The 4 x 1 June Challenge

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Hello friends,

Perhaps foolishly, I have decided to join in The Naked Seamstress's 4 x 1 June Challenge. Essentially, make four dresses in one month. Let me begin by saying that I am fully intending to cheat a little. June is a CRAZY month for me to take on any challenge, but most months are, so what's a little more crazy, really?

I have a dress that is complete except for the zipper and the hems. But it has been like this for close to a year now. I need someone to pin me into the dress and then mark the center back seamline (and the hem), and my husband is no help. So the task of finding someone to help and then actually meeting with them and then doing the work of installing the zipper and stitching up the hem will take nearly as long as starting a simpler dress from scratch. (I feel I should add that my eight-year-old son told me this is STILL cheating.)

In preparation for sewing, I made a muslin of long out-of-print Simplicity 8884 - a very basic princess seam dress with no waist seam (from my mother-in-law's collection). And here is where I show you what I look like in the morning when the very first thing I have done is head to the sewing machine.

Puffy morning face!


Hello crooked back!

So, looking at these photos, I want to change the neckline like so (drawn in orange):

The orange lines at my shoulders indicate what the shoulders should look like.

Mostly it's the back that has me wondering. Because my spine/pelvis/hips/legs/whatever is uneven, the dress appears to pull to one side. I am wondering if I simply shift the seamlines of the back side panels if this would fix the visual problem.

Do you experienced folks out there think that shifting the seamlines will do the job? I'm going to give it a go on my muslin and see how it turns out.

I plan to make this dress out of a black batik which is a fair bit stiffer than the old old bedsheet I used for the muslin.  At present, I do not know if I will line the finished dress or use facings. I will probably line it with Bemberg, since that will make the dress far more wearable in our mild climate.

I also have plans for a tie-dye cotton jersey dress from BurdaStyle 05-2010-105. Based on the reviews, I might need to figure a way to make the lower edge of the armhole higher. Maybe I will be able to trace this dress today!


Remember! You can still donate to the Pottery 24 Fundraiser!

Have I Ever Told You

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the amazing thing my husband does for work? No?

David works for an organisation called JustWork.  It's this unique social enterprise that employs folks who have significant barriers to traditional employment - barriers like mental illness, addictions, and homelessness. They operate out of a community-based mindset rather than a profit-margin mindset (or even a traditional charity mindset), focusing on what people can do rather than focusing on their struggles. These folks often feel worthless and useless because of their barriers, but through their work and the community of workers they find affirmation and validation.

JustWork runs three small businesses: JustRenos, JustCatering, and JustPotters. It's JustPotters that I want to tell you about. They are gearing up for a big fundraiser...

Their plan is to throw pottery for 24 hours. They are looking for folks who would donate a minimum of $1 per hour. The money they raise will purchase a new kiln and continue to pay good folks for beautiful work. It's really easy to donate money, you don't have to be local and you don't have to mail a cheque. Through CanadaHelps, you can donate online using a credit card or PayPal*.

Here's a lovely little video about the pottery studio:

If you do happen to be local and want to see the pottery being thrown, you can come on down to the Commercial Drive Car-Free Festival on June 19th. JustPotters will be near the Ten Thousand Villages shop at Commercial Drive and William Street. You can follow updates on this event on the Pottery-24 facebook page, too.

*Full disclosure: To reiterate, I am married to the Community Manager of this organisation and I am friends with several of the staff. Also, for every ten of you who donate $24 (and include my name in the message box), I will receive a teacup made during the marathon.

I will have a sewing post in another day or two. 

EDITED on May 31 to fix the Canada Helps link. Sorry about that, everyone.


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Hello friends!

I have to confess that I had just about stalled out on finishing up the dresses I am making for Lucy and Clara. Why? Because each dress requires 7 buttonholes. Since my modern machine was in the shop,  I was sewing the dresses on my Singer 99K. It's a sweet little machine, even if the foot pedal is hard to control.

So last week I dragged out the buttonhole attachment and the cams and the instructions. Then I made samples (inspired by Susan's exhaustive demonstrations at Spare Time)

The purple fabric is a sample of different sizes (not all of the ones I have as I ran out of fabric) and the pink fabric is a sample of different bights (thicknesses). This attachment makes buttonholes like a dream! In all of the samples above, I went around the button hole twice. So easy! And the fabric has a raised stripe which would have completely befuddled my modern machine. (It had significant difficulty with the texture on this fabric.)

But even with those encouraging samples, I was still terrified of actually stitching the buttonholes into the dresses. I dragged my feet on getting Clara to try on her dress so that I could get the hem marked and the button holes placed. But finally, yesterday afternoon, I tackled it.

I was so impressed (with my machine and myself), that I made a video! So now you get to hear me and my machine AND watch the buttonhole attachment in action!

My apologies for the wiggley video. I was trying to do everything myself. And then, of course, Lucy walked in and interrupted, so I had to stop and start again.

Success! Now I just have to topstitch the hem on Clara's dress and sew on the buttons (a good playground task), and her dress will be done! Lucy and I plan to shop for her buttons this afternoon. HOORAY!

Are Sewing Bloggers Cultural Leaders?


Hello Friends.

A few weeks ago I started subscribing to a sewing blog called Tilly and the Buttons. In addition to being an active sewist, Tilly is also an academic type and is writing a paper on leadership, using "the online sewing network as a microcosm of the user-led world and as a collaborative model of leadership". Sounds pretty interesting to me, so I thought I'd help out a bit by writing my own response to Tilly's questions.

I never would have thought to take a photo of one of my garments inside out before reading sewing blogs!

What does the online sewing community mean to you? Why do you participate?
I participate in the online sewing community because I find sewing to be a primarily solitary hobby. Getting together with friends to sew requires a fair bit of space and organization, it's a lot of fun, but it's not something I can do every day. Actually, I have recently discovered that there are a fair number of people in my community who at least have a working knowledge of a sewing machine! I can and do read sewing blogs daily. I have learned many techniques through all of this reading, but most of all, I find that I feel less weird about my hobby. My experiments in sewing and excitement over new fabric or getting stripes to match or simply my pride in something well-made all seems terribly normal.

Another reason that I participate in this community is because it is such a diverse one. Granted, nearly 90% are female and another 90% are white, but I would be very surprised if there is any other demographic category that clearly represents a majority of this community's members. There are so many ages, ideologies, geographic locations, preferences, styles, and voices. It's exciting! I want to be part of something that brings people together - something that helps us to lay aside our differences, find our similarities and improve upon them.

What are your favourite examples of projects initiated by sewing bloggers that capture this spirit of collaboration, creativity and innovation?
I have to confess that I have yet to participate in a sew-along. I also do not have anywhere near the amount of home-made garments to participate in a Me-Made-Month. One day, the right sew-along will come along at the right time, and one day, I will have enough of my own garments. It is something I can look forward to. (I may retroactively participate in the jeans sew-along. Currently, I am working on dresses for little girls.)

Who are the “leaders” in the sewing blogosphere? Is everyone / can anyone be a leader?
I have thought a lot about this. I think the leaders in this online sewing community are the folks who produce quality, interesting garments AND have natural abilities as writers. Most are childless or have older/grown children. It takes time to blog well - in a way that is interesting and invites response. I have always struggled with writing and I have three young children, so it makes sense that at this point, I am not a leader.

There is also a difference between those who simply are leaders because of their great love of the craft and their ability to invite response and those who love the craft but write with the intent to position themselves in the limelight. I think Peter, Melissa, Steph, Myrna, Shams, Carolyn, Nancy K, Lauriana, Bunny, Summerset, and Trena fall into the first category. (And goodness, I keep thinking of others who I am leaving out. Sorry, everyone.)

Are you involved in any other network of makers, whether online or offline? What makes sewing blogs unique?
For the last two years, I have helped coordinate The All-Handmade Sale held at my church every year. It's a sale of handmade, homemade, and home grown items made by folks in our neighbourhood. Just the artisans and their art. It is such a great event, that even last year, when all of the other craft markets were doing poorly in Vancouver, our little sale still sold $10,000 worth of product. That's amazing!

But at a craft sale there is little to no chance for learning. Copying someone else's work is seen as an infringement rather than inspiration. The sewing blogs give me that opportunity. My recent failure with Simplicity 3775 is a case in point. I have seen so many beautiful and inspiring versions of this dress over the years that I bought the pattern and then finally made it up. And guess what? It isn't flattering or lovely on me! Hahaha! And that's the way it goes. I am learning. My online sewing friends help me along.

(I'm going to work on updating my blog roll. There are so many good sewing blogs out there!)

Simplicity 3775 Fail

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Attentive readers who hang on my every utterance will recall that after I made my first version of Simplicity 3775, I was a little overwhelmed by the print. This is reasonable since I almost never wear that much print. So I promptly made a couple of alterations to the length of the ruched waistband and stitched up another in a solid.

Sigh. Look:

Don't I look like a rectangle in a dress? It's really pretty funny. I am so glad that I didn't cut out another one. Obviously drapey skirts do a whole lot of nothing for my narrow hips. Particularly with a snug fitting top that accentuates my curve-less middle.

All that to say that I have carefully folded this pattern back up into its envelope to save for someone else down the road. I will still wear these dresses, but I will wear them with my denim jacket over the top, masking the rectangularity.

New Knit Top! Burda 02-2009-118

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I have had the pattern for this top traced out for over a year now. Probably close to two years. I finally made it and boy, do I like it! I made it from a remnant I picked up at Fabricana. I didn't try a burn test, but I'm pretty sure this is a cotton and bamboo blend. It's a nice kelly green and there was just enough for the shirt with the exception of the inner sleeves.

Several other people made this top back when it was published and struggled along with Burda's completely mystical instructions and forged ahead with their own. Special thanks go to Dawn of Two On Two Off and Kay of The Sewing Lawyer. Together they are quite the duo (at least for this shirt). Dawn's tutorial is here and Kay's is here (it predates her blog). You see, the tricky bit is the way the puffed sleeves are constructed so close to the underarm seam. There's just an awful lot going on there and Burda couldn't even figure out how to make it make sense.

I ran out of the green fabric and had to make the inner sleeves out of something else. I still have a bit of this thin white knit blend that I bought a ton of to use for knit muslins, so I used that. Beware! No matter what you do, that inner sleeve is going to show a bit, so it would be best to use a coordinating fabric. After I constructed the top, I felt the sleeves were too long and droopy, so I pinched up a pleat all around the inner sleeve to shorten the sleeve. There was just no way I was going to attempt to pick out all of the stitching and gathering, etc. I think I took up the inner sleeve by about an inch all together.

This top has already had a fair bit of wear even though it is nowhere near warm enough for short sleeves here. I've been wearing it as shown above, with a long-sleeved white top underneath. That works well for now. I think I'll probably make another one for this summer as well. The puffs are somewhat feminine but the dropped shoulder and the seaming is interesting enough to keep it from looking childish.