Imaginary Sewing

Of course I’d rather be sewing, but I’ve had a whiny toddler in a cast for the past three weeks, so all my sewing has been virtual.

Lately I’ve been reading the Collette Wardrobe Architect series. One of the things that I’d love to do better is sew things that better reflect my style. When I sew for my self, I find I’m using the wrong fabric, sewing for the wrong shape, or just playing it too safe. Basically, I’m ending up with the wrong clothes. And yet, when I go shopping, that doesn’t seem to happen as often.

So I went virtual shopping at Polyvore, dreamed up some imaginary outfits, and now I’m going to try to match them up to real patterns (hopefully ones I already own) and maybe, eventually, sew some of them up. Can you help? I’ve matched these up as best I can, but maybe you see a better match. Let me know in the comments, if you do.

Outfit 1: Dinner and a Show

Dinner and a show

This one isn’t too tough. BurdaStyle recently had a similar outfit featured on their site. It included the Editorial Pants 08/2013 #118C and Long Sleeve Blazer 08/2013 #106. And doesn’t the top look like Sewaholic’s Alma blouse?

Outfit 2: Hanging Out

Hanging out

I was thinking the Espresso leggings, and Moss skirt, but then what about the top? I can find a number of cowl tops (BurdaStyle Gathered Cowl Top 10/2012 #118B, or I could even hack Vogue 1250 into a top) but nothing asymmetric. Hmmmm.

Outfit 3: Business Black

Business Black

As a web developer in real life, I don’t have to wear a suit, but I do have to look serious at meetings. Black is always good, and it’a colour I like. For this I was thinking the Archer shirt. But the skirt is tough. I haven’t really seen many asymmetric skirts. There is this one on Burdastyle, but it isn’t really the same.

Outfit 4: Business Meeting

Business meeting

Not sure about this one. It’s Lanvin and sells for $3,000. I can safely say I am unlikely to ever spend that much on a single piece of clothing. But it sure is pretty. It’s a little like the BurdaStyle Cowl Dress 10/2012 #118A, but there must be a better match with a similar neckline, no?

So that was my imaginary sewing. Can you tell I miss having the time to sew? And thanks in advance for any help you can offer in tracking down patterns that are a better for than what I’ve found.

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

A Staple Dress in Radiant Orchid

Warp & Weft Sewing Society
A Warp & Weft Sewing Society project

You may have seen that the Pantone colour of the year, for 2014, is Radiant Orchid. I was so excited when I saw the colour, because for the last couple of years, the colour of the year has been just a little outside of my colour palette, and finally, this year, it isn’t.

But what to sew?

I have been hoarding this beautiful piece of Bromley voile from Warp & Weft, in just the right shade of purple. It’s really pretty and very soft.

Bromley voile at Warp & Weft Exquisite Textiles.
Bromley voile in brown from the Breeze collection by the Victoria & Albert Museum for Westminster Fibers.

I had just the pattern in mind. This summer, Jeni Baker of In Color Order was one of the stops on The Staple Dress Blog Hop. It featured The Staple Dress by April Rhodes and I was lucky enough to win their giveaway.

The Staple Dress sewing pattern by April Rhodes.
The Staple Dress sewing pattern by April Rhodes.

The Staple Dress, is a super simple, whip-up-in-a-day, pattern. There are only a few pattern pieces, no darts, little fitting, no closures and no fussy details. I made the version with the straight hem and with pockets. (Who wouldn’t add the pockets?)

The Staple Dress in Bromley voile from Warp & Weft, sewn by Shannon of The Finished Garment.
The Staple Dress in Bromley voile from Warp & Weft, sewn by Shannon of The Finished Garment.

The toughest part was adding the elastic thread shirring. I’ve used this technique before and it was a breeze.

Elastic thread shirring
Adding shirring at the waist was a breeze.
Top stitching
Check out those stitches.

I received the paper pattern, but you can also get the pattern as a PDF. I prefer paper, since I don’t have to tape things together and the instructions come in a handy booklet.

I found the instructions very easy to follow and extremely thorough. This is definitely a good project for a beginner. It’s hard to go wrong.

Neck facing
The dress has simple facings.

I made the large, though the finished measurements said it might be snug. I wanted to be sure that the dress wasn’t too blousy, especially with a fabric that doesn’t have too much drape, and the unstructured design of the Staple Dress.  In the end there was plenty of room.

The only problem I had was that the waist is really high (by design). The high (but not empire) waist ended up being very unflattering on a curvy, long-waisted girl like me. So I had to undo the shirring and move it all down, and I moved the pockets down as well by three inches.

A wide hem
I used a wide hem, in case I have second thoughts later on.

The only other thing I changed was to make the dress a bit shorter. I’m 5’5″, and I ended up shortening the dress by 2 inches. I also made the dress hem a wide one, instead of the recommended narrow one, in case I change my mind about that shorter skirt later on.

Would I make this again? Yes. It’s super easy to sew. Though I think next time I would either use a draper fabric, maybe even a knit (you can see some examples here and here) in a smaller size, or add darts, for a bit more shaping. But overall, I’m pretty happy with the results. It’s a nice, simple, comfortable dress, that I can just throw on, and that fits well with my lifestyle. And of course, it’s the perfect colour for 2014.


Pattern Review: The Staple Dress by April Rhodes (printed version) with the straight hem style, courtesy Jeni Baker from In Color Order and April Rhodes.

Fabric: Bromley voile in brown from the Breeze collection by the Victoria & Albert Museum for Westminster Fibers, courtesy Warp & Weft Exquisite Textiles.

Size: L.

Sewing Level: Beginner.

Modifications: I lowered the pockets by 3 inches, lowered the waist shirring, shortened the dress by 2 inches, and used a wide hem.

Results: A quick and easy project that would be great for a beginner.

The Staple Dress is Bromley voile from Warp & Weft, sewn by Shannon of The Finished Garment.
The Staple Dress in Bromley voile from Warp & Weft, sewn by Shannon of The Finished Garment.

C’est orchidée la couleur Pantone de 2014, alors voici une petite robe très simple pour commencer la nouvelle année. Le patron est ‘The Staple Dress’, un projet à fabriquer dans un après-midi, et apte pour même les débutants.

Ginger for Fall

I have been slowly rebuilding my wardrobe with some basic everyday clothing. After four pregnancies, all pretty close together, my wardrobe is in rough shape. I’ve also changed shape, and so my old clothes just don’t fit right. Rather than battle the clothes racks with four kids in tow, I’ve decided to make what I can.

This is my latest project, the Ginger skirt by Colette.  It’s a simple, high-waisted a-line shirt, fitted  in the hips with an invisible zipper.

Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
Me in my Ginger skirt.

I used a super soft baby cord, which is the same fabric I used to make pants for my kids. They think this is hilarious. Ha! Just wait till high school, kids.

I cut the size 18, based on my waist measurements, but I ended up taking in two inches, and I could have taken it a bit more in the hips. Next time, I’ll cut a 14, graded out to a 16 waist.

At first I thought the 18 looked ok. But it wasn’t lying smooth over the front of my hips. So I scoured the internet looking for similar body shapes, in the same skirt, and with the same problem, and they all had their skirts quite low on the waist. So I raised the waist and took in the sides and the skirt fit so much better. It was a whole new garment. I’m honestly not used to such a high-waisted skirt. Most ready-to-wear a-line skirts are designed to sit lower, but I do like the look. Next time, I’ll also take the skirt in a little more in the hips.

Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
I took this photo before I raised the waist and took in the waistband. You can see how it’s not smooth in the front.
Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
This photo was taken afterwards, and it fits so much better.

Adjusting the fit was quite easy. So if you are a bit larger than the largest size (or smallest than the smallest size), you shouldn’t have too much trouble grading up (or down) a size or two and still getting good results.

Ginger A-line Skirt Pattern by Collette Patterns
Ginger A-line Skirt Pattern by Colette Patterns.

I made version 3, which has a straight waistband , and is cut on the bias. With baby cord, the results are not quite as dramatic as the chevron stripe pattern shown on the pattern packaging, but it does make for a really nice hanging skirt. Even my husband mentioned that it hung really nicely, and with no prompting (!!!). Using baby cord also means you don’t need to worry about matching the stripes.

Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
You can just see how the bias cut skirt makes a chevron pattern, but it’s very subtle in baby cord.

The skirt has an invisible zipper, which went in really easily.

Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
What do you think? Is that zipper invisible enough for you?

I added some very thin tricot interfacing to the skirt before adding the zipper, to stabilize it.   But because the skirt was cut on the bias, it was still a little stretchy, so  I also used bias tape on the seam edges, a suggestion from a couture sewing book, and this worked very well.

Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
Here you can see the inside of the invisible zipper where I’ve used bias table to help stabilize.

Hemming was a bit of an adventure. I let the skirt hang for a few days before I started. I had read how Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch has Mr Stitch help her with her hemming. So I gave it a shot. I can now confirm, that while Mr Garment has many superpowers, garment hemming is not one of them. He’s pretty good with compliments though (see above). Needless to say, I had to re-hem. Luckily, my hems usually fall pretty straight, so I guess I’ll just continue t0 hem on my own. I think next time, I’ll go a couple inches shorter as well. What do you think?

I didn’t line the skirt and simply zigzagged the seams. It’s a corduroy skirt, after all.

Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
I used quilting cotton to line the waistband, since it’s pretty and more comfortable and cuts down bulk.

At first I was a bit shocked by the price of the pattern. I paid $18, which, for a simple a-line skirt pattern, is a lot. (You can get the PDF version for $12, which is better). But I wanted to try a Collette pattern (this is my first), and it was a gift as well (though I picked it out myself). I’ve found that the fit is really quite nice, and I will use the pattern again, so overall, still a worthwhile purchase.

Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
I tried to get another photo session organized, but what are those white marks on my skirt?
Ginger skirt by Colette, as sewn by The Finished Garment
Oh you think that’s funny? (Those white marks are tiny hand prints made of baby powder). Thanks kid!

I really like this pattern. It has a really nice fit, and is quick to sew, but also has a lot of room for creativity, if you are feeling up to a challenge. I’ll almost certainly make it again.


Pattern Review: Ginger skirt by Colette Patterns.

Fabric: Baby cord. I used quilting cotton for the waistband.

Sizes: 18, but next time I’ll cut a 14, graded out to a 16 waist.Version 3, with the straight waistband, and cut on the bias.

Sewing Level: Beginner (versions 1 & 2). Intermediate (version 3).

Modifications: None.

Results: Great. I would recommend this pattern and plan to make it again..

Total Pattern Fail

You know when you finally finish that great pattern that looks super cute on everyone (everyone!), and then you put it on and it looks just terrible (truly!) on you. That.

It’s possibly not a total fail. I am hoping that later tonight after a couple glasses of wine, it can be upgraded to “wearable” (sigh). Possibly it will have to be (double sigh) up-cycled. And no, no photos yet. It’s raining and I am unmotivated to wrestle dress, light, camera and photobombing toddlers into place.

I am especially discouraged because I dutifully made up a muslin. I even muslined the sleeve (the &^&%#$#ing sleeve folks!), which fit well, by the way. And I tried it on as I was sewing, and only when I got to the buttons (arrrrrrgh!) did it become apparent that this would not be wearable. And it isn’t even the pattern, or the fit, it is that style on my body. Did I mention the fabric had an especially nice drape? @%$#*!

Eventually I will share photos. (And no, it is not the men’s shirt that I’m also working on).

To borrow from  Mad Men, you might put a Betty in a Joan dress, but you can’t really put a Joan in a Betty dress. And I am clearly in the Joan camp. And this is a Betty dress.

For the record I am in the rectangular/hourglass camp, and curvy on top. Let’s just say that the FBA is a good friend of mine 😉 And I still have a bit of baby belly to work on (four kids will do that to you). In other words, I am human.

So while I wait for a less rainy day, I thought I would take the time to jot down a few styles which I have proven do not look good on me, so that when a new and exciting pattern comes out I can check this list and remind myself that the following do not look good on me. (Though they may be smashing on you, in which case, carry on, nothing to see here).

What Looks Bad On Me

  • peter pan collars
  • pussy bow blouses
  • fitted capris and short shorts
  • high waisted bodices with gathered skirts
  • empire waists
  • short and cropped and/or boxy jackets
  • tiny upper pockets
  • smock-style tunics/dresses
  • drop waists
  • pleated pants
  • tea-length skirts, unless quite fitted
  • strapless dresses
  • anything with gathering at the bust
  • low v-necks (a bit too “hey mister!”, if you know what I mean)
  • details that are too small
  • ruffles (often but not always)

You know the patterns I’m talking about!

And this is what I should remind myself to get instead, possibly along with some new fabric in my colour palette.

What Looks Good On Me

  • pencil skirts
  • long, fitted tops
  • a-line (most of the time)
  • longer, tailored jackets
  • cowl necks, square necks, scoop necks
  • shift dresses, especially with sleeves
  • wrap dresses (when they have enough coverage)
  • boot cut jeans, skinny jeans
  • flat front pants
  • 3/4 sleeves
  • stretch knits

I also have a request of you, dear reader. Which sewing bloggers do you know, who are shaped like yours truly?

I feel like I should be following more people who sew things that look good on a me-shaped body and that I should find some more kindred souls so that it is less tempting to copy the super cute, petite and/or waiflike sewists stitching up some terribly adorable peter pan collars and such. (And that is sincerely not meant as a slight to the peter pan collar or the petite sewist! Do carry on!)

So send your links my way so I have something to read with my glass of wine tonight. Bonus points if you can suggest some great curve-friendly patterns.

Shorts for the Win!

shorts on the line - a summer sew along
shorts on the line – a summer sew along

So where have I been, you may be asking? Each I year I co-organize an open source tech conference. It was on June 29-30. It is huge and crazy and getting through the pile of laundry afterwards is an amazing feat. But I am officially back in my usual, crazy, mum-of-four swing of things.

My first job has been to tame the email, and what was awaiting me there? A prize!

Yes, I am one of the official winners of the shorts on the line giveaway. My prize is the Kid Shorts by MADE. It looks really cute and I can’t wait to try it out. And since it fits kids 12 months to size 10, that means I’ll have to make four. Shorts, shorts, shorts! Thanks to Rachel of Imagine Gnats and Carla of Small + Friendly for organizing both the Shorts on the Line contest (which I also entered) and the giveaway. And thanks to Dana of MADE for donating the prize.

Kid Shorts by MADE
Kid Shorts by MADE (used with permission)

And what else did I get to now that life is getting back to normal… the fabric store!

It’s about 40 degrees with the humidex during the day here in Montreal – unbearably hot and humid. I kept seeing all the local mums in these fabulously comfortable jersey maxi dresses. I’ve been having babies for so long now that my (non-maternity) wardrobe is just pitiful, so I figured it was time for some summer sewing for me.

McCall's M 6760 Misses' Dress and Jumpsuit and some spongey bamboo jersey.
McCall’s M 6760 Misses’ Dress and Jumpsuit and some spongey bamboo jersey.

This is some really soft, really spongey bamboo jersey and McCall’s M 6760. The photo makes the fabric look darker than it is. It’s actually a medium grey and medium-weight. Now that I’ve blogged it I will be forced to sew it. No procrastinating allowed!

I know, I know, all the dresses on the pattern envelope are made of georgette or some other airy fabric, but definitely not knit fabric. But there it was on the back of the envelope, “jersey”.

And the bonus is that with jersey, I won’t need to line it or use an invisible zipper. I’m just a bit concerned that the jersey might be a bit heavy and weigh too much on the waistband, but we will soon find out. The waistband is meant to be interfaced, but then it won’t be as comfortable. Hmmm. dilemma, dilemma. I love the fabric, but I could also do a glorified t-shirt maxi dress instead. Maybe a bit dull, in grey though. What would you do? Suggestions welcome.

More Family Patterns

I hope you had a good Easter. Mine was great. This year, the Easter bunny brought me vintage patterns! They are so much more exciting than chocolate and last longer too. Let’s take a look.

Look at all those new patterns!
Look at all those new patterns!

I know! Soooo many patterns.

A little while ago I posted an article on a bunch of patterns that my mother gave me. Well, my husband’s aunt saw the article and thought I might like her old patterns too. So generous!

I can’t show them all, so here are the ones I’m most likely to sew.

The blouse is Style 3351 from 1981. Next is a bias skirt, McCalls 3296, from 2001. Finally Simplicity 7254 from 1975, an apron.

There is a nice blouse (Style 3351) from the early 1980s, but it’s got 1970s styling. There is McCall’s 3296, which is a bias-cut skirt. There is also a fishtail version, but I think I’ll stick with the classic a-line skirt. Another good one is Simplicity 7254, an apron from 1975. I can’t believe I have no apron patterns at all, and yet I am in need of an apron.

This is McCalls 5861, from 1992: jacket, tank dress or top, skirt & pants or shorts.

This is another one that looks nice. McCall’s 5861, from 1992 includes a tank top and dress with Made-For-You A-B-C-D cup sizing. I think it might make a nice summer dress.

Simplicity 7412, from 1976: child’s dress and capelet. A French jumper pattern from Modes et Travaux. Simplicity 1434; ca. 1955/56; boy’s pajamas in two lengths.

But the real gems are in the children’s patterns. Here we have Simplicity 7412, from 1976. Clearly, it’s a first communion dress, but without the capelet (and maybe a bit more length) it’s quite cute. Then there is this French pattern for a jumper by Modes et travaux. And my favourite is the boys pyjamas. They are pull-on with no buttons! My kids are pretty allergic to buttons, and this pattern has a really nice, unique neckline.

Butterick 7602: Quick & Easy boys’ & girls’ sport shirt. Simplicity 1785 Child’s Mandarin Pajamas, robe, and matching doll coat, from the 1950s. Simplicity 4636; ca. 1962; child’s hooded jacket and pants.

And finally, these were the most unusual kids’ patterns. I’m not sure I’ll be sewing them, but the 1950s styling is interesting. First there is   Butterick 7602, a pull-on shirt. I’ve never seen a shirt with this type of neckline. Next is  Simplicity 1785,  a child’s mandarin pyjamas and robe. So 1950s! And finally a ski suit: Simplicity 4636.

A big thank you to both the Easter bunny and my husband’s aunt (name omitted to protect her from the notoriety of sewing blog fame )!

It Just Isn’t Me

Yesterday I read a great blog post by Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow on the importance of having a personal wardrobe colour palette.

It’s similar to Colette‘s seasonal colour palettes, but more long-term. The idea is that once you know what your colour palette is, you can better choose what to make.

Here’s mine.

My personal wardrobe colour palette.
My personal wardrobe colour palette.

These are the colours I like the most, and that I enjoy wearing. I can see the lime, turquoise and ballerina pink fitting in with a spring wardrobe, while the chocolate-brown and tangerine would work well for fall.

I did a second colour chart with fabric swatches from some of the nicer online fabric stores. It definitely confirmed that I was on the right track. You should try it!

This colour palette is more aspirational than actual. I’ve had four kids in the last 7 years, which means that most of my wardrobe consists of maternity wear. I’m starting at square one. It’s liberating and frustrating at the same time.

It’s liberating because I can justify making a lot of clothing. Yay! But frustrating because a lot of what I see on online sewing blogs, while beautiful and inspirational, just isn’t me.

In a similar vein, you can also read how this blogger (sallieoh) inspired this blog post by Joanne at Stitch and Witter, which in turn inspired this other blog post by Sunni at a Fashionable Stitch about embracing your own personal style. I’m not sure which article is the most inspiring, or if the real inspiration is the blogosphere cross-pollination.

I’m starting with colour. I like bold colours. I like stripes and houndstooth and strong geometric patterns, but I like solids even more, especially black. I like tailored clothing that is inspired by street wear and menswear. I like asymmetrical, minimalist, and modern. (You can see some Pinterest fashion inspiration here and here.)

So you won’t see a lot of peter pan collars, or tiny florals around here, but that just means you’ll see a lot more of me.