ve always sent out photos with the Christmas cards. When Tyo was a baby, I just bought the cheapest box of cards I could find. Then, I realized it would be nice to be able to fit the 5×7 photos inside the cards, instead of wrapping separately. So I bought the cheapest box of big cards.

But if you’re going to send people cards in lieu of real presents (sorry, Grandma), eventually you start to think about quality. About… y’know… meaning.

And then one year it occurred to me to try and take my own photos (I think that was the year Sears stopped giving great coupons for family sittings before Christmas). And once I was taking my own photos, well, I might as well mess with them in photoshop, throw in a few cheesy filters for good measure, and the next thing you know I’m trotting off to Michael’s, picking up a pack of blank cards, and spending far more time than it really ought to take to figure out how to format the damn things so the writing inside and the picture outside come out on the right ends, right ways up.

And it’s served me well, the last several years. One year we had my two nieces in the picture as well. Usually it’s been both Tyo and Syo.

But this year, apparently, something came loose in my brain.

A passle of complex Christmas cards

Because instead of just picking up another pack of ivory cards, I grabbed black ones. Which, of course, you can’t print on.  But you can print on other papers, cut them out (with fancy scissors), and paste them on!

And then you can add stamps! Yes, Christmas stamps! And embossing powder…

Perhaps a bit of backstory is in order here. My mother, bless her heart, is a serial crafter. (Sorry, Mom, you know it’s true.) She has probably dabbled in just about every hobby you can think of in the past forty years , from stained-glass to needlepoint to beaded jewelry to fabric-covered boxes to… well, stamping.

I won’t even mention the basic “crafts” like sewing, knitting, and crochet. Oh, there was tatting, too. Tatted lace

Secret stamp in every card!

is really pretty. And painting stencils on the walls was fun. To her credit, she never quite succumbed to the scrapbooking. I think by the time it really caught on, she was overwhelmed with other things. Although I think stamping could certainly be a gateway to scrapbooking. And she did her own photography and darkroom-work, too, back in the day, which again would go great with scrapbooking…

Anyway. The stamping was quite the thing in the 90s, as I recall. There was even a whole stamping store in my hometown, which only happens when a fad is in full swing because it’s really not that big of a city (well, nowhere in Saskatchewan is). She made the most gorgeous home-made cards and even sold a few of them, with fancy papers, many coloured inks, and, of course, embossing powder.

For those of you not in the crafty know, embossing powder works like this: you make a stamp, often with a special clear “glue” ink, then sprinkle the very fine embossing powder on it. It sticks to the stamp, falls away from everywhere else. Apply heat—we initially used the iron (no contact though) but she eventually acquired a special heat-gun-type tool for it—and the powder melts, fusing to the paper and forming shiny, raised lines.

(If glitter is the herpes of the craft world, surely embossing powder is the chlamydia.)

Anyway, as these things go, the fad passed, my mom’s interest moved on, and several Rubbermaid tubs full of stamping supplies languished in her basement, until last summer when I had the bright idea that I would see if I could liberate them. I was pretty sure Tyo and Syo would have a  blast. So when we were home last summer I snagged the works—stamps, ink-pads, embossing powders, and even the weird heat-gun-thingy.

They had a blast. I was fully expecting all the stamp pads to be thoroughly dry (they were last used when I was in high-school, after all), but most are in good working order.

… and now I’ve covered the kitchen with stamps, scraps of paper, and a fine layer of silver embossing powder, yelled at the kids for smushing stamps every which way, and had better do some quick cleaning before bed or my husband may not speak to me again this year. If ever.

Red Boots!

In other news, Tyo is fast developing into an enabler. She talked me into buying these at Value Village today (in between hunting down knick-knacks to give to her friends. Knick-knacks at VV are sooo vastly overpriced. Anyway. Blaming them on her makes it all right, right? She said I should wear them to a Christmas party as part of a Mrs. Claus costume.

Unfortunately, they’re too dark to match with the Lady Grey coat.

I guess that means I need to watch out for a bright red pair, right?


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Oh Frabjous day!

… to keep up the literary theme, although it’s been a while since I read the Jaberwocky, so I don’t think I’ll go any further with it today. My mother preferred reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter” for some reason. Which always made me sad when they eat the oysters. That might be why I don’t much care for Lewis Carroll (shocking, I know).



My patterns arrived! Happy dance! I made my firstest-ever Etsy purchase a month or more ago, two vintage patterns from the Cupcake Goddess’s Etsy Store. I excercised great, great restraint and did *not* order one of her darling tailor’s ham and sleeve roll sets, although if she ever does some in spiderwebs or skulls (preferably black and pink) I might not be able to resist.

Why so long? Well, aside from the fact that I payed by echeque, which takes some time to clear, the package arrived in a plastic sleeve from Canada Post apologizing for the damaged condition “it was received in”—edges chewed up and water-damaged; it apparently spent some time lost in transit. My heart pit-a-patted.

Fortunately, Her Divine Cupcakeness had packaged the envelopes in a sealed plastic sleeve (complete with well wishes) within the cardboard shipping envelope, so all was well. I am now the proud owner of Butterick 3364, a fitted men’s shirt pattern, and Simplicity 5728, an adorable little dress. Both date from the 70s, the dress earlier, the shirt, I think, later.

Butterick 3364 and Simplicity 5728

Let’s start with the dress.

I bought this pattern for one reason and one reason only. At my grandmother’s house on the family farm, in the closet of my mother’s old bedroom, hangs a dress of almost exactly this same pattern. Even the colour and print are very similar to the long version. The only glaring difference is the fold-over collar. And I always have liked that dress—which fits me divinely, or at least did last time I tried it on, probably when Syo was a baby—except for the fabric, which is a godawful, polyester-knit-flannel-scratchy stuff that could only have been spawned of the 1960s-70s. The little floral print is a bit twee, as well—I don’t really do prints, as you may have noticed. But the bones of the dress, the lines—killer.

So when I saw this pattern, in a 34 bust, I almost bought it straight away. I forced myself to wait on it, but a month later it was still there, and I still wanted it. So I jumped.

The only downside is while it’s a 34 bust, which is only one inch over mine, it’s also a junior petite. The junior part is good—I am not exactly full figured—but, er, it’s drafted for someone five foot nothing. That’s 1.5m for the metric folks who aren’t clinging illogically to an arbitrary and outdated measuring system. That’s a more than half a foot shorter than me.

Still, adding length can’t be that tricky, right?

So, stand by for Adventures in Grading… although given how prolific I am when it comes to sewing dresses… well, it may be a while. Ceylon has been marinating for several months now, after all.

Butterick 3364 Views

The shirt, obviously, is for my hubby. I’ve been wanting a princess-seamed shirt pattern for him for a while, ever since I saw Peter’s version. You see, y’know how you look at the measurement charts, and very often ones’ bust measurement, say, is several sizes smaller than one’s waist measurement?

Well, my husband has the opposite problem. In fact, the man has a 40″ chest and a 32″ waist, which would make him spot on for his size… if he were female. This is when he’s “fat”(he also has Body Issues to do an anorexic proud)… any number of times during our marriage he’s had a 28″ waist, which is the same as mine on a good day. That’s an 8 to 12″ drop from chest to waist. Mine is about 5”. On a good day. The bastard.

McCall's 7123 front view

Anyway, all bitterness aside, this means that most dress shirts fit him like the boxes they are. Which is fine if that’s what you’re going for, like the shirt I made him last summer… but I can’t help but fantasize about something different. Something a little more fitted, that actually flatters the body he’s got. Especially nice, this pattern has options for with and without princess seams, including back darts like the tailored men’s shirt draft Laurianna posted on.

And I love the idea of making him shirts because, although he wears them frequently, he won’t wear any with breast pockets, ever, and far prefers a mandarin collar to a roll collar. Which reduces the selection in RTW by about 80% right off the bat. But for me—it just means I don’t need to fuss with de-70s-ifying the collar that comes with the pattern (although really, it’s not at all bad by 70s standards anyway).

Now the only trick will be getting him to actually wear a fitted shirt. (See above about Body Issues.)

In Lady Grey News

Padstitching in action

… a relentless weekend of hand-stitching has produced results. I have pad-stitched lapels!

I did something resembling pad-stitching on the collar of Tyo’s coat, if you recall, but only after it was constructed, relying on the thickness of the fabric to let me bury my stitches within the fabric; the actual stitch used zig-zagged back and forth, rising to the surface in a tiny bite at each corner of the zig zag. Anyway, another idiosyncratic feature of an idiosyncratic coat.

But this time, I determined that I would do my research first. Unfortunately, the

format of Gertie’s video on padstitching wouldn’t play on my ipod, the main computer was off because it’s been randomly shutting down lately, and the padstitching illustrated in the taloring book Santa’s going to put in my stocking didn’t look much like Gertie’s either (it was pretty much straight along the lines). I also checked out my Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, which had padstitching more like what I thought Gertie was getting at.

Pad-stitching for zig-zags

After a certain amount of experimentation, I got it figured out (or I think I have), and if you do it right you can get the illusion of a series of zig-zags of thread across the surface… I don’t know if that’s actually important, but it looks nice. Now I just need to brace myself to finish the bound buttonholes. Inspired by Kbenco’s long version (in turn, apparently, inspired by my winter coat, yay!), I decided to go for four, functioning buttonholes, because A) I liked the higher, shorter roll of the collar, B) I think it looks better if I am not wearing a belt, and usually I don’t like things belted at my waist), and C) it’s more like Tyo’s coat this way.

This is what happens when you hold the pad-stitched lapel upside down

Hmm, maybe C) isn’t actually a good thing.

Now, the miracle of pad-stitching is not really obvious when you look at it flat on, or even when worn, so let me demonstrate (see left). Even if you hold it upside down, the curl remains, flexible but undeniable. Nifty!

Anyway, that’s already more post than I imagine any of you wanted to read, so I’ll let it go at that.

And, as the Cupcake Goddess says:

Happy Sewing Adventures!



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Look what I did!

I spy, with my little eye, something that looks like a Lady Grey!

Oh, oh!

Oh, see!

See what I did?

Look, look! Funny, funny sewing.

Sorry. Syo’s on a Dick and Jane kick, believe it or not. My aunt gave her a set of board-book reprints featuring such classic tales as “Jane and Mother” and “The Funny Baby.”

Now, I’m a big fan of classic children’s books. Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss; Robert Munsch and Dennis Lee (those two might actually be Canadian phenomena, but they still rock). A dozen more that I could reel off. Top-notch children’s literature is critical, not so much for the kids—they’ll listen to pretty much anything—but for your own sanity, because you’re going to be reading these books again and again and again. I think I made my parents read me “The Secret Garden” seven times when I was Syo’s age.

… But somehow “Dick and Jane” were notable in their absence in my literary upbringing.  I suspect my mother may have had an active role in this, although maybe it was just the 80s. I was sort of under the impression that “Dick and Jane” were dull, cruel readers that children of an earlier time were forced to read in grim school-rooms, probably under threat of The Strap.

Apparently not. Apparently, they are fascinating, enthralling masterpieces of prose for that child on the cusp of literacy, craving the familiarity of a limited, repetitive vocabulary. Apparently the serene, white, nuclear world where Mother vacuums in heels and pearls while Dick and Father throw a baseball and Sally ties Spot’s ears above his head so they don’t splash in his water dish, is just what my younger daughter relates to.


At least she’s reading, right?

As long as no one’s expecting me to vacuum in heels. Pearls, maybe.

Anyway. Look at that! Genuine Lady Grey progress! I laid out my fabric (this is the remnants left after Tyo’s Russian Princess Coat). There was just over 2m of the red (although functionally not very wide since it’s so off grain) and just under 1m of the black. And, I had enough fabric! The belt may be touch and go (I’m not worrying about it at this point… worst case scenario it will have a seam down the centre and lining fabric on one side), but I had enough! The collar and facings will be black, which I think will be supremely striking.

I managed to squeeze both fronts and side fronts and a collar out of the 2m of (very narrow) hair canvas I had bought a while ago, but there won’t be enough left over for a back stay, which I would really like this coat to have, so I’ll have to pick up more. I also didn’t have quite enough of the super-light-weight interfacing I used to stabilize the whole back pieces (this is a knit fabric, remember, with a disturbing amount of lengthwise stretch), and I can’t find the rest of the pattern to cut the lining, but I did what I could with what I had today, and I should be able to keep busy with the hand-stitching until I can make it to Fabricland to get the other bits and pieces. Hopefully the rest of the pattern turns up before I need to cut the lining, otherwise I’ll be winging it. Which, given the number of fitting tweaks I made might not be a bad idea, but I’d like to have the option, anyway.

If Tyo’s coat is the Russian Princess Coat, will that make mine the Czarina Coat?

Coat back. Ready to catchstitch down the seam-allowances by hand.


See Tanit-Isis! Look, look!
See Tanit-Isis sew.
Tanit-Isis sews and sews.
Funny, funny Tanit-Isis.


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More fun with Lekala Patterns

Or, The Unfortunate Effects of Poor Fabric Selection

Lekala knit top 5675

I got this fabric (bottom right in the photo) from the thrift store a month or two ago. It’s a light sweater-weight rib knit, very stretchy but not very drapey. I thought it would be ok for a cardigan-type top, a more fitted one rather than something drapey like the Simplicity one.

So why on earth did I think it would be good for taking a shot at this Lekala pattern? Can I plead temporary insanity?

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before, but I’m a sucker for peekaboo clothing. Peekaboo backs in dresses, peekaboo shoulders; slit skirts… so yes, this top (scroll down) tickled my fancy right off the back: cute peekaboo detail, not too much skin showing since I’m attempting to be more demure in my old age, still warm for winter.

Twisty pattern piece

I printed it out, compared with my Lydia pattern, and again the only modifications I made were lengthening the bodice and the sleeves. The shoulders are more square than on the Lydia and the armscye and waist are much shorter (shorter even than my altered Lydia, where I shortened the armscye and raised the waist). Of course if you actually ordered the pattern it would be to your own length measurements, so probably most of this won’t be helpful. I added to the bodice only at the hem, and likewise to the sleeves.

It took me a couple of tries to figure out how I

Twist top... sweater version

wanted to finish the front; I double-layered it to simplify the finishing. If you look at the picture of the pattern piece, I sewed the two layers of the piece together along the red lines; I did the same with the middle portion of the lower bodice. Then I sewed the blue lines to the outer portions of the top of the lower bodice, so that all the seams are enclosed.  Despite my best efforts (and liberal use of clear elastic) it wound up quite stretched out, but that reflects on my fabric choice rather than the pattern, I think. I had to turn the bottom of the peekaboo-opening under and tack it on the inside, creating a bit of a “U”, because it was stretched out too badly. It looks okay, but not ideal.

I had to take in the shoulders a bit, again I think due to the spreading tendency of this fabric. I could probably take a bit more width in in front of the armscye, but again more due to the fabric than the pattern.

Oooh, the swayback!

After the trouble I had with the fabric spreading in the upper bodice and shoulders, I didn’t even want to contemplate doing a hem. So I did a rough ‘n ready lettuce hem on the serger on both bodice and sleeves (basically I just ran it through as usual but stretched while I did it). This means that the sleeves are extra-

Front view

gooey-long (which I love). Oddly, I didn’t have to take them in for width, which I’ve had to do before when using “growing” fabric.

I put the shoulders in flat, and they went in very nicely, which is always a plus.

I also took in the side seams after construction, curving in by a good 3/4″ at the waist. Again, due to the growing fabric.

On the plus side, after its initial sagging it doesn’t seem to be growing too much more, and it is quite warm. In the photos it doesn’t look half bad (if I do say so myself), though I feel like the fairly stiff fabric folds oddly as I move. I will definitely have to give this pattern a try in something a little more slinky in the future.


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A loud little shirt

I think my eyes are bleeding...

Well, Syo’s request is complete, though I think I’ll be seeing after-images of this print for days. Overall, it went fairly well. Unsurprisingly, the shirt pattern I used as a base had way too much ease. It was designed for wovens, so I did go down a size, but evidently that wasn’t enough. So I took out about an inch of excess from each side and under the arm to get it to a fit she would approve. Fortunately with this design I didn’t need to worry much about what that would do to the armscye.

There were the usual technical glitches that crop up when I wing it. I decided in

Can you spot what's wrong here?

advance that I would sandwich the front of the straps in between the drape and the shirt bodice, so that it would be firmly and neatly attached with the end hidden inside the double-layer drape (I didn’t want to attempt to do the back of the straps this way as I was pretty sure I would mess the length up). However, my first attempt at this fabric sandwich resulted in the picture at the right. That’s the straps peeking out from underneath the drape. Not going to work. So I had to pick them out (which took forever) and re-position.

It turned out that the way things rolled, the under-layer of the drape needed to be shorter than the outer, so I had to trim it off, after.

A satisfied cutie

Then, my first attempt to sew the lower edges of the drape together to make a nice, enclosed piece (except for a small opening that had to be hand-finished) failed, leaving me with a mobius-strip-like wad of fabric that couldn’t be unravelled. So I cut off the seam on that (no way was I unpicking that much), which cost the drape some width. Ah, well.

My next attempt, fortunately, did work. I tried to take a picture of what I did to show it but it made no sense to me looking at it after, so I’ll leave it to your imaginations. Unfortunately, pinning wasn’t really an option for this method, so combined with the somewhat irregular trimming and cutting, the drape didn’t end up all going together as flat and smooth as it might. Ah, well. The look’s not bad (perhaps I should’ve rotated it all an inch, that way the pulling would look more intentional?)

The hems were kind of my waterloo. I used my latest double-needle. Can we say

Side view

“tunneling”? My usual trick of ironing wash-away stabilizer into the hem before sewing failed because the stabilizer would not stick to this slippery swimsuit-feeling fabric. To make matters worse, the serged edge I put on the bottom of the shirt (to neaten the inside of the hem) kept squishing up between the two needles, making the tunneling between them even worse. And while this wasn’t the wiggliest knit I’ve ever worked with, it is the wiggliest slippery knit. So don’t look too close at the hems… it ain’t pretty.

And no, I didn’t make her a matching skirt. That’s Tyo’s contribution so far, turning the remnant of the fabric into a wrap skirt.

Also I couldn’t find my twill tape for putting in the tag, so I substituted a bit of pink seam-binding from one of the vintage sewing notion scores. It seems to be working, though we’ll see how the transfer adheres after washing (I find it sticks better to the textured twill-tape than to the satiny ribbon I’ve sometimes used).

Straps and a cute little label

Now Tyo can’t decide if she wants a shirt like this, or a sweater like my Kimono Lady Grey (which she’s been stealing on me, by the way). I told her I’m not making her any sweaters unless she agrees to hand down some of the myriad of bunnyhugs (hoodies to the rest of the world) she’s been hoarding for the last few years—y’know, the ones that don’t cover more than half her forearm but she somehow can’t quite give up?

The construction is a mix of the old stretch stitches on my regular machine and the serger; mostly depending on how much control I needed at any given point. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to construct things entirely on the serger, but not yet.

Next up: more fun with Lekala patterns (and unfortunate fabric choices… sigh…)


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