Category Archives: Sewing

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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Walking in a winter walking skirt

A few years ago in my town, something began showing up among the stylish and hipster in the city: Uksi winter skirts. Now, how to dress for the Canadian winter (and in particular how to do so stylishly) is an ongoing and chronic problem, and I was intrigued by the idea—a wool wrap-around skirt you can throw on quickly to keep your legs warm. Like snow-pants, but faster and less annoying. But, I didn’t think they were something I needed, since I’ve been exclusively a long-coat-wearer since 1998 or so.

Then I made the Red Lace Coat, two years ago. Now this is also a long coat, but as I wore it last winter, I realized that while the thinsuate interlining and denser (if polyester) coating fabric make it significantly warmer than my grey coat, the slightly shorter and full-circle skirt made it significantly less warm around the legs. A tricky conundrum—potentially solved by a long, custom walking skirt.

Finally, in the last days of 2019, whilst procrastinating from another project, I decided to trial the concept. A look through my pattern database turned up three good candidates—I don’t have a lot of wrap skirt patterns since it’s not a style I favour usually. Of course it wouldn’t be hard to hack an ordinary skirt pattern, but less work is less work.

In the end I went with Simplicity 7497, for its narrow skirt, low fabric requirements and larger size (and the parts where one of the other patterns is MIA, very upsetting, and the other had been cut off at the knee length view).

Walking skirt, with bonus cat hair!

The larger size was a good call, since this is basically outerwear and needs more ease (I also didn’t overlap it quite as much as it technically should). I like the length, as well. However, I think a slightly fuller cut would have been a good idea—this one flaps open a bit more than ideal while walking. On the other hand, the wider it gets the less warm the skirt is.

the fabric is a polyester coating that I really don’t care for, but it’s essentially the same stuff as my Red Lace coat is made of, and I didn’t want to waste any of my precious wool on a project that might be a total waste of time.

I was originally planning to interline with flannel, but the only flannel I had enough of that I was prepared to sacrifice was one my daughter came in and dibsed for PJs while I was midway through ironing it. In the end I went with fabric from a rather ugly rayon bedsheet, which was almost as slithery as my evilly beautiful polyester lining (a remnant from a project a couple of years ago, where it also nearly killed me). This is the first time I’ve hand-basted underlining since my Very First Dress. (As in that case, it made some misery-inducing fabric almost easy to handle, so totally worth it two out of two times!)

Very large hanging loop, for throwing over hangers as necessary.

I tested it out, sans buttons, last Monday, which was the coldest day of the winter we’ve had so far. (It’s actually been a ridiculously warm winter in these parts.) And it seemed helpful, but tended to flap open a bit, so I’ve added a few more buttons. A better interlining would’ve been a good call, but if necessary I could go in and MacGyver something between the two layers. I’ve been saying the same thing about my grey coat for eight years, mind you.

All pictures lightened dangerously so you can see… anything.

I need to adjust the middle button, as the placement is off, causing that weird pulling.

Now if it will just stop melting long enough for me to test out its final form. Thanks, climate change.

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Cogitation

‘Tis the season for introspection and reflection and looking back on the year. Not really my forte, but I have a wee bit more time on my hands than previous year-ends, and maybe this will distract me enough to slow down my rampant Christmas chocolate binging.

A lot changed this year, and not much. We live in the same house (our first full year as homeowners. My husband has not left me over it. Yet.) with the same kids and the same cats. Tyo graduated high school and got her driver’s license and a job. Syo struggled through grade 9, had a summer of epic highs and lows, but dove into grade 10 with a determination and involvement that makes me feel like she’s figuring things out. Teenagers are wonderful but also exhausting.

Midway through the year, I lost my Fabricland job when my store was closed down, which was a big personal and financial adjustment. While I’ve enjoyed having more time to devote to my health and my family and mainly to just existing, financially it’s been tricky, and I desperately miss many of the people I worked with. I was incredibly lucky to have been able to ramp up my teaching at Periwinkle Quilting once my evenings were no longer full of Fabricland—it’s much more fun than just selling fabric, and I THINK it’s exactly what I want to do in terms of my sewing “career”—but there are pretty firm limits to how much they can fit me in to their schedule, so it will never be the kind of second income Fabricland was. Which is okay, too. It’s been really nice having some time to just… be. I’ve been trying to let myself enjoy it.

As for my sewing this year… it wasn’t exactly exploring brave new frontiers, but there were some highlights.

The obvious one is Tyo’s grad dress, which I’m inordinately proud of. Because it fit her so well, and had all the features she wanted (including removable overskirt and pockets), and also because I made my own lace for the short skirt.

With my sewing no longer dominated by Fabricland projects, I got to dip my toes into sewing more indie patterns. Some for fun, like the York Pinafore above, others for teaching purposes, like the Merchant and Mills Trapeze Dress.

I struggle a bit with the teaching samples. The patterns I choose to teach are not necessarily things I really want to wear—many patterns are picked for simplicity or popularity, and while I try to stick with things that can be made from fabrics available at Periwinkle, it’s still a quilting store and the range of fabrics I’m interested in is just, um, smaller. Especially since I’m not the biggest prints person.

I made the third in a trilogy of progressively larger little coats for my best friend’s daughter. Everything about it felt pretty epic, from the mysterious vintage pattern to the quilted lining. I had a lot of fun with that.

And I have to go off about my print-matching on my Hallowe’en dress, because it was epic.

Even if you can’t actually see it in this picture.

Just before Christmas, in between annoying present sewing, I indulged in some serious velvet, making a slip and stockings and a few other quick and luxurious pieces. Velvet is on trend this year and I’m all over that.

The biggest fail of the year was these gorgeous black linen cargo pants I made for my husband.

I failed to fit them properly (standard changes for my husband I should’ve known to make but didn’t) and then compounded that by hemming them too short. The construction was awesome. I could attempt some alterations, but most of my topstitching was done with a triple stitch, and I haven’t been able to face the hours and hours of unpicking any alterations will require.

Looking toward the future, I’ll be making a blazer for my uncle, hopefully in time for Robbie Burns Day. I’m thinking I should make myself something similarly tailored in parallel, so I feel more excited about the project, because right now I’m dreading it.

I’m also tempted to make a walking skirt, a long wrap-skirt of coating to keep my legs warmer than my winter coat does. Yes, I’m still thinking winter sewing. I’ve got at least three months to go, though it hasn’t been a hard winter here so far.

I’m in a bit of a transition with my style and sewing, I think. Body changing (even as I’m hoping to reverse some of that with some more time for exercise next year) and the twilight of my 30s, plus my work being less outward-facing (except for teaching) has me thinking differently about both what’s flattering and what I want to project. I’m not feeling the silly, girly retro dresses as much as I was, nor the “sexy secretary ” stuff. I kind of hate to even admit that, because I love those styles.

On the other hand, I know even long before sewing I would wax and wane in my over-dressing, going through periods of wearing eveningwear to work, and other periods that were strictly jeans-and-T-shirts. And that’s ok too.

So bring it on, 2019—we’ll see what you got!

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In further velvet news

I’m not the biggest fan of fashion trends, in general, but when the trend of the moment happens to overlap with your innate preferences… well, you just gotta run with it, right? Which is how I feel about velvet right now.

Anyway, I’m plugging along with my Christmas sewing like a good little elf, but intermittently, I’ve been indulging in quick little selfish projects, as you may have noticed. The most recent, to go with last week’s velvet stockings, is a little velvet slip.

I used Butterick 6031 again. I’m trying to do a count in my head and I think I’ve made the slip or cami a total of six times. Well, seven now. I’ve made the briefs a couple of times, too, but I’m not as wild about them.

I love the shape of the pattern, and I love that the separate bust piece with the dart builds in a little shape and support. It’s not much, but I don’t need much. It’s just nice.

For this version, I went very pared down. I didn’t want to mix flimsy stretch lace with the heftier velvet. So I went with FOE for the top edge and straps, and I lengthened the skirt three inches. I’ll probably shave an inch or so off of that, though, it’s a little long now.

I used my usual 5/8″ FOE (which finishes at about 1/4″) and I think I maybe should’ve gone with the 1″ that finishes at about 1/2″ for a heftier look, but it didn’t even occur to me. I use the 5/8″ for just about everything, and I’m making a pretty good dent in that giant 100-yard spool I got a few years ago.

Oh, and I cut everything with the nap running up—I didn’t even think of it until I had it on my body and realized that I can only pet myself running upward. Downward would feel more natural. What, don’t tell me you don’t pet yourself when you’re swathed in velvet!

The whole thing took about half an hour, including cutting out. It helps that the pattern was in my quick-access drawer and that I used the same black thread that was already on the machines.

Now obviously a velvet slip is not very effective as a slip per se, but it’s a pretty awesome nightie. Especially when it has matching velvet stockings. Presumably a robe would complete the set but I’m not much of a robe person… we’ll see. For now—back to the Christmas presents!

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Not even naughty

I was a good girl this weekend and finished off the onesie for my younger niece. I did the one for her older sister last week, so those two major Xmas projects are done.

As a reward for myself, I made some velvet stockings.

Let’s back up a little. I’ve been a bit obsessed with velvet this year. I mean, i always like velvet AND it’s on trend, so it’s like the double-bounce of fashion trends. Plus a semi-local maker, Five of Hearts Studio, has been all about the velvet and velour as well, and I’ve been completely internet-stalking all her makes. And real-life stalking, too, since I actually went down to a real life craft fair to say hi. And buy a velvet toque, because you do. She was very nice and didn’t even run and hide. So there.

The pattern, as usual, is the Dreamstress’s Rosalie Stockings. I thought I might need to add width since stretch velvet isn’t as stretchy as a lot of the fabrics I would use for stockings, but a test revealed it was fine, so I made them as is.

What stretch velvet is a little lacking in is lengthwise stretch, so they weren’t very tall, only just over my knees. That’s fine, I added a cuff at the top—which made a handy place to attach some gripper elastic without it being as obvious as if it’s right at the top.

They aren’t quite as comfortable as they would be without the gripper elastic, but the annoyance of falling-down stockings is even worse. And while I do mean to make myself a garter belt at some point, I haven’t made it yet.

Anyway, these are making me absurdly happy right now. I definitely need another pair in red in time for Xmas.

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Less impressive

I’m trying to wrangle myself into the Christmas-sewing spirit (not the easiest thing for me to do). Output is down, and a little lackluster.

I did a mock-up of the Archer shirt for my mother (who requested it for her Christmas present), and while it fits, my grading-between-extreme-sizes strategy for trying to avoid an FBA was not overly successful—or rather it worked great but the back is super baggy. Dartless FBA would’ve been a better strategy. It’s not terrible, though, and my plaid matching ain’t bad considering I was half-concussed (long story) when I cut it out.

Syo wanted to make a baby blanket for a friend’s baby shower (how to feel instantly old: when your kids are the ones going to baby showers.) so I dug out all of the baby prints I had. She used none of them, preferring pink camo and a pentagram. But they were still out, so I tried to bust some stash making self-bound blankies for the plague of infants my work is currently experiencing.

Two out of three, done. I need to pick a backing for the third.

In between all of this, I made a cute little lingerie set from some scraps. I’m still a bit conflicted about bralets, but I’m kinda wanting something to wear on the weekends that isn’t underwire. Anyway, it’s worth a try and if I don’t like it I can always give it to the kids. This particular one is a sized-down Tropo camisole chopped off to bralet length, and the underwear, as always, are Watson bikini bottoms.

Then I was a good auntie and pulled out my Jalie onesie pattern and traced out a new size for one niece, and determined the size I used for the Pikachu onesie way back when should work for the older niece now.

Then I cut out more lingerie, from velvet, looking for luxe perfection. That wasn’t quite what I got, so I’m a bit out of sorts.

Not to mention I spent a good chunk of Saturday working to rescue the husk of an old biker jacket that is the signature wardrobe piece of one of my husband’s oldest friends. It was seriously held together largely by shoelaces and duct tape. Now at least the shoelaces will run through proper grommets and the duct tape has stitches securing it. My Janome performed some of the most heroic stitching of its existence (and I need to get that thing serviced so badly!) also we used some scrap leather from my sister-in-law to patch up the gaping holes where the pockets had been removed. But it was a fun project to work on with a friend. I hope we can finish it up next weekend.

K that’s all I’ve got at this second. I’ll probably be more into the Christmas sewing in a few weeks when I have time to get into the proper mindset. Yes, that would be last minute panic.

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