Sunday, May 9, 2021

Weekend Review: Sew Beautiful


Sew Beautiful / Kennis Wong
Salem, MA: Page St Publishing, c2020.
152 p.

I bought this book when it was newly released because I like the Itch to Stitch patterns I've already made and knew I'd most likely use this book, too. I haven't yet made one of the patterns, but I have the Mornington Dress (on the cover) in my queue for this summer's wardrobe. 

The book contains 8 patterns, of a variety of shapes and types of clothing, in knit and woven. The instructions are done as thoroughly as her regular patterns are -- lots of step by step and illustrations. And there are lots of photo images for each pattern as well. Just as with her website and online presence, the photos are taken by her husband. What a team! 

This is a well produced, professional book that I think would work for the newer sewist who wants to go a bit beyond just tanks or boxy tops. All the patterns are included in the back of the book for tracing off; the pages are a bit crowded, but each size line (0 - 20) is in a different colour, and all pieces for one project are on the same page. Hopefully that will reduce any confusion! The size range runs from 00 to 20 (up to bust size 46”/117 cm and hip size 48”/122 cm)

The patterns included are all highlighted on her website (in fact, check out her page for the book for all sorts of information and photos of each project, too).

I think you could make a nice capsule wardrobe with the pieces in this book, and none of them are super difficult either. For beginners, there is a short section at the front of the book on basic sewing information like altering the pattern, choosing fabric, seam finishes, etc. All of that is fully illustrated, just like the patterns. All in all, this is a stylish book that would appeal to new and experienced sewists alike. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Literary Sewing Circle: Finale & Project Round-Up


Today is already our final day of the Literary Sewing Circle focusing on Karin Tidbeck's Amatka!

I hope you've had the chance to read the book, and both the first and second inspiration posts, and are getting lots of ideas for a project of your own. If you haven't had a chance to read our interview with Karin Tidbeck, be sure to do that too, it adds a lot to the reading experience!

The project linkup will be added to the bottom of this post: as soon as you are done your project, just pop a link to your post into the linkup and we will all be able to visit your blog/instagram etc. and explore your creation -- remember, it can be sewn, or knitted, crocheted, embroidered... any textile art that you practice.

I shared a lot of my thoughts on the book in our earlier book talk post, and I reviewed this novel on my book blog when I first read it. You can explore those for some of my thoughts; today I'll share an overview of my impressions of this novel. I hope you will too!

I really enjoyed reading this for a second time. I found that my second reading allowed me to see a lot more of the subtleties in the story -- the small details that really flesh it out. And I also found the ending a bit more comprehensible this time around, since I knew what was coming! That allowed me to slow down and really look at the reactions of many of the characters, and get a feeling for what the return of Berols' Anna and her fellow rebels means for this new civilization. My own sense of the ending is a bit stronger after a second reading, although I think it is still really open to varied interpretations, depending on the reader's perspective.

I like books that leave me unsettled and a little confused -- maybe that's not to everyone's taste, but I enjoy not quite knowing what's going on as a story begins. I appreciate Andrea's comment on our last book talk about the genre of this novel, too: it falls into New Weird. I like this slightly realistic Soviet feel setting but in a new world altogether. Things are strange, unexpected, and unlike our regular lives -- the concept of having to "mark" all the things that the settlers used, with words, in order for items to maintain their reality, just has so many resonances! You'll see some of these elements in our previous discussions, but I think this is one of the most powerful themes of the book, for me -- the nature of language and reality. 

I love the atmosphere of this book, and the vaguely described elements of Amatka and the wider settlement. The mysterious ruins, and iced over lake, are evocative because they aren't really explained, they're just there. And I like Vanja and some of the side characters, like Evgen or Lars, quite a lot - they feel a bit more complex than the other inhabitants, who are more rule-followers. 

This is a book that's really stuck with me since I first read it, and I'm happy to see others taking a chance on it and finding that it's a great reading experience. This storyline makes me question some of the assumptions I have about life in general, which happens when I find a book at just the right time for me, and is always an unexpected pleasure. I hope your reading was also an engaging experience, and that spending time on a project will help you think about Amatka's themes a bit more. 

Please share your thoughts on the book, its themes, characters, or anything you noted about it -- either in the comments here or on our first Book Talk post, or on your own blog with a link to your longer thoughts in the comments so we can find it. I love to talk about the experience of reading so feel free to comment no matter when you're reading this post; if you've read this I'd love to hear your thoughts.

What project have you made, inspired by your reading of Amatka? Share a link to your project on this post as soon as you're done! The linkup will be live until May 31 --  you have another 3 weeks of sewing time to finish and share.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Busy Month of May!

 May is turning out to be a super busy sewing month! I have so many things I'd like to do this month...I'm going to note them all here and see how many I've tackled by the end of the month ;)

May of course brings #MeMadeMay, one of the longest standing and most-participated-in sewing community challenges out there. It's not a photo challenge, as host SoZo always reminds us. So I'm not really planning on taking daily photos, but I always enjoy the challenge to look at your me-made wardrobe and see how it's working for you. My 'pledge' is to see what I reach for most, and incorporate those findings into future makes so that my wardrobe will be based on things I actually wear. My recent MyBodyModel 3x3 sketch is helping me to test out ideas for my next few projects, and I'm working on another sketch now to test out some other summer pattern ideas. 

May also brings one of my favourite contests over at PatternReview, the Bargainista Fashionista! This is a challenge to knock-off a piece of designer clothing, and estimate how much money you saved doing so. It's such fun to look at outrageously expensive clothing and think about how you could make the same kind of thing. I have a few high end couture pieces I've always wanted to copy, but I don't know if I'd actually wear them in the end, and am I really saving anything by making them if I'm not going to wear them? So even though May has already started, I'm waffling between project ideas. 

The Stratford Garment Guild has a monthly sewing challenge, and this month's is to make something from the classes on CreativeBug, as this is a database that is widely available in our local library system. I've downloaded the Adrienne Blouse by Friday Pattern Company as my project, I just hope I can get it finished (um, started...) before our next meeting. 

Of course, I am also working on a project for my own Literary Sewing Circle! The project link up will be posted later this week, and we'll have to the end of the month to post something. I have one project underway and another one as a potential addition, so we'll see. 

There is also a great Instagram challenge that has been restarted, the #DressLikeYourGrandma2021 vintage challenge. I love this one, the makes and the pictures are always so much fun to go through. I have a picture of my actual Grandma that I'd love to use, but there are also some other vintage images that are really, really tempting me. 

So what I really need this month is more time...I have lots of ideas, no problems there!

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Weekend Review: Sewing Basics for Every Body


Sewing Basics for Every Body / Wendy Ward
London: CICO, c2020
159 p.

This is the latest addition to the books by Wendy Ward in my collection. I picked it up a while ago, and have been looking through it although I haven't yet made anything from this set of patterns. The concept of the book is intriguing -- there are 5 basic patterns, with 4 variations each, and each pattern is non-gender-specific. The measurement guide in the opening of the book has a "chest" measurement rather than a bust measurement, and also includes a page on making a full bust adjustment if you need one. 

The top patterns are rather loose fitting so this may work for most readers. The measurements for the included patterns run from a 32"-49 3/4" chest and 34"-51 1/2" hip. Models throughout the book are both genders and a couple different sizes and ages. 

The five patterns included are:

  • Felix Sweatshirt
  • Harper Pants
  • Rowan Shirt
  • Kim Jumpsuit
  • Dylan Coat

All of them are on trend and have enough variations to create a fairly large everyday wardrobe. I have no interest in making a jumpsuit, but the other items are more appealing to me. I think I'm most likely to make the Rowan Shirt, a button down with nice collar options, and a dress length extension too. 

The opening section of the book covers basic sewing info -- darts, waistbands, pleats, collars, seam finishes, etc. But there's also a page on how to print on your fabric; she uses her own printed fabric in some of the projects, which makes it seem simple and a fun idea to try. As with all her other titles, there is a lot of information in this, and the book is well organized and thorough.

All the patterns are traceable from the inserted pattern sheets in the back. These sheets are pretty crammed full so if you're not already used to tracing off Burda patterns, say, you might want to take a little extra time to go over which lines you'll be tracing before you start. If you're used to magazine tracing you should be good!

You can find out a lot more about this book and its contents at Wendy Ward's blog, including a good look at all the patterns and variations.

I'm intrigued by this book and think it's a great addition to the sewing world. Now to get the Rowan traced! 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Literary Sewing Circle: Amatka Inspiration!


This week's Inspiration post is taking a look at some of the imagery and themes in this novel as a way to spark project ideas.

As always in the Literary Sewing Circle, inspiration can arise from a spark of an idea. If you have even a sentence that explains your inspiration, go ahead with the project! 

There are quite a few different elements that jumped out at me as potential connections for a project. Let's start with the difference between Vanja's brown, drab clothes and the brighter ones that Ivar and Nina wear. When Vanja first goes shopping for warm clothes upon her arrival, she "thought of Nina's blue overalls and Ivar's green shirt and picked out clothes in shades of blue and green." There is also mention of overalls at Nina's hospital workplace and Ivar's mushroom farm job. Of course, there are many, many popular jumpsuit patterns out there right now! The most workwear related ones I can think of might be either the Blanca Flight Suit by Closet Core Patterns, or this new design by They'd fit right in made in a "monochromatic and bright" colour like those from Amatka.

As Ivar shows Vanja around the mushroom farm, they see many types of mushrooms that supply the colony. This suggests a project using some wonderful mushroom prints! Or if you're wealthy and lucky, maybe you can even source some mycoleathers to use. 

Check out this one, or many other cool mushroom prints at
MycoBoutique in Montreal, for all things mushroom

If you are thinking of something a little more sedate and toned to the mood of Amatka, you could try this print called "Birch Mushrooms", found at Riverside Textiles in Toronto. 

Remember Vanja's marking error as a child? When she got so entranced by her naming of pencils that it seemed she was chanting cil-pen instead, and saw her pencils' reality waver? Maybe a pencil skirt is the project for you -- make sure you don't make a cil-pen skirt by mistake. 

To make doubly sure that you are making a pencil skirt, maybe try a pencil print while you're at it...

Vanja's connection with office supplies continues once she gets her job in the administrative offices of Amatka. You might make something from a print that reflects that. Or perhaps a print covered in keys, the result of Vanja's playing with naming and reality, when she wants to get into the closed archive. 

Aubergine Vintage Keys from

Evgen the librarian assists Vanja in her search for the truth. Perhaps some library card prints are in order. Or simply a book print, like this Laura Ashley print from

Maybe your project will be inspired by some of Amatka's poetry. Can you think of a way to incorporate some of the poems by Berol's Anna in her poem cycle about the Plant Houses of Amatka? Or simply be inspired by Vanja's view of the Plant Houses glowing in the night as she sneaks out to explore the lake and falls asleep there. 

Moon Garden by Jacqueline Hurd at Spoonflower

Near the conclusion of the story, as Vanja looks at the shining Berols' Anna, she says "her eyes mirrored a different landscape than the one they occupied", and sees that the sky above the lake is now "robed in black, adorned with brilliantly striped and mottled spheres".

Maybe a Constellation Hoodie by Love Notions, or the Etoile Dress by French Poetry, or even the infamous Galaxy Dress (Vogue 8280 or the updated 1631) can represent this spacious and endless view.

Etoile Dress, by French Poetry

Think about some of the beautiful space print fabrics that are available now, and how you might use them, as well. 

Galaxy Glitter from Spool & Spindle

I hope that with all these different ideas you're starting to see the potential for a project of your own. If you have another idea, or a part of the book that has jumped out at you as your own inspiration, please feel free to share in the comments! The closer we look at the book, the more there is to work with, and your vision might add to someone else's too. 

Next week's book discussion post will be our wrap-up post for the reading part of the Literary Sewing Circle. There will be 3 more weeks to get your project done and posted, on the link up that will appear next week as well. I'm working on my own project ideas, which I've hinted at in this post. Look forward to seeing all of yours. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Clothes Come Marching 3x3

I have been using the My Body Model croquis & methods in a basic way since I was fortunate to win a package from them at the end of February. I really enjoy it! I'm not usually a planner when it comes to my sewing; I generally have a list of potential makes and then follow my mood. So taking time to match things up & organize actual outfits by drawing is still quite new to me. 

Erica from MyBodyModel is currently running a 3x3 Spring Challenge-- to create a 6-9 piece capsule wardrobe for the upcoming season using your croquis. The due date for entries has been extended to May 2, just in time for MeMadeMay. You can check out the ideas others are sharing by searching IG for the hashtag #mybodymodel3x3

I was fiddling around with some sketches & some pattern ideas, trying to decide what went together, what could be made from stash fabrics, & what I was in the mood to make. I came up with this essentially black & white capsule, adding accents of green.

I ended up using the top & pants (green print, black) from Vogue 9364 and the top & skirt (black,  white) from Simplicity 9115, then added in a knit pencil skirt (black) from Patterns for Pirates plus the top view of Merchant & Mills' Factory Dress in green.

I'm not sure how many of these pieces I will actually get made up - but if was a fun exercise & got me looking more closely at the patterns & fabric I already own.

I enjoy the drawing process & think I might work out another wardrobe shortly! 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Weekend Review: Our Rainbow Queen


Our Rainbow Queen / Sali Hughes
NY: Plume, c2019.
208 p.

The Queen turned 95 last week, and at about the same time, I found a copy of this book. Written by an English journalist who clearly loves the Queen's fashion, I enjoyed the images and the commentary on the styles, colours and significance of the outfits and accessories ranging over nearly a century of public life.

I'm also a fan of Queen Elizabeth's style -- I think she always looks dignified and royal, while also wearing colour and sparkle. I like her standard dress/coat or skirt suit. This book is mainly images, but has enough comment on each section to make it interesting and also give background on why this colour or occasion it was worn on is significant. The Queen thinks about these things; for example, the book says that she's careful not to wear the colours of any one specific country's flag at international events, so as not to inadvertently show favouritism. And I think we might all recall her brooch messaging when she had to meet with the former president of the US a while back. 

The book is broken up into chapters by colour -- Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Pink, and also Neutrals and Print. There are a mix of images from across her long reign. There are certainly plenty to choose from! Because this is mainly a photo based book, I was a bit disappointed that this American edition is pretty small, about 7x5. Just the right size to pop into your handbag to browse through when you have to wait for something, I guess. I had to examine the photos closely for all the detail, but found that I was interested enough that I still really enjoyed it. 

There's quite a bit about clothing style and colour and the encoded meaning it has for someone like the Queen who has such a public role. Even her preferred shade of inoffensive nail polish (Essie's Ballet Slippers) is mentioned. I found the discussion of her handbags fascinating -- she's had the same supplier for years, and prefers a longer handle so she can loop it over her arm and receive posies and gifts easily. Really fun details to know about.

While I usually follow Kate for fashion inspo, I found this book about the Queen's style really engaging. There's one red and white outfit from the 70s that is super chic and I am thinking about copying now ;) If you want to celebrate the Queen's use of fashion as a means of royal messaging, this is a fascinating and fun book to check out. Happy Birthday to a stalwart monarch!