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 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.

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.

Sewing my First Pair of Pants

Ok, the tittle is a tiny bit click-bait-y because I sewed two pairs of shorts last year (here and here). The concept is entirely similar, but I did wonder if my legs would turn out to be some weird shape that would require pattern alterations. I used the same pattern for my pants as for last year’s shorts: the Cigarette Pants from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual (if you’re looking for a sewing technique/pattern book, I highly recommend this one). The pants were very simple and quick to sew up since I had already fitted the top half of the pattern to my body and I was using a knit ponte fabric that didn’t need the edges finished.

The fabric is from Style Maker Fabrics. It is really nice and thick and has a bit of fuzziness to it, which makes it very warm. 4 inches of this fabric will stretch to about 5 1/2 inches. I used my already modified pattern to cut out my pieces, and got to sewing. I surprised myself by completing the pants within 7 hours, even with a slight waist adjustment. This speed is due to starting with a pattern that fit well to begin with, not needing to do fitting adjustments to the legs, and using a knit fabric that doesn’t fray.

I absolutely love these pants!! They are super comfortable to wear, and the pockets are absolutely enormous! The legs are not fitted, which also adds to the comfort level, and I deliberately chose to make them a little bit longer than I normally would so that the length would be right when I’m sitting down. It’s the little details like this that really make a garment perfect, I find.

I still feel that the waist could be a bit smaller. I’m considering adding an internal elastic waistband for this. I’m also considering trimming the entire leg down about an inch in width along the entire length on my next pair. But all in all, I consider these pants a roaring success, and I can’t wait to make more!!!

Finally Finished: a Burgundy Linen Dress

Two years ago in the summer of 2019 I started a dress. The fabric was a linen/rayon blend in Burgundy from JoAnn’s. I hacked Very Easy Vogue V8926 to be a dress instead of a top by adding length and skirt gores (I had made a vest version of this pattern about a year earlier, and it is one of my favourite things to wear). This was before I had a sewing machine, so I sewed the main seams with a mix of running stitch, running back-stitch, and full back-stitch. By the time the seams were done, I couldn’t stand to look at the dress anymore. I put it away for a long time.

A blurry photo of the moment the seams were completed.

Since starting the dress I have gotten a sewing machine. But I wanted the outside of the dress to have no visible stitching, and the seams were already done, so a sewing machine was of little use to me in doing the finishing work. I felled the seams down by hand over the course of the last 2 years. I also worked on fitting the dress to myself. The back pieces are cut straight, and I have a swayback, so I ended up narrowing the back pieces as well as taking a dart along the waistline in back to minimize wrinkling. I had originally cut three gores: one for each side and one for the back. I ended up removing the back gore because it hung weirdly. The front collar is interfaced with fusible woven cotton interfacing. I extended the interfacing to the hem.

Once the fitting was done, it was time to finish the hem and sleeve cuffs. I sewed a coordinating ribbon to the hem, and then turned it up. While working on the sleeve cuffs I had another setback. My sleeve got too close to a candle I had burning and was scorched!!

I refused to let this defeat me when I was so close to finishing the dress. I cut out another sleeve and sewed it up, but realized quickly that I had sewn it backwards. Out came the seam ripper, and I sewed it again. I sewed the sleeve seams by machine, felled the seam allowances down, and finally sewed the second sleeve cuff. After two years in progress my dress was done.

Overall, I am very happy with this dress. It will be a great addition to my wardrobe throughout the summer months, and is very comfortable to wear. There is something about wrap bodices and big collars that I find irresistible. If I made a dress like this again I would make it as a bodice with circle skirt, as that would be a lot easier to sew and fit. In the photos above you can see a white linen underdress I made last year that I am wearing as a slip or petticoat. That little bit of white peeking out when I move makes me so happy!

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.

A Hobbity Hallowe’en

I am posting this two months too late, but it is too good not to share. Enjoy my unseasonal makes! Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Every year I tell myself I’m going to make a a amazing Halloween costume. And every year I start too late or don’t start at all. This year I made myself a few pieces throughout the year that weren’t intended to go together, but turned out to be a pretty great Halloween costume.

First, I made a skirt based on an 18th century petticoat. The fabric is a striped herringbone rayon from Hobby Lobby. It’s totally the wrong fiber for 18th century, but I love the colours. I’ve come to the realization this year that I adore sewing with stripes and plaids. Something about the fussiness needed to match stripes and plaids really makes me happy.

The skirt, or petticoat, was simple enough to sew. I trimmed up my yardage so the ends were cut straight, then cut 2 lengths to the measurement from my waist to my ankles. I also cut a few strips to use as the waistband and tie, so the front and back panels weren’t quite the full 60” fabric width. From there I sewed up the side seams, leaving the top 8” open, and felled the seams by machine to finish them neatly. Since my fabric wasn’t right for the period, I had no qualms about using a machine construction. Once the side seams were completed I sewed a small double turn hem at the bottom of the skirt. Next, I made the waistband/tie. The front waistband is made of probably 2 yards of self-fabric 5 inches wide. I made this long enough to wrap around the back and back to the front and tie in a pretty bow. This is not historically accurate, but it made me happy. The back tie only wraps around to the front and ties, and it is made of twill tape.

I made a corset-y bodice from an upholstery fabric sample my bestie gave me using a McCalls pattern. I made View E. The upholstery fabric was so thick I couldn’t get two layers under my machine foot, so I sewed the fashion layer by hand.

The bodice is lined with white linen. I couldn’t find a bias binding or a fabric that matched my fashion fabric well, so I used a ribbon for the binding. It worked ok, but there is some bunching around the corners of the front neckline. This was my first time setting grommets, and oh my, it is so much fun to use a hammer! I finished it up by used a pretty red ribbon for the lacing.

For the final look I used my Regency shift as a base layer. Next I put on the bodice, and then the petticoat. Since I was going for a hobbity look I let my hair be naturally curly and long. I used a silk scarf to fill in my neckline, and went barefoot (as a self-respecting Hobbit would do).

I love this impromptu costume, but if I did it again there are a few items I would add:

1. I wish I had made an underpetticoat for this outfit. The skirt silhouette is ok, but another petticoat would make for a much better shape.

2. I also wish I had a better neckerchief made of white or cream cotton or linen.

3. Finally, I wish I had an apron – preferably in linen and smocked or embroidered.

As a teenager I always wanted to be an Elf. Now that I am an adult I still love the elves, but I am learning to embrace my inner Hobbit.

Paper Bag Skirt

Do you ever do that thing where you find an irresistible fabric, so you buy just barely enough of it to make a hypothetical THING, and then when you go to make the thing you realize that you don’t really have enough fabric at all? Yeah, I do that a lot.

I had taken my sewing machine in to be serviced, when the most beautiful midnight blue and sunshine yellow floral batik captured me. I could not leave the store without it. I knew I wanted a garment in this fabric, but wasn’t sure what kind of garment. So I bought a yard. One. Single. Yard. Sigh. When will I ever learn that a single yard is not enough? My, er, artificial shortage of material made me think long and creatively about a solution, and I finally decided that I would make a paper bag style skirt. When I first saw paper bag skirts and pants I thought they were decidedly odd and unflattering, but evidently my opinion changed with time. And anyways, I wanted something a little more interesting than a run-of-the-mill A-line skirt.

I started (as always) with planning. This included measuring myself and my fabric and doing various calculations and layout sketches to make sure I could use every single inch of my precious fabric. I used this tutorial for general instructions, but decided to fully line the skirt and add an invisible zipper and an internal pocket. Because I like turning simple projects into not-so-simple projects. Oh, and since my sewing machine was in the shop, I would be sewing the skirt by hand. Because I’m impatient.

So I measured and cut my two layers of quilting cotton (the lining is a teal cotton I’ve had in my stash for ages), and ironed the seam allowances down. Apparently I’m at the point where if I’m going to sew a skirt by hand, I’m going to aim for interest rather than efficiency, and I’m going to use the most entertaining stitches I can. The pocket was constructed first, with running back stitches.

Next, the invisible zipper was sewn in with spaced back stitches (The only invisible zipper I had was brown. It doesn’t match, but it does coordinate, and I like the effect).

Then the side seams were sewn with an interesting variation on a whip stitch that I learned from the American Duchess book as the English stitch.

The top and bottom hems and the pocket openings were finished with whip stitches. The only parts of the skirt that were machine sewn were the pleats (I just didn’t want to sew these by hand, and my machine had come back from being serviced). Finally, I sewed in a waist tape so the strain of wearing would not be all on the pleats.

In my original sketch I had planned to make a self-fabric belt, but due to the busyness of the fabric this didn’t show up when worn. Instead I changed tactics and made a belt from a tie my husband no longer wore. It’s slightly the wrong shade of blue, but overall I think it’s a pretty good effect.

The skirt is wearable, but not technically done – I still need to add the belt loops!

There are a few picky things I would change if I made this again. First of all, I would not line it with quilting cotton. The two layers together make the skirt quite stiff, and the cotton grabs at my tights a little and wants to work it’s way up. Not a great look. Secondly, I would move the pocket down. Currently the top inch or two of the pocket opening are underneath the belt, which makes pocket access a little more difficult than it needs to be. The pocket will just barely fit my phone (length and width) so I would also make the pocket a little larger in both directions. The final change I would make is to lower the waist tape. The tape sits at the very top of the waist section, so if I look down at my skirt I can see the white tape peeking up at me. I’m the only one who will notice this, but it does bother me.

This is a fun skirt to wear! I paired it here with a black shirt and tights. It would go equally well with a chocolate brown top, and I’m dying to make a blouse in mustard yellow just to wear with this! I purposely made the waist to my sitting down waist measurement, so it’s comfortable to wear all day at work while looking extra glamorous. Overall, I’m pretty happy with this make, and I look forward to it becoming a regular part of my wardrobe.

Finally Finished: Purple and Sparkly

I have done more sewing this spring and summer than I have in any other period of my life. I tend to go through phases with how I spend my time: I’ll spend 6 months knitting, then I’ll do nothing but read for a month. The next 3 months will be dedicated to spinning, followed by a month of dabbling in crochet or tatting. I love learning new things and experimenting in an environment where a mistake only costs me a skein of yarn and a few hours of my time.

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A few years ago I went through another period of intense sewing. At the time I didn’t have a sewing machine so I used the sewing machine I was born with – my hands. It turns out that sewing by hand is slower than by machine, but that you can be much more precise. Sewing by hand is also much more soothing than sewing with a machine will ever be. In college my best friend had a deep purple sparkly skirt she had made. I loved that skirt and wore it as often as she would let me borrow it. Eventually she gave it to me and I continued to wear it as often as I dared. Only, after college I found myself gravitating less and less toward skirts and more and more toward pants. It broke my heart that this beautiful skirt wasn’t being worn and loved. So I hatched a daring plan to refashion the skirt into a tunic. I used my trusty Alabama Chanin T-Shirt/dress pattern, and very carefully laid my pattern out. I was just barely able to eke out the shirt and 2 elbow length sleeves. Proud of myself, I quickly sewed up the shoulder and side seams and felled them down. Then I tried it on. The tunic did not fit at all how I had expected it to. In hindsight I know that I hadn’t payed attention to the grain of the knit fabric, so instead of the direction with the most stretch going around my body, it went vertically. The tunic was skintight and wanted to stretch in length. Frustrated, I put all my supplies into a bag and put that bag into my stash and out of sight.

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Over the years I’ve brought the bag out several times, turned out the contents, thought a bit, and put everything away again. I came to the conclusion that I needed to add gores to the side seams, but there was not enough of the original fabric to make this work. Black seemed like a good alternative, given the dark purple of my fabric, and I had already intended to use a black binding for the neckline and hem. But when I shopped around for black knit fabric I could never find anything that I was really happy with. Recently I bought some 100% cotton knit in black and white just to have around. You never know when a lightweight cotton knit will come in handy. As I yet again considered this project a light bulb went on. I pulled my quarter yard of black cotton knit out of my stash, measured the length from the underarm to the hem and marked this on my fabric twice, then I cut the lengths diagonally from corner to corner, leaving 1 inch of seam allowance on each piece. I then sewed the straight edges to the side seams of my tunic, and sewed the angled sides together.

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When I tried it on this time, the angels sang! It was so comfortable and flattering! I sewed the sleeves on, then started the finishing work. Since I was working with Jersey it wasn’t strictly necessary to finish the edges, so the inside seams are a mixture of left raw and felled down. The hems and neckline were finished with double-fold elastic. 

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All in all, I am so pleased with how this make turned out. It is comfortable to wear, and I feel so pretty in it! There are several elements that echo Regency fashion, namely the squared neckline, the close fit through the bust and looser fit in the skirt, and the fitted elbow-length sleeves. This pleases me immensely! I am still working on upping my binding skills. The sleeve and skirt hems are pretty decent, but the neckline hem wants to curve outward ever so slightly. I noticed this same problem with the striped T-shirt I recently made as well. I think the solution is to stretch the binding a little more around the curves, but this is easier to say than to do. I will keep practicing.

It’s tempting to keep this top in reserve for a special event or date night, but it’s so comfortable and beautiful that I think it deserves to become part of my “normal” wardrobe – sparkles and all.