Sunday, December 20, 2015

Note to self

Don't sew when you are either sick or tired or both. You may get something done, but there is a good chance that you will mess up.

As in sew the side back lining to the front and the front side to the back, then sew one side front to another side front. So much ripping out, finally got it right but am going to leave the actual sewing of the lining into the coat for another day. One can only handle so much frog-stitching!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Coat Progress

Okay, so I have been making progress on my coat. But the warm weather has not been much of an impetus to get it finished. I have been taking my time, doing lots of hand-sewing (which doesn't show up at all). I hand-stitched hair canvas to the fronts, upper back, and all hemlines. I put hair canvas on both upper and under collar and pad-stitched the under-collar. The fabric is really thick and fuzzy, and no stitches showed through to the outside even if I took bigger stitches than just little pricks. 

Given the thickness of the fabric, I didn't want welt pockets, I didn't think I would do a good job with them, so I opted for patch pockets. And they are interfaced with hair canvas, then lined, and then hand-stitched twice to the coat so they will be nice and secure without any stitches showing.

I also added a back stay using linen fabric from the stash. This will help keep the back shoulders from stretching out and will also hide any outline of shoulder pads.

At this point, before the sleeves were set in, I made the buttonholes. I made six preliminary buttonholes by machine and the plan is to overcast these with buttonhole twist so that I will actually have handworked buttonholes. I have been practising those, and so far they are not looking good to me. I may resort to going over the buttonholes once again by machine and calling it a day. 

Here you can see the interfacing strips in the hem area. With hair canvas, you cut strips on the bias that are 1 1/2" wider than your hem allowance, then position the interfacing so that it extends 1/2" below the hemline. It is hand basted along the hemline and catch-stitched along the top to the coat itself. Then when the hem is turned up, it is catch-stitched to the interfacing and it never ever shows on the outside. The bias interfacing also gives a nice soft edge to the hemline. I also did this on the sleeve hems.

Here is a photo of the inside of the front of the coat, it isn't the greatest photo. But you can see the hair canvas which covers the entire centre front pieces. I also interfaced the side pieces of the front to about 9" below the armholes. And you can see where the sleeves have been put in, I used tie interfacing (since it is on the bias) to ease the sleeve caps and then that interfacing is turned out into the sleeve caps to provide a sleeve header. After that, the shoulder pads are stitched in place. 

This is the back where you can see the linen back stay which covers the back from neck to under the armholes. Underneath the stay, there is more hair canvas. I tell you there has been so much hand-stitching on this coat. But you know, where I live, winter is a really big deal. It is wicked and lasts for four months of the year. We can wear winter coats for five months so it is worth doing all this work because this coat will get worn a lot.

Full photo of the back with all the inner stuff showing. Pretty unsightly, but it will be all covered up with beautiful shiny Kasha lining (flannel-backed satin) in royal blue and none of this will ever be seen again.

I was planning on getting buttons to match the coat in colour, but I am thinking now that I should perhaps go with jet black buttons. The coat looks really plain, and perhaps a contrast button would be a good idea. I am thinking that this coat needs a gorgeous sunny yellow scarf tucked inside the neckline and I am on the lookout for one in the stores. Funny when you want a specific colour in something, it is nowhere to be found. I may have to make one.

More later, I hope to have this finished by Christmas day.

Merry Christmas to all.

Cleaning up the sewing room


I had a big clean-up of my sewing room two weeks ago. I was finding it difficult, next to impossible really, to go in and sew with so much stuff in there.  It is still quite cluttered and busy compared to other sewing spaces that I have seen online, but it is much better than it was.

The above photo is my main machine, a Bernina 950, a semi-industrial machine that I bought about ten years ago at a sewing show in Toronto. I also have a Husqvarna which I have moved to Ontario to the house we recently purchased there, in preparation for retirement (my husband's retirement, not mine). And I also have a Kenmore 3/4 thread serger which I only use for finishing seams. I am not a serger sewer but I do like to have the raw edges trimmed and looking nice.

I can now swivel in my sewing chair and use the iron without getting up. I dropped the ironing board so that is at the right level to iron while sitting. The blue wardrobe now holds my out-of-season clothes and some garments that have actually never been worn, special ones that I made for demos in sewing classes. As my friend Brenda likes to sew, "my husband doesn't fish to put food on the table, I don't necessarily sew to put clothes on my back, it's about the process."  Those special garments tell that tale. Perhaps one day I will photograph them and blog about them.
Next to the wardrobe is a filing cabinet that is stuffed with patterns. I culled a bag full a month ago, and have to go through the stash again. Realistically, am I going to sew all of these and so many are old patterns that I wouldn't even consider making them now.

This is the desk that used to hold the second machine and now it provides the surface for projects in the works and also a bulletin board with patterns that I want to sew soon or next or whenever. However I forget to look at it, and go searching through the filing cabinet in search of a pattern that I just remembered. Or else I have bought a new pattern/fabric that jumps to the head of the queue.

Lots of lights on the main sewing table. The Bernina comes in its own table, I do wish it was wider as large projects slide off while I am sewing. For example, the coat I am currently working on, has to be bunched up in order for me to sew anything on it.

Another view of the main sewing area, with the ironing board strategically placed within easy reach.

I moved several Rubbermaid containers of fabrics and they are currently in a little office on the same floor until I sort them into the colour-coded containers up in the attic. And while I am doing that, I am actually tossing pieces of fabric and donating them to GoodWill. I must be more ruthless at this, as we are planning a big move in a little over a year and it will be embarrassing to explain why I have so much fabric stashed.

I have found, since sorting out this room, and giving it a thorough cleaning, that I look forward to going in there more and actually sewing. I have a CD player with the music that I love at hand, and I also put in an old laptop so that I can watch YouTube videos while I sew.

This room has had multiple transitions. When we moved into this house 19 years ago, this was our kitchen. My mother lived on the ground floor of the house and we, myself plus hubby plus three grown daughters and two cats, lived on the top two floors. After my mom died, we took over the whole house. This became the bedroom of our youngest daughter and an electrician once joked that she could have her own five-piece band in there, there was so much heavy-duty wiring (from its days as a kitchen). It overlooks the back yard and is the quietest room in the house.

It is ironic that we lived in less space when there were six of us than we now have when there are just two of us plus a dog. This house has seen a lot of life over the past two decades. We are starting the transition to another phase of our lives, with Nick retiring and us moving closer to the grandkids who live in Canada. Our middle daughter has seven kids from age 12 down to newborn, and we recently bought a house in her village where we plan to move once Nick leaves work.

And that house has a finished basement room that has built-in storage, it is the perfect space for sewing and for teaching my grand-daughter to sew. I could even see making quilts in the future.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Shirt sewing

I am sorely in need of tops to wear. I seem to have the same 5 or 6 in constant circulation and they are getting very tiresome.

So I got to work making some shirts.

The pattern is Vogue 2634, which is out of print.

This is a really nice pattern, a good basic shirt. I made view C with the 3/4 sleeves. All versions have a classic two piece shirt collar and band. I had very few alterations to make, just a 1/2" taken out of the armscye area and the sleeve cap. I shortened the body 1" but after making this first version, I will keep the original length.
The fabric is a lovely fine cotton/lycra shirting from in Canada. This is a small company based in Vancouver BC, offering quality dress fabrics, and wonderful service. In fact, I just saw a wool coating on that site that is so tempting. I am going to resist as I have this boiled wool coat in the making, but if I didn't, I would be jumping on this double-faced coating asap.
 I am going out of town for a couple of weeks, but if that coating is still there, I might just get some when I return. Beautiful coat fabrics are priceless in my opinion, and I am a real sucker for them.
The other shirt I have made is an older Jalie pattern, I think it is out of print as well.
I found the cotton fabric in my stash and cannot remember when or where I bought it. Just glad that I came across it while cleaning out a box and decided to give the Jalie pattern a try. Several members of our guild have made this shirt pattern and it looked good. I was pleased with my rendition of it.

Close up of the collar, which sits very nicely
You could use Jalie 3130 which is the latest shirt pattern from Jalie. It has a few more options than the pattern I used, but looks basically the same. Jalie patterns have all sizes from children to adults nested on the pattern, it is amazing to see how many sizes they get in there and you can also see how sizes grade up from one to another. It is rather fascinating. I was pleased with the fit of this shirt and will make it again.
Shirt making is very satisfying to me. I like the precise sewing involved and it is particularly gratifying to have the collar and band go on well with nice top-stitching to show it off.
Plus with shirts, you know that you can throw them in the wash time and time again, give them a quick press and they look great for a very long time.
I have a few more shirts planned for the fall/winter season, quickie projects to sew while working on the longer project - the coat!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Coat progress

I am really keen to get going on this coat, and today dawned with nothing in particular to do except to sew!
In the morning, I cut out all the pattern pieces, and then found some scrap fabric that would work for a muslin. It always surprises me how little time a muslin actually takes and it is so worth taking that time, in order to be sure of your fit before cutting into the good stuff.
My muslin showed that the shoulder line was too long on me, so I removed 5/8" from the end and blended that line back into the armscye. This will make the sleeve fit better, which seemed to have a little bit too much ease in it to work well.
I had already shortened the pattern in the upper chest area, and again just above the waist. And removed 2" from the sleeves; yes I have short arms.
I sewed the fronts and backs together, sewed on the under collar, sewed the facings over the collar and set in one sleeve. Up to the full length mirror with shoulder pads in hand. A couple of things were clear right away. I needed more room over the tummy and hip area, and the coat was too short.
So I added 3/8" to the seams of the center front/side front and center back/side back. The side seams were in the right place, which made me decide to add the extra at those inside seams, rather than at the sides. The overall length is easy to fix; simply cut the pattern pieces longer.
All of this was done by 2 pm, so I took the dog out for a walk; it is a gorgeous fall day here. And then back to the drawing board. Yes, there was time to cut the fabric and the lining. And whoa, what did I find in my stash?  The perfect shade of blue Kasha lining so I don't have to use the cream stuff I bought the other day.
Over night I remembered that I had a bolt of this blue Kasha from years ago, when I was teaching outerwear classes for MacPhee Workshops. Kasha lining is satin lining fused to thin flannelette, so you are basically underlining the coat when you use this stuff. It is much warmer than other linings and Canadian seamstresses are quite familiar with it, as our winters are so cold.

So here is the coat all laid out, you can see the lining at the top, that shiny blue stuff. Lovely firm lining that is perfect for this weight of wool coating.

And yesterday, I pulled some tailoring books out of my sewing library and I settled on these two reference books. The Singer Tailoring book is a dream, with lots of beautiful photos to show you just how things should look. The garments are dated, but the techniques haven't changed for what I want to do, so it will be my #1 reference. The Palmer/Pletsch book is an easy read, with some good fitting tips and some shortcuts that may just come in handy.
All of this is now packed up in a box, and the next step is to cut the hair canvas and sew that in by hand. I am looking forward to that peaceful hand stitching. And hair canvas has never disappointed me.
One year I taught a jacket class and one student decided to make herself a winter coat. This was over 20 years ago, and I had only ever used sew-in interfacings. So I recommended that she use hair canvas in her coat and I showed her how to put it in. She later told me that coat was her essential piece of clothing that winter, and she wore it for a long time. She thought the method of all that hand-stitching was a bit tedious to begin with, but she didn't regret it later when the coat continued to look good after months of wearing.
Buttonholes are a concern at this point. I could do bound buttonholes, but don't want to. I want hand-done keyhole buttonholes. But I know that mine are pathetic. Unless I get some practice in and get much better at them, I think I might just take this to a tailor here in town and pay him to make them once the coat is at that point. There are two tailors who could do this; one is Mr. Chung who makes suits for men, and another is a tailor who specializes in military apparel. Perhaps I will ask to see samples of their work before committing to them.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Project - a Coat!

I popped into our local fabric store the other day, with a firm resolve to just buy buttons for the shirt I finished, and a spool of white thread for some other shirts planned.

But wouldn't you know it, I passed by a table of boiled wool coatings, gorgeous stuff and I simply could not resist. My first choice would have been red, but there was only a burgundy colour which just seemed dull. However, there was a brilliant royal blue and, with only a brief second thought, I bought 3 metres of it, plus got the Kasha lining and thread and picked up this pattern as well. I have tons of coat patterns, and only went to the catalog to check the yardage but this seemed like a classic style that would work really well with boiled wool.

I stopped in again yesterday and bought hair canvas, as I plan on tailoring this the traditional way. A fabric like boiled wool deserves your best effort and my experience with heavier fusible interfacings leaves much to be desired. They probably would not adhere well to a nubby surface like boiled wool. So I will use hair canvas, pad stitching it lightly over the centre front piece and on the collar to make a nice curved fold over.

I am so looking forward to this project. Tomorrow I plan on cutting out all the pattern pieces and constructing a muslin. I am not going to take any chances with this one. It has set me back quite a bit money-wise (close to $200) so it is worth doing it really well. I am going to make view D, which is just above knee length and I think I will make the patch pockets, as one review said the inseam pockets are very small due to their position in the coat. I need good pockets in my coats.

It has been quite a while since I made a coat and jackets and coats are my favourite projects. I have been inspiring myself with Tany's blog, She has made many wonderful coats and has several tutorials on a variety of sewing techniques. I will be checking out her posts on hair canvas once I reach that point.

Burda 8292
royal blue boiled wool, 100% wool

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sewing Knit Seams

A great post by Tasia on sewing knit seams to have the look of an overlock seam. For those of us without an overlock machine, this is a terrific option.

I might even be tempted to try leggings myself now.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cleaning Out

For some time now, my sewing stash has bothered me. So much fabric accumulated without even trying. Fabrics that I couldn't resist while running my online business, and ends and more and more ends. The last couple of yards of a bolt that would only be sold at the price I paid for it, so it seemed that I should just use it myself.

Only it doesn't get used.

So I have been trying to clean out one box per week from the attic bedroom where there must be 20+ containers of fabric. Most of it is neatly folded and catalogued in binders, so that I can just flip through the binders and see what I have. But some never got put away and those are the boxes I am working on first.

To my delight, I discovered a gorgeous piece of shirting fabric, soft green with purple, and it is on the line to dry. I had even put it away with the Jalie shirt pattern, intending to use that pattern after I saw several versions made up by sewing guild members.

Cutting will be done today, I have trimmed my size out of the multi-size pattern. It is amazing how Jalie get all those sizes onto one sheet of paper, with twenty of more sizes nested in one outline.

And I did clear out one box, removing a pattern that was pinned to fabric I no longer like. The pattern has been saved though, and another one was tossed with the fabric put into a box for my granddaughter Hannah who has said she would like to make a quilt. I plan on bringing her a box of cotton scraps for practise, as she has not used a sewing machine before, and I found an old Singer at a yard sale that will be perfect for her. A machine from the 80's with all metal parts; I had it serviced last month and will bring it up to her next month when I go to visit. Another grandbaby is on the way!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

May/June sewing

The last month has seen quite a lot of things finished in my sewing room. Not terribly exciting stuff, but wearable and much-needed clothes for summer (if it ever gets here). 

The first Oakridge blouse could use a little tweaking. Since I have no hip curve, I don't need the shaping that this pattern has for the waist and hip area. In the second version, I eliminated that curve and cut the side seams straight. If I make another one, I will also make a petite adjustment in the armhole area, taking out 1/2" of length in the upper front and sleeve cap. This will have the effect of raising the neckline a bit, something that we shorter women need to do.
While we wouldn't be considered petite because we aren't tiny women, our height does cause problems and patterns are too long in all sorts of funny areas. I would always think of this if I was sewing for someone else, but when it comes to myself, I am just too anxious to get going on the sewing, and sometimes overlook small adjustments that make a big difference.

I think this is a great reason to sew a pattern at least twice. The first can be considered a wearable muslin and then you get it right the second time. Therefore best to save the fabric you really love for the second version.

These are two skirts from Kwik Sew 2788. The black one is a brushed cotton twill, the kind of fabric I love to live in. The beige one is made from a stretch twill that isn't soft like the black one. Not sure that I will like this one all that much, it is really stiff. Perhaps multiple washings will make it more wearable. 

I had a lot of cotton striped interlock and made one V-neck tee with black binding. Prior to that, I had spliced a pattern to colour block. Using the black on the shoulders area, and then carefully cutting the top of the sleeves so that they would all join together perfectly at the armscye. I was absolutely thrilled to see that it had worked and I got the proportion correct.

Both are Kwik Sew patterns, 2900 for the V-neck version and 2766 for the colour blocked tee.

I took the time to hand baste all seams on these tops, in order to get the stripes matching perfectly. So then how did I manage to cut the back of the second tee crooked and end up with an uneven hemline?  duh, how silly not to have counted the stripes as I lay the pattern out. Oh well, no one will notice it except for me, it only shows up at the back hem, I did manage to get the front hemline straight.

Another shot of the black/striped tee. I am really pleased with how this one turned out. 
Last night I attended our monthly sewing guild meeting. The June meeting is always a mini fashion show with members showing off their creations from the year. Rather than modeling the clothes, the members hang them up on display boards and then give a short summary of the patterns and fabrics they used. There are always some lovely garments to view.
One member Mary was wearing a gorgeous top from Vogue 8793 by Katherine Tilton. Another member had worn her version of this top at the May meeting and I am sure there will be a run on that pattern at the local fabric store.
Mary used a graphic print in lime green and yellow that had some black in it. She then made one collar (there are two in the red version above) in black and the second collar in the print. The added embellishment is a separated zipper sewn into the collar edge. Mary also made one sleeve in solid black and did the cuff in the print. Her top was smashing, as the British would say.
It certainly got me thinking of things to do with the various knits I have here. Another member had discovered the Natalie Chanin sewing world and, while on vacation in Hawaii, she had brought along some hand sewing to do. She made a skirt with some reverse applique on the hemline and then repeated the applique on her top, which she then embellished further with beading and sparkles.
For those who are intrigued by the Chanin sewn garments, but feel that a garment with allover applique is too much, this would be a good option.
Several members showed items they had sewn by hand and both talked about the enjoyment of hand sewing. There seems to be a reverting to the past in order to combat the fast pace of modern life. For those of us who find our relaxation in sewing, hand sewing provides even more of that contentment. Perhaps there will be more hand sewn appliques and beading coming in future garments of guild members. There certainly was a positive response to these items last night.
Here is a link to the guild's website.
I am sure that some photos of these garments shown last night will be up there sometime this week. Our webmaster is a very talented fellow Minh, who is a self-taught sewist. He drafts his own garments and always has something new to wear to the meetings. He does a great job with the website and brings great vitality to the guild.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Double Duty

Years ago, I read that you have to make a garment three times to work out the fitting issues. Some people are lucky and their patterns fit fairly well with little or no alterations. That used to be me when I first began sewing seriously in my early 20's. It was great to cut into a piece of fabric, sew it up, try it on for hemming and wear the new outfit the next day.

But time takes its toll and some of us pick up fitting problems with each decade. The bust-waist-proportion of the pattern doesn't resemble us even closely, so many alterations are in order. And one alteration affects another area, so there can be a multiple of alterations that are required.

With that in mind, I have been sewing a couple of patterns multiple times in the past few weeks.

First up is the Oakridge Blouse from Sewaholic Patterns. I really liked this pattern when Tasia first announced it and bought it right away. Then purchased three lengths of cotton shirting from Blackbird Fabrics. I was trying to be economical and skimped on the fabric, buying 1.5 metres of each, thinking that the 60" width would accommodate the pattern. Almost, but I had to cut short sleeves which is okay because we are actually getting warm weather now and short sleeves will be perfect for the next 4-5 months.

Making a pattern up more than once and doing it right away, rather than starting another project and then returning to the first pattern, really makes you concentrate on what changes you need to make to improve the fit. I worked out a number of small issues in the first version and then promptly made a second Oakridge with some fine cotton lawn from the stash.

Pictures will be coming in the next post. I don't have any just yet.

Then I decided that I needed a new spring skirt. There is no need to shop in my world, as I have hundreds of patterns, most of which haven't even been taken out of the envelopes. Out came Kwik Sew 2788, an out-of-print pattern, just the style of skirt I was looking for.

I had some black brushed cotton twill with lycra in just the right length to cut view B. A few adjustments were necessary after the first try-on, but I got it fitting the way I want and have just cut out a second version in beige cotton twill, my favourite summer fabric.
This pattern is a gem. I used to wear skirts mid-calf but that seems to be out of fashion these days. And I am not going to go the maxi route, I am way too short to carry that off. So knee-length it is for this summer, despite the varicose veins that have popped up. When did that happen? 
This pattern has a contour waistband, definitely the most comfortable waistband other than an elastic one. I don't know why I put up with straight waistbands for so many years. Once I discovered contour bands, I was a convert. They sit just below the waist and sit on the hips, without riding either up or down. I think their great fit is because they mimic the body shape, what a novel idea!
These white legs need some sun really quick in order not to look so sickly.
I feel quite satisfied with myself for using up three pieces of fabric from the stash. I didn't even need to buy thread or zippers as I had those in the stash as well. Although I am getting low on good interfacing and that may have to be ordered online. The local fabric store doesn't carry the quality of interfacing that I got used to when I ran my fabric business. Actually I used silk organza in the waistband of the Kwik Sew skirt as I didn't have anything else suitable to interface the band.
Lots of things lined up to sew for summer. Spring and summer sewing is my favourite as I get to sew the fabrics I love most, linens and linen-cotton blends. And there are lots of those in the stash, plus many gorgeous new ones at the fabric store.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grand-daughters in dresses

Their mom sent me a picture of the two girls all ready for church. 

Hannah just turned 12 and Sarah will turn 3 next month.
Beautiful girls! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Knitting Blues

Knitting needles have been busy.  This is Traveling Buds Cardigan, a free download from the Cascade Yarns website.  I have not knit all that much, but so far my favourite yarns come from Cascade. I prefer to knit with 100% wool. This was a superwash sport weight wool; it is a wee bit soft for my liking. The concern will be how this will wear.

After completing an Aran cardigan, I needed something simpler to knit while watching TV. This pattern was just the ticket. The majority was knit and purl with a pattern that became fairly easy to remember after a short while. 
I would like to become more proficient at seaming knits. When you are a garment sewer for the most part, seams are important. And my not-so-pretty seams in knits leave much to be desired.
I found a wonderful tutorial on Susan Crawford's blog.
Her knitting is lovely, and if I can learn to knit and sew knits like she does, I will be one happy camper. As they say, practise makes perfect. So another sweater has been cast on. I have sweaters that I haven't even worn, I seem to just like knitting them.
A sewing friend of mine once said that she sews for the love of sewing, she has many things she has never worn. Then she said that her husband fishes for the love of fishing and he is an advocate of catch-and-release. I guess I can count myself a knitter who casts off and releases.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Nesting Dresses

Sort of like those stacking dolls that you can get, the Russian ones that are painted so beautifully. This dress for Hannah and one in the matching fabric for her little sister Sarah will be mailed off this week. Just have to buy some buttons for the little dress. The little dress is Simplicity 5580, an out-of-print pattern.

Amazing how you can have hundreds of white buttons and there just aren't 7 the same that are nice enough for this little dress. I would love to get some nautical ones, but our fabric store has slim pickings when it comes to buttons, so I will just some nice very white ones to accentuate the piping that I put along the opening edges of the dress.

Their mom will take a photo and send it to me, I am sure.

My husband commented that I should make a third dress, smaller yet again, to complete the set. Perhaps a doll's dress should be added. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Simplicity 1382

I totally love this dress for my grand-daughter Hannah. The fabric is a soft cotton, white polka dots on a purplish navy background, found in the quilting section of our local Fabricville last year. Intended for a shirt-dress for myself, which never got made, I discovered the bag of fabric with thread and buttons in my sewing room. I'm glad it didn't get made into a dress for me. I can't wait to see this on Hannah. She is growing into such a beautiful young lady and I think she will enjoy wearing such a feminine dress.
You can't see the details because of the dark colour of the fabric, but the bodice is princess seamed and is stitched to an inset waistband. The skirt has gentle deep folds in front and back, a very grown-up look. I remember having a Vogue dress in the early 90's that was similar to this and I loved it. Almost a vintage feel to it.

The pattern is Simplicity 1382. I cut between size 10 and 12 as Hannah is about to turn 11 and she is a slender girl, perhaps a little on the petite side.

There is enough fabric left over to make a dress for her sister Sarah who is three. She is at that finicky age where she only wears certain things. Right now it is leggings and a skirt, pretty hard to get her into anything else. But perhaps if she can see that she could look like her big sister, she might be persuaded to wear a dress. We shall see; if not some other little girl will benefit from the dress, I am sure.

I will ask their mom to take photos when they get the dresses. Which should be in a week or so, as I have to sew the second and then mail them both to Ontario, close to a thousand miles away.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Current Projects

I have been working on getting a tried-and-true basic dress using this pattern.

The pattern is Butterick 6186, a pattern by Connie Crawford. It is a princess-seamed dress with the seam coming from the armhole rather than the shoulder. It has a back zipper, but I imagine if you used a knit fabric, you could eliminate the zip.

I sewed this in a cotton batik fabric from my stash, figuring that if it worked, it would be a wearable muslin. But I'm not so sure about the fabric, it's a bit loud for my usual taste. Perhaps on a summer day with the grandkids, I could wear this, I don't think I would wear it anywhere else.

My first impression was that the fit was pretty good, letting in or letting out the side seams, taking in the princess seam above the bust to eliminate the armhole gaping. Of course, one alteration affects another area and fiddling with the armscye resulted in having a sleeve that was too large. It will have to be reduced in the next version; for this one, I simply made a pleat at the top of the sleeve and called it a design detail.

But one, or rather two, issues have me puzzled. The shoulder seam is not straight on me. I have noticed this before in other patterns, and years ago in a couture sewing class, this was pointed out. So it is an issue I have always had, it hasn't come about through too much time leaning over a computer or sewing machine.

Last night, I dug out three fitting books to sort this out. Sandra Betzina's Fast Fit doesn't talk about this at all. The Singer Fit book mentions it, but doesn't really tackle it well. However, I did find it covered in detail in Pati Palmer's Fit for Real People. It comes along with another issue, a high rounded back.

I had no idea that this was a problem, but sure enough in this muslin dress, the back zip stands away from my body in the top 4". Just like the pictures in Pati's book. She says to correct this issue first as it will affect the shoulder seam. She also says that people with this problem often feel as if their blouses and dresses are pulling to the back and collars of shirts seem to choke them. Yes, I have to admit I have that problem.

So this will require another muslin, making that alteration and then redrawing the shoulder seam. Funny the things you learn about yourself when doing basic fitting. I didn't know I had a forward leaning head, but I guess I do.

I will try to take a picture of the problem, perhaps someone who reads this can suggest a fix.

This minor blip calls for doing something simple and straight forward. So let's bring on a dress for grand-daughter Hannah who will be turning 11 next month. She is a slender girl, perhaps a little shorter than the average, so I will cut between the lines of the size 10 and 12 to make her a size 11.

I had bought this fabric last year to make a shirt-dress for myself, but didn't get around to it. I found the bag last week, with pattern, thread and even buttons for the dress. There is enough fabric to make Hannah a dress and a matching dress for her baby sister Sarah who will soon be 3.

So simple sewing of a pretty sun-dress for Hannah, and a second muslin of the Butterick pattern. Inspired by Carolyn of, I want to have a basic dress pattern that can be used by itself or to compare the fit of other patterns.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kwik Sew 2849

This afternoon, I did the final tasks on this shirt, the hem and sewed on the buttons. This was a pleasure to sew. 100% cotton is the easiest fabric to sew and press. 
I used the collar technique that was illustrated on Tasia's blog at
Previously, in my shirt-making, I have used Margaret Islander's technique of the "burrito" wrap on the collar. I found Tasia's method easier and it assures a better result as I think you are in more control of the process. 

This was the pattern that I used, Kwik Sew 2849, a pattern that was in the huge pattern stash. I don't know if this pattern is still in print, it probably is. Kwik Sew keep their patterns for a long time, as most of them are classic designs. I did switch the sleeve when I realised that the long sleeve did not have a cuff. I simply substituted a sleeve from another Kwik Sew pattern, blending the cutting lines into the sleeve from this pattern.
A satisfying sew. 

And I can blame Tasia and Amanda for enticing me with more shirt fabrics. These three came this week from Amanda's site,  They are lovely fine shirtings and I am looking forward to more shirts in the next few weeks. The first one might be a sun-dress for grand-daughter Hannah though. It is time I sewed something for her.
Instead of wearing knit tees all the time, I am going to switch it up to more cotton shirts this spring. My favourite fabrics, tiny prints, are all back in style. As an aging hippie-type, I am glad to see them.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Jeans - miles of topstitching

Most of my days are spent in casual clothes, so I figured I should take the time to make another pair of jeans. I made a pair last year from the pattern by Palmer/Pletsch McCalls 5894.

I am trying to use up fabric from my stash and I had everything for this in house. Natural coloured cotton twill, almost denim weight, poly thread for most of the stitching, nutmeg coloured upholstery thread for top-stitching, even zipper and button were here.
Jeans are a lot of work. I knew this pattern was already tweeked so fitting would be easy. But it always surprises you how a new fabric fits differently than the last, even though they are very similar in weight. So I will make a note on the pattern to raise the centre front waist 3/8" for the next pair.
I love top-stitching, but this did give me some problems. The upholstery thread is twisted of two plies and it tends to shred in the needle as you stitch. So thread breakage was a problem, combined with the fact that I had my needle inserted incorrectly to begin with. I sew on a semi-industrial machine that takes industrial needles. These have a groove in the needle shaft that must be inserted with the groove at the 7 o'clock position. This puts the eye of the needle ever so slightly to the left. It is easy to insert this incorrectly. But this time, I wasn't pushing the needle up far enough. Once I realised what the problem was, things got a lot better. Last Saturday afternoon, there was a lot of frustration over this.
 The coin pocket sitting behind the front slash pockets, edgestitched and top-stitched.

A real fly zipper with facing behind.

The stitching went a little wonky around the bottom of the zipper and I didn't
even try to bar-tack, I knew the thread would just split.
Back pocket stitched and edgestitched; regular thread in the bobbin case.
Finished jeans, with buttonhole and button the last things to do.

A tool I use all the time; a buttonhole chisel. I couldn't cut buttonholes without it now.

No selfies; just the jeans hanging from a newly organized bookshelf.
And a word about our weather. This is Teddy, our 14-year old Lab/Husky mix. He loves the snow, and we have plenty of it this year.
But enough already, we don't know where to put it. We have been getting snow, then rain, then freezing with the sidewalks slippery and very bumpy. The ice is 4-6" thick on the sidewalks. And today, Nick turned the car and hit the snowbank, with an ice block ripping out the parking light. Altogether, it is annoying. Try not to swear! 

After I finished sewing this afternoon, I noticed that my shoulders were all hunched up and tight from the stress of that final top-stitching. I will sew something easier next time. Inspired by all the shirts I am seeing on blogs, (especially on and on   - scroll down to her floral shirt)  I have cut out a princess-seamed shirt from a cotton that was in the stash for probably ten years. I have to admit though that the email notice from did make me relent on the resolve not to purchase more fabric. And I ordered three lengths of cotton shirtings as I feel a shirt-making session coming on.
No affiliation but I can recommend BlackBird Fabrics. She has some really lovely yardage and shipping is very quick and reasonably priced. Given the rate of postage now in Canada, I don't think I could have kept my business going; the shipping costs would have done me in. Glad to know that someone else is filling the gap here in the north.
Stash Count:  2 metres out, 3.5 metres ordered  -  so much for resolve!