Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Great Reveal

Ze Coat, She is finished!

Step right up, ladies and gent (there is at least one gent reading out there, I think?). You’ve borne with me through I don’t even want to count how many Springy Coat posts this month. And now, here we are, at the end of April (how did that happen?) and, at last—the Springy Little Coat is done!

At this point you’ve probably heard everything there is to hear about the construction of this coat. So all I’ll say is that I used seam-binding on the shell hem, stretching as I sewed, which worked fairly well for pulling it in (the joys of an A-line hem), then handstitched. For the lining I did a blind-hem (just for fun… I suck at machine blind-hems). I didn’t quite get my lining length vs. shell length right—the lining was a bit long—but I’m not going to complain at this point. (And better too long than too short, right?)

I also gave in and hand-stitched the lining at the cuffs. I know, not the point. But with my cuffs, it just seemed awkward, bulky, and likely to screw up to do it by machine.

Then I dug out all the coordinating (and some not-coordinating) clothes in my closet and played around in front of a mirror.

A lot. And since I’m not nearly as good as Patty at picking the one or two absolute best shots, I will hereby subject you to a crapload of them:

If I get my way, I will get better (outdoor!) shots this weekend, and subject you to those, too. I think by Sunday it should be warm enough to wear my coat out of doors. For now, it’s snowing again. (Obviously my strategy of invoking spring through sewing has failed. I should just cave and start making sweaters and snowsuits.)

Incidentally I’ve decided (along with most of the rest of those in the RTW sewalong, no doubt) to enter my Springy Little Coat in the PR Lined Jacket Contest, so if you’re a PR member go ahead and vote (ideally for me, but y’know. May the best jacket win and all that…)! Fortunately for me, Patty’s coat, which is almost a dead ringer for mine, can’t receive votes as she won the wardrobe contest in March.

For that matter, if you’re a Canadian, you have some voting to do, too—Monday, peeps! I happen to live in the Prime Minister’s riding, so I have the rare privilege of actually voting directly for (or, as the case may be, against) him—although since he’s pretty much guaranteed to win his seat, it does make it seem a bit pointless voting for anybody else. The joys of a parliamentary system.



Filed under Sewing

That horrible sinking feeling…

Simplicity 6023

You know, where you start sewing something together and it’s just not quite right. Your fabric isn’t behaving the way you envisioned. You mess up a seam and don’t notice until it’s graded. You begin to suspect that your arbitrary alterations weren’t the right ones after all…

Erm, I’m not the only one who gets this way, right?

I have gotten the front bodice constructed for Simplicity 6023. After experimenting with knit interfacing, I decided to use an extra layer of the black linen (actually a linen-cotton-lycra blend, really quite yummy) for interfacing instead. And I decided I would make piping (from one of my scant scraps of the plaid) to edge the neckline and cuffs. Then I sewed the three layers of the front yoke piece together (one half, anyway), notched, graded, and realized that I had forgotten the piping. Rrrripit. Add in the piping. Flip around, and realize that the linen is quite a bit sturdier than the plaid fabric and really doesn’t need the extra layer for interfacing.

Use the pinking shears to remove as much of that extra layer from the middle as I can, because I’m way too half-assed to unpick again.

Manage to trim the piping too much at the corner, so it’s fraying a bit when clipped.

Fuck it.

Anyway, it looks cute. I have a sinking feeling I should’ve raised the armscye without raising the neckline, and shortened the bodice lower down. Or perhaps left it, as it’s designed to hit above the natural waist (which probably means it would hit right at my waist).


Probably, it will all be fine. I like piping. I like plaid. I have a great excuse for not even trying to match my plaids. The black detailing looks pretty sharp. The neckline may be higher than I wanted, but that’s hardly the end of the world. At least I’m pretty sure this one will be large enough (if not a bit too large, given the stretch in both my fabrics)

After all this self-drafted stuff with seam allowances of 1cm or less, the 1.5 (5/8″) regular seam allowance seems positively excessive. Especially in nice, minimally fraying fabrics like these.

Springy coat---now with shoulder pad!

On the subject of the Springy Coat (may I just say that working on two projects at once, when you only have one sewing machine, is REALLY ANNOYING? I have spent way too much time re-threading in the last three days) I put my shoulder-pads and sleeve heads/wadding in as per the latest installment of the RTW, and am HAPPY. I love how it just ups the look that little bit. It was kinda a pain since I’ve already (contra the sewalong) stitched my lining to my facings (I did this before sewing the facing on to the main coat, as I didn’t think I’d be capable of getting the piping right while wrestling the whole coat), but I managed. I will take a moment to note my jealousy that Steph has already finished her jacket.

New Coating

Oh, and while I was at Fabricland picking up the black linen, this coating followed me home. I’ve been keeping an eye out for something with a good drape for Simplicity 8613. I was thinking either cream (I know, I’m making an off-white coat right now) or blue or coral, and this combined two out of three.

I think a fabric diet is in order. I seem to binge every few months, and then fast for a while, but I’m not getting stuff sewn at quite the rate that I’m buying. I’m not anti-stash, mind you—I especially like to have on hand various “basic” fabrics, like denim, plain-coloured knits, lining—but I also don’t want it to get out of hand.


Filed under Sewing


Springy coat---now with collar!

So yesterday I took the opportunity afforded by my kids’ last day off school to sew shamelessly. I caught up on the RTW Tailoring sewalong. I washed most of my new finds. I played with my buttonholer, and I traced out Simplicity 6023.

Springy Coat---cuff

It is by dint of great restraint that I am not showing you full, modeled shots of my springy coat, as I am loving it. But I am determined to retain some elements of surprise, so you will have to subsist on teasers for the moment. The sleeves went in well, although my princess seams don’t line up with the sleeve seams as well as I’d hoped (sniffle). There was a bit more ease to the sleeve cap than I might have liked, although it wasn’t a problem with this particular fabric. Denim would be another story, I’m sure. I love my buttons, too. I forgot to add a hanging-loop and my label before sewing in the facing, maybe I will just have to do that by hand…

The buttonholer is fun to play with. I sat down and read through the manual. I oiled in the spots that said “oil”. I twiddled with the adjustment knob until I figured out how to crank the template around (not without some moments where I was convinced it was broken and/or seized. But, with much reference to the manual and a little bit of blind faith—it works! Gorgeously.


Now I want more templates. 😉 The keyhole template is 1 1/4″ long and I stitched it at the widest available width. The little tiny buttonhole on the right is 1cm long (the smallest template that came with) and stitched on the narrowest option. Both of these are stitched along the seam of a scrap of denim left from some child’s pants that became shorts; they’re stitched along the seam, so through four layers of denim plus serging. For some reason I really want the eyelet template, now. There’s a video of the same sort of thing on youtube here, by the inimitable BrianSews. You can see the Greist starting about 1:00 in. I initially thought the stitch-length was a bit long for my liking, but you just keep going around and around your buttonhole until it looks the way you want. Fun!


I decided, after much wringing of hands, that Simplicity 6023 would be next up (it’s still a little too cold to think about wearing the runner-up, McCall’s 3415.) Unfortunately, when I started trying to lay out my pattern, I realized that my fabric is only 45″ wide—which means I’m about a metre short (especially since I’d been wanting to do some of the plaid on the bias). D’oh! I think I can do it by using a contrast fabric for the collar, yoke, and cuffs. I have some black stretch linen that’s about the right weight and stretch (the plaid has stretch, too) but it’s earmarked for a shirt for the ungrateful hubby, and I don’t think I have enough to do both. So I’ll check at Fabricland to see if I can get any more. If only I’d realized this last weekend during the 50% off sale… I also need a zipper and dark knit interfacing.

As to the pattern itself, I pulled out the pieces from Simplicity 5728 (apparently 1973 was a good year for Simplicity—both these patterns are from it), which, as you may recall, fit me remarkably well for being a size 11 Junior Petite. Now, 11JP has the same bust measurement as Misses’ 12 (and is a measurement I can reach with a good, padded bra), but is drafted for someone considerably shorter. Despite that, it fit me amazingly well through the upper body, although I added a generous amount of length to the sleeves and skirt.

More Jacket fun!

Upon comparing the tweaked 5728 pieces to the Misses’ 12 6023, I think I can get much the same fit just by reducing the length through the armscye by about 2cm. I also did the same little swayback adjustment. If these are my “standard” Simplicity adjustments, I’m excited, as it will give me more confidence going forward with, say, Simplicity 66o2, which also walked home with me from the thrift store on the weekend. Doesn’t that look like fun? (my camera ate the photo I took of my envelope, so I nabbed this one from the Vintage Pattern Wiki entry—my pattern is in fact a size 12. I have some robin’s egg blue stretch corduroy that I think strongly wants to become this jacket—and possibly the entire ensemble.

It is just possible that I might be a jacketoholic.

Oh, in other good news, the missing fabrics I was moaning about have re-surfaced. They were stuffed in various boxes in the kids’ playroom (which is adjacent to my “sewing room”). The fact that my children, who had tidied the playroom days before I discovered the absences, denied any knowledge of the contents of their toyboxes continues to rankle.


Filed under Sewing


Five days of blog silence, haven’t done that in a while. I don’t think I even went dead that long at Christmas…

Dashing home is always hectic, and for whatever reason this time was even more so—but despite a lack of both sewing and blogging, there was no shortage of sewing-related talk and, more to the point, fabric shopping. In particular, thrift-store fabric shopping. My mom took me to her favourite little thrift-shop, which seems to have a particularly large fabric section (not sure if the fact that it’s run by Mennonites plays a role in this or not…)

Thrift store fabrics

And, well, I went a little overboard. BUT, I stuck to my “palette” and came away with mostly springy colours, mostly in lengths that should be large enough to make at least some of my dresses. Of course there were a couple of heavier plaids that snuck in, but I did resist the 4m of lavender coating/upholstry fabric (virtually identical weave, though not colour, to the stuff I’m making my springy coat out of… otherwise I’m sure it would be with me now. I’m actually kinda regretting letting that go… I might have to send my mom back for it…)

More patterns than are good for me (but at $.50/each, how can you resist?)

They also have an entire pattern-cabinet, which I dug through meticulously, and came home with probably more patterns than I should have. But I was good! No more dresses! There are a few more skirts than is probably wise, though, and I won’t get into the jackets yet…

But aside from all that yumminess (which I can’t think too much about as I have to catch up on my coat and do a couple of other things before I can think about ANYTHING else… I’ll rhapsodize in more detail later), I have to show you the bestest of all finds.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before, but everything I know about thrifting I learned from my mommy. She was thrifting back in the 70s when you actually could find real antiques for a buck or two at a yard sale…

And a few weeks ago, she found me a Greist buttonholer attachment.

The Buttonholer

I haven’t actually used it yet. It’s possible it’s completely non-functional. But it’s pristine, still in its box, with five templates, manual, feed-dog cover—and it fits on my machine!

Buttonholer contents

And it cost her  $1.99.

’nuff said.


Filed under Sewing

Goodie, goodie gumdrops!

I got a present in the mail!

A Pattern from Peter!

Yay! Thank you, Peter! This is, of course, the pattern I won from his giveaway a few weeks back. Sweet and super-duper-uber cute.

Of course, now I’m in a quandary. Which yummy 70s pattern to make next? This new one, or this…

Man, I love these dresses...

Or this?

Simplicity 8613, from 1978

And Joy thinks I should make bellbottoms?

What to do, peeps, what to do?

Eaton's Jersey

And, I discovered this rather yummy jersey at Value Village yesterday while cruising with my mother-in-law.

It feels like wool, I thought to myself.

But it’s at Value Village. It’s probably some nasty mystery synthetic you really don’t need, I responded.

Then I discovered these little original tags, still on. 100% wool.

It went in the basket.

Originally purchased at Eaton’s Department Store.

This was a Canadian department store that went out of business when I was in high-school… but I have absolutely no recollection of them ever carrying fabric. Any Canadian readers remember when they stopped?

So, despite still not finding my little-girl-coat-fabric, and having to unpick and re-adjust the entire back of my coat (sniffle), life is not entirely bleak.

Now if it would just warm up enough, I could actually justify sewing some of these crazy little dresses.


Filed under Sewing

A tale of impatience and disorganization

Bound Buttonholes

To ease my coat-making itch while sticking to the RTW tailoring schedule, I was going to try and bang off a coat for my second niece this weekend—basically this one, in a slightly smaller size, with a blue leopard lining rather than a pink. Despite an acute (if pleasant) case of inlaw-itis, I could easily have messed around with this for a few hours on Sunday, maybe even conscripting my mother-in-law for a bit of light cutting or something.

However, my notoriously disorganized, chronically un-sorted stash failed me. I would’ve sworn the rest of the black sparkly boiled wool was tucked safely deep in my main tub. I located the fleece lining and the flannel interlining easily. But despite tearing apart my “sewing room” three or five or seven times on the weekend, I can’t find the shell fabric.

Which I guess means it’s not in the sewing room. Which I guess means it’s somewhere else in the house. And despite searching every closet I can think of, I can’t find it.

I also can’t find the four metres of cream sweatshirt knit I picked up a few weeks back. This is even more disturbing. How do you lose FOUR METRES of a heavy-duty knit? Except that I wasn’t hoping to have a little jacket made out of it to take home with me over Easter. Anyway…


To assuage my itchy fingers, I got ahead of myself. I tried not to, really. I graded every seam I could think of. I took the plunge and made bound buttonholes. But then, last night everyone else was watching some incredibly dreary Jean-Claude Van Damme movie (it seemed to involve a lot of torture in a Russian prison), and I just couldn’t resist.

I stitched the shoulders and side-seams.

Probably I shouldn’t have. Probably Sherry has some secret technique involving seam tape and ninja seamstress fu, and I have now rendered my Spring Coat thoroughly un-tailored. If so, well, I will abase myself before the altars of the sewing gods and as penance look up how to actually oil my serger properly.

I’ve mentioned before that this is my favourite moment in sewing a top—when it goes from an assortment of flat pieces to a garment, however unfinished. Setting a sleeve comes close, but it’s still not quite that magical.

The back

So, the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good: I am going to have a SUPER CUTE COAT! YAY!

The Bad: I think I must have sewn my back pleat a smidge too wide; the top is a bit snug and the side-seams seem to pull a bit to the back, something they didn’t do in the various other iterations of this jacket.

At this point, fixing it would require unpicking both side and waist seams, and I just don’t think I can face it.

the front

The ugly: um, well, the bound buttonholes are straight. I did manage that much. Their lengths… are a bit irregular. To put it kindly. Which has everything to do with me sucking, but anyway.

There’s a bit of funniness in the hang of the back skirt, but I suspect it can be fixed by reworking the pressing in the pleat a wee bit. On the whole, I do think the front looks good!

I made the pocket bags huge, and they’re a little low—not badly so, but it’s a bit odd to not rest my hand on the bottom of the pocket. I have realized wearing my winter coat, however, that my kids love to stuff their hands (holding mine) in my pockets when we walk, and a giant pocket bag is great for this.

I only planned buttonholes for the bodice, but as there’s not a huge overlap in the front, I may need something lower down as well. I’m thinking a sew-in snap or two… we’ll see.

Also, do you think it needs a little back belt (like, say, Patty’s)? Or would that be overkill?


Filed under Sewing

The Crazy Quilt

A tale of two quilts.

All my ambitious plans for world domination, I mean extreme, productive sewing, this weekend were brought to a screeching halt last (Friday) night when my mother-in-law called to let us know that she and her husband would be arriving in town sometime Saturday. I have to Clean House.*

The Crazy Quilt

So instead of making a second coat for a niece (yes, I was planning to interrupt the Springy Coat since it appears we’ll be dashing home over Easter so I may actually have an opportunity to deliver said coats), I’ll be cleaning madly. I wonder if I could convince my MIL to help with the coat sewing… hmm…. Anyway, to spare you a play-by-play of scrubbing toilets, I thought I’d share (quickly) a bit about a quilt.

I didn’t make this quilt. I don’t quilt (even less than I houseclean). Although this quilt almost makes me wish I did. My grandmother (who quilts) didn’t make this quilt either, although she did give it to me a few years back when she was moving from her house on the farm to a senior’s complex in “town” (town in this case not having more than a few hundred people, but at least she’s not alone in the middle of nowhere if something happens). I love my grandmother to bits, but this is not the sort of quilt she would ever make. I’m actually a bit surprised that she allowed this sort of quilt to even stay in her house—my guess is if it ever was used, it was tucked under a much tidier coverlet. My grandmother’s house was always immaculate, tidy, and scrupulously modern (scrupulously updated, too). Her quilts are rather similar; she made the one on the right in the topmost photo for me when I was two or three.

No, this quilt is the product of an entirely different mentality.

Piecing closeup

The pieces aren’t square. They certainly aren’t even. They appear to have been pieced together into some large, haphazard rectangles, from a variety of sources that have little in common except being made of a variety of light-weight cottons. If there’s an overall rhyme or reason, I haven’t detected it.

This is a hand-made quilt. I don’t mean made on a machine in a home. I mean, I don’t think a sewing machine ever touched this quilt. Every single stitch, from piecing through embroidery, binding, and quilting (or is it quilting and then binding?), it’s all hand-stitched. A couture quilt, if you will.

Hand-stitched binding

Once the blocks were made up (quilters will have to forgive me for my imprecise use of their terminology… did I mention I’m not a quilter?), the quilter embroidered a feather-stitch ( think) along the seams between patches.

Inside the quilt---frayed edge binding

There’s no batting within the quilt; instead, a couple of layers of loose-woven cotton are sandwiched between quilt top and backing. I suppose this was intended to be a light summer quilt. Or maybe it was just what the quilter had on hand. You can see them because the backing has frayed at the edges and there are a few places where the quilt’s interior is exposed.

Quilt back, with seam and pattern-matching

The quilt back is made out of this lovely print, pieced together with a seam to make it wide enough for the whole quilt. There even appears to have been an attempt at pattern-matching along the seam, although it’s not overly exact.

There were a lot of hours, love, and crazy creativity poured into this quilt.

I love this quilt, but it lives a hard and wandering life in our house, drifting between the upstairs hall closet and the basement depending on where it’s being called into service. It’s not likely to be called into service as a bedspread (my huband’s tastes being rather akin to my grandmother’s in this regard). It needs a wash badly, but I fear the fate of the fraying edges from callous laundering, and I have nowhere to hang it to dry—at least for a few more months. (It’s snowing again, by the way, although today’s accumulation isn’t expected to be more than a few cm)

I’m tempted to bind over the fraying edges. This treatment wouldn’t work on my grandmother’s neat, patterned quilts, but I think it would go very well with the spirit of this quilt. The only question is whether I have the patience for that much hand-stitching.

*My mother-in-law is the sweetest lady on the face of the planet, and would never say boo about my miserable housekeeping. She might, however, very sweetly and politely and without making any kind of a fuss, set about tidying things up herself, and then I would die of embarrassment.


Filed under Sewing