Happy Year of the Ox!

Hmmm…nearly two months of dead silence. Not that I didn’t think of writing a bunch of posts in my head but never actually sat down to do it! What’s with that? I’d blame the Pandemic but that’s such a cliché these days, isn’t it? Dunno. Let’s just carry on from here, shall we?

I did finish a few things whilst I wasn’t blogging. Some new face coverings using a different pattern, this one from the Japanese Sewing Books website called the Contoured 3D Face Mask.

Yet more face masks

These ones seem to be more comfortable than the venerable Dhurata Davies pattern. Instead of ties or elastics I used narrow crosswise strips of nylon/spandex fabric pulled into a tube. They are softer than elastic on your ears and easier to get on and off than ties. I also discovered that my glasses fog up badly in the cold but wearing them over the mask as far down on my nose as possible helps. Somehow it leaves more space for evaporation of the moisture. Or something. I also interfaced the lining on these with some crappy lightweight non-woven fusible and I think it not only gives them a stiffer shape to help them keep away from my mouth but perhaps adds a bit of extra germ filtering. There are several sizes: L fits me well, XXL fits the Bearded One, and M fits his tiny mom.

Mom’s masks

I’ve lost track of how many masks I’ve made so far (not gazillions like some sewists though!) but I’m sure we’re still going to need these things for the foreseeable future. It’s a challenge choosing scraps from the stash and even though these have a little more sewing they’re actually very easy and entertaining to make. We have enough for now anyway. Moving right along.

I got plenty of good opportunities to use my new sewing machines while the Janome was in the shop. I made quite a few t-shirts and a couple of pairs of leggings but don’t have any great photos to show. They’re boring light grey, dark grey and brown! The coverstitch machine does have a bit of a learning curve though the threading is easy. Much easier than a serger anyway. Luckily if it goes wonky the stitches are easy-peasy to pull out when you start from the end of the seam. I got lots of practice with it on the tees and I still haven’t finished sewing all the ones I cut out last autumn.

I did finally finish sewing the Grainline Felix dress that I started way back in 2018. I ended up having to do some fixing to make it fit properly – the reason I got annoyed with it in the first place. Sitting in the Naughty Corner for a long while gave me some patience and perspective and now I really love it!

Felix Dress

Unfortunately I nicked the bodice with the serger which is something I’ve only done less than a handful of times in the decades since I’ve owned one. Grrr…

Holey Crap!

I repaired it with Fray-Chek and a piece of fusible interfacing on the back. This rayon/poly fabric frays a lot though so it’s not invisible. Sigh. Now I have no excuse to save this dress for good! I can wear the heck out of it. Heh.

The rest of this fabric was calling me to use it up so I cut out a Tessuti Helga Shirt from the leftover piece. I made some changes since the silver grey test version that I made last year, adding a collar and pockets and reducing the fullness of the sleeve cap. I also lengthened it an inch. Much better!

Helga Shirt

The pockets are not large but will at least hold a phone or hankie. I quite like the collar.

Self-Drafted Collar

It lies so much nicer than the original band collar, which I discovered has too much curve in it. Again I added 5 smaller buttons rather than 4 big ones because that’s what was available in stash.

One last sewing project finished is the Allspice Apron from Hey June, offered as a free pattern download. I printed out a size M which turned out to be too skimpy on my current rotund shape so I slashed from hem to armhole and added 4″ to the width. I also raised the underarm a little for more coverage and raised the pocket height (maybe a little too far but hey, Team T-Rex Arms here). I had a great time deciding which fabric to use for the million miles of bias tape needed to finish the mobius-like edges, ending up with a bright batik.

Apron Binding
Apron Front
Apron Back

Don’t know whether the straps are going to stay put on my slippery sloping shoulders but only time will tell. The pattern just fit and used up most of a vintage cotton tablecloth that is such a dark navy that I actually thought it was black! This apron is a bit of a challenge to get into but I think it will get used a lot. Next time however I might use the larger side pockets from the York Pinafore since I love them the best.

So I forgot to mention that I rescued Janny the Janome HD5000 machine from the shop in December but all of the above were sewn using my new Brother cs6000i machine. I really love BeeBee! I’m becoming very enamoured of some of the computerised sewing machine’s tricks. I had fun using the walking foot (included!) on the knits and the buttonhole and button feet on the Helga Shirt. It was even fine with sewing the heavier cotton crepe of the apron, though I had some issues with the bartacks I tried to make on the pocket. That was just a bit much for the poor thing and it wouldn’t feed properly on the thick folded top edges. The centre bartack was passable however because that area hadn’t as many layers. I wouldn’t want to sew heavy denim or upholstery on this little guy though.

I have so many machines now that I had trouble keeping track of what needles were in what machine so I made a very quick-and-dirty needle chart out of a piece of closed-cell foam.

Needle Organiser

These are all used needles that still (hopefully) have some life left in them. The 4 button pins correspond to my 4 machines, one colour for each. I put a pin in the chart to show what needle(s) are currently in that machine. It also helps me to remember what size and type the needles these spare ones are since they don’t all have colour-coded markings. I really should make a better version of this organiser but this one works okay for now. I pinned it to the cork board on the wall right behind the sewing machines.

Well. I was going to count up my 2020 makes for the year but this is already getting rather long. So for now here’s saying a very firm good-bye to 2020 and wishing everyone a much better 2021! Stay safe and healthy and keep on keeping on. Hopefully it won’t be so long until I post again. Hopefully…

Seven-Oh

Boundary Bay, view of Mount Baker

Yes! I’m still here! But I’ve been really quiet, haven’t I? It’s been a strange month or so for everyone. At least that crazy US election is (mostly) over with and we can all heave a sigh of relief. I don’t know how much Americans realise the way the rest of the world is impacted by their politics. Here in Canada where we live just an hour from the border, it’s been completely nerve-wracking having such a completely dysfunctional person as their president for the last four years. So wonderful to finally have a calm, sane, kind man and a brilliant woman of colour poised to take over shortly. Maybe one day we’ll be able to visit there again. (But not until we all beat that pandemic down to safe levels.) Meanwhile I’m waving across that border, invisible in the photo above, and congratulating our southern neighbours on finally allowing saner heads to prevail. Thank you, voters!

Here in BC we also had an election, one with a fairly foregone conclusion and kind of buried in the overwhelming onslaught of Covid-19 and US election news. We voted by mail, by far the safer option. Done. And then there was the Halloween that really wasn’t much of one. We bought a pumpkin, never bothered carving it and kept our lights off. Meh. Right after that I had a birthday, a significant one with a zero in it and catching up to Thom who had his back in September. Not much of a celebration there either. What can you do when it’s not safe for families to get together?

So since I have mixed feelings about turning 70, uncharacteristically I resorted to retail therapy and bought myself some presents! My Janome sewing machine (aka Janny) is only two years old but an issue has cropped up with it again. I was having trouble with the bobbin case popping out of position back when I first bought it but it seemed to resolve itself so I didn’t take it back to the shop. Now the problem has returned so I finally dragged it the hour+ drive out to Abbotsford to take it in for repair. While I was there I asked to see the Janome CoverPro 1000CPX coverstitch machine. They had a couple of them with a reduced price which I thought was reasonable. It’s not the latest model but still quite similar to the 2000CPX which is quite a lot more expensive. Since the shop is adhering to Covid-19 protections I wasn’t actually able to try it out myself but only watched a demo by the salesperson through the plexiglass barrier. Bet you can guess the rest! I bought it.

Coverstitch machine

Her name is Covyn, which apparently means Unpredictable Woman! And yes, she’s can be somewhat finicky. Why did I want this extra machine that takes up space and cost nearly as much as Janny? Answer: I sew a lot and I sew a lot of hems. If you look at your t-shirt, the coverstitch makes the stitch that looks like 2 or 3 rows of straight stitch on the front but like a flat version of the wiggly loops that a serger/overlocker makes on the back. It has a more professional look than the usual zigzag or twin-needle finish that I can do with my sewing machine.

Both serging and coverstitching (back side)

Of course my 14-year-old Pfaff CoverStyle serger (aka Sergio) can convert to a coverstitch (2 needle, one width) but it’s a royal pain in the you-know to do it and then switch back for the next seam. So I haven’t used that feature for years. He’s a great serger though so I just let him do what he does best! Covyn can do a 3-needle wide, 2-needle wide or left or right 2-needle narrow coverstitch. There’s lots of delicate adjustments to tensions, differential feed and stitch length but otherwise it’s simple to thread. There’s a definite learning curve however and online videos have been very helpful. I’ve also ordered the definitive book which hasn’t arrived yet. More on that when it does.

My biggest complaint though is that there are a couple of attachments not included with the machine that absolutely should have been. A clear foot and an edge guide are pretty much indispensable. I’m using masking tape for the latter but will order a clear centre-guide foot. Unfortunately Janome’s “optional” attachments are seriously pricey. Why?

So now I had a serger and a coverstitch but no sewing machine! What to do? I didn’t really want another Janome so I went with a relatively inexpensive Brother machine ordered from Amazon. (Nobody had it locally.) I was actually quite impressed with my granddaughter’s mechanical Brother so I had hopes that this model, the Brother CS6000i, would be a good second machine to round out my collection.

Cute Baby Brother

This sewing machine is marketed as a garment and quilting machine so comes with a lot of extras including a wide table, 60 stitches (7 buttonholes!) and 9 feet (including a walking foot).

Accessories

All I had to get extra was another package of bobbins since BeeBee takes different ones than Janny and it only came with 4. Sigh. Now I have to keep them carefully separated and identified! At least most of Janny’s are pink or blue and BeeBee’s are all clear plastic. I’m beginning to adore the computerised features like auto-needle down and speed control. Who knew I could be converted from my mechanical ways? And why does this relatively cheap machine have a much more responsive pedal than the Janomes’ crappy ones? The only real drawback I’ve found is that it is quite a lightweight machine without the power to go through very heavy fabrics or really thick seams. That’s what Janny is for, when and if she ever comes back from the shop well again. The two machines serve rather different purposes so I can see them both being used regularly.

The Brother does have some quirks however. I found the manual tension is a bit fussy to set. A small increment doesn’t change anything so you have to go big and then go back. But I got it right eventually and now it doesn’t need changing for most sewing. The LCD screen isn’t backlit so can be hard to see without good light and it loses it’s current program if you shut the machine off. Taking notes on manual setting changes are important! I had a great time making a sample book with a swatch of each of the stitches on their default settings. Even though I almost never use anything fancy there’s enough useful ones to keep me very happy. The only thing I would have loved to add is a font for text but it’s silly to miss something I’ve never had. I also found that judging where to line up for my seam allowances is tricky. The lines on the machine bed are calibrated for the default straight stitch (00) which has the needle all the way to the left. Many of the other stitches are centred so those marks don’t signify. I’ve started measuring with a ruler to get seam allowances more accurate.

I’ve found that having three machines going for a single garment means I need a lot of thread on many spools. It’s a challenge! I’ve also had to pick out a lot of imperfect sewing so wasting a lot of thread too. I’m considering it part of my education budget. Heh. (Good thing coverstitch zips out really easily, just saying.) All in all though I’m quite happy with my birthday presents to myself! Lest you think I broke the bank on these, both together actually cost about the same as my two new pairs of glasses. They’ve kept me sane while I wait for Janny’s return (which could be sometime in December) and kept me occupied learning new things which is good for my brain. I’m slowly sewing through my pile of knits.

Each bundle is a garment in pieces

And there’s more (a black and a dark charcoal) that I haven’t cut out yet. So far no finished garment photos. Still working on necklines which are giving me trouble in the light grey cotton micro-rib knit I chose to play with first. It doesn’t have any spandex content so not good recovery. The neckband stretches out and doesn’t return so it keeps being too wide. And it’s not helping to keep picking out the stitches. Oh well. If I can get it right then I can use the knowledge for the others of that type of fabric.

More soon…er, eventually? Meanwhile, stay well, wear a mask, wash your hands and stay distanced! It’s the least you can do.

Washed Away

Life has been somewhat difficult for the last while. For over a week I was pretty much trapped inside with all the doors and windows closed and the HEPA air purifier blasting away. Several days in a row my city beat all other cities in the world (except maybe Portland, Oregon) for polluted air. Yikes! The sky was yellow with an orange sun – when the sun could be seen at all.

Orange sun peeking through smoky tree branches.

I’m super sensitive to smoke and getting worse as I get older. It smelled worse outside than a busy campground on a holiday long weekend! The air temps were quite high too so it was hot in the house without the windows open especially at night even with the fan blowing on us. Ugh. And all we could do was to feel so absolutely sorry for those who lost their homes and businesses and lives in the wildfires. What a horrible year, eh?

Meanwhile, I wasn’t in a very good headspace for creating though I did finish one project. I’m calling this my Popped Collar Vest. Yes, I was too lazy to take photos wearing it myself so you’ll have to make do with these wonky hanger shots! Better than nothing, I say. Bonus: you can actually see the inner bias binding and my nametag!

Popped Collar Vest – front
Popped Collar Vest – back

This is a fairly major hack of Katherine Tilton’s sadly out of print Butterick 5891 which is one of my TNT patterns with not one but two quite different but very wearable and hackable garments in it. After several makes I’ve got both versions fitting just the way I prefer.

B5891 View B from the original pattern

The fabric is a mid-weight denim in a faded black leftover after I cut out a pair of pants for Thom. I had just a little over a metre of 52″ width and managed to squeeze this vest/sleeveless jacket out of it with some fancy Tetris work. I used one front piece and mirrored and lengthened it a lot. The back kept the asymmetrical back seam which left me enough room on the fabric to just cut out the front facings. I skipped the peplum and used the under collar pieces as a collar facing instead. The pockets are the original inseam pieces but used as two patch pockets, basically to cover a large flaw on the front piece. All raw seams were either reverse flat-felled or bias bound with striped bias strips and I used some to make the rouleau loops for the buttons. I didn’t really have any suitable buttons but Thom had some wooden button slices left from another project so I painted them with liquid acrylic and finished with a polymer wax. I don’t know how durable they’ll be but they can always be replaced with something better when I can get back into Dressew. Some day. Soon. Meanwhile it’s been good to use up stash!

I still haven’t sewn the pants for Thom yet but they’re all cut out and ready to go. The pockets are going to be wildly contrasting with the faded black denim (aka dark grey). More on this project when it’s done.

So now the air is fresh again thanks to the rain. The windows are all wide open again and I can breathe! Today was very nice so we were able to get out for a walk which felt really good after all that sitting about indoors reading endless books and perusing Pinterest. Tomorrow I finally get to mask up and go pick up my new glasses! Yeah, it took 3 whole weeks. My optometrist is not fast or cheap but they are good. Anyway I’ll be particularly happy to have my distance sunglasses back for walking. It’s hard to see where my feet are going with progressive lenses. The ground nearby is blurry unless I walk with my head down awkwardly. I use only my distance prescription for my sunglasses which works very well.

Hope everyone is staying well! Wear your mask…blah, blah, blah…

Autumn Is Flying In

All my best efforts at posting more often have obviously not worked at all! I give up worrying about it. It is what it is. I seem to do a little better with Instagram. Sorry, not sorry. Though I do ramble on more than most on that platform. Which is why I don’t give up entirely on blogging. Words matter as much to me as images. Each reflects and expands on the other.

Anyway, here I am. Another month and it’s already cooled down outside and it’s starting to have that “back-to-school” smell in the mornings. So nostalgic. This was a generally cooler and wetter summer than usual. I can tell because the grass is still mostly green. We don’t water it and it’s usually pretty browned by August. Plus I don’t feel that I’ve been enslaved to the hoses and watering can trying to keep my veggies and flowers alive like I usually am in summer! A couple of soakings a week and they’re good. With this weather, some things survived much longer than they usually do (peas, cabbages and last year’s kale, for instance) and some things didn’t do as well (tomatoes, bush beans). Though every year is somewhat different I guess. I didn’t have a chance to donate some of my produce to my kids so I’m struggling to use up stuff before it goes squishy. It’s a yummy challenge: winners get eaten and losers get composted! Win-win. Heh.

As everyone keeps saying, it’s been a very strange last 6 months! Our lives are being impacted in ways that we’re only just starting to get a handle on. It’s possibly more subtle for me as a senior who owns her own home with a yard to get outside in, kids who are grown up and living their own lives with their families, and no job or lost income to worry about. But I can still feel others’ frustrations. I keep hoping for some systemic changes in how society works now that people have had time to stop and reflect, to give up old unsustainable ways and learn new better habits. But I keep being disappointed. So many people want things to improve but they can’t seem to make sane choices. And we won’t even discuss the political scene. Ugh. Okay, I’ll quit now. Before I get into a rant about insane people having way too much power and how nobody seems to be able to stop them! Isn’t that how Hitler and Mussolini and Lenin and Idi Amin and Mugabe and Pol Pot and so many other evil dictators got loose? Quitting now…

Let’s talk about what I’ve been up to in the past month, shall we? I showed you the next project I was planning, the Lac Button-Up Dress. It turned out just the way I wanted.

Looking smugly pleased with myself!
Back View

If you recall the fabric is a viscose/linen blend that I dyed in July. It’s a bit blotchy but in a good way. Plus I conveniently had 10 perfectly matching buttons in the stash. What are the odds? I quite like this slightly longer length, just below the knee. I think I added about 5″ to the original pattern and I’m only 5’3-1/2″ tall so the original is pretty short. I cut self-bias binding for all the edges which lies much flatter and nicer than the dreaded facings. I also re-drafted my inseam pockets (there’s no pockets in the pattern) to be wide enough to tack to the front princess seams so they don’t flop around. That worked really well! The bodice fits just a little too loose to be comfortable without a t-shirt underneath but that makes it better as a layering piece. Here I’m wearing it with a vintage undershirt dyed in my Japanese indigo.

Next I got stuck into making the new Muna and Broad Banksia Bralette pattern. I used scraps of leftover knits and raided my bra-making supplies for fold-over elastics and powernet lining. This pattern is unique in that it includes optional “slings” from powernet that keep the girls separated and cooler. The first two efforts were a little frustrating because I felt as if I was too compressed.

Three Banksia Bralettes

I decided to cut the third version with a size larger for the front and no slings. That one fits very nicely and gave me more coverage under the arms. However, in an effort to rescue the first two bralettes I decided to do some surgery on the slings.

Top: charcoal bralette before; bottom: brown bralette after.

Yes, I crossed the slings the opposite way on these two! And the brown version has no powernet lining because it was a very firm knit all by itself. You might hopefully be able to see how I reduced the coverage of the slings in the brown one. I just kept snipping a sliver at a time as symmetrically as possible along the top and bottom of each sling and trying it on until the girls sighed in relief! Now they are comfortable bralettes with a surprising amount of support. If you’ve seen the Banksia pattern you might also note that my underbust band is narrower than the pattern since I only had 1″ elastic, not 1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″. I think this is quite wide enough for me because I’m on the smaller end (!) of this pattern I don’t have a lot of room on my torso for a wide band. I angle right out from my narrow underbust (aka “the shelf”) and wide bands just tend to curl up. So I have enough bralettes for now but I think this is going to be a handy pattern in future, especially if I expand it to a tank with a built-in bra. Muna and Broad already have released an expansion pattern like this but I’m not going to bother purchasing since I’d have to do some re-drafting anyway and I don’t need the included swim bottoms. Not hard to just work with what I’ve already got.

Next, I went with another Muna and Broad pattern, the Glebe Pants. I’ve wanted wide-legged pants for awhile now but I didn’t think I quite fit into this one’s size range. Just. Barely. On the smallest end! I love that. I printed out size iii and it fit perfectly. No changes at all except that I shortened the cuffs by an inch and narrowed the waistband because again, I only have 1″ wide non-roll elastic.

Glebe Pants and Kalle Shirt

Notice how nicely they pair with my cropped Kalle?

Glebe Pants back view

The fabric is a brown stretch linen in a fairly heavy weight. I lined the pockets with batik quilting cotton scraps because I also managed to get another garment out of these 3 yards of 52″ wide fabric. I’m very good at Pattern Tetris!

Self-drafted Pinafore

I wear this type of pinny all the time. I couldn’t quite fit a York so I went with my own pattern that I usually make in a knit but it works fine in a woven too. The inseam pockets are only one layer topstitched in place. You can barely see the topstitching and the pockets can’t move around at all. Also takes less fabric! I used a cotton quilting fabric as bias binding on all the edges. The V-back was a little tricky but I managed to get it to fold under smoothly.

Pinny back view

I realised later that everything I’m wearing here was self-drafted. The brown linen pants and the black lightweight linen top were made a couple of years ago. This outfit is very Me!

For the next project I’m attempting some casual pants for Thom. I’m having some fitting issues. Which may be all in my mind. Hmmm… These are more slim-fitting than his usual style but I want him to actually wear them. So I’m dithering. Just cut out the damn pants already, Damselfly! It’s only fabric.

Stay well, my dears! Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep your safe distance. Everyone is counting on you! And it’s the absolute least you can do to help the world get over this obviously extremely lethal pandemic.