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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?

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Psychology of Clothing Choice



Last weekend I read You Are What You Wear by Jennifer Baumgartner. Well, skimmed it. It wasn't terribly relevant and took itself a little too seriously for my liking. It was an interesting contrast to Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline. Cline makes it sound like rampant consumerism is a product of cheap mass production, YAWYW makes it sound like everything you buy is a product of some underlying neurosis. Internal versus external.

There wasn't a whole lot in the 'diagnosis' parts of the book that really grabbed me, which hopefully indicates that my clothing choice is not subject to some underlying dysfunction. Or maybe I'm just not that self-aware.

There were some good ideas on how to maximize what you do have and strategize to get the look you want.
I did like her strategy of breaking clothes down into categories and trying to find multi-function pieces. Like, say you have evening clothes, work clothes, casual clothes and work out clothes. A white oxford shirt could be paired with lace and dramatic earrings for evening, a wool skirt and cardigan for work or jeans and a chunky sweater for casual. That's three out of four contexts with one garment.

This is definitely something that I've tried to be conscious of when choosing what to make. In the summer I tried to make things that would work for casual and work outfits, but a lot of the clothes that I made ended up being a little too casual, even for my relaxed office. I could have worn them but I didn't feel completely comfortable in them in a work environment. This fall, I'm trying to focus on work that I can make work for other situations with styling.

Baumgartner also writes a lot about moving your wardrobe pieces down the levels of dressiness, which I can totally get behind, except that she says that the last step is to move thins from 'casual' to 'workout'. I think it may help me avoid sewing things that are too casual if I aim to make things that are a little on the dressier side and then dress them down instead of the other way around.

What tricks do you use to maximize your wardrobe?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Style Crush: Winona Hawkins

You guys...I have a crush.

On a fictional character...'s clothing.

Have you seen Justified? I enjoy it. Very thoroughly. There are many things to like about Justified. The clever quips in a Kentucky accent. Modern day gun slinging hijinks. Raylan Givins'...hat.


But my favorite part is Winona's clothes.




Winona is a court stenographer and Raylan Givins' ex-wife, played by Natalie Zea

I'm amazed that there aren't more pics online of her in character. Her style is so feminine and refined. Definitely very much inspired by a 1950's silhouette. Even her jewelry is delicate and feminine.


This look is something I definitely want to incorporate into my own work look (obviously), but I feel like Winona's look is sometimes a little too proper (uhhhh...except for the gash on her face here). I would really like to be able to add something a little unexpected to an outfit like this (not a gash on my face).



Maybe a masculine watch?



Or some fierce booties?


How can I keep a look like this from getting boring?