Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Farewell to Poetry Month!

April is Poetry Month ~I enjoy poetry and love to share it on my book blog throughout April. But as a farewell to Poetry Month 2014, I thought I'd share a few poetic links for all my sewing friends, too!

First off... here's a pattern for a Poetry Skirt I bought a few months ago, but haven't made up yet...I love the shape and the idea, but what poem should I use?

This downloadable pattern is only $4.00!

I've also found a few great poems this month that feature sewing and other handcrafts, some that were spectacularly beautiful. One of my favourites was The Water Seamstress by Nancy Willard, from her collection The Sea at Truro. It begins: 

The bride admires the pleats on the skin
of the sea. So smooth! So cool!

And finally, there's the classic riff on Wallace Stevens' iconic 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, written by the brilliant Erin at Dress a Day -- anyone who sews will appreciate this one, entitled Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pattern. It is such a delight! I can only wish that Erin would make a print from this poem -- I'd love to buy one and have it hanging in my sewing room :) BTW, Erin has also written a wonderful novel for lovers of vintage clothing as well --

The Secret Lives of Dresses
More info here

Hope you've enjoyed this detour through the poetry world! Do share any of your own favourites in the comments as I'd love to discover even more great sewing-related poetry.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mellow Yellow "quick" top

When I ran into trouble with my last make (the Starry Night dress), I put it aside for a while -- the things I needed to unpick and fix just seemed like too much to do. Fortunately I did finish it and love it, but, when I first put it aside, I decided I needed a quick, simple top that would be easy to whip up, as compensation.

Why I didn't just choose a pattern I've already made, I do not know. I chose instead New Look 6217, planning to make the loose fitting woven tee. I had a large swath of mustard-coloured fabric, some kind of polyester blend I think, but I liked the weight and drape of it. Plus I'm trying to use up I went on the NL 6217 adventure.

Another example of the pattern pics unconsciously shaping my
fabric choice -- mine is nearly identical to the View B on the left!

I didn't measure the pattern pieces or even think about it, I just snipped it all out according to my size on the pattern envelope. I think I cut 14 at the neck and shoulders and graded to 16 at the sides and bottom. Anyhow, the putting together of it was really, really easy. It's just a few pieces -- one for the front, and 2 for the back -- there's a centre back seam with an opening at the top with button closure.

(As an aside: When I had really long hair I used to avoid this kind of design element -- no matter what I did, my hair would get tangled up in the button. One more reason I like my really short hair -- now I can wear this style)

It calls for a bias binding at the neck. I was going to be clever and sew on a contrasting ribbon that I have had for a while and looked very pretty with the fabric. BUT. Not thinking ahead, I stitched it right on, but when I tried it on, I realized that the ribbon was too heavy for the fabric and was pulling it away from the body. It looked weird and not very nice at all. Plus I noticed that the (beautiful) button and thread loop (the first I ever made, and I am sure it will be the nicest one I ever make, it was perfect, sigh) were sitting funnily on the back of my neck and making the fabric on either side of the opening bubble out.

I was going to take a picture so I could show you my woes, but in my annoyance I forgot. Here's a picture of what it looks like now that I've fixed it.

I kind of like that front pleat 

There were a few fixes for this. I got out my trusty seam-ripper and took off the ribbon. I fiddled around with the blouse and realized that if I pinched out an inch at the front neckline it sat much more comfortably. So I basted in a pleat there. And the back, well, I decided that since it was just a trial I'd use a mysterious technique I recently noted over at Pretty Grievances , a mini "hunch dart" in the back. I pinched out 1/2 inch on either side of the back opening and stitched it down. It looks okay -- here's a pic, before I ironed it (it lies more smoothly now that it has been pressed)

From a distance, not so bad

Closeup! Look what I decided to do...
the button is very pretty, though!

I also decided I was just going to turn under the neckline and topstitch it instead of binding it. I think it actually looks quite good. Except I do think that the neckline is still quite wide, and I might add some lingerie straps in there to hold it on my shoulders properly. All in all, I do think that I can still wear this despite the unexpected changes. Other than the neckline I do quite like how it feels on, loose but not completely shapeless, and light and flowy for summer.

After I finished this one I wondered if I could remake it with my changes pre-made on the pattern. So I got out the pattern, and some very lightweight cotton from the stash and tried again. This fabric is very light, like a handkerchief cotton, and the print is crazy. I bought it for, I think, about $1/metre thinking it would be useful to practice on -- this was before I started buying old sheets for the purpose. Anyhow, I folded out 1 inch at the centre front, tapering down to nothing by the bust line. I then folded out a 1/2 inch horizontal bit at the back opening as I had on the original. I also decided to cut the back on the fold, as there was no need for a button other than for decoration -- it slides right over the head easily. So I also folded out 1/4 inch at the original seam line to narrow it just a bit. I cut it and sewed it, hemming the bottom and sleeves with a narrow hem, all within less than an hour, and found some cream bias binding in the stash to finish the neckline. This may sound odd, but it's the first time I've ever actually used bias binding to do this. I used Colette's method from the Sorbetto pattern to connect the ends of the binding. It seems my alterations have worked, as this second attempt fits quite wonderfully, and despite the crazy fabric and my intention never to actually wear it, I have worn it, twice already!  So I guess it was a good learning experience -- I think that this is one quick pattern that I'll make again now that it fits well -- it's very quick and would be useful for summer in a couple of solid colours.

Here's the result of the second try:

It really does fit better all around. 

And the back is nice and smooth, not gaping at all

March and April have been quite a "learning experience" sewing time. I hope that my next planned make is a wee bit easier on me :)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fashion Revolution: who made your clothes?

Fashion Revolution Day Handmade

April 24 marks the one year anniversary of the tragic collapse of the textile complex Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh where over 1,000 people lost their lives while producing the cheap and accessible clothing that the Western world has come to expect.  Abby (Things for Boys), Celina (Petit a Petit and Family) and Laura (Behind the Hedgerow) have joined the Fashion Revolution Day initiative by getting home sewists involved. They say:

The goal is for all of us to stand together for a united cause and help to show sewing (in all its forms) as an ethical and sustainable alternative to fast fashion and mass consumerism.  It’s one piece in a very large puzzle but by showcasing home sewn items we will help spread the word that in some cases the answer to ‘Who Made Your Clothes?’ can proudly be answered, “ME!”

So today, home sewists can join in by posting images of ourselves wearing something inside out, asking Who Made Your Clothes?

While I didn't wear these out and about, I can proudly say to the question Who Made Your Clothes?... I did. The next route of investigation is to find out who made the fabric...something to study in future. As Laura has shared today, try to do as Vivienne Westwood says...


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Starry, starry took a light year to make this

This dress took me ages to make up; a cosmic eon perhaps? I began it back in March as my "Make a Garment a Month" project choice but stalled when I came across some difficulties, namely the neckline. But I got back on track, recut and resewed the neckline, and after that it finished up magically quickly! Well, except for the hem. It was straightforward but there was a lot of it. I used Gertie's technique for hemming a circle skirt since I had a deep hem that I wasn't sure what to do with -- it worked wonderfully.

Here is the first look at my finished Starry Night dress:

Late at night, after finishing the hem!
All done in the daylight, and ready to go!
You can see the back neckline doesn't meet
exactly -- but it looks worse than it really is because
 of the way I'm standing

I used Simplicity 1699 for this one, and complicated things for myself by deciding to pipe the neckline and sleeves, and add a skirt lining and pockets. The skirt went together with great ease -- everything perfect, I love my dark blue lining and the pockets went in like a dream. The bodice fitting went well, only a few minor tweaks and adjustments to the princess lines. But for some reason I didn't think to check how the neckline laid before adding piping, and when I tried it on after sewing bodice & skirt together, yikes. Choke hold!

But it's turned out well enough after all my troubles, and I really, really like it. It hangs nicely, it fits well, and I am just so relieved that it is finished! :) I even did my first ever lapped zipper on this dress and it looks quite tidy. I'm not totally convinced by the sleeves -- the piping was difficult to attach neatly around the little V of the sleeve edge -- you can see it's a little wavery. I may still unpick and redo some of that in future. Maybe.

Here are a few more close-ups:
Here's the Anna Wintour look...
Anna Again... you can notice the little
"V" in the sleeve edges here

Closeup of the print, though it's much
darker, richer blue in person

From the side I think you can really see how well
this pattern fits overall. If I make it again without fancy extra
stuff I think it will be a really quick make. The skirt really falls
beautifully. It's comfy too!

I am really, really happy that I finished this one, only a month after I'd intended to...but it's worth it, since (as Dorothy Dot Dot predicted) I love it now! It's very comfortable to wear and really flatters the bits you would like to be a little camouflaged ;)

I'm also glad I could use this fabric -- I know I've owned it for over 15 years, as I'd originally bought it to make a "Space Odyssey 2001" quilt, back when I was actually doing some quilting...Well, I will get more enjoyment out of it now!

I also realized that this dress is finished just in time for the Sew Dolly Clackett contest. This is a contest hosted by Sarah of Rhinestones and Telephones, in celebration of the style of Roisin aka Dolly Clackett -- Roisin is getting married this spring and what better way to celebrate than to hold a contest in which sewists everywhere take inspiration from her notable style? Check out the amazing Flickr group for some wild dresses! Since I just squeaked in to this one, I quickly signed up and popped my dress into the fray as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Awarding the Liebster!

Oh how lovely, I've had a weekend full of blog awards :) I've just been tagged with the Liebster Award, thanks to Lazy Linchen in Finland. I discovered her blog by chance when I started blogging about sewing myself, and have really enjoyed her many projects, so be sure to check her out, there's always something fascinating on her blog!

What is The Liebster? It’s an award/blog meme intended to promote little known blogs (fewer than 200 followers). If nominated you have to answer 11 questions posted by the nominator, plus 11 random facts about yourself. Plus nominate 11 more bloggers you like.

However....that's a lot of 11s for me. I'm going to start with the 11 questions, then refer you to 10 facts about myself which I shared in my last post, and then nominate a handful of other bloggers whom I read and haven't yet been Liebstered as far as I can tell.

Here are the 11 questions posed by Lazy Linchen:

1. What is your favourite pastime?

Sewing of course! Well, and reading about sewing. And reading in general, really. (does eating chocolate fit here?)

2. What do you love cooking/eating the most?

I love to cook really flavourful, healthy vegetarian food, usually fairly easy recipes unless I have extra time on hand to spend on cooking. I really shouldn't love chocolate so much, but...

3. What is your favourite fictional character and why?

Oh, this is tough! I love Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) because I'm Canadian, she is brilliant and clever and imaginative, and I read and reread those books many times as a young woman. But I also love Cassandra Mortmain (I Capture the Castle) because she is clever and imaginative and a great writer with a big heart. I could go on and on.

4.  What do you like most about your life?

I like that I have the freedom and ability in my life to choose to spend time on creative activities that sustain me. That I have the stability and support needed in life to go beyond simple survival. I am grateful for that every day. 

5. How do you manage your stash (if you have one)? (This is shameless digging for solutions…)

Stash management...sounds like an ideal! I never had too much of a stash, until I began sewing in earnest again last year. Now it's growing and growing...and I don't have a management strategy. But I need one; either that or stop buying fabric, and we all know how likely that is. 

6. What is your favourite make?

One of the simplest things I made, last fall, was a turquoise-y cardigan. Very simple, but it's one of the things I wear the most, and feel good in it each time. I often get comments on it, too, which is funny for such a basic item. But I love it. 

7. Which part do you dislike most about creating?

Not having time to do everything I dream about! And making mistakes that set you back, due to being tired while sewing, or to those mysterious jinxed days when nothing goes right no matter what...

8. Winter or Summer?


9. If you could choose from any animal that ever existed, what pet would you like to have?

Huh. I'm not very iconoclastic, I'd still choose a cat :)

10. Why do you sew/knit/create?

Sewing pleases my creative side; it's practical and useful, but also fun and colourful and engaging. I always feel like I'm learning something, doing something, sharing something, when I sew. It feels thrifty, satisfies the itch to be more self-sufficient, and I also find that it's a kind of meditation, when all is going well. 

11. What is your favourite place on Earth?

Anywhere that is quiet and peaceful, with room to think. Right now, my own front porch does the trick quite often!


Now on to nominating others...I'll try to share a few that I've found lately, though as I mentioned in my last post, I am still a bit of a newbie to the sewing blogosphere and don't know a lot of bloggers yet. This time I'm going to share some of my fellow Canadians' blogs that you should really check out :)

If I nominate you and you have more than 200 followers or if you don’t do (or have already done) Liebster Awards, please ignore and please don’t feel offended!

Here are my 11 questions to be answered:

  1.  Why/how did you choose the name of your blog?
  2.  Why do you sew/knit/create?
  3.  Which part do you dislike most about creating?
  4. What fashion icon do you take inspiration from (if any)?
  5. What is your favourite make?
  6. What is your favourite book (or type of book) and why?
  7. What is your favourite fictional character and why?
  8. What was your dream job when you were a child?
  9. If you could visit any place in time, where/when would you go?
  10. Winter or Summer?
  11. Morning Person or Night Owl?


Shannon at The Finished Garment (Montreal)

Debbie at Sew Debbie (Oakville)

Ann at Everything Sewing (B.C.)

Suzie at Fabric Maverick (Montreal)

And the lovely Tanit-Isis of Tanit-Isis Sews, from my home province of Saskatchewan

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunshine Awards


I'd like to thank Dorothy of Sewing Fun Things for nominating me for the Sunshine and Shine On award. This award is meant to help you get to know your fellow bloggers better and network with other bloggers, as well as reveal fun facts about you to help your readers know you better.

The Rules -

  • Use the award logo in your post
  • Link to whoever nominated you
  • Write ten pieces of information about yourself
  • Nominate ten fellow bloggers (or fewer if you have fewer followers) who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere
  • Inform the nominees on their blogs

Okay, so first off, 10 facts about me:
  1. I have another blog, focused on books and reading, that I've been writing for the last 8 yrs
  2. I'm a librarian by day
  3. I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years now
  4. For the last couple of years, my preferred exercise has been hooping!
  5. I've come back to regular, frequent sewing after many years of just doing a bit here and there -- what was I thinking?!
  6. I love tea. I mean, love it. 
  7. I used to have hair I could nearly sit on, but chopped it off in a 20's style bob some years ago and have never looked back
  8. I'm a middle child
  9. I rarely watch tv -- too much reading and sewing to do :)
  10. Chocolate is my kryptonite

Now for my nominees...well, I'm still pretty new to the sewing blogosphere, so I can think of just a few that I've discovered recently, and haven't already been awarded, which are inspiring for many reasons:

Thanks, I Made Them

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Me Made May 14

I've heard rumblings and mentions of this project over the last year, but I was never quite sure what exactly it was. Now I know! It's a blog project hosted by Zoe of So, Zo, What Do You Know?

It's open to anyone who's interested. Here's how it works.
Me-Made-May'14 (MMM'14 for short) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to actually wear and love them… The participants decide the specifics of their own challenge pledge, so that the month is appropriate and challenging for them.
For the full details, check out Zoe's comprehensive sign-up post. And sign up there too, of course!

I've decided to join in this year, as I've been much more focused on my own sewing and the effects of wardrobe choices in the last while. I think I have enough choices to participate -- here is my pledge.

I, Melwyk of Magpie Makery, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavor to wear at least one handmade/refashioned item each day for the duration of May 2014.

I don't have quite enough to challenge myself in the same ways that some participants are: wearing something handmade with no repeats all month, or wearing only handmade items, for example. But as Zo says, it is a challenge to yourself, not a competition, and it's a way to wear and appreciate all that you make for yourself. I'm looking forward to it, and to sharing some of my outfits, too -- probably not daily, like some others, but a weekly round-up sounds like my speed. Hope to see some of you wearing "me made" in May!

Monday, April 14, 2014

March Recap of MAGAM Project

This is what I vowed to make in March, for the Make a Garment a Month project:

I was planning on making the dress, adding piping to the neck and sleeve edges, and lining the skirt (oh, and adding pockets of course).

I got all the way to the neck, and tried it on, and realized that I hadn't taken the advice of all the sewist reviewers on Pattern Review -- I'd forgotten to cut the neckline larger. Argh! I was strangulating in it! The thought of unpicking the facing AND the piping, resizing the neckline, recutting the facings and resewing it all was overwhelming. I put it aside for what turned into a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I decided to make a nice easy top to recover from this mishap (New Look 6217) Well, that top had tons of neckline issues as well! I finally finished it this weekend (photos to come) and decided that since I'd spent so much time on it I might as well turn to fixing the dress as well. So my March garment will be finished, soonish, once I get those facings recut. Whew! That was the biggest case of sewer's block I've had for a LONG time. Once I finish and post I will also be deciding on a late April MAGAM too. More to come..........

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Lost Art of Dress: a book review

The Lost Art of Dress: the Women Who Once Made America Stylish / Linda Przybyszewski
New York: Basic Books, c2014.
329 p.

I so enjoyed this history of the "Dress Doctors" that ruled home dressmaking and fashion over the first half of the 20th Century. Though it was entirely focused on the USA, it was fascinating.

The author shares stories of the women who shaped design and home dressmaking over the early part of the 20th century -- through Home Economics departments, 4H, women's clubs, radio shows & pamphlets, the design principles that shaped American style were shared widely. They were based both on artistic beliefs in harmony, balance, proportion, rhythm and emphasis -- two sisters in particular were experts at teaching these long-standing artistic elements as part of clothing design -- and on economy and frugality.

There were many women who taught and emphasized different elements of home sewing, and the notes and bibliography of this book are a goldmine. I found quite a number of the books she mentioned available to read via OpenLibrary, from Mary Brooks Picken's The Secrets of Distinctive Dress (1918) to Margaretta Byers' Designing Women (1938). There were even some pamphlets available to read from the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts & Sciences, like this charming guide to sewing Aprons & Caps. Przybyszewski often quotes from these vintage sources, which can be both oddly relevant and truly amusing to the modern reader.

This book is clearly based in extensive research, sharing the ideas that permeated the domestic arts, those of suitability of dress affected by things like income, personal appearance, function, and skill levels. The Dress Doctors were quite stern about areas of 'appropriate' wear, but they also involved themselves in campaigning for women's comfort -- against ridiculous fashions like the hobble skirt (which was responsible for actual deaths as women couldn't run out of the path of oncoming vehicles, and in one case, couldn't swim after falling off a bridge) or the tiny pinched shoes that restricted free movement. It's a wonderful social history of a large swath of the 20th century, and shows how much the Dress Doctors took for granted that the women learning domestic skills were also working women -- they discussed appropriate and useful fashions for shopgirls, teachers, office workers and so on, as well as the society lady (who wasn't really their target market). All of these women worked themselves, and influenced their areas of expertise greatly. Some of the dress doctors were even involved in academia, in chemistry departments and the like, before eventually being shuffled off into "Domestic Arts" which were often first then targeted when budgets shrank.

Przybyszewski touches on the inequity of race in her book -- the Dress Doctors often addressed an assumed market of white women, and when they went into homes and women's clubs to teach, had to recruit black women to work as adjuncts to teach in black communities, as many of the default instructors would not go into those homes. She also reflects on how the manuals that taught suitable colour matching and how to make fashionable choices based on appearance also gave short shrift to anyone outside of a very narrow range of "not-white" complexions. There is only brief mention of these issues within the scope of this book, though, and I would love to read a book that is completely focused on this area -- I think there is a lot more to learn here.

I was so engaged by this book, which I read in e-format thanks to Netgalley. Its publication date is set for April, and I would love to get myself a hard copy to refer to often, as there was SO MUCH information about so many different women, and different organizations that affected their work. I felt that this combined elements both of good social history and of dressmaking in particular (of course), both of which I love.

Anyhow, there was much more detail in it about tons of other designers, instructors, and social movements that I could share, and many more cool anecdotes and interesting facts to trot out at a dinner party, but I'll stop now and hope that you'll be intrigued enough to get yourself a copy in a couple of weeks when it is available. If you have any interest at all in the domestic arts, or women's history, or simply fascinating non-fiction, do put this one on your list. Przybyszewski has created a book that will end up leading you down many new paths of investigation!

(first posted on my book blog, The Indextrious Reader)