Monthly Archives: July 2016

Excessively Heirloom

I’ll do proper pictures when I get a chance, but I wanted to throw this up before I forget everything. Like much of my recent sewing, this project draws on my desire to wear historical clothing, except not actually be in costume.

I first fell for McCall’s 6956 back in the spring. The Plucky New Girl at work had taken it out as a project, and, well, kinda bit off a bit more than she could chew, what with never having sewn from a pattern before. Since this was pretty much my entire approach to sewing from about 1989 up to, oh, 2010, I give her full credit. I just hope she wasn’t too traumatized. Anyway, me (and some other ladies) got to play angel and help her finish it off, and in the process I got to try it on and was, well, thoroughly charmed by it.

Also, I am so deep in sundress mode right now, I can’t even. ALL THE SUNDRESSES!!!

Anyway, it’s that awkward seasonal changeover at Fabricland where the old fabric is on the way out but the new stuff hasn’t much arrived so project pickings are slim, and it’s best to focus on the small core of non-seasonal fabrics that are always in stock. 
And did I mention sundress mode? Also, I was still craving DETAIL after the fun of the Gabriola skirt and its bodice. 

So I doodled up a picture something like this:

To be made out of our always-in-stock cotton batiste. And then I went looking for a pattern that sorta fit, and ended up with McCall’s 6956.
And then I went half-ass-heirloom insane.
OK, so I am not totally clear on the exact definition of “heirloom sewing”. I’ve read a few old Threads articles, and a lot of Victorian sewing manuals that describe the techniques, but not under that name. Anyway, what I’m basically saying is I experimented liberally with pin tucks, lace insertion, and faux-hem-stitch using a wing needle.

The pin tucks took the longest, partly because pin tucks take FOREVER and partly because I had a friend over so my sewing setup was optimized for hanging out rather than for quick changing between machine and pressing. No regrets. I tested out the cheater-pin tucking with a twin needle, but while I have a pin tuck foot for my Janome, I didn’t have a real twin needle, and while I can put two needles in the Rocketeer at what would be a perfect distance for twin-needle pin tucking, the foot won’t fit that machine and when I tried with other feet everything just went wonky quite easily. So all the pin tucks were done the old fashioned way—measure, mark, and stitch. I switched the Rocketeer to straight-stitch plate and foot for this, which I think helped me get the teeny tucks I was going for. (Oh, and I also wasted quite a few hours on quarter-inch tucked panels, too, before deciding I wanted a more delicate look. Hopefully I can use those for something else later.)
I cut the pieces for the bodice out of pre-tucked fabric (pintucks taken at 1 cm intervals, by the way), but did the tucks on the skirt after cutting. There was a lot of laying things out on the floor to make sure the tuck-lines matched up. (Mostly they do.) 

Everything else blurs into a haze of lace-insertion and indecision. I had gotten a bunch of this ladder-type insertion trim on deep clearance, and wound up going to town on that. I ran a strip down every panel except for the centre back ones (and I would have gotten them too except I ran out of trim.) 

I put the skirt all together. 
I pulled it off again.
Twice. That’s how long it took me to figure out the lining needed to be completely free from the outer dress, otherwise it just looked stupid. Eventually I figured out how I wanted the dress constructed. Then I started adding lace.

And cutting out the fabric behind it.

And, let’s just say I had better be damn careful when I wash this thing.

When the lining was incorporated into the pleats, it was way too puffy.

Oh, the tucks in the front are not as long as the pattern dictates, partly because that’s the look I wanted and party because I cut a size 10 and the waist was, um, snug. This fabric has a lot less give than that glorious grey linen-cotton. The bust fits perfectly though. 

Batiste is not really the right fabric for hem stitching, but it was still fun to do. I spent quite a bit of time (how many times have I said this about this time-suck of a project?) experimenting with how different stitches looked, but in the end one of the nicest was a simple zig-zag. Which is good because I used that lots of places. Whether it was a good idea, will remain to be seen…

My initial concept sketch buttoned up the front, but when I started working with the pattern I decided I liked the centre front tuck too much to get rid of, so while there are still some buttons, they are strictly decorative. And I have no photos of them because I actually sewed them on right before I hung the dress at work. 

There are millions of mistakes, flaws, and other irregularities that I won’t go into. The only one that’s really bothering me is that the front isn’t quite symmetrical. My best guess is that this happened when I was inserting the ladder-trim—I think when I cut the piece in half to sew the insertion in, I didn’t line it back up perfectly (since the top edge is slanted this is a bit tricky, I should’ve worked from the hem.) And I didn’t realize until well after everything was topstitched and lace slapped on and fabric underneath cut away and, well, crud. It is what it is (and, if you didn’t notice anything until I said so, well, hey, what’s that over there? No, pay no attention to the rest of this paragraph…)

Anyway. Finished the hem with zig-zag faux hem stitch, and the lining hem with the last of my lace. Seriously, I had like six inches left over. Whew!

And then I raced off to work to hang it, so I didn’t even get any decent finished pictures. Which means they’ll have to wait for their own post after I get it back at the end of August… Basically, after sundress season is over. Um, not my best planning ever. 😦

Oh, well. I should really be making Tyo that birthday flannel she wants, anyway. 😉



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Gabriola the Second

DSC08542I’ll forgive you if you don’t remember Gabriola the first; I couldn’t even remember if I’d blogged about it. Two years, eh? Anyway. I like this version better.

DSC08552A few months ago I made a new corset. But it wasn’t in my usual colour scheme, so I needed some kind of bottom.

A few days ago, I went stash diving for fabric. As I said, it’s not one of my usual colours. Pickings were slim. But at last I settled on this piece of rather drab tie-dye with a subtle embroidered border. It’s from a range of border-embroidered fabrics that were already marked down when I first started at Fabricland, and I picked up the last bits of an embarrassing number of the pieces.  What can I say?

 Fortunately, I had about 4m of this particular one—what with trying to at least roughly match the scalloped border, I needed every bit of fabric.

It was so nice to have the pattern all traced and ready to go. I made a couple of little mods this time around strictly for style purposes. I added a placket at the back and buttons, instead of a zipper.

DSC08544The buttons are all mother of pearl, from the Antique Button Stash—they roughly match, except for the big one at the top.

And I left a slit between the left and centre panels on the front.

It ends really high if you do it that way, by the way. I did plan for this by adding little eyelets and a lacing cord to close it up a bit, which had the added benefit of  gathering it up a little—a benefit because that seam must’ve stretched when I was doing the hemming (despite stay-stitching) because it’s the only part of the skirt that was too long. And you can’t adjust a border embroidery at the bottom.

I cut the embroidered overlays on the hips from the tiny scraps left over, so although I tried to get them mirroring left and right, the front and back are a bit different. On the other hand I managed to get all those points on the lower yokes to line up, which is good because had topstitched those panels with a cross stitch and that shit isn’t coming out.

Using the embroidered hem meant losing the curve along the bottom of the skirt pieces, which was a risk, but I think looks fine in this case, even if the finished hem is a bit angular and jagged.

All in all pretty happy! Not sure if it’ll be truly wearable or just another costume piece, but I sure do like it—considerably more than I thought I would, since the fabric was frankly kinda  boring and ugly.

The colour is not quite spot on for the corset (although it varies since it’s a tie-dye) but I think it’s close enough. If not, I think a bit of a tea bath will fix that, but I’m not going to rush things. I managed to cut a tiny bodice from the scraps, as you can see in the “nice” photos, so I should be able to wear it with that on a slightly more every-day basis than with the corset. I’ll talk about the bodice next, though!



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Grey-green Linen

 God this fabric is gorgeous. The composition tag says “linen and rayon”—I’m thinking it’s rayon embroidery on linen background.

Sometimes a project is just fun to do. Not perfect, by any means, not at all flawless—but man it felt great.

The pattern I picked was the newish McCall’s 7339, mainly to be trying a new corset. It has some cute features, namely cup sizes and a raised back. Also, it doesn’t require a busk—Handy for a shop project since we don’t carry busks.

DSC08556 The materials I chose were affected quite a bit by this being a shop project. Aside from the busk, I used ticking instead of coutil, and tried substituting Bosal in-R-form (a bag making product) for the poly laminate foam the pattern calls for for the cups. What I didn’t make do on was the boning—I used my usual 1/4″ spiral steel, double boned at each seam. I kinda construct all my corsets the same way—one trick pony, I guess. I know it’s not he strongest way, but it makes them easier to adjust and alter, as you go or after the fact. And I haven’t had a seam split on me yet.

I found the finished sizing measurements a bit confusing. The size 10 was listed as having a 36″ bust and 23″ waist. Does this include lacing gap? How much of one? 5″ of  waist compression is not realistic for me—but a 36″ bust is a little on the large side. (And that was the smallest cup size.)

 No way I was going to skip a mockup, so that was the first order of business. I traced off a size 12 body with some minor grading down to the size 10 A/B bust pieces. I made only two preemptive fit changes, shortening  below the bust 1/2″ and adding a small swayback adjustment. I don’t always need to shorten McCall’s patterns as much as other companies and I didn’t want to overdo it.

  It turned out the size 12 was a bit big, as I wound up taking it in 1/4″ all along the side seams, plus a bunch in the upper back and lower tummy. The waist seemed essentially perfect. The result is a corset that fits beautifully slimly, but doesn’t exactly add to my meager curves. I am really tempted to try again starting with a size 10 and see if I could make it fit while keeping more of the original curves.

 I did all my fitting in the mockup in this one, starting with just bones front and back and adding more as I went (once I was satisfied that length was going to be ok.

DSC08561The bust cups affect the fit a lot, too, incidentally, so don’t take your fitting too far without them, if you’re going to use them. I don’t think I’ve really nailed the bust fit. Even downsizing to a 10 in those pieces the cups were a bit large, though with the foam lining it doesn’t show so much in the photos. I made some minor tweaks to the shape to round the bottom a little more smoothly and bring in the top 1/8″, and I played around with making some little chicken fillet push-up pads.

 I do like how the pads turned out. Once the lining was in the cups they look and feel almost exactly like a pre-formed foam cup. (I know that’s not a pro to everyone, but it’s what I am going for here. 😉 ) I do think the polylaminate foam would be more resilient and less likely to be damaged by crushing.

By some miracle the size of underwire I prefer also fitted the cups perfectly, without needing to be trimmed or anything. So really, a lot of wins. But. In the finished corset, the cups don’t sit right. The gore doesn’t tack (it doesn’t in the cover photo either, but she’s a much bustier lady than I.) and somehow the front is too wide apart while the back doesn’t reach to where the side of my breasts end on the side of my body.

 It looks fine, from a visual if not an actual bra making perspective. I just have this nagging feeling that the cups could sit better.

 Oh, and here’s a thing I tried: accommodating turn of cloth at the seamlines in my pieces. So though I cut them the same, when I serged the edges of all my pieces (I am stuck on the mode of construction where I basically treat all the layers as underlinings) together I folded the piece in half when I serge the second side, and just cut off the excess on the inner layers with the serger blades. So when my pieces were still flat, the outer layer bubbled up kinda conspicuously, but now they’re all sewn together with the seam allowances pressed open they sit nicely flat. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 The pattern is drafted with a front seam (so you could add a busk if you wanted) but since I wasn’t, and I wanted my embroidery motif to match flawlessly, I cut it on the fold. In hindsight I may have stuffed that up, actually, and added the seam allowances to the front width. This would explain why my front gore looked extra wide compared to the mockup, and also how my lacing gap is so much narrower in the final corset than it was in the muslin. I did trim down the gore so it was more reasonable width before I added the cups, but it’s still quite wide. I think there are also some cup/bra making subtleties I haven’t fully grasped at work, to do with the difference between cups where the seam allowance goes up as it does here (and as in partial-band bras) vs where it goes down, as in the full band bras I’ve ever made.

 The biggest problem is that the back and sides, now they have a firm binding on, are apparently a little high and cut in under my arm.


I feel like the corset is trying to crawl up under my shoulder blades.

This isn’t particularly attractive or comfortable. I didn’t notice until the binding was on, otherwise it would’ve been a very simple fix to trim it down. So I’m kinda bummed about that. I should really go back in and fix it, as otherwise it’s a very comfortable corset.

 The inside is nothing special, but the lining fabric is the same linen-cotton as my Vogue dress.

DSC08559All in all it’s very pretty, and feels very sleek and smooth, so that’s nice. It makes me think of an elven princess. Probably some delicate silver jewelry would be in order.


We’ll talk about the skirt next time!

(And my apologies to everyone who got a half-finished version of this post on their feeds months ago—I went to hit “save draft” and hit publish by mistake!)



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Yes, there will be repeat pictures between this post and the last. I think they’re pretty, so suck it up. 🙂

After I finished Gabriola 2, I knew I would want to wear it more than just for the occasional photo shoot with the matching corset. While it may never quite be “work wear,” surely sooner or later I’ll go to a party or out to dinner or something.


DSC08545Hey, a girl can dream. I can also wear it swanning around the house (as I did the day I wrote this). I’m getting to like this crop-top-with-high-waist thing. (It only took me what, three years, to wrap my head around it? Bear with me, I’m well past the prime age for adopting new styles.)


DSC08550The way I cut the skirt with the embroidered border meant that there was an abundance of small-ish, weird shaped scraps that I was fairly confident could be turned into some kind of bustier or bodice. And after  a bit of waffling, I settled on this bodice from the same Burda issue I got Tyo’s tie-up shirt out of a couple of years ago.

115_technical_largeI had hoped to cut the centre front panels from the last “large” scrap of the embroidery, but alas it was too small—I had to settle for just making that the lower portion of the side fronts.

DSC08547This left the front rather boring, so I ended up hand-stitching a little embroidered bit in place over the closure.

It’s simple but I like it. 

The closure, by the way, is hook and eyes, as per the pattern. Seven of them. Stitched on individually by hand (the pattern calls for hook & eye tape, but of course I don’t have that hanging around. And it wouldn’t have come in drab tie-dye, anyway. Fortunately I have plenty of back-episodes of my current obsession, the British History Podcast, to listen to; Hengist and Horsa got me through.

DSC08546I had a lot of fun with the construction; everything is clean-finished inside and out except the bottom hem. I wish I could describe all the inside-folding-burrito shapes I got this thing into, but words fail me.

The bodice would probably sit more smoothly with boning or something, but I kinda like how scrunchy and slouchy it is (did I mention comfy?).

DSC08548I initially skipped my usual petite alterations (not sure why), but then I wound up taking in the shoulders and cutting off a good 1/2″ from the bottom (more like 1″ at the back), so I probably wound up in much the same place. Ah, well.

I was surprised to find that it actually has pretty decent bra coverage. I was thinking the straps would be too wide set. (They are set quite wide, but my shoulders aren’t particularly narrow. If yours are, and for some reason you feel the urge to make this, be aware.)

DSC08544Once it was all done, it still remained a little boring, so I added more machine cross-stitch.

It’s still a little boring (in my head there should be pin-tucks and piping and MOAR EBROIDERY) but I think I’ll let it be. Also I’m down to really small, random scraps at this point.

DSC08543 The whole outfit feels wild and wood-witchy and mysterious to me, which I am enjoying immensely. (And if you don’t think so, well, feel free to keep it to yourself. I’m having fun here 😉 ) Now if only I could be taking photos in an ancient oak grove, maybe with a few standing stones kicking around for ambiance…


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Have you ever made a rub-off of a pattern?

Syo has these red jeans. They’ve got some really nifty features. And apparently she is dying for shorts what with it being summer ‘n all. And it was just her birthday. (She’s 13. How the duck did that happen?) And her sister got to go to the lake with a friend for the long weekend. 

So by various means I got guilted into rubbing off a pattern from them. My method of choice involves using Press ‘n Seal,  a Glad product that is basically like plastic wrap with a tacky backing. I first heard about this method from Trumbelina Sews, but I’m no expert on it, especially when approaching darts etc. Fortunately jeans don’t have darts or easing, so I didn’t have to figure it out this time, either. 

You stick the press n seal to the clothing, spreading it out so it covers from seam to seam, and trace off the seams with a marker. Then you peel off the plastic, slap it on some paper, and start adding seam allowances. It gets a little complicated in the pocket area, but if you’ve ever looked at a jeans pattern it’s pretty obvious.

The world’s weeniest and most pointless zipper.

I was very pleasantly surprised by how well everything marked out and looked roughly like it was supposed to, and how little I had to correct my new pattern when I checked the seam-lengths.
They fit! Well, at least as well as the originals. Which are definitely one of those fast-fashion garments that relies more on stretch than cut for fit. 

The construction is less than perfect and I wish I’d spaced out the three bottom buttons a bit more.

Also I put a bat symbol on the pocket. Because I could. I wish I could’ve found my Fairy Tail template, but it is in hiding.

I really like that seam in the yoke; fitting opportunities abound (not that I actually took advantage of it, mind you.)

I asked for attitude.

And here’s a shot of the final pattern pieces. The lengths were strictly approximate, since the originals were jeans and Syo was talking about having them roll up so I was aiming long. (Oh, and the pocket pieces are off to the side somewhere out of frame.)

They seem to work, though.

So, happy Thirteen, Syo. Twelve wasn’t all a picnic and I’m sure thirteen won’t be either, but it’s pretty cool to watch you grow up and into yourself. And I could totally steal these shorts if I wanted, so we’ll call that a bonus. 😉


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A Tale of Two Dresses (Part 2)


Literally the day after I finished Simplicity 7514, I cut out McCall’s 7640. And sewed it up right away, for the most part, until I realised I had made fifteen buttonholes. And I couldn’t even find my container of dark-coloured buttons, not that I’m likely to have fifteen of any one kind kicking around. So it had to wait until I could get to Fabricland, and then THAT had to wait until I could stand the thought of sewing on fifteen buttons, so it took a bit longer to finish.

DSC08530And, well, it ain’t Simplicity 7514. I did more fit-fiddling on this damn thing than I have in quite a while. At least that’s easy with all the different seams on this pattern.

DSC08527I’m not sure how entirely I can blame the pattern, however. I cut a size 12 knowing it would probably be large, but that was the largest size in my pattern envelope and I was too lazy impatient to trace, but willing to cut if it didn’t obliterate other sizes. And then I assumed my fairly stable fabric didn’t need added stabilization along the top, despite all the blithe trying-on-and-wriggling-princess-seams-into-place I was doing. Although the bust size was about right right off the bat, and I got the waist length down with my usual petite alteration, I had to take in the front above the bust, and the sides right at the top, too—maybe not ENTIRELY because of handling without stabilization, but that definitely didn’t help. Plus some weird let-it-out-here-then-take-it-in-there fiddling.


Hem & front

It was still a pretty darn fun fabric to work with, sturdy and forgiving of seam-ripping.

DSC08535AND the pattern was meant to be lined, so doesn’t have facings or any other nice way to finish the top, and again I was too lazy impatient to draft a proper facing so I tried to wing it and that created a few more minor issues.


Because I had lots of fabric to play with I even added 8 cm to the length, making it pleasantly floor-swishy, although that doesn’t show so much in these pictures as I am wearing some pretty epic blog shoes. Which my long grass almost completely hides, but oh well.

In the end, this is a fairly heavy linen and still a bit stiff (I imagine enough washing and wear will help with that, eventually…) so it just doesn’t drape and caress the body like the wool did. Not to mention the wrinkling. You have to just embrace the wrinkling, people.DSC08534

It’s still pretty fun, though, and will undoubtedly be the coolest a long black dress could possibly me. My eighteen-year-old goth self is drooling jealously.


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A tale of two dresses (Part 1)

13531870_1114422621970948_122813415_nSo a few years ago I got this nice, substantial, shiny black linen with the plan of making a shirt for my husband—but it’s a bit heavy for his taste in linen shirts, so it has languished. And it surfaced during some recent stash diving, and I realized that there’s way more than the two-ish metres I had thought I’d bought—more like four or five. Yowza! And I was suddenly seized by the need for a swishy long black linen sundress. I dug up some options and posted them on Instagram, and the chorus was in favour of McCall’s 7640. And it did seem like it would be a really great linen sundress.

DSC08511But I still REALLY liked the idea of a long black version of Simplicity 7514. So I dug around stash some more, and stumbled upon this piece of black bargain centre fabric ($4.00/m tag still attached) that I didn’t have earmarked for anything. (I didn’t recall right off the bat but as construction, especially ironing, went on, I remembered the reason I picked it up. 100% wool, in what I suspect they would call a tropical weight.

Some pattern tetris followed, and I determined I could, in fact, fit a long, but short sleeved, version on my 4m of fabric. This is pretty awesome since the envelope called for about 6m. Woohoo!

DSC08506It’s been a long time since I made a Simplicity pattern, what with them not really being available up here any more. It was really nice, especially since the ‘vintage’ pattern (© 1997) has much thicker tissue paper than the current patterns seem to.


That is a LOT of skirt.

I made my usual petite alterations, half below bust and half above. This always scares me in raglan sleeve styles, but it seems to work. The bust and waist are pretty much exactly where I want them. I maybe took it in a smidgeon at the sides. No square shoulder adjustment (I try to skip them on raglan sleeves) and no swayback alteration.

DSC08508The skirt is very, very swishy, and the fabric has a great drape.


Back view.

The back neck does gape a bit, which isn’t common for me. The zipper is just a regular zipper, since I didn’t have any black invisible ones, and I kind of hate it, so if I decide I hate it enough to replace I’ll take it in. Otherwise, meh.


DSC08502Can I tell you a secret? This dress reminds me of a mediaeval kirtle. Just needs something white and long-sleeved underneath. I’m very tempted to add a row of little buttons down the front…


Except it’s a real, every day dress. I love it. Whether I get to wear it enough to justify the excitement, I suppose, is a different story, especially as cleaning it may be, um, an issue.

So yeah, instead of a linen sundress, I made a wool regular-dress. Hmm. Well, we’ll get to the sundress in time…



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