Tag Archives: finished projects

Happy Cardiganday

Ok, that was really fun.

I decided for my birthday this year I wanted to have a sewing day, since I now have a (moderately) spacious house and a gigantic dining room table. I invited a few friends (ok, mainly former co-workers), laid out my giant cardboard cutting mat on the dining room table, and brought my main sewing machine and serger up to the kitchen table.

I even cleaned my iron, which was a whole other adventure as I nearly killed it in the process. But the sole plate hasn’t been this clean since a month after I got it, so that’s good. (The process involved vinegar, salt, toothpaste, a little bit of heat, and a LOT of scrubbing. The near-death happened when I was trying to rinse all that guck off. I think water got inside somewhere it shouldn’t’ve. But it seems to be working again now so fingers crossed. )

My friends brought various projects, mainly handwork (one seam ripping), and I displayed my lack of millennial skills by getting absolutely NO pictures of everyone. So have some dark after shots instead. (Dawn, if you’re reading this, you forgot your fabric!)

There is one shot of me and Cee at the machines, taken by a friend, where I have a derpy face.

But what did I make, you ask?

I decided, at long last, to tackle the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen’s Closet.

This is one of those patterns that I was originally going to take a pass on. I’m not a fan of sweaters that don’t close, and it seemed easier to hack a similar style from my knit sloper. But, as cute versions kept popping up in my feed, I was more and more intrigued by the band construction. I wanted to take a look at the instructions. And I felt guilty shamelessly copying the style. I mean, it’s simple, but I didn’t think of it on my own. So when Helen had a sale sometime last spring, I bit, mainly for the instructions.

Of course, once you own the pattern, you might as well try it out, right? Save yourself redrafting all those rectangles and figuring out how much shorter to make the neck-band so it doesn’t gape.

So anyway, I printed the pattern the morning of my birthday, stuck it together after people arrived (a great activity for visiting)

Once I had it taped, I compared it with my knit sloper, and was very pleasantly surprised with the similarities—identical shoulder width, similar sleeve-cap and high armscye, just enough extra width in the sleeve for it to be a sweater, not a shirt. So aside from squaring the shoulders slightly and lengthening the sleeves about 4 cm, I cut out a straight size medium.

My fabric is technically a mystery jersey from a random group at Fabricland last spring. I got it because I was pretty convinced it was wool or a wool blend, and now having ironed it I’m pretty sure I’m correct. (I love the sheepy smell of wool when you steam it.) I thought it would be a good choice for a cardigan since it won’t need to be laundered as much. I steam-shrunk in my dryer, which is my preferred method of pre-treating wool although I confess I can’t completely recall how much subsequent laundering any of those things have had.

Anyway, I’m pretty thrilled with my result. I love the slim fit. I love the longer length. (I may have to make a floor-length version) I love the pockets, although I’m not totally in love with my application of them—but that’s a separate issue.

I do still wish it closed. I might add some kind of a loop and button, like the sweater I made my aunt last Christmas.

I could possibly make the shoulder a little more square—there’s a tiny back-neck bubble still—and the sleeves might be a little long now. But that’s how I like them, and if there is any further shrinking from laundering, I’ve got a bit of insurance, anyway. (And looking at the line drawings they’re supposed to be extra-long and slouchy, so there!)

But especially, I really, really, really like sewing with friends.

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Sew Style Hero—The Selfish Seamstress

This post is inspired (just a little past due) by the Sewcialists blog theme for August: your Sew Style Hero.

I started this blog in early 2010. It was early days of sewing blogs, it was exciting, and I was learning so much about sewing. But I didn’t know much about blogging, or about how to build a following (Still don’t, I guess) and while I blogged basically every single day at that point, nobody else knew I existed.

The day that changed was August 27, 2010. The day the Selfish Seamstress wrote about me.

Many of my favourite blogs from those days are still around, but many have also gone silent. Life happens, and no one was a pro at that point. But one of my favourites to slip into the shadows was The Selfish Seamstress. In addition to fabulous knock-offs, her writing and online persona were hilarious, with her kindness and joy showing through the allegedly grumpy and misanthropic Selfish persona.

She was notoriously vague about her location, even to continent, so I wouldn’t have ever expected to meet her. Except one day earlier that spring, she had posted about an unseasonal snowstorm, and I had commented that we were having the same crappy weather where I was. A private message followed and by some miracle it turned out that we were in the exact same city!

We met up for coffee a few weeks later, my first real-life sewing meetup! It was as giddy and delightful as I could’ve hoped for—except for the crushing news that Selfish was in the throes of moving back to Europe. Our real-life friendship would encompass exactly two coffee dates. I think I still have some of the terrible fabric she gave me when she moved. Though most of it was good and put to good use.

While my brush with sewing blog greatness was brief, the exposure she gave me cracked my shell and really helped me start interacting with the online sewing world, as well as showing me how awesome it could be when online turned into real life.

Back in those days, before people figured out you could charge for it, it was pretty common for sewing bloggers to slap together a free pdf pattern to share with the world (mine are still linked under the pattern tab here). The one Selfish was most famous for was her iconic Coffee Date Dress, which is a lovely little basic, with a signature ruffle to keep it from being boring.

I had always meant to make it but never quite got around to it—but as I started thinking about Sew Style Hero month for August, I kept coming back to The Selfish Seamstress and the dress.

It didn’t take long to re-download the pattern, and it only takes 24 pages to print. (I think the Fiona dress I made earlier this summer was 40 pages) It’s been a while since I used a hand-drafted PDF. It’s cute.

And by a miracle I remembered to add all the seam allowances when I cut it out, whilst paying a ridiculous amount of attention to matching the plaids.

This fabric is a mystery suiting that has been in the stash almost since the last time I saw Selfish. It’s a grey plaid/houndstooth with little threads of pink that I can’t seem to get to photograph. It’s almost certainly polyester. In any case, it makes a good wearable muslin if nothing else. Because it’s a bit on the heavier side (and plaid) I cut the ruffle as a single layer on the bias. Time will tell if that was a good idea, I guess.

I did my “usual” grading between sizes: 36 shoulders and bust, 38 waist, 40 hips. I should have remembered that this is essentially an indie pattern. I should’ve cut the whole bodice a size 38. For that matter I could’ve cut the skirt size 38, too, but it’s easier to take in than let out. What really sucks is that I kept thinking (since this fabric has a lot of give) that it would work out, so I kept going, and by the time I had the zipper in for a full try-on I’d already aggressively clipped my seams at the underarm facing, only to discover I couldn’t even zip the damn thing up.

I threw it on the dressform, took some pretty pictures, and thought about it for the weekend.

Then I sacrificed my careful, impeccable plaid matching at the back seam, ripped out the zipper, and re-sewed it in with minimal seam allowances. This gave me the extra inch or so I needed at the bust, but I had to take quite a bit out at the waist. That’s ok though. Taking out is ok.

All in all, the dress is cute but I don’t feel fabulous in it. The bodice is a bit short (a known feature of this pattern, but I tend to have a short torso so I wasn’t too worried) even on me. Mainly I think I don’t love the fabric–it’s pretty but doesn’t feel nice, and gets really staticky. I guess there was a reason it had been in stash seven years. In any case, almost more than the dress itself I enjoyed posting about it on Instagram, revisiting and sharing memories of the Selfish Seamstress with people I’ve known since the “old days” of blogging, and many more who I didn’t know back then. Check out the posts under #selfishseamstressfanclub on instagram if you’re interested. Or share some memories here, especially if you made this dress back in the day!

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Odds and ends and bad photographs

While I didn’t accomplish a lot on my summer vacation this year (other than the Jutlands), I did end up tackling a bunch of quick projects, several of which had been sitting for months or years.

The oldest is this Sewaholic Patterns Dunbar sports bra. I had cut it out pre Christmas… at least two and possibly three Christmases ago. It was meant to be a present for Syo, but I somehow got completely befuddled with all the pieces and it just seemed way too complicated.

This is too bad because when I finally did sew it up it only took about an hour. And it’s using some really nice fabrics—a wicking activewear, some proper power mesh for lining, with a lighter mesh for the sheer part.

The construction was complicated compared to the other sports bras I’ve made, which is not actually complicated in the grand scheme of things. The lining seams and the outer seams don’t line up because the outer layer has the side panels. This is actually nice because you don’t have as much bulk at the seam lines, but it confused the heck out of me (especially picking up the pieces years after cutting out.) I skipped the optional pockets for foam inserts, which made my befuddled brain happy but made me a little disappointed in myself since I had cut the pieces and everything.

The only other tricky bit was figuring out whether the top and bottom edges had seam allowance (they do), which I trimmed off from the top because I wanted to use fold-over elastic.

The soft mesh I used for the sheer part is a bit flimsy, maybe, but the look is perfect. So I’m pretty happy overall. And it’s one less thing sitting in a box! Bonus: in the same shoebox I found our handwritten family recipe book that has been missing for two years. WTF?

Last fall I had cut out a pair of Eléonore pants from a black denim-print ponte. I had issues with the topstitching and wound up stuffing them in a bag in frustration. Well, I finally put on my big girl pants and took another stab at it. I had to abandon the actual topstitching thread and use a triple straight stitch with regular thread instead. The only problem is that none of my machines will do a long stitch on this setting, which annoys me. But at least it’s done, and you have to look pretty close to notice the difference.

I have been doing all my topstitching lately on an old (80s) Elna a friend gave me. It doesn’t blink at topstitching thread (except with this stretchy fabric) but more importantly it’s got this weird air-bubble foot pedal that gives amazing control—the best I’ve had in a non-computerized machine—and an adjustable speed that goes from painfully slow (perfect for topstitching) to so fast you have to adjust the tension because the thread is getting pulled so quickly (perfect for topstitching with a triple stitch, which seems painfully slow otherwise)

They don’t stay up terribly well; I should probably put belt-loops on.

After getting those out of the way, I stumbled upon a remnant of black lingerie knit (nylon tricot) I picked up shortly before the store closed down. I’ve been meaning to make a black slip for a while—basically since I made this one, um, four years ago.

I’ve had this vintage Basic Knits pattern in my drawer of “patterns I’d like to make” for, well, quite a while. And, of course, I went with the version that’s almost identical to the Kwik Sew 717 I made before. Actually because I was lazy and didn’t want to have to trace and cut out two separate cup pieces for the princess seam version.

I cut the 36 bust grading to the 38 in the hips, and I took the bust in a tiny bit at the side seams. I could’ve gone another size larger in the hips. I’m not sure how I turned into a pear shape but apparently I have. I think I like the bust shape in the Kwik Sew pattern a little better, but this one will be perfectly functional, and I’ve needed a basic black slip for a long time. Oh, and I shortened the skirt by about 6″, because as drafted it would’ve been well below my knee.

That may have been a bit excessive, as it’s pretty short, but it’s easier to wear a short slip under a long dress than the reverse. Anyway, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a good addition to the wardrobe come slip season… which is getting distressingly close here.

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Little sweaters

Cloned sweater. Conflict was much reduced when the sisters didn’t have to fight over the original.

One of the styles (my) contemporary teenagers like is a fairly shrunken, close-fitting version of the sweatshirt. I had cloned an existing one (which belongs to Tyo) for Syo, last winter sometime, which was successful but, like the original, very dependent on fabric stretch to fit. I wanted a version with a little more ease, that would work in less stretchy, classic sweatshirt fabrics. There are almost certainly patterns out there for this look—but I don’t own any of them, and I do own enough patterns that I should not be buying more for something as simple as a raglan sleeve sweatshirt.

Anyway, last night my husband sent me downstairs to sew while he played video games, and I cut out another Jalie Julia, but the fabric was dark and there’s white thread in the serger right now and I didn’t feel like changing it, so I looked around for a different project.

(The regular machine, on the other hand, had black thread in the needle and white thread in the bobbin, because Syo was apparently down there trying to alter a bra but she’s too lazy to change the bobbin thread. Or so I surmise, since the bra was still sitting on the floor. Because that’s life with teenagers. )

Anyway, so looking around for something else, I spied this fabric, which I bought my girls for Christmas presents last year. (This is what happens, teenagers, when you make the mistake of showing interest in your mom’s hobbies.)

I thought it was adorable and hilarious. It looks like sweatshirt fabric on the outside, but the inside is almost like a minky. And then when I was getting it cut we discovered it was flawed—some bad lines of staining on the soft white interior. It became steeply discounted and I became the owner of a ridiculous amount of it.

The kids thought it made great blankets (as most fleece fabrics do), and Tyo mused at length about making a giant pj sweater out of it, and a tiny cropped sweater for Syo, but nothing happened beyond that so eventually I packed it away into the stash.

But it would be perfect for white serger thread.

After a bit of digging I decided Kwik Sew 2893 seemed like a good place to start. While it’s styled like a baseball tee, it’s roomier than Jalie 3245, and the difference between a baseball tee and a sweatshirt pattern is largely about ease.

It’s a kids pattern but the XL is a size 12-14, which is about the same chest measurement as Tyo, and I figured if it didn’t fit Syo it would fit Tyo, and if Tyo didn’t like it it would work for Fyon, who is a very skinny eleven now. This is the convenient part of having multiple girls in the family, even if they don’t stairstep quite as neatly as they used to.

I wanted a slightly cropped length, partly just to use less fabric in this tester version, so I made it the length of the Extra Small size. This is still significantly longer than the sweater at the top of the post, and as it turned out, while it makes a short sweater, it’s not what I would call cropped.

At the last moment I decided to include the pocket, also in a size XS, because it’s nice for teenagers to have somewhere to stuff their phones. This was pretty simple, although more stabilization might’ve been nice. I did knit interfacing strips along the opening parts.

None of the grey ribbings I have in stash were a perfect match, but this one was the best. I could also try black at some point, that might be fun.

Anyway. While I was sewing it up I was convinced I was making a sweater for Fyon, but Syo tried it on and it fits her. It also fits Tyo but the length is awkward—longer than cropped but not as long as she’d like a normal length sweater. On the other hand she didn’t take it off and went on to sleep in it, so I guess it’s not that bad.

And it’s one tiny piece less taking up space in my stash.

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Palate cleanser

After the Great Linen Pants Debacle, I needed a palate cleanser. And, as it just so happens, after looking for it all summer my copy of Jalie 3246, my go-to maxi dress pattern, finally showed up. Right in the drawer where it was supposed to be, so I guess I’m blind. The only question was, which of the several fabrics I have mentally earmarked for maxi dresses should I use?

Well, this denim-look-plus-paisley ITY-type print has been taunting me since I bought it last fall. I was originally envisioning jeggings (though really it’s thin—they would be leggings) but I actually have enough for this dress (which only takes 1.5m) plus the leggings, so they may yet happen.

The pattern is dead simple, although I complicate it slightly by adding a back seam, for fit and fabric frugality. And I add a much wider flare to the skirt, because the skirt as drafted is too narrow for proper walking, which adaptation I actually haven’t put on the pattern—I draft it out on my fabric every time. I should really change my pattern. Someday.

I was very careful about centering the large motif on the front. Less so about where the parts of the motif would fall—maybe not the most flattering arrangement over the bust. On the other hand the design was a bit of a border print so I was running my pattern pieces on the cross-grain, so any wiggling up or down would’ve required piecing or shortening.

I’m pretty happy with how my bindings at arm and neck worked out. I was a good girl and did lots of testing. It’s the same triple-fold binding I almost always use, with the inclusion of 1/4″ clear elastic for stability because my non-elasticated tests tended to go wavy when stretched. I did not test my hem and it is not nearly as nice. Should’ve used steam-a-seam.

I’m kinda bored with this modestly scooped neckline after my four other versions of this dress, so I really should’ve changed it up. A square would’ve been nice, or maybe a V in the back. Anyway, so I added some decorative buttons. A lace-up détail would’ve been nice, too, but would have required more forethought and planning than I had put into it.

Other than that, there’s not much to say. It’s quite long. It’ll get worn.

And it’s my last bit of vacation sewing.

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Just Jutlands

Did I mention lately that I don’t need any clothes? I really really don’t. My husband, on the other hand, is in dire straits. Since he hasn’t needed a professional wardrobe for years now, and he hates shopping and is super picky, everything in his closet is ancient, worn out, and often ill-fitting.

And guys, he’s hard to sew for. Lord knows I’ve tried over the years, and sometimes I’ve succeeded (most often with loose overshirts.)

But did I mention he’s picky? Nothing gets a “oh, that’s perfect!” Everything gets criticism that at best is constructive but at worst is just demoralizing. He’s fussy about fit, fussy about fabric, fussy about style.

But I really don’t need clothes, and he does, and he won’t go shopping (nor do we have a lot of money for that, see the part about where my second job just went away)

Anyway, he needed some cool pants for the summer. He won’t wear shorts (see the part about picky) and while he couldn’t quite articulate it, I was pretty sure some casual linen pants would fill the slot.

Fortunately, I had just enough of the black linen I used for this dress for a good sized pair of men’s pants.

I was initially thinking very plain and simple, as much of a fit test as anything else. Then I made the mistake of telling him what I was making.

I had picked the Thread Theory Jutland pants, a fun pattern with great workwear details. I liked the combination of jeans style pockets in the front and darts in the back, which make for easier fitting on the fly. I was a bit worried about the slim fit of my other option, the Jedediahs. I was going to save the cargo pockets and reinforcement details for a future version, though. I planned to size up and add elastic to the back waist to allow for his highly-fluctuating waist size.

The first mistake was letting him see the pattern. Not that he didn’t love the details (the ones I was going to skip, you recall). He just wanted even more. Zip off legs! Accordion pleat in the back!

I protested, and the whole procedure nearly halted right then.

But I really don’t need more clothes, and he does. So I took a deep breath, and “compromised” by doing the added details as per the pattern, but not doing stupid zip off legs that he’ll never actually unzip because he only ever does that while wading in water fishing and if he takes his black linen pants fishing I’ll kill him. I don’t think he considers this a compromise.

Anyway, I don’t actually mind the process of constructing cargo pockets and the other reinforcements were very simple. (And frankly as cargo pockets go, the ones in this pattern are pretty Lite(TM). Just a couple of pleats. Not really 3D at all. I was actually a wee bit disappointed.) I did the pleats a wee bit too deep so the pockets are a bit small for their flaps. This turned out to be the least of my worries, however.

The problem is, this was my first time making up this pattern, and the details really pin down certain things. Where the knee should be. Where the hem should be. And it turns out, I kinda fucked those positions up.

When I traced out the pattern, I added length. My husband isn’t that tall, but he does tend to be long-legged and too- short jeans are a common issue.

Let’s just say they would not have been an issue as is. There seemed to be about 6″ of extra length on each leg, and I only added about 2″. I wound up making a 1″ tuck above the cargo pocket (topstitched down) and adding a seam to take out about 5″ more between knee and hem. Edit: and it turns out that was a little too much now that he’s actually sitting down in them. FML.

Because when worn “high” (aka as they should be) they’re way short even on me. But when we tested the length he had them slung low. Argh!!!

I also discovered when I went to sew them up (AFTER the cargo pockets were all in place, of course) that I must’ve screwed up my tracing, because my front and back inseams are about an inch off. WTF? Side seams match fine. Anyway, in the end I eased the extra length in. This will probably cause problems at some point, but linen eases pretty nicely.

They were also quite a bit fuller than he likes. Some of this is because I sized up, but some is just the style of the pattern, which is quite loose in the leg. So I wound up taking in the inseam (remember, outseam is fixed at this point by the cargo pocket on top of it) by about 3cm on each leg. That’s over 2″ off the circumference of each leg, guys. And I had already topstitched inside the tube to finish off the inseam. Rookie move on my part. I was a little cranky.

I wanted an elasticised waistband to accommodate his wildly fluctuating waist, and after some thought decided to go with the old buttonhole elastic. Maybe overkill in this situation, but the oversized pants would’ve been beyond wearable without it. Hopefully the convenience of the adjustability will outweigh the weirdness of the finish to him. What I didn’t do (which I would have in more fitted pants) was add some height to the back rise. I assumed the over-sized-ness would compensate. I was wrong. So they’re a little low for his taste back there.

I probably overdid it on the sizing up. Next version, I will size down, add height to back waist, and reduce the length a couple of inches.

Or just say fuck it and make something for me!

(Confession: I felt pretty goofy taking these pictures, but I haven’t worn pants this loose since the 90s and even then I only did it so they would hang low on my hips. So I had to style them as I would’ve in 1996, with a crop top and Docs, because sometimes you just gotta!)

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Julian scrapbusting

I’m kinda a fangirl for Jalie Patterns (if you hadn’t noticed, go read every post I’ve ever written about their jeans, or their maxi-dress pattern, or that one with the shorts and crop-top/sports bra.) But given the size of my pattern stash, I REALLY shouldn’t be buying every cute little pattern that wafts itself past my face. So I was trying REALLY hard not to bite when their new batch of patterns came out this spring.

And then there was Julia. Cute bralet, neat underwear, and that breezy swingy tank just pushed me over the edge. Plus, the pieces were all small enough that I was happy to buy the pdf and save myself time and expensive Canadian shipping. I do like being able to pick my sizes and print only a couple, although the big empty spaces left by the disappearance of the larger sizes make me want to fire up my computer and see if I can rearrange the pieces in Illustrator (I’m guessing the file’s protected but you never know) so the printout is more efficient, but anyway. Over the last few weeks I’ve tested out the bralet a couple of times, and i finally made a matching set with the camisole and underwear

I love the forward-thrown side seam on the underwear, too. I’m sure no one remembers this post about a vintage indie pattern that seemed to promise this feature, but did not deliver. (Obviously I could hack this myself into some other pattern. Obviously I am lazy.)

The only problem with a pattern like this is often my versions don’t come back to me after the kids do the wash. I guess it’s a compliment when your teenagers steal your clothes? Well, bralets, anyway. As long as they don’t steal the underwear.

I’ve been slow to warm up to bralets. I remember a sporty little CK one I got at my husband’s behest in my early twenties—the elastic tended to cut into the underside of my boobs and create, in my head at least, the illusion of sagginess that wasn’t actually there. I made a couple of Watson bralets when the pattern first came out, but the long-line version doesn’t work with my ribcage and the band felt too structured for something that didn’t really do much. But lately I’ve been wanting something a teeny bit more supportive than a snug camisole but without any hard parts, for wearing around the house on days off when I don’t even want to look at an underwire. Julia seemed like it might fit the bill.

I’m a bit ambivalent about the darts (I keep having to lengthen them, but in one version I just skipped them and eased the extra in and that seemed to work well), and I need to break down and order some metal hardware for the straps (or buy locally but Fabricland doesn’t carry metal rings and sliders), but I think on the whole it’s pretty much what I was looking for.

I replaced the band pieces with a wide, soft waistband elastic for this version. It’s probably a bit overkill but I like it.

And I really enjoyed making this version with the built in bralet inside the tank, though on closer inspection of the instructions I guess that wasn’t the idea. It works well enough although the top has a bit more ease.

Julia (left) and Watson bikini (right)

Patterns like this are especially great for using up little scraps of knit that have been lurking in the bin for ages (I got this lovely heavy eggplant rayon knit from a Value Village back when we lived in Calgary. At some point I made a rather cute shirt with most of it but I can’t find any pictures. Anyway. )

I do love the fun racer back. The upper point of the tank is wider than that of the cami, which makes for an interesting bit of fullness when you overlay them. And very soon now I’ll have some days off where I can enjoy it! (Also the pants are Jalie 3022, which means this is a total #sewcanada outfit—Canadian purchased fabric and Canadian-made patterns all the way!)

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