Sunday, 8 June 2014

Final Thoughts on Me-Made-May 2014

A week has now passed since the end of Me-Made-May, and reflecting back I can see that the challenge has been one of the biggest leaps forward for me since I started sewing nearly two years ago.  I now see my home-made clothes less as fragile show pieces that might unravel at any moment, and instead for their potential to inject some well needed colour, interest and fun into my everyday wardrobe.

It was the first time I've ever worn me-made to work, and my colleagues ended up embracing the concept to the extent that they were disappointed on the days when I was wearing my regular shop bought clothes!  It also motivated me to tackle some of my repairs pile.  A pile that always sits neglected at the back of the queue, but which actually seems to harvest the best effort to output ratio of all, as in little under an hour three flawed hand-made items were restored back to life.

For me the challenge also highlighted how being a technology dinosaur is hindering me from getting the most out of the sewing community. I don't have a smart phone or instagram account, and as the month progressed I became more and more aware of how I was missing out on the realtime interaction and updates that other Me-Made-May-ers were enjoying online :( But my phone contract will be up shortly so hopefully Me-Made-May 2015 will see me join the twenty-first century with lots more online mingling!

Me-Made-May inspired many more thoughts, resolutions and insights into my wardrobe and sewing endeavours but I don't think they'll make for very interesting reading.  So instead I'm going to dive straight on to the final batch of Me-Made-May photos for the second half of the challenge.  I've lost track of the dates, but these are the last three weeks worth of my challenge (three items per week):

An un-blogged Sorbetto top (Colette patterns).  The fabric was from the Liberty store bargain bin in London, but I find it a bit old-fashioned so I kept my jacket buttoned up all day!

Home-made PJ pants (no pattern) to chill in at the weekend.  After seeing Dr Who's Matt Smith in American Psycho the musical in England at Christmas, I've been keen to try the book...

Unblogged baby blue Simplicity 2451, version D.  Definitely not going to win any style awards for this outfit combo but at least I'll not inadvertently be hit by a bus either!

Unblogged Tilly and the Buttons Coco top (the same fabric as my dress but I had enough left over to make a top too).  I was off to support my Irish friend Martin who was doing a charity fun run.

Colette iris shorts.  I'm not quite convinced by the fit on these but I was happy enough lounging around the house in them.  

Backdrop is the lively little park in my neighbourhood with the famous picture-postcard traditional Montreal houses

So that's all for Me-Made-May 2014.  Although I missed out on the instagram mingling during Me-Made-May, at least I get to do some real-life mingling next week at the Montreal meet-up Caroline has organized!  Looking forward to seeing the locals there :)

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Lladybird inspired Tie-less Miette

One thing Me-Made-May has taught me is that I really don't like clothes that crease. I'm getting down to the last few handmade items I own now, but I still keep on bypassing my wrinkle-prone Miette skirt.  The stretch denim fabric looks fine when freshly ironed, but after the simplest of exertions, like sitting down, it's plagued with unflattering creases.

Second time round I've found a more savvy and softer fabric, and so now it's only my shop bought strappy top that's looking dishevelled (jeez!) 

This second version is also much more me, as I've always been slightly wary about the big bow at the front of this Tilly and the Buttons' pattern.  Very cute, but not a look that is quite my cup of tea, and so I loved Lauren from Lladybird's recent tie-less version and followed her instructions for switching the ties to buttons.  I was also tempted by the shorter length of Lauren's skirt, but thought keeping the original length showed off the patchwork pattern on this particular fabric better.

The fabric was a steal at $4 CAD total from the bargain rail of my local haberdashery. It seems to be a cotton linen with a fleecy backing and the patchwork pattern has a decorative wavy stitching around each piece. It reminds me of a favourite skirt I had a few years ago that I wore to Mr Fabric Maverick's first graduation and so it's nice to have a nostalgic replica. 

I think the only difference I made from Lauren's instructions was that I hid my buttons on the inside. You can see from my poor mis-matched button choice that this was probably for the best, although it does make a nice design feature to display them on the outside of the waistband like Lauren did.

Skipping out the ties was also hugely time saving, especially as for once my buttonhole foot was having a good day. I wouldn't go as far as to say I whipped it up but if we're going to use cooking terminology I'd say there was just some gentle simmering going on here! 

I'm hoping that now it's G&T on the terrace weather this first addition to my Summer wardrobe will quickly be followed by the floaty Tania culottes (Megan Nielsen patterns) that are currently on my sewing table.  I've not worn culottes since the Girl Guides so this should be a nostalgic make too! Ha! 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Me-Made-May Part 1

Just checking in to Me Made May HQ to report that all is going well over here.  My pledge was to wear three handmade items per week, and being eager to get started I counted my week one as Thursday 1st May to Sunday 4th May.  So with two completed weeks now under my belt, here is my diary of Me Made May so far (with apologies in advance for the excessively cheesy photos):

1st May to 4th May 2014

My denim Kelly Skirt (Megan Nielsen pattern) 

Day one kicked off with a promising start, as it was my first time I've ever worn anything I've made to work.  We've a relaxed dress code so there hasn't been any real reason not to.  I've just got into the habit of saving my homemade clothes for 'best', not quite trusting my seams to not unravel all over the office floor.  So it's been great to get rid of that irrational fear, while also getting rid of the unevenly spaced buttons on this Kelly skirt as MMM made me tackle the boring but beneficial task of redoing every single button.

My striped red skirt (Simplicity 2451, version D)

Cheesy grin alert and a shout-out to my colleague Amanda for being my MMM office photographer.  She's also good at listening when I'm occasionally overcome with excitement at some not-very-exciting-to-a-non-sewist new pattern or fabric that I spy on the interwebs and just have to show someone!

Home-made PJ pants 

Outside of Me Made May these are my most worn handmade item, as they are so comfortable to lounge around in, and in this case to start making summer holiday plans in.

5th May to 11th May

My purple striped Coco dress (Tilly and the Buttons pattern)

Ridiculously comfortable to wear, and I like this 'action shot' as it shows off the pattern matching of the sleeves #proud.

Mathilde blouse (Tilly and the Buttons)

As my workplace posing gets more contrived, news of MMM is starting to spread around the office and I've even had a couple of requests to do a twirl so my colleagues can inspect more closely :) 

Anna dress (By Hand London pattern)

To get the most out of my limited me-made wardrobe I need to find occasions to wear my more dressy pieces.  So I made sure that I chose a suitably stylish restaurant (Les 400 Coups, Montreal) to celebrate my eleven year anniversary with Mr Fabric Maverick last week.  Look how pretty and pink  my fish starter looks! Just like something out of Masterchef, and tasted divine too.

So I deliberately left the wording of my MMM pledge vague enough to allow for repeat outfits. But as the first two weeks have required little more than a few extra minutes of thought (and ironing), I'm now going to up the ante and attempt for no repeat items. It'll mean I'll need to wear almost every item I've ever made. Fortunately I have a couple of nearly finished makes and a couple of unblogged makes up my sleeves, which should go some way to helping me achieve the challenge without some of my more dubious earlier makes having to see the light of day! 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Concert Coco

My mum thinks this Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress is the best thing I've made so far, and I think she might be right.

It certainly is one of the easiest things I've made, and it's instantly been adopted as my favourite thing to wear at the weekend.  Which is quite an achievement as the only dresses I usually wear are either party dresses or summer dresses. So a casual dress for the other three seasons of the year definitely fills a gap in my wardrobe. And the Coco fills it with something that's so comfortable it's actually like wearing 'secret pyjamas', which is the wonderfully accurate description that Sonja from Ginger Makes gave the Coco in her review.

It was my first time working with a knit fabric and I'm not 100% sure exactly what type this is. But as soon as I saw it in Fabricville I knew that it would be Coco friendly as it was low stretch and high quality- although the price tag of over $20 CAD a metre would have ruled it out had it not been for the accompanying buy one metre get two free promotion.  

It was also my first time using stripes, and although the dress pre-dates Tilly's useful post on cutting and sewing with stripes, I had picked up the general gist from watching the stripe matching challenge on this latest series of the Great British Sewing Bee. When it came to the sleeves I also found Grainline Studio's post on plaid matching helpful, and for a first attempt it seems to all match up ok.

The only bit that didn't quite work for me was that there seemed to be a bit of excess fabric at the lower back. I'm a complete novice at fitting, so I played around with moving the side seams in, but this just seemed to displace the excess rather than remove it. I wasn't too fussed as it's a loose casual style so I just went with it, but if anyone has any tips for fixing this on a knit fabric?

This Coco means I've now scored a Tilly and the Buttons hat trick, as it proudly joins my earlier Miette skirt and Mathilde blouse.  I had wanted to make it in time to attend Tilly's Coco party last month, but after misjudging the amount of TLC my stripe matching would need, it wasn't quite ready.  So me, my Mathilde and my Bombay Sapphire gatecrashed the party and happily (or as gin was involved that should probably read hazily) sewed the night away.

Coco Party over on twitter
As well as meeting up with other sewists at Tilly's party in the virtual world, I've also recently met up with a sewist in the real world.  I first met Wendy from Wendy's World at the last Montreal Sewing bloggers meet-up in the summer (I never blogged about the meet-up but Caroline did a much better write-up than I could have done here).  Wendy has just opened her own hair salon called Sweetchops and I wanted to give a shout out to her and her new business after she recently cut my hair. 

It really is a beautiful, sunny salon and being an avid quilter she's having fun personalising it with her creations.  As if being a salon owner isn't already cool enough, she is even thinking about moving her sewing machine into the salon for when it's quiet. Living the dream or what?! Being able to chat fabric with your hairdresser is quite a dream too (!) so I'd definitely recommend that any Montrealers check out Wendy's salon.  

This would usually be an out-take but it's the only close-up of my new haircut (a bit windy to do it justice though)
Also incase you were wondering why I titled the post 'the Concert Coco' it's because its first outing was to see the pioneering electro-pop German band, Kraftwerk. Not my choice, and not really my cup of tea, but the randomness and retroness of it all kept me entertained, and they were a big influence on my beloved (David) Bowie so I tried to be open minded. The audience all donned 3D glasses to watch the accompanying computer graphics which of course accessorised most excellently with my Coco!  

Excitingly we're now only a few days away from Me-Made-May and I'm looking forward to taking part in So Zo's challenge for the first time.  I don't usually wear my homemade clothes or in fact anything smart to work, so I'm a bit worried my colleagues are going to think I'm having an affair when I suddenly start spicing up my outfits next month! I've pledged to wear three handmade items each week of May and this Coco is a very welcome last minute addition to my Me-Made wardrobe :)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

My Ghetto Betty Mad Men Dress

As a fan of Mad Men I've been excited to take part in Julia Bobbin's 2014 Mad Men challenge and make a Betty inspired outfit.

With my plastic sunglasses, shiny fabric, and high-ish hemline, my version is definitely more ghetto Betty than glam Betty.  Though we do both share a similar bright and splodgy flower fabric and similar shift dress silhouette, so hopefully you can see past my lack of uptown elegance and spot a glimmer of Betty here somewhere!  



I started this project looking for a basic shift dress pattern totally forgetting that I owned the Colette Laurel.  This ended up being effortlessly easy to make, although I did cheat and skip out the invisible zipper.  I feared my pattern matching skills weren't up to matching the two back pieces, so by leaving the zipper out and cutting only one back piece it averted an eyesore.  I then just have to do a bit of sixties style shimmying and the dress slips on ok.

I used the Laurel Extras booklet for guidance on how to make the sleeveless dress version.  New for me was using single bias binding as a facing for the armholes and neckline. My internal slip stitching at this stage left a lot to be desired, but luckily the print of the fabric is chaotic enough to disguise the occasional hand stitch that has strayed to the front.


Also new to me was sewing contour darts at the back. The diamond shaped markings looked a bit daunting on the pattern piece but were barely any different from a regular single dart.  It's also great how the accompanying 60+ page Laurel Extras booklet has beginner friendly photo tutorials for trying out some new to me techniques like making your own bias binding, ruffles and keyhole necklines.  So although it's not a wildly challenging pattern, it comes with more options for customizing it than I could ever have dreamed up myself. 

We were deluged by a spring snow storm in Montreal on Sunday and so Mr Fabric Maverick thoughtfully dug me out a path and posing area on our terrace! The absurdness of this last shot cracks me up, and makes me wonder what the neighbours must have been thinking.  To me this also embodies the spirit of Betty as I'm sure she would never let a bit of snow and sub zero temperatures stand in the way of her getting her gladrags on!

So that's my ghetto Betty outfit. Can't wait to see all the other Mad Men outfits in the round-up on Sunday!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Nicola Wrap Top

I was debating whether or not to blog this make, as it wasn't my finest sewing hour. Or should I say hours, as for a little top it seemed to take up a lot of time.  

It's the Nicola wrap top by Victory Patterns, and seeing it displayed on the hanger I do quite like it. I've just got it into my head that it looks a bit like an elephant!

See those big flappy elephant ears. I was becoming quite fixated with the Nellie the elephant resemblance until I caught sight of the back.  There I seem to have a big n' burly American Footballer look going on.  Hmmm, not the most flattering of looks!

In fairness I did go off-piste and deviated from the pattern when inserting the sleeves. I had started out religiously trying to follow the instructions, but for the sleeves there was so much excess fabric, no amount of wrestling with it was going to make it fit. It's an issue that I've also seen mentioned on Sewin' in the Rain's blog, so I'm thinking it could be a technical imperfection in the pattern markings or instructions.  

Not having much experience in sleeves I muddled through by increasing the overlap of the kimono sleeve until it fitted. I wish I had seen Sewin' in the Rain's post earlier though as it's really helpful in highlighting some issues with this pattern and how to fix them (she used two rows of ease stitching at 3/8s and 5/8s for her sleeves).

The pattern also included a technique called sausaging. This technique was meant to neatly enclose the raw seam allowance on the waistband, but the instructions were really confusing so I had no idea how to do this. Strangely, I've googled the technique and looked it up in my sewing books but it's not really mentioned anywhere and I couldn't find any tutorials. If anyone knows anything about the world of sausaging I'd love to know?! Does it have another name maybe? 

My googling for help with the instructions led me to discover a fair few stylish versions of the Nicola dress online, but hardly any wrap tops at all.  I can understand it as you can see from the pattern cover below how enticingly elegant the dress is.  
Victory Pattern Cover
Also for me the billowing kimono sleeves more suit the silhouette of the dress, as the flow of the fabric over the hips seems to balance the shape more so it's not as top heavy. A plus point for the wrap top though is that it doesn't use much fabric and I was able to cobble it together from a few off-cuts of purple chambray from my Mathilde blouse. I also suspect that if I had used a lighter fabric the sleeves would have looked more relaxed and flowing like in the cover photo.

I typically live in jeans and a strappy top, and so I like how throwing on this wrap could instantly and effortlessly smarten me up a bit. For this reason I'm seeing a black version with less puffy sleeves in my future, as I'm sure I'd get lots of wear from that.

No sooner had I completed this first Victory Pattern than another Victory Pattern has unexpectedly arrived on the scene. This was courtesy of the Perfect Pattern Parcel I bought last week which included the very pretty looking Ava dress and top (if you've not heard of the Perfect Pattern Parcel initiative check out this blog post by Dixie for more information). The Ava is an intermediate, so as I didn't find this beginner pattern a walk in the park I think I'll be saving it for a bit, but I'm keen to give Victory Patterns another try.

I just wanted to finish with showing you my new system for organising my pattern pieces that I came up with while working on Nicola.

I used to have my pieces scattered chaotically around my sewing room. It meant crumpled fabric and paranoid quadruple checks every time I reached for a piece to make sure I was taking the correct one. So I've now started pegging them all to a clothes horse with the paper pattern piece on top. Much more organised and fabric friendly, so I just thought I'd share it and see if anyone else does this or has any other good tips for what to do with the pieces during the project? 

And that’s a wrap, folks (geddit?!?!)

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Simplicity 2451 and the Fabric First Camp

Back in the summer, Winnie from Scruffy Badger, wrote an interesting post about the sewist's chicken vs egg conundrum.  What comes first: the pattern or the fabric?

Up until now it's been the pattern first for me.  That's been helpful as a beginner in letting me gradually try out new techniques, but it's often meant I've used a 'that'll do' fabric just so I can get going on a project.  

So when I got lucky and scored nearly three metres of this stripey denim beaut of a fabric for $5 I took the opportunity to try out the fabric first camp.  This definitely seems to be where the party is at!  Playing matchmaker to work out what pattern would best compliment the fabric seemed far more fun and instinctive than my usual starting point of a pattern, a blank canvas and an overwhelming array of fabric possibilities to get my head around.

I settled on Simplicity 2451, version D, a repeat pattern I first made last spring with Mili's help.

This was actually my second pattern choice.  My first being the Grainline Moss skirt. Though I thought a fly front zip might be a bit of a stretch when even regular zips remain a challenge.  Design-wise it was probably for the best anyway as the wide waistband on the Simplicity skirt seems to help make the contrasting horizontal stripes become more of a feature.

This pattern already has a lot of love in blogland.  I've drooled over Karen from Did You Make That's four recent versions. There has also been Zoe's epic week of wearing nothing but this pattern.  At the moment there seems to be lots of talk in the blog world of TNTs (Tried n True) patterns, an acronym that was alien to me a few weeks ago.  Now I know what it means I can confirm that this is definitely a TNT pattern for me!

After a couple of snaps I had to wrap up quick, as unsurprisingly it's not been al fresco photo weather in Montreal lately.  I did want to get some ok-ish photos though of this skirt, as I'm a big fan of the fabric. It's especially nice to have a small injection of red in my wardrobe as it's not a colour I usually wear, and it feels like a cheerful, warming colour palette for a winter skirt.

The above photo shows the back of the skirt and this strange diamond shaped crease. I don't know if that's from dodgy back darts, a dodgy zip, dodgy fit or all or none of the above.  I didn't notice it in real life, or when it was on the hanger, but if anyone has any ideas? I've heard of FBAs for Full Bust Adjustments, but perhaps I need a Full Bottom Adjustment!

After a run of using beginner friendly patterns from independent pattern companies, the relative sparseness of the instructions in a big four pattern was a bit of a culture shock. I'm so used to instructions and Sew Alongs that spell everything out to me, that annoyingly I missed the opportunity to use French seams and so the inside isn't particularly pretty.  Overall it came together quickly and painlessly though.

A lot less painful than the post photo back-breaking labour that awaited me.  While our decking area is glorious in the summer, it's a pain in the winter, as to avoid the kitchen roof of our neighbour below caving in from the weight of the snow, we're contractually obliged to keep it cleared.  Not only do we have to hoist the snow over the fence but we then have to position the shovel carefully to avoid the load dropping on to the power lines below.  And here's the action shot!

Ouch, makes my back ache just looking at it! Let the countdown to spring begin :)