This is my second time attempting a PDF pattern garment. The first was a Burda dress and let’s just say it didn’t go too well. Just looking at pictures online doesn’t give me a sense of whether something will look good on me… I find when I’m in a fabric store and I can take out the pattern instructions and look at the shape of the pattern pieces, I can get a better sense of whether I’ll have fitting challenges.

But I digress.

Today, I’m attempting the Colette Sorbetto. It’s free, it’s simple, and it’s what I need to fit under my Burda 6801. I’ve purchased a white rayon and I’m going for simplicity. The first thing I did after printing and assembling the pattern was trace it out onto Burda tissue paper (if I sound like a Burda fan-girl, I am, and I don’t even get paid to be).

I’ve traced the 18, because in Big 4 patterns I’ve been making 18-20 for the top and 20-22 for the bottom lately. However, I just checked the Colette sizing chart and realized my measurements (bust 41.5″, waist 36″) make me somewhere between a 14-16 so I’ll watch my sizing carefully and be prepared to take things in, or give healthy seam allowances. I’m planning to use French seams for this.

There are a few fitting question marks which come up for me… These photos illustrate how this pattern doesn’t seem to make sense right off the printer:

What's with the shoulder seams not being aligned? I have the pattern pieces pinned to my centre front and back on the straight grain.

What’s with the shoulder seams not being aligned? I have the pattern pieces pinned to my centre front and back on the straight grain.

The bust point is obviously a bit higher on me than the pattern model, so I'll have to redraw the bust dart.

The bust point is obviously a bit higher on me than the pattern model, so I’ll have to redraw the bust dart. I’ve marked a dot where my bust point is (thanks to my Uniquely-You dress form) and where I think the dart should stop to avoid dimples.

The Colette patterns are drafted for a C cup, so fortunately there seems to be enough fabric here around the circumference of the bust. I might redraw the armscye so it provides a bit more coverage, because once I’ve done the bias binding, this will probably come a little further down than is necessarily appropriate or flattering for work.

Onwards I go to fix these things… Will update the post later!

Well, the trip to Europe is done, and I am home. Thanks to international travel and jet lag, I snagged myself a nasty cold on the day of my return and have spent the past three days in bed or on the couch. I thought when I got back I would focus on finishing the black dress I wanted to wear to the Top 20 Under 40 Gala, but after I tried it on again, I realized it was looking very Becky-Home-Ecky so I’ve put it in the naughty corner. Also, I need a dress I can wear with flats because after two weeks of walking on cobblestones, my knees are wrecked, and high heels just won’t do.

So now I’m taking a pause from sewing while I consider my next endeavours. Doing the Patternreview.com Wardrobe Contest made me think about my sewing projects in a coordinated, purposeful way for the first time ever, and I’m pleased with the outcome. While I was in Barcelona, I spent a fair amount of time poking into little designer boutiques in the El Born district, where you can easily get lost and/or drop hundreds of Euros on adorable locally-designed garments, if only you are a size 12 or smaller. This made it a tad frustrating for me, because even the most adorable outfits were ruled out based not on price but on sizing… They just don’t make clothes for the tall, athletic and slightly rounded Canadian girl.

One thing that did dawn upon me though, after seeing some stuff in boutiques that frankly I wouldn’t consider fit for public viewing: there’s not that much separating me from people who design and sell clothes for a living. In skill, that is. I can totally rock the garment construction. The question is, can I put together a design concept and take it from idea to a collection?

The other big part of my European trip, from a sewing-design perspective, is my experience in Paris. I’ve already written about my amazing Chanel adventure, but what I haven’t mentioned is our visit to the Musee D’Orsay in the morning, and how it inspired me to sketch things I don’t know that I’d ever make for myself. It’s made me wonder whether sewing only for myself is limiting my exploration of my creative abilities. There’s of course something empowering about interpreting fashion design concepts for a slightly plus-size woman, but I’m starting to see how it can be liberating for designers to think about how clothing could work on a person with minimal curves. If you didn’t have to factor in worries about over-emphasizing your hips or bust, what would those clothes look like? Also, there are colours I wouldn’t want to wear personally but am inspired to use in garments – grey and yellow, for example, which look terrible on me but on someone with different colouring could be stunning.

So, all of these thoughts are bouncing around my head at the moment as I recover from being ill and survive what promises to be a brutally over-committed next seven days. By next weekend I’ll probably be exhausted and hopefully pining for my sewing loft. Until then… Netflix and chill!

All Looks Composite

What do you do when your hair is BLUE? You wear BRIGHT orange and blue clothes, of course.

In this case, it was all part of my Pattern Review Wardrobe Contest adventure (contest rules here in case you’re interested).

This contest started February 1 and ends March 31 (but I am leaving on vacation March 20, so I had a shortened time frame to complete). The idea is to make a ten-item coordinated wardrobe with two tops, two bottoms, 1 topper, and 5 free choice items. Everything has to “go with” everything else, and of course everything must be sewn during the contest dates.

I mapped out the concept using Polyvore first, using ready-to-wear items that represented the garments I thought I was going to include in the wardrobe: (click on the image to go to the Polyvore set)

polyvore concept

As things went along, the colours of fabric I had in my stash weren’t really lining up with these colours, and I was afraid to make the palazzo pants. (There: I said it. Orange palazzo pants are nice in theory on a skinny model, but on me I think they would be clown-like).

And then sometime in early February, I watched the movie “Inside Out” and fell in love with the hair on character Joy. Wouldn’t you? I thought to myself: my hair kind of has that shape… on a good day… a very good day. What if I dyed my hair blue? Wouldn’t that be fun? And since I’ve never done anything remotely adventurous with my hair before, aside from cutting it pretty short, I decided to go for it. And once I had blue hair, well there was no holding back on the wardrobe. It HAD to be as bright and joyful as possible, while also being comprised of things I could actually wear after going back to a normal hair colour.

I only bought three pieces of fabric specially for this wardrobe, and the rest were from stash and at least six months old. Well, the striped cotton was from someone else’s stash and acquired at a stash swap. But free. The fabric I bought was the graphic knit print, the cotton jacquard for the skirt, and the denim for the pants. It turns out the denim was narrow and shrank more than expected, so I wasn’t able to make wide-leg pants at full length. Ergo I invented a new pants style – wide-leg high-waters! Wheee!

Here is the wardrobe, hanging on the rack:

On the Rack

And of course, what you’ve all been waiting for, is the pictures from the photo shoot.

Here is a composite image:

All Looks Composite

Click on any image to see it larger. Many thanks to my awesome co-worker Helen for taking these photos, and the lovely Aeryana for scouting the location and doing model coaching. Normally I feel like a prat while modelling, but this was a lot of fun!

Enjoy!

Onwards towards the Seasonal Sew Wardrobe! Here is my second project in the capsule wardrobe of ten looks which I’m attempting to complete by March 15. I’d say it’s 50/50 as to whether I’ll finish things.

Today’s project was Burda 7082, a dress that looks like it has a wrap front (but it doesn’t).

Pattern envelope photo for Burda 7082

Pattern envelope photo for Burda 7082

When I was putting this together on the dress form, it really looked like it was going to turn out sad, droopy and awful. I’m using a deep blue textured knit from stash. I don’t normally wear this colour, but I bought it when I acquired the heather / leaf knits that I used for the cardigan sweater. A crossed-over bodice is often challenging to fit properly so you don’t end up with sagginess or gaping which ends up showing off more of your ladies than you’d like. With the addition of some non-stretchy interfacing (Armo Weft) along the facing, I think I have succeeded with this project.

The whole look

The whole look

Close-up of the crossed-over front and the criss-cross front detail.

Close-up of the crossed-over front and the criss-cross front detail. Thanks to the weird lighting in front of my door, this actually makes me look as pale and stiff as a mannequin. Odd.

Mr. Low has gone off to China leaving me with plenty of unfilled time on my hands in the evenings and weekends. El Kiddo would rather play video games or read books than go out and you know, do something fun (or even necessary like grocery shopping). So this weekend I found myself in the odd situation of having time to sew without any particular project catching my fancy.

I didn’t have anything to sew. Read More →

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So for those of you who occasionally come around here expecting posts about civics & current events, you’ve got to wonder what kind of blog I’m running here. Well, it’s my blog and I like sewing a LOT and I feel like blogging about it, so I will continue to do that in amongst occasional bits about payday loans and politics.

Today I am going to try to do something that I haven’t done very well in the past: create a sleeve to go on a dress I’m making. Here’s the dress.
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Here’s my work table all set up to follow a tutorial about sleeves.

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Yup I’m still running Windows XP on my laptop. It’s from 2006. I’d call it the “old” computer but there’s a 2003-vintage Dell Latitude in this household which still runs like a charm. But I digress.

The YouTube tutorial I followed included measurements for sleeve cap height based on a dress size. I chose a size 12 and drafted my first block based on that. I then cut it out of an old bedsheet, adding about 5/8″ seam allowances, and tried it on. While it was the right length, the sleeve cap did not fit, nor did the bicep. I have these rower’s muscles, you know. 😀 So following the instructions in the Sandra Betzina Fast Fit book, I slashed the pattern piece vertically and then raised the sleeve cap. Here’s what my block looks like now:

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You can kind of see in that second photo where I added height to the sleeve cap. I’ve cut it out of more bedsheet and stitched it together, and it fits quite well.

The purpose of a sleeve block is to give you the basic fit for a garment piece, but then you need to adjust it for design purposes. It’s not comfortable to wear a sleeve that is perfectly fitted, usually. For the dress I’m making right now, I’ll actually re-trace this sleeve block and then slash it in two places so I can insert the plaid fabric down the outside of the sleeve and make the rest of the sleeve out of my double-knit. Because I like to make life difficult for myself I will be trying to make the lower sleeve in one piece so there isn’t an underarm seam. With the double-knit being stretchy, I don’t need to add any ease to this block for fit. If I were making a pattern out of woven or less stretchy fabric, I would probably add 1 to 1 1/2 inches of ease.

The next step for this was to trace the original sleeve block onto new paper and then slash it into 3 pieces, then put the sides together at the underarm seam. This creates two pattern pieces, one which is cut out of the plaid and the other out of the knit. Here are the pattern pieces, and the finished sleeve:

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That picture gives you an idea of the blocking on the arm.

With the dress itself, I realized when I was putting together the seams on the sleeve that things go together much more smoothly when I use Lite Steam-a-Seam to “baste” the zipper to the plaid, then the knit to the zipper, so layers don’t shift or stretch during the stitching. So then I decided to take out the princess seams on the dress and re-do them with this new technique. OH MY GOODNESS. It took forever. I had topstitched each of the seams so I had to take out two rows of stitching on each seam. All told, taking it apart and putting it back together took me three hours. So much for making another garment tonight!! I’m now working on the hem of the dress, after which I will re-make the neckline because it rides too high and bugs me. Should be wrapped up around ohhhh 11pm?

I’m making jeans for my little guy (who at 6 years old is already 4 feet tall and shows signs of becoming a very un-little guy). I’m using Burda 9641, but I have decided to do a real zip fly instead of the mock zip and elastic waistband in the pattern. This is a sewing challenge.

So far what I have learned is that if you’re making jeans and plan to do the contrast-colour-thread topstitching, it is far better to have sewing machines so you don’t have to constantly flip back and forth between threads. I’m only using the topstitching thread in the needle, not the bobbin, but still… I wish I had an extra sewing machine.

I screwed up my first attempt at putting in the zipper, and I blame the tutorial I’m using entirely. Always blame something else, yes? I won’t link to the tutorial though because that’s mean. So I’m about to go “off-instruction” and figure out how to get this damn fly to go in properly, all by myself. Wish me luck.

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Here’s the finished fly! Yay!

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The zipper itself is a bit on the long side, but that gives me lots of room for putting on a waistband. I will have to adjust the waistband from the pattern to be long enough to go right over the fly shield. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a fly zip fortunately, but it is the first time with denim and topstitching.

Now on to the inseam and then the waistband! I might have these done before midnight tonight. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

Day 2 – fitting and waistband and hopefully finishing

I gave up last night just after finishing the inseam. I provisionally attached the waistband but realized I wanted to check the fit before going to all the effort of finishing the waistband. Good call. When I tried the jeans on The Boy this morning, there was a whole two inches in the rear that I was able to pin out. There is more looseness in the side seams but because these are for a little guy, I’m going to leave that there for comfort. He might have to hike up his pants a bit every now and then but it’s better than having him complain his pants are too tight. He grows, but not around – he just stretches day after day.

So now here we are!

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And the waistband is on!

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I’m just about running out of topstitching thread so I’m going to whip up hems on the legs with that before I get fancy with anything else.

Update: We’re Done!

The button hole was made with the template from my sewing machine’s buttonhole attachment. The button itself was a jeans button that went onto a tack that comes through the fabric. I’ve never used one of those before and it was very easy to put on.

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Here’s the overall look on the front. The belt carriers were tough to sew on with the machine – definitely need an industrial strength top-stitching machine for that.

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The other little secret in these jeans is that the pocket backs are made with the cute pirate fabric I used to make the boy and the hubby their matching Father’s Day shirts. So when he puts his hands in his pockets he’ll remember both mom and dad. Yay love.

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And that’s it! 😀

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It doesn’t look like I’m going to come up with nearly enough political topics to blog about on a regular basis, yet I also want to have a sewing blog. Rather than going to the unnecessary effort of setting up a completely new sewing blog I’m going to multi-purpose this one. I’ll create sub-pages to separate the topics in case there are people who are mortally offended by cross-pollination of politics and sewing.