A Smocking Adventure

When you sew (or knit, or do any kind of craft) you inevitably accumulate some sort of a stash. Pretty and useful materials are fun to accumulate, and this has the added advantage that when inspiration strikes you can immediately make the thing. But a significant part of any maker’s stash ends up being scraps of this and bits of that – enough to do something small with, but not small enough to throw away. I had a scrap of linen just like that. I had made a bias-cut dress and my scraps were weird shapes. I rescued a rectangle about the length of my waist to knee and almost as long as my full waist measurement, and decided to make an apron. But not just any apron, oh no. I had to make it complicated interesting. I had seen several Smocking tutorials floating around Pinterest, and decided to give the honeycomb stitch a try.

I started out by hemming both sides and the bottom edge of the apron. Then I marked my smocking lines using a heat-sensitive pen and quilting ruler. You don’t have to run gathering stitches through your fabric before beginning Honeycomb stitch, so I started on the smocking immediately after this step. I used a blue ombré embroidery floss (3 strands) for the smocking, and worked both left to right and right to left. I found that it was easier to work left to right, but perfectly possible to work in both directions.

When the smocking was done I ironed the top edge flat and applied a bit of navy blue bias tape (also left over from a previous project) as a waist tie. The apron was done!

I’ve never thought about myself as an apron kind of gal, so the apron sat around for a while waiting to be used. One day I was harvesting peas from my garden and needed a receptacle. A bowl seemed annoying to wrangle, so I put on my apron and fell in love! This is the perfect use for an apron and the perfect way to harvest produce since it moves with you and keeps your hands free.

I do find that the bias ties are a bit slippery, so I might sew along the ties with some embroidery floss to add texture and hopefully a little more grab.

What is your favourite thing to make with fabric (or yarn) scraps?

Bruyere

I was browsing patterns (as one does) and was stopped in my tracks when I saw Bruyere by Deer and Doe. I thought the plaid version in the pattern sample was incredibly striking, and decided to make myself a plaid version as well. Since it was early winter when I started the project I chose a yarn-dyed plaid cotton flannel from Joann’s (I took my colour inspiration from this make).

I had a hard time getting the fabric to lay flat without warping, but I did my best to get all the pattern pieces laid out straight. I cut the collar, shoulder piece, waistband, and sleeve cuffs on the bias for visual interest and to save myself from the horrors of trying to match the plaid across so many different pieces. I cut the front facings, inner shoulder piece, cuff placket, and inner cuffs from a scrap of black wool crepe that I had leftover from this vest I made a few years ago. I thought the solid colour would be a nice change from the overall plaid. This was my first go at this pattern, so I did not do any pattern alterations when cutting.

There are a lot of pieces in this pattern. It is one of the most complicated patterns I had ever made, so I followed the instructions religiously. There were a few instructions that I had to read a few times before I really understood them, but overall the top went together pretty well. In the absence of finishing instructions, I finished my seams with lace seam binding and faux French seams.

The only pattern alteration I made was using a smaller seam allowance for the front button plackets than the pattern specifies. At this point in the project I was able to try on the garment and test it for fit, and I needed more room. This small change worked perfectly, though I still could use a little more room along the waistband (you can see in the photo above that there is a small amount of pulling along the waistband).

By the end of this project I couldn’t stand the thought of hand-sewing 7-8 buttons and buttonholes, so I bought some snaps to close the shirt front. I had never set in snaps like this, and I was intimidated at first, but they went in really well overall and I haven’t had any problems with them.

I LOVE this shirt! It ticks all the right buttons for length, fit, and overall style. I especially love how well the shoulders and sleeves fit me. This may become my personal shoulder/sleeve block! I do plan to make more Bruyeres. When I do I plan to grade out at the waist 1-2 sizes. The fit is perfectly comfortable as is, but I want to avoid the pulling at the waistband in future.

Embroidery Sampler 1

Young girls used to make samplers to learn (and show off) new skills. In today’s day and age it is an exception rather than the rule for someone to know how to embroider and to make a sampler. My mom taught me some embroidery basics when I was young, but last year I decided I wanted to learn more stitches. Around the same time I came to this conclusion I created a Creativebug account and found Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery sampler tutorials. I went to her Etsy shop and ordered all 3 of the samplers she had Creativebug tutorials for.

I love how fresh and new these samplers look, especially compared to older designs that can feel stuffy and outdated.

In my head I thought I would work a new stitch every day for about 3 months and have 3 new samplers and a decent knowledge of embroidery stitches by the end of first quarter, 2021.

I started off well, and dutifully worked my stitch a day for about 10 days. Then I missed a day and made up for it the next. I would miss days and then work multiple stitches in one go. Invariably, I missed more days than I made up.

My first sampler took me from January to the end of April, so actually longer than I thought all 3 samplers would take me. But that’s alright. I enjoyed the first one, and I’m looking forward to the next two.

I used this collection of beautiful ombré embroidery floss. I’ve had this floss for years, and have always been afraid to use it because it is so beautiful and I don’t know where I got it and I don’t want it to be all used up. But what are beautiful materials for if not to be used?

Using a collection like this also helped me to keep my palette limited. When I needed to add a different material, such as yarn for a couching stitch, I tried to choose yarns that would coordinate with the colours in the floss. I also couched around the “hoop” part of the design with handspun alpaca, which felt like an extra special touch.

I had a lot of fun working this sampler, and I learned a lot! I have 2 more samplers to go and lots of embroidery floss left, so I will be embroidering on and off for a good long while.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 3

Day 16: linen Juliette blouse with striped denim shorts

Day 17: blue Adrienne blouse with the same striped denim shorts

Day 18: Pocahontas dress

Day 19: pencil skirt and kimono jacket

Day 20: cream shorts and a brand new ruffled blouse

Day 21: striped petticoat worn as a dress with a brown vest

Day 22: cream shorts with a brand new Wiksten Tank in Jersey

I tried some new outfit combinations on days 19 and 21, and mostly didn’t like them. I also got tired of my limited options and made/finished two tops, which I wore on days 20 and 22. This is ironic, since my options are much more limited for pants/shorts than for tops. I have a great pants pattern that is already fitted to me, and my fabric is already washed, so I really have no excuse to not make some fantastic new pants. I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend.

Pinterest Win: Checkered Turban

We’ve all seen the Pinterest Fails. Some of them are spectacular fails, not just ordinary “well, that didn’t quite work” fails. And yet we all continue to search for and follow Pinterest tutorials, despite the fact that they may or may not work. The reason is because sometimes Pinterest tutorials are good and lead to good results. This is one of those times.

The tutorial is for “A Smart Dusting Cap” in the 1930s style. I had a very small amount of some checkered shirting I bought several years ago for a top that seemed like a good option for this project.

I pieced the fabric to within an inch of its life, but in the end the piece wasn’t quite long enough to tie securely.

This was my first try-on, and I had a few changes to make to fit my head better. I opened the slit on the long side up an additional 3 inches, and gathered the front section in by another inch. Then I cut out a piece of lightweight black linen, hemmed all the edges, and whip-stitched it onto the main piece.

This is the last of my checkered shirting. I have used it for quite a few projects over the last few years:

  • The original shirt I bought the fabric for
  • Embroidery for my 2019 word of the year
  • A furoshiki-style lunch wrap
  • 2 face masks (fashion fabric for one and lining for the other)
  • This turban

With this, all my scraps of this lovely shirting have been used up. I have really enjoyed working with this fabric, and it has helped me realize how much I love working with stripes and checks and making the fabric align in a way that can appear seamless (especially when piecing).

A Wool Edwardian Blouse

I have always loved the clothing people wore in the past, so I have very gradually begun to add historically inspired garments to my wardrobe. I am interested in several time periods: Medieval, Tudor, mid-18th Century, Regency, Edwardian, and the list goes on.

One of the first of the historically inspired garments I finished was the striped petticoat I made last year, which fits into the mid-18th century category. I fast-forwarded into the Edwardian period earlier this year, and made a shirtwaist. I used the Wearing History Edwardian Blouse and Guimpe pattern, and made it up in a delicious textured wool shirting from Denver Fabrics. I had never worked with wool shirting before, and I found this fabric to be delightful!

I made the high-neck version of the blouse with no alterations, choosing to treat this as a wearable muslin. Wool is forgiving, and the blouse is fashionably (for the 1910s) oversized. The construction was quite straightforward, and the instructions were easy to follow. The sleeve was so interesting to construct! The part of the sleeve seam that is toward the back of the arm is longer than the part that is toward the front of the arm. The back part is gathered slightly and eased into the front part, which creates a sleeve with plenty of room in the elbows. It was also interesting inserting the sleeve into the armhole since the sleeve seam and side seam do not line up, and the great majority of the shoulder ease is located at the back rather than being distributed evenly throughout.

Instead of inserting a waist casing I marked the waist with a length of twill tape and adjusted the front and back into pleats so I wouldn’t have to adjust it every time I put it on. I secured the pleats with a length of elastic for ease of wearing. I hemmed the bodice and sleeves using my favourite rolled hem variation, and used snap tape for the back closure instead of buttons or hooks and eyes. The snap tape was SO EASY to use and saved me so much time! 10/10 would recommend. I did have one snap break, though, so if you choose to use snap tape I would recommend that you inspect your snaps before inserting the tape into your garment.

With that the construction was done! I wore it a few times, and snapped a few photos before throwing it in the wash.

That is when disaster struck. I told you this was wool fabric. I had been diligent and prewashed and dried the fabric on a Delicate setting. My dear husband did laundry that weekend, and used the Normal setting. My poor blouse shrunk. Thanks to the loose fit in the body I can still get it on, but it is tight across the back and too short in the arms and body now. I think I can unpick the snap tape and let out the back, but I will probably have to remake the sleeves. And possibly add length to the body? Oh well. Live and Learn. I have linen to make another version of this that will be more appropriate for summer.

Dress Like a Pirate, Part 1

Who has not, at some point in their lives, been enamored with the idea of pirates? Whether Peter Pan, Errol Flynn, or Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, pirates have haunted our imaginations since childhood. My husband recently bought me a Pirate magazine, which reignited my imagination and inspired me to make a pirate-y shirt. I actually couldn’t decide if I wanted my shirt to have ruffles or not, so I decided to make two garments: one with ruffles and one without.

I couldn’t get ruffles out of my brain, so I started on the ruffled top first. I used the Sew Over It Juliette Top pattern and white handkerchief linen (IL020) from fabrics-store.com. The construction was pretty straightforward, and I only made a few deviations from the instructions. Instead of making the ruffles a double layer, I finely hemmed the ruffles before basting them to the shirt fronts and sewing the shirt fronts together.

I finished seams as I went: the shirt fronts and ruffle are flat felled, I used French Seams for the side seams and sleeve seams, and I sewed a spare bit of ribbon over the raw edges where the sleeve is sewn onto the bodice. I shortened the sleeves to elbow length, thus avoiding the sleeve cuff altogether. The sleeve hems and shirt hem are finished with a variation on a rolled hem.

Overall I LOVE this top! Now that it is in my wardrobe I find myself reaching for it far more than any of my other tops. It is light and breezy, and will be perfect for summer. That being said, there are a few things that I’m less happy about:

  • Shirt length: I have a long torso, but I didn’t lengthen the pattern. I’m happy with the length in back (this is probably because of my swayback), but the front and sides are a bit short and have come untucked from my waistband a few times.
  • The V-neck is a little lower than I am comfortable with.
  • I didn’t trim the rolled hem well before sewing. The rolled hem variation I used puts the raw edge right along the sewing line, so if this isn’t trimmed well before hemming, the hem can look a bit…fringey. This is entirely user error and not a problem with the pattern.
  • The shoulders are too wide in front, and the underarm opening is too low. These two pieces together limit my arm movement somewhat. Compare this shoulder/underarm with the shoulder/underarm of my Bruyere shirt:

I have plans to make at least one more Juliette, possibly with some shoulder/sleeve modifications, and even possibly with an extra ruffle! I could also make a plain top by omitting the front ruffle. There are lots of possibilities here, and I am excited!

I have not forgotten about the non-ruffled pirate shirt. That is still coming, and it is going to be epic!

Nearly Instant Gratification: A Kimono-style Robe

Sometimes the urge to make something is just too strong to be ignored. I do most of my sewing on the weekends, but we had been busy for three weekends straight, and I was desperate to make something with my hands. Every spring/summer for the past few years I’ve thought about buying or making a kimono-style jacket, but I was always stopped by the concern that it wouldn’t be flattering to my body. In my recent desperation to make something, anything, I decided now was the time to throw aside my concerns and just make the thing.

I had a limited amount of this lightweight jersey since I’ve used it for 2 other projects in the past. Because of this I cut my front and back piece in one to my bust measurement +5 inches for ease, paying no attention to grain (this knit has similar stretch in both directions). I had originally planned to cut the sleeves in one with the garment, but had to cut them out separately and seam them on due to my limited fabric quantity. I cut down the center of the front, widening to my neck width at the top of the neck and cutting slightly into the back.

I cut an additional 5 inch wide strip, which I folded in half to use as the robing down the front. I turned the fabric inside out to contrast with the main fabric. This ended up coordinating perfectly with the fabric selvedge which is not patterned. I turned the bottom hem in by about half an inch and sewed it down. I did not hem the sleeves, but I am still debating if I need to go back and add a hem for better drape and overall structure. I did not finish any of the seams since this knit fabric does not fray.

Thoughts on the finished garment:

  1. This is SO COMFORTABLE to wear!!!
  2. I still don’t think the garment is terribly flattering (read: there is no waist definition), but it is useful for when I want more coverage or a tiny bit more warmth.
  3. I have tried it with a few belts and have not been pleased with the results. I will continue to try garment and styling combinations to find my favourite ways to wear this.
  4. I definitely want another kimono, but wider and in a sheer fabric.

A Trio of Adriennes

In January I had the opportunity to visit my family for my grandmother’s funeral. It wasn’t the reason I wanted to see my family, but I took the opportunity to enjoy their company and make some good memories together.

I have mentioned before that my sewing machine only sews straight stitch, which limits me somewhat in what I can sew. I had recently acquired the Adrienne Blouse pattern from Friday Pattern Co. and wanted to sew myself a few tops. The Adrienne blouse is made with knit fabric, which requires a stretch stitch for the sake of longevity and comfort. My mom’s machine is fully functioning, so I brought the pattern and some fabric with me and concocted a devious plan to sew with my sisters.

The pattern is written to use a knit fabric for both body and sleeves, but I wanted to make my sleeves with woven fabric instead. I had the perfect amount of cotton flannel left over from a pair of pajama bottoms I made at the end of last year, which I paired with a green knit for the body. I love how the sleeves are somewhat poofy here. Anne Shirley would be so pleased.

I also brought a light blue floral knit fabric, which I paired with a white lightweight polyester woven fabric. The difference the fabric makes in how the sleeves look is incredible! I love how this blouse is whimsical and romantic.

My youngest sister also wanted an Adrienne blouse. She went for a very romantic look with a pink floral woven fabric for her sleeves, and a mustard yellow knit fabric for the body of her blouse. You’ll see that we moved the wrist elastic up to the elbow for my sister’s blouse. We left the full sleeve length so she ended up with the most darling sleeve ruffles. I almost wish we had put lace on the sleeve edges, but that might have been over the top.

Overall, the blouse was very easy to make and to alter. The pattern sizing will give you a more fitted blouse, but my sister and I both wanted a little looser fit. For this purpose we measured the body pattern piece and chose the size closest to our measurements rather than going by the size recommendation. I would also say that the elastic length you choose is extremely important for this pattern, so take the time to get this part of the fit right. Neither of my two shirts is perfect, and it bothers me every time I wear them: the shoulder elastic on the blue one fits perfectly, and the wrist elastic on the green one fits perfectly. I may address this at some point, but I’m the meantime, C’est la vie.

My middle sister didn’t feel that Adrienne would be flattering for her body, so she chose to sew another pattern that I had brought with me: the same pattern I used to make my hobbity corset top. I am so proud of how well this came out for her! The top is reversible – green and yellow on one side, and a teal-ish blue on the other. Doesn’t she look fantastic!? For the record, sewing this top in garment-weight fabric works SO much better than using super thick upholstery fabric like I did.

It was wonderful to see my family, even though it was under difficult circumstances. I am so happy to have these new pieces in my wardrobe. They truly are a joy to wear!

Wardrobe Reincarnation: Pencil Skirt Edition

In college I had the most gorgeous grey pencil skirt with hand-stitched details on the front. Alas, it has been many years since my college days, and that skirt is no more. I’ve been working on renewing my wardrobe recently, and was reminded of this skirt. I looked online for fabric to make one, but couldn’t find anything I liked right off. And then I was sewing my herringbone pants, and when I turned the fabric over I realized it was perfect! And I had just under a yard of fabric left, which is the perfect amount to make a pencil skirt.

As I often do, I started with a sketch. I used the Knit Pencil Skirt pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual as my base pattern, making fitting adjustments as needed. I dithered around for sever days trying to find a way to make the skirt reversible, but in the end I went with the simplest route and made it normally.

The hand-stitched details on the front really elevate this item from a normal skirt to something special. My college skirt had 4-6 lines stitched on the front, but I sewed 9 lines in. This was actually the part that took the longest. The fabric is thick, and my hand and wrist started hurting after sewing 3 lines. So I spread the embroidery out over several days to avoid injury.

This was a simple make, but I am quite happy with it. I love the graphic, almost Art Deco, embroidery. The knit ponte fabric I used and elastic waistband make this skirt extremely comfortable to wear, while still looking professional and even a bit (dare I say it?) glamorous! There are a few fit issues that I may go back and tweak. You might see a little wrinkling at the hips, and the waistband could be a bit smaller (this seems to be a theme for me – I am so terrified of making my clothes too small that I make them too big!). But the skirt is wearable, and I am honestly the only one who will ever notice these small things.

I am enjoying leveling up my wardrobe and building it to be exactly what I want. I honestly can’t wait for my next project!