Sorry for the Blog Silence


I have all kinds of things I want to write about, but for the past week my every spare moment has been taken up with this:

I have participated in this sale the previous two years. Last year I volunteered on the committee and organized the vendors. This year I am coordinating the entire thing (with help from two volunteers). If you live in the area, please come. There is no cover charge, and this sale is almost entirely folks from our neighbourhood.

If you like pottery, come to the sale. If you like jewelry, come to the sale. If you like knitting, come to the sale. If you like food, come to the sale. If you feel the urge to compete in an apple pie contest, leave a comment and I will send you the pertinent details, and then come to the sale.

Seriously, this sale is so much more fun and has such a more welcoming vibe than most others I've been to.

Halloween 2010 - Part 3 Elephant

Category: , ,

Clara, thankfully, decided that she would wear the elephant costume that we already had (I made it for Peter when he was four.) I only had to shorten the legs a bit, and did that by adding more wrinkles! This costume was made from a thrifted hoodie and sweat pants with stiff felt ears attached to the hood and a tail attached to the back of the jacket.

The trunk was made from a piece of pipe insulation wrapped around some wire filled foam thing we had around the house. That was then wrapped with grey felt hot glued in place. The trunk is held to the hood with a piece of elastic, but she has to lift it over her nose for the full effect.

She had a pretty good time in this costume and she stayed warm since it was easy to put on over other layers of clothes.

This concludes my posts of Halloween 2010. You can be looking forward to posts about curtain-making and purchased turtleneck revamping (sausage no more!)

Halloween 2010 - Part 2 Tinkerbell

Category: , ,

As I mentioned in my previous Halloween 2010 post, Lucy chose to be Tinkerbell. I was not thrilled with this decision, since I knew she would want to replicate Disney's Tinkerbell as closely as possible. (I do realize that this sounds silly since I did closely replicate Peter's Anakin Skywalker costume. I just have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Disney's portrayal of female characters. So I'm inconsistent - who isn't?) I thought Alice was such a much more interesting costume choice for a five year old. (Actually, I thought she should go as Coco Chanel, as I would have loved to make that costume, but Lucy doesn't know who Chanel is - and neither do any of her friends.)*

Earlier in the spring I purchased a few patterns from Simplicity when they were having a sale, including 2716 , a Daisy Kingdom dress with a layered handkerchief skirt. I never got around to making the dress this summer, but it came immediately to mind when Lucy decided on Tinkerbell. At the fabric store I picked out a lime green poly satin with a bit of a pebbly texture, a similar-coloured poly crystal organza (much shinier than pictured below), and a light green netting that had gold glitter glued on.

I made a quick muslin of the bodice. I wanted to remove the drawstring and casing going on in the shoulder seam and that involved narrowing the straps. I planned to use nude mesh for the bodice with the "strapless" top essentially appliqued on. So I also sketched the line of the strapless top onto the muslin and traced a pattern piece from that drawing.

This plan worked pretty well except for finishing the neckline. The pattern calls for lining the entire bodice (which I did - every little bit of extra warmth helps), and I was going along thinking that I could just stitch the necklines together and then feed it through the shoulder "tunnels to turn it around when it hit me... There is no opening at center front or back! Eeek! I decided to finish the neck edge with a bias strip of the crystal organza. I told Lucy it would look like a matching necklace. I don't think she was really convinced but she went along with it.

There you see a fine example of my nearly-famous Thousand Pin Technique for attaching anything slippery or doing anything tricky. Below is a close up of the finished neckline and shoulder seam. The neckline isn't as crisp as I would have liked because polyester crystal organza doesn't like to be pressed, thankyouverymuch.

The rest of the garment went together well except for the skirt. It was too long and not pointy enough. One of these days I am going to stop buying patterns that only have artist's renditions of the garment on a person. It is just not accurate. Photos only from now on! Anyway, luck was with me a bit because I had not yet hemmed the skirt pieces (satin underskirt, crystal organza overlay, and glittered net overlay). So I made a few marks with pins while Lucy tried the dress on and then whacked at it with my pinking shears. I AM SUCH A CHEATER!! (But wait, it gets worse...)

I purchased the wings at a local "dollar" store, but they had to be altered as they were too wide for Lucy's back and had these annoying little elastic arm straps. I shortened the width of the backing material pretty easily (fold in half, sew off a chunk, trim, press). We tried tightening the straps, but they bothered Lucy, so I ended up sticking ADHESIVE VELCRO to the wings AND TO THE DRESS!! Can you believe it? I stuck something very sticky to a garment that I lovingly made and altered/redesigned! But I just was not going to hand sew large snaps on to those wings through the thick, stiff back material and around the wires that give the wings shape. And you know what? She loved it!


She did discover that her mother was correct in saying that a Tinkerbell costume was not appropriate for the weather here in Vancouver on Halloween night. She wore a couple of shirts under the dress as well as tights and another skirt (she refused leggings) and she got very cold. On the way home from trick-or-treating we spoke about how for next year she should choose a warmer costume. She has decided - temporarily of course - that next year she wants to be Sleeping Beauty because she wears a long sleeved gown and a cape. (That's my girl, way to plan another use of that cape pattern!)

Stick around for a shorter post about Clara's elephant costume!

 *Actually, it would amuse me greatly if I could get my whole family to dress up as famous designers. Three women and two men. Peter could go as Karl Lagerfeld. Lucy could be Chanel. Clara could be Betsy Johnson (that last link opens up a little video in the sidebar, sorry). What about David and me? Ideas?

Halloween 2010 - Part 1 Anakin Skywalker

Category: , ,

Hopefully all of you are well rested from Halloween and the post holiday sugar crashes. I thought I'd write a little about the costumes that came gallumping out of my house this year.

After many changes of mind, Peter finally settled on dressing up as Anakin Skywalker. (I was really pulling for Captain Underpants, having been inspired last year by this costume made by Debbie Cook.) Lucy, after nearly deciding on Alice (from Alice in Wonderland) changed her mind to Tinkerbell. And Clara, in keeping with her laid-back nature, decided that she would wear the elephant costume I made for Peter a few years ago. I think it's kind of funny that both Lucy and Peter chose mean characters for Halloween. (Pixies, I think, are usually pranksters.)

Peter's costume wasn't immediately obvious. I did a little research, looking at image after image of Anakin Skywalker. I decided to make a wrap-front shirt, elastic waist pants, the black leather vest-thing, and a cloak. That's a lot of pieces for one costume, I know. I decided to give the lounge pants from Simplicity 9499 a try (I had purchased the pattern for the raglan-sleeved t-shirt). They were fabulous! I made a muslin out of a sheet and all that needed to be adjusted was the length. The pants have enough ease for sitting, but not so much that there is a lot of bagginess at the bum or front crotch. They also have slim-ish legs, not the wide, flappy things one so often finds in loungewear. And of course, with a fold over casing for the elastic waist, and no pockets, they went together in a snap. I made the final version out of brown stretch cotton sateen.

 A wrap-front shirt for a boy is no easy matter. I considered using one of the bathrobe patterns I happen to have (Simplicity 9853), but the thought of having to remove all of the ease and fiddling with armholes didn't sound appealing. I have Jalie 2910 in my collection of patterns, though I had yet to make it. Knowing that children's bodies aren't all that different, I decided to let go of any gender-based sewing hang-ups I might have (not many, I'll tell you) and gave that a go, making a muslin out of a stable black knit. I doubled the width of the neckband to give more coverage and to make it look a bit more costumey. Success again! In this case we just needed to add length to the hems (both sleeve and body). I made the final version of this pattern in a soft brown cotton jersey.

Peter loves the shirt and pants from this costume so much that he wore them the first two nights after they were made as pajamas. He has gone on to wear the shirt to school as a regular shirt.

Now for the cloak and vest-thing. There was a bit of luck, here as well. I originally planned to use the hooded bathrobe pattern from the December 2009 Burda, which would have totally worked. And I planned to fiddle with a basic t-shirt pattern for the vest-thing. But as I walked past the cutting table at Fabricana, I saw Simplicity 5512 sitting on the counter along with a pile of fabric belonging to another customer. Perfect! A pattern for a lined hooded cloak and a tabbard (which could be easily cut down the center front for the leather garment). What's more, there was only one of these pattern left in the drawer. Totally worth the investment, in my opinion, even if it used more fabric than the bathrobe pattern called for. I will use this pattern again and again.

These two pieces went together pretty well. I had to change the slope of the shoulder seam on both garments. Peter's shoulders are not as square as the pattern. I had a limited amount of fashion fabric for the cloak (there was only 1.5 metres on the bolt), so I was limited to making the cape (not the sleeved cloak), but I put slits in the side seams for ease of use. I muslined the cape using sheets, and finished it fully so now we have a purple flowered hooded cape in our dress-up box.

The finished cloak was made out of a brown/black stretch suiting blend. I was certain I would have enough suitable fabric somewhere in my stash to line the cape, so I didn't purchase any. This was a bit of a tricky decision. The only suitable fabric I had was black Bemberg rayon, but I was not about to use up my Bemberg lining on a costume (granted I got it on sale at half price, but it was still five dollars a metre!) After much frustration and disappointment at the size and uselessness of my fabric stash, I decided to use a white all-cotton sheet and two packages of dye that I happened to have - a purple and a brown. I had hoped I would end up with a dark brown, but instead I ended up with a muted dark purple. But it worked. I used a button from my jar and made a loop of bias from the suiting fabric. I covered the raw ends of the loop with a square of the black vinyl that I used for the tabbard.


The tabbard was pretty straightforward. I was pretty excited to get to use my teflon presser foot that I received from David for Christmas last year. I made it as stated, with the exception of cutting and hemming the center front, so that the fronts could overlap under the belt. I didn't muslin this garment, just bit the bullet and cut into the black vinyl.

This is what he wore to school on Friday. He added the cloak for trick-or-treating. All in all a success! Everything fit and it was impressive (important to me), but did not draw attention to him (important to Peter). He was also warm enough on Halloween night. This is something to consider around here.

Stay tuned for a Tinkerbell post!

Long Time Gone


Well, it's been pretty nearly forever. Sorry about that.

The good news is that I have a sewing space again! Hooray! And, since The Blue Gardenia is not terribly likely to ask me to give you all a tour, I'll give you one myself!

To begin, I would like to point out that there are now curtains up in my room, but they are not fully hemmed. I bought the panels from IKEA and chopped them to fit. they are sheer white with rows of white nubby bits. Also, with the exception of the stucco wall, everything else is just primed. Eventually this room will be painted green. The flooring is vinyl. I really wanted linoleum, but we couldn't afford it, so we went with vinyl. I would have preferred a plainer dark brown, but this was available, good quality, and a good price (and I can only stand to interact with so many sales people, you know?). The important thing is that it hides art dirt, cleans easily, and doesn't trap pins the way carpet or a grooved flooring (tile or some laminate) would.

The table is a piece of 3/4" plywood leftover from the renovations (bookshelves, I think). A friend sawed it off to the length I specified and I attached my old table legs to one end and the middle. Then I wrapped the top with inexpensive vinyl. This will undoubtedly need to change before too long. The board is too flexible, so I can't sew at top speed. Perhaps I can simply add another layer of plywood to the top. I am able to use the open end of the table to cut small pattern pieces. My cardboard pinning/cutting board fits on it opened partially as does my rotary cutter mat. I could also maybe set up my vintage machine there, but I am afraid it will be too bouncy. Perhaps after another layer of plywood is added.

The other end of the table is supported by a set of drawers from IKEA. I almost talked myself out of getting these drawers as they were $80. They are so lovely (in a purely functional way). 

The top two are shallow and hold all of the things I use most frequently. 

The lower three are deeper and hold thread, notions, and my vintage Singer attachments.

I had hoped to find a wardrobe that would fit in the room and hold my fabric collection, but the space didn't work out. What with the easel and the kids' art table and cupboard of supplies, there is no room for fabric storage in the sewing room. For the time being, the fabric is housed in four Rubbermaid bins in the odd closet off the girls' room. I am appalled at the size of my collection and need to sew it down. No new fabric until one of the bins is empty!*

I repurposed a little cupboard that we have had for years to store a few other notions/tools, patterns, reference books, etc. We bought this cupboard from friends maybe ten years ago when they moved and we have used it in so many different ways over the years. On the top there you see wooden magazine files filled with Burda magazines, envelopes of Burda pattern sheets, traced patterns, and my growing Threads collection. The envelope patterns inside the cupboard need boxes to keep them from shifting all over. One day I will figure that out.

My iron and board live across the room near the easel. I had hoped to put it under the window where the pattern cupboard is now, but it didn't fit. The board needs a new cover, and I have some wool coating to use as padding for a new cover, but I would really like a different ironing board. The pointy end takes up so much room and rarely gets used since I now own two sleeve boards. I have thought about trying to construct a rectangular ironing board, but haven't done much research yet. Any ideas?

Under my ironing board is a crate filled with two sleeve boards, a press mitt, a wooden clapper, and a piece of silk organza that I use as a press cloth.

It was a lot of fun making the kids' Halloween costumes in my new space. So nice to be able to access my tools with ease. Really wonderful.

*I have already broken this resolution. I walked past a bolt of lovely of cotton lawn today as I was shopping for lining for my bedroom curtains.  Two metres of it came home with me. (At least lawn folds up small.)