Thursday, June 21, 2018

I'm a shameless copycat

At Pattern Review weekend, Deepika (founder of PR) wore this gorgeously simple dress on our shopping day. She paraded up and down the aisle of our bus doing her thing, and every time she passed me I coveted the dress more and more. The colour! The EMBROIDERY! The shape! So casual, so comfortable looking, but so stylish. Everything about it was perfect and it made Deepika look like a million bucks (well, she could look like a million bucks in a paper bag, but you get my drift).

Wonderfully thick border
embroidery, hi-lo hem
Deepika told me she had found the fabric at a Fabricville store (Canadian chain found in Quebec and maritime provinces, of unknown connection with Fabricland which is found in Ontario and other Canadian provinces) and that she had some leftovers which (with very little pressure on my part) she offered to me. It arrived in the mail a few days later.

So with the shameless objective of slavishly copying Deepika's perfect solution for this fabric, I bought the Named Clothing pattern for the Inari Tee dress. Named Clothing is an indie pattern company based in Finland that's new to me. I had seen very positive reviews of the Inari dress on blogs and PR. But until I saw Deepika's version it hadn't clicked that I needed it. 

What can I tell you about Inari? It's always helpful to have access to the experience of others which allows you to make needed or potentially needed adjustments before cutting into your precious fabric. 

From my reading, I had learned that the pattern combined a low/deep armscye with a fitted (narrow) sleeve and high sleeve cap. Such a sleeve creates a tube that is pretty much fixed at a fairly steep angle (graphically explained at Lorenzo's Workshop). The garment looks trim, tailored and fantastic until you try to raise your arms beyond the point at which the angle of your arms can be accommodated within the angle of the sleeve tube. Beyond that point you get bunching at the shoulder and the body of the garment is pulled up, as your body movement forces the garment to move in ways it's not engineered to accommodate. 

The quick and very easy fix for this is to flatten the sleeve cap. Carolyn explains it very well in this post and I just did what she did. The only point I will add is that (unlike the pattern piece in the photo on Carolyn's blog) the original sleeve in my size on the pattern has very strange, non-square corners at the underarm seam. This is contrary to all the normal rules of pattern drafting since, once the seam was sewn, it would generate an unsightly and awkward point at the lower edge of the sleeve. While it would create more room in the sleeve (at the hem) it would put that room in a place (under the arm) where it is completely unhelpful! It would also make it hard to attach the separate cuff piece, which is exactly rectangular. 
Quick & dirty sleeve fix

All of which to say that when I added the wedge to flatten the sleeve cap, I also fixed this problem by squaring the underarm seam (see photo). The result was to move the extra hem width from underarm to under the sleeve cap, keeping the sleeve hem dimension matching the original cuff piece but in a flatter capped sleeve. This is a totally invisible but very functional alteration. 

I also dithered about length. The picture on the Named Clothing website is of a dress that is very much above the knee. Carolyn's dress is also very short on her. Deepika's dress is knee length (but I am taller than her). The pattern says it is designed for a person who is pretty tall at 172cm (5'-8") - I'm 2 inches shorter. I liked the knee length look. I non-scientifically decided to add 3cm to the pattern, and the fact that the border would not be hemmed means that my dress is probably a total of about 6cm longer than the original pattern. It turned out the perfect length so ... phew!

To continue the saga, I failed to read the instructions through (bad bad Sewing Lawyer!) and so did not notice that the pattern pieces incorporate a 1cm seam allowance until after I had cut it all out. I had assumed, fresh from my experience of sewing the also-European Audrey dress, that I'd have to add allowances. Luckily I realized this before I sewed it all up, and it is always feasible to cut off the unnecessary allowance! However I kept the extra at the side seams both for fitting insurance and to make these seams more substantial, which helped at the hem slit, since it's finished by just turning back the seam allowances which at 1cm would be a pretty skimpy finish.

The finished dress is just lovely - the weight of the embroidery gives it a bit of presence and it's super easy to throw on but looks great (in my opinion anyway). I think I'll wear it to my cousin's wedding this weekend.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Stash/sewing speed record!

Some of the thousands of  theatrical costumes
at the warehouse - waiting their turn...
I had a lovely time at Pattern Review Weekend in Stratford Ontario - me and 100 of my best sewing friends! The special activity for Friday morning was a visit to the Stratford Festival costume warehouse, which was fantastic! But there was also early morning running, much chatter and convivial gatherings at dinner or brunch time, and in the hotel bar. We admired each others' clothes (most were wearing me-made throughout), learned tricks for better pictures courtesy of Gillian (Crafting a Rainbow), watched Jeanne and Mel of Jalie Patterns sew up some of their newly released styles, and had a presentation by the folks from Bra Makers' Supply. And then we went fabric shopping...

Some of the pretties
at Ann's Fabric
I had been on a fabric diet but fell off the wagon fairly hard. This was inevitable when I realized we were going to Ann's Fabric in Hamilton. I had heard about this store but for some reason (even though my parents live in the same city) I had not visited it before. I was feeling like I wanted new choices for sewing active wear and I knew that Ann's specialized in such choices. Most of my current workout wardrobe is from fabric picked up at the last PR Weekend I attended, in 2010!
Fabric haul - coordinating
lycra on the left. 

So I may have acquired 6 coordinating fabrics for my active wear needs for the next 8 years ... And I will definitely be visiting Ann's Fabric again.

Another new-to-me store was Len's Mill Store. This is a chain of 11 stores but they are very localized; mostly in southwestern Ontario. I see there is one in Hamilton (which I may have to check out), but we went to Woodstock. That store is massive! I had fun shopping in the bargain bins, where I found a length of scuba knit printed in an appealing free-hand "plaid" of bright colours. I figured I had enough to make a dress of some kind. But it had to be super simple to avoid breaking up that print.

Then this morning I got an email from MariaDenmark telling me of a 50% sale on her patterns. I realized her pattern for the Audrey dress was just about perfect for my scuba. No darts or seams in the front and only two vertical darts in back. The reviews on PR were very positive. I had a day to sew. I figured I could get the PDF taped together, cut the dress out and have it finished before dinner, and I was right. I even had time for a little outdoor photo shoot.

The sewing was quite straightforward; the only tricky part being attaching the shaped neck band. I really like the shape of that band, which is deeper at CF. I cut the neckband and sleeve cuffs on the "bias" for interest and because due to fabric shortage there was no way to match the pattern.

The dress looks OK by itself but I decided I like it with a belt.

Then I took some selfies.

With construction site
next door
With peony
Indoor selfie

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pink Minoru - done!

There's nothing like a little peer pressure to get me sewing efficiently. I'm off to Pattern Review weekend next week and I decided to make this jacket. It might rain...

Crazy quilting cotton pockets
I like the finished product but there are some strange things about this pattern.

Can we start with the serious problem that it had no pockets? Well, it had 2 inner patch pockets, but that simply won't do. I drafted slant pockets with a zipper closure.

I did not realize until I was making the sleeves how weird they are. The cut of the actual sleeve is gorilla length but spider width. I exaggerate. I do have short arms but I took at least 6cm of length out, between shortening the piece, whacking some off at the end during construction, and using narrower elastic at the cuff.

But the real weirdness is the cuff. I have never seen a coat with elasticated cuffs that are actually wider than the sleeve hem itself. Huh? I guess they look ok but a wider sleeve gathered into a cuff looks better to me than a wider cuff gathered into the sleeve.

Zipper shield
More minor adjustments were to line the hood and to insert a zipper shield because who wants rain coming in a straight line right down their front?

I made only one of the inner patch pockets, and sewed it slightly higher than designed (to be clear of the waist elastic).

I used a longer length of elastic at the waist to make it less tight.

The outer collar is a retro-reflective fabric. Nobody will miss me in this bright jacket, day or night!

I think it's pretty. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Barbie-pink rain jacket in the making

I recently found a good chunk of waterproof nylon in hot pink at the spring Fabric Flea Market, which is held in my neighbourhood. $10. How could I resist?

Parenthetically, it was fun to go to the event. I hadn't been for a few years (trying not to buy) and it was much bigger than previously. So many of the vendors were familiar from my days of running the fall Fabric Flea Market (even bigger, longer running). I ran into so many neighbours and acquaintances! I didn't buy much because (a) SABLE* and (b) so many of the vendors were selling fat quarters which to a garment sewer is just tragic. But it was definitely worth the $2 admission. I found this fabric and a fabulous African batik print!

I have had the Sewaholic Minoru jacket pattern in stash for so very long. I'd get it out and ponder it periodically, then put it back. But suddenly, I figured I should make a hot pink Minoru. With mesh lining and added pockets! (What was she thinking in not putting outside pockets on this jacket?) I'm making the hooded version and am lining it with scraps of colourful quilting cotton. (The pattern should really include this too!) The collar is cut from a scrap of retro-reflective fabric.

I was nervous about fusible interfacing on this fabric so I fused the interfacing to quilting cotton which I'm sewing in (gives some softness to the front bands).

Gotta go. It might rain at PatternReview Weekend next week and I have to be ready...

* Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Patterns from my past - resurrected

This Willi Smith pattern has been in my collection since it was brand new in (cough, cough) the 1970s. I seem to remember a pair of pink cotton pleated pants. Very summery, I'm sure.

I also vaguely think I made the jacket at some point but the details have faded from memory. 

I pulled this pattern out as a contender for a "camp shirt". I'm attending the PatternReview weekend at the end of May, in Stratford Ontario. Among the many delights of this 3 day fabricalooza is a camp shirt contest. I understand a camp shirt to be a loose fitting shirt with a convertible (rather than stand) collar. This pattern seemed close, although it has a back yoke. The simplest camp shirts wouldn't have one. 

It also has nicely curved shirt tails rather than the straight hem mentioned in the Wikipedia article. What do they know?

Anyhow, my shirt. It is loose. It is made from a woven rayon Hawaiian print that I got from a lady who spent 6 months of every year there, happily buying fabric to the point where she was well beyond having enough time to sew it all up. It's a wonderfully exuberant floral, don't you think?

It should be nice and airy for the hot days to come. 

Can you spot the yoke with pleats? I thought not.

The curved shirt tail hem is always a challenge, I find. To look nice, it has to be turned twice, but each bit to be turned up is bigger than the bit above it, making it hard to (a) press and (b) topstitch the hem so it looks nice and lays perfectly flat.

Behold the hem. I controlled the fullness by running a line of basting just below the hem line and another in the hem allowance, and easing the hem in (twice). It was a bit of a pain but the result looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. 

Serendipitously, I had perfect pink buttons in stash. 

How many ways do I love Vanessa?

Proving that the Vanessa pants pattern from Jalie is very versatile, here is my third version from the pattern. This time they are dressy, made from black wool crepe and lined to the knee. (Previous versions were drapey rayon woven and cotton knit PJ pants.)

I was very happy to get these cut out of a leftover piece of wool crepe. I had two pieces in stash but the other one is big enough to do a dress, or at least something more elaborate than these pants. It waits its turn.

The lining is also a remnant from other projects. It's bemberg, my favourite lining fabric. I didn't have enough to cut the front and back in the same direction. The back hem is actually the selvedge whereas the front hem is serged and turned/stitched.

I cut the lining to the notches on the leg seams, figuring that was the knee point. It makes the pants very nice to wear.

I also cut these longer than the pattern, by about 5cm (2.5"). It turns out that is a bit too long for these narrow legs. The finished pants are 2.5cm longer than the pattern.

I decided that the back (left) needs adjustment to remove some fabric in the seat area. I've already done a small flat behind modification and cut out another pair (in ponte knit).

To the right is a close up (and very lightened) shot of the front waist, showing details. The stitched down elastic waist is very comfortable and because the CF is flat, also flattering (or at least not extra lumpy at that point). Because my elastic is white, I fused the waistband pieces with a very lightweight black interfacing so there would be no show-through.

That's all - this was a quick and satisfying project.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Jalie leggings and top

I was going to call this post "Jalie duds" (i.e. clothes) but then I realized that the first dictionary meaning of "duds"  (a thing that fails to work properly or is useless) is the exact opposite of how I feel about my new Isabelle leggings and Pika exercise top.

I actually made the leggings a while ago but hadn't worn them because (a) they are capri length and it's still cold around here and (b) the tops I thought would go with them really didn't. Today I finally finished the Pika and now I have an ensemble. I continue to be the best dressed person at the gym I go to.

This is the first time for the Isabelles but my third Pika (the other two are the sports bra without the overlay).

I bought the Isabelle pattern even though the Cora leggings fit really well because I was lazy about how to shorten Cora to capri length (seriously?). And I like to support Jalie.

Between the two patterns, I find that Cora is more straightforward to sew. The pattern pieces for Isabelle are strangely shaped and several look almost identical, making it imperative to pay close attention when assembling it. The only part of the Cora pattern that is slightly complicated is the colour-blocking on the lower leg. I also prefer the pocket in the Cora (at centre back) than the CF pocket in the Isabelle, which I did not make. Both of them fit really well, although I thought the Cora was too low-waisted as designed. The Isabelle is very slightly higher I think.

Pika is a fantastic pattern - I love the firm fit that never shifts around. I opted for the overlay this time to get some midriff coverage. I'm not 100% convinced I love it, in part because the fabric I used is seriously nasty stuff (poly-cotton burnout knit). My machine had fits with skipped stitches, and it just did not want to behave. I had nothing in stash that would do, colour-wise, and this was on offer at the local Fabricland when I went looking.

I cut about 7.5cm (3") off the bottom of the overlay which seemed way too long to me. I was dreading sewing the hem on it (those skipped stitches) but I fused it first and then sewed over the layers with no problem.

3d blankie and the cutest hat in the world

The fact that one of my young colleagues and his wife are expecting a baby was the impetus for me to make this wonderful baby blanket pattern, the Amazababy 3d Baby Blanket.

The pattern is really well written - it can be used on any gauge or kind of knitting machine that is capable of making a tuck stitch (probably all machines), whether it's a punchcard or electronic machine, or completely manual. I made it on my Singer 360, a punchcard standard gauge machine.

The pattern has all the information needed to punch a card to produce this pattern. It is a bit tedious to knit if you don't have a colour changer (I don't) because you have to change the yarn every two rows.

Believe it or not, this is actually a black and white STRIPED knit. The magic happens because the tucking needles don't knit off, leaving the stitch from the row below on the needles. Tucking for two rows of white stitches leaves black stitches on the needles, and vice versa.

The pattern for tucking is diamond-shaped, another mind-bending fact. It's quite similar to the pattern on page 2 of this Studio/White pamphlet. The photo to the right shows the back of the fabric, where the diamonds of tucked stitches are more evident.

As the pamphlet says, the fabric produced by this pattern is "very raised". The author suggested it needed "firm blocking", but that would only be if you wanted it to lie flat. I didn't. This blanket is wonderfully bumpy and that is a big part of its appeal, along with the hallucinatory effect of the black and white pattern.

See what I mean? Amazing!

Because this is for a baby I made it from 100% acrylic yarn so it will be reliably machine washable and dryable. The bumps survive the machines quite nicely since they are built into the very structure of the fabric. Woolike is an extremely economical acrylic yarn from Michael's, but it's also really nice and soft, and machines love it. To make this blanket I used less than one skein (about 80g) of each of the main colours.

The pattern also provides clear instructions for finishing the edges of the blanket with a simple strip of stockinette, in a contrasting colour. Initially I was a bit unhappy with the fact that the binding was pulling the top and bottom edges in a fair bit, as well as curling under on the long edges. The above photo was taken before I somewhat aggressively steamed the long edges to make them stop curling under, and the short edges, to stretch the edging longer. Acrylic can be "killed" using heat (a process to permanently block the stitches, making it lie flat). I only wanted to beat this up since I needed those peaks and valleys to remain. I was able to convince the edges to behave  with steam from my iron delivered from a few inches away.

The finished item is more of a blankie than a blanket. It measures 50 x 70 cm (20 x 27.5"). I am hoping the baby will love it and carry it everywhere. See my project page on Ravelry for more info.

Then I decided I needed to make a little hat to coordinate with the blankie. It is the first project made on a new (to me) machine, a Brother 892 punchcard, also standard gauge. I used more of the Woolike.

This is a super simple project. As you can see, it's just a rectangle with some loops at the top. You knit a long strip for a tie, thread it through the eyelets, sew the seam and voila, a cute baby hat.

I got the idea from a blog post which gives the method but no details. You have to figure stitch and row counts based on what size of hat you want and the gauge of your yarn.

These I fudged, since I had no model to measure, based on some other baby hat patterns. My finished hat is 35cm around (13.75") and about 15cm (6") deep. I suspect it is way too big for a newborn although by rolling up the brim it can be made shorter at least. Given the roll and the stretch, the sizing could work for years if the hat lasts that long.

My colleague very nicely said he would bring his new son/daughter (still waiting to find out) around to the office and I hope to see these items in use fairly soon.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


While sewing I generate lots of trimmed edges, cut threads and general fluff and I need a handy receptacle to keep them off the floor. I have a cloth bag that sits under my serger to catch the edges but otherwise I've been using a basket lined with a plastic bag. It sits on the floor and tends to retreat deep under my sewing table where it is inaccessible and this has been bugging me. Also, it's stationary and I move around, clipping threads and trimming seams here and there.

I saw this item at Lee Valley tools. It's a plastic bucket that slips into a neoprene sleeve which fastens to a belt with clips of some kind. It's supposed to be used in the garden.

But I balked at the price ($31.50).

Today I was at the dollar store and I spotted this cute plastic basket for a tiny bike. (Barbie!)

I threaded a thin belt through the plastic strips that are supposed to attach it to handlebars.

Saved $27.50.

It also came with streamers, but I can't quite figure out how to attach them. 

More jeans, blue this time

Another pair of the Morgan jeans pattern has tumbled off my sewing table.

These ones are blue denim, with very little stretch. The fabric  is considerably beefier than my last pair. Otherwise, they are identical, right down to the crazy print I used on the pockets and waistband facing.

Staving off the questions, I bought this fabric many years ago from an on-line shop called Wazoodle, which was originally in Canada. There is still a site with this name that may be the successor but it is now in the US and I'm not sure if it is the same business. The denim was marketed as originating with Levis and I bought a lot of it. There is only enough left for a pair of kids jeans. I'll sock it away just in case.

I used classic yellow jeans topstitching thread, so the traditional jeans details show up.

They should last the next 10 years...

Knitted lace and vote on my next project!

I finished another lace shawl this week. The pattern is called Just One of Those Things (why???) and while I quite like the finished product, I've decided I like more texture in a hand-knitted shawl. Otherwise, I'd rather haul out a machine...

This lace is kind of flat. The stitches move around but in two dimensions. Click on the photo to the right and you will see them in greater detail. There actually is a 3 stitch cable in three rows (two of them are in a line just above the points) but at least in this yarn, they don't really stand out.

The yarn is a mix - 49% wool, 34% mohair, 11% nylon (technically it's a sock yarn), 4% acrylic and 2% silk. The mohair means the shawl is very light, decidedly non-drapey and a little hairy, and maybe it wasn't the best choice for this pattern. But I do like the finished project.

The pattern was fun to knit because it consisted (once the plain base was done) of 23 completely different lace rows with plain purl rows between them. Now I'm looking at other lace shawl patterns.

Which of these do you like the best? Tell me why in a comment!

1. Echo Flower Shawl
Echo Flower

Pro - gorgeous texture, and it's free! No beads (nupps are so much nicer!).

Con - triangular, not my favourite shape. A Raveller has figured out how to make it into a sort-of crescent but her version used 800m of yarn. The pattern itself calls for 440-880m, which would require an annoyingly small amount more than 1 skein of sock yarn (100g). On the other hand I have some lace-weight in the right amount. 

2. Sweet Dreams
Sweet Dreams

Pro - wonderfully spiky, already a crescent, many variations are possible, including designer-sanctioned choice to omit all beads. Could be made out of 100g of sock yarn.

Con - a relatively expensive paid pattern since I have to buy an entire e-book to get it.

3. Dandelion on a Meadow

Dandelion on a Meadow
Pro - crisp lace, combination of textures, crescent shape. It can be made with 100g of sock weight yarn (350-400m).

Con - (maybe, maybe not) this is knitted from the bottom up rather than top down. I haven't made one this way before. Paid pattern.

4. Versailles

Pro - another spiky lace pattern from the same designer as Sweet Dreams. It's less expensive since it's available as a single pattern. It could be made from 100g of sock yarn.

Con - A paid pattern. Although you can't really tell from the photo, the lace pattern doesn't vary much as the shawl progresses, so might be less captivating to knit. And is it too baroque for The Sewing Lawyer?

Excuse me while I go diving in my yarn stash.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

New mittens!

I do love machine knitting. So fast. So satisfying (when it goes according to plan). As it did for this project in the last couple of days.

I used a pattern that is free on Ravelry - Fully Fashioned Machine Knit Mittens.

My quick assessment is that this is a pretty good pattern, but if (when) I make these again I will do it circularly. It was a royal pain to have to seam these - up the thumb and side of the mitten hand, then from the wrist edge to the lower edge of the thumb. And grafting the finger end.

Conjoined twin mitten!
And it had to be done twice because these mittens are lined with an exact copy of themselves! You knit the outer layer and then rehang the wrist edge and knit the lining down. And there were about a million ends from both the inner and outer layers and the waste yarn and it was confusing ... and very black. Very bad for night-time sewing. But they came together really well.

I used black sock yarn (only 35g) for the outer mitten and a tiny bit of the pink/red which in turn was leftover from my very first socks. The lining is Woolike, a 100% acrylic yarn from Michaels. It's nice and soft. The finished mittens are thick and feel substantial. They would not block wind but will be good for some conditions, including when I'm skiing and my hands are really warm from my serious mittens but it's too cold to simply remove all hand covering.

I wonder what I'll do next?

Monday, February 5, 2018

New jeans!

My poor neglected blog is about to get its annual boost as I'm off work starting today for five whole weeks! Time to sew, time to knit, time to blog. I call it practising for retirement.

I've started my staycation with a pair of Morgan jeans from Closet Case Patterns. This is my first time sewing a CC pattern. I'm going to do a proper review over on PatternReview but the short form is - I'm impressed. I will definitely make these again, and soon. I've been cycling through the same two pairs of blue jeans since practically forever (August, 2010) and they are almost done.

It was interesting to read that post from 2010. I still have that Levis denim from Wazoodle in stash, and I still do not like skin tight jeans. So rather than struggle with the Jalie stretch jeans pattern again with a different low-stretch denim from stash, I turned to the Morgan pattern. Boyfriend jeans. If you believe Google, the term is used to denote jeans that have all the classic bits but with a "relaxed fit", usually straight legged, and frequently torn and/or distressed. It was mostly relaxed fit I was after.

So what did I find?

First, the jeans are designed to have very little ease through the hip. I traced size 8 at the waist and 10 through the hip and leg, based on actual measurements. I got the jeans done through to the side seams which I based at 1.6cm (5/8") and tried on. Too tight for my taste. I re-sewed, tapering from the original size at the waist to a 1cm (3/8") seam, which gave me a nice extra 2.4cm (1") at the hip. Fit is now just right, by my non-fashionista standard.

These are made out of black denim which is slightly stretchy. The pattern is supposedly for non-stretch but I'd want even more ease in that case.

I like the rise on these as designed, although I sewed a slightly smaller seam allowance attaching the curved waistband to the pants body, and turned under less at the top of the waistband. As a result it's just over 4cm (1.75") wide, a bit wider than designed. I had to take a tiny dart at CB to keep it from sticking out and I'm modifying the waistband piece to be more curved for my next pair.

Can you see the hole?
I didn't make the button fly. I used the fly shield piece as designed, and inserted a zipper. It has been a while since I did that - I made a stupid mistake and my serger blade sliced into the right front of my pants just below the fly opening. That is not a mistake that can be fixed with a cute appliqué! I slapped some fusible interfacing on the wrong side and made a slightly lumpy bar tack there to hide it. If anyone is looking that closely at the crotch of my jeans, they will get slapped too...

And while I am on the subject, no one is allowed to look at the buttonhole either. My fancy machine (Pfaff) struggled mightily and after picking out as much as I could of the terrible tangle of thread that resulted, I sewed over the remains with my trusty buttonholer using my Featherweight. The Featherweight also handled all topstitching tasks using a heavy upholstery thread. What a great machine!

The Pfaff was otherwise completely brilliant. I used a Jeans needle and it chunked nicely through all construction points, including bar tacks to attach the belt loops (that would be at least 7 layers of denim).

While the outside of these is indeed sombre, the insides are not. I used a fun cotton print of African origin with a sewing theme to do the pockets and face the waistband.