29 December 2008


Last year, I made four resolutions. Here they are in all their italicized glory, along with comments on how well I stuck to my plan and finally a grade:

1. I will allow myself to buy 1 m of fabric for each 2 m sewn. Wish me luck!
Seriously, who am I kidding? Although I bought less fabric this year than I ever have, I still managed to add significantly to my stash. The only thing that may slow me down this year is lack of storage. GRADE: D

2. I really, really want to sew up more stuff from BWOF, so I vow to sew up 12 garments this coming year.
I did well with this one. I made up eight different BWOF garments (I made many of them multiple times) and traced off at least another eight. GRADE: A

3. As well, I want to sew up a bunch (a minimum of 8) of vintage Vogue Couturier Design, Vogue Americana & Vogue Paris Original patterns.
I did so-so with this one. I sewed four patterns. GRADE: B-

4. I have had my new sewing/embroidery machine for almost a year now and I have yet to embroider anything, so I want to learn how to embroider.
I did horribly with this one. I wish I could say that I embroidered anything, but I didn't. I didn't even read the instructions on how to embroider. I'm bad - very, very bad. GRADE: F

Okay, so all in all, kinda mediocre. Oh well, whatcha gonna do?

Onward to a new set of resolutions:
  1. Get back in shape. I still have 10 pesky pounds that need to go. I will get on the treadmill at least 3 times per week, I will weight lift and do flexibility training at least once a week each. This leads me to my sewing-related resolution:
  2. I am only allowed to spend money on my hobby if I earn it. For every hour spent exercising, I will get $10 to spend on fabric, notions and the like. No movey the body, no spendy the money!
That's it. Two resolutions. I figure everything else will fall into place as I go along.

28 December 2008

So, How'd I Do?

Well, it's that time of year again. Time to cast an eye back to the past 12 months and see where I've been. So here are the highlights:

* This year, I sewed up 96 garments - everything from fully tailored suits to tank tops.

* I used up 162 m (177 yd) of fabric in my garment sewing.

* I took second place in the Timmel 2008 SWAP Contest, with my Jackie Kennedy inspired wardrobe. I still can't believe that I was chosen in amongst so many beautiful entries.

* I am the master of the bound buttonhole due to the above SWAP - I could make 'em before, but now I own them.

* I survived a severe loss of sewing and blogging mojo and I am on the road to recovery.

So, it's time to look forward to another new adventure...Hello, 2009!

20 December 2008

Beagle Overload

The past few days I have been wasting my time in the most wonderful way. I simply cannot tear myself away from the puppy cams at ustream.tv. There are golden retriever puppies, dauschund puppies, miniature schnauzer puppies and Havanese puppies, among others (just search for "puppies" and you'll get quite a selection. However, my favourite, hands down, are the beagle puppies (imagine that)!

In the beagle theme, here's a photo of Simon and I suiting up to go for a walk. The temperature around here lately has hovered around -8 Celsius, so warm hats are definitely in order. However, Simon seems less than enamoured with the choice of head gear I have made for him!

19 December 2008

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

Not like we have a choice!

Okay, so we get nailed by Mother Nature on Wednesday - 10 cm of snow. Then yesterday, she sticks it to us again - 20 cm of snow. Now, we're bracing for another 20 cm to hit tonight into tomorrow. To the left is a photo of Simon navigating the snowy backyard - he has always loved snow ever since he was a pup!

The only good thing about all this is that I am now off for Xmas break - two whole weeks of vacation. Besides the obligatory holiday stuff, I am planning on making my sewing machine sing. I already have a back log of finished sewing projects to post about - 3 skirts, a top and a cardigan. I'm also almost finished a pair of pants and another cardigan. So, stay tuned...

12 December 2008

And the Winner Is...

Not me.

I came in 5th of 5 blogs in Round 2 of the Canadian Blog Awards. However, I am consoling myself with the fact that placing 5th out of the 15 original blogs from Round 1 is nothing to complain about. I'm amazed that I did as well as I did. So, a huge congratulations to the winners and a heartfelt thank you to all those that voted for me. Maybe next year... ;)

9 December 2008


A small rant.

If I can smell you before I see you, you have applied too much perfume.

'Nuff said.

6 December 2008

Fabulous Fifties

ETA: She has changed her project. In her own words, from her blog, My Decade Year, "As of December 15, I've altered the project to include the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Read about it!"

My Original Post:
This morning I was reading the blog, Life of a Jersey Girl, and came across a post about Marzipan Jones. Marzipan (a pseudonym) has decided to live the life of a 50s housewife for one year. She started this experiment on September 1st, 2008 and she documents her daily trials and tribulations on her blog. She has vowed to cook, clean and take care of her husband and child a la June Cleaver and she will do all this while dressed the part.

I quickly came to realize that she feels much like I do about the 50s:

"I've been both enamored and repelled (ha!) by the 50's for as long as I can remember. I think it began with the music and of course, the fashion....Everyone always looked so wonderfully put-together and there seemed to be a quality of innocence that pervaded everything said. However, I also knew about the terrible conditions the cultural climate held for people of color, gay and lesbians, and for women. So, I had a love/hate relationship with the era..."

I am completely awed and amused by this little experiment and I can't stop reading her blog. I am hooked and I will certainly be keeping a close eye on her trials and tribulations!

I have always been fascinated with the 50s (and to a lesser extent, the 60s), although I was born in 1970 and never had any first hand knowledge of the era. I adore the fashion, the etiquette, the music and the cars. I long for a return to sophisticated dressing. I could easily step back in time and don a pencil skirt, a sweater set and a string of pearls - no one knows how to dress quite like Grace Kelly these days. However, I can't imagine what it was like to live in a time of such rampant sexism and racism - being anything other than a strong-willed, independent woman seems foreign to me.

So, dear reader, what is your era of choice and why? What fashions make your heart go pitter-patter? Who is your style icon?

30 November 2008


Well, check me out! I made it to Round 2 in the Best Activities Blog category. How unbelievably cool is that??

29 November 2008

Ode to Thread

I love thread. There, I said it. I know that claiming to have a passion for thread is neither perverse nor earth shattering, but I do acknowledge that is is a little weird. I can't help it, though.

I love seeing all my spools of thread lined up in their storage drawer, like tiny soldiers, ready to be called into service at a moment's notice. The neat wrapping of the thread on the spool, creating a distinct crosshatch pattern is soothing to my eye. The colours entice me and cause me to dream of what could be.

I use 100% polyester Gutermann thread almost exclusively in my sewing machines. I know other sewists swear by Mettler or Coats & Clark, and I have tried both of those brands, but something about the Gutermann colours and the packaging spoke to me. I have never had any problems with Gutermann thread shredding or creating excess fuzz to gum up my machines, so I stick with this brand.

I used to buy my thread at my local chain fabric store, for an exorbitant price (100 m for $1.84 and 250 m for $3.75; or on sale, $1.00 and $2.00 respectively). Then, one day I discovered a better source.

Cleaner's Supply is an online store, specializing in all the products necessary to run a laundry and/or dry cleaning business. Although much of the inventory is of no interest to me (hangers, tags, packaging, etc), the Pressing and Tailoring sections are wonderful.

The Pressing section was where I found my sleeve board, which my husband has put through its paces with his dress shirt ironing. They also carry pressing mitts and vacuum boards (which is extremely drool worthy).

The Tailoring section, however, is where I spend most of my time. Here is the place for metal tailor's rulers, zippers, buttons, machine needles and exceptionally good seam rippers, among other things. My favourite notion in this section is (not surprisingly, based on the title of this post) the Gutermann thread. The price cannot be beat. See below for a comparison:

Local chain fabric store: $2.00 for 250 m or 0.800 cents per metre, if bought on sale
Cleaner's Supply: $3.63 for 1000 m or 0.363 cents per metre, no sale necessary

Based on the rate with which I go through thread, the savings are substantial. Not to mention, the larger spools are so much more convenient - I never run out of thread part way through a project anymore.

Unlike many online thread sources, this company sells to Canada (just be sure to click on the Canadian flag to get Canadian prices), not just the U.S. Additionally, they offer free shipping on any order over $100 and only charge $2.83 on any order under $100. The shipping times are reasonable - I have never waited more than three or four business days for any order. The customer service is great too, letting you know when the order has processed and is being shipped.

Cleaner's Supply carries 360 different colours of thread, in every shade of the rainbow. To facilitate my thread buying, I have purchased the Gutermann Real Thread Chart (which is a sturdy fold out booklet with actual samples of every thread available). This chart allows me to match thread to my fabric exactly.

At this point, I am the proud owner of 67 large spools of thread (see photo to the right). Ultimately, I would love to have almost every single colour they offer.

24 November 2008

Canadian Blog Awards

I am so deeply honoured that Connie has nominated me for a Canadian Blog Award in the "Best Activities Blog" category. Not that I'm telling y'all what to do or anything, but if you wanted to, you could go check it out and if you happened to vote for me that would be cool too... :)

23 November 2008

Blast from the Past

In a previous post, I wrote about my belief that every good sewist must be willing to take risks. I feel this is especially important for many beginners. Very often, on discussion boards, new sewists will ask advice on the best first project. Typically, suggestions to make pillow cases, very simple aprons or other non-challenging articles abound. For some people, this may be exactly where they should start. Success on a simple project will likely create a sense of accomplishment and inspire the sewist onward.

For others, this inauspicious start may result in boredom and a desire to pack it in and look for a different, more satisfying hobby. I fall firmly in the latter category.

My first foray into sewing was in grade 7 home ec class. First, we were all lectured on the safety rules associated with operating a sewing machine - which although not fun to listen to as a child, I agree is a necessity. Then the real tragedy ensued (at least for a kid like me). We spent days "sewing", sans thread, on pieces of paper that had simple shapes drawn on them. Our goal was to have a neat line of needle holes on top of each shape, which was supposed to help in the mastery of sewing straight lines, curved lines and turning 90 degreee angles. This was pure torture for me. I wanted to sew something real.

As a teacher and a self-proclaimed anal retentive, obsessive compulsive freak, believe me, I know that structure and learning the basics is the best way to teach a new concept. At least in the beginning, when your student is a clean slate. Once they begin to show an apptitude for the skill and express an interest in moving forward, it is time to provide more freedom and latitude. I never got that chance in grade 7 home ec. So, I didn't show an interest in sewing again until grade 12.

Fast forward 5 years. It was the 1988 Prom season and I had spent days trying on dresses and coming up empty. Anything that was reasonable in price was not what I was looking to wear. That was when I expressed an interest in creating my own dress. To mother's credit, she didn't even blink an eye. She set me up on her sewing machine, bought me the pattern of choice (Simplicity 8006* to which I added a "shawl" that attached at the front bodice) and took me to a wonderful independent fabric shop and helped me pick out fabric and notions. I cut out the pattern and made one quick trial dress. Ironically, back then I didn't even know that the word "muslin" existed, I just knew it would be a good idea to check the fit before cutting into the good stuff. Content with the fit, I proceeded onto the actual Prom dress. At no point did I even consider that maybe this was too difficult for a first project and thankfully, neither did anyone else.

In my opinion, my dress turned out pretty darn good. I got a ton of compliments from my friends, my boyfriend thought I looked great, I saved a bunch of money and I learned a valuable skill. The vision of the perfect dress that resided in my head was turned into a reality. I am thankful that I was allowed free reign and that I was only given advice when I requested it. Had I been told to take the safe route and sew a pillowcase first, I can't imagine I would enjoy sewing as much as I do today.

So, for anyone that teaches beginner sewing, whether formally in a classroom or informally in your home to a friend or family member, please let the students determine your curriculum (at least to an extent) based on their interests and capabilities. Provide knowledge of the basics, but then back off and let them blossom. It's amazing what can be accomplished when creativity is allowed to run free.

* I have long since lost/given way/disposed of this pattern, so I was tickled to find that it is available at Out of the Ashes Collectibles.

21 November 2008

10 000 Hours = Sewing Expert?

Carolyn, of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, wrote a post the other day, inspired by Erin, of A Dress a day. The basic premise of Erin's post was that to attain true sewing expert status, you have to devote copious amounts of time (upwards of 10 000 hours) to sewing. Carloyn, after reading Erin's post, asked the following questions:

Are you the best of the best in this craft? Are you just good enough? Or are you mediocre and working on improving? And finally, do you believe this theory to be justified? Can you really be the best of the best without some talent, or is it just about the time put into the process?

I have been mulling this over for a few days now and purposefully avoiding reading the comments to Carolyn's post, so as not to be swayed by other viewpoints.

Of course, the first thing I did was to calculate my hours-logged tally. I first began sewing when I was 17 years old and continued to sew until mid-university, then I took a break until 2005, at which time I dove back into sewing with a vengeance. This leads to two distinct periods of regular sewing activity during my lifetime (I am ignoring my sort quilting phase):

t = (5 y)(12 mth/y)(15 h/mth) + (3 y)(12 mth/y)(85 h/mth) = 3 960 h

According to Erin, her time logged is approximately 4 500 h, which she claims puts her in the mediocre category (far below the 10 000 h expert status). So, using my calculation above, I fare even worse - what is a step down from mediocre? abysmal?

Well, all humility aside, I don't think I'm abysmal or even mediocre at my craft, but I also don't think I'm expert. If asked to honestly evaluate my skills prior to this calculation, I would have claimed to be exceptional at some things and pretty good at others. I feel have conquered what many claim to be the holy grails of garment sewing: bound buttonholes, welt pockets, zipper insertion and appropriately combining pattern with fabric, to name a few. I have a good handle on tailoring techniques (although I have never sewn a completely hand tailored jacket - however, it is on the to-do list). The only areas that come to mind where I long for improvement is in fitting (I can fit myself well, but I have yet to acquire the skills to consistently fit others) and in draping (something with which I have only dabbled).

So, I strongly disagree that time spent is an adequate measure of sewing skill. Like the accomplishments of a virtuoso, a star athlete or a scientific genius, I truly believe that sewing prowess is an innate gift, that is honed and developed through practice and research. Study and repetition alone however, can only take you so far - you need an intuitive grasp of your art to transcend the ordinary. For example, quite often I am blown away by the work of beginners, while I am left cold by the work of sewists that have logged countless hours. I also think that having a willingness to experiment and the fortitude to take risks is necessary for entry into the sewing hall of fame. Too many sewists allow fear or uncertainty to squelch their evolution and it really is a shame.

So, in conclusion, I look around and see a range of sewists, from those that have the "gift" all way to the other extreme. But, in the end, whether you are a born sewing savant or still struggling to master simple techniques, the most important factor is to enjoy the process. For instance, I have a decent voice, but I'm certainly no Ann - however, that doesn't stop me from belting out a tune when the inclination hits...

17 November 2008

Confession Time

Okay, I have obviously been lax with my blogging the last few months. I have been busy with work and life's little ups and downs, but that is not the main reason I have ignored my blogging duties. So, it's time to come clean.

I really like blogging. It provides me the opportunity to share my creative side with people. I also take pleasure in creating tutorials and sharing my knowledge with others. I hope that the small efforts I make on HZC help inspire people and occasionally teach them something new.

These were the main reasons I started this blog, but over time, I came to find writing here was cathartic, much like writing in a diary or a journal. A blog, although accessible by many millions of people can still be deeply personal and a measure of anonymity can be maintained. In much the same way I would never allow a close friend or relative to read my diary, I never wanted this blog to be read by people from my "real life." I wanted this blog to be completely distinct from my day to day life - an escape where I could nurture my artistic side and for the most part leave my teacher/scientist/wife/daughter/friend sides out of it. For that reason, I have never invited any of the people from my real life to visit my blog (heck, my best friend doesn't even know I have a blog).

Unfortunately, some of the people from my real life have stumbled upon this blog it makes me uncomfortable (to the point of not posting) to know that they read it. If they had found the blog and never said a word to me about it, I would have been okay with that. However, some of them feel the need to bring it up every time I post (despite my obvious discomfort when they do so) and some even go so far as critiquing my posts.

So, to those of you that know me in real life, I am humbly asking for the following considerations. If you must read my blog, don't tell me about it, don't make suggestions or corrections and don't send the address to other people that I know in real life. Please allow me to go back to blissful ignorance of your reading habits, so I can start posting regularly again. Thank you.

1 November 2008

To SWAP or not to SWAP

As many of you know, when Julie of Timmel Fabrics closed down her operations earlier this year, the annual SWAP contest was in peril of ending. Well, the ladies at Stitchers' Guild came to the rescue and the SWAP is indeed on again this year. The rules are the basic originals (1 jacket, 6 tops, 4 bottoms - all tops match all bottoms and the jacket pairs with each combo), with the only main difference being the time line. Sewing begins today, November 1st, 2008 and ends April 30th, 2009 (ie, a 6 month time span). The twist this year is that the wardrobe must be sewn for a week in your real life (whether you are a professional, a retiree or a SAHM).

Since the announcement came out (several months ago) that SWAP would once again take place this year, I have wavered back and forth (and back again) as to whether I would throw my hat in the ring again this year.

I have participated in the past three SWAPs and my wardrobe is better for it and adding more clothes to my closet is never a bad thing. However, a 6 month time line seems painful to me - when I decide to sew...I sew...now...no messing around, so trying to stretch this out for 6 months could be torture. However, I suppose I could just sew everything up quickly and then just add additional pieces as a SWAP extension. I do, after all, have the following SWAP (plus extensions and some of the extension garments are started) that I planned out last year. I'm just not sure I'm willing to commit to the actual contest. Maybe, I'll just sew along. But then, why not just enter? Ugh...see, I go back and forth. I guess there is no real hurry, I have 6 months to decide!

In other sewing news, I have been really looking at my stash of Loes Hinse patterns lately. I have a lot of holes in my professional winter wardrobe and I want to whip up some nice looking, simple, sophisticated clothes to plug the leaks. I have always liked the LH (and Textile Studio) patterns, but I haven't always used them to the fullest, so I'm going to be starting a LH sewing marathon. My greatest needs are for bottoms (pants and skirts), so I will start there. Hopefully, before this weekend is over, I will have at least one pair of pants and a skirt done. We'll see...

12 October 2008

Asain Influence

I received the following e-mail the other day and I though I would reply to it here (hopefully, you don't mind Monica), just in case anyone else could use this info.

Hi Shannon:

Firstly, let me say that my sewing buddy Lynn and I love your blog and your work. You are quite a talent.

Secondly, I’m sorry about your mom and your Fifth Disease. I hope you are back in the pink soon!

Thirdly, I wanted to ask you about those super beautiful Japanese pattern books by Machiko Kayaki that I saw on your blog (by the way, maybe I should have written this as a post to the blog, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that!). How do you know which one to buy? I am really smitten with the overall aesthetic of them and seriously driven buy from yesasia. Who cares if I can’t actually read them, right?! But how do you pick which one(s) – do you have ones you recommend over others? Have you seen the inside of many? Do the skirt books have just skirts, but the ones with titles like “Sewing Lesson,” “Pindot Polkadot Coindot,” or “Home Couture” have more general patterns? Is there any English in any of them, other than on the cover?

Well, I hope I’m not bothering you with these questions. Also, let me say, I am sorry that you don’t have sewing buddies there in Ontario. But I’m glad you have found lots of them by having a blog!



Monica (& Lynn), thank you so much for your kind words and your well wishes - the sewing community online is made up of such a wonderful group of people. Too bad we didn't all live just a smidge closer together - just think of the fun!

Now, on to the JPB (Japanese pattern books). I first became interested in JPB when Tany and Angie mentioned them on their blogs. Like you, I was instantly smitten with the aesthetics of these books - the clothing and the photography is so appealing to me. So, I was on a mission to find out as much as I could about these magical Asian books!

Altough, yesasia.com sells the books, they don't give any glimpses into the books, which is a bit of a disappointment. For that I had to search up a storm. I have found the following sources useful for locating pictures of the garments inside the JPB.

1. eBay - search for JPB using the keywords, "Japanese pattern books", "Machiko Kayaki", "Sato Wantanbe", "Yoshiko Tsukiori" or book titles. The people that sell these books usually have pictures of the pages in their auction ad. If you click on the keywords I've listed, you will be taken to some great examples by my favourite designers.

2. Japan Couture Addicts blog - although this blog is in French (which I can read to a very, very limited extent), it is a great place to see pictures of many garments made up. The left hand margin shows pictures of the JPB covers, which can be clicked on to be taken to the garment photos provided by contributors of the blog. Excellent resource!

3. Google - enter the same keywords as for eBay to find blogs and websites with tips and further info.

As far as what kinds of patterns can be found in the books, you are correct, the title tends to give a glimpse into the contents. Most of the books I own (Sewing Lesson, Simple Chic, Pindot Polkadot Coindot Etc, Home Couture, Retrospective is Stylish) contain many types of clothing including skirts, tops, jackets and dresses. Two of my books (Skirt a la Carte and Utsukushi Silhouette no Skirt Angkor Shitakunaru My's Size no Kawaii Smart Style 27) are all skirts. There are yet other books aimed at children or soft toy crafters, but I have no interest in those so I can't say much about them.

In terms of recommending one book over the others, I can honestly say I absolutely love several garments from each one of the books I own. If forced to chose one book, I would pick "Home Couture My Standard" by Machiko Kayaki. I gravitate toward clean, simple lines with a retro flair and this book has that.

Here is some further information about the books themselves that I have noticed during my experience with them:

*JPB are pretty much completely in Japanese (natch), with the occasional bit of English to describe the garment. However, if you are a decent seamstresses, there are enough pictures to work through the construction of a garment. Most of the clothing is simple enough that a good sewing reference book (or sewing experience with similar garments) should be enough to get you through.

* The sizing is different than North American pattern companies. First, the measurements are in metric and second, the patterns run fairly small. See this blog entry for the measurements.

* Full sized patterns are included with the JPB. The pattern sheets look like a BWOF (Burda World of Fashion) pattern sheet, with 4 or 5 different patterns (in all the sizes) overlapping on a large sheet of heavy weight paper. Therefore, the patterns need to be traced onto another paper before use. To say the pattern sheets can be a bit confusing is an understatement. All the patterns are in black ink, unlike BWOF (which uses different colours for different patterns), so I recommend highlighting the lines before tracing or you may end up cross-eyed and frustrated!

* The patterns do not include seam allowances, again just like BWOF. However, each pattern has a suggested fabric layout guide and suggested seam allowances (usually 1.5 cm) and hem allowances (usually 1 to 4 cm) are shown on it.

* There are not as many notches and symbols as can be found in the North American companies (Butterick, Vogue, etc), but again the designs are typically fairly simple, so it's not to hard to figure out what is attached to what and where.

In closing, I think it is only fair to come clean that I have not actually made up any of these patterns yet, although I do have one traced out. So take my advice with a grian of salt. Hopefully, I will get an article or two of clothing made up in the near future, but you know all about the best laid plans...

4 October 2008

Just call me Thyphoid Mary

Two weeks ago, I said that I was going to start posting again, didn't I? That was before all hell broke loose in my little corner of the world.

Consider the following...

Two weeks ago my Mom was in a car accident. I'll spare you all the gory details. Suffice it to say that a woman (stopped at a stop sign) pulled out in front of my Mom (who was traveling down a through street) and my Mom was unable to avoid her. Several blown air bags and one totaled Chrysler 300M (my Mom's retirement gift to herself a few years back) later and my Mom was in the market for a new car. Other than some stiffness and bruising, she is fine - no broken bones and no death (which is always a good thing). She now has a brand new, bright red, Chrysler Sebring and is doing well. So, one disaster averted.

One week ago, I started with cold-like complaints and fatigue. In short order, I started to get itchy and noticed small, raised welts on my torso. The itching quickly became unbearable and the rash started to spread outward toward my extremities. At first, I couldn't figure out what was happening to me. Do I have hives? Is it an allergic reaction? Then I remembered the young lady in my class the had similar symptoms. I also remember the local grade schools have had an epidemic of Fifth disease. So I start to google like mad trying to find out more. Hmm, Fifth disease is most common in 5 to 15 year olds. By adulthood only 50% of people are susceptible and I apparently am in that 50%. Yeehaw. The good news is that my immune system seems to have made quick work of the virus (although I have been sleeping a ton this weekend) and I seem to have avoided the swollen and stiff joints that can sometimes accompany the adult version of the disease. So now, of the five classic childhood exanthems, I have had two - I guess I can look forward to measles, rubella and scarlet fever at a later date. Sigh.

On the sewing front, not much has happened at Chez Shannon. Although I'm, itchin' (pun intended) to get back in front of the machine.

In other related news, I haven't bought any fabric in over two months - could it be that I have reached stash saturation? Only time will tell...

20 September 2008

Um, hi again...

Do you ever get overwhelmed? Do you ever feel like you're spread so thin you're going to snap? Do you ever look around you and all you see are things that need to be done and people that want things from you?

Well, I do. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, look out, it's a doozy.

I know some of you are wondering about my lack of blogging and my long absence from discussion boards and other sewing related outlets. (Actually, let me take this opportunity to thank everyone that has sent emails inquiring as to my whereabouts - I appreciate that you care enough about me to take the time to write. It touches me so deeply that people I have never formally met can become such wonderful friends.) I guess I just needed a break from the world. I can't take a break from my family (they seem to find me wherever I try to hide!) or from my job (gotta pay the bills, you know), so the only other choice was to take a break from sewing and blogging. Something had to give and unfortunately, my cherished hobbies ended up being collateral damage in my need for some down time. It has been at least three months since I really had the drive to sew and I haven't bought nor have I had the desire to buy any fabric in ages (gasp! now you know I'm a mess!). Hence, the blog silence - what was there to blog about?

Well, I'm tentatively starting to feel like myself again. I miss sewing and I miss blogging and most of all, I miss interacting with my sewing sisters. I have no one in my daily life that sews, so my long distance friends (all of you) are very important to me. I have a few projects in mind for my triumphant (I hope) return to the sewing sphere. Unfortunately, this weekend is all about painting the LR, DR and kitchen, so don't expect much just yet.

To prove that I am clawing my way out of my funk, I leave you with the some of the best medicine to turn a girl around and make her love life again. Check out the latest additions to my shoe wardrobe - Naturalizer has been offering some really nifty shoe designs the last few seasons and this fall is no exception.

23 August 2008

Back Home

I am back from my trip to England. Unfortunately, I have a bajillion things that need to get done before I can post about the trip, so bear with me...

5 August 2008

English Invasion

DH and I will be leaving this weekend to travel throughout England for two weeks. I have been to England twice before, but this is a first for DH. He has a friend that lives and works in London and he and his wife have been gracious enough to ask us to stay at their flat while we're there.

I have left all the arrangements and travel plans completely up to DH, so I am basically sitting back and enjoying the ride!

My only concern at this point, is my travel wardrobe. I was previously in England at this time of year and spent most of my time in sweaters, trying to stay warm. I have been checking the weather in London for the last few weeks and it appears that this summer is warmer than the summer I experienced several years ago. I want to travel light (with only a carry on bag) and since we will have access to laundry facilities, I am hoping to only bring three to four days worth of clothes and just wash them as needed. I have sewn several pieces of clothing to take with me and I'm hoping that employing the principle of layering (adding on if it gets cold, removing if it gets hot) will suit me well. I have my comfy leather walking shoes and sandals all broken in and I also made sure to purchase a raincoat, as it appears to be crazy rainy in London right now. I guess if worst comes to worst, I can always buy (yeah, Visa!) any article of clothing that I require, but didn't pack.

Any Brits out there that can offer some insight as to the weather this time of year? Any others that can offer some travel wardrobe advice?

P.S. I scammed the Big Ben picture from Wikipedia.

30 July 2008

Dirn It All!

I love dirndl skirts, so when I saw these two gorgeous border print fabrics at my local Fabricland, I could not resist picking up 2 m of each. These skirts could not be easier to make. Cut the fabric to the desired length (in my case, 24" + 4" for the hem), sew up the single seam after inserting an invisible zipper, throw on a straight waistband, tack on a hook/eye and presto...a summer skirt ready for wearing!

I'm not sure which one I like more - the coral or the teal. And as an added bonus, I still have the extra fabric that was cut off, which will make a cute summer top (or two).

ETA for TwilaO: Both skirts were made from the full 2 m lengths of fabric, gathered to fit the waistband.

29 July 2008

McCall's 5632 & Butterick 5187

Pattern: McCall's 5632 (view C) & Butterick 5187 (view A)

Size: I used the size 8 for both patterns.

For the capris: stretch denim from Fabric Mart.
For the cardigan: papaya linen from Timmel Fabrics (sadly defunct now).

Project Photos
& Comments:
Capris ~ I wanted a pair of denim capris as the pair I have now are becoming increasingly thread bare. M5632 appealed to me the first time I saw it, although I don't normally like pants with pleats. This pattern is well drafted and went together smoothly from start to finish. Unfortunately, I am not in love with the pleats, the cuffs or the extremely wide bottom leg circumference on these capris - they all add up to making me look a tad stumpy. If I attempt these capris again, I will be narrowing the leg, forgoing the cuffs and making them in a fabric with more drape and flow - I think that will remedy the "stumpiness" issues.

Cardigan ~ This is just the cutest cardi! I love all the views and hope to make each of them. I decided to start with view A because it spoke the loudest to me. I had some leftover papaya linen from a sundress project a couple of years ago and the weight of it was perfect for this project. I was so pleased when all the pattern pieces just barely squeezed onto my fabric remnant. However, when I cut out the pattern pieces, I must have been daydreaming because I forgot to cut doubles of a few key pieces - namely the inside front and back yokes. I had to use some ecru linen (the only linen I had at the time that was in a compatible colour) to cut these missing pieces. The inside back yoke wasn't a major concern because it isn't visible when the cardigan is being worn. The inside front yoke was a different story, as it also backs the ties at the neck, which are clearly visible when worn.

What to do? What to do? How do I make this screw up look intentional? Well, after putting together the jacket, I top stitched (with a decorative asterisk stitch pre-programmed into my sewing machine) various sections of the papaya regions of the cardigan in a thread that matched the ecru linen. Also, the ecru ties were likewise top stitched with papaya thread. As you can see in the photo to the left, my bonehead mistake now looks like a "design feature" or at least that's what I have been telling myself (so, don't burst my bubble). In the end, I really like this cardigan - it gives off a vintage (1940s?), nautical feel to me.

Conclusion: I am still on the fence as to whether I'll make the capris again, but I will certainly be making all the views of the cardigan. The cardi is a perfect summer cover up for a cool evening or for the daytime when my shoulders are getting roasted in the sun.

18 July 2008

Simplicity 3323

Pattern: Simplicity 3323 ~ From the envelope: "Dress has slightly extended shoulders, bateau neckline, back zipper closing and contrasting bias and bow trim. Version 1 features a full gathered skirt."

Size: Sub Teen Size 12 s (bust 31)

Muslin: car print cotton polyester blend
Garment: embroidered cotton w/ a border print
(both fabrics are from Fabricland)

Project Photo
Comments: I was looking for a simple sun dress to showcase a beautiful border print I found at the local chain fabric store. When working with a border print, I prefer to not have to cut up the border at all, so I wanted a pattern with a dirndl skirt (basically a rectangle that is gathered at the top). When I found this pattern in my vintage stash, I knew it was the one.

I wanted to first make a wearable muslin of the dress before cutting into the good stuff. I'm glad I did. The dress straight from the package was sized for a person with a very short torso - it may be due to the sub-teen sizing on this pattern, although I didn't encounter this problem with other sub-teen patterns I've used in the past. In the end, I added 1.5" to the bodice length. When I make this dress again, I will add another 0.5", to bring the total up to 2" added length.

Flat pattern measuring also suggested that I needed to reduce the size of the two front and two back darts (by 0.5" in each case, to add a total of 2") to accommodate for the larger size of my waist. In the wearable muslin, this worked out beautifully, since the garment sat up above my waist, at the bottom of my ribcage. However, when I lengthened the bodice, I forgot to take into account that my actual waist is smaller than the measurement on my body 2" higher up, so the final dress was roomy in the waist. I removed the skirt and resewed the darts, effectively removing the 2" I had added. I'm pretty good at tweaking patterns to fit me, but every once and a while, I still goof up - ah well, to err is human!

The only other alteration I did was to remove some fabric from the front armscyce (0.25" at the centre, tapering to nothing at the shoulder and underarm seams), as the muslin pulled in this area when I would reach forward. In the next version, I will remove another 0.25" and it should be perfect.

The skirt is a single layer of fabric (too bulky otherwise). However, the bodice was fully underlined with cotton batiste.

Conclusion: The muslin is wearable, although it seems a bit young what with the crazy car print (check it out - it says "vroom!") and the elevated waistline, so it will likely be reserved for weekend wear. The border print version is definitely a winner and will become a regular in my warm weather wardrobe. I actually have another border print fabric that was to become a skirt, but I may end up making this dress again with that fabric.

8 July 2008

I Love the Smell of Rayon in the Morning

I just noticed that Lucy's Fabrics has some gorgeous rayon lycra knits. Since I am incapable of saying no to beautiful rayon knits, I purchased the following:

And, since it seemed wrong to only order a few paltry cuts of knit fabric, I rounded out my package with a brown double knit, a dark brown ottoman knit and a medium brown ottoman knit.

As much as everyone raves about the new poly/lycra knits that are out these days, I just can't get myself to love them too. I have found a few (very few) that are acceptable. However, for the most part, I find them hot and sticky in the summer, static clingy in the winter and usually downright icky feeling. Give me natural, breathable fabrics with a supple hand and now, I'm in heaven. Three cheers for rayon!

1 July 2008

Happy Canada Day

To all my fellow Canadians, here's wishing you a happy and safe Canada Day. Whether you're taking in the sun at the beach, paddling on a peaceful lake or barbequing up a storm in your own backyard, I hope you're enjoying this day with family and friends.

Unfortunately, I'm alone today, as my husband had yesterday off (his work tries to place holidays to give them long weekends, which is nice). So, I plan to make good use of my time by sewing. I'm almost finished a cute little tie-front cardigan in a gorgeous deep papaya coloured linen.

In other sewing related news...
I have been on an insane orange kick lately. I cannot get enough of this juicy, citrusy, delicious colour! So, when I stumbled upon Vogue Fabrics latest offerings for summer, I was rendered incapable of resisting the following luscious fabrics:

Chapeaux Blooms - Stretch Cotton Sateen & Chapeaux Tangerine - Blouseweight Linen

Chapeaux Window Panes - Rayon Blend Suiting & Hannah Jardin - Poly Georgette

Oaks Sensation - Variegated Crocheted Novelty & Oaks Delight - Floral Jacquard Knit

Oaks Mango - Poly/Cotton/Lycra Interlock Knit & Oaks Stretch - Cotton/Lycra Stretch Twill

And, get this...drum roll please...I even have a plan for these babies. Check it out:

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I picked up some more fabulous summer fabric at a local store yesterday. I haven't had a chance to photograph them yet, so I don't have any pictures. But, suffice it to say, they helped to sate my appetite for orange as well.

27 June 2008

Freedom, Sweet Freedom!

Whew, I made it - just barely. I am officially off for summer vacation for the next 9.5 weeks. This was a very tough year, so I really need this break to decompress.

Things are looking up though.

Firstly, my hip/back is once again in perfect working order - so I can get back to doing stupid things like lifting objects that are much too heavy for me :) Thank you to everyone that offered advice and words of sympathy - they were much appreciated.

Secondly, I am now the proud owner of even more super delicious Japanese pattern books. I think I may have stumbled upon a new addiction (at this point it is yet undetermined where this addiction ranks among all my other addictions, like fabric, vintage patterns, shoes, chocolate and bag piping - okay, maybe not the last one). Here are my new lovelies - behold the splendour:

Sewing Lesson by Machiko Kayaki

Skirt a la carte by Machiko Kayaki

Utsukushi Silhouette no Skirt Angkor Shitakunaru My's Size no Kawaii Smart Style 27 by Watanabe Sato
Okay, this last one doesn't have a shred of English on the cover, so I cut and pasted the title given on the yesasia.com site (the retailer from whom I purchased the books). I have no idea what on Earth that title is supposed to mean. Honestly though I don't care, because inside this book are the most lovely skirts and that's all I need to know.

These books are like the other books I have purchased recently. They all come with full sized pattern sheets that must be traced because there are several pattern pieces, in several sizes on each sheet (think BWOF). After browsing through the newest acquisitions, I have a million ideas buzzing through my brain. Now, it's just a matter of listening for which one buzzes the loudest to determine what's up next on the sewing docket.