Tag Archives: finished projects

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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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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The Purple Mystery Coat

The final installation in a great (?) Sewing trilogy!

A long time ago, when I was new to sewing and really excited about coats (I made at least five that first year), I bought quite a lot of this pretty purple bouclé, more or less with my children in mind.

And then suddenly my children were no longer into girly pale purple anything, and I kinda missed a similar window for my nieces.

But when my dear friend Ada finally caught up to me in the reproduction department, I finally got on the ball. I made a teeny tiny jacket for her infant daughter.

Then I made another a couple of years later.

And now, as her daughter starts kindergarten, I felt like it was time to use up the last of this fabric. It’s felt like a fun tradition, at least on my end, and I was ready to make the third installment in the trilogy. I just needed to decide on a pattern…

And then I got the mystery pattern.

Back in the summer, I got a donation of about a jillion vintage patterns from a friend of my sister-in-law’s mother. Many of them were old mail-order patterns , with the recipient’s name on them. The surname was the same as one of my co-workers at Fabricland. I asked her and, yes, these were her grandmother’s patterns! (Because there are seriously like five people in Saskatchewan.) I also asked if she wanted them, which she declined. So there.

Anyway, amongst the Simplicity and Advance and mail-order Marian Matin Patterns were a few more idiosyncratic bits. Pattern pieces traced out on newsprint, old flyers, and even some old government land-grant paperwork. (I showed that one to my co-worker, she said, oh, I know what land that was!)

And one stuffed in this envelope that had something to do with an old water heater, for a child’s coat, traced out on a brown paper so heavy it might as well be oaktag.

I must admit, patterns like this fill me with a burning curiosity. What did it look like? Who was it made for? The traceout doesn’t include any company, pattern number, or for that matter size, information. I’m guessing it’s about a kids size 6, maybe 8. It’s a straight, A-line coat, and includes both a hood and a little capelet for the shoulders. There were lines drawn for pocket placement, but no actual pocket piece, so I created one.

My co-worker assured me that her grandmother was unlikely to create a pattern entirely from scratch, so it’s presumably traced off a commercial pattern—maybe a much loved one that was falling apart, maybe one that belonged to a friend.

There are a few helpful notes on the pattern, showing where to ease and details like a zipper for the top of the hood (that one I skipped). It’s a nicely drafted pattern—two piece sleeve with easing at the elbow, shaping on the facing for turn-of-cloth at the roll line.

For the previous two coats I used an ivory Kasha lining, but if I have any of this left in stash I can’t find it at the moment. I could, however, find a nice big chunk of this dark purple. It seemed like a nice option for a slightly more grown up little coat.

Another feature of the previous coats, that I didn’t want to skip was the quilted lining. In the past I used flannel, but the quilting doesn’t really pop, and I had some leftover bamboo batting that I wouldn’t mind getting out of stash, so I used that. It turned out a nice weight.

This is where production really slowed down. I’m not going to say I put a TON of thought into the design, but I did have to stop and think about what I wanted to do where—which areas were going to be standard quilted, which ones were going to be free-motion quilted. FMQ is not my strong suit, but it’s the most fun there is in quilting, IMO, and it is well suited to creating the motifs I wanted.

As with the last coat, I went with ocean imagery, as I knew this would tickle my friend and her husband’s fancy (and let’s face it, this is really about pleasing the parents, not the kids.) I wish my line-echoing was not so terrible, but it’s fairly fun doing it, at least.

And I quilted. And I quilted. And I sewed a couple of bits together, and I quilted some more. I’m glad I was able to get the waves mostly looking ok.

This fancy fish doesn’t really look like a proper wild sea creature.

I was going for eel, but I ended up somewhere near Loch Ness Monster, I think. Oh well. In hindsight I should’ve done a killer whale, for these west coast people, but I wasn’t sure my skills would’ve been sufficient to keep it distinct from, say, the shark. The art of the possible, right?

Other than that, the construction was pretty unremarkable. All of my fabric was blockfused, so I forgot to add more interfacing to the facings, so they’re a little floppy. The buttons are a little boring, but they’re vintage and, more importantly, from stash.

I hand-stitched the hem, the pockets, and the inside opening of the bound buttonholes. The latter, especially, took forever but it’s much less terrifying than trying to mark and machine squares and hope that they’re in the right place.

I haven’t said much about the capelet as there isn’t much to say—it’s part of the pattern and cute, one piece fitted with darts at the shoulders. It plus the hood, which is gathered to fit, made for some seriously bulky seams at the neck, and I have never been so happy with my Janome as the way it chugged through them effortlessly. There was much, much grading of those seams.

At the end of the day, there are some rough spots, but I’m pretty satisfied, and I know Ada is over the moon. I just hope it fits, or will fit fairly soon.

It wasn’t a speedy make, but it was fun to pick it up when I wasn’t sure what else to work on, and then put it down again when I needed to ponder something. And it’s done, with plenty of time to ship it out there for Christmas!

Except that I suck at shipping things, so we’ll see how that works out.

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Laggardly Lola

I think the Lola dress by Victory Patterns was one of the first indie patterns to seriously sink into my psyche. I’m thinking of Farbenfreude’s many early versions. Renée made an awesome one, too, more recently, but the internet hates me and I can’t find the blog post I remember reading. It may have been the first time “sweater dress” sang to me as a thing I might actually wear. (Somehow, every store bought version I ever met was bleh, to the point where I just thought they didn’t suit me or something.)

Yet somehow, I never quite bit. Even last winter, when I made all. The. Sweater. Dresses. But at some point in the spring, I found myself back on the website, and clicking the purchase button.

Except, of course, it was spring. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

Anyway, it marinated in the back of my brain all summer. In September, which got cold really fast, I inventoried my sweater-knit collection (not an extensive part of the stash), and rediscovered a remnant of red sweatshirt. It wasn’t enough for much of anything on its own, but Lola is perfect for colour blocking. There followed a series of phone-colouring experiments while I figured out what I liked best for a colour arrangement, followed by some very careful pattern Tetris.

And it worked!

Once everything was cut out (there are a lot of pieces) it was fairly straightforward. Almost. The pattern has a LOT of notches, which are annoying to cut but make it a dream to sew, because everything lines up so beautifully.

I did most of the construction at a sewing afternoon at my friend Jacque’s. Aside from being one of the sweetest people you’ve ever met, SHE HAS A COVERSTITCH.

And she let me use it, to hem the pockets of the Lola. My very first coverhem! It was more or less flawless (sweatshirt fleece being a magical fabric) and I want a coverstitch machine even more badly. Maybe with next spring’s tax return. Sigh.

Except, I hemmed the wrong edge. The pattern piece is more or less a rectangle, with slightly curved long edges. One of the short ends of the pattern piece is helpfully labeled (can I just say, this pattern has ALL the helpful markings?) “Hem”… so I hemmed it. Then, when I went to pin the pocket piece to the skirt piece underneath, lining up all those clever notches, I realized that the bottom of all the skirt pieces was labeled “Hem”. To help you keep all those subtly shaped rectangles in order. I had just hemmed the wrong edge.

The right response would’ve been to grab a seam-ripper, but after some flipping the pattern piece around I decided the subtle shaping was almost entirely within the range of the seam allowance, and that with a little careful fudging I could just flip the piece around and proceed. So, being a lazy sort, i proceeded. Everything else about the construction was very straightforward, especially with eighty million notches to line up.

I cut a size 6 on the top, eight on the bottom, and I could’ve sized up more. This might be down to my fabric—sweatshirt fleece is pretty stable—or maybe I was just looking for a moreoversize fit than it’s designed for? It’s also possible that my serger takes off a wee bit more than the 5/8″ it’s markings indicate. Anyway. It’s quite close-fitting. Not uncomfortably so, but definitely not roomy. And the sleeves feel a little short, ending distinctly above my elbow. Monkey arms strike again, perhaps. I would probably lengthen those next time.

Although I made no fitting alterations other than the size gradation, I did sew the underarm seam a bit narrow, as I often have to raise the underarm. However, this wasn’t needed and I’ll probably go back and normalize it.

On the whole I’m pretty happy, especially with the pockets. The only problem is, my children have informed me that the red-and-black colourblocking makes me look like an employee at Sephora. The other option is a Star Trek reference, which I gotta say I prefer. The key point is that this dress brings my sweater-dress count up to five, which means, if I so desired, I could do an entire week of sweater-dresses.

That kinda sounds really really good.

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Black Betty

It’s a good sign when you feel the need to repeat a pattern right away, right?

I had actually prewashed this playfully Hallowe’en print last year, but didn’t get it sewn. (If you recall, my children had some fairly intense Hallowe’en ambitions last year)

This year, they’re largely doing their own thing (a tulle-skirted gown got butchered in my sewing room while I was absent, but I’m maintaining plausible deniability and not asking) so I’ve been free to sew my own. And of course this fabric was always meant to be a classic fit ‘n flare dress, so why not repeat my success with the Betty Dress? Especially when the first one I made is off being a shop sample, so I don’t get to wear it.

There’s not much to say about the construction, except that I added a “sash”—attached to the front bodice at side and waist seams, with ties inserted I to the side seam so they can wrap around the back and make a bow in the front.

Last time I did this was the Star Wars dress, but I didn’t do the front under-sash piece, and I think I like the extra solidity it gives.

This is the CB seam, and about half of it is zipper. WIN!

The real story, though, is the print, and the print matching. I dabble in print matching quite a bit (if I’m sewing with a print, which is honestly not that often) but I rarely nail it. Generally my cutting goes well but I fall apart on the sewing—or realize too late that I screwed up monumentally in the cutting and it’s just not going to happen.

In this case, the two seams I really wanted to match were the CF skirt seam, and the CB seam. There’s not supposed to be a seam on the centre front skirt, of course, and the pattern expects you to cut the skirt on the cross-grain to allow it to fit on 45″ wide fabric. That wasn’t a go with this strongly directional print, so seam it was.

After my careful cutting (one piece at a time, folding the seam allowance back on the first seam to align the second piece), I pressed the seam allowance under on one piece, lined it up, and marked on the second piece where the seam should go. I pinned my major match points, making sure the pin went through my marked lines both times, and then I sewed. I did not break out my walking foot, though I thought about it. This succeeded in making my horizontal match points reasonably aligned. I did have to take in or let out the seam minutely in a few places to get things lining up more perfectly—a mm makes a difference!—but on the whole I’m really pleased with where I ended up.

Especially across the back zipper. This is the trickiest part, since you have to align everything to points on the zipper, not to the other fabric directly. Again, I marked my seam-lines and marked match points with pins. Wash-away wonder tape would probably have been helpful, but I haven’t got any at the moment.

I set my zipper stitch long and first just basted it in, concentrating on getting the vertical locations to match without worrying too much about sewing too close to the teeth. (I DID worry about keeping the teeth aligned over my marked seam-line) Then, once I had things more or less aligned, I went back to stitch closer to the zipper teeth. Oh, and I remembered to stabilize the fabric along the zipper. I think this helped, too.

I made a couple of minute fitting tweaks to the pattern this second time—squaring the shoulder slightly and doing a very small swayback adjustment on the bodice back.

The black fabric for the sash is a lightweight cotton satin from Fabricland a few years ago, leftover from another project. It’s one of my favourite fabrics ever. I had pulled it out when auditioning fabrics for something else last week, but I’m so glad I didn’t pick it because it was perfect for this.

It’s certainly not my most outlandish or intricate Hallowe’en costume ever, but I was pretty happy with it—glad to get it made, but most especially proud of my construction. And my print matching. I might be crowing about that all month.

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