Vintage Advance 2952

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If you’ve been around my blog at all, you’ll know I have an affinity for vintage sewing patterns. Well, Advance 2952 was the first vintage pattern I ever bought and is one I keep coming back to. After that, I was hooked, and keep searching for great vintage patterns on Etsy and Instagram.

I’ve twice made version 2 of the pattern, but have never (using a vintage or modern pattern) sewn a straight skirt. Last year at the annual textiles sale hosted by the Textile Museum, I picked up a bundle of bright magenta mystery fabric for $8. There was a good amount of it, but not enough to do a dress with a big gathered skirt or circle skirt, which are usually my go-tos. I figured it would go great with version 1 of my favourite Advance pattern, especially since I suspect the fabric itself was vintage too.

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Photo from Studio G Patterns on Etsy

A burn test of the fabric seems to indicate that it’s a rayon, and it feels like a rayon, but it’s not super drapey. It has a lovely sheen and is nice and soft, but also felt thick enough to work well on its own, without too many linings or interfacings. I actually originally planned to give it a lining, and had made one, but when I tried the bodice on it felt good on its own, and I didn’t feel the need to add a lining.

When I work with vintage sewing patterns I like to work with vintage sewing techniques – that means no using a serger to finish the raw edges. I used my pinking shears, but I think the fabric frays too easily and pinked edges weren’t the right choice. I’ll have to see how it lives up to regular wear and tear over time.

Sewing the bodice and the scalloped neckline (my favourite touch) was familiar to me, but I had never sewn a skirt with a vent. Fortunately, the pattern paper is well labelled and I find vintage instructions very easy to understand, so I had no issues putting it all together.

To finish the armholes and the waist seam, I wanted to reduce bulk, but I knew that if I trimmed too close to the seams they would eventually fray away to nothing, so I finished those seams with some gorgeous teal bias binding that I made from scraps of a silky rayon dress I had been working on. This involved a lot of hand sewing, but since I didn’t line the dress I had some extra time.

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Actually, the whole thing involved a lot of hand sewing – the sleeves and hem are hand sewn, and the zipper is hand-picked. A lot of people don’t like projects that involve a lot of hand sewing, but I actually find it really relaxing (usually) and I enjoy the slow process and the control I have by not relying on a machine.

When I first tried on the bodice of the dress I worried the fit was off, and convinced myself that the dress would be unwearable. I worked on through to the end though, and was actually really pleased with how it looked, and I love how the straight skirt looks on me. I feel very Mad Men-esque (I didn’t watch the show, but I appreciated the clothes!). The finishing touch was adding my grandmother’s white leather gloves, which my Nana sent me when she saw other vintage patterns I had sewn (along with a gorgeous beaded clutch!). They were a bit tight, but she told me that since they’re leather you can stretch them out a bit – so I squeezed them on, and they fit like a glove! (Hehe, couldn’t resist that one). Thanks, Nana!

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Fibers to Fabric Review & Another Emery Dress

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A few months ago, before the snowfalls and weeks of below-zero temperatures, I ordered some block-printed cotton fabric from Fibers To Fabric on Etsy. There were so many stunning prints that it was hard for me not to order all of them, but I figured, hey, it’s October, I could use some autumnal colours in my wardrobe!

So I ordered this lovely fabric, and then the Canada Post postal strike struck (hehe). My fabric didn’t get in for 6 weeks. By then, winter was just starting to settle in here in Toronto and all I could do was admire how lovely and soft (and lightweight! Brrr) my new fabric was and hope for warmer weather.

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Well, it isn’t warmer. We had 15cm of snow drop just the other day. But March is closer to Spring than November is. I couldn’t wait any longer and decided that my autumnal dress would instead have to be my winter-to-spring transition dress.

I usually go for very illustrative, multi-coloured floral prints, but I absolutely loved the simplicity of a block print in earthy colours. I wanted to showcase the fabric by going with a simple, tried-and-true pattern that I know fits me fantastically, so I went with the Emery Dress by Christine Haynes.

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The fabric was lovely to work with – lightweight and easy to sew, like cotton lawn (which is my go-to substrate for printed fabrics) but with less of a sheen. It’s also opaque (surprising since it’s so lightweight!) so it didn’t need lining (though I lined the bodice because I like the extra layer of protection).

It appears that the print is done using batik, which, if I remember correctly, involves dipping the printing block in hot wax and stamping the wax on before dyeing it. The wax creates a resist and then is melted away after the fabric is painted or dyed. But if you’re curious to know more about the process, Fibers to Fabric frequently posts Instagram stories on how their fabrics are produced. I always like to learn these sorts of things, and I think it’s really exciting to know where my fabric is coming from and how it was made. What I really loved, though, were the imperfections that are signs of a hand-printed textile. Tiny spots where the wax splattered, slightly skew patterns – all show the hand of an artisan – which is the charm of hand-printed textiles!

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Typically I’m apprehensive about ordering fabric from overseas, since usually shipping costs are exorbitant. I’m not going to order fabric if it costs me $30-40 just to ship it. Fibers to Fabrics has very affordable shipping (cheaper even than ordering within Canada!) and with all those gorgeous prints to choose from, I am definitely tempted to order again soon! (I already have my eye on a few prints that may or may not find their way into my shopping basket…)

This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Blush Solina Dress and Breaking The Pattern Review

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In the late fall, Named Patterns released previews of their book Breaking The Patternand I knew I had to have a copy. The book has ten base patterns with several variations of each, as well as suggestions on how to further change things up using other pattern pieces that come with the book. The styles included have the fresh and modern look that Named is known for. The photos in the book are beautiful and inspiring (though I’m not sure what it is with the trend of holding a leaf while posing these days) and had me flipping through the book over and over again.

When I saw the previews I had my eye on the Ruska Knot Dress, the Solina Dress, and the Saraste shirt dress. I made the Saraste shirt dress a few weeks ago using some Liberty of London cotton lawn, but I didn’t really feel I could pull off the button-up collar look. The pattern was well-drafted though and the dress came out beautifully, but it just wasn’t for me, so I sold it to a friend so it can be worn and loved.

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In sewing the patterns, I felt a bit frustrated by the instructions. Some of the steps had long chunks of text with few diagrams to break them up. A lot of the steps actually just tell you to go to another pattern’s instructions and follow a step there. At one point I actually turned to that step and the step told me to go to a different step for a different pattern. I felt kind of like I was looking at those little doodles in my elementary school textbooks where they told you “Go to page 89!” and when you went to page 89 it said “Go to page 203” and so on and so forth, and in the end it got you nowhere.

Since the instructions seemed kind of vague to me, I felt that a less experienced sewist would struggle constructing the garments from this book. Some parts of the book have actual photos to complete steps that include somewhat crucial sewing skills (like setting in sleeves or installing an invisible zipper) that I feel like someone should know if they’re making these patterns to begin with.

The patterns all come on sheets that need to be traced, since the pattern lines all overlap each other. What really bothered me is that there was no chart or numbers indicating where specific pattern pieces could be found, and the sheets weren’t all organized by pattern. So in order to find a piece I needed to trace, I needed to go through all the pattern sheets and open them up and flip them over until I found it.

Anyways, I would still recommend this book because the patterns in it are gorgeous and very well drafted (I sewed both the Saraste and Solina dresses without any changes to the pattern). Named patterns are often quite pricey (and don’t always come with several variations), so to get 10 (not including several variations) for the price of the book is pretty good bang for your buck.

Shortly after finishing and sending away my sort-of failed Saraste dress, I traced out the pieces for the Solina dress. It looks pretty complex with all its ties and interesting pleats, but I actually found it really quick to put together.

The pattern doesn’t have a lining and I can’t really picture how I could add one without needing tons of fabric (since there is no waist seam I can’t think of a way to only line part of it). This made it really quick but also the fabric I bought is slightly translucent so I’ll need some sort of slip or nude undergarments. I have no regrets about my fabric choice, though, because the tencel twill I bought from Matchpoint Fabric is deliciously buttery and soft, and I love the drape of it much more than the heavier tencel twill I usually buy elsewhere.

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I was concerned throughout the project that the dress would be too long and would maybe look like a bathrobe? But once I had the waist ties sewn in I tried it on and loved how it looked. Fortunately I have long legs so the length doesn’t look awkward (the patterns are drafted for a 5’8″ woman) and I can picture it looking really cute with sandals in the warmer months.

I would also note that the sleeve ties are a touch long, and if you don’t wind them around your wrist twice you’ll have long lengths of ties dangling about. If I make this pattern again with the ties I would probably shorten them. To begin with having them there will be a bit impractical.

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I give the “holding-a-leaf-except-it’s-a-flower” thing a try. I think I get the appeal!

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know when I’ll wear this dress. It’s quite the statement piece. I have a lot more fun making statement pieces though, so I don’t really mind. I’ve already been thinking about making more of these, but maybe with short sleeves and a skirt that ends at the knee for something more summer-appropriate and casual. It’s the kind of dress that you can really change up based on skirt and sleeve length and fabric choice.

Have you bought a copy of Breaking the Pattern? What patterns are you planning to try?

 

Getting creative with scraps

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I didn’t get much sewing done in December – it was a month of holidays, travelling, and redecorating our apartment. It was actually nice to focus on thing besides sewing, and then to dive back in in the New Year.  When I did dive back in, it was project after project of quick and easy garments – if you check out my Instagram you’ll see what I mean. One week I finished three garments on consecutive days. By the end of it, I really felt that I was missing the challenge of creative fabric use and garment construction.

When I wrote my “Make Nine for 2019” list, I listed a patchwork dress as something I wanted to make this year. I have a lot (not a huge pile, but a lot) of substantial fabric scraps and I had been holding onto them with the hopes that I’d use them some day. But new and exciting fabric always took precedence. This time, I decided to dive in and start my patchwork dress already. I told myself not to overthink it because in the end, I wasn’t going to waste the fabric, and it wouldn’t cost me anything other than time!

I started by taking a great tried-and-true pattern that I use over and over because I know it fits me so well – the Elisalex dress pattern from By Hand London. I took the bodice pieces and marked lines on each of them, dividing the pattern pieces into chunks that could be patched together. I traced those “chunks” and added seam allowances to them, being careful to number each tracing and write its coordinating number on the actual pattern piece.  For example, the front of the bodice was divided into 8 patches, and each patch was marked “1F (for front), 2F, etc.” so I wouldn’t be looking at vague rectangles later on wondering where they go.

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Then I just picked up the pieces of fabric from my scrap basket and played around with which ones I thought looked nice together, before cutting out the pieces. There were times when I cut out the pieces only to realize they didn’t really look nice together – but it was fine, because the patch pieces were so small that I had extra fabric to play with.

When I had settled on the pieces I liked together, I sewed them together and the result was a normal bodice pattern piece, only made up of smaller pieces! I was then able to sew each of the pattern sections together as usual.

To make the skirt, I really just improvised. I cut out rectangles and rearranged them until I had two rectangles about 30″ wide and 25″ tall. I sewed in pockets and gathered the rectangle to make a gathered skirt.

Since there were so many seams that weren’t finished in this dress (I wasn’t going to serge/overlock each patch seam), I had to line it. I used scraps to line the bodice, some random blue cotton I found at a textile sale to line the sleeves, and some gorgeous viscose batiste from Fabrications Ottawa to line the skirt (the only part that didn’t use scraps).

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I used an invisible zipper I had lying around and basted it in to be sure that all the patches lined up in the back, and then I hand-stitched the lining in (usually I’m lazy and machine-sew the lining to the zipper but I wanted to go all-out here). Then, as the final touch, I finished the armhole seams with some bias binding (I wasn’t going to take out the serger for two seams! Also it looks so much nicer.)

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And that was it! With all the pattern matching and piecing together, it took me a solid week to complete this dress. It was so much fun to flex my creative muscle and sew something with a lot of creative play involved. I had a lot of people comment on Instagram that they’ve always wanted to make a patchwork dress – we all have scraps! – so if you’ve been thinking about it, I encourage you to dive in! You have absolutely nothing to lose 🙂

The Sew Frosting Challenge: Self-Drafted Satin Dress

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This is a special dress.

When I saw the floral satin for sale on the Club Tissus website, I knew I had to have it. I generally hate polyester, and I’ve never worked with satin. I was so in love with the print, though, that I ordered almost 5 yards of it and decided that I would make something incredibly special for the Sew Frosting Challenge happening on Instagram. I went on about the challenge and its merits in my vintage coat post a few weeks back, but I didn’t make that coat specifically for the challenge, and I wanted to take the challenge as an opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and make something I wouldn’t normally make.

I knew exactly what dress I wanted to make from it – the Cassie dress from Wear Lemonade. Wear Lemonade makes beautiful sewing patterns that I am really hoping to try some day, and they also make some beautiful ready-to-wear garments. I was kind of sad that the Cassie dress didn’t have a pattern, and the ready-made dress is very much out of my budget. So I guess I had no choice but to make it myself!

I dug out the sloper that I very meticulously made in fourth-year university, when I drafted and embroidered a dress from scratch for my thesis. I don’t know why I haven’t used my sloper since then – it’s a basic block that I perfectly tailored to fit me! It was so easy to use it to make a bodice that would fit me exactly how I wanted. All I had to do was follow the instructions in my copy of Patternmaking for Fashion Design, and it was done! I had put aside a whole day for it and it took me about half an hour. I made a blouson bodice, which basically just has some extra ease in the waist that gets gathered into a waistband. I also made a boat-neckline, and drafted bishop sleeves and a cuff.

To support the very drapey (and static-y) poly satin, I underlined the bodice pieces with a lightweight cotton/silk fabric I had in my collection of lining fabrics. I left the rest of the dress unlined because I didn’t want it to feel weighed down.

The skirt was a very exciting and new process that I tried – professional pleating! There is so little information about profession pleating out there! I consider myself a research fiend, and I spent a few days figuring out how to prepare my fabric for pleating. I knew the fabric had to be polyester, and thanks to a new friend of mine from the Toronto sewing community, I found a place nearby called Sterling Button that has an in-house pleating service. I never would have found it if not for the Toronto Sewcialists Facebook group – Sterling Button doesn’t have a website and nowhere online does it say they do pleating!

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From what I found, hemming pleated fabric is tricky. If you turn up already-pleated fabric, the pleats head in the opposite direction and don’t fold up neatly. If you machine-hem the fabric before pleating, you might shift the grain of the fabric and the pleats will come out wonky. I didn’t know what I should do.

Then I turned to my trusty Kindle copy of Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide. That book is like the bible of how to sew with every fabric, and in the “special occasion fabric” section, she tells you that hemming should be done before having your fabric professionally pleated. Thank goodness for Claire Shaeffer!

Still, I didn’t want to serge the bottom and throw off the grain, so I hemmed the selvedge edge which I knew wouldn’t need finishing, and I stitched the whole thing by hand. I threw in 5 extra inches of width to the rectangle, just in case. I must’ve done my calculations wrong, though, because 2 days and $25 later, the pleated fabric came back about 3 inches too narrow (albeit beautifully pleated)!

I panicked for a few minutes, and then I decided to slightly ease each pleat apart until the width of the skirt matched my waistband. It worked! I was so pleased. I wasn’t able to match up the pleat folds by the zipper, but it was more important to me that the skirt fit around my body.

After stitching the skirt to the bodice waistband, I basted a grosgrain ribbon into the waistband for added support (I don’t want the waistband to go slouchy with time). I enclosed it with a waistband facing so the inside looks nice and neat.

To insert the zipper, I used pick stitches sewn by hand, since I had carefully matched the floral pattern on the back pieces and I didn’t want to mess it up by sewing it on the machine.

Really, the whole thing wasn’t too tricky a process, but with all the outsourcing and hand-stitching, it took me more than a week to complete this dress. I really enjoyed the creative process of drafting and took a lot of pleasure in all the hand-stitched touches. I also cannot get over the sleeve cuffs and the beautiful pearly shank buttons that Jenny at Sterling Button helped me choose. They just look so elegant!

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I don’t know when I’ll get to wear this very special dress – I’m already waiting for the perfect special occasion to wear it! Still, the #sewfrosting challenge isn’t about practicality – it’s about making something extravagant just for the sake of it. I think this dress fits the bill.

My First Wool Coat: Burda 6462 Review

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A wool coat has been on my “to-sew” list for a while now. Not only had I always wanted the challenge of constructing a coat, but after donating the wool peacoat I had had since I was 15, I didn’t have a coat well-suited to the cool fall weather. I had been trying to get by for a few weeks of 5-degree weather with a raincoat (with no insulation other than it being made of plastic), so the need was becoming dire.

I scoured the Indie pattern scene, and didn’t really find any coats that I loved (with the exception of the By Hand London Rumana coat, which I am absolutely in love with, but has too many seams for the heavy boiled wool I had bought). There are a lot of indie designers making coat patterns now that have been insanely popular, and it’s becoming the norm for home sewists to venture into the coat-making world. Still, I found many of them a bit too boxy for my liking. I had originally planned to make a wool coat from my Vintage Butterick 3007, but I found the fit of it way too oversized to fit practically into my wardrobe.

I eventually found the Burda 6462, but I couldn’t find any pattern reviews. I’m big on reading reviews before I buy something, but I’ve heard good things about Burda’s drafting, so I ordered it anyways.

I thought about the fabric I would use for a very long time. I knew I’d be spending a lot on it, so I wanted to make the right choice. I originally really wanted a teal coat, and I found the perfect fabric at The Fabric Room, but since they sell fabric leftover from fashion designer Lida Baday, what they have is what they have – and they didn’t have enough to make a coat. I headed over to The Wool House on Queen St, and they had a big selection of boiled coating wools, but no teal. Still, when I saw the charcoal grey, I knew it’d make a versatile coat, and I could have a lot of fun with the lining. I chose a fun contrast lining (from The Workroom) because, honestly, how can you not if you make your own coat? I love the lining fabric so much that I was actually sad to only use it as a lining – luckily, there was about a metre leftover, and I think I can squeeze a skirt out of it!

I made a very basic muslin before starting, and it was pretty big – I didn’t really care about it being a loose-fitting coat, but the shoulders were clearly much too big. I went down a size and a half (from size 14), but didn’t make a new muslin of the smaller size because I felt rather confident about the fit. I also did a forward shoulder adjustment.

It was my first time working with boiled wool. Several online guides and tutorials warned me that boiled wool doesn’t press well. The one I got was a coating wool, so it’s also pretty thick. I had to cut out all the pieces one by one (rather than from the fabric folded), and I had to make all the marks with thread. Cutting out the pieces and interfacing them took two days.

The boiled wool was surprisingly pleasant to work with, and I’m glad I kind of just dove in. I finally got to use up my size 90 needles (I think I broke two though), and my machine and I braved through it. My main struggle was with the pattern instructions. If I hadn’t made my vintage Butterick coat pattern beforehand, I would have been totally lost with the construction. The Burda diagrams had a lot of zoomed in views that didn’t show context of the rest of the garment, and some of the instructions weren’t quite English. It’s really important to mark all the dots and notches, because that’s really your only guide as to how things fit together. I suppose if you’ve sewn many coats or garments with lapels it’s easy enough to figure out, but having only done it once I had a lot of trouble only going on the pattern’s vague instructions.

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The lining was pretty easy to set in, and I followed the instructions in my Vogue Sewing Book on how to hem the lining in a coat. Turns out a coat lining needs a bit of ease so everything fits nicely, and it should be a bit “baggy” compared to the coat. The Vogue Sewing Book’s guide was fantastic, and I don’t know what I would have done without it.

woolcoatbuttonsThe last step was the buttonholes and buttons. I didn’t think my machine could handle buttonholes on the boiled wool, so I made them by hand using matching embroidery thread (a tip I saw somewhere on Instagram). I found some really cute buttons at Eweknit, and I worried that maybe they might be too small. I liked them too much to find something larger, so I used them anyways, and I don’t think they look too out of place. I think I also sewed the buttons on too tightly, because I have a bit of difficulty buttoning up the coat. I’m hoping they’ll loosen up a bit as I wear it!

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All in all, I’m very pleased with the fit and style of this coat! The A-line makes it flattering, but it’s loose enough that I feel like I can wear a few layers underneath without feeling too squishy. Hopefully winter won’t come too soon and I’ll get some wear out of it before the weather dips below zero. After planning this coat for a few months now, I’m really excited that it’s finally done and is exactly what I was looking for.

Hinterland Sew-Off and Pattern Review

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Several weeks ago, when Tori of The Doing Things Blog and Sara of The Sara Project announced the Hinterland Sew-Off, honestly, I wasn’t super-pumped. I was feeling kind of overwhelmed by the projects I had lined up for the fall, and wasn’t interested in buying any new patterns. They were hosting a giveaway of the pattern (by Sew Liberated) on Instagram, so I entered, because I thought it was a pattern I would want to make at some point in time.

I forgot about the sew-off, until I won the pattern giveaway (yay!). Still, I didn’t think I’d get to be a part of the Instagram challenge, as the pattern was being mailed to me from the States and I didn’t expect it to arrive with enough time for me to meet the challenge deadline. Spoiler: It did. It arrived by courier 4 days before the challenge was scheduled to end.

Once I had that pattern in my hands, I knew I had to make one.

I am not exaggerating here – I got started immediately. Within 6 hours of opening the package, I had the fabric cut out and ready to go (luckily I had this lovely Cotton+Steel rayon in my stash already washed and it just needed a quick press). I didn’t even bother with a muslin – I did a hasty tissue fit to make sure everything seemed to be in order and moved right along.

I made a few changes to the pattern that used up more fabric than I would have normally used. It was actually very satisfying to see a small pile of cut bits remain after moving away all the pattern pieces. It was tight, fitting it all in to 3.5 yards of 44″-wide rayon. I opted for a facing rather than a bias-bound neckline, and even squeezing that out was tight. But I did it.

I followed Sara’s instructions for hacking the sleeve to make a bishop-style sleeve, but I reduced the fullness quite a bit. I wanted more of a subtle “poof” in the sleeve, since my fabric already has quite a detailed pattern. As Sara did, I also raised the neckline (by 2″) and made the bodice without a button placket. In an effort to copy the style of a RTW dress I own and love, I added a 1″ waistband along the bottom of the bodice – I sewed the waist ties into the waistband, rather than into the main bodice pieces.

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I was a little concerned when I tried on the bodice (I like to try on after every step of sewing – I’m impatient to see how it’ll look before it’s finished) – the darts didn’t look right at all. I hoped the fabric print would hide it and I could still get away with wearing it. Once the skirt was sewn on, it added some weight to the dress and the darts “grew” – and they ended up looking fantastic! I do think that if I make this dress again in something stiffer like a cotton (which I already have in mind), I would have to do some sort of bust dart adjustment. Also, like some people commented on Instagram, this dress needs a major forward-shoulder adjustment for me. This is a change I always need with Big Four patterns and only with some indie patterns, so when I sew indie patterns I always wrongly assume this isn’t a change I always need to make. So next time, I definitely need to make that fix.

I honestly didn’t have high expectations for this dress. I always feel unsure about boxier dresses, and even though the Hinterland looks great on so many other sewists on Instagram, I wasn’t sure it would suit me. Once I added those waist ties and cinched everything in the back – I was in love. The bishop sleeves were the clincher for me. I am crazy about this dress. I stared at it and stared at it when I finished it.

I love how many variations of this dress can be made and the hacking possibilities it has (I’ve already considered trying a version with a gathered waist or elastic-cinched waist). I would love to make one with a button-placket when summer rolls around again. Once I get the right alterations down, oh baby, the possibilities are endless!

The Art of Taking it Slow and Vintage Patterns: Butterick 3007

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I’ve been noticing lately, that I’ve been getting more and more impatient. It’s not a totally new flaw of mine (my Dad would tell me when I was young, “you have a lot of virtues, but patience isn’t one of them). I want things done immediately – especially if it’s me doing them. The library book I finished is due in a week? I need to return it today. The store has a 30-day exchange policy on the thing I bought yesterday? I need to exchange it tomorrow. I don’t really know where this is coming from. I’m sure someone in the psychology field would pin it on this generation’s need for instant gratification and smart phones or something like that. It’s there, though. And it’s hard to overcome.

It’s really, really starting to influence my sewing and sewing purchases. If I see fabric that I like, I don’t want to buy it immediately because “I NEED IT NOW”, but because I worry if I put off buying it, it’ll get sold out, or magically disappear, or SOMETHING will keep me from being able to buy it when I’m ready. This has been leading to several impulse fabric purchases. Even worse, though, is feeling this rush to finish my projects. My brain acts like I have a month to live and if I don’t sew all the things I had been hoping to, then it’s game over. Obviously, this isn’t rational. There’s an urge always to finish quickly, and it’s getting to the point where I don’t always feel like I’m sewing for enjoyment.

I miss when I would hem yards of skirt by hand. I miss hand-picked zippers. I miss when I would carefully fit a new pattern. Now, I try to avoid new patterns so I don’t have to make a muslin. I try to choose fabrics that don’t need a lining. I pick the easier projects. Projects that used to take me a week to finish now take me a day or two – you can call it efficiency. I call it rushing. And I don’t like it.

Butterick 3007 / Vintage 60s Sewing Pattern / Raglan Sleeve Coat Jacket / Size 14 Bust 34
Pattern from StudioGPatterns on Etsy

Along came this coat. I splurged on a crazy, carpet-y, floral fabric from The Workroom (a different colourway of one I had already used) and decided to just make a coat out of it! I chose a 60s vintage pattern on Etsy, and I put off sewing it for at least 6 months (I had been hoping to start the muslin in JULY).

It was bugging me that the fabric was just sitting there. It was getting to the point where I worried Fall would pass by and I wouldn’t have a use for the coat ’till Spring.

So I picked up the pattern, made a muslin, and just rushed through making the coat shell. I was annoyed with myself. Vintage patterns were always the ones where I would take things slow, finish seams without my serger (the old-fashioned way!), and use lots of hand-stitching. Where was the care that I used to put into my projects?

Then things had to come to a halt. I didn’t have lining yet. I had put off buying it, and shipping wasn’t instant. I had to stop working on the coat. I was like the Tasmanian Devil whirling through piles of fabric and then hitting a brick wall.

I am bad at taking breathers. I don’t like taking breathers. But I had to stop.

When the lining came, I got back to work on it right away. This time, though, I took my time. The vintage sewing instructions told me to hand-stitch the lining to the coat. I didn’t know how to attach it any other way – I had never made a coat. So I followed the instructions and spent a solid day getting the lining into the coat. By hand-stitching, I had so much more control of the fabric and the stitches. I enjoyed myself a lot more than I would have if I finished it on the machine in 20 minutes. And now I have a coat that I love. A totally impractical floral coat.

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Two challenges are going on on Instagram right now and they couldn’t have come at a better time. One is #slowfashionoctober – which is all about wearing clothes that are the opposite of fast fashion. On a few podcasts I’ve been hearing talk of the sewing world becoming like fast fashion, in the sense that many people are going for quantity over quality, trying to churn out as many projects as possible. After my most recent Instagram post, I read my blog tagline on my profile again – “creating a wardrobe worth cherishing”. What was happening to me? How is it that I was becoming the exact opposite of what my blog is supposed to be about? I hadn’t even been posting the things I made since there seemed to be so little substance to the work I put into them. #slowfashionoctober has really had me rethinking where I am in terms of my creative output.

The second challenge is #sewfrosting – which is all about sewing things that we don’t necessarily need, that are creative and over-the-top and exciting to make (frosting) rather than always sewing practical pieces (cake). We need the “cake”, but sometimes we focus so much on making the “cake” that we don’t let ourselves let loose and make “frosting”. It is such a timely challenge, because I have been talking so much to Eitan about how I haven’t stretched my sewing skills or made something that excites me in ages, and really, I think I’ve gotten bored. I miss when I used to make extravagant projects.

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This coat feels like a step in the right direction. It’s certainly on the over-the-top and frosting-y side of things. I honestly wondered if I’d ever wear it in public. I mean, it’s a bit…much – at least for me. But as soon as I had finished photographing it, I had to head out to an appointment, and I looked at it and thought, “Screw it. I’m going downtown in frosting.” So I did.

Here’s to creating a wardrobe worth cherishing – filled with lots of cake and loads of frosting.

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Vintage Patterns: Butterick 6796

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Every once in a while, I like to treat myself to vintage patterns from Etsy. I bought a couple from SewUniqueClassique a few months ago, but as is usually the case when I buy vintage patterns, I don’t have something specific in mind to make. I’m always tempted by the envelope illustrations, but I try to look past them for something I might actually make or wear, and for something that’s a bit more unique than the standard darted bodice with a gathered rectangle skirt.

Vintage 1953 Butterick 6796 Sewing Pattern Misses' One-Piece Dress - Wide V-Neckline Size 14 Bust 32

Butterick 6796 is one of those patterns. It looks relatively simple, but I loved the charming, vintage vibe it has. (I was also really pulled in by that lace version. One day.) Also, any vintage pattern I find needs to have a neckline I’m comfortable with (or seems easily adjustable), and sleeves that cover the upper arms. This pattern fit the bill.

When I was at Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado, I picked up the last of an incredible charming Japanese cotton lawn with little houses on it. Thinking of many vintage dresses with novelty patterns, I thought the cotton lawn would be a perfect match. The pattern is cut on the bias, and I thought the horizontal print would emphasize the bias cut nicely.

When you’re sewing a vintage pattern a muslin is pretty important – especially since my Japanese fabric was expensive, and, thanks to yours truly, sold out. I bounced back and forth between two muslins. I tried the pattern with no adjustments other than making the waist a bit bigger – even though the pattern is a size 32 (in vintage patterns, a 34 usually works perfectly for me), as when I measured the pattern piece, there seemed to be plenty of ease. So I kept the bust as-is. I raised the neckline just a bit and added a fifth button. The original pattern had a huge pleated circle skirt, and since I didn’t have loads of fabric for that, I decided to sew together a few a-line skirt pieces and gather them.

As is pretty standard with vintage patterns, the bust dart was high and pointy. When I tried lowering it, it just lowered the pointiness (not a charming look). So I decided to try using my Butterick 6318 (a vintage repro that I’ve made before), and I had the same issue, plus it was much less fitted than the original. I realized that perhaps since the fabric was cut on the bias, the dart was just coming out more pointy. I went back to the original muslin, lowered the dart, and decided to work out a solution on the real deal.

To try and “soften” the dart, I underlined the bodice with a white silk/cotton blend fabric, and then stitched the bust darts by hand. I figured the machine was stretching out the already-stretchy bias fabric, and was making the darts pointier. It was a nice little “slow sewing” project. I also used basting stitches to mark in all the other darts (two back darts, and three by each elbow – a vintage touch I really love).

I liked working on this dress because the construction was a bit different than I’m used to (which is why I usually like vintage patterns). The v-neckline is self-faced, and it all came together very neatly. It was supposed to have a side zipper, but I really hate side zippers, so I put a 14-inch zipper in the center back (I didn’t want a zipper at the top of the back ruining that lovely V shape). I sewed binding onto the sleeve hems before folding them in and hemmed them by hand. The sleeves are kimono sleeves, so I also like to stitch a small piece of seam binding along the curve for extra reinforcement. I also stitched binding along the waist seam as a sort of waist stay.

The short-sleeve version of the pattern is supposed to have bias-bound edges (around the neck and button placket edges), and I specifically hunted down some mango-coloured Robert Kaufman cotton lawn for the purpose. It was supposed to bring out the pink-y coloured houses in the fabric print, but when I sewed it on I realized it was a touch too orange. I tore it out and topstitched according to the long-sleeve version’s instructions instead.

I really didn’t feel like setting up my sewing machine for the buttonholes, so I followed the instructions that came with the pattern and sewed all five by hand (yes, my laziness has no logic). I flipped back and forth about which buttons to use (I’ve never sewn buttons on one of my own garments. Fun fact: I had a phobia of buttons when I was 5. I cried when I learned my school uniform would have buttons). I wanted to cover my own buttons, but I couldn’t find the right size button kit online, and when I tried a (non-matching) fabric-covered button from my stash, I really struggled to get it through the buttonhole. I had some vintage buttons from a Fibre Share package, and those worked perfectly.

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Like many vintage dresses I’ve sewn, this dress is tough to get on and off (I have very prominent shoulder blades and it makes it hard to get the dress past my shoulders). Wearing it makes me feel very 50s house-wifey (especially if I have my crinoline on), but the fabric isn’t too retro-looking for real life and it makes a pretty spiffy semi-casual-dressy dress (does that make sense? No?). I’m not sure the skirt I made up really works for it – a plain ol’ gathered rectangle would probably work better. I do have some real vintage fabric that I think would be perfect for the dress – so I would like to make it again. It’s a light, yellow floral fabric, so it’ll have to wait for the spring. Oh, and I’ll have to make that lace version too…

The Siri Pullover: Review and Real Talk

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This year hasn’t been incredibly easy for me. I spent last summer going crazy with all the free time I had on my hands, and ended up knitting about 12 hours a day. Knitting is a wonderful thing, but there’s such a thing as overdoing it.

In November 2017, I started noticing my fingers going numb – not just when I was knitting, but when I was doing any other sort of task that required hands. I had been experiencing arm pain, mainly in my left arm, but I ignored it. When I noticed numbness, I regretfully put away my knitting and called my chiropractor.

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I spent several weeks going to many sessions of treatment, and completely avoiding knitting. I noticed that both my arms were starting to hurt more, and I hadn’t been knitting at all. I told my chiropractor this, and he ignored it, saying my body was just overcompensating. Frustrated, I stopped going to him. My mom (she’s a doctor so she knows some things) told me I may be in pain from a lack of exercise (I believe it’s called deconditioning, in technical speak) – so as the new year came in, I got a gym membership. At first it felt like a relief to give my arms some real exercise, but as my workout class got tougher, I noticed I was in pain all the time. Alarm bells in my head were ringing, and I decided to go to a physiotherapist my friend had recommended.

Before I started going to her, I cast on my Siri pullover, just to squeeze in some knitting before I was banned from it by a professional. The physiotherapist at first told me to hold off knitting for three weeks, but soon weeks became months, and she wasn’t seeing the progress we had hoped for. I was in a lot of pain. Some days I couldn’t even hold a book – I had to lie on the couch and do nothing. My physiotherapist was amazing, and she was honest with me, and told me that she wasn’t accomplishing what she had hoped to, and that until I could get more of a diagnosis, she didn’t need me to come in for sessions. I went to a neurologist who found nothing wrong. I have gotten multiple blood tests. And the pain continued to exist whether I was knitting or not.

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It was when I realized this that I felt I could start knitting again. I am waiting for my MRI appointment in the fall, which is about 6 months after I booked it in April. It doesn’t feel like there’s much else to be done. And knitting makes me incredibly happy. So I knit.

I don’t knit if it hurts too much. I don’t knit 12 hours a day. I don’t think I ever should again. I knit between one to three hours a day, and that’s plenty to feel like I make significant progress on my projects.

I picked up my cast on Siri again in June, and I finished it in August. Since November, I never thought I would finish a sweater within a year, let alone 3 months. I thought it was no longer possible.

I wish I could say I knit because everything is better now. I wish I wasn’t always in pain. I’ve been learning to cope, though. I’ve been learning what my limits are. I’ve been learning what I can and can’t do. Some days, I’ll be honest, I break down and feel hopeless, because I feel sure that I’ll feel this way the rest of my life. Other days, like today, I feel good knowing what I can accomplish despite the pain. I can still sew. I can still bake. I can still go for long walks. And some of the time, I can still knit.

So this sweater isn’t just a sweater for me – it’s a symbol of what I’m still capable of. I still have my hands and arms and fingersI can walk and run and sit and stand. I can make something beautiful.

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The Siri pattern is a wonderful knit. It looks incredibly complex, but is actually relatively quick and easy (assuming you’ve had knitting experience). I adjusted the pattern to be knit as a pullover rather than a cardigan (a pretty popular adjustment). I used Julie Asselin Leizu DK yarn, which twisted quite a bit and made the stitching sort of bumpy in places, but it all pretty much balanced out with blocking. I thought it was more flattering before blocking, but before blocking the armholes were also a bit snug, so the extra ease is a good thing in terms of comfort (isn’t it always?). I also shortened the sleeves, because I find a 3/4 sleeve more flattering on me. It’s an incredibly cozy knit and I’m so eager to wear it, but the forecast shows more 40 degree heat in the coming week. Luckily it was beautifully cool this morning when I modelled it.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for fall. And I’ve already got something new on my needles.