Sunday, April 22, 2018

Yes, I Made A Garment In Quilting Cotton. So There.

Well hello! The weather has been quite lovely for the last few days and I’ve either been out or in the studio feeling as if I should be out. Quickly, enjoy it thoroughly before Glorious Spring escapes!

Oh yes, in the studio - or, as I’ve begun to refer to it, “The Atelier” (snort!) - I’ve been working hard and finished the first of that nearly-endless pile of sewing. Behold, the Batik Alder Shirtdress:


You will note that this wasn’t even in the photo list I posted at the end of March but the pattern was one of those that I pasted together and did the fitting changes on so somehow it jumped to the head of the queue. I apologise for the lack of clarity in the modeled photos. I wanted to git ‘er done! And of course the light was fading and I was tired and blah-blah-blah. I kind of love my baggy Clown Pants underneath though! Heh. The detail pic shows the fabric better and the small piece of black sateen (left after underlining my Marcy Skirt) that I used for the inner yoke and the armhole binding. I got a bit creative with my label too. You might have noticed that I’m rather fond of batik fabrics and this one is a little less stiff than some of the quilting cottons out there so I thought it was quite suitable for a shirt. I got it a couple of years ago at the sewing show in Puyallup and just hadn’t found out what it wanted to be until this pattern. Dark grey, brown and dusky blue go perfectly with a lot of my wardrobe colours.

The pattern, Grainline’s Alder Shirtdress, is the first one I’ve used from this company. Interestingly, I had to widen the shoulders quite a lot for coverage. I usually have to narrow them instead. Along with raising the underarms, I had to figure out how to alter the pattern to slope the shoulders. (I discussed this in a previous post.) Both are usual adjustments but for once I didn’t have to lower the bust dart. Go figure. I probably could have used a small FBA though because there’s not quite enough room to wear a T-shirt underneath even though I graded out from a 14 to an 18 (the largest size) on the bodice. Conversely there’s a little too much fabric in the upper chest area, likely thanks to increasing age and non-ideal posture. Not quite sure how to fix that but I think the dress still fits pretty well in this version. I will likely make another if this one gets worn enough. In a very different fabric and not right away however.

Moving on to cutting out some more fabric! The pile doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller somehow. Even though I controlled myself quite carefully when I went to Dressew the other day and mostly followed my list. I was after a zipper and a lot more thread plus an alternative fabric to coordinate with my Maiwa checked khadi cloth. The original choice was a rather lightweight and stretchy black knit but I thought it was too likely to stretch out of shape as the top section of the planned dress (V8975) when combined with the weight of the khadi skirt. The handspun and handwoven fabric is actually fairly light but the skirt folds and pockets are the usual Marcy-esque voluminous. So instead I found a 100% cotton (no spandex) jersey that’s heavier and has very little vertical stretch and only a modest amount of horizontal stretch. It’s also not quite black but a really dark almost-black charcoal grey labeled “Raven” on the bolt. I think it will work much better for my vision. We’ll see when we get there.

However, speaking of light and stretchy, the one thing I really was unable to resist at Dressew was the last 2.5m of a bolt of rayon/spandex jersey in a fabulous never-seen shade of slightly marled medium moss green. I could not leave any of it behind! It happily goes with a tonne of things in my wardrobe. T-shirts will ensue.

So I had better quit typing here and go warm up the rotary cutter, huh?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Back & Forth: From The Garden To The Studio

Hello! Another rainy day. I’d use it to play in the studio but we’re taking his mom to lunch. At least lunch is in the garden store! I need to pick up more seedling soil. I used all I had up on these babies:

There’s more under the lights because it’s too cold to put them out. And I haven’t even started the squash and cukes yet.

However, in between the rain I managed to get my peas finally in and yesterday I dug a couple of beds and got the potatoes in:

Four more beds to go and we’re not even talking about the dye garden yet. So late this year and it’s not even because we were away for a month in February/March. It’s cold and just keeps raining too much. Oh well. Stuff will grow and I’ll forget that there ever was a late start.

Meanwhile, I finished my Catch & Release cardi, pattern by Melissa Schaschwary.


The yarn is Cloudborn Fibres wool fingering twist, colour Iron Heather and the knit is very loose and drapy on 5.5mm needles. Like a shawl with sleeves. I love this sweater so much that I’ve barely taken it off since I finished it! This one is going to get lots of wear.

Still mucking about with my patterns. I’m at an impasse with a raglan sleeve top drafted for wovens. I’m not sure how to size down the sleeves to fit me. May have to make a muslin before I can figure it out. Ugh. However if I can get this to fit I’ll have a raglan TNT that I can hack into different styles. Stay tuned.

I’ll leave you with this photo of my rhubarb:

Slow spring or not, it’s almost big enough to start picking! Rhubarb sauce for ice cream. Yum. Or my oatmeal porridge. Also yum.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Having A Fit

For the last few days I’ve been obsessed with making all my fit adjustments to as many patterns as I can stand before I lose the urge. It’s making me a little crazy since every one is different. First I have to figure out which pattern size to start with. Then I begin at the top - the shoulders, front and back - then work down to the armholes, neckline, and body. Last I fix the sleeve and occasionally any small pieces (neckband, facings, etc.) if their dimensions were affected by any of the other adjustments.

Sometimes this process is really straightforward and all I have to do is trace over my shoulder slopes and armholes onto the main pieces. Sleeves usually need the caps re-drawn and the length shortened. One pattern I worked on today needed a whopping 4” removed from the sleeve! I might have little T-rex arms but someone must have orangutan arms instead. Yeesh.

I ran into a couple of patterns that weren’t quite as easy however. The Grainline Alder Shirtdress threw me a little with a back yoke that overlapped the front shoulder by an inch. I wasn’t sure how to slope the shoulders when the shoulder “seam” was in the middle of the yoke piece. So it was out with my fitting bible, Fitting and Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach to the Art of Style Selection, Fitting, and Alteration (2nd Edition), by Elizabeth Liechty, Judith Rasband, and Della Pottberg-Steineckert. (This beast is a doozy and apparently there’s a 3rd edition, but good luck finding a copy for a decent price. Luckily I’ve had mine for several years now.) Naturally the solution was there:

You have to take some off the shoulder by splitting and overlapping and take the rest off the front and back where the yoke attaches. So I did:


Hopefully that will fit properly. If it’s not enough I can take in a little more on the fly as I’m sewing it. This method will also help prevent the gapping at the back of the armhole that often happens on sleeveless garments with my rounded shoulders. Notice I widened the shoulders to give me more coverage. Usually I have to make them narrower instead. You just never know! I’ve never sewn a Grainline Studio pattern before so it’s a whole new ballgame. At least if I’ve widened the shoulders too much I can trim the excess. Much more complicated to add fabric if there’s not enough.

Another indie designer I haven’t sewn with before is Sew Liberated. The bodice on this sleeveless jumper/dress, the Metamorphic Dress, needed the usual shoulder sloping but also needed the shoulders moved in a little toward the centre. Otherwise they would be falling off! You sure need to measure absolutely everything carefully, don’t you? This one wasn’t too hard to do:

See how many sizes this dress has! Makes it a little difficult to find your size lines but it’s lovely to have such a wide range. I’m looking forward to making this one - although I’ve switched up the fabric choices. I discovered that the fabric for the underlayer needs to be viewable from both sides so that will be the black linen. The top layer will be my over-dyed black & white rayon print, which is one-sided. My dyes penetrated through but the original print does not.

I’ve also worked on several other patterns but the last one, V1456, is giving me more trouble. It’s a Sandra Betzina Today’s Fit pattern and I’ve never tried one of hers before either. The basic block they’re drafted on is quite different from other Vogues. Even the pattern tissue is different - it’s white and very wrinkled from the factory folding and needed careful ironing before it was useable. This tunic/jacket has kind of armhole princess seams with the side front and back pieces joined so there are no side seams. To get this to fit I thought I was going to have to make a bodice muslin but I ended up tracing the pieces onto new tissue instead. Then I taped them together, did the adjustments I thought I needed and tried the results on Debbie Double. It was actually a lot closer than I expected at first glance. Props to Sandra Betzina who obviously has a clue how older bodies are different from younger ones! A little more finessing and now I think I’ve got it right. Maybe. Fabric is different than tissue but it helps that I’m becoming really familiar with the flat shapes that need to go together to fit on my own unique rounded shape.

After half a dozen patterns I haven’t run quite out of steam yet. So I’ll carry on until the temptation to start chopping into fabric gets to be too strong to ignore! Might as well run with it while I can, eh? The more I do now the easier it will be to just get on with the next steps of cutting and sewing without having to do all this fiddly measuring and paper cutting and gluing first.

So in other news, I don’t know what the weather is like where you are. I know we aren’t having snowfalls like some places but here it’s been raining a lot and still not feeling like seasonal temperatures either. It’s cold as well as soggy wet! Yuck. Even my crab cactus still thinks it’s November:

It’s very pretty though so I guess I really shouldn’t question the re-blooming. My poor veggies etc. aren’t getting anywhere near to being planted in the garden yet either. There’s not enough room under the lights in the basement for the seedlings now so every day the more cold-tolerant ones go out into the greenhouse for the day and back in again at night. Too cold to leave them out overnight quite yet. Unfortunately there’s 9 trays of flats now and more coming so it has become a rather tedious ritual. We call it the Daily Schlep. Out. In. Out. In. One. Single. Tray. At. A. Time.

By the way, have I mentioned that I’ve definitely figured out how to successfully keep Japanese indigo seeds for more than one season? These are notoroisly poor keepers but I’ve tested this for 3 years now - store them in paper envelopes in dry sealed heavy-duty ziplocs in the freezer. The germination was good even with the oldest seeds. See?

These were saved from 2015 and 2016. I planted them rather more thickly than I should because I wasn’t sure about them and because I needed extra to share with another dye garden. I also have seedlings from the 2017 seeds. This is a triumph! Now I don’t have to worry if something happens and for some reason I don’t get good seeds one year, I’ll have backups.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

PDF Play

After I managed to sort out a few of my patterns and fabrics (the ones set out in my last post) I realised that my problem had been one of Too Many Choices. I’m usually pretty good at honing in on my preferences, even in a sea of options. But this time I felt a little overwhelmed. I obviously need to curb my fabric and pattern collections until I sew my way through some of this stuff!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry that I have it all. Not really. Potential making opportunities are exciting! Who doesn’t like new clothes? If I want ‘em, I’ve gotta make ‘em. There is nothing in the shops for me. Nothing at all. I actually can’t remember when was the last time I bought a garment ready-made, other than cotton socks and a few pairs of panties. (Panties that I was very disappointed with, I might add.) Five years? More? Oh wait. There was that very cool grey jacket from a Japanese designer and a crinkled linen jacket from a local designer going out of business. But that was several years ago and I don’t wear either of them often. (Hmmm...why not?) Anyway, most of my new clothes in the past mumble-number of years are me-made. Which means that I, ahem, need to actually make them. You know, instead of piling them up all over my studio. Urp.

So today, in between housekeeping and cooking, I put together some of my recent PDFs, all from independant pattern designers. Have I mentioned that I’m kind of off the Big 4? Especially now that McCall’s parent company has bought out Simplicity. Just one big happy family. Shall we start calling it the Big One? Only Burda, which is distributed by Simplicity, is still otherwise independant. I think. Even new patterns from the Tilton sisters are not attracting me right now. Plus I have lots already that I haven’t even made yet. Instead I have felt the siren song of the indies! Yeah, I know everyone else was probably singing in the choir already. Of course not all of the indie patterns are my style and they also still need some adjustments to fit me. However, there have been a few recently that I wanted to try. And they are all PDFs.

To PDF or not to PDF? I’m sure they have their detractors as well as their fans. I find there are several advantages to PDF over paper:

1. You can hang on to every one you’ve ever had, whether or not you print them out. Files don’t take up any physical space or even very much electronic storage space. No need to find a new home for them to clear the overflowing pattern boxes. Unless of course you print them out. More on that later. You can also keep your instructions digital if you want to save paper. I usually print them though, in booklet format.

2. Most designers include all sizes in one file. If you’re like me and find yourself on the cusp of the usual Big 4’s two size groupings, you don’t have to fork out for both pattern sizes or dither about which one to choose when purchasing.

3. You can print out a PDF just once or as many times as you need. For instance, I once had a really expensive tissue paper Vogue that my dear cat shredded. Grrr! It would have been nice to have printed out a cheap replacement copy instead of using up an entire roll of tape putting it back together. Or you might want to sew it again in a different size. Easy-peasy.

4. Printer paper is recyclable. Tissue paper is not, at least where I live. Use glue sticks instead of tape too if you want it to eventually go in the Blue Bin. More on glue sticks later.

5. PDFs are quicker than waiting for the mail to show up. Or travelling to your local shop only to find they don’t have what you want. You pays your money (usually by PayPal) and you gets your files immediately. No muss no fuss.

6. Buying independent designers patterns (whether PDF or paper) supports small usually women-owned businesses, instead of some faceless corporation. The designer can usually be contacted and given feedback, errors rectified or help solicited. They often have multi-page illustrated sewing instructions or even online tutorials for their designs. Friendly hand-holding.

PDF points you might not have thought of:

1. This might not affect very many but my printer is an HP and is connected to the Internet. I pay a monthly fee per number of pages printed (in my case I’m allowed up to 50) and the ink is provided “free”. The printer even orders its own cartridges! It’s kind of weird but it’s actually cheaper than the old way of just buying the expensive cartridges whenever they ran out. If you need more pages you can get them for an extra add-on fee (or change your plan) but I always try to print my PDF patterns when I have sufficient pages left in my month’s allotment.

2. Most PDF patterns come with copy shop options that can be printed on one large sheet so you don’t have to tile them. Here in Canada at least, copyshop printing is possible but really expensive. Like more-than-the-pattern-cost expensive. Prohibitive at least for me. There are apparently more cost-effective printing options in the US. Lucky you.

3. How to store the darn things! Lots of options but I just try to keep them more or less flat until I use them. Then they get folded up as neatly as possible and popped in a large manilla envelope. If you use glue stick, you can iron them flat(ter) to be used again. Tape doesn’t usually like being ironed over. Alternatively, you can clip them together and hang them up or roll them up to store.

4. To trace or not to trace. There are opinions on both sides of this one. I tend to flit back and forth between them. Sometimes I like the transparency of tissue. Or I don’t want to cut up my printouts. I don’t pin through my patterns. I always use my pattern weights (aka rocks).

So today I assembled 3 different patterns. Here’s my set-up:

I love my paper cutter. It saves a ton of time and effort. I usually cut off the right side and the bottom of each tile. Other people like the left and top. Doesn’t matter which but be consistent! I also like my extra rotary cutter with a blunt “paper only” blade. Since I work on my cutting table, I can chop pieces apart easily. I rarely use scissors these days if I can use a rotary cutter instead.

This pattern is the Grainline Alder Shirtdress. It’s been tiled to fit on either letter or A4-sized paper so there’s actually quite a lot of overlap to stick together. It’s probably not the most efficient use of paper but it works for most people. I remember back in the day when PDF patterns were first being issued and there were a lot of issues with printing, especially when my old printer wouldn’t print too close to the edges of the paper. Designers have gotten much better at tiling and marking their patterns for reassembling.

I got a new glue stick from the dollar store and was testing it. They are all different and some are better than others. This one is extra-strong and I like it! I ran out of glue just as I finished the 3rd pattern. Not bad coverage either. Ilike to chop off pieces when I’ve assembled the whole pattern piece. It keeps the size of the page I’m dealing with down and is actually more accurate because you’re dealing with shorter “seams”. It’s also easier to glue a short seam and get it put together before the glue dries too much. Neatness and accuracy counts here!

This one is Sew Liberated’s Metamorphic Dress:

It’s similar to the Grainline one but she adds page numbers to one seam of each page. It’s helpful to make sure you have all the pages and are putting them together correctly. Just like a big puzzle. I love puzzles.

The last one that I did today is quite a bit different:

This is Love Notions Trendy Tunic. This PDF needs to be printed from a computer using something like Acrobat Reader to take full advantage of all the features. You can turn on or off each size so you can print just the size or sizes you want. You can turn on or off the lines for letter or A4 paper sizes. And best of all, you don’t have to trim anything off the pages! The left and top sides neatly overlap as you line them up with the placement lines. I did make one mistake though. Apparently you need to leave the rather broad line showing so you’re supposed to overlap up to, but not over it. I finally noticed that when I was nearly done but I don’t think it’s going to make very much difference. Maybe 1/8” or so per pattern piece. No biggie. Anyway, this pattern company has thought everything through pretty darn carefully. But you do have to understand how to take advange of the benefits.

Next I have to figure out what size(s) are closest to mine and then do my usual adjustments to the patterns before I can cut anything out. Obviously lots more to talk about, eh?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Done Like Dinner

OK, maybe not dinner since I haven’t made it yet today! However, I have finally finished my V8499 Marcy Skirt (aka “Saddlebags”. Debbie Double tried it on first:

But today I stole it back! Don’t want her to have all the fun, hey? Here’s a detail that shows the fabric and pocket buttons more clearly:

It’s comfy and warm - but not too warm. It passed the “going upstairs without fussing or tripping” test just fine. I call it a success!

So what’s next, you ask? I was dithering and flitting about in my usual damselfly-ish way. Too many patterns and too much fabric. Yeah, that’s an issue. Who knew? Eventually I got inspired to post some of my pattern/fabric combinations so they will start to feel solid, if you know what I mean. I probably won’t work on them in this order because sometimes 2 or more patterns need to be cut out of the same fabric. Or alternatively, it might take 2 or more fabrics to cut out one pattern. Anyway, this is what I’ve got so far:

And that’s not even counting the 4 or 5 shirts I want to make for Thom! There’s an awful lot of sewing options left too. Gotta start somewhere though, right? The last one up there is a 4-piece mix & match combo that may or may not work out depending on amounts of fabric available. (Yeah, I’m seeing more saddlebags here! It’s a thing.) I saw one version of this dress somewhere online in black knit with a plaid lower section and lightbulbs went off in my head! I don’t know if the plaid was a knit or not but I don’t think it’s important for that part of the dress so I think I’m safe using the khadi cloth from Maiwa. If there’s enough left over (I have 5 metres so there should definitely be) I’ll make a simple Triangle Top out of the rest and feature the red and blue selvedges on the hem. If there’s enough of the black micro-rib (I only have 3 metres but it’s really extra wide) I’ll make a lightweight pair of leggings/tights as well as the tunic length Lane t-shirt with 3/4 sleeves (my favourite length). The red/back check fabric is something I found in the stash. There’s just scraps but maybe they can be pockets or bias edgings or something. We shall see.

Meanwhile, there will be lots of pattern chopping, adjusting, gluing and measuring going on before I can even begin to cut things out. If I haven’t used a pattern before, it needs work! Happily I (mostly) enjoy making things fit.

In other news, I came across a link to this very interesting article. A very hot topic explored with well-researched facts and sensible opinions. Spoiler alert: I pretty much agree with the author. YMMV, as they say. Have a read and see what you think.

So, my dears, hope you have a very Happy Easter if you celebrate! For my non-religious family it’s a chance to get together, eat, drink, and be merry and welcome Spring to our little corner of the world. Yep, we’ve volunteered to host so I’ll be cooking for the next few days. This time I’m determined NOT to spend the whole affair slaving in the kitchen. Even though I really like to cook. We’ll see how that goes!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Shopping & Stitching

Another Fibres West has come and sadly gone. I had a lovely time though! I joined 3 weaving buddies on Friday morning and we drove out to Cloverdale together. We hadn’t signed up for any classes, all of us being rather well-seasoned fibre folk, and of course none of us needed to do any fibre shopping, right? Right.

Brenda of Penelope Fibre Arts does a lovely job every year organising this event. This was its 10th year! It’s always a great time to hug old friends and chat with new people and see what lovely items the vendors have for us. I (ahem!) bought a few things:

From top left that’s a cone of deliciously fine 40/2 linen from Jane Stafford, 3 tubes of yummy 8/2 hemp from Langley Yarns & Crafts, a very nice wraps per inch gauge from Crafty Jak’s, two skeins of pretty sock yarn from Black Cat Custom Yarn in “Foundry” and “In the Navy”, and underneath is 5 metres of gorgeous black linen fabric from J & P Fabrics (no website, Instagram @jpfabric). I have plans for all of these lovelies! I’ve already washed and dried the linen yardage (metre-age?). It came out soooo nice.

I’ve also slowly been stitching away on my Marcy Skirt (aka “Saddlebags”!). It’s still not finished. All the hand-stitching I’ve been doing! Oy. Semi-couture level stuff for sure. It’s actually kind of fun but I’d like to get on to other things. Now, if you please. I did find another advantage to the underlining. You can slip-stitch the hems without actually piercing the fashion fabric. Looks very smooth:

There will be some machine stitching however. And I plan to (gasp!) serge off the seam allowances. There’s too much bulk to do anything else but get rid of as much excess fabric as possible. And speaking of excess, I ended up taking another 2.5” off the top edge and turning a wider elastic casing for 1” elastic. I can still get it over my hips so no need for a zipper. I had already taken 3” off the length at the lengthen/shorten line! And it’s still pretty long but a much more practical length. FYI, I’m 5’3.5” - kinda sorta short. Only one or two more sewing sessions should see the end of this project. I hope. This skirt had better be something I wear frequently to justify the amount of fussing it’s taking!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Too Clever By Half

Me again! Yeah, so soon. Sometimes I need to say things before they leave my head forever. You know how it is.

Anyway, I’m finally back in the sewing studio. I started by repairing all the pants/leggings in my previous post. Only took a few minutes, most of which was time spent changing thread colours. Now they are wearable again for awhile. Yay.

Then I did the ironing. Procrastination much? Finally I dug into the cut-out-and-to-be-sewn pile. Unfortunately, sewing is not like knitting. If you don’t like something that’s already cut out, you can’t just start again at the beginning. Unless of course you cut out something smaller or piece it back together! I (mostly) finish what I start - at least in the last few years because I finally have a better handle on my personal fit and style. However, one thing that’s been haunting me since way back in 2015 is this:

This Marcy Tilton pattern is from 2008. Ten years old now, but who’s counting? In the fall of 2015 I had some charcoal plaid wool suiting in a very light weight and decided to make the skirt with the very cool cargo pockets. But since the fabric was so very light and creases like crazy, I decided it needed an underlining of black cotton batiste. (Here’s a good explanation of underlining. It’s not the same as lining.) So far, so good. Until I decided to get tricksy and make a few innovations. For instance, I wanted a small pocket inside the large one and I wanted the large one to button closed instead of zip. With big buttons that needed support underneath. Not too complex so far but then I tried a technique I’d seen somewhere to underline in a way that added enough fabric to fold around the seam allowance of the fashion fabric and finish the edges. It ends up looking like a bound (Hong Kong) finish. Cashmerette has a great tutorial here.

Ding-ding! Bad idea. This nifty technique actually only works on straight or straight-ish seams. And this skirt has curves at the bubbled hem. You can’t clip the curves to lie flat if they are already encased. Not to mention that the cloth doesn’t turn neatly around the curve. Plus I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the also-curved hem:

Anyhow, the good news is that I only sewed the side-front pieces before I realised it wasn’t going to work so there’s only 4 long seams to unpick.

The bad news is that I was so annoyed with it that I’ve left it to stew for over 2.5 years! I’m not even sure I would choose to make this skirt out of this fabric if I had a do-over. But I’m at this point now. Everything is cut out. The pockets are made and the small ones attached but the big ones aren’t stitched on yet. I can finish the edges with the serger or something. I can salvage this project if I can dredge up some patience! There’s even some colder weather left to wear it in if I get my skates on.

One new change I can still make is to shorten the skirt at the waist. This will do 2 things: give me a little more ease at the waist so the skirt won’t keep riding up over my tummy (and maybe get away without inserting the zipper which is just dumb in an elastic waist) and to shorten it. I originally chose a fairly small size that just fit my measurements and right now it’s nearly at ankle length on me. I don’t like wearing long skirts. I like the look okay but they get in my way, trip me up and generally annoy the heck out of me. My balance is wonky enough as it is without having to lift my skirts to walk up the stairs! Elegant lady, I ain’t. Mid-calf is long enough which I kind of suspect was the original style idea anyway. I’m just shorter than the target market. Heh.

Side Effect. So now having a close look at this pattern has made me want to make the shorter pants view also. In linen. For summer. Did I just make my to-make list even longer? Yeesh. So much fabric. So short the days.

Meanwhile, my seeds are starting to sprout! Aren’t they adorable?