Category Archives: Sewing

Housed

Life isn't a straight road.

I don't know why I thought it should be—I'll blame my parents with their baby-boomer career-marriage-house-children white picket fence life example. Not that it suited either of them particularly, but that's a different story.

I did set out to follow that playbook, but it went quickly sideways. First with having my kids far too early (from the playbook's perspective, anyway), later with a combo of my own mental health and my husband's physical health issues that made us both end promising careers in Alberta and run home with tails between our legs.

Since then, it's been a process. First, of survival. Learning to trust myself again. Resiliency has never been my strong suit—I much preferred blazing excellence, and when I fell short of that, I had no coping skills. When I started working at Fabricland (almost five years ago), it was my first non-academic job, and I was terrified that I wasn't even capable of entry level retail work.

It turned out I was, though. Thank goodness.

It took a long time to rebuild that confidence in myself. Not to mention that minimum wage retail work doesn't exactly pay the bills when you're suddenly the sole breadwinner. It was hard to go back to grinding poverty from what had been almost a middle-class lifestyle. Hard to work two jobs when the two combined don't even earn you enough to make ends meet. Hard to learn how to be the person who works two jobs, and how to maintain any sanity. For a long time, years, I couldn't look beyond the day, maybe the next pay period. All those plans for our future were just gone.

But I did cope and I did survive, and I did start to trust in my own ability again. And I've worked. As hard as I did at grad school, as hard as being home with a small baby. Harder than I knew I could—which is how it works, I guess. Last fall I got an opportunity at my day job for a new position which has let me use a lot more of my grad-school (and artistic) skills than my first position, and that has been exciting.

I'm starting to see a future. It's beginning to feel like a career—maybe not as lucrative as a professorial job, but something I can build on.

What comes next has nothing to do with my own abilities, talent, or resiliency, though. One of the biggest resources that has helped us through rough times over the years has been family. This spring, my father decided to help us get a house.

It's the last thing on that checklist, that playbook, that road to a Normal North American Life (TM). I'm not sure why, after all these years, I'm still trying to follow it—but I do know that I wanted this badly.

I want to be able to create my own space, feel ownership for it, and to be able to work to improve it. I'm willing to take on the extra responsibility to have that freedom, even that pride. And I'm so insanely grateful to my father for making this possible, because with all the other side-steps and swerves in my life, I couldn't have done it on my own. Thank you, Dad.

Thank you.
Now if I can just find my sewing machine…

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Sundresses

I wanted some more variations on the button-up sundress, so for my May project at work I went for Butterick B5761, a Connie Crawford pattern that doesn’t look like much on the envelope, but I liked the lines. 

This is my first Connie Crawford and I was quite happy with the fit; it took much less fussing and reshaping of the bust than McCall’s M7640 that I made last summer. On the other hand, on my first version (the white) I didn’t shorten the bodice (only the straps) and had to let out the hips, at least partially because the hip was sitting lower than I need it to. My hips aren’t super wide but they jut abruptly right below my waist. It was also a bit smug throughout.  

These two versions are really a study in how different fabric affects fit. The first version I made, in the white, is a poly-cotton seersucker with very little give, and the whole thing was borderline too tight. The second version, in a soft, drapy rayon, actually came out a little too large and I need to get in there and take in the back seams. 

There’s also a pattern piece not shown anywhere on the envelope—the shaped shoulder strap I used on the white version. I wish I’d thought to trim it with lace like I did the bodice, though I was using up lace scraps for that and wouldn’t’ve had enough. I’m not sure I LOVE it, but it was interesting to try. A pain to turn and press nicely, though. 

 When I got it done the whole thing was still a little plain but I got the idea to add the band of lace bead with a bit of vintage velvet ribbon and I love that detail. I do wish it was a little lower cut in the front, especially in the white version, but if you don’t love cleavage it’s a good option and the back has a really nicely scooped shape. 

The pattern is designed to be lined, which I did for the white version, but it also has some “interfacing” pattern pieces that work just fine if you want a facing, as I did for the tie-dye rayon. 

It’s quite slim through the hips (and much less of a fabric hog as a result), but I like my skirts a little fuller so for the rayon version I did increase the flare. 

And I added the button front on the rayon version, because I’m cool like that. 😉

At its bones, though, it’s a pretty good pattern. Even if these aren’t the best pics I’ve ever snapped. (No makeup, hair flat, taken in about three minutes as we were rushing out the door)

It’s Canada Day this weekend, and our 150th year as a nation, which is a big deal although it kinda totally neglects the thousands of years of people who lived here before that; I am trying to be conscious of the validity of those dual narratives, and to acknowledge, if only to myself, the checkered nature of that 150-year history, particularly with regard to the treatment of the First Nations people. I have a new Canada Day dress, too, and if I manage to get pics this weekend I’ll try and get a post up on that, but I don’t dare make promises since we’re moving later this month (and finally, after almost 20 years of renting, becoming home owners!!!) and life is going to be insane. So I’ll see you on the flip side!

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Cavity alert

If my first version of the Fancy Tiger sailor top was sweet, this one is absolutely cloying. Brush your teeth after reading this. 

Tyo is wondering why I’m making mom clothes. 😂

I am teaching a class on this pattern in August. I have to know how to make it. Also it’s cute. It is cute, right?

This version is the promo sample—it’s now hanging in Periwinkle Quilting so that people will hopefully be inspired to sign up for the class. 😉 The fabric is from there as well, and is a luscious double gauze. It’s very exciting to work with a fabric I’ve read about for so long. 

And, I got the recommended amount (2.2m) but was able to squeeze the top out of less so I actually have 90cm left over! Maybe the fabric’s a bit wider than I thought. So, I should be looking at woven cami patterns or something. 
The pattern has pretty good instructions (and I found the missing match point on my sleeve pattern so I didn’t have to unpick gathering this time!) but doesn’t call for any interfacing of the neck band. This may be fine for quilt cottons, but I’ve added some in both my versions and I’m happy about it. For this version it was just a layer of cotton lawn. The pattern also doesn’t call for understitching, which I did on both the neck band and the sleeves’ faced hems. 

I maintain that it is still somewhat sassy, despite the utter sweetness of the pattern, not at all helped by my choice of fabric or the pompom trim lace. (It was dying for the lace, c’mon!)

I may be wrong. I am in the latter half of my thirties, after all. 

Ah well. Sometimes it’s fun to make something outside my usual style. 

This is made up exactly as per the pattern, except I added about 1″ to the width of the back, which helps. I could’ve made it a bit longer. Oh, and the jeans in these photos are what’s left of my very first pair of me-made jeans, from 2010. 😳

So, maybe not my “style” exactly, but adorable and enjoyable to make. Plus, a good fit with minimal alterations. I think it will serve its purpose admirably. 

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Demure

In August I’m teaching a sewing class (!!!!) at a local quilt shop, and the pattern selected is the Fancy Tiger Crafts “Sailor top”. I need to make a sample up pretty quick, but I wanted to try it out first in something other than the Precious Quilt Shop Double Gauze I have picked out. 

It’s a cute pattern, if not particularly sailor-y in my opinion. I hadn’t run across Fancy Tiger before. Apparently there’s a whole world of indie pattern companies beyond the five or six I keep track of. 

It’s supposed to be a short sleeved top, but I decided I wanted a long-sleeved (ish) dress. Because the best way to work out a new garment pattern is to change the heck out of it, right? 

The main thing I wanted from the lengthened sleeves was a bit of gathering and a sweet little button at the cuff. I was pretty much successful, though it’s not my tidiest sewing. 

My measurements were between a small and a medium. 

Let me rephrase. My measurements SHOULD be in a small, but, um, last Christmas is still hanging around. Gotta figure something out on the diet/exercise front here, people. Body love and acceptance is great, but I am not interested in outgrowing perfectly good handmade clothes. Anyway, after looking at the helpful finished measurements, I went with the small. And it feels a little small, especially across the back, so maybe a medium would’ve been better anyway. 

I had to unpick the shoulders and redistribute where the gathering fell as when I first did it there was way too much fullness behind the shoulder. Need to double check if I missed a marking there. 

When Tyo first looked at it, she said “mom, it doesn’t look like your style.” Teenagers. It’s overall similar to one of the few lingering RTW dresses in my closet. Also, I don’t think she really grasped how freaking short this thing is on me. 

It is, um, very short. Two more inches would have been a very good idea. Alas, with a border embroidery you can’t really tweak the length after the fact. Given the little remnant of fabric I was working with, any added length might’ve had to come from the sleeve, but I’m sure I could’ve made that work. 

For future reference, I cut it 25″ from the underarm. So 27″ or even 30″ would be ok. Noted. It’s cute, but a bit scandalously short for work and not really the sort of thing I’d wear lounging around the house. I’m thinking some white lace leggings would make it a bit more, ah, demure?

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A walk in the park (in a white muslin dress)

early1800 dress (405 of 417)

A few weeks ago, amidst about fifty other exhausting things, I made it out of the house one glorious April afternoon to wander the north-campus parks area with my sister-in-law… just coincidentally wearing my dress version of McCall’s M7493.

What version, you ask? Well, I would’ve sworn I blogged about it, but apparently (as happens all too often) I only wrote a draft, even more poorly photographed than usual, to the point where I didn’t have the heart to publish it. If you were following my Instagram (@tanitisis) back in, oh, February, you might have seen some of the terrible selfies. If not, please don’t go dig them up.

A border-embroidered fabric that seemed perfect for a Regency-style dress had come in at work, during that horrific post-New Years juxtaposition where all the stores start getting their spring and summer goods, but we Canadians still have two or three months of winter to deal with. What better way to avoid the reality of winter than a bit of historical fantasy, right? So, I decided to take the plunge and give the dress version of McCall’s M7493 (of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies fame) a go. The dress is not at all well illustrated on the envelope, but the line drawing looked cute. You may recall I made the coat for Syo’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies costume last Hallowe’en. I am happy to report that the coat goes very well with the dress.

After checking the final measurements, I went with my proper size, 12—in McCall’s I often make a 10 as I tend to like the shoulder fit there better. But I wasn’t too concerned about wide shoulders here—the wider-set the better, really—and the finished measurements given were only 1.5″ design ease. Which is about right in my books.

early1800 dress (398 of 417)I actually skipped most of my usual fitting changes. I didn’t shorten the bodice, I didn’t sway back (maybe I should have, not for actual swayback fitting but to give a more authentic line), and given the narrow shoulder I didn’t square that. I did raise the underarm by about 1 cm, to make up for not shortening the bodice, and I stand by that decision.

I did make a few style changes. The most obvious is swapping in a straight sleeve to show off some more of the embroidery. I basically measured the width I would want (my arm + 2″, although I ended up narrowing it by 1/2″, so I guess I shoulda gone with my arm + 1.5″). I measured the length to the highest point, and then freehanded the rest; I wanted the sleeve seam to fall more to the back, although I’m not completely sure that’s correct for single-piece sleeves of the period. The main goal was for one of the spikes of embroidery to come up my arm toward the shoulder, and for the underarm not to be too deep.

To my absolute astonishment, this actually worked. They went in amazingly well, basically first try. Most of the folds in the above pic are from my chemise (which has much wider sleeves) bunching underneath. Probably one could fuss a bit with the rotation, but, after picking my jaw up off the floor, I wasn’t going to mess with anything.

early1800 dress (329 of 417).jpgThe armscye is comfortably high and I can raise my arm quite well.

early1800 dress (395 of 417)There are a couple of features of the dress that don’t show on the line drawing that I want to mention:

1) The shoulder seam is thrown to the back, as it should be for this period. Yay!

early1800 dress (409 of 417)2) the front skirt is “eased” (aka lightly gathered) to the front bodice, which is rather period but also rather, um, enhancing of the five-month-pregnant look that is a frequent byproduct of the era. I wound up ripping off the skirt, smoothing out all gathers in this area (shifting the skirt side seam toward the back in the process ) and focusing all the gathering between the rear princess seams at the back. I’m tempted, looking at the pictures, to rip it off again and move the bodice gathering to centre front, too, but we’ll see how ambitious I get. I still pretty much look pregnant, mind you. But then I often do even in regular clothes, so I won’t fuss too much about that. 😂

Kinda like this one. (Which my Pinterest tells me should be from the Met but the direct link is broken.)

early1800 dress (346 of 417)Anyway, other than the looking-pregnant thing (maybe time to finish those white long stays I started before Hallowe’en) and the puffiness of the bodice gathers, there are two medium-grade issues:

1) “Waistline” dips towards the back. Emphasized, no doubt, by my tilted torso, the back looks distinctly longer than the front. Period tendency is for the back to ride higher, like a bra that sags down in front. 😉 although the side-view of the same dress as above shows a slight dip to the rear.

early1800 dress (375 of 417)2) the straight-hem problem. Because the embroidered hem is of necessity straight, while the pattern piece curved, the centre-front of the skirt is distinctly shorter, to the point where it shows a couple of inches of my petticoat. I was planning on making a different petticoat for this one anyway, and I knew the skirt would do that, so I’m not overly bothered, but there it is. Other petticoat is made and is short enough. Which means I have two different Regency petticoats, and only one Regency dress.

early1800 dress (67 of 417)As I wasn’t entirely happy with the slightly blousy bodice, I made a quick lace-up-front vest to go with, which I do quite like. I used the dress bodice pattern pieces, but kept the original dart (which I converted to gathers in the dress) itself. I lowered the neckline a bit, which I like; were I to make the dress again I’d lower its neckline as well, as I don’t quite have the “popping out the top” effect that so many period illustrations seem to show. I used fabric left over from the coat, and some of the satin bias binding I’d made for the coat as well—using up nearly every scrap, in fact. So I’ll call that a win.

early1800 dress (122 of 417)That pretty much sums up everything that needed to be said about the dress.

early1800 dress (109 of 417)However, I’m vain, and Angel Jems took over 400 pictures, of which only about 300 of them have my hair doing something weird or me making wonky faces, so I’ll subject you to a few more, including some better shots of the coat.

early1800 dress (89 of 417)We went all over the various parks north of the U of S campus, trying to find locations without too much obviously modern detritus. Railway tracks in the background are a little incongruous, I suppose.

early1800 dress (295 of 417)I just really like this one.

early1800 dress (14 of 417)The coat twirls most excellently.

early1800 dress (36 of 417)

The collar needs some encouragement to sit properly in its folds, but I’m pretty happy with it nonetheless.early1800 dress (25 of 417)There is a LOT of fabric in those back pleats.early1800 dress (42 of 417)I do wish there was a version or view of the full-length coat where the skirt met in the front. I couldn’t find any period examples of pelisses with a cutaway front like this. I mean, this coat is from the PPZ movie, so it had to be that way, and it wouldn’t be a hard pattern mod, but it would’ve been nice to just have it.early1800 dress (39 of 417)

See, great collar! Even if neither historically accurate nor screen accurate. Now why didn’t she tell me my ribbon was on backwards?early1800 dress (40 of 417)

Apparently, the Regency is one of the few historical periods that I could actually dress as without a wig and have some measure of accuracy—at least some women did for a time wear the “coiffure a Titus” with hair short at the back, longer around the face, and tousled with pomade. Ding ding ding! 🙂early1800 dress (29 of 417)

 

Yeah, the dress is nice, but I really like that coat. I feel like I could just about talk myself into wearing it for every day… 😉

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A shrunken little cardigan

One of my favourite things in the (wardrobe) world is a teensy little cardigan. I have one favourite and several less favourites that I wear almost daily over my less-seasonally-appropriate dresses. They’ve even ousted the vintage shrugs for my favourite little topper, if only because I find the lower neckline more versatile. (And they keep your core a little warmer.)

And they’re all store-bought. I’ve been collecting odds and ends of sweater knits for several years, at this point, meaning to make my own, but I hadn’t quite taken the plunge, for whatever reason. 

Well, now I have. 

I used my handy-dandy knit sloper pattern. While I think this was a wise choice, it is intended for fairly fitted, stretchy things and while I do like my little cardigans little, I think a wee bit more “fitting over other clothes” ease might be in order. This is a fairly firm “quilted” knit, but I was assuming the ribbing would be a little wimpy, when in fact it is an extremely beefy ribknit. 

I cut my pattern at the “waist” line (which is a little high). I planned the V neck to end where my rather deep scoop normally does, but due to the snugness I don’t think I’ll bother adding snaps all the way up. 

The fabric is a quilted knit from a couple of winters ago, the same as I used for this white sweater. (In a bit of a wearability report, The fabric pilled almost instantly but didn’t get noticeably worse after that, and it has been the best snuggly thing to wear under my winter coat for two winters now, until the bottom portion of the two-way zippercame off a few weeks ago leaving me crushed and bereaved.)

I reinforced the bottom of the bottom band with clear elastic, which as it turns out was a bit of overkill. Noted. I also used knit interfacing on the portions of the front bands meant to be part of the closure, but that wasn’t terribly effective at least on the bottom band. 

I actually think I like it best open.  You can see the marking where I meant to add another snap, but my snap hardware supply is a little more depleted than I realized, and I had enough caps but not all the other bits. 

I promptly misplaced this after I finished it, and then got sick, so it hasn’t been worn in the field yet, and I don’t think the grey will be quite as versatile as black but, on the other hand, you know how much grey I’ve been sewing lately. 😉 

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Can’t leave the linen (look)

2017-04-02 18.17.25The day I finished the linen(ish) jersey Vogue 1312, a minor miracle happened: my husband and the kids all went to dinner at my brother-in-law’s, and left me home alone.*

MORE SEWING TIME!

Since I was still feeling the love for the linen-flavoured knits (and was about to surrender my new dress to hanging in the shop for a month), I pulled out a bargain centre end piece, maybe 1.5m, of a mystery knit that looks very similar to my lightly-linen knit—though I think it’s mainly, and perhaps entirely, rayon. Also quite raggedy around the selvedges.

2017-04-02 18.18.16Wanting a more typical riff on the handkerchief hem, I grabbed my knit sloper and modified to make it more of a dress length and flaring to a handkerchief hem, kinda like this:

Swing dress schematicThough I think my width was wider (basically the full width of the fabric, less whatever I lost trimming down the tattered selvedge.) I did this with Oona-esque abandon, drafting it right out on the fabric. It’s not particularly even and I’m not particularly fussed. I was pleasantly surprised to find it’s dress-length, as I wasn’t really expecting more than a tunic. Not complaining.

2017-04-02 18.17.58Once that was cut, I didn’t have enough fabric left for full-length sleeves, so, 3/4 sleeves. Ah, well.

2017-04-02 18.17.41

That was some way-too-instant gratification. Also I feel like I could way overdo the handkerchief hems. Just sayin’.

*Let me insert a bit of clarification, here. I love people. I love MY people. But at my core, I’m an introvert. And these days, except for the few minutes in my car to and from work, I’m almost never, ever alone. So when I do get a few hours to myself, it’s like plunging into ice water, like suddenly being able to breathe, like waking up after a long, refreshing sleep. It’s very hard for my extrovert husband to understand, though I know he tries. 

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