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Saturday, 29 December 2012

(Un)Productive December

Well, I didn't have a very productive December. I mean, I worked hard, but I don't have much to show for it, what with the Crushinator sucking up so much of my free time and my will to live.

I did manage to get some (very basic) Christmas presents made and since I finally gave them to their recipients today, I can share them here.


I made tea towels for my family, to go in the gift baskets I made up for them this year. When I was planning these, I figured it they would be a nice little craft. The ended up taking a lot of time. They were pretty easy, just time consuming. I'm slow at everything!

Basically, I bought 2 yards of white cotton twill, cut it up into 6 tea towels and hemmed them. Then I decorated them in pairs using acrylic fabric paint medium, stencils and stamps.

I think they turned out nice and festive!

I also realize that this is a little off topic for this blog, it not being related to clothing, but I'm just gonna go with it.

The Crushinator: Almost Looks Like a Jacket

It's starting to look like a jacket! OK, it looks like the ugliest, most unflatteringly lumpy jacket known to mankind but still.


See? My boyfriend is not a rectangle, I swear! I think I'm going to have to try nipping it in even more at the waist and it may have been a mistake to add a little room through the chest. The biggest problem, though, is that the pockets are so bulky! They sit just above his hips and make him look sloppy.


It's not looking too bad from the back. I'm choosing to believe that the vent is wonky because the lining isn't in yet. Right? Right.


Here it is with some pretty aggressive pinning in the sides and back.


Yeah, I have a feeling this is going to get worse before it gets better. I wish that this pattern had a separate side panel. Instead, it has a front panel that that wraps pretty far under the arm and has a long dart from the underarm to the pocket.

Should I remove what I can from the front pockets and make them non-functional? Should I try to take it in at the side seems and the darts or just take in at the seems?

Also this happened today.


Awesome, right? I thought I had pricked it well enough but it turns out I was wrong.



Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Crushinator: Pocketacular!

Today I made pockets, and how. I even made a meta pocket. The Inception of pockets.

A pocket within a pocket.


I've made a few welt pockets from a few different tutorials but with this jacket, I decided to follow the instructions exactly. And boy, were there instructions.

I learned a lot but I feel like I would have had better results if I had used the techniques that I'd used before. There's nothing wrong with the instructions that came with, but there were just so many steps and pieces and it ended up being pretty bulky. I can't tell what the benefits of the included techniques would be.


Tomorrow I'm gonna go down to the notion store and buy a clapper. I'd only been holding out this long because I really hate the idea of spending 15 bucks on a nicely sanded piece of wood but the iron alone isn't cutting the mustard.



Gettin' there! Man, I'm  slow at sewing.



Sunday, 23 December 2012

Crushinator: the innards

I've finally feel like I'm making progress on the Crushinator! Today I finished shaping the lapels and I can tell you, as much as I like hand sewing, I'm really glad I'm done with all that padstitching. Whew!


I learned a lot, since this was my first attempt at something like this. I'm so glad that I have Tailoring to follow as a guide. My sweetheart actually gave it to me last Christmas. I can really understand why so many home sewers use this book; it's amazing!

I really hope this jacket turns out. It would be really disappointing if I put all this work in only to have it be unwearable.

How did your first tailored garment turn out? Are there any other amazing resources I should be checking out?

Friday, 21 December 2012

Slightly more than I can chew?

So it’s officially no longer fall and I've completed 3 of the 6 garments I had wanted to make this season. Maybe I bit off more than I could chew? To be fair, Christmas and job hunting/starting a new job definitely took up more time than usual but aren't there always things coming up in real life that unexpectedly take up your time?

I am well on my way towards finishing the Butterick jacket for my sweetheart, which took so much time and energy to fit that sewing seems like a relief! Sadly, it won't be ready for Christmas.
On further reflection, I realize that trying to sew 6 garments every season would result in 24 garments a year!  Two each month! I know for a lot of sewing bloggers (Lladybird puts me to shame) that would be no sweat but for me that’s just not sustainable in terms of time and I am trying to keep my closet more minimal, so I’m not sure I need 24 new garments every year.
I guess I just got caught up thinking of all the things I want to make and not keeping in mind the things that I should make.
I’m not completely happy with my results in my goals this season either. I really struggle with fit and altering patterns, especially in understanding how different fabrics will affect the fit of a pattern, and sometimes even understanding when the fit is right. Trouble fitting often leads to trouble finishing the insides nicely.
Of the three garments that I did make I love all three and wear them regularly. So there's that.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Crushinator: Prepare to get SEWNED


You heard me.


It wasn't until I was almost halfway through the cutting out that I realized that this garment requires almost 50 pieces. I wanted the cutting out to be finished Sunday and now it`s Tuesday night but it`s done. There were moments when I despaired. So much lining! I use every trick in the book and it's still absolutely maddening. Is there anyone who doesn't hate cutting out lining?

I'm also driven mad by having to transfer all of the markings. I used tailor's tacks when I could but there was still a lot of tracing wheel action going on and I just never feel like I'm being accurate enough! Any tips you can offer me?

The world would be perfect of it was only kids and dogs and already-cut-out sewing projects. Am I right? OK, I guess we can include eggnog in there, too.

Oh hey, here`s the fourth muslin.


Where is muslin number 3, you ask? And why didn't I attach sleeves to this one? And why didn't I have him wear it with the clothes that he plans to wear under the garment?

Well, I couldn't be bothered. Number 3 was craptacular but I learned what I needed to know about the grainline and now it's crumpled in a ball on the floor of our dining room (where it belongs).

I'm thinking I might need to add vertical darts to the front. I noticed that several of his jackets have these. I may also take a little in from the centre back seam but I'm getting started with the actual garment anyway.

Lord knows I love doing fitting tweaks while I'm constructing the garment. Oh...wait.


Please enjoy this demonstration of my sewing prowess. Yes, yes. The endless cutting failed to thwart me, Crushinator; prepare to get sewned.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

A satisfying little project


After weeks of fiddling with the fit of my sweetheart's jacket and only progressing at a snail's pace, today I did a quick little project that is also in preparation for actually sewing this jacket.

I feel like I should give this jacket a name, don't you? Maybe I'll call it the Crushinator, since it's trying to crush my will to sew. As an aside, I've had my eye on what I thought was the perfect fabric for almost a year - a lovely, 100% wool camel coloured herringbone just like the RTW version my sweetheart had his eye on.

Last weekend, I get to the store and find that the fabric is still there and there's even a couple of bolts of it! As the gentleman who's cutting my fabric starts to unroll it, I spot a flaw.

This fabric has a lot of flaws, he explains, we'll look over the length carefully and he'll give me plenty of extra to work with.

Great. We start looking carefully and I pretty quickly spot another flaw, this time it's an uneveness in the weave itself.

The guy admits that yes, the weave is very inconsistent.

We start looking for alternative fabrics and find several more bolts of the original herringbone but nothing that we want.

I'm starting to think, at this point, that I should just make a wearable muslin using the poor quality fabric.

But now the guy won't sell it to me! He says it's not good enough to sell!

I guess it's good that he was honest about how terrible the quality was but I was so disappointed!

We looked at several other stores but couldn't find a similar replacement and finally decided on a really nice black and white herringbone but it's just not the same!

The moral of the story is that today I made a tailor's ham and a sleeve roll. Booyah!


With free patterns by Victory Patterns' Krisitanne Boos's guest post at Tilly and the buttons, I used only stuff that I already had on hand:

  • Laboratory grade Aspen bedding (what, you don't have laboratory grade aspen bedding lying around?)
  • Useless Spoonflower colour charts (I got about a million of them when they changed their colour profile.)
  • Really gorgeous wool that I tried to make a hat out of for my sweetheart last Christmas that I never finished. Not like this year!!! Definitely going to finish the Crushinator.

I'm totally in love with these! They turned out nice and dense. Man, that laboratory grade aspen bedding packs like wet snow.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Jacket Muslin 2.0

I finally managed to put together another muslin. 

Has anyone else noticed that fitting instructions make things sound way easier than they are? I guess this is a good learning experience for me but ugh, I just wish I knew what I was doing! There's a serious lack of fitting instructions for menswear.

Here's my second muslin for the men's jacket I'm making. It's definitely better but there were some changes that I made that I know need more work.


Improvement, right? The stance is much closer to what I want and the collar is sitting better. The only thing that scares me is that I didn't make any changes to the collar! I did, however, buy larger shoulder pads. They're not much thicker than the first ones I used but they cover a lot more of his shoulder and it seems to help a lot. These still aren't placed perfectly but only because they're really hard to adjust once they're in there!

I still need to set in the other sleeve to check that the fit will still be right with both in.


Speaking of sleeves, I added 2" to the length and took 2" from the circumference. I was all excited to use the new fitting book I got from the library, Fitting with Confidence, which demonstrates the slide and pivot method of of adjustment. You know what I found? It doesn't demonstrate it! It shows how to increase the size of a sleeve. Over and over. But not how to reduce! Argh!

There seem to be some diagonal wrinkles that have appeared in the upper sleeve so I'll have to fiddle with it a bit. I also did an absolutely atrocious job putting in the sleeves. I'm starting to get frustrated with the fitting process, I'll admit. I just want to make the thing already!

One of the alterations I made for this version was I added a little bit of room across the chest. My boyfriend likes to layer under his jackets and it was a little tight across his pecs and I wanted to make sure there was room for the facing and canvas. I'm not convinced that the fit is right but I'm going to go with it as it is.


Shoulder! I did a pretty significant adjustment to move the shoulder seem forward and it's still not quite perfect. I'm also worried because I know that the back shoulder piece should be slightly longer than that front shoulder piece and eased in but on this pattern they're exactly the same. I'm not sure if I should change it. At least the collar is fitting much better now.


Ah, the rear view. In this picture the vent problem looks fixed but I ended up having to re-do the alteration. 

On my first muslin, the vent was gaping, the side seam was creeping back at the hem and it was too small the whole way around the hip and seat area.

For this version of the muslin, I did a swayback adjustment to correct a gaping vent, as instructed by the book I'm using (Tailoring). I ended up taking so much out of the back that I had to add some length to the bottom of the back pieces near the centre to keep the hem line level. I also added a bit at the side seams to try to give him enough room in the hip and seat.

The result? It fits well enough but the grainlines are totally wonky! Ugh. 

I've already re-drafted the back pieces for my third muslin. I used the slide and pivot method to add more room without distorting the grainline.

On the left is the back pattern piece with the slash and spread swayback adjustment and on the right is the slide and pivot version. This new one is more like grading between two pattern sizes rather than doing a swayback but it still adds a little extra contour in the small of the back. I hope that fixes things!

I also took some ease out from the side seam just above the waist to keep it from looking too boxy (you can see where it's pinned from the back). I might need o take some out across the upper back but I'm worried about taking out too much and not giving him enough ease to be comfortable. 

I've realized that part of my problem with fitting is I'm not sure what that right fit actually looks like. This is a big problem. I guess I'll just have to keep trying things and see how it turns out.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Lovely Reta Dress


I named this dress after a friend of mine who has great style and bows are kind of a signature for her. The bow and bias tape ribbon detail was inspired by this guest post by Cation for 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World. I love clean little details, like piping!



I knew I wanted a fitted dress with a classic silhouette for work so I combined the bodice from the Colette Peony with Butterick 5466 skirt pattern, the same one that I used to make my lace skirt.

There were definitely some frustrating moments making this dress! I used a delicious yarn-dyed wool twill and it ended up having way more mechanical stretch than I had realized. I had to take in some ease through the side seams to make the bodice look right and because of that, I couldn't line it as I had planned. I had to take enough ease out of the bodice that I was worried that the non-stretch lining would have been way too tight or weirdly baggy inside the snug bodice. I also had to play around with the darts and raise where the skirt attached to the bodice and take in a lot at the zipper. I feel like I had to re-stitch every seam at least twice!

Thank God I bought such lovely fabric. It ended up being super comfortable even without the lining. Unfortunately, because I had planned to line it, the seam finishing is a little inconsistent  At least my facings and hems turned out looking good.



Pretty slick, right? This is my first time using lace trim for the hem finishing and I'm really happy how it turned out! I added a tutorial here on how to do an interfaced hem.


I'm really happy with how this dress turned out! This is the kind of dress that I always wanted but couldn't find an RTW one that fit. I really loved wearing this dress today!


Thanks to Kiren, Kyla and Reta for the photos. I had to take them at work to get daylight. Ugh, winter!


Here I am in front of the Kajama, a tall ship moored at Harbourfront Centre. Tomorrow is my second-last day at work! I think I'm going to wear this dress for my first day at my new job.


What's your advice for a first day of work outfit?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Interfaced hem tutorial


I learned about interfaced hems when I took a sewing course through the Toronto District School Board continuing education program last winter. I've pretty much never seen or heard anyone else mention it but I really like the way it looks I thought I'd post a little tutorial.

It's super easy to add interfacing to a hem and it gives you a nice smooth hem and adds a bit of body. The hardest part is that you can't press the hem. Don't do it! Don't let your dry cleaner press it! Resist the urge.




Mark where you want your hem to end on the inside and the outside of your garment, cut your hem allowance. I'm using a 1 1/2" hem allowance. Finish your raw edge. Add a mark parallel to your hem mark, one inch away, in the hem allowance on the inside



Cut 2" wide bias strip and mark the centre.



Hand baste the muslin strips into the hem, matching the edge with the mark you made 1" from where you want the hem. This will make the centre mark on the muslin line up with there you want the hem to fold. Baste just inside the hem allowance, right next to the mark down the centre of the muslin strip. Just catch a few threads of your fashion fabric with each stitch, since you won't be removing these stitches.



Fold up your hem and blind stitch as with any hem. Now don't press it! You can steam it a little to relax it but you want it to have body.



Please disregard my unsightly seam allowances. Thank you.

What tricks do you love that no one else seems to know about?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Not a Real Green Dress, That's Cruel.

What should have been the construction of a simple sheath dress has turned into a war of attrition. Today I took a break from trying to wrestle it into submission to do a nice, simple reconstruction.

I'll start with the worst picture ever taken of me.


Whew! What a mess! A friend of mine let me go through her closet discards but I didn't have the chance to try anything on before I took them home and...well...clingy knits are not my friend. At least, not below the waist.

So I thought I would change it into a shirt.


I used pins to figure out how I wanted to shorten it and change the sleeves. I used the wrist ties to make new cuffs.







Yay! Not atrocious!





Sunday, 18 November 2012

Jacket Muslin 1.0

I finished the first version of the muslin for the jacket I'm making about a week ago, but I've been sitting on it and thinking about it because there are some fit issues and I'm completely unfamiliar with altering a jacket pattern. I've also had a crazy week professionally speaking but that's neither here nor there.


It seems to me that the sizing is pretty close but there are lots of fit issues that need to be tweaked.

  • Lower stance.You can see the ironed crease in his right lapel that shows where the roll line is supposed to be. We both want this jacket to have a pretty timeless shape so a ridiculous high stance is not on. I'll also need to lower the buttons
  • Remove break in roll line. I'll need to take out a horizontal wedge of fabric from across his chest to get the front of the coat to hang flat against his chest.
  • Reduce sleeve width, lengthen, reduce sleeve head. I put his right sleeve on first and realized right away that it was way too baggy. I took out 2 inches of circumference from his left sleeve and that seemed to look correct. I need to add about the length of the hem, as the unhemmed length of the sleeve is just a tiny but longer than he wants the final length to be. As with many commercial patterns, this sleeve head is way longer than it needs to be.
  • Move shoulder seam. I'll need to add fabric on the back and remove it from the front to make the seam lie along the top of his shoulder. (The wrinkles here are from his shirt, which was bunched up.)



  • Collar fit. This is the thing that's making me the most nervous. The collar doesn't lie against his neck. You can see from the photo above that that the shoulder doesn't reach all the way to his neck. I'm not sure what the best way to alter this would be. I'm afraid that it will change the way the collar piece fits and how the lapel will look. The seam at the back of the neck is at about the right spot but the collar itself gapes and is very small. I've had him try it on with other shirts, that weren't bunching in the back and the problem is the same. It seems like there should be more to the collar but I'm not sure how to add it. The collar is also really difficult to sew onto the body of the jacket. Is that normal?

  • Finally, I need to add some fabric through the seat and do a swayback adjustment. This pattern was clearly drafted for a man with tragically little butt.
Are there any fitting issues I've missed? What is the best way to deal with the collar? What are the rules for transferring the adjustments I make to the main garment to the facing and lining pattern pieces?

I've sure got my work cut out for me!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

I Kinda Like "I Love Your Style"

I've been reading lots of books about style.

Part of what I'm trying to do, sewing and with the blog, is to figure out what my style is. I didn't start caring about clothes until I was out of college so I feel like I'm way behind the curve!

I'm not sure if it's because I grew up in the suburbs, but kids in the city seem to have so much style even when they're young.

Sometimes it seems like so much work just to figure out what I want to wear.

According to I Love Your Style by Amanda Brooks, having style just takes a lot of work.



I really enjoyed reading this book, mostly because of all the pictures! Brooks is a big fan of tear sheets and it definitely comes across in her book, which reads more like a magazine.

Brooks believes that style takes work and effort (and so far I have to agree). She encourages discovering your personal style through studying the style of others and experimenting (and sometimes making mistakes) with your own clothes.

I think the idea that I find most useful in trying to figure out my own personal style is taking a classic look and adding a unique or striking element to make it your own. An incongruous accessory, exaggerated proportions, that kind of thing. There are lots great, well-illustrated ideas. There's also a fabulous blog!

How do you make a classic look your own?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Sleeve Placket Tutorial


I looked into making a sleeve placket when a BurdaStyle shirt pattern I was using turned out not to have one. It turns out it's easy to make a professional-looking sleeve placket. This tutorial is easily adapted to make plackets of all sizes.

If your pattern does not come with a placket piece, here is a video where I show you how to draft a pattern piece. All you need is paper, a ruler and a pencil.


Now follow the steps below to sew it up.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Too nice to wear?

Do you have clothes that are too nice to wear? You know, things that you love so much you don't wear them because they'll get ruined and eventually you'll have to get rid of them altogether?

 When I first started sewing, I worried that my clothes would either be too homemade looking or that I would be too afraid of ruining them to wear. For the most part, I'm really comfortable in my self made clothes and many of them have become my wardrobe basics.

 I'm glad that this mostly isn't a problem for me, but there are two RTW pieces that I shy away from because they are too nice to wear.



 100% snow white silk with gorgeous metal beading. I think this shirt really flatters me but it's one of those shirts that gets grungy-looking fast. I've worn it maybe a half-dozen times, but the armpits are already discolouring! Why are some fabrics so prone to this? I've stopped wearing deodorant with it (TMI?). Dry-cleaning doesn't help. Booo. I'm already planning to do something to reuse the beading when I finally give up on this shirt. What can I do to make this shirt more wearable? What should I do with the beading afterward?



I've had these for 6 months and I haven't even opened the packaging! I love tights but I seem to go through them like crazy. I love these art-deco macrame tights but I'm sure they'll get destroyed the first time I wear them. (Also my sweetheart bought them for me and I'm silly-attached to everything he gives me, even though we've been together for 6 years.) I often wear tights with leather boots, which seems to be really hard on them. What can I do to make my tights last longer?

 Do you have clothes that are too nice to wear? What can I do to get over it and make the most of the garments that I have?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Professional White Oxford

Hey, it's a shirt! I'm not 100% happy with this pattern, but this shirt is more than wearable.

I used Burda's 04/2012 Long Sleeve Blouse 114. I've tweaked this pattern a bit and added some little details like a gather and loop at the back, back darts, sleeve plackets.


I'll be posting a sleeve placket tutorial in the next couple days. It's crazy easy!

Since making this shirt, I've reduced the length and width of the sleeve quite a bit. I'm going to make it again to make sure that pattern is just right, but I'm going to wait on Shirtmaking Techniques by David Page Coffin to come in at the Library. The instructions that came with the pattern were terrible and I want to find just the right interfacing for the cuffs and collars to make them nice and crisp.

What are your tips for making the perfect button up shirt?


Look how giant these sleeves are! I think I'll stick to keeping the sleeves rolled up.



This skirt is one of the first garments I ever made, using the same pattern as my lace skirt. It's a damn good staple.

Who are you mysterious people?



I find it very intriguing that there are so many holds placed on sewing books in the Toronto Public Library system.

The last few times I've placed a hold on a sewing book, there have been other people with holds on the same title. There are usually more copies than there are holds, so I always get the book I want pretty quickly, but that also means that there's a pretty steady flow of people putting holds on these books.

Who are they?

I'm just super curious who these other sewers in my city are! We could be friends! I've learned so much from sewing blogs but it would be nice to share knowledge in person.

Maybe they're all fashion students? The people working in the fabric stores always think I'm a student because most of their customers are.

Do you get together to sew with friends? How can I network to meet other people who sew in my city?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

New Old Machine: Viking 714

I got my new machine back from the repair guy!

It's a Viking by Eaton's. Are these common in sewing circles? It was a Canadian brand, so I'm not sure if there are many out there in the real world. I've seen a few people selling these online but does anyone actually sew on one?


Isn't this delicious? Yeah, it's sea-foam green! I'm not sure what year it's from, but it's one of those super heavy all-metal jobs that's built like a tank and weighs about the same. I've moved it into a portable machine box, probably for good. Even though having a machine in a table seems like it would be really nice, I just don't have anywhere I can keep it right now, at least not anywhere where I would actually want to sit and use it.


Pretty sweet, right? My original machine is a super cheap Brother that I bought used before I had done much sewing (I didn't have much of an idea of what I should be looking for), so this is a real upgrade in terms of quality and control. I love being able to adjust the stitch length, the height of the feed dogs and the pressure of the presser foot, all things that were missing from my Brother. This one also sews faster, and feels better as it sews, more powerful. And a working bobbin winder, hallelujah!


It even came with the manual and accessories, including the straight stitch plate and foot.

This machine worked beautifully when I tried it out (I bought it off craigslist) but when I got it home, it would only zig-zag! I was bummed, since I had paid $50 for it. I found this guy Rick McBride to give it a tune-up and he did an absolutely killer job. It sews like a dream!

What was your first sewing machine like? What do you sew on now?