Monday, 30 December 2013

Top 5 Misses of 2013

Continuing in the spirit of Gillian's Top 5......

Top 5 Misses: Sewing Fails, UFOs, worn once, or complete disasters:

1.  Dr. Who Hollyburn skirt:  I made this to match my daughter's circle skirt, but it is so translucent that it's almost transparent!  I didn't have any lining fabric when I sewed it, so I bought a neutral slip, but then it still looked weird.  I plan to unpick the waistband and sew in a lining whenever I get some good slippery fabric.

2.  Tiny pocket tank:  I didn't even blog about this one.  It went together easily, and I used a beautiful waxed cotton from South Africa, but it just wasn't quite right.  The colour makes me look sickly, and the fit is off on me:  the high bust is both too tight (pulls across the upper chest) AND gapes open when I lean over.  Not quite sure how to remedy that, but I don't think I'll wear it again.

3.  Red trousers:  Before sewing the successful red leggings I mentioned in my last post, I cut and basted a pair of trousers from Simplicity XXXX (something I'm too tired to look up now because I think I recycled it), using some cheap red twill.  The fit was so monstrously bad that I threw them in a pile and haven't pulled them out since.  I flubbed the zip fly, the front crotch hung about 2 inches too low, and the back was giving me a horrible wedgie.  No photos exist.  Consider yourself lucky.  

4.  14th century tunic:  I promised my man that I would sew him an historically accurate linen tunic for doing readings at conferences (he studies and teaches old->middle English literature).  The cut pieces are neatly folded balled up in my to-do pile.  Oops. 

5.  Trousers for my son:  my son is going through a phase where he hates wearing anything with a button waist.  Most of his pants are jeans with button waist.  Sigh.  So I told him that I would make him a few pairs of pull-on trousers or fleece pants.  Have I made any yet?......

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Top 5 of 2013: Hits

The end of the year always engenders a little look-back post.  This year I got encouragement from Gillian's Top 5 lists roundup, because G-D knows I wouldn't have thought to do this in time if someone hadn't reminded me.  

Let's just say that between working full time (with the goal of discovering some fantastic drug lead before the funding runs out in March), taking care of two kids alone during the week, and finding enough time to keep up minimum hygiene standards around the house, there hasn't been enough time for sewing related things.  I was kicking myself a bit about that, but then I tried to think of any full-time working single moms who sew and blog, and I came up blank.  If there are, I don't know how they do it.  I'm only alone 4.5/7 days per week, but it's enough to knock me flat once the weekend rolls around and Mr. A.S.S. is back home!

Where was I before I got off on that rant?  Oh yeah, Top 5s.  Here is the first of the lists, with more to follow as soon as I can find the photos on my old computer.

Top 5 Hits: Favourite Creations, most worn or most loved:  This is going to include projects from 2010-2013 because I haven't made that many things this year.  And because this is the first year I'm participating in Gillian's Top 5.  And because my blog = my rules ;)

1.  Red leggings.  I made these in April as part of Tempest's Bowie Sewalong.  I didn't think they would be a wardrobe staple, but I wear them almost every week in cold weather!  I didn't get them posted in time to be included in the sewalong, but I added my photos to the flickr group anyway.  Badass.  

2.  Thigh high slit skirt:  The Sew Weekly reunion in August was such a great way to get the band back together!  I hope that we do it again, perhaps using the Pantone colours, although I must admit that radiant orchid is not a favourite of mine.  

3.  Good Morning Starshine tunic:  I made this in 2011 and I think it is the me-made thing that has been worn the most in 2013.  It's good in summer as a dress; it's good in winter over leggings, it's good for the beach over a swimsuit.  I will definitely make another.  Oh wait, I already have.  OK, I'm make yet another. 

4.  Dr. Who littlest circle skirt:  Again with the Tempest sewalongs!  Inspired/bullied by Whovians like Tempest, Rachel and Meg, I started watching the 2005 reboot and decided to jump into the sewalong.  I'm not a cosplayer, so I wanted to make something practical.  I made this little linen circle skirt for my daughter, and she has worn it every week since.  

5.  And finally, the very best thing I've made this year hasn't yet been made - know what I mean?  It's that fantasy project that I always have in the back of my head, but never quite get around to making.  It's that avant-guard, complicated, perfectly fitting, ooh-and-ahhh-inspiring garment that is always just out of reach.  It's that project that I think about when my mind wanders during a boring meeting, or on a long bus ride when I'm trying to block out the world.  Ah yes, the fantasy project.  That's what I'm going to make next, and it will be fabulous.  

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Follow me on Bloglovin

So, uh, apparently I hadn't done this yet.

Well, better late than never:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin here.  (Although I should note that I'm astounded that there are 369 of you that already follow me.  Are my sporadic unedited ramblings really that interesting?  No wait; don't answer that.)

Now excuse me while I get back to watching all the episodes of Doctor Who in time for Tempest's Doctor Who Sewalong!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Justin Leblanc's "Test Tube" Dress

OK sewing scientists, back me up here:  Justin Leblanc's unconventional materials dress that walked the runway at NYFW 2013 was made from PIPET TIPS and not test tubes, am I right?

Look at this gorgeousness!

And here's a couple of admittedly terrible screen shots from episode 13:

No, it's actually pipet tips Justin.  

Top = test tube
Bottom = pipet tip

Now that that little bit of scientific accuracy (and precision!) is over with, how can I make my own pipet tip dress?  I know it is supremely impractical, doesn't allow sitting / kneeling / going to the bathroom, but hey, I'd look and sound fabulous in it!

source unknown

It's vaguely like a native american jingle dress, except the jingles are plastic, not metal.  And they are oriented the other way around.  I made some unblogged jingle dress separates for The Sew Weekly last year, and the post is still here, so now I'm full of ideas about how I can adapt the jingle dress idea and make a kind of sewing scientist unconventional materials dress of my very own.

Wouldn't that be an incredible sew-along?!?  After all, the unconventional materials challenge is most Project Runway fans' favourite episode.  

What do you think?  Am I crazy, or have you also been hankering to go materials shopping at the hardware / grocery / garden center / lab?

OK, I'm on my way over to twitter to try to stir up the idea.  :)


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Introducing the newest member of the family

No, I haven't joined the pregnant sewing blogger club (as I constantly remind my son, there will be NO MORE BABIES IN OUR HOUSE, thank you very much).  Rather, I came home from work on Monday to an empty house, but a curiously familiar musty smell....

What do I spy here?

Why, I do believe it's a Featherweight 221!

(Please excuse the blurry iPhone photos, but I had to get it set up and tested before the kids got home and turned it into another featured post on "Shit My Kids Ruined".  Ask me about my brand new MacBook Pro that was purchased for me last month from our research grant.  No wait, don't ask me.  I'm still pissed off.)

The whole Featherweight story is: the week before last, my Husqvarna Viking was acting up and I had it disassembled all over the living room floor like some teenage boy with his motorbike engine.  If you've ever tried to repair your own Viking, you know that it is engineered such that all the moving parts are only reachable AFTER you've removed the bottom plate, all the casings, the strap cables connecting the computerized portions, and the motor.  It has got to be the most repair- unfriendly design for a sewing machine.

Anyway, I was taking a desperately needed beer break, when my man wondered aloud if it might not be easier to just buy a new one online second hand, since there always seem to be loads for sale in Montreal.  I said that I wish I had the Featherweight that I had learned to sew on, since they are reliable and relatively easy to service.  I then got to explain to my man what a Featherweight is, and told him the tragic story of how my mother had donated hers to the local Village des Valeurs (where I'm sure it was snapped up by some lucky SOAB for next to nothing).  I showed him a few overpriced machines for sale on Kijiji and eBay, and we happened upon a reasonably priced one for sale in the next province over.  It was listed as "sluggish; needs some work", but it looked pretty good from the photos, and Featherweights aren't the most difficult thing to fix, so he decided to put a lowball bid just for fun.  Knowing how they get auto-bid up to several hundred dollars at the last minute, I promptly forgot about it.  I went back to the Viking a few days later and managed to fix it so that it was running better than ever.

But lo and behold, he won the auction!

And can you guess the cause of the "sluggish movement"?

There's the culprit:  the bobbin winder had been shoved all the way down against the belt, and the seller didn't know any better, apparently.  Their ignorance was my gain.  :)

I gave it a quick look over, threaded it, and took it for a test drive.  Perfect.  Didn't even need cleaning or oiling, but I will do both just to start off on the best foot.

Ignore that wonky stitching in blue on the right; that's from my
Husqvarna before I fixed it.

So, now I have a Singer treadle, a Featherweight, a modern Viking, and a Brother serger.  I've joined the sewing machine hoarders' club.  Though I've got nothing on Peter.


Monday, 30 September 2013

Fall for Cotton

In just under the wire!  I blame:

1) having my machine break as I started this project, and then taking a few days to fix it myself,
2) the general exhaustion that comes from single parenting during the week while Mr. teaches in another city,
3) too much dreaming of what to make next rather than focusing on one task at a time.

I think I deserve a celebratory drink for having finished!

The pattern (Simplicity 8141) is not strictly vintage, since it's from 1996, but the silhouette is vintage-y, n'est-ce pas?  It's got that just-below-the-knee length that can be either slightly awkward or slightly retro, depending on your point of view.  I'm going to go with retro.

I'm quite satisfied with the print matching I managed on the front band.....

...and across the back seam and zip....

...but the sides are a hot mess.  But hey!  Look at that kick pleat!

The fabric is 100% cotton shwe shwe purchased at the Timba Tranding in Gaborone, Botswana in 2012.  The print kind of makes your eyes go a bit goggly, even if you haven't been drinking.  I think that's what initially drew me to the print, because frankly, when presented with 100s and 100s of shwe shwe prints, I get paralyzed by choice.  

a small selection of the shwe shwes in the shop
And just because I always like to keep it classy, here's an outtake for you Loran:

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Map the Sewintists: New and (slightly) Improved!

View Larger Map

It's been exciting and frankly shocking to see so many people participate over the last 8 months in my mapping project!  When I came up the with idea that morning last February over breakfast, I thought I'd get maybe 100 people participating, which was about how many readers I had at that point.  Little did I expect that it would grow to 800+ people and places of interest!  When I talked to people outside the creative community about this, the first thing they always ask is, "How are you making money from it?"  

They've kind of missed the point, haven't they?  

I didn't spend loads of time and money developing a website; I simply opened up a portal that helped people come together, either for fun or for collaborations.  It was free for me to set up like this, and it has taken way less time that blogging for me to manage.  (In fact, I should really go back there today and clean up some of those double pins and errant pins in the middle of the oceans.  Unless you pinned while sailing the 7 seas?  No?  OK, they'll be deleted soon.)  

View Larger Map

But seriously, the utility of the map was limited by the page breaks that were automatically made after ~120 pins.  I tried to find someone who could translate the idea to a dedicated web page, but it was going to be too complicated and way too expensive for me to undertake.  So, in lieu of the time and money (and coding knowledge needed) to create a dedicated page for Map the Sewintists, I've found two ways to view all the pages as one.  I've changed the text on the original Google Maps page to this:

"Map the Sewintists

Because we have ~500 participants, we have spilled over on to 5 pages. Scroll down to the bottom of the list of people to see the page numbers, and they you can look at each page individually.

If you'd like to view all the pins together in one map, you have two options:

1) Easy: visit the compiled map here:

2) If you have Google Earth: Click on the blue KML button below. A file will open in Google Earth."

I hope that makes the experience for everyone a bit easier.  Again, please let me know either though this blog or by private email about any connections you've made via the map.  I'll do a blog post if I get some interesting stories!  I know that I've used it twice already; once to find people near Tampa when I was travelling for work, and now I'm using it for my job (which I can't really talk about yet, but I'll explain if it pans out).

Thanks everybody, and happy pinning!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A trip around the world without leaving my sewing nook

I mentioned in my last post that I should really give a little tour of all the fabrics I've bought on trips around the world.  If you're like me, you love the look and feel of textiles almost as much as working with them.  I used to buy textiles before I started sewing again, just because I knew I would eventually use them, and that I would regret not buying them when I had the chance to get high quality, inexpensive fabrics.  So come on a little trip with me as a reexamine some of the kilos of textiles that I've dragged back from my travels!

I'll start with the oldest pieces I have in my stash:  These are from South East Asia, bought during a 3-month trip through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in 2003.

These two are cotton sarong fabrics, both originally purchased as thirds (=1m x 2m  There are mountains of sarongs available for sale in SEAsian markets, and they are usually 1m x 6m, but you can bargin them into cutting thirds if you only want enough for a single sarong).  The one on the left is not a true batik, but just a print.  I used this as a table cloth for a few years, but now it's going to be sewn into a tunic.  On the right is a double-sided print from which I foolishly made a Burdastyle Anda - the fabric is too stiff and I never wear it.  I plan to recut it into something more flattering!  I don't remember how much I paid, but I think they were only around $5 each.

These are part of a big bundle of kramas ( ក្រមារ) that I bought in Cambodia.  They were various sizes, about $0.50 each, and are a mix of poly-cotton.  Kramas are worn by everyone in Cambodia, and are used for almost anything you can think:  skirts, scarves, face covers against dust and wind when bike riding, baby carriers, shopping name it.  I usually use them as hair wraps or neck scarves.  I had a lot more, but I've given many away or wrapped presents in them over the years.  I may make something out of the largest krama at some point, but I'm still undecided.

I bought these three scarves in Laos.  The one on the left is handwoven raw silk, and is a gorgeous red that is really hard to photograph.  In the centre is an intricately woven rayon (?) piece in the traditional pattern.  The huge scarf on the right measures about 1m x 3m, and the colours are amazing.  I'm not 100% convinced of the content.  Of course, when I was buying it, the girl insisted it was silk, but it doesn't have quite the lustre of silk.  Whatever the content, it is dramatic!

Next up is a pencil skirt I made from a length of traditional border print Laotian fabric.  The fabric is usually used to make long, tight, wrapped skirts like these....

from worklivelaos
...but I bought a skirt like this, and I NEVER wear it.  It is too formal for much wear, difficult to walk in, and the brocade on the bottom actually rubs against my legs and scratches them terribly.  I decided instead to make the Jenny skirt from Burda.  More practical, but still showcasing the textile:

 Unfortunately, I made this during a post-partum phase, so it's too big around the waist and hips now and needs quite a bit of alteration.  I'm glad I pulled this out of the alteration pile - I have some enthusiasm to finish it now that I'm looking at it!

Finally, I'm going to show a Laotian wrap skirt that I bought at Lao Women's Union in Vientiane.  I didn't make this, but I know you'll appreciate it.  It is 100% cotton, hand-woven, thread dyed ikat.  

It's gotten a bit stretched out of shape over the last 10 years, and the wrap portion doesn't wrap sufficiently, so I'm going to rework it.  

I think that's a long enough post for one day!  Next time I'll write about my African fabrics and the things I've made from them over the years. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Blog voices: Montreal edition

I'm not sure exactly how this blog meme got resurrected, but I think that Lady Katza from Peanut Butter Macrame mentioned it on twitter last week.  Remember how this was going around last year?  I think I remember Carolyn recording hers in her back garden and we could hear the Aussie insects and birds singing.  Well, mine isn't at atmospheric as hers.  Mine was done in one take while I had 15 minutes to myself.  And I'm sick.  And it's been a long week.  So turn up the volume and be kind: 

List of Words:Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

List of Questions:
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?


Also:  I should mention that when I was so emphatic about the word data, I didn't mean the pronunciation, because I actually say it both ways (day-ta and dah-ta).  I just meant that I use and hear that word A LOT!   "Where's the data?  How's the data coming?  What's wrong with this data?  Your data doesn't make any sense!  Quick, I need some more data before the conference next week!"  etc. etc. etc. 

P.S.:  I only briefly touched upon Montreal language, but that subject could be (and has been) the topic of volumes.  There are Montreal-specific words that are used in both French and English (like dépanneur for a convenience store); there are inflections from French that we use in English and English words used in totally different contexts in french (ie. Special doesn't mean special in Quebec; it means "special" as in odd or queer).  There is the contentious matter of French language preservation and the much maligned OLF (Office de la Langue Francaise - AKA The Language Police) who go around giving tickets to small businesses who don't adhere to strict and often bizarre language laws.  Most recent example: a yogurt shop had all its spoons removed because the words pressed into them were in English only.  Heaven forbid!

Another P.S.:  Holy crap, but I fidget around a lot!  Must remember to sit still like a grownup next time.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Bilingual Montreal Meet-up / Réunion bilingue à Montréal

(Yeah, so my written French is even worse than my spoken.  Please correct any mistakes you read in this post!)

We got very lucky last Saturday and had a beautiful warm sunny day for the 2nd Montreal Meetup in honour of CarmencitaB's visit.  I was a very bad host and forgot to take my camera, and then only managed to snap a few blurry iPhone photos!  Reminder to self:  next time be prepared.

At El Chalateco:  Rachael, Tammy, Caroline, Katherine, Renee, Rhonda (hiding behind Julie?), Julie, Carmen, Shannon and Shannon's littlest chick entertaining us all at the head of the table.

Carmen brought some little gifts for us from France, and even got Jalie to send us some sewing swag.

Renée and Rhonda

Caroline and Katherine

Julie and Carmen

Montrealers are a notoriously aloof lot, and tend to specialize in flatly ignoring everyone around them, but I think that we got a few stares for our enthusiastic group!

Carmen and I (no, we did not get tatouage)
At C&M on rue St. Hubert

After a quick selfish visit to Ultratex @7186 rue St. Hubert for elastic needs (I needs clear elastic for the Lady Skater dress and 1" elastic for lazy waistbands), we wandered north past my former favourite Aladdin's cave of fabric, Debouk @7476B rue St. Hubert.  It's still boarded up after 2+ years, but I hold out hope that it will eventually reopen.  Goodman Carlyle (corner St. Hubert and de Castlenau) has a broad selection, but you really need to ask if you're looking for something specific, because fibres are a bit all over the place.  Very friendly staff though, so don't hesitate to ask. We even used group courage to brave the very (very) high-end fabrics at Textiles Couture Elle @7359 St. Hubert.  The owner remembered Rhonda from the Pattern Review Montreal weekend, and was kind enough to show us around the silk collections.  Now we know the difference between dupioni, habotai, satin, charmeuse and sandwashed silk.  Whew.  We ended up at C&M @corner St Hubert and Faillon, where I bought my only fabric of the day (to be revealed in a FO soon!)

Thanks again for coming out everyone! 

Psst!  We're getting together again on September 8th at le Musée du Costume et du Textile de MontréalCaro is organizing this time around, so go check out the details here and let her know you'll be joining us. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sew Weekly Reunion Pantone Challenge

The Facts:

Fabric: 1m of Ikat-style print rayon from my village thrift shop = $1
Notions: Reused elastic scraps from various projects = $0
Pantone Challenge colors: Emerald (17-5641), Mykonos Blue (18-4434), Linden Green (15-0533), Carafe (19-1116) 
Pattern: none, but By Hand London's Anna for inspiration 
Year: 2013 
Time to complete: 3hrs
First worn: August 17th for the First Montreal Bilingual Meetup! (to be blogged soon...)
Wear again? Yes, I already have two times 
Total Cost: $1 CAN

OK, so this was such a simple project that it feels like I'm cheating.  It's an elastic waisted skirt.


Are you going to kick me out of the reunion? 

Well, the story goes like this:  I have a huge stash of fabric built up from my travels and from my marvelous village thrift shop that sells bundles of fabric for $1/m.  When the Pantone Challenge was announced, I didn't want to go out and buy any new fabric, and this print had 4 (4!) of the colours, but was only 1m and that limited my project options.

I didn't need another sleeveless top, and I didn't want to waste any of this fab ikat rayon.  Because I work in a lab and cannot have bare legs during the summer for safety reasons, my maxi skirts have been in pretty heavy rotation, so another maxi was an obvious choice.

Way back in May 2012, I made a similar tube skirt, but ran into trouble with not having enough width at the bottom hem to allow a full stride.  So I made a short slit.  Then I made it longer.  Then I just kept going until I was running into point-of-no-return territory.  Shades of Angelina Jolie.

But then I remembered that By Hand London's Anna dress with a thigh high slit is taking the sewing world by storm this summer, so I can totally get away with it.  See Heather Lou's.  And Scruffy Badger's.  And Did You Make That's?  And Sew Busy Lizzie's.  etc.  Don't they all look gorgeous?  

I finished this more than a week ago, and already wore it to the second Montreal sewcialists meetup in honour of CarmencitaB's visit, which we decided to dub The First Bilingual Meetup because we were switching between French and English with abandon and trying to come up with a French term for "sewcialist".  Any suggestions?  (I still haven't blogged about it, but it'll be up soon.  Promise.)

 And because my Sew Weekly posts back in 2012 were never complete without an outtake or two, here's my daughter photobombing me this morning:

Happy Sew Weekly Reunion everybody.  Same time next year?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

24hrs on the bus for 3m of fabric: was it worth it?

Duh.  Of course it was.  Was there any doubt?  Especially when it's fab laser cut pleather....

....and the exact weight/size/colour of breton stripe I've been looking for all year.

I had one last 3-day weekend of the summer left, and Greyhound was having a web deal, so I thought, what the hell.  Last trip down to NYC in September of 2011 went quickly, and the wifi on the bus meant that I had 7 hours or so each way to catch up on some blog reading.  Unfortunately, it seems that the whole of Quebec decided to cross at the I-87 border that Friday, which meant a 5.5hr hold up for customs and immigration.  Sigh.   Luckily bus people are a patient lot who don't demand to skip the line because don't-you-know-who-I-am and I-have-somewhere-very-important-to-be, like business class fliers tend to!  Everyone settled down for a long wait, broke out their packed lunches, shared everything around, and I got to meet some great people and hear their stories about summer travels to family reunions. 

There have already been some great blog posts about Male Pattern Boldness day 2013, so I'll just do a quick recap:  
from Peter
I met Peter, Suzanne, Teri, Linda and Tracey early at the Chelsea Flea Market.  Really, it was more of an antiques market, with prices you'd expect in Chelsea.  That didn't stop us from taking a good look at everything, including one handmade 1920s black silk dress that caught my eye....but for $450, I had to pass. 

I'd been wanting to meet Suzanne for a couple of years now, so it was a treat to get to talk for a while before the main crush of MPB day overtook us.  By the time we got to FIT for the RetroSpective exhibit, we were 25+ people (plus one husband/fabric carrier).  No photos allowed in the exhibit, but there are lots available on the website

 We invaded a cafe en masse for lunch, during which we got to swap patterns, meet Michael and refuel for the epic fabric shopping to come.

Suzanne and Nettie at Mood
I had a Project Runway fangirl moment at Mood:  we saw Sandro (PR S12) getting fabric cut by Kooan (PR S11), and then Uli came up in the elevator as we were leaving!  I can't remember all the stores we visited, but the usual culprits (Chic, Paron, Pacific Trim, Mood, Spandex House) were in there somewhere.  Check the Shop the Garment District website for a complete list of fabric shops, if you are planning a trip there outside of MPB day.

We ended the day at Kinokuniya Japanese books, where I picked up some treats for my kids and a pattern book that I'd been thinking about ordering for a while.

Then we flopped into a corner of Bryant park and spent the next couple of hours rehydrating and comparing fabric.  I did a little speed-dating turn around the group so that I'd get a chance to talk to everyone.  Now I can say that I've actually met all these NYC bloggy friends, rather than trying to awkwardly explain to people that I have a huge group of friends that I "talk to" regularly, but have never met.  You know what I mean, don't you?

Thanks for hosting Peter!  And I'll see you at MPB 2015 perhaps?  But I think that next time, I'll fly....

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