Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Denim Tetris Simplicity 2451 Skirt

I know it's a bit boring but I really enjoy making the same pattern several times over. I like the ease of being on familiar ground, the time saved in having the pattern pieces already cut out, the value for money of getting several garments out of one pattern, and the improved odds of it succeeding and being something that I'll actually enjoy making and wearing. 

Excluding penguins and tote bags (which when I first started sewing I loved mindlessly churning out), the Simplicity 2451 skirt is my most frequently made project to date, and this weekend I've added a new one to the collection.

I did debate whether it was worth blogging this skirt as I've already blogged the same pattern in both 2013 and 2014.  But in back-tracking through my archive to see my past commentaries, it was actually quite interesting to compare and contrast the outcomes.  Also comparing and contrasting the weather was quite interesting too!  This was last year's blog photo almost exactly a year ago in snowy, sub-zero Montreal:    

It was just a mere 30 degrees warmer when I photographed the latest skirt in California this weekend (!!):

Apart from swapping my snow boots for sunglasses, there are a few other differences between the two skirts.  Like I now appreciate why it's often worth ditching the sewing machine and taking the time to hand sew the hemline to get a neater finish, so my latest version benefits from that.  The insides are also now a lot neater and more professional-looking too.  Last year I was too ashamed of the messy interior to even show a photo on my blog, but now I can proudly present some of my nicely serged inside seams:

Inside view

As well as some differences, there are definitely also some similarities between the two skirts as well.  Like the ridiculously cheap price-tag of the fabrics.  Last year I celebrated scoring the striped red fabric for $5 CAD from my local haberdashery in Montreal, and this year thanks to a lucky find at Scrap San Francisco my denim fabric (which reminds me of the Tetris game I used to love playing on Game Boys) came in even cheaper than that :)

Another similarity is that both have a strange fitting issue at the back.  On last year's skirt I reported a mystery diamond shaped crease at the top:

Back view of 2014 skirt
This year it's slightly less perceptible, and not in quite such an obvious diamond formation, but there is definitely still some excess fabric at the back:

Back view of new skirt
Interestingly on Scruffy Badger's blog yesterday she reported a similar fit issue with the back of her latest Simplicity 2451 and the general consensus from her readers in the comments seemed to be that a 'sway back adjustment' might resolve it.  So hopefully when I make my next version of this I can look into that further. 

Going back one more year in time to my 2013 skirt, the differences are even more stark as that was made with my sewing teacher Mili supervising each and every stage, and without me so much as even glancing at the pattern instructions or figuring out a single thing for myself, so at least I've progressed a bit since then anyway! 

So is anyone else a fan of this pattern? Or has anyone delved into their blog archives recently?! I found it equal parts interesting and cringing when I did! Anyone else used to love playing Tetris on the Game Boy?!  Any other thoughts/comments very welcome :)

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Another man's treasure... Scrap San Francisco

One of the things that has been keeping me occupied while I await my work permit is volunteering at a not-for-profit organization called Scrap.  It's a creative reuse center for the Bay Area community which each year redistributes 250 tons of unwanted materials to the local arts and craft scene.  They have an enormous warehouse open to the public in south San Francisco which is full to bursting with the most eclectic and inspiring assortment of materials, notably including two huge aisles of sewing supplies!!   

It's an awesome volunteer job as they are very flexible about hours etc and although I signed up intending to focus on the fabric aisle, I've found that I've actually really enjoyed the variety of working in their other sections which include toys, fancy dress, art supplies, frames, greetings cards, wood and paper. It is so random the stuff you find there, definitely an Aladdin's cave. And there's a huge free section at the front too which usually has some smaller pieces of fabric and today even had a couple of boxes of free sewing patterns.

Here is a taster of some of the sewing stock:
Rolled fabric ($12 USD for a bag)

Vintage patterns and a huge filing cabinet of other patterns
Home decor fabrics
Pick n' Mix buttons!
Smaller pieces of fabric (I think these are about $1 USD for 12- 15 rolls)
There is a whole aisle of sewing notions like this box of zippers

It is pure luck what you might find. Like In January they had two dozen brand new bolts of beautiful quilting fabrics including designers I recognized like Amy Butler and Robert Kaufman. It was priced at the phenomenally low price of $3 a yard (and volunteers get a further discount!). Quite a few yards came home with me that Scrap visit, and I used them to make Mr Fabric Maverick some snazzy new Pyjama pants out of the free Simplicity 0501 pattern (minus the ties at they went frustratingly wrong and the fit was fine without them). 

Scrap also runs some cool workshops for members of the public. Last year I went to a terrarium making one and made mine loosely sewing themed by adding a few little decorative buttons. 

My Scrap workshop terrarium

Scrap's not a place for the clutter-phobic, and it's not the easiest place to get to for the car-less like me.  Also it's high volume but mixed quality so as I'm a bit picky it's not unknown for me to leave empty handed.  But it really is a gem of a place and with a history stretching back four decades it's something of an institution in the city.  Plus today I discovered the beautiful nearby Bernal Heights park which is the perfect accompaniment to a Scrap trip.  Fabric shopping with a conscience followed by a scenic 360 degree view of San Francisco- Tuesday afternoons don't get much better than that!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Viva Las Vegas Sparkly Moneta Dress

Earlier this month we flew to Las Vegas for the weekend to celebrate my birthday.  Our trip included seeing Elton John (for the fourth time!), seeing the Cirque du Soleil Beatles themed 'Love' show (amazing), and a healthy dose of slot machine action (ridiculously addictive). 

Earlier that week my birthday present from my parents arrived which was a serger!!  A Juki MO644D which is listed on Amazon at $980 but was on sale for $288. Lucky, lucky me!

I've often read of new sergers neglectfully gathering dust in cupboards for a few months/years.  That could very easily have been mine as after the initial euphoria of opening it, all those threads and dials rudely stood in the way of getting instantly started.  But creating a new dress for the party city I was visiting that weekend was just the deadline I needed to force me to settle down with the instruction manual for some intensive threading action.  I am 100% not that person that gets excited by building Ikea furniture or setting up new electronics etc., so it wasn't my idea of fun at all, but spurred on by the potential sewing nirvana at the end I got there eventually.

It serges (is that the verb?) beautifully! Deadline focused I kept it simple and made a repeat Moneta dress from Colette Patterns.  I had resolved to go into the fabric store and buy some gloriously tacky sparkly fabric, the sort that only Vegas can handle, but I was instead won over by a less flamboyant charcoal knit which in the right light has a subtle bronze sparkle.

Please ignore the giant claw hands...
I think the fit is a bit off as on both my versions of the Moneta the sleeves and neckline are slightly baggy and the elastic round the middle could do with being tighter as it looks a bit shapeless without a belt.  But it felt comfortable enough and it takes me so long to sew anything these days I'm not inclined to embark on the time-zapping and challenging world of fitting adjustments right now.

We loved Vegas and as it's driving distance from us we hope there will be future cheaper trips by road rather than plane.  Locals have told me that driving 9 hours through the desert is a bit of a bore but it sounds quite exotic and fun to me so we'll see.

And in other technology news, I'm now the proud owner of an iPhone 6!  I'm several years late to the smartphone party and so it's such a novelty to now be able to take decent photos, have on-tap internet etc.  I'm also now on Instagram as (fabric_maverick) and so I hope to see you on there :)

Saturday, 10 January 2015

New year, new fabric shop

Howdy! I'm still here. Not sure if any readers still are, but hi and happy new year if you're there!

Just checking in with a belated two last projects from 2014.  I've had the luxury of ridiculous amounts of free time as I await my work permit, so I really should have made an entirely new wardrobe by now. But I've found myself a couple of voluntary jobs, and made a lovely group of friends who are also waiting for their permits and who keep me entertained with lots of San Francisco sight-seeing and socialising.  

I've also been trying to mix it up a bit and try out new things, like this month I'm booked on a hula hooping workshop, a first aid course and a beginners knitting class. I do want to try and do more sewing this year too and although I'm not making any concrete resolutions, I'm vaguely aiming for one item a week, which I've already fallen behind on, ha! Based on the success of this latest dress (below) I think knit fabrics might well feature more heavily this year too.

The dress is the Moneta from Colette patterns, with no alterations except hemming it a couple of inches shorter.

The khaki-esque knit fabric is from Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley, CA, which has quickly become one of my favourite ever sewing shops and which Jenny from Cashmerette's recent review gives you a good flavour of. We've actually now moved from our temporary San Francisco apartment across the bay to Berkeley and although I miss the bright lights, big city wow-ness of living downtown, having Stonemountain and Daughter on my doorstep is one of many compensations Berkeley has to offer. 

There's not much to report construction-wise for the dress. I did find hemming the neckline tricky until I invested in some Wonder Tape to stabilise it which worked a treat.

When I first tried it on I wasn't convinced as it's not a style I usually wear and I thought it looked a bit frumpy and shapeless.  But adding heels and a belt made it grow on me.  Its first outing was on Christmas Day which we had back in England, and although it doesn't scream 'festive frock' it survived the trans-Atlantic flight, turkey eating and post-dinner vegging out beautifully.

This year I didn't sew any Christmas presents with the exception of this little tunic top for my friend's two and a half year old. It's the Lucy Top by Shwin & Shwin. It's designed to be reversible, although the wooden heart buttons I chose looked like they might be a bit rough on the reverse side so this version is just one way.

I really like the design of this pattern and how it can easily be layered over leggings and long sleeved tops and worn year round.  The swirly purple cotton fabric is again from Stonemountain and Daughter, and their selection is so extensive and inspiring that I must have been there for a good hour deliberating what to buy. 

So it's a bit of a mish-mashed post but I just wanted to also show my new sewing set-up.  My husband's colleague was selling this large Ikea table which is great for cutting out on. And our new flat has this bright little alcove by the window which is an ideal sewing spot. In the distance you can see giant palm trees, which four months after moving to California still gives the Brit in me a c'est la vie holiday feeling!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Belcarra Blouse for Beck

This week I made my first ever Sewaholic pattern, the Belcarra blouse.  

I like a lot of the Sewaholic designs but until now I've always steered clear as I've not got the pear-shaped figure they are designed for, and the idea of intentionally buying a pattern that takes more effort to fit doesn't really appeal.  It reminds me of the time when after a lot of beer we went to an Indian restaurant and our friend amused us by ordering a 'peas pilau rice without the peas please!'.  What I really want here is 'a pear shaped pattern without the pear shape please!'. 

But after continuing to be seduced by Sewaholic's designs, I decided to give the Belcarra a go on the basis that the larger hip measurement hopefully wouldn't be too critical to a blouse, so shouldn't need much adjusting.  

It seems to fit quite well but it did take a lot of deliberation to work out what size to make. On their sizing chart I was an 8 for the bust and waist measurement, and a 2 for the hip.  But when I took a look at the finished measurements I saw that the blouse was designed to be very loose fitted which I'm not so keen on. I also looked at other versions online and thought that this top that Lauren from Guthrie & Ghani made looked roughly me-sized (!), so I took a gamble and made a straight size 4.

I followed the sewalong posts which were detailed and straight-forward, and I'm happy with the result. I'd definitely make it again as it's a simple design that in a less glossy fabric would be a good wardrobe staple.

Though the fabric is a bit shiny shiny, I was particularly drawn to it as the design makes me think of lots of little moonlit globes.  I'm not entirely sure what type of fabric it is, but it's very similar to the unknown fabric I made my first Anna dress from which Vicki from Another Sewing Scientist thought could be a poly-charmeuse which sounds very probable.

The fabric was easy to work with but not a cool fabric to wear as I found out to my detriment when I took it on it's first night out this week.  We went to see Beck perform in concert, which was just brilliant as we had tickets to see him in June in Montreal which we had to give up as it fell on the eve of our last-minute wedding. So we were chuffed to get to catch up with him three months later in San Francisco.  Although the concert venue was only six blocks from our flat it was at the top of Nob Hill, one of San Francisco's many steeeeeeep hills. So the uphill walk combined with jumping around to Beck's dancy numbers like Loser and Devil's Haircut, meant that by the end of the night I craved a cooler, more breathable fabric.

So going forward I'll save this top for more sedate, less vertically inclined evenings out!  But overall Beck and the Belcarra didn't disappoint.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Settling in with a Paisley Sorbetto

Hello from San Francisco!

So we're finally here, arriving just in time for what our guidebook claims are the nicest months in the city, September and October.  Most days so far we've been treated to clear blue skies and a somewhat picture-postcard welcome to California life.  

As you can see we travelled light. Hhhhmmmm.  Out of shot there is even more additional luggage including my cabin bag with my treasured sewing machine.  Much to my relief the machine passed through airport security and the onward journey problem-free and in a bid to make our temporary apartment for the next month feel more like home I've wasted no time in getting it all set-up.

It's not quite the dedicated sewing room with humongous corner desk I was spoiled with in Montreal.  But it does the job, and with no walls to screen off the chaos that usually accompanies my projects I'm making a big effort to work more neatly.  An effort that has been helped a lot by my choice of one of the easiest first patterns I could think of to get me back into the sewing swing.  The trusty Sorbetto, by Colette Patterns.

The fabric is from San Francisco's legendary Britex fabrics.  It was exactly a year ago when by pure coincidence we were visiting the city on holiday and I made the customary sewer's pilgrimage to the store.  That time I saw the eye watering prices and left empty handed.  This time round I was less fazed (even by the rather condescending sales assistant!) and treated myself to a lovely soft Italian cotton paisley print as a welcome to my new hometown.  Only buying a yard of fabric meant it wasn't silly money, and so I'm curious to know if anyone else has any other favourite one yard patterns that I can use to justify future Britex trips?

I found applying the bias binding trickier than I remember.  I should also really bite the bullet and try making my own binding so I can move beyond the limited colours in the stores.  But beyond that nothing much to report about this simplest of makes, which remained cool and comfortable for our walk around Lands End yesterday.  

It's going to take a few months for my work permit application to be reviewed, so while I'm a lady of leisure (yeah!) I've got a few plans up my sleeves. I've applied for some voluntary work, I'm finally reading Middlemarch, I'm going to try and edit our wedding video, and I'm hoping to take some courses including knitting, jewellery making and a water sport.  And of course, lots of sewing! So hopefully you'll see a bit more of me on here for the next few weeks. 

We're now just about to head off to a chocolate festival this afternoon at Fisherman's Wharf.  A year ago we went to the same festival as tourists never dreaming that a year later we would be returning as residents! What a difference a year makes...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Ch ch changes

So I think it's about time I brought you up-to-date with my news...

Douglas Ludwig Photography

Yes! After 11 years, Mr Fabric Maverick and I got married just the two of us while on holiday in beautiful Tofino, Vancouver Island.

Our photo from our Tofino seaplane tour

We exchanged our personalised vows in front of the ocean, celebrated with a local craft beer, took romantic walks along the beach and spent every minute of the day together. All sandwiched in the middle of a roadtrip round Vancouver Island where we saw bears, whales and eagles for the first time and savoured the change of pace and scenery from city life in Montreal.

Our photo of a Vancouver Island bear eating a crab for breakfast

We came up with the plan in less than a month, and only told a handful of people, which injected a lot of spontaneity and fun into the whole thing, and I enjoyed changing my Facebook status straight from 'In a relationship' to 'married' before anyone could rush out and buy a hat.  The reason for the rush is also exciting, as it follows Mr Fabric Maverick being offered a 2 year post in San Francisco.  So following a successful visa interview at the USA consulate last week, we'll be leaving Montreal for California in just two weeks time!

So with so much going on round here my sewing machine has been a bit neglected of late.  But in June it faced a flurry of activity as I managed to squeeze the sewing of By Hand London's Anna dress into our three weeks of wedding preparation.  The dress was made from crepe satin with a beaded trim that had little gold suns dancing along it in celebration of our move to the Sunshine State.

Douglas Ludwig Photography

It's a long way from a masterpiece, but fortunately I still have the rose-tinted glasses of an easily impressed beginner, and I blithely sailed through the dressmaking process, safe in the knowledge that if it didn't work out there were plenty of simple summer dresses in the shops that would have worked fine for our relaxed beach ceremony. 

Douglas Ludwig Photography

But fortunately not only did it work out, but I was really happy when I got the photos back afterwards and discovered that the ocean breeze had caused the dress to magically take on some classic bridal train silhouettes in some of the shots.  A totally unexpected fluke of taking an Anna down the aisle!  

Douglas Ludwig Photography

As we organised everything so quickly I didn't draw inspiration from the usual sources like wedding fairs, bridal magazines etc. Instead my surrogate source became the sewing community, with special credit to:

Tasia at Sewaholic- for introducing me to the destination of Tofino and for enchanting me when I read about her own wedding there last year.

By Hand London- for the fabulous Anna dress pattern. I've been sewing for a couple of years now, but I'm not particularly prolific or accomplished, so it was only actually the fourth dress I've ever made. But earlier this year I enjoyed celebrating my birthday in a shorter version of the Anna dress, and as the fit and construction that time went surprisingly well I felt confident enough to try a bridal version, and was thrilled with the result.

Lizzy at Sew Busy Lizzy- it was looking at Lizzy's beautiful rose Anna dress and her romantic beach photos that sealed the deal for me that Anna was the way to go.

Wendy at Wendy World- after meeting Wendy at a Montreal Sewing Bloggers meet-up last year it was fun to go to her new hair salon for my pre-wedding haircut the week before, and let her in on the secret :)

The Montreal Sewing Bloggers- it was through the Montreal Sewing Blogger meet-ups that I discovered the St Hubert fabric district where I ended up buying the fabric for the dress. The last meet-up I attended in June was actually one week before we were flying over to Vancouver Island.  At that stage I'd done little more than cut the main fabric, so I used the opportunity to covertly grill Vicki and Shannon about the merits of different lining fabrics, having never lined a dress before.  

Tilly and the Buttons-Making a tight belt was the easiest way I could think of for getting round the issue of how to sew the beaded trim round the waist of the dress without interfering with the invisible zip at the back.  So I used Tilly's bow belt tutorial but wore the bow at the back rather than the front, as I'm not a big fan of bows, but it made quite a nice understated little detail at the back. 

Everyone who has ever made an Anna maxi dress- I spent a while looking at everyone elses versions before taking the plunge and there are certainly some stunning ones out there.  So thank you for all the Anna eye candy.

Everyone who has ever 'twirled' in their sewing blog photos- we just left our photographers Douglas and Ocean, to do their (very talented) thing, with the exception of requesting some twirling shots to show off the dress like I've seen others do on their sewing blogs. These ended up being some of our favourite photos, and seemed to capture how free-spirited and fun it all was.

Douglas Ludwig Photography

Once we're settled in the States we're hoping to arrange a party back in England to celebrate with all our (not-so-) nearest and dearest across the Atlantic.  So I'm thinking it'll be a nice touch to make a second version of the Anna dress in a different colour to wear to that.  But that's a long way off, and first we must say our goodbyes to Montreal. Sob. I've loved living here, and it was loathing French classes that made me take up sewing in the first place! So merci beaucoup et au revoir Montreal, and next time I blog it should be from my new home in California!!! Wow!