Monday 26 December 2011

A Year in the (Sewing) Life

2011 has been quite the year.  There was travel in 4 (or 5?) countries, new experiments and collaborations to undertake at work, a 3 month strike with no income, the loss of a family member, a new school and a new language for my son, a new lab for me, conferences to speak at and prepare posters for, the ever-increasing difficulty of managing an independent-minded toddler, a collective agreement to negotiate between the Board of Directors over which I preside and the daycare staff ....I'm hoping that 2012 calms down a bit.
One constant throughout the past year has been my renewed efforts to find time for myself to sew, and everyone out there in blogland has been a great help.  Or should I say a great enabler.  I sometimes find my mind drifting when I'm in a meeting that is dragging on a little too long (....I wonder what would be the best pattern to use with that new purple gabardine.....).  I sometimes stay up too late looking at vintage patterns for sale on Etsy (It's purely to study the construction details on the envelopes, I swear).  I sometimes check out my blog roll when my kids are watching TV and I can't stand one more minute of Toupie et Binoo.  As far as addictions go, it's a relatively innocuous one.  And it's much more socially acceptable to have someone walk in a catch you reading Burdastyle than sneaking a smoke or a drink at work.  Unless you happen to work for Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Price.  
Without any further ado, here is my sewing year encapsulated:
I brought back a fabric hoard from Cape Town (pictured in the upper left) and did a little Cape Town to Canada series:
You can see that there are still a couple of unused fabrics there; I'd better get cracking before the year is up.  Plus, I'll need some more room in my storage for the hoard I plan to bring back from Botswana this February!

I started Sewing Through the Decades with Debi and Sarah:
I had randomly pulled some patterns from my collection that spanned 1940s-2010s, and planned to make one pattern from each decade.  The only one I didn't get around to finishing was 1950s.  I thought about doing a reissued 50s pattern with modern proportions, because the proportions of the 1950s patterns I own are insane.  Whereas I have a bust:waist differential of only about 5", the 50s patterns assume much, much (MUCH) more.  Like 10".  That's crazy.  I lost enthusiasm and put it on the back burner.  Maybe some perfect pattern will come my way and make me change my mind about the New Look silhouette, but for now, I'm going to call it a day.

I also went from reading Mena's blog to participating in The Sew Weekly:
It was great to join the community and draw from each other's projects and advice.  I'll probably continue to participate whenever a weekly theme coincides with free time + a previously planned project + fabric and notions already lounging in my hoard.  Mena is changing the format in the coming year, so there may be the chance to be a featured member from time to time.

You can see that there is some overlap between these three groups of projects.  If motherhood has taught me anything, it's why do one thing at a time when you can do two (or three)?  It's the only way shit gets done around here.

Oh, and I almost forgot!  The weekend escape to NYC to meet up with a bunch of people I had never met and only knew by their web pseudonyms.  Luckily, the weekend did not become the subject of an after-school special and was a legitimate meetup of sewers (sewists.  sewintists.  whatever.):
Those ladies (and gent) know how to have a good time.

That's 2011 in a nutshell.  I may as well post this today, since I seriously doubt that I'll be able to do any more sewing before the 31st.  I had 9 people staying in my house over Christmas, and now that they are gone, it's just me left to do the cleaning, cooking and child care while my man tries to get through a mountain of student papers and exams that are due.  
Happy New Year everyone!

(ms. oona just turned me on to Thinglink.  I'm going to give it a try.  Bear with me until I get it all figured out, but it should results in links within each photo subset.)

Thursday 15 December 2011


So we decided this week to try going patternless.  Now that I have my dressform (dubbed by my daughter: She Need a Head, or SNAH), it should make learning a lot easier.  On the other hand, I had about 2 hours to myself this week, so it had to be a lightning fast project.  Enter the maxi skirt:
Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a cop-out;  I've been planning to make a maxi skirt since the summer, and have lots of images pinned.  I was just waiting for the right fabric to come to me, and this rayon sarong fit the bill nicely.  This rayon has a great drape (almost like a jersey), and such a great combination of colours that will go with just about anything. 
 It's actually more of a burnt umber/black than a mustard/navy, but I just don't have the time or inclination to adjust the colours right now.  Take my word for it, it's great.  Oh yeah, and it's batik.  You expected something else?
 I love the border, and so I immediately thought, "Fold it in half and make a knee length skirt with the border on the hem.", but then I checked my closet, and (all my skirts)-1=knee length, so it was time to stir it up a bit.  I didn't want to hide the border print, so I sewed those ends together to make a tube, and then.....hey, I don't really have to describe how to make an elastic-waist skirt, do I?  How about I just show you some photos of the skirt in action:

 Good for kid wrangling...

 ....and putting decorations on the tree, and taking decorations off the tree, and putting decorations back on the tree, and....(you get my drift)

I wanted it to be MAXI maxi, and sweep the floor, even though I'm reminded of that quote from Heidi about long skirts: 

 "....(cousin Dete)...had a long trailing skirt to her dress which swept the floor, and on the floor of a goatherd's hut there are all sorts of things that do not belong to a dress."

I should amend this quote to read:

"...she had a long trailing skirt which swept the floor, and on the floor of a parasitological research facility, there are all sorts of things that do not belong to a dress." 
Ah well, rayon is machine washable.

Monday 12 December 2011

Back home, back to work, back to sewing

My family has logged almost 20,000km in flights over the past two weeks, so you'll forgive me if I've been silent in blogland.

I was in Vancouver, caring for my MIL when I heard that my strike had finally ended.  Perhaps it is my lack of religious upbringing, but it makes so much more sense to me to spend some time with someone at the end of their life, rather than waiting until they are gone and attending their funeral.  In trying to explain death to my son and nephew, we came to the conclusion that my final days should involve a party with my favourite band, a bouncy castle to jump in and a mountain of gummies to swim in (we're talking about a 6- and an 8-year-old here, but I am all over that idea.  I plan to hold them to it, although I doubt I'll be able to get Henry Rollins, Tom Waits and all the Wainwright / McGarrigle family together at the same time.  Unless I get a really awesome bouncy castle.)

I flew back to Montreal and now I have to remember how to do all that science stuff again.  The fact that my previous lab space has been taken from me and the renovations in my new space are not yet complete makes things awkward (long story, involving lots of passive aggression misdirected at me, rather than at the person responsible, but that's another story....)

With all this going on, there hasn't been much sewing happening around here, but I do have a little sneak peek for the week ahead:

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Hospital Thrift Shops

 Who knew they had anything to offer other than moldy stuffed animals and Dean Koontz paperbacks?  I've been trekking back and forth to the hospital all week and somehow this little thrift shop had slipped my notice every time.

 McCall's Jumper and blouse pattern (1957).  Only the blouse pattern pieces were cut, and it was stored very neatly.  Nice. 

A couple of questionable choices from 1995 and 2001.  I blame the fact that my daughter was screaming to leave and I got flustered.  Interesting to note that Butterick was using the same pattern illustrator over that 6 year period. 

I'm always astounded when I find Vogue patterns that are factory folded.  If you're going to pay $30 for a pattern, you'd think that you would really really really want to use it; not donate it so that any old thrift store scrounger can pick it up for 50c.
And I couldn't resist this nice sundress for $5. It's a bit large in the bust, but has princess seams, so that should take about 5 minutes to alter.  Score.  The photos are even worse quality than usual because I only took my iPhone to Vancouver with me, but this should give you an idea of what a rain forest it is around here.  Hope you're having a good week with lots of sun and factory folded vintage patterns. 
(BTW, I finally got around to posting the give-away prizes to everyone.  They should arrive in the next two weeks.)

Thursday 24 November 2011

Away for a while

I have had to fly out to Vancouver to help a critically ill member of my family, so I won't be posting anything creative for a while.

Well, I'll probably just be looking at your blogs in the evenings and leaving lots of snarky comments; I guess that requires some creativity.  Or I may pop into Spool of Thread and pick up a Colette or Sewaholic pattern..........

Sunday 20 November 2011

Unfinished Object and a Fabric Mystery

 This will be a quick post since I'm watching three kids and one is on my lap.  

I haven't finished my latest project this week, but it wasn't for lack of time.  I decided it just couldn't exist without a lining, and I knew I had some lining fabric around here somewhere, so I went on a hunt.  And I finally found it yesterday in the garbage bag of stinky woolens from The Best Estate Sale Ever.  A quick wash and dry and now I'm ready to cut and sew in the lining.

 She needs a bit of alteration in the deriere.....
...but I'm pretty happy with the pattern matching on the back slit and the sides.  When I was rooting through the stinky bag and found the lining fabric, I also found these interesting textiles and decided to throw them in the washer + dryer too.  I've never seen this type of satin before, have you?  It is silky on one side and what appears to be cotton flannel on the other.  
 I have four lengths of it, in these nice rich colours.  The royal blue is 3.5m long (!), but the other three are only short 1m scraps.  What would you suggest for these mystery fabrics?......

Also posted to:



Wednesday 16 November 2011

Why, hello there beautiful.

We wrote our letters to Santa over the weekend, and Christmas came early for Mama this year.
I had to crank out the waist and hips to the max and lengthen the torso as far as it could go, but now she's my perfect body double.  See?

 And she's already helping me with today's project:
So is Moe
This is a 1.5m length of machine-made brocade that I bought in Laos almost 9 years ago.  In my mind, it was cotton blend, but now that I've pulled it from the bottom of my stash and taken a good look, I realize it's a nasty 100% synthetic.  Well, what do you expect for $2?  I thought about lining it to give it a bit more class, but I'm short on lining fabric, believe it or not.  How did that happen with a shelf full of textiles?  I guess I can always tack one in later or wear a slip if I need it.  

When I asked Santa for a dress form, I suggested that he should just look in someone's attic, since attics seem to be lousy with dress forms, if film and television is to be believed.  Oh, and rocking horses, antique bird cages and trunks full of old wedding dresses.  When we're watching a movie, we always make bets on how long before one of these symbols pops up when the hero enters an attic......wait for it.....wait for it......oh look, a dress form.  NOW we know that hero is in an old attic.  Thanks for clearing that up for us.  We also laugh at how every forest in which a character gets lost is full of woodpeckers, pecking away furiously.  And all films about non-white groups of people have to have a main character that is white.  We started sarcastically calling it The White Bridge.  *rolling eyes*  I'm looking at you Beyond Rangoon, Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland.  
  Where was I?  Oh yeah, letters to Santa:
     (you can see that my daughter asked for TWO BIG GIRL PINK GUITARS!! and my son just made a long list of numbers, which correspond to all the Playmobile kits he NEEDS.  

Monday 14 November 2011

Giveaway Winners and a Fabricville haul

The good thing about reading a blog with a small number of followers means that your chances of winning something in a giveaway are great; therefore by that logic, everyone should follow a newish blog and enter the giveaways.....wait, I think there is a flaw in that logic somewhere.....
Without further ado, here are the winners of my first ever giveaway:

1)  Pattern: Simplicity 8729
Winner by default = Vala of  ;)  Glad you could see through the girlishness and that you'll be able to make a Victorian piece from it.

2:  Pattern: McCall's 3416

True Random Number Generator 
Powered by RANDOM.ORG
Winner =  Josephine the blogless Girl Guide, who I hope will be able to swallow the back-handed pattern description and come out looking elegant, safe in the knowledge that she has more class than the McCall's copy writers.
3)  Fabric:
True Random Number Generator 
3 Powered by RANDOM.ORG
Winner = Angela of  RiAnge Creations.  I know she'll be able to make something of it that will make me jealous and regret giving her this fabric.  ;)  
Vala and Josephine, please send me your mailing address to my email above and I'll get those patterns mailed out to you this week.  Angela, I think I still have your mailing address around here somewhere, but if I can't find it, I'll contact you. 
(Please excuse the way I had to cut-and-paste the generator.  I'm working on my man's Mac because my PC died, and I can't get the little window copied properly.  Also, I don't know why they Max value switched from 7 to 100 when I pasted it, but whatever.  It generated properly, so that's all I care about.)
I had one reader (Kay) that I included in the giveaway who sent me an email because she said couldn't comment on my blog; does anyone know what the problem is or how to fix it?  I thought of switching to a pop-up comment format, but I can't locate the section on blogger to make the change.  Any help for someone like me with a technology developmental delay?

Again, thanks for reading and commenting over the past year!  I started keeping a blog as a way to have a blog roll to see all those people I follow, a place to keep photos and to track my progress.  I didn't check the comments section of my blog for months because I just assumed that I was the only one reading, so I had to apologize to several people for totally not noticing their comments / questions until months later!  Now I know that I should check every day.  It is so encouraging to know that when I have a question, someone will answer and more importantly, when I need an opinion, you're all there with honest ones!  


In other sewing related news, there was a semi-annual sale at Fabricville this weekend, and I was there bright and early to fight over the deals with all my fellow sewists.  This cohort, at least in the Montreal West-Island area seems to consist of this type: 

(I apologize if you are a fan of quilted cat vests; I also apologize if you are super-hip and you were at the sale too; I just didn't run into you there!) (wow, that's three apologies in one blog post so far.  The stereotype about Canadians must be true....sorry....)

For $40, you can get a Fabricville 3 year elite membership that gives you everyday discounts on fabric and notions (not that great IMO).  The better deal is that it does get you Simplicity + New Look patterns for $1 each during their sales; buy 1m fabric and get 2m free, and discounts on tools such as dress forms and machines.  They also threw in a coupon book that covered the cost of my notions.  I showed great restrain this time around by only buying the following patterns and not going bonkers in the fabric bolts (see here concerning my fear that my fabric stash is turning into a fabric hoard):
I have some issues with regular lab coats, so I thought I'd break down and make my own, since I'm still on strike and all.  Now any of you who works in an environment that requires safety garments will immediately see that this lab coat is not up to code.  There are no closures on the front, and what good is a lab coat if it's going to be flapping open, allowing all that gore and caustic chemical to splash your street clothes?!  It's almost as if the designer had never spent any time doing benchwork in a real lab.  Sheesh.  Well, it's a quick fix to add allowance on the front closure and some well placed buttons.  Also, has anyone else noticed that lab coats don't have a button right at breast level, so they gape?  It's almost as if lab coats were designed for men......oh wait..... (and don't get me started about trying to find a lab coat to fit during my pregnancies).  

I just gave away my copy of Simplicity 4044 to Charlotte in the Sew Weekly pattern swap, so now it's back in my greedy grasp.  

I wasn't sold on the Lisette Portfolio  until I saw so many great ones online. 

And some others that grabbed my attention because did I mention, 10 patterns for $10!

Whew.  That was a long post.  I think I'd better go outside and get some vitamin D while the sun is still shining.  17C today?!  What is this, September?!

Friday 11 November 2011

Jumping on the bandwagon (after it's long gone)

So like most people, I hate jeggings.  Well, I hate them the way they are worn by most people I see on campus, which is as jeans.  Yuck.  Not only is it a really unflattering cut for most people, but I'm not sure if people realize that cheap lycra blends are totally see-through when stretched.  And they are stretched to their limit over some booty around these parts, let me tell you.

However, I was trolling around my local thrift shop and found 3m of this jeans-like jersey for $3 and thought, "What the hell.  At the very least, I can use it as muslin."  Then the other day I was wearing something and thought that I really needed some blue leggings or tights underneath and didn't have anything except black, so I thought I'd try to make some.

I hadn't yet used my serger for actual construction; only for seam finishing, which seems a waste considering I did without for 20 years and couldn't wait for the cost of overlockers to come down to a reasonable price for home sewists.  I used a well fitting pair of leggings to trace a pattern directly on to the fabric, then cut with a 1cm seam allowance and added length to the legs and to the top so I could add an elastic.  I serged up the legs, then across the crotch seams, added a channel for the waistband elastic and then turned up the leg hems.  I think that a slight flare on the bottom is more flattering for those of us with a bit of meat on the bones, so I didn't make them taper at the ankle like true jeggings....more like straight cut trousers.  Easy peasy.  I may whip up another pair tonight if I can squeeze enough out of some left-over ponte I have.
Christine over at daughterfish was mentioning this morning that all sewists have two cats.  I resent that stereotype!  
I hereby take a pledge never to wear these jeggings without a long tunic to cover them.  It's bad enough when some slim 18 year old walks down the street with her good china on display, but when it's a 41 year old mom.....let's not go there, shall we? 

Don't forget to enter my giveaway before it's too late!

Tuesday 8 November 2011

One year in - Giveaway!

When I first discovered the online sewing community a year ago, I couldn't figure out give-aways.  Why were all these people giving away patterns and fabric to people they don't even know?  Why don't they keep these things and use them?  Everyone seemed to be doing it.  Hell, even The Selfish Seamstress did it once. But now I get it: sometimes a great pattern falls into you stash that isn't quite right for you, but you know that it would be valued by someone.  Or sometimes you over-buy in the fabric department because you can't make up for mind, but then know you won't use it.  You've reached the tipping point between collector and hoarder, and it's time to share.  Now I get it.  So I'm jumping on the bandwagon and hosting a give-away to celebrate one year of blogging. 

First, a couple of patterns that I rescued from an untimely death at the hands of the VON charity shop ladies and their china:
 Simplicity 8729:  Gunne Sax Designer Couturier, dated 1978 in sizes 7 junior petite (B81cm; W61cm; H84cm) and 9 junior petite (B84cm; W64cm; H87cm).  It's factory folded and has instructions in French and English.
McCall's 3416:  A "Pounds-Thinner" Pattern; Size 16 (B38", W30", H40").  It's in pretty rough shape, but all the pieces are included.  The trousers haven't been cut and all the other pattern pieces are present, if a bit well loved, so to speak.  The previous owner also included a clipping from what I assume was a McCall's magazine, describing how "those figure flaws will be almost non-existent in this elegant dress that gives you a taller, slimmer look."  Guffaw.  If you can look past the slightly insulting description, it's a basic raglan sleeved tunic or dress that you can customize. 

And finally: 

A 148cm (58") X 210cm (78") length of navy blue shwe shwe with tiny printed mustard & white dots.  I bought it at Fabricworld in Cape Town, and the coolest thing is that it's printed on both sides.  I've washed it once in Tide and cold water, so it's clean but still has that distinctive shwe shwe smell.  When you get this package and open it up, take a big sniff of that strange dusty-oily-cotton smell.  Mmmmmm.  I bought this print in two colourways because I couldn't choose between black or navy blue, but now I realize that they are so similar that I won't use them both.  Better to let you enjoy it.

If you would like any (or all!) of these give-aways, please enter by 11:59pm EST Sunday, November 13th.  (I had one reader tell me that she was having trouble leaving comments, so if you're having trouble too, send me an email instead at my address above.)  Tell me which one or ones you would like, leave me your blog address if you have one, and just to make it interesting, tell me your most embarrassing sewing related story.  I'll start:  I once was taking a dress on and off, on and off while fitting, before I realized that the curtains were open.  And my sewing nook faces the main street.  And it was lunch time for the secondary school kids.  I don't think they'll be walking down my street to get their cigarettes and slurpees anymore.

My only caveat for this give-away is that you must use it; I'd hate to liberate it from my potential hoard only to have it languish in someone else's.  When you've used it, please let me know and I'll link to you or post a photo.  I'll ship anywhere, but if you live on the other side of the earth and I find it's going to cost me an arm and a leg to ship it to you, don't complain if I decide to send it surface mail.

Thanks for reading and commenting over the past year!

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