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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!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Weaving Sewing into Vacation Time


I have just had a few days vacation, and went away for a couple of them. During my quick getaway, I ended up seeing a lot of sewing related goodness by chance! We stopped in at the Bethune Memorial House in Gravenhurst, Ontario -- the spot where Norman Bethune was born -- and the house is set up in a period fashion. Imagine my surprise to see the sewing machine and sewing box set up in the dining room area:



There were also some beautiful textiles on display, look at that quilt, and crocheted spread, and lovely embroidered garments. You can't quite see the candlewicking on the pillows, but it was really nice.


There was also a quilt made by Chinese and Canadian quilters commemorating Bethune's activities but I forgot to take a picture of it! The blocks were made half in China and half in Canada, then quilted by a local group.Very pictorial style.

I also ended up doing some fabric store shopping, rather unintentionally. There was a Fabricland right beside one bookstore that we stopped at, so of course I had to go in. There was another next to a Tim Horton's that was a pit stop on the way home... I ended up coming home with 20 new Simplicity and New Look patterns (all being sold for 99¢, so I didn't hold back...) Most exciting, I finally found a Simplicity 1880 in my size! My local store was sold out of this one long ago.

  

Lots of fun on this holiday, as you can see. There was also some book shopping, museum going and sightseeing, of course, but I loved the bits of fabric and sewing history that got tucked into it all!

Monday, August 11, 2014

August's "Make a Garment a Month" Pick

After going crazy with sewing last month, it's a relief to pick just one...or maybe two...things for my "Make a Garment a Month" regular challenge. August's theme is to do a little stash busting, so I've chosen a dress that uses a little bit more fabric than a simple skirt or top.

The first is Simplicity 2177 -- I am going to make this one because my best friend just sent me a copy of this pattern that she picked up at a sale, just because. So of course I am going to make it! Also, I have the PERFECT fabric for it, a striped sheet that I bought at the Goodwill a month or two ago. The second? The green & grey colourway will also allow me to use the remainder of the grey fabric from my July skirt-making to make the matching jacket. At least that's the plan at present!



Friday, August 8, 2014

New Old Patterns

Sewing up so many patterns last month didn't stop me from buying new ones...well, new to me, anyhow. I took a little road trip to a nearby town this week, and hit 4 thrift shops and 2 used book stores... lucky for me, my husband is also an avid 2nd hand shopper, more focused on books though ;)

We had a great time, and I found some great books, as well as a few decor items and a cache of sewing patterns. I brought home a nice variety, along with a couple of sewing books -- even if I'm not actually sewing, I'm thinking about it!

Here's the haul --


The pattern I'm most interested in trying first is the Simplicity in the middle, with the yellow trim. It's Simplicity 5583, marked "Esprit". It has a jumper view but also a dress view. It really reminds me of something I owned in the early 90's but hopefully I can update it sufficiently!

The books are fun to look through -- though dated, there are some neat ideas -- I've already got some new tips from the Claire Schaeffer "High Fashion Secrets" book. Think my sewing vacation is over now; I've had a break but am ready to start something new again. 

How long do you usually go between projects?