Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Five Reflections and Goals, 2016

To finish off 2016, I'm taking a moment to reflect back on the sewing year and to set some goals for the next.

 image via British Library flickr stream


  • Having a #sewingfail (or 3 in a row) really cramped my sewing style this year. I have to keep on without letting non-successful projects get me down.

  • When I enter contests or even sew-alongs I get sewing block - I don't think they are for me!
  • But, I also need a workplan so I always have a project in the queue. That way I will always have the next thing ready to pick up and won't waste time procrastinating on making a decision about what to start!
via Library of Congress flickr stream


1. Use my stash. My experience of having to move my sewing supplies out of my sewing area and back this fall meant I really experienced how much I have in my stash. I could sew all year without buying a single piece of fabric. That's most likely not going to stop me from doing so, but, I am aiming to use more stash than I add this year.

2. Make something for my husband. I've been promising him something for a while now, so it's time to bite the bullet and start a menswear project (thinking of Vogue 8987 right now)

3. Watch my Craftsy classes! I've probably got about 20 classes and have only watched 5 all the way though. Time to get busy with the learning!

4. Keep learning new skills - see #3!

5. Tangential to my sewing goals is a desire to improve my blog layout and photography skills. This one is a nonessential but one I still want to try to get to.

Musician June Christy sewing, via Library of Congress flickr stream

So that's what my sewing year looks like in retrospect, and I'm hoping when I do this exercise next year I'll be able to reflect that I've met some of these goals.

Wishing you all the best ever sewing year ahead!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Five Hits & Misses of 2016

Well, since I've hardly been blogging this year, I'm going to jump back in with Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow's Top Fives project.

For my first post, I'm combing my hits and misses. 

As for the hits, even though I didn't really sew all that much this year, I made some wonderful pieces. My favourites, as usual, are mostly dresses! These are all pieces that I've worn a lot and feel comfortable in, both for their fit and their style. Some were learning experiences that went well, some were easy makes that I immediately loved.

McCalls 7351 - my first shirtdress!

The Sally Shirtdress by Sew Serendipity

Colette's knit Moneta

Stretch & Sew's Cowl Neck Blouson #305

And the outlier, the True Bias Sutton Blouse

As for misses, well, I've documented a couple of disasters this year. My attempt at the Sew House Seven Mississippi Top was not a success, partly because of fabric and partly because the style didn't suit me. That was quickly followed up by the debacle of McCalls 7115, an oversize dress that looked terrible on me & went straight to the upcycle pile. And then, there was my next dress project, Vogue 1499, which I tried making from a beautiful rayon challis but which was the third cursed project in a row and I couldn't even take photos I was so bummed by it. Because of the fabric it's also in the upcycle pile now.

The 'miss' that isn't terrible but that I just have not worn more than once is my Simplicity 1317 luxe sweatshirt. It's just not really my style at all. Plus the gathers at the front neckband make me nuts.

And lastly, the only other real "miss" of the year is the fact that I hardly did any sewing, relatively speaking. Busy days at work, lots of extra projects, and a lengthy loss of sewjo really affected my sewing this year. While my own life was pretty average and stable, world events really exhausted me and reduced my motivation for much of the year.

And I miss it! Hopefully I won't have the same missing sewjo in 2017. And that there will be even more hits in the new year.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Literal Elephant in the Room

What is the elephant in the room? This dress, clearly. It's a whole herd of them!

Another elephant in the room is the resistance a sewist can feel to sewing. When does your life-giving hobby begin to feel like a terrible burden? Sometimes. Sometimes when I am expected to do something, no matter how much I want to, I procrastinate, put off, ignore. And sometimes when I'm sewing it feels like I'm "off", like everything I make is a disaster.

That level of perfectionism and performance anxiety almost kept me from completing this dress. Despite the fact that I loved this pattern (Vogue 9201) and this super-cute lightweight cotton (who can resist marching elephants?) and that Fabricville offered me this choice as my next blogger project and thus I felt the obligation to get it made up, I felt a lot of resistance to actually getting to work. But, taking the advice for this feeling of resistance in another field, writing, I finally tackled this dress "bird by bird"... or perhaps elephant by elephant.

There were some issues with making it: I had to unpick and redo all the bodice buttonholes at least once; I basted up a sleeve and then realized it was too long so had to trim both sleeve pieces at the shoulder and resew them; and when I got to the side zip I realized I didn't have any 14" navy invisible zips, and there were none to be found anywhere at all in town. So I switched it to an enclosed lapped zip (using the instructions in my trusty Readers Digest Guide to Sewing), and that ended up working very nicely in the end. There is also a fair bit of hand stitching on this pattern so it did take a bit longer to finish.

Thankfully, I made a bodice muslin -- I had to shorten it in bodice and skirt, and make a swayback adjustment -- finally the muslin fit, and I cut my fabric... whew. I seem to have got the fitting right on this one. This Vogue pattern is a good one, though, with lots of techniques but a straightforward construction process, and I learned tons making it up. It has nice details that make it a satisfying project, and fun to wear now that it's done.

Anyway, to see more and get the deets, check out my blog for Fabricville about this challenging project!

And now, onward and upward with Christmas sewing :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Aprons, Aprons Everywhere

This weekend I attended an annual event that begins the Christmas season for me, the Rotary Club Christmas Craft Fair. 

Flickr Creative Commons: Photo by Sabrina Dan Photo
Photo credit: SabrinaDan Photo

With Christmas music playing and lots of gift ideas, it's fun to wander & get ideas. What was the big takeaway? Aprons are hot again! They were everywhere. I think there were at least 5 vendors selling variations on aprons.

There were small colourful frilly ones, manly ones, and I think my favourite, large practical ones decorated with applique and hand embroidery, by artist Carmen Nistor Caldwell (she's on Instagram which I don't have so here is a link where you can see some of her recycled textile bags and aprons)

This was very interesting to me, since for some reason I've just had a resurgent interest in aprons and have 3 library books out right now on the topic. I'm reading all about modern and historical aprons, working on one for myself, and thinking about, well, Christmas gifts!

I'll talk about the books I'm reading in a later post, but wanted to share this brief pamphlet with suggestions for aprons as Christmas gifts, from the US Dept. of Agriculture, way back in December of 1944. I especially like the suggestion for Uncle George....

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?