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!

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.

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!

2020 – a Year of Making

2020 is finally out the door and 2021 has arrived. What an odd year it has been! Last December I came home from a vacation with a sewing machine. Thus, 2020 has been a year of sewing, and I haven’t done as much knitting or spinning as I have in the past. Here are my makes:

January:

February:

  • We continued to settle into the house, and I started a mini raised-bed garden.
  • I wrote an article for Ply Magazine that came out in their Basics issue in the fall!
  • I knit a washcloth for a friend.

March:

  • I mended my slippers.
  • I made a chemisette for a Regency outfit I’ve been quietly working on in the background. 

April:

May:

  • I mocked up the bodice of my Regency dress pattern. 
  • I made a colourful pinafore
  • I bought a rose bush and planted more seeds in the garden. 
  • I finished weaving a handspun/mohair lace scarf

June:

  • I started brewing Kombucha and Kefir.
  • I finished spinning the wool samples from the spinning class I took in the Fall of 2018.
  • My husband made me a yarn display for my wall. 
  • We went on a massive hike.
  • I made a T-shirt

July:

August:

  • I made a second pair of shorts
  • I finished a sparkly tunic I had started several years ago, but stalled out on due to fitting issues. 
  • I made an 18th century-inspired petticoat skirt.
  • My article was published in Ply Magazine!!

September:

October:

  • I made a corset-style bodice and paired it with my petticoat skirt for a Hobbity Halloween look. 
  • We got a puppy!!

November:

  • We spent a lot of time playing with and training our puppy. He is adorable and is growing like a weed!
  • I baked Pumpkin Sourdough Bread in the shape of a pumpkin. 
  • I moved my garden indoors.
  • I knit a tasseled shawl!

December:

Throughout the year I have enjoyed making things, especially clothes. I always seem to think that a garment will come together in just a few hours, and I am rarely right. I need to work on factoring in a realistic amount of time when planning a project and not beat myself up when it takes longer than I initially thought it would. There is nothing like getting dressed in clothes you have made yourself. It’s like a sort of armor against the world. I am looking forward to continuing my garment-sewing journey in 2021 and (spoiler) I’m considering quilting. Because I don’t have enough hobbies yet.