Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thrifting for Treasure

Well, I haven't been posting here too much -- it's been almost a month! But I have been busy.

My sewing space has been, well, inaccessible lately. We had to have a new furnace installed; it was time to move to a high efficiency option. But. Unfortunately for me, that meant I had to move my entire sewing corner into stacks all over the house to leave room for gas and electrics and workmen to do their thing. So, long story short, I haven't been able to sew much lately! I still don't have the space put back together, but I do have my table & machine up, so that's good.

I'm going through each box and basket as I'm putting it back, and deciding what to keep or give away, and how to reorganize a bit to make things more usable. I've been meaning to do this kind of clean-out for quite a while now, but this jumble gave me the chance to get right on it.

So far I've thrown out old bits of clothing and odds and ends I didn't know I still had, and I've also given 27 metres of perfectly good fabric to the Goodwill. It was all things I knew I would never use - upholstery weights, polyesters, polar fleece etc. Turn about, I guess, since I do shop at my local Goodwill and Salvation Army & various other thrift shops a lot.

This week, after I dropped off my bags of fabric, I stopped in to see what was new inside. My eagle eyed husband spotted this:

I first thought, hmmm, that's kind of a neat set-up; a travelling case & a light enough to lift machine. Since it was only $35, after a bit of hemming and hawing (and a reassurance from the clerk that it worked) I bought it. When I got home, I realized what I had!

  It's a Singer Featherweight, the 221K model that was made in white with a short folding bed, probably in the early 60s. They are quite sought after, and are a reliable straight stitch machine that are now popular with quilters especially, as they are easy to transport & they sew a nice 1/4" straight seam very easily. Mine is in good condition, and it does indeed work, though I'm going to wait to really get going until I get some maintenance done on it so I don't ruin the motor. That was an exciting thrifting day!

I also added to my stash recently via an early birthday present from my sister, another thrifting diva:

I now have enough Anchor embroidery thread for many projects-- 22 boxes and nearly all full! This timely article about bobbinwork in the most recent Threads magazine has got my brain going. There is also a great article on the same topic in their archives! Think I'm going to try out some new techniques on the machine as well as continuing on with my hand embroidery projects.

And today I found a great book at another thrift store nearby -- it's Thérèse de Dillmont's Encyclopedia of Needlework, a facsimile edition which includes all the colour plates. First published in 1884, this is a thorough look at many kinds of needlework - all kinds of embroidery, crochet, knitting, tatting, even macramé - it is good reading. Interesting to know that macrame (or knotted fringe) was undergoing a surge in popularity at about that's the next big retro trend that will return, I think. Calling it here! ;)

Have you made any great thrift store or yard sale finds lately? Do share...

Friday, September 9, 2016

80s Simplicity Tee Dress

After my last few sewing disappointments I put off going back to the sewing table. I did some embroidery, some tidying and organizing of the sewing space, and so on... but I was finally inspired to sew something up again after a day at the thrift shop.

I picked up a handful of late 80s patterns (uncut) in one of my regular rounds of my local thrift shops:

The same night, I decided to cut out a simple tunic circa 1988, Simplicity 8684, View 3 (the blue one on the cover). I scrounged around in my stash and found a very soft, thin mauve knit I was planning to make something from someday. The day had arrived.

I laid out the pieces to see how they'd fit, and realized I'd have to shorten the pattern by 3 or 4 inches to have it the tunic length as on the pattern illustration. But then again, I'd only have to lengthen it by 4 or 5 inches to get a knee length dress... I finally decided to cut the dress length and if it didn't look good or feel comfortable, I could chop it off back to tunic length.

I carefully pinned the markings for the extra length - I extended the A-line of the pattern out further to the hem, so it's quite a full skirt. Despite our more modern methods of sewing knits, I decided to try out the suggested neck facing finish on this, as I wasn't really concerned about the fabric or really all that hopeful that my sewing slump was actually over.

I actually really like the way it turned out. It didn't pucker up or get all bunched. I just pinned and sewed slowly, and it's a smooth finish. They suggested sewing a second line (I guess to copy the RTW look) -- I could've used my double needle but I didn't -- and I didn't want to risk getting it all bunchy in between another stitching line so left it at one. Same when I did the sleeve hem, which was just turn under and stitch. When it came to my huge circle hem at the bottom of that skirt, I just left it unhemmed. I couldn't imagine that a stitched hem would turn out nicely on so much fabric. This knit didn't curl or fray so it's not noticeable anyhow.

inside shoulder with stay tape & neckline facing
smooth finishes

 And there sure is a lot of fabric with that A-line from the bust all the way down!

Anyhow, with a belt and some jewellery (and very important with this light knit, the right undergarments so the outlines don't show) it's a great dress for casual Fridays. It's really just an oversize tee, which gathers nicely and swirls around my knees in a soft and pleasing way. I think this simple 80s pattern has got me back to the machine and feeling like I can tackle my queued projects once again.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

When Projects Go Bad, or #Sewingfails

I have been sewing a bit over the last month - but very sporadically. It's been hot, I've been on holiday, and I've been a little discouraged by my last two projects as well.

I first tried making Sew House Seven's Mississippi Ave Dress & Shirt, in the top length. I used a fabric that I've had around for a while, a silky bright green embossed poly. Man, was it a trial!! The pattern has a gorgeous picture of airy dresses on a line, and such great design features.

Look at that centre panel - what a great feature. The waistline has an elastic casing all the way around, but stopping at either side of that front panel. In theory, this is a lovely dress.

On me, it is not. First off, I messed up the point of the "V" when I was attaching the bias binding at the neck. It's bumpy and messy -- I know I *could* unpick it and hand stitch it to fix that...but will I? Probably not, since when I put it on I realized that this style doesn't work for me. I look dumpy and disproportionate in it. I can't quite figure it out. I think I may fix the neck and give it to my sister, who will probably look fab in it, since she looks good in everything.

Here's how lovely it looks when it's not on me.

BACK - note the cute elastic casing

closeup of shoulder tie feature; nice in theory!

closeup of the casing & a better look at this lovely fabric

So then I thought I'd try to get over the disappointment with another dress, a McCalls 7115 which I thought looked very 90's - and that was a good thing. I had the perfect ditsy print rayon (which I picked up during PR Weekend in Chicago) to match the feel of it.

Well. Again, it is really pretty, and looks fab on the hanger.

kimono sleeve

wonderful added-in pockets

BUT!! I even sewed all the lovely mauve shimmery buttons on lovingly, and when I tried it on.......yikes! I've reviewed it over at PR, with full gory details. The short form is: I looked like a babushka in it, and it was extremely unflattering.

I think I probably spent a good hour or two fiddling with it, trying to come up with ways to alter it to make it work. Nada. It does not work. It's oversized, the proportions are off, and this flowing, dropped waist style just does not suit me at all.

I was seduced by the appeal of the pattern cover, but didn't take into account my own figure. I'm going to chop it up a bit and refashion -- I'm not losing this wonderful fabric. Perhaps into a loose top, if I can finagle that.

Anyhow, after two fails it feels kind of daunting to get back on the horse and try again. My next project is another rayon dress, and I hope that the fabric doesn't cross me for a third time. Well, I'll only know if I try. Meanwhile, I've been taking a break from my garment sewing and spending quite a bit of time on embroidery. It's soothing to the smarting sewing pride after these two #sewingfails.

What about you? What do you do to recover from a disastrous make?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Costumes & Quilts to beat the heat

What do you do when you're not sewing? Well, I end up visiting places that always include sewing!

A few weeks ago there was an event at my local history museum, a Sunday picnic/craft beer tasting on their expansive grounds, which included entrance into the museum exhibits. Since it was a super hot day and I had been intending to go to the Art Quilts exhibit, we took the afternoon and headed over. So fun. Lots of tasty beer, hot weather, and the blessed air conditioning when we went inside ;)

The main exhibits were the Art Quilts, a Narnia themed one in conjunction with the Stratford Festival's showing of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe this year, and an exhibit of some of the Festival Archives' costumes and accessories. All were a lot of fun to see.

**Edited to Add: a new 360 Tour of the museum has just been added to their content. You can see one hall of the quilts plus the costumes & Narnia! 

I forgot to take photos of the attributions for many of the quilts, so don't feel that I can post them without. But I did get a couple! One of my favourites has the clearest writeup, the rest you should be able to kind of see if you embiggen the photos.

 We also enjoyed seeing the masterful work on the stage costumes - even though they are seen from afar, the Festival wardrobe is amazing at the detailing and finishes.


We also liked the Narnia show - including the hilarious family photos in Mr. Tumnus' parlour:

Plus we had to play Peter & Susan in the throne room...

What do you do when you're not sewing?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cherry Print Nostalgia with the Sally Shirtdress

Thanks to everyone for voting for my dress
 in the Monthly Stitch contest! I won a prize :)

Let me tell you all about my new Sally Shirtdress!

Why yes, Madge, it is a Sally!

After the completion of my first shirtdress ever (McCalls 7351) I got the bug - I needed to make more! I happily had picked up this new-to-me pattern at the Pattern Review Weekend pattern swap (thanks to whomever it was who let it go). Added to that, it's Indie Pattern Month over at the Monthly Stitch, and the first weekly challenge is to make something by a designer who is "new to you". I've never made anything by Serendipity Studio before, so the Sally Shirtdress moved to the top of the queue.

I thrifted a fabulous cherry-print quilting cotton which I knew would be perfect for a retro style shirt dress. This pattern fit the bill. I crowdsourced opinions on which trim to use, and the replies were overwhelmingly for the red polka dots -- about 50 to 1. So I went with it. I was also able to use some fantastic vintage buttons from a full shoebox of them - all still on their cards - that my sister sent me for Christmas this year (great thrifting score on her end!)

original trim options
look closely for the buttons

To suit the vintage styling, I thought that a photoshoot at The Stratford Antique Warehouse would do the trick - thanks to Tracy and her wonderful staff for letting me take pictures and for chatting about sewing with me.
Outside, about to head in...

A bright and beautiful little with laser eyes

And now for the pattern itself -- I really enjoyed making this one. The Sally Shirtdress is an interesting design. It has four pieces: the collar, one long front and one long back, and the sleeve. Plus the trims, if you want to count those as extra pieces. It is sewn together and then you fit it by adding pleats in at the waist - you make it as fitted as you want, and put the waist where you want it. There is a rather complicated mathematical calculation in the instructions that is a bit confusing, so I just used the measurement of the waist and then divided it evenly to space my 1" pleats. It shapes it up nicely!

The pleats are well-placed but do we really want to know more
about our figures? Testing out a retro grain scale
I slightly extended the pleats higher in the back to reduce puffiness in the upper back, otherwise followed the pattern suggestions for size. Once the pleats are sewn, they are pressed flat along the centre and topstitched to keep them tidy. I've shown a photo of the insides, as they are completely invisible on the outside!

I cut the "above knee length" view with no shortening done except for a small pinch out of the upper back length-- I am 5"2 so be aware if you don't like really short things. I also chose the trim that is a flat band. The pattern gives options like a ruffled band as well but I thought I had enough going on with cherries and dots.

I coveted this enamel red & white drop-leaf table
and all the red & white glassware too!
The flaw in this pattern is that there are no pockets included. I added basic side seam pockets using a pattern piece from another dress, and placing them as usual with the hand opening 4" below my natural waist. You'll have your own perfect placement, so if you add pockets just measure a favourite pattern and place accordingly.

The other thing to be aware of is that the pattern assumes quite a bit of sewing knowledge. For example, she states "make a bias strip" for the trim but gives no instruction. Or, when setting in the sleeves, she tells you to pin in place, put the sleeve side down when sewing and just stretch and ease the the excess fabric in the armhole as you sew -- no gathering stitches, just all freehand. And she adds, "if you have any tucks, unpick and just sew again". It's all rather freeform, and while I was a little suspicious of this technique, these are the first sleeves that I've ever set in perfectly smoothly on the first go. So there's that.

I cut the under collar from the contrast as well
I actually really enjoyed the way the pattern was designed. I like to figure things out as I go and learn new ways of doing things, and I did both with this pattern. It had a relaxed, freestyle feeling to it.

Does this necklace go?

And should I buy a purse? (full confession time: I went home with the black one!)

So if you are okay with a different approach to things and with looking things up as you go, you'll like this pattern. It is a great silhouette, really fitted to the individual figure, and goes together quickly. I like it!

We had a gas with my new Sally at the Antique Warehouse!