Category Archives: Sewing

The fire is so delightful

So WAAAY back in January, I wanted to do a long cozy sweater for a work project for Valentine’s Day. McCall’s M7476, in specific. 

“Sounds great!” said my boss. “Are you going to make it red or pink?”

Um. 

“Put a heart on it?” 

Er, no…

Grum. So I floundered for a couple of days. You could wear the sweater over your sexy lingerie. I didn’t really feel like doing full-on lingerie. Over a crop top and leggings out of something red? Doable but a little boring. 

How about over a slinky velvet dress for an at-home date night involving champagne, a roaring fire, and possibly a bearskin rug? Ooo yes! (Hey, if I’m imagining the champagne and fireplace, why not the bearskin too?)

This was SUPPOSED to be a super quick and simple project I could throw together in a day or two around all the other commitments I have going on right now. Cry. It wound up being less simple. 

First, I spread out my chosen fabric and realized that the subtle marled cotton sweaterknit I’d fallen for was in fact a subtle stripe. (Also, that gorgeously matched pocket up above? That’s the one I sewed on upside down. )

The I spent a lot of time stabilizing things I probably didn’t need to (like the dropped shoulders) and the upper collar, and not stabilizing things I should’ve, like the undercollar. Not quite sure what I was thinking. 

The Nettie dress underneath was supposed to be simple and quick as well, just blinged up with the shiny chain, but then I had the idea to make a deep scoop in back. 

And then that was sort of loose and flaccid, so I wound up adding little jump rings to hold the lacing. Which works and looks cool but kinda distracts from what I was going for. 

Anyway, there’s not a lot more to say. Both of these were simple projects (relatively) with minimal fitting. All I did to the sweater was add sleeve length; for the Nettie I find I have to take about 1/4″ off the height of the shoulders. If I did the sweater again I would blend out a size larger in the hips, but it actually looks better in the photos than I had thought. 

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The (elusive) Perfect Tee Shirt

My husband has always liked a bit of that James Dean look, and key to it is that perfect white tee shirt. Which isn’t always easy to find. But his last few purchases have been largely disappointing (Hanes used to be a staple brand, but the last several… ugh. I didn’t know 100% cotton could feel that yugly.)

Anyway, while I won’t presume to have done better, I did want to throw my hat in the ring. I had attempted a tee for him before from the Thread Theory Strathcona, but it didn’t fare well—the fabric was wrong, the fit not right, and my attempts to hack a V neck version were either too high or too low. I even ordered some expensive cotton interlock from them to try again with a more “typical” fabric, but was too chicken to cut into $18/m fabric without a more successful trial. 

Last Christmas, a friend had great success making tees for her various male family members with Jalie 2918, so I thought I’d give that one a shot. And then, like mana from heaven, my Fabricland got in a shipment that, for the first time since I’ve worked there, included actual white interlock. For $14/m, but half-price sales are a dime a dozen at Fabricland. And then I was able to snaffle up a grubby remnant—just barely enough to squeeze out a trial version. Perfect. 

Anyway, I mainly just want to note down the fitting changes I made, for next time. If there is a next time. 

(for the sake of both Jalie and Thread Theory’s good names, I feel compelled to mention that these changes have more to do with my husband’s personal fit preferences, as well as an unusual body type, than with the patterns themselves.)

I cut the size Y, for a 40″ chest. The shoulders are good but the rest was a bit loose. 

Before anything else, I took a 1/2″ tuck through the shoulders (what I call a petite alteration when I do it for myself.) My husband, like me, has a lot of leg and a short torso for a man of his height. 

I have also noticed, in altering some storebought tees for him this past year, that he likes a much higher armscye and tighter sleeve than is typical (actually, pretty much like the black shirt on the right of the pattern photo looks). So I raised the underarm a good inch as well, and took a vertical tuck to remove 1″ from the sleeve width. 

The V-neck went in very nicely with the provided band piece, and that, at least, got husbandly approval without alteration (and given how fussy he is about necklines I’ll take it.)

I took in the sleeves a full 3 cm off the underarm seam (so 6 cm per sleeve, in addition to my first tuck) before the fit in the sleeve was “right”; I only took 1.5 cm off the side seam, so 3 cm per seam, 6 cm around the body of the tee. So I could perhaps go down to a 38″ chest pattern. 

And that’s the story for the moment. The tee is finished and in the drawer, and at least he seems to like the fabric this time. I’m going to see how he likes wearing it (and if he wears it ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) before I try another one, though. 

(Did I mention that, other than the tracing, which I did back before Christmas, this took less than an hour? And that included fitting. I could knock these out SO fast if we could nail the fit…)

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The Cave Art Quilt

There isn’t much of a reveal here, since it was pretty much all together last post, but the quilt for my dad is finished. 

I quilted in the ditch along all the major lines and then went to town with some VERY rough and ready free motion spirals and things. 

I may not be very good at it, but I really do enjoy free motion quilting. 
I outlined the figures in the central panel, again rather roughly. Wait, we were calling it “rustic”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Some of the quilting is light and some dark. Wise decision? Not necessarily. Anyway, I basically spent Saturday quilting.

Saturday afternoon, I attached the first pass of the binding, in time to go out for pre-Valentine’s day dinner and a movie with the husband and children. Yay me!

That left me with three whole days to leisurely hand-stitch the binding second pass. 

It didn’t take the whole three days, but I did take my time. And snipping threads. So many threads!

The last corner, where the join was, isn’t as tidy as the other three. In hindsight I could’ve put the join along a side where it might be less visible and had all the corners match. That’s probably a tip in a quilting book somewhere. 

I am so insanely pleased with how it turned out, warts and dodgy quilting and all. It’s finished size is about 1.5 x 2m, not a full bed size but a respectable throw. 

See?

Now it just has to hang at work for three whole months (darn craft projects)—but I will have it back in time for a Father’s Day gift, if I want to go that route. I am debating what to do with my scraps. I could probably squeeze out a pillow-case or two if he does end up using it for his bed, but I was really hoping more for it to be a couch throw. (Y’know, downstairs where I can see it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I could make matching cushion covers for the couch. Or a tote bag for my mom. I really should make something for her… ๐Ÿ˜‚ I’m a bad, bad daughter. 

Who made a frickin quilt! 

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Tanitisis Quilts

Well, damn. I did it. 

This group of quilt cottons came into the store last fall and I fell in love. In particular, it would be perfect for a present for my Dad (an archaeologist by trade.)

I was VERY intimidated by this project. Quilting is an arcane discipline full of its own peculiar rules and terminology, and while I’m familiar with the broad strokes after four years of working at a fabric store, the devil’s in the details. 

To dip my toes in slowly (and to make the thing simple enough to do as a shop project with a tight deadline) I picked a fairly simple block for the corners, and built the rest of the quilt as a frame around the central panel, mainly with large blocks of the striped fabric. The block is called the Garden Path and is free on the McCalls website. 

So, definitely a cheater quilt. This suits me very well. I actually am ridiculously happy with how that quilt top looks, I won’t lie. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of mistakes on the quilting to make up for it. It’s a decent throw size, about 2m x 1.5m. 

And yes, that’s metric, because my lone quilting ruler is also metric. And may not actually be a quilting ruler. Fortunately, I am also good at converting inches to cm and vice versa. Also I totally get why the quilters love their rotary cutters. Someday, my precious, someday…

Piecing the back was fun. 

It’s now sandwiched and the basic quilting is done. 

Which means next I need to tackle the scary part—how much (if any) free motion quilting I can manage (or pull off) for the infill. I’ve only done FMQ once before, on my quilted skirt, and it remains a minor miracle that I pulled that off. This is much bigger and harder to wrangle, even if it isn’t a full size blanket. And I’m only just starting to appreciate the difference between working with a blank canvas like the skirt, and making the quilting work with the print and the blocks and everything. 

Wish me luck!!!!

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Brand-new pink corset

Of course as soon as I got the antique pink corset I wanted to copy it. If only to get a better sense of how it is shaped. 

This is not such a replica. If anything, it’s a crude approximation, with little of the delicacy and grace of the original. Everything is too heavy—the fabric, the boning, even (especially) the lace. It is excused only by the fact that I REALLY wanted to do a work project with this pale-pink Chinese brocade, because, um, gorgeous. 

The pattern is my altered version of Butterick 4254. The fabric is a Chinese brocade, the strength layer made from ticking. I’m out of busks, so since this is a work project I subbed in something we do carry at work—hook and eye tape. It’s not as pretty as a busk, but a bit more delicate, which is in keeping with the style of the original. It’s also really annoying to hook up, by the way. 

I made a number of poor choices in the construction, but I will say that the top and bottom lace hides any number of sins, and enhances the Victorian-hourglass impression as well. 

It also got some little pink bows (ร  la original) just in time for me to hang it up at work, but not in time for these quickie-bathroom-mirror pics. It is growing on me.

I made a princess-line chemise to go with it, mainly because a corset alone on a display mannequin looks a bit, ah, naked—fine for a contemporary corset, not quite the right look for a Victorian one. I was inspired by originals like this:

Although I didn’t want to do buttons, because time. Most of the princess-seamed chemises I could find online seem to come from 1900+, but The Home Needle (1882) mentions them so they were around. I couldn’t find any patterns I was super into, plus this is not exactly a proud piece of historical recreation, so I pulled out a princess-seam dress pattern, McCall’s M7189, in fact, though I think it doesn’t matter that much which exact one. I added a bit at the waist so I could slip it in without a closure, and deleted a bit at the top to add the lace neckline and straps—this took some interesting stretching and squishing of the lace to create the curve. There are two rounds of lace and I was completely astonished when it turned out to sit just right on my shoulders. 

Then I tried to save time while putting the ruffle on the bottom by using my ruffler foot to attach it, and had to tear it out three times because I made it too small. Dur!


All in all, though, I am satisfied with the overall look, given the limitations of my materials. 

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Love and Loathing for red lace

Ok, I am so done with this coat. I can’t even. It was half done when the store closed  (it’s a shop project of course) and I totally lost steam and, well, blerg.  

There’s nothing really wrong. The pattern is McCalls’ M7025. The fabric is a polyester coating printed with this gorgeous lace pattern. I am such a sucker for lace print! And a black to match. Neither are particularly great quality, and I’m dubious about how the print will hold up to wear as there’s a lot of white behind the thin surface printing. 

I skipped the giant patch pockets.


The fit is good, if a little snug with all my interlining and stuff. I made the size 12 grading to a 10 only at the shoulders. (I raised it under the armpits a bit too much but that’s easy enough to adjust after the fact.) I thought the amount of length I added to the sleeves was completely ridiculous, but now that they’re on, they’re nearly perfect. My definition of perfect is probably an inch longer than normal people’s, but that’s the result of a lifetime of too-short sleeve trauma. 

The bound buttonholes were a bit of an afterthought, and they’re not perfect, and I feel like they nearly killed me but actually it wasn’t that bad, just nerve wracking. Trying to do  conventional buttonholes on a regular machine would’ve been even worse, though. And they look amazing so there’s that. 

Oh, yeah, added braid piping between lining and facings.


And maybe I just didn’t have the energy for a really elaborate project. But I’ve been ogling this pattern since it came out and the red lace-printed coating was just too unique and perfect and, well, shop projects always seem like a good idea when you first take them out…

Anyway, it’s done now. 

My favourite touch is the slotted seams I added along the princess lines, though it is hard to see in the photos. 

I did a neat alteration to the back neck facing that I completely failed to photograph, too. 

You can almost see it here… No, not really. Oh, the pattern has some separate lining pieces (yay!) but not all of them (aww) so the lining is supposed to have the extra seam partway down the skirt, too. I did not want that. It wasn’t too hard to overlap the edges of the two pieces to cut them as one. 

Anything else to say? This make was so stretched out I’ve forgotten half of it. The sleeves are quite narrow at the upper arm, wide at the cuff. I do like the elbow dart for shaping though. Lots of sleeve cap ease. I chopped off a bunch. 


Oh, yeah, I interlined  with Thinsulate, body, upper skirt, and sleeves. Trimmed off the seam allowances and did butted seams on the body. 

I must have miscalculated somewhere on what seam allowance I took off the front but otherwise that worked well for the bodice. I was a bit more stumped for the sleeves. (Incidentally, standard wisdoms for interlining seems to be “quilt it to the lining”. This probably works well, but I HATE QUILTED LININGS. They fill me with visions of really ugly early 80s parkas. Anyway, it’s really hard to sew a butted seam up a sleeve. Not impossible, but annoying enough that I spent several weeks avoiding it. In the end, I replaced the seam allowances I had cut off the edges of the Thinsulate with ugly flat bias tape zig-zagged on top so the bias tape stuck out past the edge of the Thinsulate, and underlined the coating fabric for the sleeves. This actually worked quite well, and I wish I’d gotten pictures but by this time I was in mad-last-minute-panic mode. Also you have to finish the edges of Thinsulate with a zig-zag at least, otherwise the outer layers shift and the inner fluff starts escaping. 

It’s hanging in the shop now, finally. I will probably like it better by the time I get it back. It’s certainly very striking. I had been kinda hoping this would be the mythical “warmer than the winter coat” that I’ve been dreaming of for the past six or seven years, but I don’t think it’ll be quite there, alas. But at least I’ll look fabulous… ๐Ÿ˜‚

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A Christmas Mess

Apparently I don’t get more done when I have more time. My husband picked up Final Fantasy XIV again right around when the store got closed and I was sucked right back in. After three years of working 55-60 hours a week I deserved some downtime, right? And it’s relationship-feeding. Or something. Anyway, my list of things I should’ve done but haven’t is as long as ever. 

Fabricland reopened the week before the week before Christmas, which was terribly exciting and lovely to see everyone and totally ate into what was supposed to be my last-minute-accomplishing-stuff time.

The socks above, made when I should’ve been sewing things for presents, are another pair of Dreamstress Rosalie stockings. I find them a fun, quick, although not overly practical, project. I usually omit the set of darts on the top of the foot (it doesn’t really make sense to have them there as far as I can tell) and add a band at the top—that helps keep them up.  They would be more practical except that I find the toes wear through quite quickly in the lightweight super-stretchy knits I’m most inclined to use. I wonder how bad it would look to add a double layer there. The white pair up above is made in French terry and hopefully will be a bit sturdier. I need to make a garter belt—I have findings ordered from Farthingales but haven’t actually put them together yet. 

Teenager drama continues apace. My kids are lovely, fun, and goofy, with their own unique constellations of interest that fascinate me, and it was great to just BE there a bit more while the store was closed. This still didn’t prevent the single worst parenting moment we’ve run into in sixteen and a half years, mind you. 

My kids are moody, angsty, and if they fail to generate their own personal drama they have plenty of friends with an abundant supply. We’re upset as parents that one never had friends over, and the other never seems to want to be home. (Which one is which varies somewhat.) Things  aren’t quite ok but I don’t think anyone’s going to die.

Well, let’s modify that. 

In early December, my grandmother died. The one who gave me the Rocketeer. I almost want to write that the old woman who used to be my grandmother died. She hasn’t known who any of us were in a few years. Her body was failing, and her mind lived in a fractured and sometimes frightening version of the past. I’m told it was peaceful, when she went. The funeral won’t take place for a while, maybe until spring. It’s hard to bury people up here in winter. Better to cremate and wait. Her grave had been ready for a long time, anyway, the other half of my grandfather’s gravestone engraved with everything but her death date, waiting patiently since 1986. I’m not sure if I’ve grieved already, or if I’m waiting for the memorial service. She was a strong woman, maybe a little hard for her own good, but she always had my back, unwavering and unconditional support. There’s a lot to be said for that.

I have, and will continue to, miss her. I really hope that some of those promising Alzheimer’s treatments I’ve been reading about pan out. I don’t want to be gone years before I actually die. I don’t want to lose my parents years before they actually die. 

My husband’s grandmother also isn’t well. After years of battling cancer, a few days in the hospital to help her manage her pain better somehow turned into palliative care. We spent most of my MIL’s Christmas Eve  dinner in a room at the hospital. Which is actually great for opening presents, but hard and terrible in every other way. It’s been ten years exactly since we last spent an Xmas in the hospital—that one was a doozie, too. 

So I guess it’s not true, when I said no one’s going to die. 

 Sorry, that sounds flippant. My reaction to death is bad humour. I want to start compiling a list of morbid jokes for when I die. If (when) I get terminally ill, I don’t want it to be this scary elephant in the corner that no one will talk about. I want it out in the open where we can make fun of it. 

Tyo and I made a Jalie 3244 onesie (no feet) for her cousin on Christmas Eve in under two hours. No photos as we were way under the gun. And I made some skinny little Elรฉonores for my other niece, the waif, who is still a toothpick. The gifts have been given but no word on whether they fit, yet. 

And I’m working on another Norse hood for my step-sister, so that she and her husband won’t have to share the one I made last year. I enjoy the handwork, aside from the part where my brain yammers at me about how crude my workmanship is and what self-respecting Viking would sew with yarn?!? Stupid researcher brain. ๐Ÿ˜‰

They are happy, anyway, though my square gussets were a little smaller this time around resulting in smaller shoulders that seem to fit her better than her husband. Good to know. 

I’ve also made (though they aren’t completely finished) corsets for both my daughters. They both had expressed a desire for proper over bust ones, and Tyo had even picked out a fabric back around her birthday. 

They aren’t totally finished as I didn’t want everything closed up before I could fit them, but they are put together and mostly boned. And I ran out of time, as everything is a mess this year, including my time management. Trying to be kind to myself about that. We could all use a bit more kindness right now.

I hope that your holidays, whatever they entail, have been peaceful, and less stressful than mine. I’m looking forward to the next few days, hoping things will be a bit more relaxed and calm. 

Edit: more relaxed, yes. My body took the opportunity to get sick. Blerg! But I am almost done this shop project coat, at long last…

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