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.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 4 and Conclusions

Day 23: paisley tank top and striped jean shorts

Day 24: brand new happy cloud t-shirt and the same striped jean shorts

Day 25: new ruffled blouse and grey pencil skirt

Day 26: brand new bees t-shirt and floral paper bag skirt

Day 27: plaid Wiksten top with striped jean shorts

Day 28: blue Adrienne blouse with cream shorts

Day 29: jersey Wiksten top with cream shorts

Day 30: happy clouds t-shirt with cream shorts

Day 31: linen Juliette blouse with striped jean shorts (+new smocked apron for gathering peas!)

I made 3 new jersey tops over the weekend, so my wardrobe this last week tended to be more casual than what I’ve worn the rest of the month. It’s funny that even though I really felt like I needed more pants throughout the whole month I only ended up sewing tops. I guess tops somehow seem a little less intimidating, which I don’t understand since my pants pattern is already fitted to me, but the patterns I used for my tops were mostly un-tested as to fit.

I had a lot of fun wearing full me-made outfits this month. 2021 is the first year where I’ve had enough me-made garments to wear full outfits every day of the month, which is a huge milestone for me! My favourite garment to wear was my grey pencil skirt, which really surprised me. It is comfortable to wear and I always feel fabulous in it. I think I might have to make another.

One of the things I love about Me Made May is how it really forces me to look at my handmade wardrobe and see what works well and what gaps I still have. Over the last year I have been mostly focused on sewing “nice” clothes that I can wear to the office. These happen to be the kind of clothes that I most like to wear, but can be a little impractical for cooking or cleaning or running around with my dog. I knew I had a gap in my handmade wardrobe regarding leisure staples and pants like t-shirts and jeans. I am looking forward to filling this gap and continuing to improve my overall handmade wardrobe.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 1

Me Made May 2021 – Week 2

Me Made May 2021 – Week 3

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.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 2

Day 9: cream shorts and plaid Wiksten tank

Day 10: burgundy linen dress

Day 11: grey pencil skirt and red tunic top

Day 12: checkered shirt and herringbone pants (bonus: enjoy my husband’s photo-bombing skills!)

Day 13: plaid Bruyere shirt and the same herringbone pants

Day 14: striped boxy shirt and cream shorts

Day 15: Wiksten tank with the same cream shorts

I tend to dress up when I go into the office (usually two days a week) and dress more casually when I’m at home. My dressier wardrobe is serving me well, which makes sense, since I’ve been more heavily focused on making pretty clothes than on making casual items to wear around the house. I am still finding some new clothing combinations as can be seen on day 13. Despite this, I’m getting to the point where I feel like I’m wearing the same pieces a little too often.

Me Made May 2021 – Week 1

April showers have indeed brought May flowers. And with the flowers we have also come to Me Made May. I have been participating in Me Made May since 2017. The first year I had a hard time wearing just 1 self-made item every day, but as I have continued making myself clothes dressing myself in Me-Mades has become easier and easier. Here is what I wore the first week of May:

Day 1: blue shorts and a striped boxy shirt

Day 2: the same blue shorts and a paisley cowl-neck tank

Day 3: pinafore dress

Day 4: grey pencil skirt and a checkered blouse

Day 5: grey dress with a white ruffled blouse over top (bonus: I made my necklace, too!)

Day 6: striped petticoat and a paisley cowl-neck tank

Day 7: grey herringbone pants with a striped purple tunic

Day 8: the same grey herringbone pants with a green Adrienne blouse

I definitely feel a lack of pants in my Me-Made wardrobe. The one pair of long pants I have made are very warm, and will quickly become unsuitable as the month goes on, so I am mainly reliant on the 2 pairs of shorts I made last year and several skirts and dresses to clothe my lower half. I have several self-made tops, but I’m worried I don’t have enough to fill all the gaps for an entire month. I am enjoying wearing some items that don’t get a lot of wear and mixing up which pieces go together (days 4-7 were new combinations!). Trying new garment combinations may be one of my favourite parts of Me Made May!

Sweater Disappointment

I started knitting a sweater for my husband in September or October of 2019. I’ve written about it several times (here and here) as I made progress, but to sum up, I knit three quarters of the thing, then stopped due to project fatigue and a repetitive motion injury. Six months later I started the second sleeve, but set it aside again when it wasn’t the same size as the first (this is a prime example of shifting gauge. The first sleeve was knitted on vacation, the second in the middle of a pandemic). After doing a little math I made the new sleeve work. Then I sewed up the seams, knit the front bands and neckband, and sewed on the buttons. I was so excited to finally be finishing the sweater, and I documented my progress copiously on Instagram.

Seaming the body up.

Setting in the sleeves.

Adding the front bands, collar, and buttons.

I thought it was perfect…until my husband tried it on. The sweater didn’t fit. The fit issues were partly due to gaining the COVID 15, but equally at fault was the too-loose gauge I chose for the sweater. The front bands gape and refuse to hang straight even on a smaller body. And the neckline is wonky. It’s too low to be a crew neck, but too high to be anything else, and it stands out from the body instead of fitting snugly to the chest and neck. Part of me wants to rework the neck portion and the front bands and see if that will solve the problems. Another part of me wants to burn the thing and then pretend it never existed.

What do you do when disaster strikes your knitting?

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!