Friday, 30 August 2013


One of the online retailers I've stalked a lot recently, but haven't actually ordered from, is having a design competition.  They're called Collectif and you can find them on Facebook or their website, or in brick and mortar stores if you live in the UK.

To enter the contest you need to submit three outfits.  I've designed all of my items now, and I'm teaming up with a friend of mine who's going to draw them out properly.  One of the biggest things I did while designing, and we did while I was going over my (horribly drawn) concept drawings, was to try and make sure it was a cohesive collection.  On one hand, we don't want everything made from the same fabric, or even all in one colour.  But, I want the pieces to mix and match.  So, I found myself constantly asking can I wear Top #1 with Skirt #3?

It was a little bit of the same process as designing a capsule wardrobe.  You don't want everything to be super matchy-matchy, but you have to be able to make multiple outfits with each piece.

So, if anyone else wants to enter, the information is on their Facebook page.

And, I'm pretty sure if I win, I'll be spending my 200 pounds on this.  It looks fairly warm, and adorable.  A little over the top in some ways, but look how cute it is!  And that hood!
The Gretel Coat

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A New Skill

I'm not entirely sure I can pull of a snood.  But, I am entirely sure that I'm going to try!

They don't seem particularly hard to come by, but they're certainly not available locally.  Rather than buying one, I've decided that I'm going to try to make one.  I've discovered this pattern, and luckily enough, this  YouTube tutorial made for exactly this pattern.

I think that I should mention that I have no idea how to crochet.  Rather, I have some idea, I've seen it before, but I've never crocheted before.  So, hopefully with the guidance of the great YouTubes and my amazingly crafty StepMother, I'll be able to figure it out!

I'm hoping to go get myself a crochet hook and some yarn this week, and I'll give it a try.  And, of course, I'll keep you all in the loop!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Sorry for the unplanned absence.  My mother and younger sister came up for a surprise visit.  They stayed at the hotel, not at my place, but they came home from work with me and didn't leave until about time to go to bed, so I couldn't carve out time to get a couple blog posts up...

What are your views on entertaining?  For me, there are a select few who I'm happy to just have come visit, without any sort of plans and we'll just figure it out as we go.  But usually, I like to have things ready..  A clean house, something planned for dinner (if they're staying, or over near a meal time), drinks in the house to offer them and some idea on how to entertain my guests.

I've come to the conclusion that this might be an old fashioned view of entertaining... My grandmother has a cook book, it was a wedding present.  I forget what year it was published, but its from an age where entertaining is always much closer to my preference.  There is a large section in the back about planning dinner parties.  From menu to seating plans.  That's right, it expects seating plans to be the norm for small dinner parties.  And a lot went into it too!  Unfortunately, I don't remember most of it...

It really seems to show how much has changed though.  Not that long ago, seating plans were the norm, now, we're inviting people over without deciding what to make for dinner...

Do you think we're changing for the better, or loosing something wonderful?  Or is it just different?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

More Than Just Clothes

I firmly believe that looking like a Bombshell is more than the clothes and what accessories you pair them with.  The biggest part, to me, is the personal confidence and how you feel about yourself and your body.

Two years ago, I went to the gym every day. I watched what I ate even though I was still on a residence meal plan.  I lost 20lbs and I felt amazing.  I logged my weight every day in a graph, and I loved seeing the trend line sink down.  Once a month I did Benchmarks, pushing myself hard to see how many sit ups or push ups I could do before I gave out and it was amazing seeing how much stronger I was getting.

Then, I had a housing crisis that I'm not going to get into.  Needless to say, I couldn't get to the gym every day.  Now, two years later, I'm slowly gaining back the weight I fought so hard to loose, and I'm just as weak as I was when I started going to the gym.

But the worst part is the way I feel.  I feel a little angry with myself, but mostly I'm just embarrassed.  I'm embarrassed by the way I look, about the number on the scale and the way my stomach jiggles.  And I'm scared.  I know that if I don't get this under control I'll be right back up where I was when I started going to the gym.  That is something I can't handle.

This is not how I want to feel.  And this is not how I want to look.

Back at Christmas I'd realized I was having a lot of 'fat days'.  I'd decided enough was enough and since I'd recently come into a hand-me-down Wii, I put WiiFit on my list.  Instead I got a gift card for Walmart.  It took me a couple months to finally get the game.  I few days later I'd tried to set it up and run into issue after issue until I gave up.  Last night I decided enough was enough and I set it up.

Now, in my tiny living room, I am going to play WiiFit every day.  I've gotten my scale out, and I've started tracking my weight again.  Right now, those numbers hurt.  But this morning was a tiny bit better than yesterday.  Just a daily fluctuation, but it was still a nice way to ease the pain.

I can't wait to start seeing that downward trend line again.

I have about 50lbs to loose until I'm at the goal weight I set three years ago when I started going to the gym.  That is my end goal still.  But my first goal is a little simpler.  By the end of the month, I want to loose something.  I don't care how much, I just want to weigh in at less than I did yesterday.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Your thoughts on Seam Finishes?

I must admit that I never used to finish my seams.  At all.  If it was an especially fray-friendly fabric I would pink the seam allowances, but usually at the end so I would have awkward gaps as I got close to intersecting seams.

With Kasia, and the (supposedly) quick-y project I'm working on right now, I've been finishing seams.  With Kasia, I used bias tape to make bound seam allowances.  I'll admit though, that I did some of them at the end, so I need to finish the bias tape by hand, which I haven't done yet.

The dress I'm working on now will be a combination of bias binding and french seams.

I haven't give it much though before.  But, I've traditionally only sewn semi-formal wear and almost universally under an absurd deadline (like, I need to wear the dress the next evening...).  In cases like that, I simply don't have time to finish the seams like I should.  But now that I'm sewing for long term wear, I think that it's worth the extra time to make the garment look that much better, and last longer.

Do you finish your seams?  What method do you use, and how do you decide?

Friday, 16 August 2013

A Tailor's Ham

I've begun putting more care into the construction of my sewing, now that I'm sewing clothing that I'm hoping to wear on a day to day basis.  I finished the seams in my Kasia Skirt.  I'm actually pressing seams, not all of them yet, but as directed.  Before, I'd just finger press the spots that needed it to continue sewing.  So, I'm not the star pupil yet, but I am working on it.  And one thing I've discovered, is that its easier to do things properly with the proper tools.

Enter the Tailor's Ham.

It looks a little like a hat, before it's stuffed
I found this pattern at Tilly and the Buttons.  Its quick to print off and super easy to put together.  I will admit, I did have to take all the darts out and redo them because my points were off though.  After I fixed that, it was just a quick fill with shavings, stolen from Lindy Bunny, and we're off to the races.

I used leftover fabric from Kasia.  I'm really happy with it, it's working well.  My only problem is I don't know how to get all the dust off from when I was filling it...

Little Lindy Bunny

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing

I have a secret.  I bought Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing a couple weeks ago. 

I've been pouring over the pages, and it’s all pretty wonderful.  I was going to wait until I’d finished one of the projects to share my thoughts, but, I’m impatient and I can’t wait to share.

Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing is pretty well known around the internet.  It's one of the blogs that I've gone back and read the entire archive of because its so full of useful information.  And her book is exactly the same.  You can see the sample pages she posted in a Flickr pool here.  

The main reason I wanted the book is for the patterns.  I'll admit, I usually find sewing manuals slightly disappointing.  That being said, I've found the technique section really useful.  Its been mentioned around the internet that she doesn't simplify this section.  I tend to agree.  There are some advanced techniques, especially I'd say, in the Tailoring section.  However, the instructions are still easy to follow.  I think this is the only sewing manual I've actually read cover to cover to date.

I'm pretty excited about the patterns.  The first one up is the Portrait Blouse. But I have to say, I think I'll be making almost all of them, either as printed or with a couple variations.  It has been mentioned that there are a few flaws in the patterns.  And some things visibly off in the outfit shots.  One I've heard is that the darts in the sheath dress don't line up.  While it does look a little off in the image, I'm going to hold off on my judgement on such things until I've tried the patterns in question.  At the moment, it could just be how the dress is sitting.  

P.S. I apologize for the late post.  We lost power for a while last night in a thunderstorm and I had some issues getting my internet back up and running... 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Kasia 6012 Reveal

The first piece of my new wardrobe, the Kasia 6012 Pencil Skirt is finished.  I'm not entirely satisfied with the fit, I'd make some changes if I were to make it again, but I'm happy enough with this one.  I used a black cotton blend as the main body and a leftover black satin for the yokes.  I had been planning to use a slightly heavier red crepe-back satin, but apparently I'd used that for something else.

Front View
I talked about the pattern changes I made in my earlier post.  I think that the fit I got was pretty good.  There is some extra room across the hips, but it gets fairly tight when I sit because there isn't much stretch in my fabric.  I think I'd peg in a little bit more at the hem if I make it again.  My last issue with the fit is the way the yokes puff out.  I think that if I'd used a heavier fabric, closer to the main fabric, I wouldn't have had this problem.

The only change I didn't talk about last time, because I forgot I wanted to do this until partway through, is that I converted the back slit.  I turned it into a kick pleat using this lovely tutorial from A Fashionable Stitch.  I made the pleat in the satin that I used for the yokes, thinking that it would peak out occasionally and have a nice contrast.  Unfortunately, using bias tape to finish the edges (because the satin frays like you wouldn't believe) left it a little out of shape and thick in the hem so it tends to just stay open.  However, I kick pleat is definitely something I'll be tackling again.

It's surprisingly hard to take mirror pics from behind... 

Saturday, 10 August 2013


I was hoping to reveal my Kasia Pencil Skirt today, but I ran into a hiccup.  I don't sew by hand.  I've never liked sewing by hand and I don't think I've ever done it well.  However, when I was finishing the waistband, with the stitch in the ditch method, it warped out of shape.  I finished the seam with an extra two inches on the inside and none of the seams matching up.  So, I've unstitched it and am about half way through stitching by hand.

A cheap sewing-kit thimble, just like mine
Its going unusually well this time.  I won't say I love it, and I certainly won't claim to be making the tiny neat stitches my grandmother would make, but I don't hate it.  I think part of the reason is my thimble.  I tried using a thimble once before.  I wore it on my thumb, because that's what I used to push the needle through.  This time, after the most preliminary of internet searching, I learned that I should be wearing it on my middle finger.

And, those first stitches look like they were sewn by a blind toddler.  I found it really awkward.  But, now that I'm half way through the waist band, I'm sewing faster, and it's easier too.  I'm not going to pack up my sewing machine any time soon, but I'll certainly be less reluctant to finish things by hand now.

Maybe if I get one of the gorgeous metal thimbles like this one I'll start sewing everything by hand
Yep, I could see a lot of hand sewing with this... 

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Wardrobe Re-examined

Since discovering the change in my work-wardrobe needs, I've gone back and re-evaluated the wardrobe that I'd planned out.  Unfortunately, the conclusion I came to was the that the list of clothes I had was not really a functional wardrobe. It was more a list of styles that I wanted to include.  

Luckily, I've since found Mary Brooks Picken's Harmony in Dress! Mary wrote a number of etiquette books  between 1915 and 1957.  Harmony in Dress was written in 1925 and is all about the etiquette of proper dress.  It's at least 20 years before the styles that I'm looking at, however its hard to turn down a lovely ready-made list of what a 'proper' wardrobe would consist of.  

Mary includes an itemization of the wardrobes required by School Girls of various ages, 'The Home Woman', 'The Business Woman' as well as information on travel and morning wardrobes.  I've come up with a hybrid of the Home Woman and the Business Woman's wardrobes that I think will work well for me. 

The Business Woman
One of the first things I noticed about both of the wardrobes is a distinct lack of separates. There is one skirt and blouse set in the Business wardrobe, presumably to match the suit jacket.  But the Home wardrobe doesn't even have that.  I'm not well enough versed in 20s fashions to know if this is a general fashion, or if Mary is writing for a specific class of society.

One of the smaller differences I noticed was that the Business Woman needs twice as many hats as the Home Woman.  The only explanation I can come up with is that the Business woman goes out more often, but I'm really not sure.  She also needs an extra pair of shoes... 
The Home Woman
I'm not sure if this is a modern idea, or if it's because my workplace has a black/white dress code, but I'll need at least some separate items between work and home.  However, there is some overlap between the two wardrobes, so I certainly won't need both in their entirety.  

I started by combining the two wardrobes together and eliminating the overlap.  Then, I traded some of the dresses for tops and skirts.  I love dresses, and I would never plan a wardrobe without them, but while I'm building my wardrobe I think I need the versatility of separates.  

I'm also not sure about the underwear, hosiery, footwear, hats and miscellaneous.  These are also the parts of my wardrobe that I'll likely have to purchase, so I think for the time being I'll let them happen as they do and I'll focus on them once my clothing is sorted out.  

So, my revised wardrobe plan is as follows:

1 Winter Coat
1 Spring Coat
1 light suit jacket

3 casual dresses
1 light afternoon/officce dress
1 wool afternoon/office dress
1 light office dress

Skirts and Waists:
3 casual skirts
3 casual tops
2 office skirts - heavier
2 office skirts -  lighter
5 office tops

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Making Your Own Dress Patterns by Adele P. Margolis

I thought today I’d offer you a review of one of the first pattern making books I got.  I’ve had Making Your Own Dress Patterns, by Adele P. Margolis since high school.  It’s aimed at the beginning pattern maker, and has introductions to the basic slopers, moving darts, adding fullness and general design adjustments.   

It works similar to an exercise book in a number of ways.  It provides cute little quarter size slopers and then instructs you on how to adjust them into a number of different styles. 

I love that the book teaches you how to adjust the sloper, rather than to draft certain styles.  I think that those are far more transferable skills and will be more useful in the end.  However, the book doesn't teach you how to draft a sloper for yourself.  The book tells you that many pattern companies have sloper patterns and they can be called a “foundation pattern, master pattern try-on pattern, shell pattern, basic-fitting pattern, ect” (p. 18) and explains that these can be used to make new patterns in the standard sizes.  She also says that many home sewers like to use personalized slopers.  But, creating these is never discussed.   The book states a few times through it that it is aimed for the pattern-making audience, not a sewing audience.  I think this is likely the reason that drafting a sloper has been left out...

Ooo! I divided darts :)
The book is full of useful information.  However, it can also be very repetitive at times.  Because of its workbook nature, the book instructions you through many versions of essentialy the same procedure.  For example, there are five examples of moving darts in the bodice.  Each example follows the same process but move the dart to a different end location.  This is an excellent way to make sure you’re comfortable with the process, but it can also be a little tiresome to read through. 

There is also a very large section in the second half of the book which outlines the changes required for a huge number of different styles.  These are mostly changes that I think many would be able to figure out, based on the techniques in the first section of the book.  However, the guidelines can be very helpful for a novice or uncertain pattern drafter.  I also find that the dozens of example drawings can be a good place to look for inspiration.  There are probably dozens of dozens of illustrations through the book.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful book for a very new pattern maker, or for a young sewer.

P.S. No one can judge you for making little paper patterns for all of your dresses... It’s oddly therapeutic to play with little paper slopers.  And I’m sure I’m developing useful skills! Not that I waste embarrassing amounts of time with this or anything... 

Monday, 5 August 2013

A Pencil Skirt

The hotel where I work has undergone a change of ownership.  This has come with a promotion, a ton more hours, and the need to dress more professionally.  I have a very small professional wardrobe, so I've tried to buckle down and get to building one.  And the shirt dress has moved to the back burner for a little bit.  I'm honestly not sure if this is a bad thing, or blessing in disguise.

I've discovered that there are actually a lot of different sources on the internet for free patterns.  I plan to do another post about those soon.  In the mean time, here is one I've found: Kasia 6012 by BurdaStyle.  First of all, it's a free download.  I can't possibly argue with that.  Second, the super cute hip yokes will let me sneak in a little bit of colour into the black and white dress code.

At the moment I'm working on the muslin.  After two constructions and 4 or 5 rounds of marking it up, I think I've got it.   I'll start by saying I had lovely pictures to go with this posts, and when I came to write I discovered my camera has eaten them... And of course, I'd just finished taking the muslin apart.

I had to size up a bit based on my hip measurement and I knew from the chart I wanted to add about an inch in length.  So, I traced the pattern and made those two changes before making my first muslin.

When I was adding hip width, I noticed that the pattern didn't seem to have any real shaping for the waist.  I couldn't find any hip point, nor did the pattern appear to narrow.  You can see what I mean in their pattern diagrams here.  I decided to trust the pattern and assume it was built in somewhere and I just couldn't see it.

It turns out, trusting the pattern was the wrong call.  I came out with a muslin that fit fairly well around my hips, but had a solid 6" extra fabric at the waist.  Knowing the difference between my waist and hip measurement, that means there is some shaping.  However, even if I hadn't added width for the hip I don't think it would have been enough.  The other issue I had was the that distance between the waist and the hip (which I found by looking at where the yokes fell) was about an inch too long.

I pinned both of these issues out.  I took the inch vertically in the front pieces and back as well as both yokes.  For the width, I determined a hip point and then took from the two side seams and center back, fading to nothing at the hip.

This time it was a lot closer.  Now that it was sitting properly at my waist, it was pretty easy to see I needed to take out a little bit more.  I pinch out another two inches along the side and back seems and am now pretty happy with the fit.  I didn't bother adjusting the waistband for the last time.  Having taken out some width on them before, creating an awkward seem allowance down the center, I knew that taking any more wouldn't really work.

I can barely tell which line I want to use... 
So, I do need to draft the waistband but that's a lot easier to do on paper in my opinion.  I also want to trace out my final muslin-pattern.  I know a lot of people just use their muslin pieces, and I think I would usually as well.  My issues is that there are a few tucks and bumps in the pieces from how I took them in.  Generally I think the final muslin doesn't have all of those.  But, since I didn't cut new ones, just refashioned the first, it's unnecessarily mucked up.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Shirtdress- An Update

I guess the issue is pretty obvious looking at it now... 
If you remember, I had to draft a pattern from scratch for the top of my shirt dress.  It was a fairly simple process to draft a blouse with just 3 pieces (back, front left, front right), which I figured should be fine.  Now, looking back, it's pretty obvious from the pattern what's going to happen, but I followed the tutorial so I guess I just assumed it would work.  It didn't.  I'm not sure if it's my figure, or if I've made a mistake somewhere in drafting, but the sharp curve at the bust doesn't work in a side-seam.  My guess is that its a combination of my larger bust size and the slightness sharp curve from bust to waist shaping...

Unfortunately, I didn't figure this issue out until after I had cut it out in my nice fabric.  I worked a little bit trying to save it, but, eventually had to admit that it's a lost cause.  So, lesson learned, make a muslin.

That's as high as I can lift my arm...
Back to the drawing board, or drafting board I guess.  My first thought was darts instead of shaping at the side seam.  So, away I went.  I made a fairly straight side seam and then used a dart through from bust point to hem to create the shaping.  I added a second dart from bust point to the arm scythe to take out some of the extra fabric there.  This resulted in a bodice I'm fairly happy with.  I'd add a touch more ease in the side seams, and it's ready to go.

The difficulty is that apparently, I can't draft a sleeve pattern to save my life.  So, I've found this pattern from Burda Style for a blouse.  It already has a nice sleeve pattern, so I working on sizing the rest of the shirt up to fit me.

So, I wanted to make this a progress report.  But, since I've pretty much lost progress since my last post, that seemed a bit misleading.  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the update.  I'll hopefully have another progress report, hopefully with actual progress, soon.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Blind Hemmer Foot - A Saga

My daring boyfriend started a new job a couple weeks ago.  And, as with all new jobs, this required a new wardrobe. (Ok, not all new jobs need a new wardrobe, but the best ones do!)  One new pair of dress pants came home a solid three inches too long, and after a quick “Darling would you please?” I had agreed to hem his pants...

Ladies and gentlemen, this should not have taken me anywhere near three and a half to four hours.  But, it did.  To this point, I had never used the blind hem foot.  So a part of this exorbitant amount of time was spent with the machine’s manual, and looking at YouTube tutorials.  But an embarrassing amount of time was spent staring at the machine, willing the stitches to line up. 

As a monument to my struggles, and an inspiration to others (so that you can say ‘at least I wasn’t as bad as Angie was’ when you try), I thought I’d document my painful process. 

Step One:
Pour over the manual and identify the blind hem stitch.  It’s a straight stitch with an occasional zigzag.  Then, watch at least a few YouTube tutorials. This one was fairly helpful.

Step Two:
I measured up 3.5 inches, which was the ‘tiny bit’ that his pants needed shortening, then turned the pants and ironed in the new hem to get a good crease.  (Pro Tip: Follow the iron’s guidelines for the type of fabric you’re working with.  Yes, I have learned that the hard way.)  I put a few pins just above the hem to hold the crease while I did the next couple steps.

Step Three:
Unpick the old hem.  Fun Fact: Dress pants have a single turn hem, not the double that I was taught to use for everything.  My guess is that this helps them hang nicely.  Fun Fact #2: I double turned his pants anyway.  Yes, I realize now it would have been very easy to adjust the tutorial methods.  No, I didn’t realize that at the time.  Once the old hem was unpicked, I cut the pants at the crease of where they were originally hemmed.  That left me 3.5” to make the new hem.

Step Four:
Fold that 3.5” so that the raw edge is tucked away.  And, iron again.  Generally, I kind of like the ironing part of sewing.  But, with my current dining room table set up, and no ironing board, switching between sewing and ironing was a bit of a trail...

Step Five:
Creative folding.  The idea is to have the pants inside out, then fold the hem so most of it is inside the pant leg, leaving about 3/8ths of an inch sticking out, and then you have a fold of the pant leg on top.  The straight stitches will be on the hem allowance while the zigzag will sneak out and catch a tiny bit of pant leg.  You might need to adjust your stitch width so that you only catch a tiny bit.  To do this, I walked my machine until the zigzag stitch, lowered the needle half way and then adjusted until the needle was in the right spot.

Step Six:
Sew.  Yes, it sounds just that easy.  It’s unfortunately harder than it sounds.  If you don’t sew in a perfectly straight line, you either don’t catch the pant leg, or you catch too much and the stitch is visible on the right side.  I did both.  Personally, I think I’d need to walk the whole hem to actually have one that is perfectly invisible.  Luckily, my honey didn’t mind having just a mostly-invisible hem.

So, I hope that you enjoyed hearing about my struggles.  If I ever find an easier way to do this, I promise to share with all of you!