Tackling the Mending Pile

This week I am tackling my mending pile. If you, like me, have a pile of mending to do, why don’t you join me? Let’s see how much we can get done.

  • Tops
    • Bees shirt – fix gaping neckline
    • Burnt Orange shirt – sew up side slits
    • Blue Adrienne – adjust sleeve elastic (possibly replace sleeves with linen)
    • Green Adrienne – add strap guards, remove small stain
    • Edwardian Blouse – add peplum and closures
    • Bruyere Shirt – adjust waist
    • Embroidered linen top – fix loose embroidery
    • Black Long-Sleeved shirt – fix hole in front
    • Cream Lace Top – hem thread is coming out
  • Bottoms
    • Cream Shorts – finish internal seams, add waistband OR hook and eye closure
    • Herringbone pants – add waistband
    • Floral Plaid pants – adjust waistband
  • Other
    • Patch quilt

The first item I worked on was a burnt orange t-shirt. This was a recent thrift store acquisition and I fell in love with the colour and the interesting cut of the back. Unfortunately, the sides were slit all the way up to the natural waist. I’m not sure if this was where the slit was meant to be, or if it was so high because I’m long-waisted. I sewed the slits up with a whip stitch leaving just under 2″ open at the bottom. This took 10-15 minutes before I started work one morning.

Item number 2 was my Edwardian blouse. I only got to wear it once before it was shrunk in the wash. I unpicked the closures and cut off the neckband and hem. I cut out a peplum using a half-circle skirt pattern, and pleated the bodice to fit. Then I sewed the closures back on and hemmed the new neckline. I won’t say this was an easy fix, but I think it turned out quite nicely. This fix took 3-4 hours.

Item number 3 was my Plaid Floral Pants. I was a few pounds lighter when I made these pants earlier this year, and they were tight in the waist even then. I unpicked the stitching holding the waistband closed on the inside, unpicked the zig-zagging holding the elastic waistband down, then cut the waistband and inserted 2 more inches of elastic. Then I reversed the process: I zig-zagged the waistband elastic onto the waistband, then folded this down and stitched the waistband down on the inside. The pants are still fitted, but are much more comfortable to wear. Bonus: I like where the stitching holding the inside of the waistband down is located better now than where it was before. It’s less visible, and thus provides a slightly cleaner finish. This alteration took 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Item 5 was my Bruyere shirt. I meant this to be a wearable toile, so I went with the size listed on the pattern envelope and didn’t make any major alterations. The shirt turned out a bit tight at the waist. I think this is partially because the waistband sits too high on me – it sits on top of my rib cage rather than just under it at the true waist. I let the side seams out by 1/4 inch each, resulting in a gain of around an inch at the waistband. This took maybe 15 minutes.

Item 6: My black long-sleeved Alabama Chanin shirt had developed a few small holes in the front. I closed these up with a few whip stitches on the inside. I was able to sew these vertically to align with the ribs in the fabric, so the fix is nearly invisible from the front (The small mark you can see is a mending job for a horizontal hole. It’s amazing the difference in visibility!). This was a simple mending job that took 5 minutes or less.

Item 7: My green Adrienne blouse was too loose in the shoulder elastic. I could have unpicked the seam that joins the sleeve to the body and shortened the elastic, but that seemed way more complicated than it needed to be. Instead I added strap guards using twill tape and a few sew-on snaps. This was a fiddly fix that took about an hour and a half (but only 4 needles-full of thread).

Item 8 was another new (to me) top. The hemstitching on the lace shell had come loose. I did a quick running stitch to tack this back into place. This took 5 minutes or less.

I imposed a time limit of a week to work on my mending, knowing that I would not make it through my whole list. I am really happy with the 7 garments I mended or altered (or edited, as my husband termed it), though there are one or two more that I wish I had gotten to. The time limit was helpful in keeping me from obsessing over mending to the point where I lost all the joy in it, especially since I have quite a few new projects in my mental queue for this Winter. I would highly recommend tackling your mending or alterations pile. I now have 7 garments that are more wearable and that I will not pass over when getting dressed.

Happy Birthday to Me!

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday!

On Saturday I went trail-riding with my husband and sister. I swear humans were meant to travel on horseback. I love the smell of the horses and the swaying of the horse as it walks. Cars go fast, but horses nurture my soul.

On Sunday my husband took me out for breakfast, and then we went shopping for a cake plate. We returned home with this beauty and I set to making a cake.

My sister joined us after lunch and she and I worked all afternoon on a deliciously creamy lasagna and on my birthday cake. I had chosen to make an Ube cake to remind me of my travels in the Philippines a few years ago. First I used powdered Ube to make Halaya, or Ube jam, then I used that jam to make a delightfully purple cake. The cooking took all afternoon, but we had the most wonderful meal.

My youngest sister (who went riding with us) knitted me a teapot cozy, and my middle sister made me a Lord of the Rings journal! What a piece of art!!

It was a delightful birthday, and I thoroughly enjoyed snacking on cake and giving slices away to friends and neighbors.

Making a 1920s Slip

Ideally you would make the undergarment first and the outer garment second. But the lure of pretty fabric was too much for me, so I made my 1920s One Hour Dress first. Having made the dress I recognized the need for an appropriate undergarment to smith any wrinkles and reinforce the correct silhouette. This is, after all, the 1920s, and the garçon look is all the rage.

I started with the same 1 hour dress pattern I made using the tutorials from The Closet Historian and a few yards of white cotton batiste. The cotton batiste is more stiff and less drapey than the rayon used in the outer garment, though still very lightweight. I did a quick fitting and took the side seams in by 3/4 inch each side (this makes the final garment 3 inches smaller in total compared to the outer dress). I sewed up the side seams using French seams and sewed the pleats in place. My batiste was 45″ wide (vs. the 60″ wide Rayon I used for the dress), so I used the full width of the fabric for both front and back of the slip.

Time for another fitting: I angled the neckline to be 1 1/2 inches higher in front than in back. This also makes the garment more comfortable around the underarm. Finally, I created 1” wide straps from the batiste.

The last thing to do on my slip was apply lace. I had bought 5 yards of cotton lace several months ago with the vague idea of making a blouse or a petticoat or something. I used the lace to finish the neckline and hem and to cover the raw edges of the side pleats (the lace is on the outside of the slip, whereas the lace finishing is on the inside of the dress). In the end I had about 2 inches of lace left, which was super satisfying.

I am quite pleased with the finished garment. It’s simple but effective, and the lace is so lovely. If I was making this again I would stack the side pleats so they weren’t quite as wide (it would look like a knife pleat on either side of the seam with a box pleat stacked on top).

The fabric of the slip is rather sheer so I won’t post full photos, but here is a side by side of the outer dress without a slip (left) and with the slip (right). It doesn’t make a huge difference, but does help control wrinkling. And since the dress is made of a delicate rayon, the cotton slip will help to minimize contact between my body and the dress, keeping the dress clean longer and extending its life.

Making a 1920s One Hour Dress

I meant to make myself a 1920s dress last year (2020) since it was the centennial of that glorious decade, but that didn’t happen for various reasons. But you know what, 2021 is the centennial of 1921, and I still wanted a dress from this era. So I made one.

I had bought 2 1/2 yards of this beautiful rust-coloured rayon in my bulk fabric purchase early this year. I took my measurements and followed the Closet Historian’s extensive tutorial to create my pattern and dress (patterning, cutting and sewing, sewing and finishing, hip fullness, variations). I planned to use French Seams throughout. Since my fabric was 60″ wide I was able to fold it in half selvedge to selvedge and use 1 1/4 yards of fabric, leaving over 1 yard to use in another garment down the road (I originally bought this rayon to make a blouse).

With my pattern ready I drew cutting and seam lines on my fabric and made the few cuts necessary. This was stressful, since rayon is shifty and I hadn’t made a muslin. I was surprised at how little fabric waste there was after cutting.

With my fabric cut I sewed the side seams and lower sleeve seams. Next I pleated the extra material at the sides and finished these pleats off internally with a bit of lace from my stash. Then I sewed the shoulder seams.

At this point my garment was almost done, but I wanted to try it on before finalizing the dress. I’m glad I did this, because I needed to remove an inch from the shoulder seam to prevent wrinkling around my hips. I also took this opportunity to draw in my neckline. With the fitting done, I re-worked the shoulder seams, cut out the neckline, and started on the finishing.

The skirt hem, sleeve hems, and neck opening are all finished with a simple double-turn hem (although this was a bit tricky at the neck because of the French Seams at the shoulder. I considered finishing these edges by hand, but I don’t mind the machine stitches showing since this is not meant to be a couture garment.

The final touch was to sew up a coordinating belt. I had a tiny bit of fabric left over from the clutch I made for my wedding, so I cut that into a belt-y shape, sewed around the the edges, turned it out, ironed, and top-stitched the opening closed. It turned out quite a bit shorter than I wanted, but it makes a very cute bow when tied at the hip.

I love the colour and the movement of this fabric and I love how the dress turned out! The idea of 1920s fashion has been tantalizing me for a while, but I was always afraid it would be unflattering on me because of my pear-shaped body. The Closet Historian helped me have confidence that I could look lovely in these styles, too. The secret is to pattern the dress for the body you have. I have made a ’20s slip which I will go into in another post, and I may make some other period undergarments to go with this dress eventually as well.

One other thing I like about this dress: If I wear it with a belt at the waist it has a 1930s vibe. So I basically get two decades with one dress!

What styles or decades have you been wanting to try, but have been too intimidated to make the plunge?

Happy Fall, Y’all!

Yesterday was the first day of fall and I got an itch to make something to mark the occasion. I raided my stash and came up with about half a yard of cotton flannel and a few yards of lace. I thought about making a quilted scarf, but decided on a shawl since it would be faster and easier to make and because I love wearing shawls. Plus, a shawl can do double duty as a scarf.

I started by cutting the flannel into the largest square I could manage, then cut that diagonally down the center to make two triangles. I chose to piece one edge rather than cut the entire shawl smaller. After the piecing was done I aligned two straight-grain edges and seamed them together by machine. Then I ironed the seam and felled the seam allowance down by hand with a running stitch. This was the entirety of the construction of the shawl. Next up was finishing and decoration.

The top of the shawl is on the straight grain, so I finished this edge with a machine overcast stitch. Then I added lace to the edges. I used a lace from my stash that had mysteriously been cut into multiple pieces. I joined the lace as inconspicuously as possible to make one long piece, then zig-zagged it to the very edge of my shawl. I stretched the shawl edges slightly as I applied the lace – partly to account for the lace shrinking in the wash and partly because I thought this would make the shawl lay more nicely. Because I stretched the fabric edges I ran out of lace about a foot from the end, so I substituted a similar lace from my stash.

This was a very fun and quick project, and I am excited to wear it more this Fall and Winter. It’s not perfect – the stripe colours don’t align perfectly, and I had to use two kinds of lace, but the overall effect is quite nice, and it was made entirely from stash leftovers. I’ve never had a woven/sewn triangle shawl before. I think the combination of the plaid and the lace is striking and very cute, and it’s very soft and warm.

What is your favourite way to celebrate Fall?

Another Wrap Shirt (I’m Addicted!)

Early this year when I was shopping for a new sewing machine I found this beautiful Robert Kaufman quilt panel. I bought it because it was too beautiful to leave behind. I had vague notions of making it into a quilt, but I secretly wanted to find a way to wear it. It was such a small piece of fabric (27″ x 44″) that I couldn’t think how it would be possible to turn it into a piece of clothing. But then I made my first wrap shirt and realized this was a way to use quite a small piece of material to good effect.

I shamelessly lifted this photo from this fabric store website because I forgot to take a picture of the panel before I cut into it.

The first step of the project was cutting out the neck opening. I used my first wrap shirt as a guide for this. I faced the neck opening with a gorgeous batik that I also used for the binding and ties. Next I added some shaping. My first wrap shirt had darts that radiated from the chest to the waist. For this shirt I wanted to preserve the beautiful design as much as possible, so I used horizontal darts instead.

Step 3 was to make binding and apply it to the garment edges. I used a 1/2” straight grain binding since I didn’t need to go around any curves. Finally I added waist ties to the front and back. The ties attached to the back are made of twill tape (they tie under the shirt in front) and the ties attached to the front are made of batik (they tie in back). For the batik ties I used strips that were 4” by 22 1/2” (half the fabric width) to end up with ties that were 1 1/2” wide.

At this point I thought my shirt was done, but I tried it on and I didn’t like how wide the shoulders were. So I came up with a cunning plan to pleat the additional material to reduce the shoulder width. I did this by hand with spaced back stitches. I didn’t worry too much about making each pleat the exact same size, I just made sure the shoulders were both pleated down to the same measurement (4 1/2”). With that, my second wrap shirt was done!

I love the bright, clear colours in this top! I was worried that the wrap design would slip down and expose the side of my bra, but I don’t find this to be an issue. Due to the very small amount of fabric I started with the top is a few inches shorter than I would like. I solve this problem by wearing it with high-waisted bottoms, but this does limit my outfit options. I’m also not sure if I like the bagginess just below the shoulder pleats on front and back. I suppose every adjustment has positive and negative effects. If it truly bothers me I can easily rip the pleats out and wear my shirt. The pleats were done last, so they don’t impact any of the finishing.

I don’t know why I am so drawn to garments like this. Maybe I just love the cleverness and simplicity of making a whole shirt out of 3/4 yard of fabric!

Do you find yourself gravitating toward a specific style of garment or pattern? Why?

Ruffle Mania

I’ve written about my Bruyere shirt and how much I love it. I’ve also written about my Juliette blouse and the things I like and dislike about it. I wanted to try combining my favourite things about both patterns to create a top that was beautifully feminine and a perfect fit.

My plan was this: I wanted the Bruyere shoulders, neckline, and shaped hem, and I wanted to double the Juliette front ruffles and keep the relaxed body fit. I also wanted flutter sleeves and a slightly ruffled collar. I combined the fronts and backs of both patterns to keep the things I liked, but not the things I preferred to leave behind. I drafted the flutter sleeves using this tutorial and the circular collar based on the neckline curve of my front and back pattern pieces.

Once the drafting was done I cut all my pieces out and hemmed my front ruffles, sleeves, and collar by hand.

With all the prep work out of the way I moved to the sewing machine. I generally followed the instructions for the Juliette blouse when making this up. It was difficult to get the front ruffles to align, but the beauty of ruffles is that the overall effect hides any minor errors in sewing. Once the front was assembled I worked on the back. I don’t know where my head was, but I had to re-do every single step on the back due to simple errors. After sewing and ripping and sewing again I finally had my back assembled. Next I sewed the side seams. Before I added the sleeves and collar I did a quick fitting and adjusted the neck opening. With my neck adjustments made I sewed on the collar and flutter sleeves.

I used several different methods to finish the raw edges on this garment. As mentioned earlier, all the outer hems were done by hand for the cleanest finish possible. The front seam was felled down by machine, but I found that this was more visible than I like, so I plan to rip this out and do a mock French Seam finish instead. The side seams were meant to be French Seams, but I forgot until I had sewn the seams, so these are mock French Seams. The collar and neck V are felled down by machine (I wasn’t super precise on this, and unfortunately this seam tends to roll outward). The sleeve seams were trimmed to 1/4-3/8″ and finished using an overlock stitch on my sewing machine.

This was such a fun and interesting project! I’ve never combined patterns in this way, and I learned a lot! Every part of a pattern impacts so many other parts, so you have to be really detailed in the patterning stage to make sure nothing is missed. And just in case you do miss something, it’s important to do test fittings while the garment is being assembled to make sure everything is correct.

I love all the ruffles on this version, but it seems a little unbalanced on its own, like there is too much going on at shoulder level, and not much going on anywhere else. I combat this imbalance with a belt or a high-waisted skirt or pair of pants. I do plan to use this modified pattern again, but next time I think I will make a version without ruffles. Next time I will deepen the arm-hole just a smidge, add bust darts as seen on the original Bruyere pattern (but not on the Juliette pattern), and I will lower the neck V by about an inch.

Have you ever combined patterns before? What is your favourite pattern alteration when sewing for yourself?

Plaid Floral Pants

Late last year I realized that I didn’t like any of my clothes. I hadn’t bought anything new in quite a while (thanks COVID!) and many of the items in my closet were old and showing signs of wear. I take immense pleasure in dressing prettily, so my dilapidated wardrobe was actively making me unhappy. I decided to approach the problem from two directions: I would buy several garments depending on what I could find in stores and what I didn’t think I could easily make myself, and I would make items I wanted to make or couldn’t find in stores. I made a list of garments I wanted to add to my wardrobe or replace, and I listed out some colours or styles I specifically wanted to target. Then I went shopping for clothes … and ended up returning half of the garments I bought due to fit issues. This further fueled my resolve to make my own clothes. Next I went online and picked out a whole host of beautiful fabrics to make myself beautiful clothes. You’ve seen quite a few of the garments I made from this bulk purchase, and I still have several fabrics that I haven’t even cut into yet!

When I first saw this floral plaid ponte knit from StyleMaker Fabrics I knew I had to have it for myself. It was just so beautiful! I bought enough to make a pair of pants. I had already made a pair of Cigarette Pants using a similar knit ponte, so I knew my pattern fit me, but that I needed to make a few alterations to accommodate the fabric. My main alterations were to narrow the pants from waist to hem by about half an inch per pattern piece and to add a plain waistband instead of the internal waistband from the pattern.

I used zig-zag and lightning stitches for everything to reduce the possibility of popped seams (and because my new machine allows me to use fancy stitches whenever I like!). The sewing went quite quickly once I had started, and within a few hours I had a lovely new pair of pants!

I really like these pants! They fit great, and the make quite a statement (maybe too much of a statement?). As with everything, however, there are a few things I don’t like:

  • The plaid doesn’t quite match up due to a pattern error (I’ve fixed this on my pattern so it doesn’t come up again).
  • I’m pleased with the waistband, but I want to futz with it a little. The waistband is made from a long strip of fabric, with a length of 1″ elastic inside. I zig-zagged the elastic to the inside of the waistband to prevent it twisting. I applied the front of the waist band to the pants, and then top-stitched the under-side down, but I folded it too far away from the edge, so the seam allowances are not caught in the waistband like they should be.
  • The waistband is maybe a little bit too tight?
  • I intentionally left the pants long because I don’t like my ankles showing when I’m sitting down (weird, I know). This worked a treat with my herringbone pants, but in these pants it just causes leg wrinkles due to the tighter fit in the leg. You can’t see this in the photos because I folded up the hem by about an inch to make them the perfect length.
  • These pants are loud, and I can only wear certain colours/styles with them. Since I’m still rebuilding my wardrobe this is severely limiting the amount of wear I can get out of these pants right now.

Despite the flaws in my garments, I see so much progress in my skills and abilities over the last few years. I am so proud of myself for making beautiful garments that fit and look pretty professional. And let’s not forget that professionals make mistakes, too. I don’t know if I’ve ever looked at store-bought clothes as closely as the clothes I make for myself, but I know that I’ve seen some weird stuff in purchased clothes over the years, too.

12 Months, 20 Years

20 years ago, my mom and I started small embroideries to be sewn into two quilts. The idea came from a magazine, with the goal of creating one embroidered rectangle for each month of the year. I was about to turn 9, and during that summer I embroidered 11 of the 12 months. And then summer came to an end, and the project sat in a box for a very long time. Early this year when I visited my family my mom gave me my completed blocks as well as the materials and instructions to finish the final block.

I traced and stitched the December block (in January, ironically) to finish the embroidery for the quilt.

The original quilt is designed to be an art quilt rather than a functional quilt, and it’s quite a small size. I love the idea of making items functional items, rather than just decorative, but I’m not it sure will be possible to make this quilt functional (for me) due to the embroidery and the small size. I need to evaluate my options to determine how this will be finished and with what fabrics.

How would you finish this quilt?

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?