Category Archives: Sewing

Class Samples: Alder shirtdress

It’s a bit sweet. And a bit snug right through the bust—I really need to come to terms with my new measurements. But I knew from scouring Instagram that I preferred the “fitted” versions of this dress, so I was at least somewhat intentional in sizing down.

I considered adding back-ties, but with the down-sizing I didn’t really need them.

Anyway. I love the short, sassy skirt. I love the fabric, which is a yummy double gauze. It might, however, be just a little too twee. I’m thinking I would like it paired with black leggings and tall boots. We’ll see.

I went with a mandarin version of the collar. Partly I like them better, partly I’m hoping if I lead some students in that direction it will save some class time. This is only scheduled as a 6 hour class and I’m a little scared. Once it’s don’t being a class sample, I might even cut the neck down to a bound scoop. I’ve seen some hacks like that that I really like. I’m just not really a shirt-collar person, I guess.

The front patch pockets are teeny weeny. I was a good sample maker and resisted the urge to skip them, but I did add some side-seam pockets, suspended from the gathered skirt seam at the top. This holds them in place a little more nicely than just side pockets.

The construction went pretty smoothly, without any major and unfixable snafus. Unlike my last class sample. Still kind of reeling in horror from that one, honestly. For the arm facing, I used a bias tape I had made previously, and while I cut my pieces the same length as the pattern indicated, I think because I had already stretched the tape out going through the bias tape maker, they didn’t have as much give as if they’d been freshly cut that length. So it took some finessing to get them in properly, and it’s still not my best job ever. A half inch longer would’ve been perfect.

What I completely failed to take was progress and detail shots, except for the one lone pic of the pockets underway. It’s too bad, because I like how the side pockets went together, and I actually managed some very nice inset corners, if I do say so myself. And the hem turned out really nice, too, if I do say so myself. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it…

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Planned obsolescence

I have a complicated relationship with distressed denim. Like most teens in the 90s, one of my main goals in life was to shred my jeans—or at least bust through the knees. However, the romance of the tattered denim faded pretty abruptly when I had to start buying my own jeans—I wanted those to last as long as possible! So I avoided the pre-tattered distressed looks as much as I could. I’ll put my own holes in them, thanks.

I don’t generally try to distress my homemade jeans for the same reason, and I’ve complained loud and long about being unable to find hole-free jeans for my children. But the one thing I do miss about storebought jeans is the complicated wash and fading, even though I also think it’s environmentally questionable.

I went with unfinished, frayed hems.

So I was both fascinated and repulsed by this pre-shredded denim fabric when it came into my Fabricland three or four years ago, part of one of the random groups of jobber fabric they would get in. I couldn’t decide if I loved or hated it… anyway, in the end I settled on the side of love. But it’s still ridiculous. Someone went to the trouble of weaving this perfectly good denim, and then scraped, bleached, and shredded holes in little lines all the way along, until the sturdy, serviceable cloth is almost a kind of lace.

Everyone else seemed to think the fabric was a bit too weird. It sat, and sat, and sat. And then one day I got to work and the entire group had been shunted into the bargain centre. So I bought the whole bolt, and the idea of making the weird, impractical stuff into an equally dramatic McCall’s M6800, began to tickle the back of my brain shortly thereafter.

Fast forward to about a month ago, just after making the Kilt Jacket, when I had a weird little lull before I could start working on class samples. And for some reason the tickle to make something completely irrelevant, impractical, and unnecessary overwhelmed me. I guess I was a little late to #sewfrosting?

Anyway, having made this jacket twice before, the fitting was largely sorted out. Which left the matter of which options I was going to use, as this pattern has many. I decided to try mashing the wide-lapel view with the hood. I love it when a hood runs right into a fold-back lapel. I wasn’t actually sure this was the right way to achieve the look, but it seems to work. I added about two inches to the front of the already-voluminous hood to extend it onto the lapels, reshaped the lapel neckline into a smooth curve rather than the angle for the notch collar, and I did wind up trimming about 1/2″ off each lapel to get them to line up with the hood.

For construction, I used the same method as my first version, a combination of bound seams and topstitching. With all the little frayed holes, this fabric is fairly delicate, and I wanted lots of reinforcement on the seams. I used some grey-blue gauzy cotton, left over from this dress. Maybe not the sturdiest choice I could’ve made, but I think it worked out. I skipped the facings, too, opting for a binding folded to the inside for this part too.

However, Hong Kong binding plus double topstitching does not make for a quick project. I also didn’t go full bore, and had to occasionally interrupt… anyway. It developed slowly.

But, it’s finally finished. Or, maybe finished isn’t quite the right word. In temporary equilibrium? Because this piece calls out for distressing. I’m almost tempted to go at it theatre-style, get some patina going. Failing that, the shredded fabric is more-or-less guaranteed to begin failing sooner rather than later.

I’m already planning visible mending, layering, patching. I don’t really think this jacket is done.

I think maybe it’s ready to start becoming. Obsolescence is a part of the plan.

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The jacket that nearly killed me

Or should I say kilt me? (Feel free to groan away)

If you read any of my posts from January, you probably noticed me whining about this jacket in the background. Well, it’s done! And you can read the full whinge over on The Sewcialists website, as part of their February “Sew Menswear for Everyone” theme month!

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Class samples: Zoe Dress

In March I’m teaching a class on the Zoe Dress by Sew Over It at Periwinkle Quilting. So it was high time to get on with sewing my sample.

This is a cute basic dress and I figured it would be a step beyond the very basic Arum I did last year. And I really, really liked this beige-with-writing-and-roses fabric. I had a really great fit with the SOI Betty Dress back before Christmas, so I was pretty excited.

I’m generally a big proponent of tracing when it comes to expensive indie patterns, but I find the SOI patterns really hard to trace. The Betty didn’t have different line styles for the different sizes, which made it hard to pick out the right size, and this one had different line styles, but some of them were really faint, with tiny and spaced out dots, including the size 12 I was tracing for the lower half. Also there’s more notches than you can shake a stick at, and I always miss notches when I trace. So I cut. Based on the Betty, I cut a size 10 for the shoulders and bust and a size 12 for the waist and hip. I didn’t do a petite alteration, but I did add a small swayback adjustment, by shortening the back piece at the waistline and taking a wedge out of the side piece, since the pattern has princess seams but no side seams.

I tend to like a lot of ease in the hips, so I kinda wish I had gone up another size there. As is, I let out the side back princess seams as much as possible–you can’t adjust the front princess seams because there are pockets in this area (yay pockets), but the back is where I really need the room anyway.

You can see the pulling across the back armscye in this one.

The swayback adjustment worked well, although it’s possible I should’ve petited somewhere by a smidgeon.

There are back neck darts. They make a nice shape and I didn’t modify the shoulder slope or anything. (Often I have to square it a bit)

But something is off with the back armscye. The sleeve cap is tall and narrow, which alarmed me a bit, and it definitely works well if I keep my arms down but doesn’t allow a lot of motion. And moving my arms to the front the littlest bit pulls mightily across the back. Fortunately this cotton has quite a bit of give, but it feels like I need a bit of a forward-shoulder adjustment—it’s tight across the back if I try to move my arms forward, but roomy across the chest. Weird because that’s not something I’ve ever needed. Possibly I could let out the seam at the back armscye a wee bit…

I did raise the underarm a tiny bit, which I almost always do, and that helps with the mobility a bit, but I’m just not totally sold on that armscye. And I’ll definitely be checking back measurements when we do the class.

All in all, though, it’s pretty cute.

I’m going to show you my greatest, most terrible shame now, though:

There. There it is. Do you see? How in the HELL did I not check, when I went to cut it out, which way the print was facing? Of all the STUPID… anyway, I can’t go on or this blog will descend into a string of profanity I’ll probably regret releasing onto the internet.

On a happier note, the invisible zipper and the facing attachment fully by machine went smooth as butter. After all these years I still think of Pattern, Scissors, Cloth every time I do this. And yes, I still had pink thread in the serger from the baby overalls, and it makes me happy.

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Palate Cleanser

After the protracted trauma of the suit jacket (post still to come), I needed something fast and satisfying. And fortunately (?) I had another deadline just around the corner—a baby shower for one of my old Fabricland colleagues.

Now, I didn’t sew when my children were little (and even if I had, that was before the plethora of insanely adorable modern kids’ indie patterns mushroomed into being) so while I do have a few baby patterns, most of them aren’t, ah, overly compelling. There are a couple of nice vintage dresses, but nothing I felt really moved to work on. The one exception was this tiny overalls pattern. It’s been a long time since I indulged my love of sewing with hammers, but there are few things more satisfying.

And when I figured out the scrap of fabric left over from my Arum dress would be just big enough—well, sold.

I traced off the 3-month size, but using the 6 month leg and strap length. The legs still seem insanely short, but I imagine that has everything to do with how long it’s been since I had a baby to dress. Oddly, the pattern doesn’t suggest you make the straps adjustable. That seems like an obvious omission.

A hunt through the thread stash didn’t turn up any topstitching thread a good colour, but apparently I do have a 500-m spool of dusty pink regular thread. Don’t ask me why. (It’s not even one of the many spools of dodgy ancient inherited thread!) So I fiddled with my Elna and managed to slightly lengthen the triple-stitch setting, and voila! This is when the Elna’s ridiculous speed really comes in handy—even doing triple-stitch, it moves along at a great clip and doesn’t make me want to stab something. The only downside is the limited needle position control, which makes fine-tuning your topstitching distances tricky. I did all the topstitching with a 1/4″ foot, which was not bad but my edgestitching is a little more wobbly than I’d like. All in all, though, everything went well, except that every once in a while the Elna bobbin seems to start catching on something and then everything snarls up and you have to rethread the whole damn thing.

I haven’t made a lot of overalls. Actually, this might be the first time I’ve ever made overalls. Anyway, I found myself a lot more reliant on the sketchy Burda instructions than I like to be. There’s some weird stuff around the hip closures. In particular, some of the pattern pieces didn’t have their names marked on them, just numbers, and the instructions didn’t always reference the number. And there are quite a few little rectangles and almost-rectangles that were tricky to differentiate. And I would’ve liked some indication of when to finish seams, from time to time. But on the whole it all went together fairly well.

Things got a bit more off-road when it came to the hardware. My hardware stash is not nearly as vast as my fabric stash, and it’s actually getting a bit depleted at this point. I wanted heavy-duty snaps for the waistband and lighter ones for the rest of the closure. The pattern called for some cute little alligator-type clips for the straps, which I did not have, nor was I willing to venture out into our current blizzard to see what I could obtain locally. So I opted for D-rings and more snaps. Sturdy, but maybe a bit bulky, especially since I wanted the straps to be adjustable so I included extra back-snaps.

My stash of heavy-duty snaps came mostly from a thrift store acquisition of vintage snaps that have some cool colours—including three with a dusty pink finish that was perfect with my topstitching! Except that I only had three. And this vintage set was missing the back most pieces, which means I have to use extra snap fronts on the backs, too. Probably nice against baby skin, but it means I’m going to have a lot of extra snap middles when I’m done. I used lighter-weight snaps for the rest of the side closures, and added rivets at the pocket corners. That was probably the most annoying part, as there was something like 12 layers of fabric at the pocket corners. My silver rivet posts actually weren’t long enough, and I had to swap them out for longer black ones on the inside. Not visible, happily, unlike the mishmash of snap colours. I’m mostly just happy I managed to use those pink snaps, though.

There are a couple of other little details I meant to add but didn’t. I had some pink grosgrain to make a little tab sticking out of a pocket, and a teeny D-ring hanging from below one of the useless belt-loops would’ve been adorable… but I didn’t remember, and the cute factor is pretty high, anyway. So we’ll call it good, and hopefully baby Tessa (or at least, her mother) will find them as adorable as I do. I’m really excited about this baby shower, as I’m pretty sure most every gift will be hand-made. It should be great!

My god, did I mention these are cute?

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One Yoko

Back around Christmas, Jalie patterns released a free, boxy sweater pattern, the Yoko—pretty cute with its cozy cowl and skinny sleeves, I gotta say, and “boxy” is not my adjective of choice. Anyway, like all e-hoarders, I promptly downloaded the pattern and then didn’t think much about it, other than nodding approvingly whenever one popped up on the feed.

But last weekend was my niece (Fyon)’s twelfth birthday. And I’ve been trying to whip up something quick for my nieces for these occasions, while they’re young enough not to tell me to go jump in a lake. In any case, she’s been wearing the sparkly dress I made her last year quite a bit (as it turned out she was wearing it when I got to the party) so, y’know.

I thought that a soft, grey, drapey version of Yoko might be perfect for an almost-young-lady, a little sophisticated and a lot comfy. Assuming, anyway, that she didn’t hate turtlenecks.

It was super simple to sew, once I figured out that half the sleeve wasn’t missing (the sleeve “cap” isn’t—it’s completely flat!)

And it was just as drapey and suave as I had hoped, but maybe a bit plain. So I sacrificed one of my precious hoarded lace appliqués, picked up during the last, desperate discount days at Fabricland, and stitched them on the back as angel-wings. That little act of hand-sewing approximately tripled the time it took to make the sweater, but I think it was well worth it. Fyon loves the sweater (or at least that’s what she said), and I think it’s adorable on her, except I didn’t manage to get a picture. But, y’know. You can trust me.

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Interstitial Blackwood

I’m in the throes of a Big Project (TM) that is eating my brain and possibly driving me crazy. Did I mention making a suit jacket for my uncle? Yes? I wish I hadn’t. Anyway, I’m not quite ready to dive into that pile of angst yet, but suffice it to say, I needed a break from it.

So today, when I found myself in the sewing room at 8 am on a Sunday morning, with no children in the house and a husband sleeping on the living room couch, I found myself puttering.

First, in a bit of a landmark move, I went through my two giant bins of scraps (plus accessory bags and piles), stuffing the smaller and uglier into my pouf.

Wait, I hadn’t mentioned my pouf! After Closet Case Patterns blogged about their scrap-stuffed pouf pattern, I made one. But I hadn’t really tried to stuff it yet.

Over the course of a couple of hours the pouf went from empty to maybe 3/4 full, and the scraps went from two bins, two grocery bags, and several other piles, to one (albeit rather full) bin.

Believe it or not, this is uncommonly tidy for my sewing room.

It’s a New Years miracle! Freeing up a bin allowed me to pack up some more of the ambient fabric, and actually reorganize the bins a bit, so I was able to get several more bins off the floor and into the wall of stacked bins.

I cut out and sewed up a quick pair of Watson bikinis, a remnant from a piece a friend in Atlanta sent me yoinks ago, which I made into some early loungewear that I’ve since dyed a rather muted purple grey. I’d kinda forgotten how neon the original colour was.

I fussed around a bit more with the jacket.

I swept the floor.

And then, after some pleasant digging through my freshly re-ordered bins, I whipped up a second Blackwood Cardigan. The first on I made, for my birthday, has been in heavy rotation ever since, only limited by the fact that a subset of my outfits don’t work with a burgundy cardigan.

Now I gotta say, the wool I used the first time was a FAR better fabric. This time I picked this pretty piece of knit jacquard, which came in as a factory remnant. The factory remnants Fabricland gets are generally pretty inexpensive, and I guess they’re a “sustainable” option since you’re using fabric that would otherwise go straight to a dump—but they can be pretty rank. They usually seem to be bits the factory has cut around because of staining or some other flaw.

This particular piece had large yellow hand-writing at one end (fortunately on the wrong side) and a linear flaw in the jacquard all down one side, not to mention being cut wildly off grain. The fabric itself is nothing special, either, highly synthetic and pretty much guaranteed to snag almost instantly. But, very pretty.

Underarm flaw—not noticeable.

I was just barely able to squeeze the main body pieces out of the patterned fabric—with only a bit of the flaw along the edge of the sleeve, where it’s very hard to notice.

Wobbly pocket is wobbly. We are going to love it anyway.

I was lucky enough to find a bit of black sweaterknit of a similar weight and quality to make the bands and pockets. They’re both very soft and squishy fabrics, so getting the pocket square, even with steam-a-seam to fuse it in place, was kinda a lost cause. But I’d rather have wobbly pockets than no pockets.

I’m sad (but not surprised) to report that, while very pretty and comfy, it’s definitely not as warm as my wool version. But it was simple and reliable and quick, which is everything the ongoing project is not, and sometimes a dose of simple is exactly what you need.

Happy Sunday!

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