Monday, January 12, 2015

First Make of the Year: Purple Zsalya!

I found this beautiful floral flannel at the store just before Christmas, and knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. I immediately knew that the Zsalya tunic would be amazingly comfortable in this soft, warm fabric.

I first made the Zsalya pattern (by Kate and Rose) at the beginning of the summer; I bought it because of Indie Pattern Month in May. I love my little black dress, and knew that the tunic version was a must-make, too, especially in a cozy winter fabric.

nice coworker snapping me at work!

While I had this all cut out and prepped during the Christmas holiday, I didn't get a chance to start sewing until this weekend. I took the weekend for myself, and stayed in the whole time, and what a treat that was! I changed the order of sewing somewhat; while I followed the instructions carefully for the yoke, and decided to choose the "quick & dirty" version of finishing it this time around, I then decided to set the sleeves in flat. This worked great, until I'd sewn up the sides and then realized I hadn't attached the cuffs while the sleeve was flat, as the pattern instructs you to. I sewed them on like a band but it was tight going and I had to carefully manipulate the fabric to make it work. So, pay attention to the instructions :)

Crossover yoke, so comfy
This is such a great pattern. I really love all the little details -- the crossover yoke, the gathered sleeve with shaped cuff, the gathers at the yoke front and back. It is super comfy and yet still dressy and pretty, at least I think so. This winter version in flannel is cozy and the bright print made me feel spring-like even in -20C weather!

Gathered sleeve & cuff with little wave

Back view with gathers

The purpley-navy tones in the fabric also got me going on a mending job I've been meaning to get to for months -- a simple cinching of the waist on a navy knit skirt I picked up on super-sale at Target in November. I wore my new Zsalya with this skirt and my navy Rose Hip tights (from Seamster Patterns) to work today, for a great new functional outfit. Hurrah for finishing my first project of 2015!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Sewing Resolutions

Fancy tree made by a coworker -- such fun!

As this year comes to a close, I'm looking back and realizing that I'm a slow and steady kind of sewist. I pushed myself in the middle of the year and then backed off for a my primary resolution for 2015 is:

1. Slow and steady. Be the tortoise, not the hare.
Easier said than done, when I feast my eyes on all the wonderful patterns out there that I just want to make NOW. But when I'm overwhelmed by choice, I end up not making anything at all. So...choose one and make it start to finish.

2. And in a related resolution -- get back on track with my Make a Garment a Month challenge. Having the support of other sewists who are doing the same is really helpful. I must continue!

3. Another related resolution -- finish those UFOs one way or another. Finish sewing them, or decide to let them go.

4. My final resolution: learn new skills.
I have signed up for a number of Craftsy classes and I'm halfway through a couple of them. I want to watch them in full, and then work through them to learn better fitting skills, and some new tricks and tips as well.

5, And another extra one -- keep going with my embroidery and get enough practice in to actually get good at it!

Those are my sewing goals. I have so many patterns and so many lengths of fabric in my sewing corner that I've got to get some projects made just to keep from being buried under a fabri-lanche.

I wish all my fellow sewists a very happy New Year and abundant Sew-Jo in the months ahead!

Fun long-distance gift from my best friend. Does she know me or what!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pattern Review's Great Sewing Bee, Part I

This month Pattern Review is doing a really fun contest, modelled on the Great British Sewing Bee (a show I really love) It's set up so that's there is an assignment each week, and then you find out if you go on in the competition at the end of each challenge. This first week was an A-Line Skirt; I joined in, but alas, will not be moving on. Probably a good thing; now I can cheer for everyone else while getting busy on all the Christmas sewing I have in the queue! And pushing myself to do this in a week (actually less) really helped me get over that 'sewing block' I've had for the last month or two.

For my attempt, I used a vintage pattern that I have had in the stash for a while, Simplicity 9825. I also used some navy polycotton from my stash, and made a contrasting waistband from a floral sheet with nice blue/purple tones in it. The skirt pattern was only 17 inches long but instead of lengthening it I added a contrasting hem band of the same floral.

Lapped zip at centre back, a tiny hook & eye (gah, I hate those things) and a lining. I used some pretty mauve lining that my husband uncovered when he cleaned up my sewing space ;)

I had fun doing this, even though 3 of the 7 days of the challenge were taken up with my being away from home. I sewed like the wind the rest of the time -- until the late nights, resulting in dark pictures. But one of the results of my weekend away was that I discovered a style of embroidery called Kantha, which comes from the region of Bangladesh/West Bengal. (one of the people at the class I was at also ran a charity selling hand-stitched scarves from that area) Kantha is a style that uses a simple running stitch that adds some really nice texture to cotton fabrics (often old saris) It can get a lot more fancy too -- but I just wanted to try this out with the basic stitch. So I stitched the waistband and hem band as contrast.

It was a lot of fun, and I really, really like how it turned out. It feels pretty and it fits, yay! Here are more pics.

Closeup of my attempt at Kantha

Such pretty lining
**addendum: I've just seen that Round 2's challenge is to make a men's button down....whew, am I glad I am not doing that, LOL!

Friday, October 24, 2014

October's "Fire Opal" Dress

I've fallen behind in my "Make A Garment A Month" projects -- August and September have both disappeared with their respective makes still sitting in pieces on the "to do" pile...

But I jumped back in this month, with Sarah Liz's wonderful October theme, Opal. I love opals, and since they're my birthstone I can wear them without incurring any bad luck :) I have a beautiful sweater knit that I wanted to use for this month, as it's all blue and shiny white and opal-like...but instead, I couldn't resist making this new Vogue pattern from a red ponte knit that I've had in the stash  for a while.

So I'm calling it October's Fire Opal dress!

I used Vogue 9022, a pattern that I ordered pretty quickly after it was released. I like the relaxed feel of it, and the cute pockets. I thought it would be a great work dress.
Vogue Patterns Misses' Dress 9022

Once again, without even consciously realizing it, I've made a copy of the pattern cover. My dress is a similar solid red, although I could definitely see this one in a colour-blocked version. It also states that this can be made knit or woven; since I chose a knit, I left out the walking vent in the back as well as the keyhole opening at the back neck. Just stitched up that centre seam top to bottom -- I left in the seam, however, to assist with some shaping.

Back view -- what was I doing? No idea

The making of it was easy. It's just basic straight seams, no set in sleeves, and some hems & facing. I did add in an extra inch to each side below the waist by grading out, since my pattern was a medium -- and while I'm generally medium on top, I'm large on bottom. 

The only unusual bit is the pocket construction. The side panel is in two lengths, and you stitch together the bottom seam of the pocket and then fold that length over to form the pocket. Despite there being "fold lines" marked, I would strongly suggest that after folding these pieces you carefully measure both side panels to be sure that they are even -- you don't want to have to unpick one side after sewing everything and readjust it. Don't ask me how I know that.

Red dress outside on a beautiful fall day

There is no stitching to hold down the tops of the pockets -- I suppose you could top stitch them before continuing with construction if you wanted that look. As is, it is a loose, soft look that I quite like. 

Overall I am pleased with this dress. The knit has enough weight that it doesn't cling, and the lines of the pocket seam and of the neck facing don't show through. I was going to switch the neck facing to a simple turned under neckline hem, but decided against it as I wanted a clean finish, and was worried about puckering at the neckline if I just stitched it down. You could probably also finish it with a neck binding if you preferred.

Feels good to be getting back into some fall sewing with this bright and comfortable dress.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hand Stitchery 101

Hello, I'm back! What's the reason for such a gap in my blogging? Well, boring stuff like being really busy at work etc.... but also some new projects.

One of the reasons I haven't been sewing much or posting much here is that I've been bitten by a new crafty bug -- embroidery. This is what I've been up to in my evenings over the past while.

I saw a class on Craftsy -- Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery with Jessica Marquez. (highly recommended -- and on sale now!) This reminded me that I'd always been interested in hand embroidery, and I was in the mood to learn something new. So I signed up and off I went, fitting in my lessons and practice in the odd minutes between work and meetings and so on. I've only got one or two more stitches to practice before I've worked my way through this really excellent class, then I'll have to branch out and try putting them together into a design. Here's a batch of stitches from the first couple of lessons -- very first try so the fabric was pulled a bit, and I realized I needed more practice, but still very enjoyable.

Then the next couple of lessons, with looped stitches and some knotted stitches too

And then the crossed and fill stitches (I love the herringbone most). The two leaf stitches are sitting right above a curvy satin stitch which looks amusingly face-like. I still have to add in my long & short stitches along that curvy shape as well. But I couldn't resist testing out a different thread in the big open space, and freehanded a labyrinth out of pink variegated crochet thread. I quite like it. (if you like labyrinths you can also buy a set of labyrinth embroidery patterns from Sublime Stitching -- I've drawn them so often that I just freehanded this little sample)

So lots of stitching going on over here, and I'm having fun learning something new. Do you like embroidery? Do you have any great sources to share? I recently made the Zsalya dress by Kate and Rose, and their company also sells pretty Hungarian embroidery designs too. Are there any other pattern companies that include embroidery?

But it's just about time for me to finish up a couple of the dresses patiently awaiting my attention on the sewing table, so hopefully the next post or two will have some finished sewing to show you, too!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Text Talk

Since my big sewing blowout in July, I haven't been doing a lot of actual sewing. I've bought fabric, and cut lots of patterns out in preparation, I've been taking some online classes, I've even bought and prepped some new patterns. But the sitting down and sewing hasn't been happening enough. This time of year, though, is a really busy time for my other passion -- books.

Fall brings a huge list of new releases that I have to read. Yes, have to. For my job (librarian) and various committees I belong to, I have a reading list that I must get to. And of course, there is all that pleasure reading to squeeze in as well! 

women-in-clothes-cover-usHere are a few great titles that have come my way in the past while, things I've read and things I want to read.

First off, there is a new release, a book of essays called Women in Clothes. How could I NOT want to read this one immediately? The publisher synopsis states that "Women in Clothes explores the wide range of motives that inform how women present themselves through clothes, and what style really means." To make it even more irresistible, their website is amazing. You can read the surveys that this book is based on, and you can even fill out the survey yourself. Even if you don't want to take the time to fill out all 83 questions, do look at it -- there are many thought-provoking questions about our style, clothing preferences, and the deeper meaning behind it all.

I've also just picked up a copy of Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style and read through it. Gunn is well known as a fashion leader, and his advice is very specific -- know your style, dress appropriately, don't make the fashion faux pas that he makes clear in his text. It's a bit of a fluff read, especially the chapter of fashion mentors (find your style maven and follow her example -- all the usual suspects -- Marilyn, the Hepburns, etc.) But it was still entertaining, and I certainly share his horror at people wearing pyjama pants in public. 

This book actually reminded me of another book from 1938, Margaretta Byers' Designing Women, all about how to dress your age elegantly and affordably.

There are many fashion/design books on my radar lately. I've also just finished Diana Vreeland's "D.V." -- while she is fascinating and of course full of crazy stories, I was exhausted just reading this book -- I can't imagine spending time in her actual presence! She's been described as eccentric and imperious. And I can see why after reading this one...

But I've also been reading and reviewing a few others books that may be of interest to sewing readers, over at my regular book blog. I've just read a very interesting Canadian memoir called Measure of a Man, by JJ Lee (my review here) -- it's a blend of personal and professional, as Lee talks about suits and the memory of his own father. Really an excellent read; I hope you'll check out the original review for more of my thoughts on it, plus some links to some of the neat stuff that JJ Lee does besides writing memoirs (including a radio show about our clothing choices). 

And one last mention of a book I read a while back and really enjoyed -- I think I might have mentioned it here before -- I've seen it making the rounds of a few of the sewing blogs, but wanted to throw my recommendation in as well -- Linda Przybyszewski's The Lost Art of Dress. (my review here) It was informative, entertaining, thoughtful, and full of great notes that led me to other reading (like "Designing Women" above). Definitely worth a look, so do try to get your hands on this one if you can.

That's it for this round of Text Talk. I'm sure I'm have more to share fairly soon. It's not like I ever stop reading ;)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Singer Skeleton Key

There's an old Singer machine in my mother's house, a beautiful treadle with a wooden cabinet. She's had it for years; it belonged to her stepmother, who bought it sometime in the early 30's, though we place it as a model from the late 1910's. When Granny Emma passed away, my mother was given the machine, as she was the one likeliest to use and/or appreciate it.

I remember it always being there in the house, though when I was younger, I didn't truly appreciate the beauty of it. Now I wish I could investigate it a little more closely -- there was so much I never discovered about it. I regret those incurious years!

Particularly because my mother just dropped this amazing fact in casual conversation: the cabinet has 2 rows of 3 drawers each, the bottom 2 of which are locked. The topmost drawers were able to be opened when my mother lifted the machine out and finagled the drawer open from the inside. They had a few used needles, a bobby pin, and a few bits and pieces of notion ends in it. Not much to see. But the drawers below have never been opened since Granny Emma's days.

In all her antique-shop travels, my mother has never found a key that fits this machine cabinet. Now that she's revealed this mystery to me, I am extremely curious! Is there anything in those drawers? Did Granny Emma tuck away something that no-one knows about? I guess I'll never know, well, unless we can find an old skeleton key that matches this machine. Has anyone else ever come across such a thing? Are there any secret key sources out there?

Knowing my step-grandmother, the drawers could either be empty and bland, her secrets kept forever; or, there could be fascinating little items tucked away at the back of a seldom-used drawer, revealing things about her life that I never knew. Which is it? This is a case for an intrepid girl detective. I'm going on a key hunt!