Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Lace Conundrum

The lace in question

A while back, I posted a teaser comment on Carolyn’s blog saying I had a question for her about lace. And then I got distracted. But finally, here it is, and I’d love to hear opinions from all of you—I singled Carolyn out merely because, as we all know, she’s the queen of using lace without it looking frilly or juvenile.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with lace. I am not (certain evidence to the contrary) the frilliest person in the world. And while I like the idea of lace (I am, after all, a sucker for texture and lace is pretty much texture distilled), I often am underwhelmed by the actual trims and fabrics available.

That being said, when I found this 4-way stretch (or is it 2-way stretch? Can someone with an industry background school me in the correct usage?) lace in the bargain bin at the Fabricland in my hometown at new years, I had to snaffle it up. (I think it was $1.50/m). The colours are perfect, it’s got the depth of texture I love—I love everything about it. I scooped up everything that was left on the bolt, just under 3m, although it’s only about 90cm (41″) wide. And now that spring is edging around the corner (it’s supposed to actually rain!), I’m itching to use it.

I just don’t know for what.

It’s got that great scalloped edge along both sides, which clamours to be worked into the hem of a skirt, but I don’t do dirndls particularly well. I’ve thought of a form-skimming t-shirt dress, sort of like this one Carolyn made her daughter. But is this really the best use of the lovely drape this has?

Help me out, people! What would you do with this?

UPDATE: WTF, it’s snowing again?!?



Filed under Sewing

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

But internet views will never hurt me.

Ok, I think this is my first official bandwagon post—you know, when a topic takes blogland by storm and for a week or so everyone’s covering the same theme? Well, in last couple of days the Sewaholic and the Slapdash Sewist, among others, have covered that ever-present internet boogie-man (bogey-man? 😉 ), the creepy-picture-viewer. And, well, aside from opening my big mouth in various comments, I guess I’m feeling the need to throw my opinion out there “officially”.

In short form, my opinion is this: I refuse to let the existence of pervs out there control my behaviour, whether in real life or on the internet.

To expound a bit, any time we put any bit of our life out there—by posting on the internet, or even by leaving our houses—we are exposing some aspect of ourselves to other people, some of whom may, in fact, be thinking things that would, if we knew it, make us uncomfortable.

This tends to come up in the context of Flickr, where (unlike our regular blog posts) we

may actually find out if a creep is perusing our photos, typically when said creep favourites them. Doubtless the exact same thing is happening with our regular blog photos on the hardrives of pervs (or just horny young men) around the world, but since we have no way of knowing that, we can remain blissfully ignorant.

My central thesis, I guess, is that while I have no control at all over what the creeps of the internet do, I do have control over my own actions. In this case, over whether (and what) photos I will post, but also in how I choose to react to the fact that the nasties are, in fact, out there. I wrestled with this a lot when I was first creating online personas—I even toyed with the notion, at the beginning of this blog, of keeping it head-free. That lasted all of about three posts.

Because here’s the thing. What they are doing doesn’t affect me unless I let it. Like a kid calling you a name in grade school, it only hurts if you allow that person to have some power over you. Even less so, because most of these creepies I will never even know about. And I would much rather create an open, authentic blog, that shares my life—the sewing parts of it, anyway—honestly. Because I value the connection I have with you, my readers, the ones who participate, comment, and put up your own blog posts in turn—far more than I dread the occasional creep using my photos for his own personal gratification. None of the photos on this blog are anything I would hesitate to own up to in real life—even my vagueness about my name and location have more to do with fending off google searches from my regular “career” than a desire to keep you guys in the dark. Nothing here is an embarrassment to me. (Well, except perhaps some of those sewing disasters…). I want my blog to have the features that I look for in other blogs, and openness, honesty, and, yes, faces, are some of the things I look for.

Actual "creep-favourited" photo

This is not to say I don’t take basic precautions. My comments are moderated (though I don’t think I’ve ever had a really nasty one, just spammers),  I keep tabs on my flickr stream (and always have) and don’t hesitate to block the odd creep. I like how nice and safe and friendly the sewing-blogland is, and I certainly want my content to reflect this. Because that’s what’s real, in that that’s what forms my experience. The phantoms of nastiness may exist, but they don’t form part of the regular give and take that is the blog community. And as long as what I’m posting is content I’m happy to own, what someone else might do with it is something I’m not going to waste my time worrying about. I have sewing to do, damn it!

(Naturally, your mileage may vary, just as your tolerance for that kid calling you names in third grade may have been different than mine. Everyone should, of course, take the route that makes them comfortable—much as I enjoy reading others’ blogs, the fact is that blogs are ultimately by and for the writers, and you need to do what’s right for you and permits you peace of mind.)

Cuff mock-up

Speaking of sewing, I did manage to make a mock-up of the inverted-box-pleat cuff for my springy coat. And I think I’m happy with it. I’m thinking I will edgestitch the pleats to keep them sharp, although not in a contrasting colour in the final project (but the red was still in my machine from the jean jacket).

A better view of the pleat.

In Me-Made March news,

MMM day 30

gee, where have you seen these items before? I keep planning to wear something fancy, and then wimping out. I’ll doll up tomorrow, I promise…

Cowl top
skinny jeans


Filed under Sewing

Apparently I am learning how to sew

Finally stitched!

In particular, when it came time to stitch up the “waist” band on this cropped little jean jacket, I was able to topstitch along the entire length, from the outside, and successfully catch the underside along the whole length! Cue bugles, triumphal marches, and possibly even choirs of angels.

Of course, the nice, crisp hand of my denim and the straight edge didn’t hurt, but still, I feel like I was very careful feeling my way along, making sure the fabric was where it needed to be on the bottom and all that. I felt like I knew the little tricks the fabric was likely to pull, and what I had to watch out for—and how to watch out for it. Woohoo!

Back view

Which is not to say that this jacket is anything like flawless (I did mention the collar points before, didn’t I?), but on the whole it came together pretty well. The fabric was thin (for denim) and crisp enough that my machine did the buttonholes with scarcely a whimper.

If I decide to do another such jacket, I’ll increase the bust shaping in the front, as it’s a bit minimal—not that it doesn’t fit, mind you, but when your assets are, ah, modest, a bit more shaping that nature strictly requires can be a fine thing. Also the “waist” band is pretty loose—not problematically so, but it could have an inch or so less ease without even beginning to feel snug.

I’m a little regretful that I didn’t topstitch the front sleeve seam… I suppose I could still do it if I really wanted to, I’m just a little doubtful of my ability to do it neatly.

The buttons look as snazzy and shiny as I had hoped. I had two sizes available; I used the larger ones for the front and the smaller size for the pockets and cuffs.

Cuff (linked)

For the cuff buttons, I linked two buttons together with thread and blanket-stitched along the little length of thread between them to make a short bar. This was kinda a pain as the thread kept trying to miss the button, but while the end result was a bit messy, it doesn’t show, so I shan’t complain.

I went on about the construction at fair length here, so I won’t belabour it too much more. Incidentally, as you can see in the interior shots in the other post, there really are little pockets under those chest flaps, although they’re so tiny (and in such a location) that I probably won’t actually use them much. I’m still glad they’re there. Flaps without pockets would annoy me—but apparently flaps with vestigial pockets are fine.

Now, I just need the weather to shape up enough so I can wear it. Today is the first day in over a week that it hasn’t snowed, so that’s a good sign!


In Me-Made March News,

MMM day 29

I can’t believe that Me-Made March is almost done! I’ll try to spare you my requisite freak-out about time passing… it’s not that I’m that messed up about growing older, but when every month is one less of funding you have left, looking forward to the future is a bit hard. I’m sure everyone who’s ever done contract work knows the feeling.

Today I’m wearing my skinny jeans and this blue short-sleeved Lydia top (pre-dating many of the tweaks that made this pattern actually fit me), which incidentally is the exact same outfit I started off the month in. But I have my cropped jacket, so that’s different, at least (even if the denim of the jacket and the denim of the pants don’t match at all)

I have to admit, I find these cropped jackets surprisingly nice for wearing around the house. Someone commented that their tummy would get cold, but I really find that having the extra layer around my upper body is warm enough—and anything that gets me out of my bunnyhug* is a plus in my world. If I could just train myself to wear slippers, I’d be snug as a bug.

*Central Saskatchewanese for “hoodie.” And no, Saskatchewanese is not a word.


Filed under Sewing

More fun than a barrel of monkeys



This is exciting. It will also be a bit challenging, especially combined with the RTW tailoring sewalong.

So an old friend came by yesterday with a project. She’s in the final stages of putting together her debut album (yay!) and wanted a frilly, over-the-top tailcoat for a photo-shoot. So we did some discussing, trawled Fabricland for suitably sumptuous fabric—the paisley corduroy is actually quite a lot more subdued than we were initially thinking, but Fabricland’s sumptuous-crushed-velvet selection is sadly understocked (go figure). Still, I love the fabric we did come home with, and I’m (not so) secretly hoping that there will be enough of the corduroy left over for me to get a little cute something out of it, too.

I’m planning to use the M-sewing tailcoat pattern, with considerable modification as you can see if you squint (or click through for full size) at the sketch on the photo. Fortunately Modern Pattern Design has diagrams for most of the modifications I’m going to need to make, although I’m still not quite sure about the collar—mostly because I’m still not quite sure exactly how I want it to look. Will figure that out soon enough.

In Me-Made March news

Here’s photos for yesterday and today. Again not overly glamorous, which I will blame on the continuing snow. Yes, it’s still snowing.

Me-Made March 27

Me-Made March 28

MMM 27
Cowl-sleeve jacket
Super-cowl top
skinny cargoes

MMM 28
raglan-sleeve top
skinny cargoes


Filed under Sewing

The Great Thread Crisis of 2011

Cropped Jean Jacket---progress report.

It is with some difficulty that I am refraining from titling this post “The Great Snow Crisis”, since it’s snowed, I think, every single day this week. But since I’m trying to keep this blog about sewing, rather than the weather (something it can be very hard for a Canadian to do…), I’m instead going to restrict myself to lamenting about thread.

In particular, my lack of it.

Not just the lack of red thread which is preventing me from

Cropped jean-jacket, rear view

finishing my cropped jean-jacket—that was almost to be expected, since I started the project with less than two medium-sized spools and the triple-stitch topstitching I’ve been using is extremely thread-hungry—but I’ve also run out of basic black, of which I always have at least two and often three or four spools kicking around. So naturally I figured, when I used up my last one, that I must have one somewhere. Apparently not. Even worse, I’m completely unable to rectify the situation as I’m home carless today as the hubby is working, and retaining the car on a day when he’s working requires getting up at an obscenely early hour and driving him halfway across town to work. OK, it’s not halfway, but in any decently-sized city (as opposed to this monstrosity of urban sprawl we inhabit) it would be halfway. Were I in full health, and feeling masochistic, I could bundle up the children and walk down to Zellers, which is my nearest likely source of halfway-decent thread*, but the two-block walk to the grocery store the other day still almost did me in, and the thought of trying to wrangle children all the way to Zellers, in the snow… well, let’s just say it’s unpleasant. Times like these are the only ones where I miss the stroller days, although I never had a properly snow-worthy stroller anyways. Anyway, jean jacket. Frustrating to be so close—although really, I’m getting to the point where “close” becomes “annoying finishing details”… buttonholes etc.

So, details…

Collar attachment

I used Sherry’s technique for putting in the collar, which is very lovely and saved me from hand-slip-stitching the interior, which is my usual fall-back. My only complaint is that her method for tacking the facing to the shoulder-seams didn’t really work with how I was trying to finish the shoulder seams on mine, so I’ll have to tack those down by hand. Otherwise, it’s a treat, though.

See how cool my cuffs will be?

I decided to go a little whimsical for the cuffs because, well, I could, so I’m going for a sort of flared, cuff-linked look. This actually went together better than I thought it might, and the sharp, pointed ends on the cuffs came out much better than the ones on the collar.

The sleeve-caps have a bit too much height for denim (which doesn’t ease for shite), but I think what will be a very reasonable amount of ease for normal fabrics. I did end up taking in the shoulder about 1 cm, which suggests that the original shoulder-length is fine after all (I had increased it by 1 cm when I graded up the pattern after my first muslin). Armscye depth and range of mobility seem to be good. There are a few wrinkles forming to the front of the sleeve, but mild enough that I think I’ll leave them be at least for the moment.

Jacket closeup, with interior shot.

The collar still needs some work. I think the height of the stand is about right as it’s folded (in the upper images), but as you can see in the rear shot the roll doesn’t quite cover this in the back. And I need to give up the dream of sharply-curved front points and just have sharp points… I’m not capable, even with severely shortened stitches, of making such a narrow curve neatly. Not twice, anyway (and certainly not the six times including topstitching on the jean jacket).

One little fact that slipped my mind when I was drafting the front band/facing is that

Interior closeup

since I didn’t subtract anything from the CF for the band, I actually added 3cm across the front. In my head I thought of this as overlap, but of course, only half of it is. My bad. It doesn’t seem to mess with the fit, particularly, so I’m not going to bother with it this time, but it’s something to keep in mind next time I want a jacket with a front band. I imagine you learn this sort of thing in pattern-drafting classes, as opposed to when you just decide to jump in without having a clue what you’re doing.

I’m going to use some of my haul of vintage metal buttons from last week, which should give a nice added bling.

In Me-Made March news,

you can see I’m wearing the 70s dress today. I can get away with this because I’m going nowhere at all, and was hoping to photograph the cowl-sleeved jacket at some point today. I haven’t because I’m still lacking a really good place to take pictures (as you can tell by the poor-light shots of the jacket) and there’s no point in taking a second round of half-ass photos. I will just say that I love, love, love how this dress looks with a cropped little *something* on top—be it the cowl-sleeved jacket, the 50s shrug, or even the jean jacket, which is completely the wrong sort of style for it.

*I find it a bit disturbing that I can buy a sewing machine at at least three different places within walking-distance, but fabric at none of them.


Filed under Sewing

Lots and lots of little bits of paper

Playing with paper (MMM day 24)

As I continue to try and fail to shake off the dregs of this cold, I’ve been messing with paper, seeing how far I can push my blastula-stage pattern-drafting skills. As part of the greater goal of the Springy Coat, I wanted to test a two-piece sleeve and a tall-standing collar. For whatever reason, I find it more satisfying to try this on an (at least attempted) actual garment.

I’ve been considering making a cropped jean-jacket for myself pretty much since last summer when I made my children jean jackets and discovered that I could, with a little wriggling, actually get into Tyo’s. At the time I had considered just trying to grade up (and shape) the Burda kids’ pattern I was using, but, now that I have this fitted, cropped jacket bodice, well, why not use that?

Of course, jean-jackets aren’t traditionally princess-seamed. So I needed to approximate the darted block that the princess-seamed version would’ve been derived from. This was not a particularly scientific process, which mostly involved tracing out the pieces adjacent to each other, using the gaps as the legs of the dart, and estimating an apex which may or may not turn out to be in anything like the right place. Ah well. Once I had that estimated, I should’ve made a muslin of the darted bodice (which would be useful for all kinds of things…) but I didn’t—I skipped straight ahead to marking off the seam-lines for yokes and panels and doing my best to incorporate my darts into the taper between the panels. I even drafted a front-band/facing (granted not until after I had all the other pieces pinned on my fabric and realized it was missing, but still.

I don’t think I want to admit too much about my process for drafting the two-piece sleeve. There’s plenty of instructions on how to do this out there, and Claire was even generous enough to email me hers, and I still just went ahead and winged it. The finished product looks kinda generally similar to the sleeve I used for my winter coat, so I’m hopeful that it will work.

Jean-jacket pieces

Hopeful enough, anyway, that I went through my denim stash, and eventually settled on the same light-weight, sparkly denim I used for the kids’ jackets. There was just around a metre left, which as it turns out is just about enough to lay out a cropped jean-jacket pattern on, leaving enough left over to make the bottom band which I haven’t actually bothered to draft a pattern for yet (I still have trouble with rectangular pattern pieces… it always seems easier to just measure. Except for pieces to be cut on the bias, anyway…)

I settled on some red bias-tape from stash for binding the seams (I know a jean-jacket should be flat-felled, but I like the flash of colour from the bound seams), red thread for topstitching, and the last remnants of red cotton from my very first JJ blouse (which in tun was the remnant from a dance skirt a few years back) for the under-collar and pocket lining. I probably could have squeezed the undercollar from the denim, but I like the contrast of the coloured undercollar. Since the red is basically a cotton gauze, I interfaced with some super-light knit interfacing, which gave it a better body, except for the pocket-lining part, anyway.

And I started merrily sewing away. Seam were bound, tops were stitched, and I would probably be there still, rather than writing this post… except that my pocket flaps have gone AWOL.

So until they surface, I guess I’ll be tidying my kitchen.

In Me Made March news,

MMM 25, with accessory.

more unglamorous shots from a singularly unglamorous week. Yesterday, pictured at the top of the post, and was another day of not-leaving-the-house-trying-to-keep-my-lungs-in-my-chest. Today the children have no school (boo) but student-led conferences (which is like parent-teacher interviews but less fun), so I had to make myself a wee bit more presentable.

Not especially successful cowl top

Ellen Pants

Winter Coat


Oh, yes, and in the photo from yesterday I’m wearing my very first Jalie Jeans, which just shows how far down the wearables list I’m getting ;)… they’re stubbornly refusing to disintegrate on me, but they are definitely off the A list, mostly due to poor topstitching, although the fabric (which I never liked, but it was cheap) doesn’t help. And of course my Kimono Lady Grey, which you’ve already seen umpteen-bajillion times. I really need to make myself more sweaters. Don’t worry, that’s in the works too, but first I need to get all these little jackets out of my system…


Filed under Sewing

A further invocation of spring

Mermaid skirt

Since the first one worked so well. Well, it did—the temperatures I’m complaining about right now are a full 20° C warmer than the ones I was complaining about at the beginning of the month. It’s still snowing, however.

This fabric was snatched up in the frenzy of stash-building earlier this month when I discovered Fabricland had actually put some decent knits in their clearance section. Mainly I like the colour, but it also has an interesting sueded surface and a moderate stretch. It seemed a little heavy and so was passed over during the Great Cowl Experiment (which Sigrid’s versions are making me ache to revisit, by the way…), but I thought it would be great for a springy little skirt.

My first thought was a half-circle like Hip Dropped Stitches’ gorgeous one, but I was concerned that the nap running in different directions might end up looking odd (I can’t tell if there is a direction, but if I pretend there isn’t, you know I’ll find out there is when I photograph the skirt.)

My next thought was a mermaid skirt. I’ve been wanting a little, flared, gored skirt since… well, aside from always liking them, Loutracey posted this one lots back in Self-Stitched September, and then Big in Japan copied this one, and then most recently Yoshimi unveiled this gorgeous (red!) version. Yum, yum YUM.

Evolution of a pattern: right, original piece; centre, doubled; left, tripled width.

What flummoxed me for the longest time was a pattern. Obviously a straight gored skirt would be easy to draft (bum-fitting aside), but I wanted something with a graceful curve hugging the hips and then flaring out below. This would take a bit more thought. And of course, going out and buying a pattern would be too easy. Lekala had a couple of versions I considered, but the one had too many panels (a 10-gore skirt, in fact) and looked too long (which is SO weird, because if you look at their artist’s rendering, the skirt comes to below the knee. The pattern piece is only 22″ long, people, and the waistband’s not that wide either. I mean, I know I have long legs, but not that long.), and the other one, while lovely, seemed to have a bit too much flare. I wanted the skirt to bell out, but not be a circle dropped to my hips.  (I can’t believe I just admitted that a skirt can be too full. That’s like saying pants can be… too long. Or that the Blondissima got your hair too blonde).

Skirt closeup, showing waistband

Anyway, when this fabric came along and the idea crystallized, I went back to the Lekala patterns, thinking I could probably make one work. I knew the length I wanted (just above knee), and that I wanted a six-gore skirt with wider CF and CB panels and narrower panels at the sides.

So I revisited the Lekala patterns, and eventually printed off Lekala 5826, mainly because it required less paper. Man was that a tiny pattern piece! Comparatively, anyway.

So, I had the pattern piece for a 10-gore skirt that was designed to fit me (or rather, someone with hips my size but a “normal” waist) at the natural waist. What I wanted was a 6 gore skirt that sat lower on my hips, with wider front and back panels. It was time to get creative.

Some quick measuring informed me that if the pattern piece as is were used to make a 12-gore, rather than a 10-gore, skirt, it would have pretty much exactly the “waist” measurement I was looking for. The length and flare still seemed good—it would be a very short skirt if worn at the true waist. Furthermore, a 12-gore arrangement is much easier to convert to the uneven panels I wanted—I could make the CF and CB panels the width of 3 original gores, and the side panels the width of 2 original gores. Perfect! I checked the amount of stretch on my fabric, to make sure I didn’t need to subtract ease, and got tracing. I used the highly scientific method of tracing the pattern piece, then sliding it over so the waist and hip notches lined up and tracing the other side. Aside from running off my paper and having to piece in a bit at the hem, it worked really well, although I can’t swear there isn’t a bit of flattening along the hem curve on the 3-times-wide panel.

So, I had my pattern. Time to lay it out.

Back view

Blerg. Now I remember the second reason I had hesitated making one of these things—man are they wasteful of fabric! Especially since I couldn’t reverse any of the pieces due to nap-related fears. This little, itty bitty, not-even-knee-length skirt used up my full two metres of fabric, with barely enough left over for the wide, fold-over waistband I wanted. Of course there are plenty of (rather large) scraps… but seriously! I could probably have gotten two shirts out of that thing! As it is, maybe the scraps will be large enough to play with glovemaking… faux-suede sky-blue gloves would be lovely, don’t you think?


It was pretty quick to sew up, although I did inevitably serge the two wide panels together almost right off the bat. I don’t pick out serged seams, so I just cut that seam off. As it turned out (due to that magic of stretch fabric, even when it didn’t seem overly stretchy when tested) the skirt needed a fair bit of taking in anyway so it wasn’t a problem. I took a couple of cm off each seam, and then took the two side seams in another inch or so.

Skirt---spread out

The waistband is a wide rectangle folded over and applied exactly as the neckband in this tutorial.; I determined the length by wrapping the piece around my hips until it seemed like it was a good tightness. This wound up being a smidge smaller than the skirt opening after I’d taken it in, which seems about right. I didn’t have enough clear elastic to include it in the waist seam… we’ll see if I regret that in the future. Since the skirt’s absolutely the same front or back, whereas I am not, it has the potential to ride up in the back, but if I fold the waistband properly I can prevent that. If the problem persists I can always trim it at the front later; I didn’t do a hem, just trimmed the bottom edge smooth by running through my serger without thread.

It actually turned out quite a bit longer than I had thought it would—it’s hovering just below knee length where I was expecting it to be above. I guess that has to do with adding the waistband and where it sits on my hips, and the fact that there’s no need to take up a hem… anyway, I like it very much, although I’m going to have to figure out what it works with other than just tank-tops. It’s lean enough on the bottom that any puff on top—like the puffed sleeves on my JJs or a cowl neck on a shirt—makes me feel top-heavy, so we’ll see. I may have to make a shorter version in the future, though, out of a less drapy fabric to see more of the “mermaid” shape.

I do like the blue with my red shoes!

(But for now, since it is still snowing, I’m going to put my sweater back on!)


Filed under Sewing