Category Archives: Sewing

Wee dresses (2022 edition)

I’ve slowed down on sewing for the twins, if only because they really never need clothes and my sewing has been intermittent this year at best. But when I finished the 80s dress, I still had a bunch of the fabric left over. And I have been missing a pair of dresses I made for them their first summer, a no-pattern, pillowcase style with pleats and a wee bit of lace in the front and bias tape finishing the armscye and turning into shoulder ties.

Original dresses, long outgrown

The original pair was pretty much my favourite thing I made the twins ever, but unlike some of the dresses I made them that summer, weren’t wide enough to transition into tops as they grew taller.

Shot of the twins in the original dresses, from their first birthday.

I actually have lots more of the original fabric in stash, so it would’ve been perfectly possible to recreate them in the original blue fabric, but using this style with the border embroidery fabric was just too tempting.

Determined not to run into the same issue, I made sure the armscye width and depth on these new dresses was ample. Maybe you’ve noticed they look a bit wide? No? Well, yeah, I overshot massively. Actually, the first one I cut might’ve been fine, but when I cut the second I had a brain fart and cut the armscye about 3 cm deeper, and then dumbly re-cut the first one to match… anyway, as soon as the twins tried them on I realized I had to take a massive tuck in each side to make the armscye work even a little bit. Which isn’t a bad look in a pleated dress, but definitely annoys me.

There isn’t a whole lot more to say. I made these dresses each 50” at the hem, and wider might’ve been nicer. I made them long so that they will still fit next summer. They took longer to sew than they should have due to “help” from the twins, but that still isn’t exactly long in the grand scheme of things.

I just love the combo of the pleats with this cotton pom-pom trim. My trim was white and the embroidery is distinctly ivory, so I did the fastest possible tea dye on the lace to get the colour at least a bit closer, and I think it worked.

I’m kind of in love with these dresses, I gotta say, more than I am with my own version of this fabric. And there’s just a little bit left and I have plans!

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The 80s Dress

The 80s wasn’t my favourite fashion decade even when I was growing up in it. But every once in a while, an 80s pattern sneaks its way into my head, and that was definitely true of Butterick 3864.

The dropped waist of the pattern, Butterick 3864, has always appealed to me, and for once (at least in the illustration) the 80s seemed to have hit the perfect balance of body-skimming ease without looking like a sack. I was particularly fond of the cut-on sleeves of view A, and it’s been kicking around my “maybe make this soon” piles for literally years now.

Well, I haven’t had much time to sew (or do any of the things that feed my soul) lately, which does result in a crabby and emotionally unstable Tanit, but last week I came home from work to the following sign on the door:

The house was empty and clean. The pattern was easily found, and this light-weight blue/grey border embroidered fabric was out and waiting. It was time to seize the day.

The pattern inside had been cut to the size 14, which seemed pretty much perfect, especially once I looked at the finished bust measurements given. The skirt pieces were rectangles, which absolutely cemented my choice of the border embroidery, although rather than use the actual pieces I just took the measurements and cut/tore a rectangle of appropriate size from the embroidered portion of the fabric. The only pattern piece missing was the pockets. By adding a back seam (which I wanted to anyway to facilitate a swayback adjustment) I was able to fit the bodice pieces onto the strip left from tearing the skirt, and then I cut rectangles for the pockets and bias strips for the neckline finish from the bit remaining. Not quite a zero-waste pattern, but pretty darn close.

The instructions are printed on a single not-very-large sheet, and while this isn’t a complicated dress, I’d say they are an example of everything that made people frustrated with sewing patterns. No mention of interfacing for the button band, or stay-stitching the neckline. Not a whisper about seam finishing. Purchased bias tape was called for for the neckline. (Obviously I made my own. This fabric is the perfect lightweight, crisp weight and hand for bias tape.)

Also, given the half-inch bias tape called for, I’m not sure how you are supposed to get a neckline topstitched at the same distance from the edge as the sleeve hems, as the pattern images show… I guess technically someone might turn 1/8” of an inch under to topstitch a 1/2” hem from a 5/8” seam allowance, but I can’t. I don’t mind the different widths, but the drawings definitely suggest more similarity.

I looked at the skirt pattern pieces for pocket placement marks in the hopes of finding out the size of the intended pockets, but was unable to make sense of the few cryptic markings. (I could probably have tried harder, admittedly.) Looking at the picture now, I think my size and placement is reasonable but probably slightly further forward than intended. The pockets in the picture seem to overlap the side seam by an inch or two; I aligned mine so the back edge is right where the side seam would’ve been. The tops are a bit floppy, as happens with rectangular pockets on gathered skirts, but they function just fine.

Fortunately for my rusty sewing brain, the placket and neckline finishing method used was the exact same as for the Robin dress I just finished, so I really didn’t need much from the instructions. I did opt to stay stitch the neckline.

Upon try-on, it became clear that while the bust ease may have been ample, the ease at the high hip, which was not indicated on the pattern, was not. (I did not help myself when, cutting the back pattern piece not on the fold, I forgot to add the seam allowance. I sewed with the smallest seam allowance I could, but still. I could’ve had an extra half inch of ease.)

(Dress without crinoline)

I let out the side seams below the waist as much as I could, and re-sewed the back darts to take out nothing at the seam line, (as indicated on the pattern they would each eat up about 1/2” at this point.) On trying on the final dress, I then went back in and took in from waist to underbust.

I would’ve liked a touch of narrow lace or something at the neckline to echo the fancy-ness of the embroidered hem. But, all the cotton lace I have is bright white, not the distinct ivory of the embroidery.

On wearing, the bust darts are set quite far out, which is odd. I almost wondered if it were a grading error, but the darts in the pattern pic are very far out, too, so I suppose it’s a design choice. They’re also a little tall on me, but, well, the ladies aren’t as perky as they were before the twins came along so we won’t blame the pattern for that. I did do my usual square-shoulder adjustment, just by taking off about 1 cm along the neckline tapering to nothing at the outer edge.

I’m a little more “meh” about the finished dress than I hoped I would be, honestly. I kind of wish the skirt were a little more full. It feels fairly rectangular, whereas I was hoping for more dramatic swoosh given the length of the skirt. Maybe I’d like it better with a slightly shorter skirt? Maybe the dropped waist is a little too dropped for my taste? In most of these pictures I’m wearing it over one of my smaller petticoats, to give the skirt a bit of oomph, and I do like that. I also like how it looks with a belt, although I don’t own any that would be properly 80s-narrow.

I find the silhouette rather fascinating, though. The pattern pieces remind me very much of a 50s house-dress. The final silhouette almost feels early 1920s (well, without the belt). And, at the least, it’s a wearable addition to my work wardrobe, which has been feeling pretty stale.

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A Robin in tulips

Perhaps you’ve noticed that my favourite dress style, probably of all time ever, is a long princess seam dress with a button front. This love easily goes back to my teen years in the 90s, but those early memories are marred by the fact that the store-bought versions of this dress never… quite… fit. Sewing has long been my chance to fix that, but somehow I hadn’t quite gotten around to the classic 90s version—a long, Princess seamed dress with simple short sleeves and a classic scoop neck, that buttons up the front, sewn in a soft, fluttering rayon.

Well, as soon as I saw the Scroop Patterns Robin dress come out, a couple of years ago, it was obviously the perfect example of this style. So I bought it. And then, well, life happened. I got it printed up ages ago. I had fabric picked out last summer. This spring, I picked out a different fabric, a Cotton + Steel rayon print called “Magic Tulips” that was a gift from a sewing friend.

Though if I run across the other fabric I wouldn’t rule out another.

The pattern has three separate bust size options, and I thought the instructions for helping you choose the right one were really good—this is something I can struggle with sometimes, especially the last few years when my measurements are all over the place. I wound up going with the “mid size” option, and no complaints although I might shave a tiny bit off the fullness. That’s an easy fix though. I also went with the inseam pockets, which maybe aren’t ideal for a soft and drapey fabric like rayon, but I want pockets more than I mind a little bit of pulling, generally.

I complicated my construction unnecessarily by placing lacing loops in both the front and back princess seams, in an attempt to replicate a design feature from this original 90s pattern in my stash:

Note side-lacing just barely visible on view A.

Unfortunately, the combination of my short waist and very abrupt hip jut left only about 2” where the look actually worked, so that experiment did not really work out. I did leave the lacing in the back, with some rather painful fussing over where exactly they should go (my initial placement was much too low, which didn’t become obvious until after I had served the seams, and then there was the moment where I got confused and sewed them back into the exact same spots I had just ripped out… anyway.) It added hours to what should’ve been a more or less straightforward project, and really if I had just taken in the back a bit more it would’ve been fine without. But it is a fun detail, and hopefully will help to proof the dress against any modest size fluctuations in my future.

The only change I actually made to the pattern was a small swayback adjustment. I meant to also raise the underarm, but forgot—which probably shows how out of practice I am. I do regret that omission and will do it before the next time.

When I first tried it on, I did find that it flapped rather large, and after some experimenting pinching in princess seams decided I just needed to take in the side seams—a good 1” on each side at the waist, tapering to about 1/2” just under the arms.

This solved the fit issue, but then when I went to put in the first sleeve, I was really struggling with too much ease in the sleeve cap. The notches also didn’t line up even remotely, but since I did cut the dress out in squiggly rayon with the intermittent assistance of two almost-three-year-olds and several cats, I was honestly mostly surprised at how well most of it lined up.

It took me a distressing amount of time to realize that I had removed about 1” from the width of each armscye with my side-seam alteration. Once I altered the sleeves in the same way, the notches (mostly) lined up and everything slid into place.

The button placket on the Robin dress is simply folded over, and the neckline is finished with bias tape. The pattern has you fold the placket back when stitching on the binding, so that the placket covers the end of the bias tape very neatly on the inside, and your topstitching of the neckline turns smoothly into the placket topstitching—a very tidy look and method, except that I had gone ahead and topstitched the placket down first. So I had to unpick several inches of that, and then it took a couple of tries to get the layering right, because, well, my sewing brain is out of practice. But I’m quite happy with the finish and the method in the end.

I went with the most plain and boring of black plastic buttons, again from stash. I think they are a good pairing with the print, letting it hold the spotlight. And, I am pretty sure they came from a giant mixed bag of buttons bought when I was first stocking up on sewing supplies in 2010 or so. So nice to use a bit of deep stash, even if they are not particularly interesting. I did kind of accidentally place my buttons holes horizontally (my default) rather than vertically as the pattern called for. To be honest I think I just prefer sewing them that way, and I’m more used to it so my rusty sewing brain defaulted to it. There are also a LOT of buttons, because I like them fairly closely spaced, for maximum support against gaping especially when I’m doing something silly like adding back lacing to a dress that’s already well fitting. I made sure there was a button placed at the full bust point, at the waist, and then filled in in between. I will say, for a tool I always thought was a luxury, I ALWAYS use my button-hole spacer and it makes this process so quick and simple.

I sewed the buttons on by machine, which made the process very quick, but my placement isn’t quite as good as if I had done it by hand, and there are a few ripples. However, I finished the hem after the buttons, so if I adjust the buttons I might have to redo part of the hem, so I’ll probably just live with it, honestly. Done is better than perfect.

For next time, I would definitely raise the underarm—it’s not bad but could be better; I’m not sure if my taste for a high underarm comes from personal preference or some quirk of my shoulder joint, but I like them high. I think the bodice as a whole could maybe be shortened slightly, even just 1/4”. I’ve been trying to do less of that in the last few years, as I tended to overdo it, but I also hate a too-long bodice. If I skipped the lacing in the back (which honestly was enough of a pain) I would perhaps take in a bit at the back princess seams, as there did seem to be a bit of extra fabric there.

It took what felt like forever to sew this, as if each little step was a battle. Not against the fabric, which was reasonably well-behaved for a rayon, but against everything else in my life right now. On the other hand, finishing felt like such a victory that I even used one of these precious gifted sewing labels on it. I’m so glad to get to finally wear it. I’d like to say I’d make another three, but at the rate of my current sewing that might take

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Blue (not for) Christmas

I had actually forgotten completely about this fabric. It was a bit of an impulse buy not long before my Fabricland shut down, a random bolt of stretch cotton sateen in what I fancy to be a slightly purplish navy. When it went on cheap, I bought a LOT. And apparently pre-washed it, folded it and tucked it into stash to be utterly forgotten. Along with a single sock, which re-emerged when I pulled the fabric out as a “fall sewing” possibility way back in October of last year.

Matching it up against a number of dress patterns on my “really want to sew” list, I ended up going with McCall’s M8177, which has the distinction of being the first Big 4 pattern I’ve gone out of my way to acquire since I stopped working at Fabricland. It hits all my (current) boxes—button front (breastfeeding friendly), princess seams (easy fitting), and big, puffy, fun sleeves (on trend, or at least whatever personal trend I’m on at the moment.) I had to actually ask my aunt to pick it up when/if she found it on sale, since I don’t currently have a membership at Fabricland to take advantage of the big sales.

Navy isn’t one of my “core” colours, but I don’t hate it, especially when it’s leaning towards the purplish side of the hue. Which, admittedly, might be a trick of the light or some wishful thinking. I like it, though. And the fabric is on the lighter weight end of the stretch cotton sateens I’ve met, but is still really crisp and, in hindsight, a bit too heavy for this pattern—not so much the main part, but the sleeves with all the gathering.

Cutting out a project this big is a bit of an accomplishment in my life at the moment, and was possible only thanks to my stylish sister-in-law taking the twins one Sunday afternoon. Sewing proceeded in much smaller increments, at a veritable snail’s pace, and then stalled shortly before Christmas when the matching buttons I had found in stash disappeared just after I sewed the buttonholes. All it needed was the buttons and a hem.

One of the things that drew me to this pattern was the sleeves, which superficially resemble the sleeves of my beloved Adrienne Blouse. However, the draft is surprisingly different, presumably because this is a woven pattern, or perhaps because it is based on a set-in sleeve block instead of a raglan sleeve. Anyway, instead of being flat along the gathered shoulder edge, this sleeve has a big, curved sleeve head (to which bias tape is applied to make the elastic casing—not exactly hard but definitely not as near-effortless as the Adrienne version. In addition, there is a tiny pivot point on the McCall’s pattern, where the sleeve goes from underarm seam to across the bodice slightly before turning up to form the edge of the neckline. You have to mark that point, stay-stitch, and slash the seam allowance so the fabric can make that turn. I forgot to mark, and then attempted to figure out where to slash after I had applied the bias tape and elastic to the shoulder. It was neither easy nor tidy to figure out at that point, and I did not do a good (nor symmetrical) job. It’s not exactly a flaw in the pattern, just a different approach, and me being slapdash and not paying sufficient attention to the instructions, but it’s definitely not as simple as the Adrienne blouse approach. That point also pulls like crazy across the back when I move my arms, which I don’t know entirely if that is a fitting issue, error on my part, or innate quirk in the pattern.

I also struggled with attaching the facing, which runs under the bottom of the sleeves and follows that slightly complex shape. Not because things didn’t line up, but I kept getting bits of the sleeve folded into my seam, and I didn’t notice all of them before I had understitched, which was a bit of a nightmare to unpick. Again, it’s not a problem with the pattern so much as my failure to take the time and attention this pattern requires. Probably because I’ve made almost nothing of significant complexity in the last two (three) years.

The pattern includes a deceptively large pocket piece. I say deceptively because, while it is very large, as directed the positioning places a good 2.5” of the pocket bag above the opening, so the actual “effective” pocket is no more than average size. I was initially quite annoyed with this drafting, but I currently have a theory that it was designed to reduce the way an inseam pocket like this can pull on the side-seam, or at least move that “pull point” at the top of the pocket bag up to the waist of the pattern where it’s less noticeable. I still would’ve liked a deeper pocket bag, although they do work just fine and are nicely big enough for my phone.

This is also the first time I’ve had to really reckon with my size changes in a standard pattern size. Throughout most of my active sewing journey of the past 11 years, I’ve measured a size 12 (give or take), often making a 10 at least on top as that gave me better shoulder fit (especially in McCall’s patterns). While I had been giving myself “a bit of wiggle room” in the hips for a while (this is an area where I like extra ease, unlike the bust and waist), this pattern was the first time I made a straight size 14, which is where my measurements put me these days and also looked reasonable compared to the final garment measurements. I was still nervous, mainly about the shoulder width.

I still made my standard alterations: small swayback adjustment and raising the underarm slightly (not sure how much impact this had). I also took in the shoulder elastic significantly, although in a design like this that has a lot to do with the strength of your elastic vs. the weight of your fabric. I did make sure to finish the edges of all my Princess seams separately, for optimal fit adjustment later. (I’ve found McCall’s to have dodgy fit around the Princess seams in the past, and also my bust sits a good inch lower since the twins were born).

The good news is my fit alterations were pretty acceptable. The swayback adjustment could’ve been slightly larger as there are still a few folds there (perhaps because the pattern size is slightly longer in the body than I’m used to) but otherwise the fit is generally good, and I haven’t felt obliged to go in and mess with the princess seam shape anywhere. The only real issue is that pulling across the back when I raise my arms.

I also shortened the long sleeves by about 3”, for more of a 3/4 length, as I prefer that to full-length full sleeves. I should probably have made the shortening smaller, say 1.5” or even 1”, as they’re a bit shorter than I intended, and I don’t think the pulling in the back would bug me nearly as much if it didn’t pull the “wrist” elastic up past my elbows.

Hunting through stash for buttons was a bit more of a problem. I would’ve liked silver buttons, but didn’t have 10+ of any of them. I originally found a group of ten plastic buttons of the perfect shade of slightly purplish navy, although they’re a tiny bit smaller than ideal, but no sooner had I sewed the buttonholes than they disappeared. I held off further progress, expecting them to surface, but they never did, so when I finally had some sewing time in March I made myself sort through the button stash and finally settled on these very boring chunky grey plastic ones. The main feature was that I had enough of them.

I’m a bit torn on this project. I like the resulting dress, despite its issues, and I have been wearing it as much as I can get away with. I don’t know if I would make the sleeved version again since I’m not a fan of the construction there, but the sleeveless version is definitely on the List. Not that I get to a lot of things on the List these days. Especially since at Easter back in April we had a plumbing leak in the basement that basically filled the sewing room with junk from other places until, um, June. Facepalm. Anyway, here’s to hoping for more sewing in the future.

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Further diversions

I’ve been fantasizing off and on about making the twins wee little Regency style dresses. I kept talking myself out of it, but the idea kept popping back up to the surface like an old beach ball that just won’t quite sink.

I do have some white fabric in mind possibly, but my mother recently destashed a piece of somewhat vintage cotton with a lovely woven check and (don’t laugh) tiny old-fashioned selvedges. With selvedges like those, it just had to become something quasi-historical, and these aren’t the kind of colours I would wear myself. So.

Although my fantasies kept taking me over to this pattern from Virgil’s Fine Goods, in the end I went ahead and drafted my own, based on the Danish example linked in this post from the Oregon Regency Society. Partly because I was impatient but mainly I’m also cheap. Although I would love the period instructions for hand-sewing that would come with the Virgil’s pattern, which would I’m sure explain that everything I did here is wrong. But I knew I didn’t have time or inclination to fully hand-sew these dresses.

Gorgeous neckline. Less gorgeous waistline.

Anyway, I followed the pattern for the above dress pretty roughly, with several modifications due to the small scale and rapid growth rate of small children. I added gathering via drawstrings to both the front neck and the “waist” of the dress, for maximum adjustability.

Due to fabric limitations, I made the skirts from a single width of the vintage cotton, which in the end didn’t leave much extra gathering at the back, unfortunately. I really wish I’d had enough fabric to do at least two full-width panels for the skirts.

In theory, as the twins grow the drawstrings are loosened and the dresses keep fitting for a lot longer. If I’d had more fabric I would’ve added more length and put in some tucks for growth, too, but as it is they’re already ankle skimming on Tris. Which, I’m not really sure what the correct length for Regency children’s dresses should be—I’ve seen paintings with the dresses very long and others fairly short. Given the nature of children’s growth, I suppose some variation is inevitable anyway. I could also make drawers for underneath as they get taller.

I also made the sleeves puffy, again to accommodate future growth.

My “plan” was to have one version be as historically accurate as I can handle (meaning machine-sewn seams but everything else done by hand, and the other a quick ‘n dirty version with serged seam finish. In the end this actually doesn’t make much of a difference since the bodice seams are the least of the hand-sewing that was involved. But I did hand-overcast them in the second dress.

The most unexpectedly labor-intensive part was rolling the casing for the top drawstring. I knew I wanted to use the 1/4” stay tape for my drawstring, but I wanted to keep the casing as narrow as possible, and if I didn’t want visible machine stitching on the outside I definitely had to roll it by hand. It turned out that this was doable, but required sewing the casing with the tape already in place, and due to the narrowness, I had to check at EACH stitch that I hadn’t caught the tape with my needle. This took forever. And ever. That being said, I’m very pleased with the look it created.

First dress on the right with bulky waist gathering. Second dress on the left, less bulk but very high on the bodice.

I was a lot less pleased with the casing for the waist seam of the first dress, which I machine-stitched to the seam allowance since it didn’t show. I’m not sure if it was just that my casing fabric was a bit stiff, or if it was too many layers of machine stitching, but the whole seam is stiff and doesn’t gather nicely. I can’t imagine it’s too comfortable against the skin, either, but the twins are fairly stoic about their clothes for the most part, thankfully, and haven’t seemed bothered. For the second dress I used a lighter fabric for the casing, with one edge stitched to the seam allowance and the other to the bodice. This is a bit nicer feeling but does shift the gathering a little higher on the bodice—only by the 5/8” width of the casing, but when your bodice is less than 3” long that’s a fairly big shift.

The dress opens in the back and I cut the edges of the back bodice on the selvedge, and of course the skirt is the full width of the fabric again so the entire back seam was selvedge as well—yay to no finishing required, and an opportunity to show off that lovely vintage selvedge, although I have no idea if it’s actually accurate for a Regency time period. This is an easy closure for a kids’ style, but it does tend to leave a bit of a gap at the back, so I should probably make them some kind of little shifts to go underneath. Feel free to place bets on whether that actually happens.

My biggest departure from historical accuracy (other than the machine sewn seams) would probably be that I decided to put elastic in the hems of the sleeves. I considered both gathering to a band (harder to adjust) and adding drawstrings again, but I also wanted these dresses to be comfy to wear for toddlers accustomed to modern clothing, so I went with elastic. It doesn’t show and doesn’t look particularly different than a drawstring would, I think.

After all this work to make the dresses adjustable, I wound up having not quite as much fabric for the skirt length as I had hoped. While they’re long enough now, I had hoped to have a few extra inches of length to put tucks in that could be let out later. I also would’ve liked to have more fullness for the back of the skirt. But, such is life, and I think I made pretty good use of the two yards of fabric.

While they’re not as long or as full or as “historically accurate” as I might have hoped, I think they still turned out pretty cute. And Tris has actually requested to wear one instead of regular clothes at least once, so I’ll call that a major win!

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A wee widdle (Swiss) waist

As I toy with historically-inspired and whimsical touches to add to my wardrobe, I decided a modest Swiss waist would be a fun addition, that might make blouses like the shirt refashion something I could actually wear. I’ve never liked how I look in loose tops tucked into a waistband. Or gathered skirts for that matter. It has something to do with the shortness of my not-so-narrow waist. But, the addition of a wide belt can help with this, and a Swiss waist seemed like a very fun way to play with this idea.

This one is inspired by this original and pattern on Koshka the Cat, but definitely scaled down. I also decided to put the lacing on the side instead of the centre front or back, mainly for increased adjustability but also because I couldn’t quite face that many hand-worked eyelets. This choice is probably the least historically-justifiable in the construction, and, it turns out, my least favourite part of this make, but it’s still wearable.

A fair bit actually went into this little thing, not least because I did the vast majority of the sewing by hand. The nice thing about a hand-sewing project, though, especially a little one like this, is that I can pick it up and do a few stitches here and there, while watching TV with the family, whenever the twins are distracted.

I couldn’t find my cotton ticking (my first choice for light-weight corset-type things), so I went with hair canvas for the strength layer. By some miracle, my hunt for scraps of black fabric turned up the last remnants of my tropical-weight wool suiting used in this dress many moons ago, and there was just enough room in the odd-shaped scraps to cut the main pieces on grain and the bias strips for the piping more-or-less on bias.

I used two layers of hair canvas, stitched to create the boning channels. A bone at each short end to support the lacing and two at the centre, although in hindsight I could probably have done just one at the centre. When I made the pattern I was still debating on whether I would want to have it open at centre front or back, so I marked a boning channel on each side there, and didn’t think about it. I used 1/4” spiral steel boning, which is basically my default, although I might’ve gone with spring steel if I could’ve found my tin snips. (My corset-making box has gotten sorely denuded as I haven’t made one in a long while—the needle-nosed pliers also got plundered for other household tasks, forcing me to hunt down replacements, and my good wire-cutters somehow got switched for larger but inferior ones. All of which added time and frustration to what should’ve been a small and simple project. Anyway.

To give my thin wool a more substantial feel, and cover the scratchy hair canvas more effectively, I added a layer of flannel behind the fashion fabric. I added the piping and then catch-stitched top and bottom into place by hand.

The most annoying part (aside from finding my tools) was making the hand-worked eyelets. (According to the Dreamstress, who is much more of an authority than I, Swiss waists and other corset-type garments as outer wear, never had metal eyelets). Not so much the actual stitching of them, as the making and keeping the holes open through two layers each of wool and flannel, and four layers of hair canvas (since I included extra seam allowance of hair canvas at the sides, to support the eyelets. Fortunately my awl hadn’t gone missing, as I basically had to poke my hole open again after each stitch.

Once those were done, the final phase of adding the lining (which again I did by hand, slip-stitching it in place) was positively pleasant. The lining fabric is a slippery poly charmeuse used originally for lining this jacket (where it made me want to set things on fire) and then again for lining my winter walking skirt, where I merely hated working with it. Good thing it’s absolutely gorgeous. I have about a yard left, but I have to say applying it by hand to the insides of the waist was supremely meditative and satisfying. Maybe I need to only sew slippery fabrics like this by hand.

Anyway, the result is cute. The lacing gaps are about the size I planned, but overall look would be better without them. However, I wanted the adjustability. I think it would look nicer with a wider lacing—I was planning a black 5/8” ribbon, but I used up my stash of that on Syo’s grad dress last summer. Not sure if it will make the jump from costume to real-life use, but we shall see!

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Pre-Christmas presents

A few weeks ago my husband started cooking with the twins, and since then he’s been badgering by me to make little aprons and chef’s hats for them.

Since I ended up with a free Saturday afternoon when the older girls took the twins to spend time with their Auntie, I figured I could whip up a couple of chef’s hats and aprons for Christmas presents. Some digging in the stash unearthed the rest of the white poly-cotton twill I used to make the twins these pants, so I got to work.

Of course, since the twins were gone I didn’t have them around to take measurements. I did Google around and found a diagram for a kids’ apron (size 4-7) and basically took an inch off everywhere.

They are pretty basic aprons, but the size turned out PERFECT for my rather runty two year olds, and they’re just what I wanted. My husband would’ve preferred a loop around the neck to the ties, but I wanted them to be adjustable and also a loop big enough to go over baby heads would put the bib quite low on their chests.

The angles edges are finished with double-fold binding (made of the same fabric, so they’re a bit bulky… twill tape would’ve been a nice alternative in hindsight). The top has a teeny facing, which I stitched on the right side, which fortuitously turned out almost the same width as the waist band/ties and the bottom hem. The other edges I just turned under twice and hemmed. For the waist ties, I knew I wanted them wider but less bulky, so I serged the edges and just turned them under once and topstitched down. Then I topstitched them onto the front of the apron. I like it.

The hats were even more slapdash. I did Google “size 2 hat” to get a circumference for the band, but other than that I just kinda made it up. The circles are about 30” each since I cut 2 from a 60” wide fabric.

They’re pretty extra, but I was pretty sure that ridiculously oversized would still be ridiculously cute, and I was not wrong, if I do say so myself.

Ready to start their own cooking show.

For the bands (stands? Brims?) I was going through my box of interfacings when I found the remains of a package of thin bag-making foam, and I think it was perfect: soft, cushy, and unlikely to be damaged by two-year-olds mashing it around.

I decided I wanted them a little taller at the front than back, for a slouchy chef look, but not too high. I topstitched the foam to the inner part of the band fabric. I purposely made the foam a little short, and put a short elastic across the gap, so there’s some stretch at the back. I like how this turned out, but I wish I had made the bands just a little bigger. However, I suppose when they’re outgrown I could open up the back seam and add a little panel there, and just adjust the back couple of pleats to fit.

As it is, though, they’re wonderfully, ridiculously, over-the-top adorable. Despite my best intentions, we did not wait until Christmas to give them to the twins. They did get used for making some (not terribly successful) Christmas cookies and any number of other meals, however.

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Pseudo-Victorian Skirt

Still wandering blithely down the garden path of “how far can we get from mainstream fashion?”

Back in October, maybe, I spent some time fantasy-fall sewing and pulled out several candidate fabrics for fall and winter pieces that would complement what currently passes for my wardrobe. I wanted a skirt that would fill the same role as the Adventure skirt, but for the grey/red/black subset of my wardrobe, and this grey “flannel” got tapped.

First of all, you know those fabrics that you buy and then they’re too precious to use for fear of ruining them? Well, this fabric is basically the exact opposite of that. It was billed as some kind of flannel, which I guess it maybe is, but I would more describe it as a lightly brushed twill suiting, 100% polyester. I bought it quite a few years ago to make a shirt for a Christmas present, and even paid a significant chunk of full price. At the time, I was thinking the poly flannel would be durable. Which, I mean, hopefully it will be. But it’s also so, so nasty. Although it has a nice drape, it frays like crazy, and worst of all does not want to take a press. Anyway, I’m profoundly grateful to have it out of stash, and that I didn’t turn it into a gift.

I didn’t want to freehand the pattern as I did for the Adventure skirt (the fabric alone was going to be annoying enough) so I pulled out an old Burda envelope pattern I had made back in the day. I figured I could modify it a little bit to get the effect I wanted. (Actual pattern options would be the Folkwear Edwardian Walking Skirt, which I should actually have a traced version of somewhere, from when my mom made it for herself back in about 1992, or the Scroop Fantail skirt, which conveniently went on sale shortly after I started this project. But I already knew I loved the shape and length of the Burda pattern). I actually couldn’t even find the original pattern (curse words) but I did find my traced out version. I knew I needed to add at least 3” at the waist, and I was hopeful that adding a bit more fullness thorough the hips would make room for pockets (since my hip expansion hasn’t matched my waist expansion the last few years.)

My pattern changes were simple. I cut the centre front piece a bit back from the fold (probably adding about 1.5” there, and I cut the back piece not on the fold, but extending out to the edge of the fabric so I would have extra fullness for the pleats. I added a more precise 3” to the waist and length, but in hindsight I should’ve added more because the wide underlap I tend to use on the closures of my “Victorian” style skirts needs more overlap than the narrow zipper closure the waistband is designed for. I also cut pocket bags, shaped to attach to the waistband. This nicely keeps the pockets from pulling on the side seams, but in hindsight I should have cut them using the upper part of the side front pattern piece for the shape, as that would’ve been a good size and supported the pocket nicely. Also I didn’t add quite enough length to accommodate the pocket reaching the waistband, so the actual part of the bag below the hand opening is really shallow. Though my phone didn’t fall out at work when I put it there, so they’re functional.

I came incredibly close to underlining the entire skirt in (real cotton) flannel, but didn’t have enough that I was prepared to sacrifice, so I just went with a single modern-style layer. It makes for a swishier skirt anyway.

I spent a LONG time fussing with the pleats to fit them into the waistband, and they’re still not great.

In the pics the rear closure isn’t lying especially flat, but I’m hoping it’s just my pinning because I got impatient and wore this before I made a button hole for the closure so it’s just held on with a big safety pin.

I was hoping for an invisible hem with hand hemming, especially since it required a LOT of easing, but I don’t know that it’s much more invisible than a machine blind hem. Oh well. It’s done now.

It maybe says something about the weird state of my wardrobe right now, but I’m hopeful that this skirt will be a really practical addition.

Unfortunately, I still have about a mètre of the fabric left. I’m tempted to make a matching top, or at least waistcoat, to extend the historybounding look, but we’ll see.

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Refashion and repeats

I haven’t had the oomph to tackle anything big this fall, despite digging out some fabrics I’d like to use and some intense fall wardrobe capsule fantasizing. But words like “cottagecore” and “historybounding” have been inspiring me, and I’ve been puttering at an assortment of little things.

Tyo was looking for an elf-y white shirt for her Hallowe’en costume, and didn’t find quite what she was looking for in the house. However, her search inspired me (a few days after Hallowe’en) to pull out an old shirt my husband had retired as the sleeves weren’t really long enough. It was a bit of a romantic style, purchased from one of those booths that sells Central American hand-crafts at various festivals many years ago, with a bit of embroidery and a lace-up neck opening, but a standard round shirt collar and shirt cuffs. Since it became too small for my husband, it’s been kicking around in the “not in use but too cool to throw out” pile. (This pile is Too Big. But that’s another issue for another day.)

I cut off the sleeves just below the elbow. In hindsight maybe I should have cut them not quite so short, but I was thinking of Tyo and she finds it annoying when puffy sleeves flop down over the cuff, and her arms aren’t as long as mine. I hemmed the edges into a casing and added a narrow elastic for a blousy sleeve.

Also can I say I’m LOVING this outfit a lot more than I thought I would?

Then I cut a wide scoop neckline, starting just above the top of the neck lacing. I used one of the sleeve off-cuts to cut a series of on-grain strips, connected them together and pressed in the edges with a bias tape maker, and used that to bind the neckline. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the squishy, heavy-gauze type fabric curved around the neckline, even when cut on grain, but I should have stay-stitched or even slightly gathered the neckline first as the same squishiness of the fabric let it stretch out quite a bit under sewing, and the resulting neckline is a bit wide and deep for Tyo. It works ok on me, and hopefully will be ok for her—worst case I might unpick the back neck and add a pleat there or something.

Despite how long it took me to write all that, the entire mod was probably done in under an hour.

As I was musing over the shirt refashion, I still felt that I wanted a light/neutral coloured top with actual swishy sleeves, so I decided I needed another Adrienne Blouse. My previous versions are red and black, in heavy rayon knits. This one is a heathered oatmeal colour cotton knit, not nearly so drapey and a bit thinner, originally purchased from Blackbird Fabrics. I’m relieved to say the sleeves work just as well in this fabric, and the body still fits nicely (with just the right amount of ease). The elastic I used in the shoulders for this one is VERY firm, which makes the neck a little higher, and I wouldn’t mind if it were a smidge lower, but other than that I’d call it a pretty flawless make. There’s nothing like a TNT pattern when you just need a win. (Also, I’m going to be so sad when the big sleeve trend passes. I’ve always kinda liked puffed sleeves, and it is glorious to finally be able to revel in them without feeling slightly guilty that I’m too old or dignified for them.)

The only change I made with this version was to remove the extra sleeve length I had added. It’s not a huge difference in the look, and it saves a few inches of fabric. I’m excited to try it with some skirts and belts, but of course the twins goobered something dark right on the front about five minutes after I got home from it’s first wear, so my pictures are pretty limited.

So basically I just want to dig through my closet and play dress up figuring out all the possible outfit combos with these things… and I mean the twins would be all over the pulling out part, but they are still not too fond of the cleanup parts.

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Wee black bats

The twins came home from the NICU shortly before Hallowe’en two years ago. I was tickled by an impossible fantasy: tiny twin bat costumes. Well, those didn’t happen, and other costumes came our way last year but this year, the bats came home to roost.

It maybe starts with capes, though. The twins are getting to an age where they’re excited to dress up, but their motor skills are still about fifty-fifty whether they can put their own pants on. But capes—capes are easy to put on and off. (And also fairly simple to sew, which is bit an important feature in our current time-poor phase of life). Some of my older girls’ friends growing up had a dress up box filled with fancy capes their mom had made, a cape for every occasion.

So I’ve been thinking about capes off and on. And bats on and off. So maybe bat capes was inevitable.

First came the pattern. I wasn’t going to go out and buy one (although there are plenty available). A full-circle cape, while easy to draft, would be too fabric-hungry, especially if I’m making two. But I definitely still wanted a cloak feel, not a chincy superhero cape. Eventually I settled on a half-circle style, still plenty of swish but not quite as big of a fabric hog.

The clincher was the above diagram, which showed up in a Google image search from I don’t recall where. But it made it very clear how to adapt a half-circle cape from an existing shirt pattern. Which I already have, in a form complete with hood, in Jalie 3355, all traced out in the twins’ size (or at least size 2, which is close enough.)

The twins were, of course, terribly excited to help me out with the drafting.

So the only thing you really need from the original pattern is the neckline and the shoulder, which gives you the size of the dart to take to make the half-circle sit nicely on the shoulders. (I wouldn’t mind making a version that converts the dart into the top of a side seam, for more efficient fabric usage…)

And of course, the hood. I wanted to make sure, though, that the hood was nice and roomy. I’m a fan of a feature of the hood of McCall’s 6800, which is a dart that makes the oversized hood fit on the neckline. So I added about an inch of extra depth, to be taken out with a dart aligned with the shoulder seam, and then added about 1/4” of height as well, just in case, as the hood is designed for stretch fabrics.

My fabric of choice was a black polyester suiting, extremely drapey and exactly the kind of slithery, fraying, impossible-to-press fabric that I most loathe sewing with. But, it was in stash, and I was happy to have it not be in stash, and that was the main thing.

To bat-ify the cape, I made the hem reverse-scalloped, but the main thing is of course the ears.

I did a bit of googling of bat ears, and a bit more googling of methods for adding animal ears to hoods. I went with the “cut a slit in the top of the hood and sew the ears in, tapering to nothing” method. I free-handed a shape that seemed about right, directly on the fabric, and cut and sewed. Living dangerously, though honestly as long as they weren’t round I think they would be fine. They are a bit floppy due to the fabric; I thought about adding interfacing but since I wasn’t prepared to interface the whole hood I was pretty sure they’d fall down anyway. I think they’re still fun.

There is nothing much to say about the construction, other than the fabric was a bitch and every machine acted up on me.

The coverstitch (which NEVER gives me issues—nor should it at that price point) was gathering everything no matter how I played with the differential feed. My rolled hem on the serger worked fine in tests but on the actual cape managed to miss catching the cut edge and then form a giant tangle of thread around the prong that the fabric is supposed to roll around, and which actually bent the prong. So I may never do another rolled hem again. Then the regular machine had the inner end of the thread on my nearly-empty spool come loose and tangle with the outgoing end.

It turned out that literal gremlins, aka the the twins, had gotten at the differential feed of the coverstitch, and cranked it to max. However, since I NEVER touch it, I actually forgot where it is and I kept adjusting the presser foot pressure instead. Facepalm.

But, I got them done. River got her first training in pulling pins as I sewed and putting them in the pin cushion (this was ALMOST enthralling enough to keep her from pulling them right back out). The older girls provided childcare (husband is sick as a dog with the non-covid cold the rest of us are just getting over) enough for me to get them finished, despite the recalcitrant machines. And they are utterly, battily adorable, if I do say so myself.

My mother-in-law has suggested Red Riding Hood capes next, but really the sky’s the limit, right?

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