Monthly Archives: July 2011

Madly off in all directions

The Scissors Family

The crunch is here and as usual I’m not ready.  Precious minutes are trickling away when I could be Accomplishing Things. So, I’ll keep this brief.

Sewing World called and the psycho-god scissors were in (pictured bottom right). My willpower shredded under their seductive snipping, and they came home with me. Cutting with them is almost like… hmm, maybe I won’t go there. Let’s just say cutting may no longer be my least favourite part of sewing. The blades are very short, something on the packaging it touting equal length for blade and handle as being important for some reason. Oookay, if you say so. All I know is they cut like… mmmm…. ok, just give me a moment (fans self). The most comfy for the hands are still the old blue ones, though.

Fabric: for niece's dress (left) and my Lonsdale (right). Yes, a print!

I bought fabric.

I started a dress.

It’s neither Lonsdale nor for me. *headdesk*

Dress in progress. Not for me. Obviously.

Underskirt for dress for niece.

It’s for my four-year-old niece, who very cleverly spent most of the two days I was down there at the end of June telling me how much she loves me, and also how much she loves the red sundress and wants one just like it. Sometimes not even in the same sentence. It’s based off a pattern from the Young Image magazine (I added the front ruching), but as usual I’m off in my own little universe so the finished product will be “inspired by” at best. Also, can you spot my goof in the picture?

I’ve made a bit more progress on the coat, then got stalled because I needed more trim. Because 4m of three different kinds of trim was obviously not enough, and I’m a complete idiot for thinking under any circumstances that it would be.

And, I’m going to feel really guilty that I have a home-made present for my niece and not for my daughter whose birthday is on Sunday.


And I really want to start my Lonsdale…



Filed under Sewing

Slow and steady…

Blinded by the lining

Progress has been made on Serena’s coat. In fact, if I hadn’t kinda-sorta said that I would have it done by the end of the week, I’d be extremely pleased with myself. As it is, I’m still half-ass panicked. The coat construction itself isn’t the issue, it’s the embellishment which eats up time, both physically in terms of stitching it on and mentally in terms of thinking about designs—how much? How intricate? How many different materials? At the moment I’m trying to constrain myself to gold-twist piping and lots of flat upholstery braid, but it’s hard. Give me a few months of this and my latent bellydancer would bling this coat out to the nines.

Which is why I should’ve done the basic work back in the spring and then spent the summer in leisurely construction/embelishment, but anyway. That ship has sailed.

Muslin #2 (with collar)

After the fitting I basically made up a whole ‘nother muslin. If I thought I could’ve hunted Serena down for a last fitting I would’ve, but she was out of town, so I tried it on my dummy, really liked the adjustment over the rear (I added 2cm to each side of the rear princess seam below the waist) , decided that the sleeves still needed more poof, and started cutting.

And fusing.

Happy fusing fun.

Lots and lots of fusing. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank Sherry enough for introducing me to the concept of fuse-tape. I lurve this stuff. Anywhere you might use stay-stitching.

Ready for ripping /sigh. At least the grommets aren't terrible.

Anyway, at this point I have the lining basically constructed, the shell lagging slightly because I had to run out to get grommets for the lacing and now I need to do some ripping (even with the heck fused out of it, stretch corduroy is still prone to creeping; I should’ve marked better).

Oh, and I made the collar.

The collar was rather scary. It needs to stand up, so lots of interfacing was required. Pepin has instructions for drafting a stand-up Elizabethan-type collar in Modern Pattern Design, but they’re a bit confusing (In particular, she advocates spreading 1/4″ per slash while only illustrating four slashes. This is not enough.) Still, it got me on the right track, and a series of paper tracings later I had a workable pattern. Fortunately for me, it was actually perfectly possible to pin the paper pattern in place on the dummy and get an idea of what I needed to tweak next.

Collar innards

Stitching wire into casing

I also wanted the edges of the collar to be wired, for stability and moldability—who knows if it’ll look best straight up, or with the corners rolled back, or whatever. So I hunted around and found some medium-weight wire in the old jewelry/beading box, a half-package of quarter-inch bias tape (one of those thrift store finds that you’re never quite sure how you’re going to use as it was rather grubby), and set to work stitching the wire into a casing around the trimmed-down edge of my interfacing piece (which consisted of the “muslin” drapery fabric collar plus some hair canvas). It’s not at all pretty, but it’s attached and now the collar’s constructed everything should be pretty much held in place anyway. I folded the ends of the wire back on themselves and encased them in little fusible-interfacing booties, so hopefully there’s no danger of that working through the fabric.

Collar exterior

Then I hand-stitched my wired interfacing piece to the collar outside, which was already piped and embellished. Once it was in place I topstitched along some of the embellishment again, just to hold it in place extra well. Overkill? Possibly. To finish it off I slip-stitched the lining fabric to the inside. For this jacket, I am using interfaced lining fabric in place of facings, as the lining is as much for show as the shell fabric, especially in areas like the collar and tails.

No other great insightful comments at the moment. Halfway through Saturday my Janome machine grew crankier and crankier and eventually stopped turning. The engine whirs, but nothing goes around. This sometimes happens when thread is jammed in the bobbin, but there is no thread, and even un-threading the machine completely does nothing. I can still force it to stitch with the hand-wheel, but it’s difficult and doesn’t feel like something I should be doing a whole lot of. I’m thinking a visit to the sewing doctor is in order, /sigh.

Most of what I’ll be doing this week can be done on the straight-stitcher, but of course now it’s not working I keep coming up with things I need a zig-zag for.


Filed under Sewing

Fortunately, unfortunately

New Fabric Scissors!

Fortunately, I got some fun new sewing stuff in the mail this week. I was especially excited to try out the Seam-Gauge Guide.

Unfortunately, when I went to try it, my fabric scissors were nowhere to be found.

Fortunately, this motivated me to clean up my sewing room.

Unfortunately, I STILL couldn’t find them.

Fortunately, I’d been thinking of getting another pair anyway, since my old ones no longer cut to the very tip, which makes notching difficult.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time in my week-days lately to trot off to the fabric store.

Fortunately, there’s a shop called Sewing World on my walk from work to the train. They sell sewing machines, sewing gizmos, and notions, albeit with a bit of a focus on the quilter.

Unfortunately they’re usually closed by the time I leave work.

Fortunately, one morning this week I managed to get in early enough to stop on my way too work.

Unfortunately they have about eighty bazillion different sizes, styles, and price-points of scissors to choose from.

Fortunately, the lady working was willing to pull out about a dozen, mostly Ginghers, and provide fabric samples for me to snip up.

Unfortunately, the best-quality Ginghers have metal handles. This makes them very pretty and sturdy, but sets off some nerve damage in my thumb.

Fortunately, she pulled out another kind that cut even better than the Ginghers.

Unfortunately, they were really large. This wasn’t a problem for the blade length so much as that my fingers flopped around in the handle. Maybe they’re men’s fabric scissors.

Fortunately, the lady promptly called up her supplier and ordered in a couple of pairs of the same kind in a smaller model.

Unfortunately, they won’t be in until next week at the earliest and I need scissors right away. However, I didn’t want to buy an expensive pair when there was a pretty good chance I’d be coming back for the freakin’ sweet crazy ones in a week or two.

Fortunately, there were some “Featherweight” Ginghers, which while not as awesome as the regular Ginghers, were still pretty sweet, and most importantly, have a plastic handle and are much cheaper. So I have new fabric scissors!

Unfortunately, the plastic extends along the blades, making an odd lump, so that even though the seam allowance gauges still stick, they angle downward too sharply to really work, plus the magnetism isn’t quite as strong so it would get knocked off easily.

Fortunately, I might even have time to come to my senses about the price of those godlike scissors by the time they’re in stock.

Although I wouldn’t bet on it.

And in the meantime, I have new scissors anyway! And they snip! So my notches will (hopefully) no longer resemble irregular blobs somewhere in the general vicinity of where they’re marked on the pattern. Hooray!

PS: writing in that “fortunately, unfortunately” format is kinda addictive. I find my thoughts now composing everything as a series of fortunate and unfortunate happenings.


Filed under Sewing

Fitting Serena

Tailocat---Fabric and sketch

Continue reading


Filed under Sewing

Something small

Lace panel from thrift store

In between unpicking the skirt from the halter sundress and procrastinating, I did actually (almost) finish one rather small piece. You may (or may not) recall a large piece (several metres) of starched white cotton I found at the thrift store back in June. It was the kind of lovely, plain, basic fabric you rarely find at the thrift store, so I would’ve picked it up just for that, but one end had also been worked with the most amazing panel of handmade lace I’ve ever seen.

Now, admittedly I don’t know much about lace-making. I have no idea what techniques are employed, except that it looks to have been done by hand, with gorgeous patience and precision. I assume this is some kind of heirloom stitching taken to an astounding extreme. It’s one of those pieces that makes you wonder about the person who had the fabric before you, though. What kind of piece was this worked for? Was it meant to be the yoke of a shirt? Part of a Christening gown or something? Why would someone put all that work into making the lace, and then never make the final garment? (The shape and positioning on the fabric suggests garment to me, but I suppose I don’t really know even that).

Anyway, obviously it needed to become something that would showcase the beautiful lace. After some hemming and hawing, I made my decision, and cut out a second version of my sundress bodice, with the lace in the centre front panel. I toyed with the idea of putting a coloured fabric behind, to show through at the lace, but the white cotton was too sheer to hide it, so I just lined with another layer of the same fabric.

The top. Unfortunately this was the only shot where the light didn't totally wash out the lace.

It still needs straps. I had some cut out and pressed and ready to go, but somewhere between bringing it upstairs to do the handstitching I mislaid them. It actually stays up remarkably well, with that large shirred back, but I’ll feel much happier with straps anyway. I used the facing piece to make the little “collar” top, which I really love, although since I forgot to add a seam-allowance to the CF, it wound up not reaching quite to the side-seams. I hand-stitched the bottom of the bodice front together for a nice finish that doesn’t show on the front. I maybe should’ve put some interfacing strips along the V-point in the front, as it’s a bit wavy and floppy, but it’s not awful.

It looks good with shorts, but wouldn’t it be perfect with a full, puffy skirt? 🙂


Filed under Sewing

Sometimes you just have to walk away.


McCall's 3415

I have a feeling this dress is going to spend a little while in the Magic Closet.* You know when you reach that point when you’ve unpicked a seam so many times the whole thing just starts to look mashed and no matter how well you re-stitch it it’s still going to be a bit wonky? Yeah. I’m there.

That being said, I think once I’ve had a little bit of space I’ll quite like this dress. We just need a bit of time.

Front view

So, after all y’all’s** sage advice last week, I put on my big girl panties and unpicked the skirt (yes, removing zipper in the process), and made Alterations.

Specifically, I lopped 15 cm (about 6″) off the top, re-cutting using the top of the pattern but blending out to a wider width quite quickly (maybe a little too quickly…). In my paranoia over having enough ease I actually made the skirt a bit wider even at the top, electing to ease that in.

Side view

This fabric doesn’t ease so well, did I mention? Well, I mean, it does—there’s no pleats in the seam—but it sure shows the puckers. Not even going to go into how many times it took me to get the zipper straight and smooth and matching up, either. On the up side, I did get it smooth and relatively straight (and relatively invisible!) eventually, so I shan’t whine too much. And I did a slightly better job stitching on the bodice lining on the inside this time, although with all the grading and clipping and fraying from being unpicked so many times it still doesn’t look peachy. But I think I have the theory down, anyway.

Back view

There are still some issues with how the back hangs—I think somewhere in my alterations the grain got a bit skewed—but at least it’s not straining over my hips and making my belly look like a stuffed sausage anymore. (It actually looks way better in this pic than when I’m just standing straight.  I miss the pockets, though. I wonder how much more work it would be to put them back in, now there’s enough ease for them… (walk away, Tanit, walk away…)

Hem facing

Having removed six inches in length, I didn’t really want to lose much more in the hem, so I put back the hem lace I’d been planning to use and dug out a package of teal hem-tape from one of my thrift-store scores that’s probably been in its package since about the time this pattern was new. I actually really like using a bias facing in curved hems like this. It works a bit better if you “circle” it first—iron it while stretching it into a curve.

Hem facing

Plus after thirty-odd years in the package it really needed to be ironed. Fortunately the skirt is quite narrow, as it was only a 1.85m package, and I had to discard about eight inches at one end where the tape that held the end in place all those years had turned yellow and marked up the fabric. I had just enough. The hem facing is a fair bit darker than the rest of the dress, but I think it’s a fun flash of colour. And it gives me the feel of a full, yummy 2.5″ hem without losing more than about 2 cm in length.

Having said all that, I have to admit something.

Halter styles are something I have a problem with. Meaning, I like them. I love the exposed back, I love how they look on other people and on pattern illustrations. But somehow when I see them on myself, I always feel line-backer-ish. Like they just emphasize the breadth of my shoulders. I keep making them because I really like the idea. And I keep thinking that next time, it’ll look “right.” There probably should be a name for this kind of stylistic insanity. On the other hand, I am actually liking the photos a lot better than I like the reflection in the mirror, so perhaps its one of those things where my brain exaggerates what I’m seeing beyond all reason.

Anyway, I’m hoping that some time in the Magic Closet will help me forget about most of my issues with the dress. Although the halter one’s probably there to stay. Next up: jackets in summertime. Unless the Lonsdale pattern arrives, anyway ;).

*You know. Where self-made pieces go to wait out the period while you forget all the stupid mistakes and messes you made.

**I don’t actually talk like this, but it sure is fun to write sometimes. Also my town is infected with cowboys at the moment, so it would be surprising if I didn’t have at least a few symptoms.


Filed under Sewing

All I need now is the Lonsdale…

Patterns! Thank you, ElleC!

It was a good week, mail-wise, if not sewing-wise*. Several really awesome things came through, but I’ll stick to the sewing-related ones.

Very sweet (and tragically blogless) commentor ElleC send me a delightful package of her own Value Village pattern finds. More 70s Simplicity than you can shake a stick at (including more maxi-dreses!)! And that retro black-dress pattern is the Simplicity take on the Audrey Hepburn dress Her Selfishness copied, lo these many moons ago (It might be fun to compare Selfish’s pattern to the Simplicity one, someday when I’m in an LBD mood…). But I’m especially, super-duper, stoked about the men’s “Designer Jeans” pattern front and centre. Copyright 1981, from a design house I’d never heard of in Edmonton, Alberta, it looks guaranteed to be pure cowboy. The legs are straight, not flared (I checked carefully 😉 ), although I have a feeling they’re not very roomy. Good for me, less good for my hubster. There’s also two versions of the instructions, both of which are really nice, although I still haven’t managed to figure out what the seam allowance is. Sadly, the man has informed me that he wants the jacket I promised him more than anything else. He doesn’t seem to grasp that my jacket motivation now that real summer is here is somewhere below zero. Blergh.

Building Patterns

Equally thrilling, this pattern-drafting book arrived. I actually won it back in May after commenting on a giveaway/article on, but it probably got shipped out right around the time the postal strike got serious. Anyway, it’s here, now, and came with a cute little note from the author herself, and it looks like fun although I haven’t had a real chance to dig into it. It’s definitely text-book weight, anyway!

All I’m waiting on now is for my Lonsdale Dress pattern to arrive! Tasia shipped them out last weekend, so hopefully sometime next week…

Anyway. I am trying to spend my weekend sewing, rather than blogging (so I might actually have something worth blogging about later), so I’ll leave you with that.


*this not getting home from work until 6:30 thing really chokes my mojo. Bleh.


Filed under Sewing