Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pocket Tunic

Finally, here’s the scoop on my latest sewing:

Pocket Tunic

Yeah, I know the photo isn’t all that flattering (quelle suprise!) and the colour isn’t all that accurate either. It’s a kind of greyed blue-green that doesn’t photograph well. The fabric is a super-soft and drapey synthetic something-or-other novelty knit that I dug out of Dressew’s scrap bin. It was replete with flaws that I had to cut around but what do you want for $1.99? I used the pattern that I used for this top (in slinky knit) back last November:


I wear this one a bunch, even though I get some rather odd looks occasionally. (Why?) It’s comfortable and so is the new version, which is similar but with pockets:

Pocket det

I had a lot of fun making these drawstring patch pockets! The drawstrings are made from a 1/2” wide length of the fabric cut on the cross grain, twisted and plied into a cord. I made teeny buttonholes to allow the ends through and the other ends are stitched into the seams. I’m really happy with how they turned out.

The other interesting feature is the back neck:

Tunic backdet

I finished the back V with a rectangular self-patch and my little prairie point label with my L painted in metallic fabric paint. The date is on the underside so now I’ll know what year I made this garment in. I love these and made a bunch out of my hand-dyed cottons, leftover scraps from the Rag Quilt project. The label idea was thanks to JillyBeJoyful! Much appreciated inspiration. I’ve been remembering to put them in all my recent garments but this is the first one on the outside.

We had a lovely day out in Storybrooke…er, Steveston having lunch and a walk with Nana, T’s mom. So now we are madly packing for another Manning Park camping trip with the kids and grandkids. There isn’t even very good cell phone access up there, far less any wifi so if you don’t hear from me in the next week or so – you’ll know I’m getting either bug-munched, sun-fried, fished-out, dinghy-floated, campfire-throated or grand-beastied. Or probably all of the above. As long as I’m not bear-breakfast all will be fine. Later, darlings!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Couture or Not Couture

I have a big confession to make. I’m not a fan of “couture”, particularly since that term is misused constantly. For us home-sewers couture techniques (a gazillion tonnes of hand-stitching, basting everything, interfacing on the interfacing, boning, stays, finishing every seam with glorious perfection) are IMHO mostly a waste of time. Unless of course you are making a bridal gown or a formal ball gown – then by all means, knock yourself out! For everyday wear there is no point. It just has to be sturdy and functional and fit the body reasonably well. OK, and look good too! Especially on the outside.

Couture has always been a way for the uber-rich to feel uber-special in their perfectly fitted and carefully hand-stitched garments. Though there might be a Big Name attached to the design the actual execution is usually by some nameless underpaid peons in a cluttered workroom. Big Yawn. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the details or the skills involved in executing them. But I don’t aspire to re-create couture-level garments. I have no need for them in my life. Call me crazy, but I don’t even admire the classic Chanel jacket. Probably reminds me too much of my childhood. Heh.

And do not get me started on how silly most of the haute couture runway garments actually are! Perfectly made as they might be, they are obviously not for real wear. They are a form of performance art. Some of the basic ideas may filter down into the shops eventually in a far more wearable form. Think colour-blocking, lace, see-through fabrics etc. But our streets are far removed from the catwalks of NY and Paris. Thank goodness since most of us don’t look at all like the poor animated clothes-hangers that model them. Couture houses make most of their money from their ready-to-wear lines anyway. Just goes to show you.

As someone who makes clothing for myself (and very occasionally other close family members) I have to be a generalist with my skills. In industry those skills are embodied in different individuals: designer, drafter/draper, fitter, cutter, sewer etc. so they have time to get really excellent at what they do. But I have to learn how to do it all myself. Of course we are all better at some things than others, right? I’m pretty good at cutting out and sewing accurately. I’m getting much better at fitting. My drafting skills are slowly improving but “frankenpatterning” remains my favourite method. Standard drafting instructions still need fitting changes made to them. It’s often a lot easier to tweak something that you know already fits. And as a designer, I tend to borrow ideas from others. It doesn’t usually come out the same anyway. Wonder how that happens?

Yeah, I still haven’t shown you my latest tunic. I have pictures but they’re still in the camera! And I’m already working on a new neckline for the pattern that I used for the Toasted Waffle Tee. I spent yesterday with another migraine so I didn’t get much accomplished in spite of my best intentions. Today nothing much is getting accomplished either. We will be babysitting the Larger Beasties while their parents go to a movie to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Yikes! Has it been that long that my baby boy has been married?

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Just a quickie today. I’ve finished sewing a tunic and love it! I’ve even worn it enough to need laundering already but haven’t written it up yet. Bad damselfly. Instead I’ve been reading a lot and thought you might like to peruse some that I found interesting.

Colours From the High Country. This one is from Maiwa’s blog and is a fascinating master’s thesis by Kristy Johnston in New Zealand on the idea of “terroir” as it relates to colours from plants. Her full thesis is here (PDF, rather large file) and is a beautifully set out document.

Age and Happiness U-Bend, an article linked from Cally Booker’s blog. The theory that after 47, happiness increases with age. Gotta agree that it does! Who says it’s all downhill?

And continuing on the happiness theme, this one from Sarai at the Colleterie. You can always substitute your craft of choice if you don’t sew.

It’s raining slightly again, happily relieving me of watering duties and making my studio cooler than it has been for the last while. I need to hunt up something to dye in my Japanese indigo and weld which are both getting perilously close to harvesting. With the weld I also need to mordant too. My dyeing of stuff is tending to outstrip my using of said stuff though which is starting to become a bit of a problem. I’m running out of dye-fodder and I really don’t want to buy anything new. Consequently I’m freezing and drying plant material for later use. However, I haven’t had any luck saving indigo (either woad or Japanese indigo) so need to use it fresh. Any helpful tips welcome.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Projects Revealed

I know! Aren’t you impressed? Here I am again with more FOs. Gotta get them done before I forget what I did. And before the next batch is sewn.

Toasted Waffle Kimono Tee

Brown Kimono Tee

Completed: July 13, 2012

Fabric: lightweight red-brown cotton waffle knit, leftovers from the Cowl-Neck Top. (And there’s still enough left for a camisole.)

Notions: Gutermann sewing thread, red-brown. Serger thread, dk grey (because I was too lazy to change it out!)

Pattern: Kirsten Kimono Tee, free download from Maria Denmark.

Modifications: I cut a size M at the shoulders and bust and then morphed out to about an inch beyond the XL at the hem. I didn’t want that area too tight. I also sloped the shoulders 3/8” and brought the neckline closer to the centre by 5/8” which reduced the boat-neck. I was afraid my bra straps would show too much but I think it might have been fine. It did make it easier to apply the neck binding though.

Comments: The pattern was very professionally created and the printout went together pretty easily. With just 2 pattern pieces and a neck binding strip, this is a very simple garment to make. I think it turned out really nicely and is very wearable, light and comfy. Now I want more versions! Perhaps a tunic length or maybe even a dress.

Then there’s this one that I just finished yesterday:

Oatmeal Top

Oatmeal Top2

Completed: July 16, 2012

Fabric: linen/poly blend, natural oatmeal, leftovers from Bib-Front Shirt and Anthro-Knockoff Top.

Oatmeal TopNotions: poly sewing thread, natural; serger thread, light beige. Buttons – 5 small, matte plastic, beige.

Pattern: top 7a from Simple Modern Sewing, (already used for the Rusty Sleeveless Top).

Modifications: This pattern was already slightly resized to fit me. I drafted the Peter Pan collar using instructions from Connie Crawford’s Patternmaking Made Easy. The pockets were just designed on the fly with a ruler.

Comments: I’ve now used nearly every scrap of this fabric on this third top! The collar was interfaced and finished at the neck with self-fabric bias binding. I’m quite enjoying wearing loose sleeveless tops in the current heat. Plus they use up some fairly small pieces of fabric that might otherwise go to waste.

Several successful sewings (like my alliteration?) have encouraged me to keep going on the Wardrobe Enhancement Project. I haven’t run out of ideas or materials yet! The benefits of a long-established and well-padded stash. I’m also trying for practical items that will work in my rather casual lifestyle yet provide me more mixing options with the things already in the closet. So far it’s working pretty well and I’ve even gotten a few unsolicited compliments. A good boost to the ambition, I must say.

I also spent some quality time yesterday knitting on the Cassia In Blues toddler dress and am nearly past the yoke. That’s the part that’s been stalling me. I keep making dumb mistakes. The pattern is beautifully executed with colour-coded nesting instructions for the different sizes. Unfortunately it’s like a DOS program (remember those?) and hops all over 8 or 9 pages like the old “if/then” statements. I tried highlighter pen but that didn’t help much. I should have just rewritten it for the 24-month size and eliminated all the rest of the confusion. Constant needle-size changes and all. Can’t wait until I get to the round-and-round part – it’ll be so relaxing.

Off to move the watering yet again. I’m doing the dye garden in 10-minute segments. Just standing there is way too tedious and things don’t get watered deeply enough. It’s doing quite well now with the weld nearly ready to harvest, madder sprawling everywhere, woad and J-indigo growing fast, and already picking flowers from the marigolds, calendulas and coreopsis. BTW, we picked our first big bowlful of blueberries this morning! I made blueberry pancakes with raspberries (also from the garden) and lemon yogurt. Yum.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Catching Up

Sheesh! I was hunting all over the place for where I recorded the information on the first Ten-Stitch Blanket. Nowhere to be found! Guess I forgot to write it up. It’s pretty similar to the second one anyhow. Here ya go:

Ten-Stitch Blanket The First


Begun:  February 6, 2012

Completed:  June 11, 2012

Yarns:  leftover scraps of superwash wool/nylon sock yarn, baby yarn and anything else of the right weight. Jo-Ann Sensations Bamboo & Ewe, 1 ball purple.

Needles:  T’s purpleheart handturned dpns, 3mm, only used 2 of the set. Broke one! Sniff.

Pattern: Ten Stitch Blanket by Frankie Brown, free pattern on Ravelry.

Comments:  I needed to reduce the bin of leftover sock yarns so made this cosy blanket for TV watching. I didn’t do the corners right in the beginning so they cause it to ripple at the edges. Oh well. I used up the ball of bamboo/wool yarn for the final round, ran out and then used whatever purples I could find to finish.

Two posts in one day! Enjoy. I’m going back to the sewing machine….

A Little Sewing, A Little Knitting

Nose to the grindstone Hands to the fabric sewing up a storm! It pains me to say that I don’t have any photos yet of the two garments I recently finished. It was dark and drizzly yesterday and I couldn’t get enough light indoors. T-Man is none too happy about photographing me probably because I’m none too happy about being photographed! I’ll either get Debbie Double to model or use the tripod a little later this morning when I hope it will be light enough in my studio.

So I have two more summer tops made and a skirt ready to start sewing together. All made from leftovers so they are “free”! That is – if you don’t count my time and effort. Heh. I’m really happy with the fit of the Kirsten Kimono Tee, a free pattern download from MariaDenmark. It’s a lot more attractive on me than the Black Swing Top though I’m sure you can chalk some of that up to a better fabric choice. I used leftovers from a fairly lightweight red-brown waffle knit (first used in a cowl-necked top from last year). I can see this lengthened into a tunic or even a dress with the right fabric. My other success was another version of the top 7a from Simple Modern Sewing like the Rusty Sleeveless Top. This one has a cute Peter Pan collar that I drafted myself. It also used up the last scraps of the oatmeal linen/poly from the Anthro-Knockoff Top and the Bib-Front Shirt. Pictures and details coming soon.

Just so this isn’t a totally picture-less post, here’s the scoop on my last knitting FO that I haven’t blogged about yet:

Ten-Stitch Blanket Two


Begun:  March 7, 2012

Completed:  July 3, 2012

Yarns:  leftover scraps of superwash wool/nylon sock yarn, baby yarn and anything else of the right weight.

Needles:  Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 3mm, only used 2 of the set.

Comments:  I managed to use up the majority of my leftovers, though surprisingly there’s still some left in the bin! Either the colour or the content were too jarring. I could have kept going for several more rounds but decided that it’s large enough to cover T-Man’s lap and feet while watching TV. The colours are a little darker than mine and I finished with a round of charcoal grey.

I also am halfway through some plain socks with an Eye of Partridge heel for T-Man:


They’re a little further along than the photo now. Heels are turned and I’m on the gussets on both socks. This is leftover yarn from a pullover sweater that I made for grandson Stargazer when he was 2. Apparently he still tries to squeeze into the thing at age 5-1/2. Perhaps I should consider making him one that actually fits? At least he wears the things I make him – unlike his big sister who doesn’t!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Interlude

It seems that one post per week is the New Normal around here! Sorry about that. I’ve been distracted. For instance, we went camping to Manning Park this past weekend:


The weather was really hot (finally!) and that view of Mt. Frosty was about as cool as we could get. Not complaining though – the heat and sun have been a long time coming. My garden is pleased.

We camped with T-Man’s little brother and his sweet Quebecoise wife and it was a delightful getaway. When they weren’t walking my feet off, that is! On Saturday morning they casually mentioned that we all might like to hike to the second-to-last of the chain of lakes, Strike, to the wilderness campsite and back. Note that is farther than I’ve ever managed in all the decades I’ve been going to this park. I (just as casually) said yes. Here’s proof I made it to the end of Strike:


And actually about 5 minutes hike past that. But not as far as the campsite which turned out to be only another short distance because I suddenly realised I was too hot, hungry and thirsty to go on! Bro and Sis-in-law had forged on ahead but T and I backtracked a little way to a cool shady spot on the trail. After water, nuts and chocolate I was feeling revived so we sat and waited for the other two to return once they figured out we weren’t coming along.

However I did manage to make it back to camp ok, even with this handsome guy trying to block the trail:


Mr. Buck finally turned and disappeared down the trail and we never caught another glimpse. We also were grateful that we didn’t run across the bear we heard about on this very trail the day before. I was really tired after that but surprisingly not very stiff at all so Sunday morning before leaving the park for our trip home we went for our traditional walk along Strawberry Flats. The snow was in its usual spot on the trail:


Though somewhat reduced from the pile we usually encounter in June. The snow was very cooling! We were able to walk on it for a little distance and finally make it to the bottom of the Gibson’s Pass ski run for the first time in years. Still not nearly as long of a hike as we did the day before – for which I was extremely grateful.

This was a good shakedown for the proposed 10-day campout in a couple of weeks with our kids and grandkids. We were distracted in our packing and managed to forget quite a few items! Luckily none of them were critical and at least we remembered the beer. Heh.

I got a little knitting done but not on Rosebud’s dress which takes some concentration. Instead I started a new pair of socks for T. He’s beginning to wear out several of his old pairs so I figured it was time for some more. I’m nearly down to the heel flap on both socks even though it got too hot to knit on the way home Sunday. For me at least, mindless knitting is faster than the kind where I have to pay attention.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Just a drive-by post today. Yes, it’s still raining and cold. Bleh. I’m going up to my studio to play. Can’t walk. Can’t garden. Good excuse to work on the next sewing project.

Meanwhile, I came across this article by Miss Minimalist discussing some of the ideas in my post from a short while back. Who knew I was actually a minimalist? In some ways, perhaps. Not in others. I get to pick and choose! Just because I can.

On the other hand, this post from the Slapdash Sewist on gave me much pause for thought. She says, “Convincing people to buy fewer but better clothes has almost nothing to do with money. It has to do with entertainment.” That is a concept that I just don’t get – unless we’re talking about shopping in a yarn, fabric, grocery, hardware or other store that sells Stuff to Make Stuff. Otherwise, I dislike shopping intensely. It’s impossible to find exactly what I want and I hate settling for not-quite-good enough instead. I am not entertained.

Maybe it’s because I’m from a different generation? I was born before the malls. I actually remember when the first one in my city was built. I was 8 years old and it wasn’t even an indoor mall then. They covered it over later. Teens did not hang out in flocks there. The only place there where you would have found many of them was in the public library branch. (I spent quite a lot of time in there myself.) Also, I live in a city with sidewalks and public transit. There are lots of other things to do besides buying stuff I don’t need with money I don’t have. Even though I can walk to that mall or downtown where there are several more malls, the shops are all the same with nothing I really want or need in them. I’m such a lousy consumer! Guess I’m not their Target Market, huh?

Except for books. We won’t go there, ‘kay? I’m on a book-buying diet right now while we try to live on our savings until OAS and pensions kick in. Besides, I’m running out of shelf space. Something has to go before anything else comes in.

Off to repair T-Man’s dressing gown. I made it so long ago that I can’t remember how old it is. Needs new belt loops but otherwise it’s holding up pretty well. Make do and mend, right?

Monday, July 02, 2012

Are You Sure It’s July?

Hope my Canadian Readers had a Happy Canada Day yesterday! Guess that means it is actually July, eh? However I’m currently wearing long pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a tunic over that. Plus 2 pairs of socks. I even took Blodgie, my hot water bottle, to bed last night. Our furnace is turned off and my feet were freezing, OK? Yeah, I know I shouldn’t complain because other people are “enjoying” heat waves, tornadoes and rampant forest fires. And our southern hemisphere folks are slipping into winter. But I’m getting a wee might anxious that we’re not going to have much summer before our winter sets in again. As it is, it kind of resembles October out there except with green leaves instead of brown. The slugs are in hog heaven in my soggy garden and there are mysterious spots appearing on the tomato leaves in the greenhouse. Sigh. Wish I knew how to send the rain to where it’s needed more.

All right. Whinging over.

I did manage to finish a project. Yay! And I’m quite pleased with the results.

Anthro-Knockoff Top

Anthro-Knockoff Top1Anthro-Knockoff Top2

Completed:  July 1, 2012

Fabric:  4 different fabrics/scraps from the deep stash; none less than 10 years old. Front and back – linen/poly blend, oatmeal (left over from the Bib-Front Shirt. Sides – lightweight napped plain weave of unknown fibre content, natural/greys/black unbalanced plaid. Yoke and french binding – rayon, black/natural hand-print from Maiwa’s scrap bin. Accent strips – cotton twill, brick red.

Notions:  Sewing threads in black, dark grey, light grey, oatmeal, brick red. Serger thread in dark grey. 4 small plastic buttons, matte red-brown.

Comments:  It was almost exactly 2 years ago when I saw this top on the Anthropologie site:

 AnthroBitsandPiecesRacerbackfront AnthroBitsandPiecesRacerback

Unfortunately, that was the summer of the Itchy-Peelies skin condition and there was no way that I was making nice clothes for myself then. Flash forward to now and I have a lot more patternmaking and sewing skills under my belt and I was finally able to realise this garment. Or a fair facsimile thereof. The neck isn’t nearly as low cut and the back is sadly without the racer-back so I can wear a regular bra underneath:

Anthro-Knockoff Top3 Drafting the pattern gave me some trouble and it took several sessions but I persevered. I began with my basic shoulder-princess sloper and added a little extra ease. Happily there was only a small amount of tweaking needed after I basted the main vertical seams together, an inch more shaved from the centre piece at the back waist seams and a smidgen of smoothing on the front neckline. Pretty good methinks!

The yoke facing (cut from the oatmeal fabric for body) was sewn on using the burrito method. It was cut out on the grain but in the photo you can see that the print wasn’t exactly on-grain. Probably why it ended up in Maiwa’s scrap bin. I used french bindings on the neckline and armholes and went a little nuts changing thread colours in both the top and bobbin to match the fabrics I was stitching over. It was kind of a fun idea if somewhat tedious to accomplish! I finished the top with decorative buttons on the red bands, two on the back and one on the top of each front band. Just a bit of whimsy. (You’d have to click on the image to see them!) The Real Anthro Top used grommet tape so I was hinting at that detail. I might have used more buttons but 4 was all I had.

Now if only it would get warm enough to wear my new top.

In other crafty news, there is no news. I’m about a foot away from the finish line on T’s 10-Stitch Blanket. I’ve been in no hurry to be done. It makes a fine warmer while I’m watching TV and knitting on it in the evenings! I haven’t done anything more on the dress for Rosebud. It’s waiting until I’m done with the blanket.

While I was cutting out the Anthro-Knockoff, I found out there is enough of the oatmeal linen/poly left to make a sleeveless blouse and enough of the brick red cotton twill to make a skirt. There’s lots of the plaid left too (maybe 1.5 m) but I’m not sure what to do with it. It’s very lightweight and because it’s brushed to bring up a nap, I’m afraid it will pill badly. (I used the least napped side as the outside on my top. We’ll see how it behaves over time.) I also have no patience for the asymmetrical plaid at this point. The two faces are different enough that you can’t just flip the pattern over to get a mirror image. Bleh. Maybe something will occur eventually. Back into deep stash with it for now. The skirt is next on the sewing table. Stay tuned.