Sewing without fitting: the Cooper Bag

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This was a really fun project for me, and one I’m pretty proud of. In addition to the fact that this is the first bag I’ve made (besides a basic tote), I’ve been feeling down about the quality of my sewing lately; fitting issues… zipper woes, etc, and this project really helped me get back to basics & focusing on improving quality of the basic skills, while still challenging me with learning new skills.

One of the main new skills I learned was working with waxed canvas. I couldn’t find any pre-waxed in the colours I wanted so I decided to wax my own. It was fun – time consuming but worth the time & effort; I used a particularly heavy washed canvas and I thought it was really cool how the thick, stiff canvas changed colour & became more supple once cured.

Working with this very thick fabric was a challenge in itself. My machine is a trooper – it handled 4 layers fine, but as soon as there was more, or a thick ridge (which happened often) it needed help. There was a lot of hand cranking and I went through 3 denim needles in the process lol.

Another thing I learned is that you can’t press waxed canvas, even from the inside; I was gentle & used a press cloth & low heat but the waxed surface blotched & I had to re-treat that area; afterwards I pressed using pressure only; only heat from my hands and in cases with thick seams, I used a hammer to pound seams flat or open.

I’ve worked with some hardware before (boning, belts, eyelets, etc) but this time I got to install rivets & magnetic snaps too, as well as assemble the bag strap using sliders. I find working with hardware in conjunction with sewing oddly VERY satisfying!! so that was fun :)

I reinforced the straps with a double pass of zigzag stitching because I find those tend to go first on my bags – I must carry a lot of heavy stuff! lol

Shot of inside:

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I’ll be using this for my carry-on on my upcoming trip so I’ll get action shots while we’re in transit – for next time! :)


The Gertie Pencil Skirt – Take One

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Over & above all else, this project reminded me how much I LOOOOOOOOVE wearing pencil skirts: these are ME! I’ll wear an A-line; that’s ok, or definitely a flowy maxi skirt (I love me a maxi!!) but i always feel mildly imbecilic & twee in circle or full skirts, for some reason LOL.

 

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So a skirt should really be the easiest thing to fit, right? But apparently I’m a bonehead & I messed up way too many things for me to not be fully embarrassed… let me recount the steps of my fitting demise:

  • i first traced according to my measurements: an 8 at waist tapering to 4 at hip (12″ differential?? who has that? not me, that’s for sure!! not that i mind being a 4 in ANYTHING, even one body part – i can tell you that never happens in RTW lol), but the first draft was too tight, so i added a smidge in the hip overall (so much for being a 4 – that was a nice five minutes LOL)
  • i then realized later, i had missed tracing the outer dart on the pattern pieces, hence the reason the first draft was oddly tight in the hip but a little big in the waist, which confused me cause normally I’d have the opposite problem
  • i didn’t figure out the above epiphany until after all pieces were cut, so i added a small piece to the waistband at each side to compensate (I didn’t have enough heavy fusible to re-cut the whole thing, and the waist didn’t seem big enough to add the extra darts… but DERP I didn’t think of the fact that it was a HIGH WAISTED skirt, and that I was trying it on without the waistband, BELOW the waist *facepalm*)
  • even after all this, the waistband was still too short at the back closure, so i did a pants hook & bar instead of the more vintage called-for button
  • now the waist is too big but it’s high waisted and I can cover it with a shirt, and the dark navy wool suiting hides a multitude of sins lol

So the end result is that if i make it again, i will add the second set of darts and the original waistband pattern SHOULD work, and it SHOULD fit me at the waist LOL.

So… let’s talk zippers for a sec. When I first started sewing, I was able to put in a reasonably invisible zipper and a reasonably tidy regular zipper no problem. I haven’t changed machines, and nothing else has changed but somehow I’ve lost the ability to install a decent zipper!!! I’m not gonna lie – this has been really making me down on my abilities, as I never seem to be able to complete a project without problems, and the zipper is the worst of them, despite how hard I try.

Honestly, I’m not sure what the deal is but I have decided to SLOW DOWN, focus on doing the basics really really well, and enjoy the process instead of thinking ahead to the finished piece. Perhaps that will help me discover where I might be going wrong. This isn’t easy for me, because I have SO limited time as it is, with my heavy work schedule, but if I’m not making things I love at the end of the day, even that limited time is wasted anyway, so it seems like the right thing to do.

So I did a lapped zipper and revisited my much loved hand picked stitches, learned from Gertie’s Bombshell class. I still have a slight bubble at the base of the zipper but whatever lol – it’s better than most of the zippers I’ve done lately. I did a lot of hand sewing on this skirt and I really have to give a shout out to Sunni’s silk thread – it’s so fine it’s almost invisible, and lovely to work with.

gratuitous bum shot! LOL

gratuitous bum shot! LOL

I decided to add a lining (this was my first time doing this without full-on instructions – they’re not included in the pattern, although basic steps are included separately in the book). I’m glad I did – because I will only be wearing this skirt with tights, the lining makes a big difference in comfort and smoothness.

I also did a hand sewn invisible hem & catch stitched the lining to zipper & vent.

inside of waistband, lining, and zipper

inside of waistband, lining, and zipper

Overall, this project was very time consuming (particularly for being a basic and relatively simple garment), mostly because there were some pretty dumb mistakes made, but in the end I got a nice basic out of it all, and now that I’ve learned my mistakes, I will probably make this skirt again :)


Going Undercover

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One of my favourite things is a sewing project that’s fast & straightforward – a rarity for me for some reason (maybe probably because I’m very prone to making dumb mistakes lol), but this one was a treat in every way – this is why I love sewing! It’s nice to be reminded of that in the midst of long detailed projects, fitting headaches and other assorted woes lol. Sewing CAN be fun – imagine that! lol

I was super blessed to receive this pattern (the Undercover Hood) from the lovely & talented Kat and this being my first experience with Papercut patterns I can say I’m very pleased & will definitely be trying more!

I had been particularly interested in this pattern for some time, because West Coast weather demands the need for layers, year round, as it can change and fluctuate on a dime, and hoodies are among my favourite clothing items – usually zipped, but I have no pullover ones so I thought this would be a nice change. I knew I wanted a fabric that was warm but thin, to make it versatile, so I sought out a fine merino jersey. (Someone needs to start stocking this in Canada, for reals – it’s amazing stuff and NO ONE has it here!!!) it’s costly to have shipped here but 100% worth it – you can’t buy RTW merino clothing here, either, so I view it as a luxury item.

That said, it’s been about two weeks since I finished making this and I’ve been wearing it CONSTANTLY – usually in a very relaxed and bummy fashion which is why it’s taken me so long to get photos LOL. I figured maybe the bad camera phone pic might distract you from the fact that I’m covered in Lola’s white fuzzy fur ^__^

I traced my pattern on a Friday night, cut it out Sat morning, and had it finished by Sunday. Easy peasy, and so pleasant. Because it’s a knit and a relaxed fit I didn’t bother with an FBA but I did add 3″ to the sleeve length (monkey arms lol). Kudos to the pattern designers for including finished garment measurements – I love that; it’s so helpful. And bonus points for making me a size smaller than I usually am; totally psychological but still – a smile is a smile ;)

I just used my serger for all seams and my regular machine for top stitching only. After attaching the pocket, I decided to run an additional line of edgestitching along the attached seams because even after pressing, the turned under seam didn’t want to lie flat, and I knew it would bug me. I’m MUCH happier having taken that extra step.

I liked it so much I did the same on the hood. Of course, true to form, I couldn’t get through the whole project without a hitch – the last thing to go on was the hood, and it was perfect up til that point. So i sewed that sucker on, then right when I thought I was done, tried it on & realized my hood was not a hood; it kind of resembled a floppy clamshell lol – I had sewn the two halves together backwards!! *facepalm* Well I’m sorry but two rows of top stitching & a serged seam were not coming apart easily so I just cut that baby apart & made a slightly smaller (CORRECT!) hood – no problem for my pea head lol.

it wouldn't be right to not include this shot for laughs - look at that face! LOL

it wouldn’t be right to not include this shot for laughs – look at that face! LOL

The only other puzzling thing is that my fabric appears to have stretch in one direction but not the other so my hem band doesn’t stretch. Maybe I misread the selvedge? Not sure what happened there but it’s no biggie really :)

Love this awesome hoodie & I look forward to making more… I will be on the lookout for more merino when I am
IN AUSTRALIA NEXT MONTH!!!

That’s right, Aussie peeps – watch out!!! This Canadian gal is comin’ to Melbourne!!! Me and the man are going back to his hometown for 2 weeks – mainly to visit friends & family but you better believe I’ve already told him I’m going to Tessuti!! lol! So – if anyone wants to meet up for lunch & a bit of shopping, I’ll be there between March 26th & April 7th!! :)


Could it be?? My first TNT pattern – Colette Laurel!

A few of you may recall I was the lucky recipient of a Hart’s fabric voucher some time ago. I blogged my careful selections but up until now my beautiful fabrics have lain in wait for the perfect projects to give them life.

Well recently I gave my beautiful red silk habutai and charcoal silk voile triumphant life as sassy yet smart Laurel tops :) (as a side note, you guys, this is my FIRST time using a pattern TWICE (or 3 times actually!)!!!)

(disclaimer: ALL my photos were REALLY derpy – sadly, these were the best… apparently Friday after work is not the best time for photos…. noted, lesson learned, moving on LOL)

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As both fabrics were quite sheer I knew they needed underlining but wanted the silk next to my skin. I thought I’d see if I could maybe squeeze the underlining out of self fabric so I went for it and YES! Just barely had enough but I managed to squeak it out! I cut out both tops at the same time & sewed the red one first.

I used the adjusted pattern from my Laurel dress so of course no major fitting adjustments needed this time, but I did widen the arms slightly for comfort.  I should mention that this turned out a tighter fit in the chest than my dress; apparently an extra layer of even the delicate weight of habutai is enough to affect fit, particularly if there’s bust darts involved!

I constructed the blouses a little differently in order to avoid an extra finishing step at the neckline. Basically, I sewed my identical bodice pieces together at the necklines, then flipped & pressed the seam before continuing to baste together as per instructions. Voila! No facings – no bias tape. Just a nice clean neckline :)

The red top is a lovely and versatile piece; the style is flattering and works in the office, but also pairs well with jeans, or could easily be dressed up.

The silk is amazing – beautiful quality habutai with a rich, vibrant colour and a soft hand. I hand washed my top twice after the first wear (because I’m accident prone & ended up wearing some salad dressing lol) using a little shampoo and vinegar. The colour bled a little but only in the first wash, and still looks vibrant and fresh.

As lovely as the red silk is, the charcoal grey voile is even better in some ways. A perfect drape, the satisfying slight crispness of voile, the soft hand of good silk, and perhaps best of all: it’s SOOOO well behaved to sew, and presses perfectly, each seam almost disappearing into a crisp press… ahhhh just delicious!! :) I could make everything out of this fabric! :)

I also made sure to reduce my seam allowances by 1/8″ or so on this one, to make up for the extra layer of fabric. For whatever reason, though, it made this particular top a little too big, so it’s a bit poofy on my upper back and hips but whatever, I still love it LOL.

And just cause I love ya, I’m gonna share some additional derpy pics from this fun-filled photoshoot:

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seriously, what am I doing here?? I look like I’m about to punch my cameraman! LOL 

“Yes, that’s it! Make duck faces while pulling down your top… that’s a great look!!” said no photographer… EVER LOL.

deer in headlights? or something smells? not sure what this face is LOL.

Anyway, all silliness aside, Laurel is my (very first!) TNT pattern – you have no idea how I’ve longed for this day!! :)  It’s a great basic wardrobe staple; flattering, fits well & works with many different fabrics – I bet I’ll make many more! :)

Many many thanks again to the wonderful ladies over at Hart’s Fabric – expect me to come knocking soon for more of your sensational silks!! ^___^


Anna Dress FBA

Hi All!

Just wanted to do a quick post on how I did the FBA on my Anna dress, in hopes it may help someone out there :)

Luckily I took photos of my process for my own records (which i actually forgot i did lol) so I can share them with you now! :)

(caveat: this assumes you already know how to do a standard FBA)

As per a regular FBA, use your HIGH BUST measurement to choose your size & trace. My personal method to determine how much of an adjustment I need is to hold the bodice tissue up to my body, aligning the side seam, and determine approximately how far away from my centre the centre fold is, at my bust point. Make sure to mark your bust apex on the tissue & draw in seam allowances.

So first, as you can see, our Anna bodice doesn’t have a side bust dart but waist tucks instead. First we cut off the raglan sleeve; we’ll add it back on later so keep that piece!

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What we want to do is add room at the bust without changing the style of the bodice. To do that we have to add the side dart and then rotate it into the existing tucks. Let me show you.

Slash & spread the same way you would for a regular bodice:
(I have a kitty pattern weight lol)

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Next, fill in all the gaps with scrap paper EXCEPT the bust dart you created. You have added space between the tucks so now just cut out the left tuck & slide it over where it used to be:

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Now take the bottom left corner & rotate it up to close the gap created by the bust dart. Fill in the gap at the waist with scrap tissue.

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Now here, if your waist measurement matches the pattern, you could maybe add another tuck to remove the extra width you added, or if it’s a small amount, just add a little to each of the existing tucks. I have a big ol’ waist so I can just leave mine as is & adjust my skirt pieces to match instead.

Now just tape the sleeve back on & you’re done!

Your bodice piece is a bit messy at this point so it’s nice to trace a new copy:

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Then be sure to muslin your bodice & test it out before cutting into your precious fabric! :)

As you can see, mine worked out great!

Feel free to comment below & ask questions if you need clarification on anything. Happy sewing! :)


Love at first sight Anna

 

Anna dress

Anna dress

I know I’m not her first sewist & I surely won’t be her last, but Anna was definitely made for me :)

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Obviously she’s been very popular and I love how everyone has made versions of her that suit them perfectly. For me, though, it was the original black maxi version with the thigh high split that stole my heart, just as she was… it was literally love at first sight.

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Every good love story has a great meeting and ours is no different. When I first saw Anna I wasn’t looking for a sewing pattern; I found her through a completely unrelated search, and she took my breath away. I thought she was probably some designer or celebrity’s but I had to see so I followed the link to where she lived. It took me a minute to realize she was a sewing pattern and another to realize I was on the BHL site, but once I did I snatched her up and we’ve been together ever since.

At that point I hadn’t seen any other Annas made up, as she was brand new, but obviously there’ve been tons since then, so why did it take me so long to make her?

I could make many excuses; I work full time plus manage a freelance career, I commute 3.5 hrs a day, I was in a sewing funk, whatever… but the truth is, the time just wasnt right; I knew I needed to be inspired to do MY Anna justice.

When it was time, I wondered what fabric I would use so I searched my stash, skeptical I had enough meterage of anything (my usual is 2m for anything I buy on a whim) Then I remembered this amazing British linen I had and had saved because I really wanted to make something special with it… well, if Anna wasnt it, nothing ever would be!! I checked & sure enough, I had JUST enough to make her so it was serendipity all the way!! :)

For adjustments I traced a sz 8 and did my usual FBA, rotating the bust darts into the pleats to keep the clean look at the top. I anticipated having to do a correction to fix back neck gaping but the muslin was great without it – yay! :) The final version does have a bit of looseness in the back and front neckline but it’s not a deal-breaker. I  chose to hand stitch the split but machine stitched the hem. I only took a couple inches off the hem; it’s rare to find a maxi dress I don’t have to lengthen! :)

The fit is lovely & flattering, and the fabric is neither too thick nor too thin; it has an elegant drape but still has enough body to hold its shape; it’s smooth and comfortable, warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm – it’s heavenly. It was lovely to sew, too, but had a tendency to shine a bit when pressed so I used a press cloth to avoid that. It also doesn’t hold a crisp press easily but its other virtues more than make up for it :)

I’ve worn my Anna twice – both times to work Christmas parties (but only JUST got photos of her today durrr) – and because of the cold weather I paired her with warm tights & boots, but I could easily take her into spring or even summer by going bare legged & wearing cute sandals or espadrilles, and as you can see in these pics, she looks elegant and chic in black heels with nude stockings. She stood up to dinners, drinks, desserts, dancing, walking, late nights and karaoke… Anna is a true party girl – and she looks just as fabulous at the end of the evening as she does at the beginning :)

I know those two dates won’t be our last –  it’s definitely true love :)

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My Miette! :)

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My first cardigan – finished – YAY!!

(goofy pose courtesy of my lovely man, who when I did this in jest said he liked it so this one’s for him because he loves me enough to photograph my makes when there’s dinner waiting LOL)

I’ve been simultaneously also making a Sedum so it probably took me longer than it should have, but I have issues with knitting project monogamy LOL.

I found this pattern to be a little intimidating for a first cardi – even though I’ve already made a pullover top, some of the instructions required a little leap of faith (what? you want me to BREAK MY YARN??) but the pattern is flawless, so if you knit it, trust it – it’s sound :)

The sizes go from 34 to 38 and I’m finding a 36 typically fits me the best so I had to do some math… ok a LOT of math to get this one to fit. So basically it’s a 34 at the beginning/yoke, with increases to the 38 bust but with the stitches re-configured so there’s more at the front where there needs to be and less at the back where I don’t need them. Yeah it’s confusing. You should see my pattern sheets. It looks like a deranged particle physicist got a hold of them and madly scribbled formulas all over it. I’m not sure how I managed it but it worked somehow LOL. I also added an extra repeat of the pattern above the bust darts so they actually appear below my boob, and give me some much needed extra length to COVER said boob.

The yarn is Soft Donegal – a lovely merino tweed with a richly saturated dye, a relatively new product at my LYS – 88 Stitches. It was expensive but um yeah… look at the colour. I had to have it :) No regrets :)

Side note: one thing I really like doing to justify my love of expensive fabrics (and now yarns), is compare similar garments in similar fabrics in RTW – dudes, that’ll make you feel good about expensive habits, lemme tell ya. Hats alone are going for $70 – imagine what a pure merino little number like this would go for – and it wouldn’t fit nearly as well ;)

I wore it like the above pic to work (this is me after work, and after making dinner and lunches and then working some more LOL… plus I need a haircut something fierce so don’t mind my rumpled-ness) but even despite that, the sweater still looks great so that’s cool! :)

I took a pic with it all buttoned up just for grins but I probably won’t wear it like this unless it’s with a cute skirt or something… which, incidentally, I’m supposed to be sewing and is sitting on my sewing table half finished, collecting cat hair, but I am currently battling my hatred of zippers LOL.

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And now the aforementioned Sedum, in progress, with bonus CAT:

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