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!

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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

Mid-May

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?

Brown

You know when you’ve had something for ages and every time you wear it, you wonder why you haven’t thrown it out yet? Because it’s just annoying or uncomfortable? Such as pants that won’t stay up? But you haven’t chucked it because for some reason you still like it? This pair of leggings is one of those:

Actually there’s two pairs, this brown one and a black pair that’s currently in the laundry. I’ve had them forever – at least 10 years – and they’re both by the same manufacturer. I liked them because they are warm and have interesting seamlines combining a heavy stretch knit and a rib knit. They’ve actually been quite durable even if they weren’t as comfortable as they should have been. Sorry I didn’t give you a before photo but by the time I thought of it, I’d already started altering them. This is the fixed version! Originally they had a wide folded waistband with that 2″ elastic inside. But they didn’t have a high enough rise for my body. And the elastic just kept folding up inside the waistband. And they kept sliding down. Grrr…

So I finally broke down and thought of a way to make them better without a whole lot of work. Took me long enough, eh? I didn’t want to take off the whole waistband piece so I cut through the back layer next to the flat-lock stitches and removed the elastic. Which didn’t look too bad after I pressed the wrinkles out of it so I just used a 3-step zigzag stitch to attach it onto the top of the unfolded waistband. Which effectively added nearly 4″ to the rise so the waistband is actually at my waist and most importantly, above my hips so that now they are comfortable and stay up properly. The elastic stays flat and doesn’t fold over into a rope either. So simple. Now I hope to get another few years out of these leggings. Why the heck didn’t I do this way back when I first bought them? Sigh.

Brown is definitely the theme today. I finished the second pullover for Thom that I had cut out back in February before I started on the Peacoat Project. This one is the modified Love Notions North Star pullover but this time in a brown cotton fleece-backed sweatshirt knit.

He likes this one best of all since it’s really warm and cosy. I put the soft fleece side out on the neck side of the collar and on the pocket bands for comfort. The zipper was another too-long separating zip from Dressew. It’s got bronzy-green plastic teeth with a nice rubber pull and brown tape that matches the fabric. Not a problem to shorten it. This fabric sewed much easier than the navy french terry even though it was quite thick.

Now that Thom has four pullovers made by me, I think he will stay warm for awhile! And I will go on to other things. Time for a reassessment of my sewing queue. I also hope to finally have a finished knitting project to show next time.

In other news, the garden is not growing very quickly thanks to the cool rainy weather we’ve had. I’m still bringing seedlings in and out of the greenhouse daily and I’m getting impatient to get them planted. In a moment of fair weather I did manage to get the dye garden cleaned up and ready to plant as soon as it’s warm enough for my little indigo babies. The tomatoes are still in the basement grow-op under the lights and I haven’t even considered planting the squash and cucumber seedlings quite yet. There’s plenty of time still and their beds are still waiting on me to dig them properly. Spring is still running quite late this year.

Got My Sewjo Working

I’ve had a couple of sweatshirt-type pullover tops cut out for Thom since before I started the Peacoat Project back in February. Both that coat and the sorting/cleaning for the craft supply sale last weekend kind of got in the way of any other sewing projects since then. Which reminds me. If you don’t follow my Instagram (where I’m @damselfly.ca) you might not have seen the photo I managed to take at the sale.

A lull in the action

It was more fun than I anticipated and I did alright but there’s still too many beads, books and magazines left! More on that later when I finalize what I plan to do with the excess. Anyway, I had a few days of a rest after all that socializing – if you can call it rest when it includes repotting seedlings and getting baby plants in the ground – and finally got back to the studio yesterday.

Having something already cut out made it a lot easier to get started. Having made this Thread Theory Finlayson before I expected an easy sew. Not! The fabric, a heavier cotton french terry, gave me a much harder time than similar fabrics I’ve used before. It curled. It slipped. Pins didn’t hold it. Clips didn’t hold it. The sewing machine went through all the layers ok except that it was hard to get such thick seams under the presser foot. The serger wouldn’t cut through the seam areas so I had to pre-trim them. The top layer kept curling over the cutting knife instead of going under it which messed up the seam.

Note to self: keep your fingers away from the knife!

Struggling to keep everything doing what it was supposed to distracted my attention. Luckily the blade only sliced into my nail and not me! Anyway the final results look reasonably good from the outside. Just don’t look too carefully at it because none of the seams line up properly and the inside serging looks like it was nibbled by rats! Thom doesn’t care nearly as much as I do. Besides he’s likely to wear it out mowing the lawn or pruning the shrubs anyway.

Thread Theory’s Finlayson

I was just happy to finish and thought that hanger shot would be the end but Thom immediately put on his new pullover so there’s a modelled photo.

Guess it’s a hit, huh?

So now I still have a modified Love Notions North Star pullover cut out and ready to go. It’s a fleece-backed sweatshirt fabric so it might been even more problematic to sew! I hope not. I only have just so many fingernails.

Meanwhile I think I’ll go spin for awhile It’s raining again.

Without Further Ado

I’d like to present The Peacoat Project:

The man asked for a peacoat like Jimmy Perez on the murder mystery series “Shetland”. Neither of us had any idea how much work this was going to be! Nearly a month and about $200 worth of materials later, his dream became a reality. He gets his coat while it’s still cold enough to wear it and I get sore fingers and a whole lot of new appreciation for tailoring. My goodness it’s a lot of sewing! Of course it’s partially my own fault. I couldn’t just follow the instructions that came with Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat pattern could I? No, I had to do it PROPERLY! Hah.

I’ve done coats and jackets before of course. Back in the day I didn’t realise that the interfacings were so important to the shaping of garments and help to give it body and firmness that you can’t get otherwise. I was always a little – or a lot – disappointed with my makes. But this time I decided to learn all the heavy-duty stuff, like hair-canvas, chest shield, sleeve heads, basting, taped roll-line, hand-made shoulder pads, steam shaping, hand-stitched buttonholes etc. This is Hard Tailoring, in both meanings of the term. Thom helped me pick out the really nice wool blend Melton cloth in a dark olive green and had a blast choosing the coordinating quilting cotton lining featuring a cabin in the woods, canoes and a whole lot of forest animals. Then there was all of the interfacings, threads and buttons too. Lots of parts to put together. Oh, and if you’re ever wondering – Melton cloth is woven and then fulled, brushed and sheared so it sort of looks like felt but has an underlying woven structure. Unlike felt which is just fibres interlocked together randomly. Melton does have a right and a wrong side. The public (right) side is slightly less fuzzy and you can just barely see the woven threads whereas the wrong side is more felted-looking. I don’t know if it’s critical but I cut the coat out with-nap, everything facing one way, just in case it showed in the finished garment. I don’t think that was necessary though.

It was kind of daunting, I’ll admit. I started off with a lot of “analysis paralysis” and dreamed of sewing all night long for a week! I did a lot of research in the two tailoring books I bought and also online photos, tutorials and videos. Once I settled on how I was going to proceed it went a lot better. Just concentrating on one part at a time. All of the hand-sewing was actually quite soothing and much easier than when I had to wrestle the beast under the sewing machine! It’s approximately one-third machine and two-thirds hand-stitched.

So now that it’s all over, I’d like to thank my cast and crew of this endeavour: Janny the sewing machine, Loopy the serger and of course Debbie Double my dressform without whom this would have been impossible. Even if the coat didn’t actually fit her shoulders very well she held up under the pressure! And speaking of pressure, Chi-Long the steam iron and the rest of the pressing tools did their important part too:

Iron, sleeve board, ham and clapper/point presser

And let us not forget the little things that made the sewing a whole lot easier:

Small but necessary sewing tools

Clockwise from the top-left. This project was the first one where I needed to use the small wonder clips when pins were just not adequate. My wrist pincushion now needs replacing with a better version (I stabbed myself right through it a few zillion times) and I need to sort my very fine pins which tended to get bent in the thick coat fabric. It was fun to use this vintage silk thread for basting. It just pulled right out when it was no longer needed and didn’t leave a mark if you ironed over it. My little Clover leather thimble is the first thimble I’ve ever had that I actually use properly. It’s comfortable on my middle finger, stays on (unlike metal ones) and I forget it’s there after awhile. Judging by the wear it also saved my fingertips! The wee box of Thread Heaven is a treasure since it’s not being made anymore. It has a different effect on thread (preventing tangles) than the wax (strengthening). All depends on where the thread needs to be used. And the water-soluble marking pencil holds up under ironing but disappears with a little dab of water. Turns out I like it (and it’s pink and blue siblings) better than other markers of which I have quite a few. I can tell because it keeps getting shorter. Not shown are the several different hand-sewing needles that I made copious use of daily.

Today I’ve been taking a much-needed sewing break in order to get all of my notes finished. I cleaned up the studio all ready for the next project. I already have 2 more warm pullovers cut out for Thom using the patterns I’ve done before, the North Star from Love Notions and the Finlayson from Thread Theory. Yes, I’m sewing for him again! He’s definitely sew-worthy! And not to worry, I’ll be back to selfish sewing and other things too before long.

You’ve seen this before but…now it’s finished!