Brown, But Not Brown

Yes, here I am again! I was pressed for time yesterday and realised I’d forgotten to post my last sewing project here. This is the McCall’s 7093 raglan-sleeved tunic that I wanted to test out for a basic raglan pattern for woven fabrics. I already have my TNT Lane Raglan for knits. I’m not sure I really got the best test with the fabric I used however. It’s a rayon crinkle and I pressed it quite thoroughly before I cut it out. I’m afraid it’s going to shrinkle right back up again the next time I wash this tunic!

Pattern and fabric

The fabric is not really brown. The warp is black and the weft is rusty orange but your eye blends them together! The pattern was quite difficult to figure out the fit changes I needed to make. (Yay, Big 4.) I ended up with a size 10 at the neck/shoulders/sleeves and graded out to a 14 at the bust and somewhere out past the edge to about a size 18 at the hip. It was quite a lot more slender than I am! I also made the longer tunic version but added the pockets by lengthening them to the hem. It turned out okay.


Not fantastic but absolutely wearable. It’s light and airy and I’m sure I’ll have occasion to wear it a lot more this summer. Right now it’s actually too cool – except on those occasions when the sun peeks out and then it gets much warmer. June Gloom. Gotta love it.

The upper part fits pretty well so I know I’m going to use this pattern again, perhaps the version with the slits and/or the longer sleeves. Or maybe a completely different style from the underarms down. We’ll see. It won’t be for awhile though since I have lots of other sewing in the queue including 3 more items already cut out.


Been awhile, hasn’t it? We’ve had some major family drama over the past month or so with Thom’s very elderly but very independent mom (aka Nana). She had some health issues after her knee replacement surgery (the knee is just fine though) and she’s finally back in her own home with as much care assistance as she’ll tolerate. Whew! Hopefully back to life as we know it.

So meanwhile I’ve been working on a new pile of sewing projects: prepping/fitting patterns, cutting out garments and actually sewing up one of them. But first I needed a new wrist pincushion since the old Biscornu one allowed the pins to go right through it and into my wrist! Ouch. The elastic wristband was stretched and stained too and I decided a replacement wouldn’t take long to make.

Above: perky new pincushion. Below: sad old one.
New pincushion in action

This time I got Thom to drill a 1/4″ hole in the centre of a small canning lid which I embedded in the wool stuffing. The hole allowed me to stitch the wrapping threads through the “flower” and to attach the Czech glass button and then attach the whole thing to the wrist band. But now the very sharp pins can’t go through the lid and in to me! Yay. I also covered the elastic with fabric and used Velcro to fasten it to my wrist. Much easier and more adjustable. Not too fancy but functional. I can’t sew without it!

Of course then I had to start sewing something to try it out, right? This is kind of the wrong season for a heavy jacket, even a sleeveless one, but that didn’t stop me from making one anyway. The new In The Folds Flynn Jacket called to me as a great way to use up some 20+ year old heavyweight brushed cotton twill that’s been waiting to find the right garment. I almost made yet another York Pinafore with it but I have several of those so far. The sleeveless and more fitted version of the Flynn (View B) was just the ticket and it used up almost every bit of the narrow yardage. Don’t those curved facings with hidden pockets make you just swoon?

Russet Flynn Jacket

For the bias binding I used some of a badly dyed and stamped muslin sample swatch that definitely looked much better cut into narrow 1.5″ strips. I even managed to use my 18mm bias tape maker and it actually worked well for this fabric. I often don’t bother to pre-fold bias because it’s such a hassle to get right.

Inside peek

This is such a beautifully drafted pattern although it took me about 3 days to get the fitting right. I ended up taking 1″ out of the upper body and another 1″ out of the lower body at the lengthen/shorten line. The pattern is based on a person 4″ taller than I am so I couldn’t reach the pockets! I also narrowed and sloped the shoulder (though I could have taken a bit more out of the front armhole). I had to completely re-draft the armhole facings because the originals no longer worked with my adjusted armholes. The results worked out pretty well.

I enjoyed the special attention to detail in the instructions too. For once I actually followed them to the letter! The jacket ends up completely finished inside.

Inside-out to show the bias binding

There’s lots of extra little techniques included: under-stitching, stitch-in-the-ditch, trimming the facings for smooth turn-of-cloth, 2 different bias applications. Lovely. I got great use out of my stitch-in-the-ditch foot too which really helped to do the job nicely. All-in-all this was a very satisfying project. Now I’m hoping to find the right fabric in the stash for View A, the more loosely-fitting jacket with drop-shoulders, sleeves and a box pleat in the back. I’ve already done the fitting changes on the pattern. I think it will need a lighter weight than this heavy-duty twill. The hunt is on.

Meanwhile I still have four more garments cut out and ready to sew. Yes, I’m quite the factory sweatshop here! Going with the enthusiasm while it lasts. It was even literally a sweatshop for a couple of days though now the temps have gone back down to normal. The Swamp Cooler is already in the studio for the summer and ready to go back to work when it heats up again. Moving right along…

Bright and Dark

How did it get to be June already? The weather has certainly been pretty nice here for the last couple of days. I got my zucchinis and cucumbers in the ground. Finally. The beans are all up and the peas are flowering. I haven’t quite finished cleaning up the front garden sections but making good headway on them. Thom does all the pruning, tying up and big weeding but it’s up to me, as he says, to fine-tune it by more careful weeding and planting annuals. Somehow it’s been taking much longer than usual to get to where we just have to water and watch things grow. Guess I say that every year, huh? Must be true.

Anyway, I’ve also been spending quality time in my studio (which is probably why the gardening is taking so long!) and finished all 8 of my knit garments that I had cut out before the end of May. Whew. Here’s the last three, starting with the second T-shirt from the snow-dyed cotton knit. This is the bright part.

Snow-dyed Lane Raglan

As you might recognise this is my raglan TNT, the Hey June Lane Raglan. This one has 3/4 length sleeves which are actually more like 7/8 length on me. I went back to using my walking foot on this one and it went quite a lot more smoothly than the La Bella Donna tunic in the same fabric. I also snugged up the neck binding a lot more than usual and that solved my too-loose neckline problem quite nicely. It still lies nice and flat. This top is so fast and easy to sew and I’ve managed to fit it loosely enough in the body that I feel comfortable with it as either an underlayer or on its own. I will be making more of them very soon.

Hey June Handmade has patterns (most PDF but a few also paper) for quite a few basic casual wardrobe pieces for women and children. The drafting is quite good and the instructions are excellent. There’s lots of tutorials and hacks available on the website too. The Lane Raglan is my only personal experience with Hey June but obviously I’m very pleased with this one. The original pattern goes from an XS to a 2X with a finished bust measurement of 47.5″. The included FBA pattern piece will bring that up to 49.7″ so it should fit quite a broad spectrum of bodies. I think it would be relatively easy to grade up if necessary too. As usual I’ve done a few fitting adjustments: raised the front neckline and then the whole neckline and graded out from the size L (FBA) bust to beyond the 2X at the hip. Also shortened the sleeve. I do know it’s very hackable because I’ve made T-shirts, tunics and dresses. It’s also quick and easy to sew. A perfect TNT.

Next for the dark part, we have the two pairs of leggings I made from a novelty black rayon spandex from Dressew. Here’s a close-up of the interesting fabric.

Novelty knit

The sales person at Dressew asked me what I was going to make with this when I bought it. I’m sure she hadn’t thought of leggings or tights! I am now kicking myself because I should have bought more. The weight and stretch and slink factor are perfect for underlayering. And of course black is a neutral that goes with everything. Unfortunately that was way back in January and I’m pretty sure there’s no more in the store. And since I’m on a Stash Diet until I can use up some of what I already have, I’m not going there. It’s like trying not to taste some of everything at a banquet! I have no self-control.

My first thought was I wanted to try Helen’s Closet Avery Leggings pattern with this fabric. I’ve had the pattern for awhile but hadn’t even assembled it. I had to decide on the pattern size(s) to print since Helen has layered sizes so you can print whichever one(s) you want and the rest doesn’t clutter up the printout. I went with the L and the XL but ended up using the L just as it comes. How unusual! I combined the shorter legs with the wider waistband and I really like the results. The legs below the calf are a little loose on my skinny ankles so I’ve modified the pattern for next time. Too lazy to fix this pair.

Avery Leggings

It does need to be a very stretchy fabric to wiggle on over my hips but this stuff was up for it. I like the way the doubled waistband cuts the belly jiggle down but not as restricting as shapewear. I’m somewhat leery of the enclosed 1/2″ elastic which may eventually die and not be at all easy to replace. It has 3 separate layers of stitching through it which usually doesn’t improve its longevity at all. I usually prefer to keep my waistband elastics easily adjustable and replaceable if necessary. That really contributes to keeping a garment wearable for much longer. Now it’s a contest to see whether the fabric or the elastic gives up first. We shall see.

The Averys do take a bit more fabric and more sewing since there’s 7 pieces total to assemble as compared to my TNT, the OOP Kwik Sew K2797 (from 2011), which only has 2 pieces. I used the latter for a pair of Skimmy Shorts to wear under dresses this summer to prevent chafing.

Kwik Sew 2797

I would love to have 2 more pairs of these! Sigh. Who knew this fabric would work out so well? Did I mention it was very easy to sew? Totally cooperated all the way.

So what’s next? I have lots of patterns I want to make and lots of fabric to make them with! I need another major cutting out marathon first. I’m having some trouble figuring out where to start and matching which fabric goes to which pattern. Guess I’ll just have to dive in and do it, yeah? Once it’s cut out that will be what it will be!

Looking A Little Brighter

I was going to wait until I’d finished the second project with this snow-dyed cotton knit fabric but what the heck! This one is done and I might as well get on with blogging about it, right?

Snow-dyed hooded tunic

The pattern is Love Notions La Bella Donna. This was actually a test sew for my fitting changes and I’m not totally pleased with how loose the sleeves are. I didn’t do my usual adjustment of raising the underarm and I think this needs at least an inch plus the sleeve bands adjusted to match. Otherwise grading from a size M at the top through to an XL below the bust worked okay. The neckline is a bit wide for me however, especially if I didn’t have the hood to fill in the extra space. I would bring it in if I was making a plain neck top.

Back of my hoodie

The fabric is kind of fun and I had a good time cutting the garment pieces to take advantage of the dye patterning. I also had enough to cut another Lane Raglan T-shirt too which is my next project. I did have trouble sewing this tunic neatly for some reason. The stitching lines which are in white thread show every wobble and there are a lot of them including top-stitching the single-layer pocket bags onto the front. These sit nicer than regular in-seam pockets but they aren’t invisible. I somehow managed the twin-needle stitching better. Besides the hem I went around the neckline to hold the hood’s seam down and also around the sleeves to match.

Wonky stitching aside, I quite like the results and will be using this pattern again for more versions. I’m already wearing my new hoodie a lot. There are some things I love about Love Notions patterns. Tami has made the PDFs layered so you can choose your size/sizes to print and there’s also no need to trim. That makes them especially easy to assemble. This pattern also has the front and back pieces, which are the same except for the neckline, combined into one pattern which saves paper and ink. (Although it does make it a little more difficult to arrange pattern pieces on your fabric.) There is a cool way to keep them connected but still make it easy to cut out which I should show you in another post.

What I’m not so enamoured of with Love Notions patterns (and this could just be me) is that the instructions are meant for digital use on a phone or tablet rather than printed. They flip around with hyperlinks to hop from one section to another and aren’t presented in a linear fashion. Not super-critical since the designs are pretty simple to sew but I don’t like to have to turn on my iPad every time I want to check something. I printed the instructions out for myself with Adobe Reader in booklet format and it’s okay but not wonderful. It also seems as if some information is missing that I would like to have. Like finished measurements. Illustrations are pretty basic. And even though it’s included on nearly every page it took me awhile to find out how much seam allowance has been allowed for! It’s in a tiny shaded box which is hard to read on the printout. On the other hand, there’s lots of info on printing and preparing the pattern, an “inspiration” section and a glossary. If you need all that.

In gardening news, I’m really very disappointed this year. The bug and slug damage is the worst I’ve seen in forever. Somebody keeps ringing the stems of my plants, including the Japanese indigo, and I find them one at a time with the tops severed and wilted. There are holes in absolutely every leaf. And I can’t seem to catch the culprits at work. Probably because they’re out there in the dark doing their dastardly deeds when I’m sleeping! The usual remedies aren’t working either. I’m really trying to be philosophical about it. After all, we aren’t dependant on my produce to live. There are perfectly good vegetables in the market, right? And they probably cost less if you include all the work I put into my garden.

A least the weather has improved finally. We’ve had some cool nights and quite a lot of rain this month which slowed things down and probably contributed to the happy bugs and slugs. Of course along with sunshine and more warmth comes the fact that all my early greens are immediately starting to bolt! At least the ones that survived. I could plant more but they don’t usually do very well until fall. And the lettuce should be edible for awhile longer. Meanwhile there’s quite enough to eat saved in the fridge. The peas are just starting to flower and the beans are coming up. It’s starting to feel almost like summer. The hammock stand is out and just waiting for one of us to take advantage!

More Boring Grey Sewing

Happily, more sewing has been happening around here! I knew if I cut out a bunch of things then I would have no excuse not to just dive into the sewing. I seem to work most efficiently with this Batch Method. Anyway, here’s the next three items hot off the machine.

Smiling woman standing in front of a large houseplant with a window to the right and a chair to the left and wearing a grey top and matching cropped pants.
Cattywampus Top and Croppies Pants

The first top (tunic? sweatshirt?) is one I’ve made before so no modifications were necessary. It’s B6101 from Katherine Tilton. I’ve nearly worn out my original Black Snakeskin version so this is a more subdued substitute. I’m calling it the Cattywampus Top because it’s asymmetrical and rather wonky which I love. This time I interfaced the collar so it doesn’t flop down so much. I also brought the neckline in slightly for a little more warmth. Now it just fits over my head! The fabric is the same cotton/lycra doubleknit as the Croppies and as you can see they go together quite nicely as an outfit.

Next I moved on to the darker charcoal grey cotton single-knit jersey. Not sure if there’s lycra content in this but not much if any. It stretched out some when I test-sewed a scrap so I used my walking foot for the first time.

Close-up of grey jersey fabric on a sewing machine under the needle and showing the walking foot attachment.
Janome walking foot

It helped keep the layers aligned and stopped them rippling up. The foot is a little more difficult to attach to the machine because you have to unscrew the clip-on part and screw this monster in place, making sure the arm (on the right there) is above the needle screw. As the needle goes up and down it moves the arm which engages the white teeth to help move the top layer forward. The whole beast is rather large and bulky but works fine and doesn’t seem to get in the way at all.

I also had trouble with the serger stretching the fabric when I was overcasting the single layer hems. To solve that issue I engaged the differential feed (set at 1.5) which worked well but switched back to normal for the other seams. So what did I make? A plain ordinary Hey June Lane Raglan t-shirt dress with 3/4 sleeves and a straight knee-length hem. No pockets because I ran out of fabric.

Dark grey dress with three-quarter sleeves hanging on an orange door.
Lane Raglan Dress

This pattern has been my raglan TNT but I’m still not happy with the neckline. I kept thinking I was stretching it out when applying the neckband but I don’t think that’s true. The neckband lies nice and flat which is how it should be. I did bring up the whole neckline about 1/2″ but I think it needs about 3/4″ more on the back and sleeve areas. It’s just a little too breezy on my neck and threatens to expose bra straps. We’ll see what happens the next time I make a Lane Raglan. Meanwhile this one is quite wearable. It’s meant to be a layering piece anyway.

Then there’s the other garment from this jersey fabric, a test sew for a self-drafted Big Pockets Tunic.

Grey tunic with big pockets hanging on an orange door.
Big Pockets Tunic

For this one I used my personal stretch blocks for a long-sleeved, shoulder-princess tunic with pockets integrated into the seams. I think it turned out the way I had envisioned. The neckline on this one is more comfortable than the dress because it’s somewhat higher on the back and shoulders but a similar height on the front neck. Lesson learned. Maybe.

In future I’d like to play with princess seams some more. I suspect armhole princess might be a better shape for me. The shoulder version’s back seams end up right on top of my bra straps for a rather lumpy look. I know you can get some nice closely-fitting garments with the extra seams to manipulate but I’m rather avoiding anything too tight from the bust down. Anyway, I seem to be gaining confidence in my drafting skills which is rather exciting and very freeing. As long as I have my blocks that fit properly then I can use them to hack whatever I want. Such power! Must be used for good, right? Heh.

So that’s four garments in boring grey. I spent some quality time cleaning up my sewing area and vacuuming out the sewing machine and serger ready for a new adventure. What’s next on the agenda? Some colour! I have 2 items cut out of snow-dyed cotton knit to sew. It’s rather wild stuff. Get out your sunglasses!

Dyer's chamomile, fine toothy green leaves and white flower buds.
Dyer’s Chamomile, ready to burst into flower


I think I may have finally run out of sewing patterns to prepare! I was on a roll gluing and making fitting changes to a whole list of them:

L-R: Felix, La Bella Donna, Rushcutter, Yuki
L-R: Avery, Farrow, M7093, Button-Up

And there’s even a few more in my already-cut-out pile. I finally sewed one garment out of those 8 today.

Not the old top! The stretch grey Cropped Pants underneath.

This was a test sew of a pair of RTW knit pants that I copied for a new pattern. I think they need a little more height on the rise but these are quite wearable anyway. I’ve just about worn the original black ones out so it’s good to have a replacement. I hope to make more pairs of these Croppies! More sewing coming soon too.

You might also notice my new sandals. I don’t often buy shoes because my feet are rather (OK, extremely) particular about their footwear. And I also have an aversion to flimsy or overly embellished shoes. I want relatively plain, well-padded, comfortable flats and these fit the bill perfectly. I loved them so much I bought 2 pairs!

New purchases

You will note that those are not pink. The colour name is Terra Cotta and it’s much more orange than pink. (Thank goodness! You all know how I feel about pink.) The other pair is a lovely indigo blue referred to officially as Navy. I was obviously on a blue kick because I also bought a new indigo hat from Edie’s Hat Shop on Granville Island. It’s a Wallaroo Tori and I knew the minute I tried it on that it was coming home with me. See?

Tori Hat

It just felt totally right on my wee head. Plus it rolls up to stash in my pack and 50 SPF sun blocking too. Yup, I’m worth it.

Sewing Exercises

Been awhile, hasn’t it? Time flew while I was having fun! You know they say that older people need to exercise both their body and their brain, right? I’ve found that running around my cutting table is definitely physical. Pasting patterns together, making fitting changes, straightening fabric folds, organizing pattern pieces and cutting them out makes quite a workout. The brain gets fully engaged too: deciding on pattern/fabric combinations, how to make it fit me correctly, getting the most economical layout of pieces and making sure I have them all on grain. Serious body/mind engagement! And I haven’t even started to actually sew any of it yet.

Pattern development

As you might have noticed I tend to work in batches. I mess with patterns for awhile, then I cut out for awhile and then I sew for awhile until I’ve sewn up all the current pile. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Self-drafted tunic top

So far in the last couple of weeks I’ve assembled 4 PDF patterns: In The Folds Rushcutter Dress, a revised Grainline Farrow, Thread Theory Jedediah pants and Wardrobe By Me Chinos but I’m not going to cut and sew them quite yet. (The last 2 are for Thom.) Instead I’ve also done a rub-off copy of a pair of cropped knit pants that I’ve had for at least a decade. They’re sadly wearing out so I wanted the pattern before they do. And I drafted a new knit tunic pattern based on my personal TNTee. It’s got shoulder-princess seams and I’m calling it the Big Pockets Tunic for the obvious reason. The pockets are so big that I didn’t have enough fabric to cut them on the straight grain so they’re cross-grain instead. No biggie. (Hah! See what I did there? Punny.)

Grey on grey

There were two different grey knit fabrics in the stash so they’ve become my wearable toiles/muslins for the Croppies and the Big Pockets. Of course there was enough fabric to cut out another garment from each. I like to use up as much as I can! So the slightly heavier knit (on the left in the photo) will also become a Katherine Tilton B6101 top. I’ve made this one before and wear it so much that it’s starting to pill. All I had to do was press the wrinkles out of the pattern. Have you sewn one of Katherine’s (or her sister Marcy’s) patterns? They are often an exercise in cutting a gazillion asymmetrical pieces single layer and then piecing them all back together again. Must keep your wits about you! They also are not at all economical with fabric though I managed to get it all cut out with a little room to spare.

This fabric’s fibre content is lost in the mists of time. I think it’s a cotton/poly blend and there may or may not be a hint of Lycra in there. Dunno. Anyway, I actually like the reverse side better with it’s one knit row black/one knit row tweedy grey. The “front” of this interlock knit is softer and more blended. You can see it on the wee top square here. Anyway, I’ve decided to use the striped side as “public”. That leaves the softer side next to skin. I like that.

Tweedy interlock knit

Even tighter of a cutout was the second grey knit (the one on the right up there and a little darker than the first). I first cut a dress version of my slightly modified Hey June Lane Raglan. This pattern is my raglan TNT shirt and I’ve been wearing the heck out of 2 previous dress versions so another would not go amiss. This one has my favourite 3/4 sleeves. This single-knit cotton jersey (no Lycra) came as a very wide tubular fabric and, boy-howdy, it did NOT want to lie flat! I ended up cutting it down as close to a straight selvedge as possible and then into two pieces so that I could get it as straightened as I could. Whatevs. I did my best. Hopefully it will be wearable. The second garment from this wonky stuff is the test of my self-drafted Big Pockets. Same issues with the grain. As I mentioned above I ended up cutting the pockets sideways. We shall see how it goes.

I still have more patterns to mess with and of course lots more fabrics in the stash. I’m trying to work with what I have for now and see how far I can go before I need to go shopping! Speaking of stash, my sister from Haida Gwaii came to visit and took all the rest of my beads and about half of the leftover books with her. Yay! At least they were driving so not having to deal with airline weight restrictions. Heh. And the rest of the books, magazines and even my poor old Pfaff sewing machine went to the salvage. Hopefully someone will get some use out of them. Apparently they were quite happy to receive craft stuff so I know where to unload anything else I decide to de-stash if nobody wants it. I’m not done yet. There will be more. As soon as I get over the trauma of that last lot!

So the weather has been quite cold at night still. There was even some frost on the roofs and cars this morning! Yikes. My plantlings are being held too long without going into the garden beds and are starting to show signs of stunting. I’ve had to bring everybody in from the greenhouse every evening. Bleh. My min/max thermometer in there only registered 2C on the minimum this morning! Everything is still running quite late and I’ve kind of lost some enthusiasm at the moment. You watch, I’ll be complaining of the heat in another couple of weeks. No pleasing some gardeners, I tell you.

Sewing stuff is easier right now. So that’s what I’m doing. Avoidance maybe?