Monday, August 31, 2015

Kwik Sew Two-for-One: Bookish Inspirations

My "Book Dress" -- you can vote for me at

PatternReview has a regular series of monthly contests; this month's was the "Inspired By A Book" contest. As a librarian, how could I NOT enter this one?

I went back and forth with ideas, but finally decided on using the idea of a physical book as my inspiration. Rereading a favourite author, Ray Bradbury, made me think about the importance books play in civilization. There's a scene in Fahrenheit 451 in which a woman refuses to abandon her books when the Firemen come to burn her house down -- she'd rather not live without them. As Montag (our hero) encounters her:

"Come on, woman!"

The woman knelt among the books, touching the drenched leather and cardboard, reading the gilt titles with her fingers while her eyes accused Montag.

"You can't ever have my books," she said.

The idea of physical books vs. ebooks is also a constant refrain in my job -- I love both, in different settings. But the book as object is what inspired my idea for this dress.

Because I really wanted this to work, I first made a (hopefully) wearable muslin from a grey printed sheet and some leftover grey cotton from last summer's sewing. 

I'm very glad I did, because KwikSew 4098 is one messed-up pattern. The sizing was way off from what I expect from KwikSew. The finished measurement for the Large waistband, for instance, was indicated at 37". It was close to 34" in reality. Even with that, the Large skirt didn't quite fit itself to the waistband either, so I did a lot of last minute fixing and trimming and restitching of seams to get it all together nicely. My fault for not measuring all the pieces before cutting, so I'm glad it was a first go, not my good marbled fabric! 

I added trim to the grey dress, to try out the idea of piping my final make. Thanks to Facebook groups Monthly Stitch & MAGAM for their advice -- I decided to place the trim against the patterned fabric. It turned out very pretty, I think.

Then I added sleeves -- I chose two patterns, McCalls 6503 and Kwik Sew 4068 (both patterns with a sleeveless & sleeve view) and tried out each sleeve style. I ended up going with the other KwikSew for the grey muslin, and leaving it ungathered as I liked the bell shape. But for the final dress, the McCalls' narrower shape worked better. 

When I made the grey muslin I realized that I was going to need a big sway-back adjustment. I've never had to use one before, but adjusted the pattern to take a wedge 1/2" in length at the sides but nearly 1" in the middle. It seems to have worked nicely on the finished Book Dress, but I have to redo the original grey one.

I used a centre back zip in the grey, as called for in the pattern, simply because I couldn't find an invisible zip in the right colour. It worked okay, but was another reminder that I like invisible zips better, and so that's what I used in the final Book Dress. 

So I was super happy that I did a trial run on this one, and with a few unpickings & resewings, the grey one will be wearable as well. I tried out the cute patch pockets on the grey and really like them, but went with side seam pockets on the final make as I didn't want to interrupt the regular pattern of the marbling. 

Cute patch pockets

I don't think I'll use this particular pattern again, I had so many problems with sizing. Lots of redoing got the dress to the wearable and fitting stage, thankfully. But having to put in a zip three times is not my idea of fun. Still, I ended up with two very nice dresses so I am grateful for that, and the final Book Dress was exactly what I'd imagined in the first place.

closeup of bodice

closeup of back -- the piping is *nearly* perfect.

I match my marigolds!

So this is a two-for-one pattern in many ways -- I made two dresses from the same pattern, meaning I had 2 full weeks of cursing and jabbing myself with pins and washing blood out of fabric and having to do everything twice (hey, another two!) For some reason, this pattern was a massively complicated affair -- besides the sizing issues, there seemed to be something going wrong with nearly everything at some point. I'm so glad I had TWO reasons to continue.

I've entered the Book Dress into the PatternReview contest (and hey, you can soon vote for me there if you like) and this is also my project for the Monthly Stitch August theme, Two is the Magic Number! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lady in Red McCalls 7160

Photo One of a billion taken at the Montreal Botanical Gardens

I was able to find time to make up a quick casual dress before I headed off on my latest holiday. This one has to be a record for me: there was a sale at my local Fabricland, so I bought one of the "easy" patterns from a fairly recent McCalls release, 7160, on a Friday afternoon, and had it cut out by that night. I liked the simple lines of this knit dress, especially the basic View D, which I chose. And it made it so quick to sew -- I had it ready to wear by Monday morning. Meanwhile, I have cut-out dresses languishing in my to-sew pile that have been there for a year.....

Line Drawing

I also had a little piece of knit that I'd picked up on sale without a particular pattern in mind, but of such a bright, fun print that I couldn't resist it. It was just enough for this pattern, even if I did have to piece together the sash to make it long enough to tie effectively. It's not noticeable thanks to the print.


This dress really was as "Easy" as it was marked. I made it up in a weekend, and had no problems with it. The centre front seam made fitting adjustments really simple; I was able to adjust for my shallower right side very easily, and the neckline sits nice and flat.

Because it's an easy beginner's pattern, the finishing is not fancy. The sleeve hem and neckline are both "turn under and stitch", and while I was considering adding a neck binding instead, I ultimately went for the quick finish. My stretchy poly-knit played well with this finish, but some might not.

The skirt is quite full, so I didn't wear it on the windy days when I was away...I think it might have been a little risky ;) It falls beautifully and feels great to wear, though. The waistline seam allowances are stitched together to make a casing for a narrow elastic that's threaded through, instead of attaching clear elastic in the seam. This works really well, actually, to support the weight of the skirt, at least for my lightweight knit.

I really enjoyed making and wearing this one. It fits closely but not super snugly; the sizing seems to be right on. It has pockets, yay! I do love pockets, and this skirt is full enough that you can use the pockets without distortion showing in the dress. I did add some seam binding in the shoulder seams and along the pocket/skirt seams to ward off stretching -- I had some vintage yellow that looked great against the fabric, even if only I know it is there!

I feel like I'm in Monet's garden here

This is a super, easy project that I'd say would work for most newer sewists. It's also a pretty blank canvas for additions and modifications, I think. All in all, a fun summer dress that I am pleased with. And the photo location, in Montreal's Botanical Gardens, can't be beat! What a wonderful chance to revisit an old favourite place.

No end of beautiful locations in these massive Gardens

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Summer Stitching Surprises

I've been back and forth with a few holidays this summer so far...and my new habit is to take some embroidery with me when I travel. It's much more portable than a sewing machine ;) I'm very much a beginner but I am having fun with it. This is the project I've been working on and recently finished.

It's a quote I liked from the book Write It Down, Make It Happen (which is a pretty good book if you like journal writing and goal setting - I reread it from time to time). So I freehanded this design and stitched the letters in a simple backstitch, and the donut in satin stitch. While it's a bit uneven and I think that perhaps I may have too much tension in the middle, I still love it. It was fun to do and now I just have to find a suitable frame.

And on the topic of embroidery, I also scored in the thrift store today; I've never really seen any embroidery materials there before but look what I found! Someone was much more organized than I am...and now I'm inspired to continue being tidy with my materials this way (it's all DMC thread in those boxes too)

I picked up a few sewing books too, while I've been gallivanting around the country. Some new and some used, plus my first ever BurdaStyle -- which you may notice is in French. I'll need to get my dictionary out!

And while I don't often buy clothes these days I could not resist this vintage housedress. It reminded me so very strongly of my grandmother (and in the first, unposed picture my husband snapped, which I am not sharing, I look exactly like her. Spooky!)

It's a fun housedress, but with a belt and my yellow wedge sandals it turns into a great out-of-the-house dress too. And look at the neat neckline detail -- pretty well made house wear :)

So there are a few of the bits of stitchery that have wound their way into my holidays. Hope you've all had a great sewing summer as well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Wedding Guest Cambie/Hollyburn

I was at my niece's wedding last weekend -- and how do they so quickly grow old enough to be married? It was a lovely wedding, held at a hall alongside the Lachine Canal in Montreal, with many outdoor areas to enjoy. Beautiful setting, and a very beautiful bride.

Since it was a more casual setting, I thought that a new Cambie in a light summery print would be a great idea for my wedding guest apparel. When my husband picked up a new summer weight jacket in a light blue/grey/white colour palette, I had the perfect match for it.

Inspired by his jacket, as well as this dress on the cover of July 2015's InStyle magazine, I had been looking around for a fabric with a similar blue china-tile print. No luck. I was about to give in and just wear something I'd already made, when I came across the perfect fabric -- a very light-weight cotton-poly sheet in just the kind of blue print I'd been looking for. It was a light blue on a greyish white ground, and because the Cambie is fully lined, I knew I could use this for the fashion fabric and it would be perfectly non-see-through once the lining was in. 

I thought about using View B, with the full skirt, for this version, but as I was looking at so many reviews on PatternReview and elsewhere online, I realized I didn't really want that much I used the Hollyburn skirt instead, inspired by CameoOfKarina's latest version. It was the first time I used the Hollyburn, but it won't be the last -- I loved it and want a couple of skirts for fall in a nice warm drapey many ideas!
with the Canal behind us
In any case -- being the second time I've made the Cambie, the process was easier. I made more adjustments to the bodice to get it to fit more closely (though forgetting that this fabric had zero stretch in it, unlike the cotton I used for my first version, I did have to sit with very good posture all night long, haha). I took another half-inch out of the front bodice, and cut it with the square neckline rather than the sweetheart, which is usually my preference. I might go crazy and try the sweetheart option someday...but this was not the day ;)

The print was a little crooked on the sheet so despite trying to cut around that, the bodice does have some slant to it. I was really disappointed when I realized it but once it was all together and the swirly skirt pattern counterbalanced it, it wasn't actually that noticeable or annoying any longer. I carefully measured the waistband and the top of the Hollyburn to make sure they'd meet up. Since they are both Sewaholic patterns it wasn't that hard to fit them together, only needing minimal adjustment.
Hollyburn skirt with such nice cut-on pockets

I used another really, really soft white cotton sheet (also quite lightweight) for the lining, and it is so luxurious against the skin. It gave the dress just enough heft to fit smoothly, but kept the light flowy feel of both fabrics. It was quite a warm afternoon and evening on the wedding day, so the airiness of this dress was perfection. I was reminded how fantastic the technique is for installing the lining in the Cambie; so easy and so quick. The only real change I made was to gather the sleeves a little bit less and leave them a little bit wider, for more underarm area coverage, which I noticed I would like from the first version I made.

Otherwise it was a relatively fast make -- good thing, since I'd decided to start it on Monday night and had to have it done by Friday night -- while working all week. I am not a fast sewer, so that was a challenge for me! But I got it done and I loved wearing it. Felt like a perfect fit for a beautiful August wedding. 
A fun photo on the staircase...
especially when photobombed by a charming co-guest :)