Monthly Archives: March 2016

Navy & Icing 

DSC08430No sooner do I declare that I like a bit of edge in my clothing, than I make a bunch of things that are super sweet.

2016-03-28 09.21.25-1

Butterick 6321 – Lisette

Butterick 6321 is a bonus project—a pattern featured in Fabricland’s current mailer, so available as an extra project if someone wants to do it. And it is seriously cute. And, pockets. But, I had a hard time settling into this project. Sometimes I feel a bit like a stereotype of myself as the girl who makes the pretty dresses. In the end, I like it more than I thought I might a lot of the way through, though.

I had a hard time picking the fabric. We have a lot of gorgeous rayons and some nice summer cottons in store right now, but I liked how the detailing looked on the solid version on the cover. Eventually I settled on this pretty and very light-weight stretch denim, and lace for the detailing. I do love this lace, and have been looking for an excuse to use it in a project since it came in.


Instant fuzz collector.

After checking the final garment measurements, and knowing I was using a stretch fabric, I opted to sew a size 10 throughout, rather than grading to a 12 for waist and hips. I am glad I did the 10 in the bottom half, but I could maybe have gone down to an 8 in the bust and shoulders. (Typing that terrified me. I have never in my sewing life been an actual pattern size 8, though I’ve tried once or twice with disastrous results.)


You can’t see it, but my swayback alteration was successful. No back wrinkles.

I made most of my usual alterations—swayback, square shoulder, and petiting along the designated lengthen-shorten line. What I skipped was additional petiting through the armscye. I figured, because of the construction with the seam there, I could adjust at that point later if necessary, and I overdid the petiting on a few projects last fall so I’m a bit gunshy now. Come to think of it, those were both McCall’s patterns, though.



Lightened. Nope, you still can’t see it.

Then I went and did my construction in such a way that it would be nearly impossible to adjust anything by the time I could actually try stuff on properly. In hindsight I could’ve left off the bodice facings and the sleeves until everything else was finished, tried on, and then fixed the shoulder height. Hindsight is so perfect, isn’t it? What I actually did was finish every damn thing on the bodice, beautifully, with plenty of seam grading and trimming to make things work in my heavy fabric, before I even had the skirt started.


DSC08428A couple of construction notes: the pattern calls for self-lined shoulder pieces and cap sleeves. I substituted a navy stretch poplin for these pieces (as well as the pocket lining) because of my heavier fabric. I also went a bit off road on the construction, as I wasn’t completely fond of the method described. I am pretty happy with what all I did, even the moment when I had the entire bodice rolled up inside the little front “placket” so I could machine finish it. Just not with the fit. /sigh.

This is another side-zip dress. *headdesk* it’s not so much the physical insertion of a side zip that I dislike, as the difficulty they add to fitting as you go, and then the awkwardness of wearing them after. In this case, we were wary of using an invisible zipper because of the heaviness of the denim… So rather than struggle with the bulk of a conventional zipper or a lapped side zip, I basically went for the nuclear option. Exposed, chunky metal zip.

2016-03-29 19.01.39I’m not sure if this is the wisest style decision I’ve ever made, but I do like the flatness of it. It goes with the denim but seems a bit out of place with the lace. And the fancy pull is gigantic. Oh, well.

At my first try on, before the zip was in, I confess my heart sank. The shoulders were weirdly wide and the cap sleeves came too low under my arms, feeling extremely constricting. I had visions of ripping off the sleeves entirely for a sundress look. Or just throwing it all in a corner.


Too much room in the shoulders.

But, it’s a work project and so no UFOs allowed. Once I had the zip in, things looked a lot better. With the waist sitting where it should, the extra height above the bust is more apparent, but it also forces the bottom of the cap sleeve up to the right height under my arm, so the weird binding is down to manageable proportions. Meaning I won’t be turning cartwheels easily but I can comfortably put my hands on my hips and cross my arms. The shoulders are definitely a bit wide, but some of that might also be the extra height letting things slide around. I don’t have narrow shoulders, by the way.


Extra height makes folds at shoulders.

This pattern has a sweet, detailed upper bodice, and the skirt is fairly narrow with some interesting shirt-tail shaping at the hem (although it’s subtle, maybe a bit too subtle to be noticeable. On the other hand if it were more pronounced it would’ve been harder to get my wide lace to curve evenly to match the edge). I like them both—I’m just not convinced they go really well together. I’d love to pair the bodice with a fuller skirt (say, Sewaholic’s Hollyburn, which has the same kind of pockets) and/or the skirt with a little sundress bodice or even as a separate piece. In reality, though, I like the finished object more than I thought I might, and if I can bring myself to rework the shoulders I’ll probably be good with it as is.


DSC08427It does look a bit like a Victorian bathing suit.



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Sewing with offspring

  Last Saturday I wound up unexpectedly home alone with my children all evening. Of course I was going to sew (I’m a single-minded obsessive after all) but, rather unexpectedly, they wanted to join in. First Tyo, then Syo, and they both wanted to make… Underwear! 

Tyo, who just completed her first sewing unit in Practical & Applied Arts at Xmas, got her heart fixated on black lace boy shorts. I had some fabric I figured would be perfect—a hefty stretch lace with decent recovery, that I made a great pair of leggings from last year sometime (and didn’t blog, apparently). After a lot of googling I convinced her that not only did I know what boy shorts are, but that the Rosy Ladyshorts were, in fact, a boyshort pattern, and she agreed to make a slightly modified version—modified by adding to the bottom edge so that when she sewed on the stretch lace edging she could line its outer edge up with the fabric, and trim the excess away later. Considering she’s never sewn anything stretch before, never mind applied elastic by feel, I think she did awesome. 

  The crappy part is that since she has a pair of this fabric, I can’t make myself one, and it was a really great idea!!!!

  Syo wanted an aqua pair to match two of her bras, and we managed to find a lace in stash that was almost exactly the right colour. And fabric, but that’s less astonishing. Unfortunately not a stretch lace, which took some explaining, but we used it for the side fronts of my hacked Watson pattern. Now for some reason I feel a wee bit weird about showing you photos of my preteen’s underwear so I’m just showing you the fabrics.  

img_3115So imagine this pair but made of not-see-through aqua knit with the lace at the side rather than centre front. I wound up doing most of the construction as it was a bit more complex than was probably a good idea, but Syo cut it all out on her own. 

The convenient part about all of this is both children pretty much wear my same size right now in horizontal measurements, so there was little to no adjusting of size. Although that may also be saddening. /sigh. 

  And me? Well, I made up this very smart pair  of Ladyshorts in a camo mesh and got all excited…

And, for you camo haters out there, you have a win. This pair was a total fail. The lace was perfect but the mesh has way too much stretch in one direction, little recovery,  and absolutely none in the other, and they were BAGGY! And no amount of taking them in would fix it. UGH. I feel like the Rosy Ladyshorts, more than any other underwear pattern I’ve made, really depend on the fabric having just the right amount of stretch and recovery. When I nail it, they’re amazing, but when they don’t work, the fail is epic. Ah, well. It’s not like I don’t have lots of other underwear in my drawer…

I really want a black lace pair like Tyo’s, dammit. 


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Victorian Romp

_MG_0155My ersatz Victorian dress is finished, or at least as finished as it is likely to get, which is to say there is trim of some kind on all three main elements. (Waist, aka bodice, skirt, and overskirt.) I’m actually reasonably comfortable that it falls within the range of Victorian “normal” and isn’t too weirdly stripped-down, which is actually the biggest thing that often seems off about costumes (at least to me). Well, the skirt is probably a little too plain. And the whole thing is on the plain end. Just, hopefully not too plain. (And my neckline is completely inappropriate for a day dress as far as I can tell, while my suiting fabric would not be a good choice for evening wear… but this was my “fun” project and I don’t personally like high necks, so I picked the neckline I liked.

Button Fixin

While getting dressed, I lost a button. A significant amount of the editing involved photoshopping the button that popped off when I was getting dressed.

The bodice has a pleated ribbon trim; the overskirt has the same ribbon, but unpleated. For the skirt I took all the remaining bias tape from my main fabric and folded the edges under to make a trim I could stitch down. This was the least successful trim as the bias is somewhat rippled (even though I stitched both edges in the same direction). I wasn’t convinced the placement was any good, either, but actually looking at the photos I don’t mind it. I don’t feel inclined to rip it all off, in any case. If I had more of the red fabric I would add a pleated trim around the bottom of the skirt, but I don’t, and at least at present I don’t feel like buying more.

_MG_0132Anyway, this completion happily coincided with a couple of things. With my most recent Victorian Sewing Circle afternoon. Also, my sister-in-law, who has always dabbled in photography (and even worked as a portraitist a few times) has decided she wants to really get into the game. Photographer with a Real Camera who just wants some serious practice? Sign me up! So I got her to meet me at the Marr Residence that morning for a fun (almost*) period photo shoot.


We started with boudoir shots.

It’s been a really long time since I did a real photo shoot with, like, an actual photographer. It was really fun.


with book light playing 2We bounced around the house, playing with the light.

At the firexcfEvery room was different.

With Tree

The Marr Residence has a great little double-lot park, and the day was warm enough that it wasn’t a huge sacrifice to run around in the snow—although the tail end of winter is not the most scenic time of year anywhere.

Angie was good enough to let me have at the electronic files. It’s also been a really long time since I took the time to seriously edit photos for anything. I am not on the Better Pictures Project. 😉 most of my blog photos are quick snaps with my iPhone, occasionally tripod shots on my point ‘n shoot, and the editing I do is only basic straightening, cropping, and a wee bit of contrast & exposure. Mostly via the built-in iPhone editor. It’s a hard reality that I have accepted—if I wait for good photos before I blog, there will be no blog.


But it was sure nice to actually take some time with these, both the photo shoot and the editing. And I even had RAW to play in! (I am not a good enough photo editor to tell you if RAW actually makes a difference in the final photo, but it sure is FUN!) though most of these were done from the jpeg as it’s just faster for me. RAW is like a rabbit hole from which there is no return.

Water sepia glow (2)

I can’t help it. I love me some cheesy filtering sometimes.

I did most of the editing in GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is photoshop’s slightly awkward but most importantly free little brother. It can do pretty much whatever photoshop can, and doesn’t cost a dime (and it took about three seconds of googling for me to find and download the add-ons for processing RAW format and batch-editing. I do find it difficult to bounce back and forth between the two programs, as you have to remember two different ways to do everything, but if you don’t want to shell out for Photoshop it’s a pretty awesome alternative.


Laughing on the path redI may have had a bit too much fun with the editing process, making sepia and low-colour versions. Oh, well. They’re my photos and I’ll cheese ’em up if I want too. I also lost the cover off one of my fabric-covered buttons while getting dressed, so that had to be photoshopped out of a bunch of pics. I will warn you, I also took the liberty of some SERIOUS Photoshopping once or twice—so if you catch yourself wondering “is her waist really that small?” The answer is probably “no, not even in a corset.” PICTURES LIE!!!!

Outside house tight red

PS, should you have the inclination, you can find my photographer at Angel Jems Photography—facebook page for now, hopefully a real website at some point. Also I’ve uploaded a few more photos on my Flickr page:

Victorian Romp


Victorian Romp Sepia

What we didn’t get were any shots resembling an actual Victorian portrait, standing stiffly against a backdrop and not smiling. These pesky modern photographers and their action shots and candid snaps. Maybe next time.

Outside and pensive*you’ve seen my hair, right? Short of concocting a story about how I cut it off and sold it to buy a chain for my husband’s prize watch, which he sold to buy me a comb for my beautiful hair, we’re kinda stuck. I don’t have an appropriate wig, and I’m disinclined to go out and buy one at the moment. I also don’t have a period hat for the outdoor shots.

Tree hug contras

Ok, I’ll stop now.


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So not cool.

img_3410So a crummy thing happened last Friday. Not a tragedy, exactly, but a bummer. And I’m not mentioning it to condemn humanity, or even as a plea for sympathy (though I’ll take it), but just because this is my record of things to do with my sewing and nothing like this has actually happened with any of my sewing before.

Remember this green dress, Burda 6686, made for a work project a couple of weeks ago? Well, like a good little employee I hung it up at Fabricland, nice and front and centre on one of the little plastic half-mannequins we have for such display, and boy did it look cute, if I do say so myself. (I think my Courtney Love reference was a bit lost, however—it just looked like a sweet little sundress.)

Well, during the busyness of last weekend’s half-price sale, somebody seized a moment when no one was looking, pulled the mannequin down, pulled the dress off it, and walked off with my dress. It was such a little thing it would have fit easily in a pocket…

img_3425So yeah. Kinda bummed. 😦 Which I already whined about thoroughly on Facebook, but anyway. One nice thing did happen since then—my management was approved to replace my materials, so I can make the dress again.

2016-03-23 22.09.10-1Plus they threw in a little bonus of comp goods of my choice as a partial comp for my time—so I was able to pick up some trims for my next Victorian costume. Because, y’know, priorities. 🙂

So really I should just buckle down and make the damn dress again, because the last thing I want is the fabric sitting there in stash mocking me. I really, really, really should…



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Rinse, lather…


  I made Burda 6686 again. 

Not even a different version. Just longer. And with no edge to cut the sweetness. This one is sugar all the way. 

The fabric is a scrumptious cotton gauze that came home with me as a splurge after Christmas. I wasn’t sure what it wanted to be, but I was in love. (That kinda happens a lot.)

  It’s pale grey shot with blue, though I can’t seem to get the blue to photograph. While I was surprised how opaque my thin rayon was in the first version, this version is definitely sheer, and the straps on my long slip show around the wide neckline. Oh, well. 


It was probably at its best in this mirror shot before I went and wore it all day…

I added lace at the neck again, and a bit more along the underbust seam. This version pulls up a bit during wearing, more than the green one seemed to. I’m thinking it’s that the gauze has a lot more give than the rayon. I tried loosening the elastic at the neckline so there was less pull up, but it just got floppy and gapey. I could add elastic at the underbust but I’m wary of gathering on the skirt portion. 

  I shall wear it anyway. 🙂


Swayback adjustment win: Perfect wrinkle-free back! Well, aside from the wrinkles from sitting in it all day.

 I lengthened the skirt and added a bit more flare than as drafted. I was worried it was too long, but now that I hemmed it up 2″ (machine blind hem this time 😉 ) I actually think it might be a bit short. Certainly too short for the heels I’m wearing. I can always let it out if I need to. 


Did I mention how much I love this fabric? Almost as much as I love that I managed to squidge across my soggy backyard to take outdoor pics in the snow-free part. Snow is back today, of course. 


In my imagination this is the perfect combination of a Regency historical silhouette with modern wearability (for a given level of wearable. 😉 )

Definitely needs ballet flats rather than heels, though. 


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Sweet n’ skanky

img_3424So a little while ago, I fell in love with a fabric at work. Because that doesn’t happen like every two seconds. This was a sweet rayon with a print that felt very vintage, in a soft green that is not at all my usual palette. And then we got this adorable embroidered net lace, and the pairing raised the delicate sweetness to soaring heights. Completely in love. But a little worried about making something from it that I actually want to wear. I generally like a wee bit of an edge to my sweetness, and lately I’ve been feeling that a bit more keenly. This rayon seemed like it wanted to be a drapey 30s or 40s style dress, which are sweet but not really edgy. 
Which got me thinking about how to take such a dress and make it feel like me. Which led to some quality Pinterest trawling featuring loads of classic Courtney Love. /sigh. Sometimes you just never escape your inner fourteen year old. 

  After a little more browsing, the fabric and I compromised on Burda 6686, which appears to be the current incarnation of Burda 8071, which Handmade By Carolyn has made about a billion lovely versions of. 

    There isn’t a whole lot to say about the dress otherwise. Construction is pretty simple. I shortened just above the waist, and added a bit of a swayback adjustment, which was largely successful. I cut a size 38 in the skirt, 36 in the bodice, very easy since they’re just gathered together.  Mid-construction, I  shortened the skirt by about 5″ and lowered the front neckline about 2″. Unfortunately I’d already stitched the neckline all down so I had to unpick, lower, and re-sew the elastic casing. Blerg. I’m glad I did, though. 

The dress has a side zipper, which I don’t love, but hate less than I usually do. And this style really wouldn’t work with a back zipper. 

 I added the lace at the hem and a wee little bit at the bust. I cut my lace to match the hem length, made it into a loop, and serged upside down to the bottom edge, so that when I put in the 1″ hem it would hang free from the lace a bit, if that makes any sense. I had originally wanted the lace to hang free from a lining, but the lining was too bulky and the green print wasn’t as sheer as I originally feared. 

 I should probably have taken the elastic out before I stitched in the lace at the bust as I caught the elastic in, which kinda defeats the purpose of a casing. Oh, well. I’ll worry about it when/if the time comes to replace the elastic.  

  I added a tag made from selvedge to the back neck since I kept losing track of which was which during construction. The lace will fix that, too, I guess. 

 All that remained was to spike up the hair, throw on some ripped tights and chunky boots, and some dark lipstick. 

  I love how this dress feels barely there. And even the crappy bathroom mirror photos seem perfect for the grungy look. 😉

 Perfect for pouty selfies. 

  By the time I get this back from display it may even be warm enough to wear it!


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A draped overskirt

Last weekend I continued to futz with the Victorian outfit. The waistband is still a mess, but I hemmed the skirt. And hemmed. And cried. And hemmed. And it’s not perfect but it’s hemmed (not pinned!) and doesn’t look too terrible from a safe distance, so we’ll go with that.

 The next (almost final?) phase of the half-assed Victorian outfit is the draped overskirt. They’re not quite mandatory for 1880s outfits, but pretty darn close. My texts say either “these things are crazy, go get a pattern” or “use about this much fabric and go to town.”

And of course, “But be tasteful.” The Victorians were big on taste, apparently. But also sure that basically no one had it. Personally I’m pretty sure I will fail at taste, so I’m not going to sweat it.

I did, in fact, buy myself a pattern, last summer, Truly Victorian 368, the “Waterfall Overskirt”. I wanted to see a basic idea of how they went together. It was very interesting, and also very simple, once you had it it laid out for you.

I’m planning on using the waterfall version for my blue dress, so I wanted this one to be different.  I had a vague mental image of the overskirts that leave one side ungathered so there is kinda a point at the bottom. 

To start, I eyeballed what I had left of my grey suiting (around 2m) and estimated what I wanted to drape over the front, and cut that much off.

After some experimenting, I took my general shape (a rectangle with a bit more length on one side—mostly to do with the shape of the fabric I had remaining) and added the lining and an interlining of some random stash drapery sheer that was thin and a little crisp, on the theory that it would give my thin and drapey suiting a bit more body.

I was all set to put in darts when I decided I didn’t want the disruption in the stripes, so I cut a curve out of the top instead to go around the waist. There followed a lot of futzing with pins and playing with pleats until I had it arranged to my liking. I’m very glad I took the time to adjust the dress form for wearing my corset—it took a fair bit of wriggling and padding but with the corset it actually approximates my corseted shape quite well—kind of like those skin-tight covers they talk about making when you pad out a custom dress form. Unlike anything it has ever done for my un-corseted shape.
But doing this kind of draping without a form would be tricky.

 The back drape I cut into some shallow points at the bottom, finished the edges (it’s just lined and turned, with the same interlining as the front), and then started pleating and pinching and messing around.

 I ran a piece of grosgrain ribbon down the inside of the back to anchor the central tucks onto. On its own I actually liked it better without it being all tucked up in the middle, but once I layered the bodice tails over I added some more tucking.

 I had messed around with pinning up the tails before, but I think I have a much better arrangement now.

 And I like the button. I think I need to move my waist stay down a bit in the back, so the bodice hugs the back a little better.

2016-02-16 06.02.37And then I need to bite the bullet about trim. I have a ton of 5/8″ satin ribbon in the right red, some pleated, some not… But what, where, and how much is enough? Or too much. Is it possible to have too much of anything on a Victorian getup? I think we’re straying into “taste” territory again…


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