Monthly Archives: January 2012

More thrifting…


Erm. So, those of you who have (or have had) kids of a certain age know what I’m talking about. You get in the car, drive across town, drop them at their dance/music/sport/insert enriching activity here, and then… what? You drive back home, only turn around and go get them right away (and feel like a first world troll burning wanton fossil fuels)? You stay and watch, and feel like the classic annoying and overprotective parent? You sit outside in your car, wasting even more fuel? (Trust me, up here sitting with it not running in the winter for more than a few minutes is not an option…)

My solution, when I’m feeling responsible, is to head to the grocery store. When I’m feeling less responsible (or once the groceries are bought…), it’s to head to the thrift store.

Which, as I’ve said, is a bit uninspiring at the moment, but you never know when that’s going to change, and popping in once a week is exactly the kind of persistence that nets you the occasional gem. Or bags of lace you’re going to call a gem because it’s been so long since you saw anything better…

Anyway, on my most recent visit, the entire Singer Sewing Reference Library was there. Again. I’m not sure how many people in my area bought this collection, but it must’ve been a few as there’s been at least three infusions of these books since I started haunting this particular thrift store (which is only in the last year and a half, frankly.)

The trick with the Singer Sewing Reference Library is remembering what you’ve bought already. Maybe that’s why so many end up at the thrift store… people buy things twice and forget? I dunno. Anyway, this time I picked up the tailoring volume (which I know I wanted but can’t remember if I found or not) and the pants-fitting volume, because, well, one can never have too many fitting books (especially for fitting pants!). Of course it focuses strictly on loose, dress trouser type pants that are fitted at the wasit… y’know, the kind I never, ever wear… But still, good to have, right?

But then, of course, like clouds parting in the heavens, like choirs of angels singing, I saw another book, just sitting right there on top of the big block of SSRLs…

Yessiree, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. (1995 edition)

Obviously this was meant to be.

… which would probably be more meaningful if I mentioned that my husband used to play in high school, and recently his buddies back home have started playing again (pre-midlife-crisis, anyone? at least it’s cheaper than sports cars…) and over Christmas I sat in and actually participated in my first D&D game ever and kinda had a blast, and of course if my husband ever did have a copy of the Player’s Handbook it’s long, long gone, and I was kinda in need of get-out-of-doghouse ammo that night and this was the perfect thing to bring home to make a sick and long-suffering hubby less grumpy with me and did I ever mention how I read ALL the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance books I could get my hands on when I was like, nine, and this kid in my class told me I was in a cult for reading them (wtf?) but I never actually knew anyone who played becaue MAN that game would’ve been totally up my alley at that stage in my life when day-to-day reality was just about the most hellish it’s ever been…

Why yes, I actually am quite happy with myself. And I did sew up a Where’s Waldo shirt for Tyo over the weekend, but I haven’t got photos yet and may not get any before she takes scissors to the sleeves, which is a whole ‘nother issue…



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Birds on a Wire

Birds on a Wire Tee

So I’ve been promising (well, promising Steph) pictures of this version for ages. I’m not feeling very photogenic lately (never even mind the camera issues)… and my tripod is missing in action, and I’ve been sick, and… well, motivation hasn’t outweighed laziness, is I guess the basic way to put it.

This is, if you don’t instantly recognize it, a dead knockoff of Steph’s original version of her Blank Canvas Tee pattern, including using her very own Bird on a Wire fabric. Which, I feel I should disclose, she sent me as a gift for agreeing to help test the pattern (and advising on electronic drafting, although I turned out to be absolutely useless for that in the end :P). Since I drew her up a little technical drawing for the shirt, I almost feel like I earned it, although maybe I won’t admit how little time that sketch took…

Anyway, thank you, Steph, for both fabric and pattern! 🙂

This is the same pattern I made up before, except I scooped out the neck a couple of inches more—Steph and I share a love of scoop-necks. The length, you’ll recall, is extended, too… I don’t have a long body, but I wear my pants low, so I need my shirts long to cover them. I gather Steph has since tweaked the pattern to make the shoulders a little smaller, something I may follow suit in. The first version I made fit perfectly in the shoulders, but this version, in a knit with a bit more give, is a little large, and I have broad shoulders to begin with.

It’s a good thing I don’t have any navy blue knits in stash, though, or I’d be in the midst of whipping up yet another version, based on Steph’s first official pattern hack—a cute sweetheart-neckline, empire-waist, sailor-buttoned version.

This is my first time sewing with a Spoonflower knit (this is their organic cotton, if memory serves). It’s a nice weight and feels lovely. It does give quite a bit in stitching—I should’ve stabilized the shoulder seams—and the black print has grayed quite a bit even after only a couple of trips through the wash. That being said, you get your own freakin’ custom print. So, er, it’s probably still worth it. But maybe avoid throwing it in the dryer. Be a better person than I am.


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It’s probably Sherry’s fault, posting that Ruby Slip pattern and then hosting the sewalong with all those yummy tips on sewing with lace. Filling my nightime fantasies with dreams of guipure and silk habotai…

Yeah, let’s go with that.

It might also be that pickings at my local thrift store have been slim lately. (Except for sewing machines. There’s been lots of those. But I binged out over Christmas. It’s going to have to be something REALLY special before I bring home another one. I promise.) Maybe I’m desperate.

Whatever the reason, last time I stopped by, they had bags of lace. Bags and bags of it. I resisted. I only brought home two.

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with lace. Similar to how I feel about 70s fashions, actually. The best is heavenly, ringing bells for elegance, texture, luxury—all kinds of things I love.

But a lot of it, especially of what’s in my price range, is, quite frankly, meh. And some of it’s truly, abhorrently awful.

And I have to say, a fair bit of this haul is in the latter two categories.

Wide lace

There’s one piece that’s quite wide. (Maybe wide enough that I could do a practice Ruby with just some piecing? Or three. There’s like four metres of it.) Unfortunately, it’s nasty-70s/80s-polyester-awful, and doesn’t even have a nice pattern, either. The next widest stuff is stretch lace. Sherry recommends against that for the Ruby (even if it were wide enough), but maybe there’s cheeky panty possibilities? At any rate, it’s quite pretty. (I tried to take a closeup but it didn’t work out and I’m too lazy to re-take.)

There’s another, 3″ wide stretch lace that I could see using as a band at the hem of a T-shirt or something.

My Fave

Strictly for looks, this one’s my favourite. I love the delicacy and the little silvery threads. I have absolutely no idea what I’d do with it.

Bit of pink

This one with the bit of pink is also pretty neat. And there’s quite a lot. What for? What for?


And then, there’s the bits. Why did anyone even save these? (Oh yeah, they’re a scrap hoarder like me. :P)

And yet…

And yet…

Ok, I might have an idea. It’s twee. Possibly cavity-inducing.

Idea. Also poorly photographed. /sigh

Good thing I have a ready supply of little girls. Although I’m not even going to try this until I have at least one more good pair for me, dammit.

Maybe lace on the pockets, too?


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Life, Death and Denim

Since it’s not looking like I’ll get a chance to work on the Red-Leaf Clovers before the weekend, I thought I’d ramble a bit.

I’ve been making my own jeans for about a year and a half at this point. Which is close the natural life-span of a pair of jeans, especially the way I wear them, which is all the time.

So I thought I’d do a bit of rumination on the success, longevity, and idiosyncracies of making my own jeans:

 Jeans: Materials Screw ups Strong points Current condition

Trial Capris

Cheap, unpleasant fabric, plain gold jeans-thread topstitching Nothing major, except when I converted them to capris, a) I didn’t add enough length, and b) the topstitching sucked. Also there’s no internal seam finishing, so the insides are a bit raggedy (but still sound.) Super-comfy, and the fabric improves a lot as it wears. Wearable but definitely B list. I may re-convert them to capris come summer, which would remove the ugly topstitching, and potentially return them to A-list status.

Black & Silver

Black denim, silver Gutermann topstitching thread I used crappy serger thread in the bobbin when I was topstitching, which resulted in a LOT of topstitching failure. I also used cotton salvaged from a worn-out duvet for pocket lining, which has since shredded. Super comfy, flattering, and probably my single favourite pair to date, despite the material failures B-list due to the failed topstitching and shredded pockets. I keep meaning to stitch the front pockets up and make them at least decent again, because I really like this pair. The fabric has actually held up really well.

Rear View

Blue Capris

Heavy blue denim, gold topstitching I tried to add a small wedge to the CB  to get a bit more height in the back, but added it to the hip instead, by mistake. Miraculously, they still went together and fit. I love the heavier fabric for these—I got it at Fabricland but have never found it again. It makes them so much sturdier than my other pairs. These are still practically pristine, as they’re only worn during the summer months. I love them.

Black & Red

The identical denim to the black & silver pair, with red triple-stitch topstitching. Construction went pretty much flawlessly for these, as far as I can recall. I liked the red topstitching and got kinda creative with the belt-loops, which was fun. Although construction went fine, this pair was kinda cursed. I had issues with the buttons, and then the zipper pull came off. I actually undid the fly and re-inserted it on the bottom, but it came off again a few weeks later. At which point I threw up my hands.

Skinny Cargoes

Black denim (same as the black jeans), silver Gutermann topstitching thread I accidentally bought separating zippers instead of regular ones for the legs. This made inserting them interesting, and the other week one side separated, which was really hard to get back in. Construction went well, but some of the decisions (like stitching down the pocket flaps) would be problematic later on. Really stylish and unusual. This makes it hard to wear them too frequently, but they are sure fun for a change. A-list. I’ve had some ripping of the pockets due to pulling too much to use them with the flaps stitched down at the sides. And the leg zippers occasionally try to separate. Other than that, they’re great, though. They’ve held up well but are not in as heavy rotation as less striking pairs.

Skinny Jeans

Blue denim, gold jeans topstitching thread The skinny ankles are very skinny, especially on the right side. Getting them on and off is a bit of a pain. Also, one leg twists really badly. (the other is basically fine) Aside from being annoying, it means that the knee-wear that’s showing up is mis-placed, so even if I bolt them into place with tall boots they still look a bit funny.Oh, and I forgot to pre-wash my pocketing fabric, and I usually extend my pockets into the front fly, so after the first washing it shrank and I couldn’t figure out why they felt so tight while still seeming loose across the front. I had to slice up between pocket and fly to release the tension. Cute topstitched-dart feature in the back leg. A-list, bordering B. Mostly  because with wear, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the twisting is a real, big problem. They’ve had a lot (LOT) of wear, though I’ve never liked them as much as my black and silver pair.

Sailor Bellbottoms

Heavy, non-stretch indigo denim, really nice stuff. Gold jeans  topstitching thread. Modified from the Burdastyle.comEllen pants pattern. I used the same waistband as I do for my stretch jeans, and it’s really not long enough for non-stretch. There’s no overlap at the front, which makes me feel just a bit insecure wearing them, even with a belt. I wish I’d considered the construction in this area a little more thoroughly. Cute laced-front fly, great idea although not perfectly executed. B-list. I rarely wear these, partly because of the too-short, non-overlapping waistband and partly because my husband doesn’t like them. Not that I care what he likes, but I do prefer receiving compliments. They’re still a nice change from time to time.

Cream Spice Capris

Light-weight cream denim, pink topstitching, japonesque print piping I could’ve handled the piping and the little cuffs a little better with a bit more forethought (I did much better on the little jeans I made my nieces recently). I love the colour-combo and the piping details. A-list. Although since they’re limited to summer wear, they are still pretty much pristine.

Topstitching Fail Jeans

Medium blue denim, Sulky cotton topstitching thread Using cotton topstitching thread. Probably you could get away with it in non-stretch jeans, or using a stretch stitch, but not straight, as I tried to. The stitching on the rear pockets is completely broken. I did stay the front pocket edges during construction, so that part is fine. Also, I messed up the insertion of one of the studs (left the nail too long) and so it’s quite mis-shapen and sharp and can be pretty uncomfortable. I need to fix that. I love the colour of the topstitching thread (a darker, antique gold) and the construction went great. A-list, but just barely. The failed topstitching and uncomfortable stud weren’t enough to put me off these jeans, but when I tore a big three-corner hole in the front thigh, they became almost unwearable (I’m so over wearing my jeans with holes in…) I have since mended them, and they’re back in regular rotation, but they’re definitely not “best.”

I know, I should really add links to the various posts with the photos. But it seems every time I twiddle something in the table, it breaks and I lose a column, so I’m going to leave well enough alone.

So, overall? My self-made denim doesn’t have a great record in the longevity department. That being said, more of it has to do with failures of supplementary materials (thread, zipper, pocketing) than the denim itself—surprising considering how crappy-thin most of the denim is. I haven’t yet gone through the knees of any of the pairs, which is a minor miracle for me. And only one of the pair is completely out of comission, although I don’t really like how many of them have turned out (or into) B-listers.

Some very sturdy stretch denim followed me home from the thrift store in December, so that’s an upcoming plan should I ever finish the Clovers. It doesn’t have as much stretch as I’m used to, however (20% rather than 50%), so I think I will need to re-draft my pattern a bit.

ETA: crappy tables. It looked fine on the preview, I swear. But I can’t seem to fix it—sorry. 😦


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Red Leaf Clover (Round two)

Clover---round two


So. Still not the best photography, but at least it’s not the iPhone. I lightened the crap out of things to make the wrinkles etc. show better.

So, at this point I have lowered the rise in the front 5cm, tapering to 2.5 at the hip and zilch at the centre back. And this time (yay!) the zipper held out long enough to take some actual photos.

So at this point I’m seeing two major problems, aside from generalized looseness:

1) wrinkles at side-seam along hip. Several of you in the last post (thanks so much, everyone!) attributed this to excess hip curve, and you’re probably right. On the left side the zipper has forced this extra length into a single large fold at the bottom of the zipper, on the right side it’s more distributed.

2) bagginess at front crotch. I obviously need to research this. These aren’t strain wrinkles—it’s more like there’s just too much fabric here.

Minor problems include

3) dip at CB still there. If I lower the sides more, this may help, but really a bit of extra height in the back will be a must for next time.

4) wrinkles and looseness along legs. There’s some width that can be taken out here, I think.

Next up, I did what I should’ve done before I ever cut, and dug out my pattern for the Burdastyle Ellen Pants. This is the one that created the Businesswoman Pants, and while the fit isn’t totally perfect, it’s hella better than this pair, at least so far. The only reason I didn’t before, aside from laziness, was that the Ellen isn’t drafted for stretch fabric, so I wasn’t sure how precisely comparable they would be.

Crotch Curve Comparison:

Ellen vs. Clover

So this was the REALLY interesting part. I overlaid the two patterns. The solid paper is the Ellen pants (cut to a size 34 rather than my usual 36 as they run large). The tissue is my tracing of the Clover (size 2 grading to size 4 at the waist).

The biggest single difference is the rise in the front. It’s more than an inch higher at the centre front, and substantial. The rear rise is almost identical—a smidge lower at CB, a cm higher at the sideseam. There’s a slightly greater curve to the hip in the clover. The back piece is slightly wider in the Clover, but then the front piece is slightly narrower, so I think the overall width is very similar (and Ellen is non-stretch!). The spookiest thing is that the diference in rise doesn’t even out at the side seam—the rear side-seam is higher, when the crotch curves are lined up, than the side on the front, which means that there’s some odd shifting of how the halves are going to fit together. That’s boggling my brain, I tell you.

The crotch curves are almost identical, up to and including the much longer rear than front curve. This is the bit that really threw me for a loop, because I was expecting there to be a significant difference, not just a few mm at the back of the rear crotch curve. Now maybe having the front fly on the Ellen masks certain things, or maybe it’s just that they’re in non-stretch fabrics, but I never saw anything in any of my Ellens like the folds I have in the Clover.

There are a few other differences—the Clover legs are much narrwer, especially as you go down, than the straight-legged Ellens. But on the whole—scary close.

So I think I’m going to cry Uncle, seam rip the entire kaboodle, and recut following the Ellen pattern at the top. And then maybe consider taking in the side-seams until the stretch factor is properly accounted for.

And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I’ve stuck with the same two pants patterns this whole time…


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Quantum Bralettes

Mini bra (and pattern)

Quantum: noun, the smallest possible amount which retains the properties of the substance in question.

Tyo has reached that age.

Despite the fact that she still has very little worth mentioning to put in them (thankfully!), she’s decided she wants to wear bras. She has one fully-formed, underwired, lightly padded AA monstrosity, and a few more sports-bra-like things, only one of which is satisfactory.

So several times over the last few months, she’s let me know that more, of the mommy-made variety, would be extremely welcome.

Back view

And, considering that they use teeny little scraps, I could hardly refuse. Although I should finalize the measurements for the straps so that I don’t have to call her down to fit them every time.

The pattern is a single piece with a seam at centre back, although I can cut the back portion separately if the pieces are extra small (as they were for this pair.) I made it up, loosely based (mostly for size) on a RTW one that she likes. The edges are finished with fold-over elastic, zig-zagged down in this case although other stretchy stitches also work well. The elastic is a little more stiff than I might like, but she seems to find them comfy.

And now Syo (who I’ll remind you is eight) wants some.



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Those dastards…


The fine folks who run my local Value Village have caught on to a practice the VV in my hometown has long practiced—bundling up the patterns in little plastic baggies so you have to buy four extras to get the one you want.

As a result, all these “lovelies” joined me the other day just so I could take home this Project Runway pattern:


Also, this way you can’t really check the envelope contents before buying. Fortunately for me Simplicity 2508 turned out to be uncut in factory folds, but I didn’t know that until I was home.

They are brats, aren’t they? (and as if I needed another jacket pattern)


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