Friday, February 26, 2021

It's Agnes, for the #BHMPatternDesigners challenge

For this year's #BHMPatternDesigner challenge, I set myself the task of finally making a well-fitting pencil skirt. I always have problems with skirt fitting for some reason! I found the Agnes Pencil Skirt by Michelle Sews a while back, and decided that this was the time to give it a go - it has all the elements I want in a pencil skirt (pockets!) and I decided that learning to line a skirt, including the back vent, was something I needed to do this month. 

This pattern also spoke to me because it is named Agnes, which was my beloved Gran's name. So I wanted to make it with her in mind. Imagine my surprise when Michelle said that she'd named this pattern after her own grandmother! Extra special :) 

I can't deny it was a bit complicated when it came to that lining. The instructions for this skirt are thorough, and include photos, but I still needed to go to the Agnes sewalong on Michelle Sews' blog and watch the vent lining instruction video a couple of times. In the end, I got it done, not perfectly or fully cleanly but it's all on the inside and staying put so that's good enough for me. The next time I try this, I'm hoping my technique will improve ;) 

Other than that issue, I had no problems with this pattern. I had a great piece of cotton sateen with some stretch, in this fabulous leopard print, which I've been saving for a pencil skirt. It worked out perfectly. I really like this design, as it has so many nice details in it. She includes the option to pipe the edges of the slant pockets, so of course I had to do it. I had some satiny black piping left over from my Jalie Tania coatigan project in 2019, so added it to this project. I love it.


The back zip also includes a zip shield, which is very tidy and fancy -- and actually very easy, I think I might add one to many other patterns from now on. The zip stops at the bottom of the waistband and then a hook and eye or a button is added to the waistband. I happened to have a bronze-colour skirt hook and eye handy so used that, since it matches so well.

I think this went together very neatly and logically. As mentioned, I did have some trouble getting my head around how to attach the lining to the vent. So give yourself time to figure that out if needed. The sewalong video is helpful, and of course many sewing reference books on your shelf might also have instructions on this technique if you need more info. 

I always enjoy the #BHMPatternDesigners challenge; be sure to check out the Challenge page, and the hashtag to find out more, and see some of the fantastic outfits others are making up this month. You'll discover some wonderful new Black designers, shop owners and more. There are still a couple of days to take advantage of the discounts and deals many pattern shops are offering for Februrary. I'm happy to have found Michelle Sews and this great pattern to add to my stash. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Weekend Review: Stitches from the Garden


Stitches From the Garden / Kathy Schmitz
Bothell, WA: Martingale, c2016.
80 p.

This lovely embroidery book was a gift from my sister. I really like it; it's different from my textile art focused embroidery books -- it has quite a vintage feel and is focused on practical and domestic projects. It's also quite different from the majority of current embroidery books which focus on bright colours, chunky styles and primarily hoop art. 

The structure of the book is simple: it starts with the projects, 15 in all, and has a small section at the back of only a couple of pages giving the basics of embroidery -- both materials and stitches. The most unusual thing in this section is the demonstration of a cord-maker, as many edges of the projects in this book are finished with cord made from a full 6-strand piece of embroidery floss. It's very neat. You can find the author giving a tutorial on youtube showing how this Kreinik custom corder works, if you're interested in taking a look for yourself. 

There are two hoop art projects, and one larger framed "motto" art piece, but the remainder of the projects are practical, useful items. From an adorable pincushion that features a frieze of garden images around its sides, to the pillow featured on the cover, to a needle case shaped like an acorn house (so sweet), to a few pouches/sachets, tea towels, and a button sized needle minder, there are so many embroidery accessories and household decor items to try out here. The style is quite restrained and traditional feeling -- lots of outlines and floral images, in subdued colours. The brightest colour seems to be a traditional red. 

The cutest needle book!

It's a lovely book, with all the projects clearly explained, with illustrations showing the steps of putting together the item, aside from the embroidery parts. You can get a preview of it at Google books if you'd like to see the style of the projects and embroidery patterns. You can also get a nice clear look at all the projects at the publisher's page for this title, including a small correction to one of the patterns in pdf form on that page as well. 

Useful needleminders

If you're interested in this kind of quieter, practical embroidery, I recommend this book. The author also has a few others both with Martingale and available on her own website. There also seem to be plenty of individual patterns and kits on her website if you want to dip a toe in and just try one to start. I really appreciated this gift!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Cover Designs 21!: Let's Talk About Love


Cover Designs is a feature in which I try to match up the outfit on a book cover with a dress pattern and sometimes even potential fabric matches as well. Today's choice is a Valentine-y title with some unexpected characters. 

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann is an unusual love story about a biromatic asexual woman working at a library. After her girlfriend leaves her because she admits she's asexual, Alice decides that her summer working at a library is going to be all about her. But then she meets Takumi, and feels all sorts of attraction for him. But is it worth jeopardizing their growing friendship by acknowledging her feelings, which are usually misunderstood anyhow? You'll have to read this to find out...

This cover is beautiful. From the woman who is clearly confident in herself to the gorgeous (silk linen?) dress with that stand out neck ruffle, I love this cover!

This would be a pretty easy dress to hack from any trapeze style pattern - if you have a raglan pattern just remove the sleeves and finish the arm openings with a facing. Add a ruffle to any pattern as well, to get this stunning look.

This Laelia tunic dress from Mood Sewciety is free, and a nearly perfect match! All you'd need to do is sew a wide tube ruffle all along the neckband on this dress to get the fashionable look of the book cover. Fortunately the Laelia has a nice wide collar band to stitch a nice ruffle to, pretty easily! (Just sew a tube of fabric to the appropriate width, and then gather along the centre to make a finished neck ruffle).

You might want to use this light cotton twill from Mood itself, to add some structure and flow to this dress. 

Or maybe you want to luxe it up with this Silk Noil from Mulberry & McNab. It's a breathable, natural fabric with a wonderful drape.

Whichever one you choose, enjoy the floatiness of this silhouette when you copy this cover design!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Weekend Review: Fashion Embroidery


Fashion Embroidery / Jessica Jane Pile
London: Batsford, c2018
144 p.

Now for some super fancy fashion embroidery to continue the Embroidery Month theme! I picked this one up on sale - it has a bit of spine damage, which meant that I could afford it. It's quite a pricey title, especially for what you get. 

It's very interesting -- the author is the Production Director at Hand & Lock Embroidery, an English firm that is at the top of the embroidery game. They certainly know their designers. The book is filled with clear images of catwalk outfits that are heavily embroidered and/or beaded. But it's not really just a lookbook. Each section deals with some aspect of embroidery, and is illustrated with these couture images. 

If you are hoping to get into the field of fashion embroidery I can see how this would be a compelling read. Pile talks about the different ways embroidery is used in the couture world - from hand embroidery to machine (hand-guided) embroidery to tambour beading and more. The book starts with the comparison of these different ways of getting embroidery done for the high fashion clients requesting it. 

And then the chapters go through the how-tos. How to set up an embroidery frame, how to do a handful of basic hand stitches, how to do silk shading, goldwork, and tambour beading, and examples of using other materials and techniques in a short final chapter. All the chapters are fairly short, with large images and lots of white space. And that means that I'm not really sure who the audience for this book is. 

If you're already familiar enough with embroidery to want to work in the couture field, you'll know most of this already. If you don't know anything about embroidery at all and are simply interested, I don't think there is really enough information for a beginner to confidently start stitching. Maybe it's for the advanced beginner who is interested enough to want to start working on their own clothes, or who is simply interested in seeing how embroidery is used in fashion. 

I guess it's a sampling of techniques and if a reader really clicks with one, they can investigate further. The book is short, only 144 pages, and so there's not really room to go into any one topic in depth. And that's why I find it a little expensive in comparison to some other embroidery books that are technique heavy and good reference titles. The pictures in this one are stunning, though. 

I found the comparisons of embroidery methods at the beginning one of the most interesting bits -- how machine embroidery is incorporated into couture hand sewing, the use of specific single-purpose machines like the Irish and Cornely embroidery machines and so on. And the final bit of the book, talking about unusual materials like 3D flowers and different beading methods was neat, too. 

I think as sewists there may be a fair bit of inspiration here on ways to personalize and embellish your own clothing, if you're into embroidery. It's worth investigating this book, if you can get your hands on a library copy, to see if it's something you'd want for yourself. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Burda Pocket Jumper from 2012

It's been a week for jumpers around here! I'd been looking for this particular style for a while; I bought a jumper with front in-seam pockets at the thrift store a few years ago and really liked the detail. So when I found this Burda pattern, 105-09-2012 on the website, I bought it. Good thing it's such a simple design that I didn't need instructions, because they are all in German ;) 

I used the pocket insertion technique from the Closet Core Cielo dress, which I made this summer. Same idea. And I decided to line this project fully, again, but this time I stitched the lining right to the neckline, and then understitched & topstitched. That should keep it from creeping! I basted the lining to the arm openings once the neckline was done, and then finished them with black bias tape facings. I think it's nice and neat -- because this jumper is such thin fabric I thought this technique would work, where it might not do so well on something like my previous jumper, which is heavy corduroy. 

The fabric is a recent buy. Fabricville was having a 3-for-1 sale, and I saw this lovely print in stretch bengaline, so gave it a try and ordered it. I haven't sewn with stretch bengaline before, and discovered that it has quite a lot of stretch lengthwise but not any at all across the grain. So the print ends up going the opposite way than you might think, in order to have the stretch going around your body. Fortunately this print can manage it. 

When I got the fabric I wasn't sure what to do with it, since I rarely make pants and that was what most of the examples were, using stretch bengaline, when I searched for ideas online. But then I remembered this pattern, which calls for a stable jersey, and thought that this stretch woven would be just the thing. It worked beautifully, and I love the final result. I love the neckline, the fit and the cute little pockets. 

The only alterations I made were to shorten the bodice by 1/2" between the bust and waist. And I'd raise that lower section seam by an inch if I made this again, to raise the pockets a bit, but otherwise this one is a real winner for me. I didn't have to shorten the skirt length, as this is a "Mini Dress" according to Burda but fits around knee length, just how I like it, for little 5'2" me ;) 

I really like the effect of the print, and the comfort in this piece! Definitely one to try again someday. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Vintage Blues in Jumper Form

I did it again -- made another jumper! I'm getting addicted to these :) This time I used a 90s pattern, Simplicity 8788 and matched it up with a bright blue, wide wale corduroy that I picked up at the thrift store way back before lockdowns were a thing. It was one of my more delightful finds. 

I wasn't sure what to do with this corduroy, but finally clicked with the simple square-necked version (View C) of this pattern. I liked the straight lines, the square neck and the single pocket that crosses the side seam. I could have moved that pocket up an inch but I think it still works. I lined the pocket and fully lined the jumper as well. Corduroy isn't wearable without a lining, it sticks to itself and to any tights I attempt to wear. All my cord skirts and jumpers are lined. 

Fortunately I had a nice oyster-tone lining in my stash that went beautifully. And I also used the small leftovers from my recent "Europeon" blouse to cut the facings, since the colour tones matched perfectly. As I've mentioned before, I like a facing over a lining in a case like this because I find the lining always peeks out no matter what. With this project, I am almost as enamoured of the lovely insides as I am of the outside. 

This was a fairly simple project, aside from the care I had to take with the cord itself. I lightly steamed it, without pressure, to get some of the creases out, and found that it was easy to work with (except for having to use my little tabletop vacuum every time I cut a piece out to remove all the fluff). It doesn't have many seams so it went together beautifully, and as I mentioned, that inside finish is lovely! I just cut the same pieces in lining, 1/2" shorter, then hand basted it around the neckline and arm openings, and attached the facings on top. 

The only big change I made was in construction order. They had you sewing up the jumper and then attaching the pocket to the side seam. Nuts to that -- I sewed up the right side seam, attached the pocket while it was flat, then finished up the other side seam and shoulder seams. MUCH easier to handle. 

The only tricky part was getting the hem to sit flat and settle; it's a bit bulky with that fold of corduroy. I just catch-stitched it to the lining on the inside and it works for now but I may have to go back and firm it up a little. 

Anyhow, I was happily able to finish this off on the weekend and wear it right away. I am really pleased that this pattern worked so well with this beautiful, larger wale corduroy. It fits nicely and wears well too. All one can ask for! 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Weekend Review: Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery


Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery / Sharon Boggon
Concord, CA: C&T Publishing, c2020.
176 p.

Sharon Boggon is an embroidery queen! She's run the TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) program online for many years now, she has a great website,,  and a FB group, and is just an inspiring and experienced stitcher. 

So when I saw that this book was coming out, I quickly preordered it :) I knew that whatever she'd have to share would be well thought out, and when I saw the description of the book it completely meshed with my own approach to embroidery -- fiddling around with stitches to get the effect you want. 

It's a thorough and well photographed guide to stitches, no fuss and no nonsense, just tons of useful information and images. If you count all the variations and ideas, there are 120 options for stitches here. Boggon takes a basic stitch, like say one of my favourites, the herringbone stitch, and then shows how to manipulate it to get many new effects. whether that's changing the height or width, threading or lacing a stitch, stacking a stitch, making columns or rows or something else. These changes can alter the appearance and use of a stitch immensely. 

I also like that there is a good variety of base stitches, from basic running stitch to looped, chained or knotted stitches. And there are beautiful samplers that she's made to illustrate how to use stitches in this way. One of my favourites is the cover image, but there are many inside that are quite different from one another. 

She also mentions left-handed stitchers, adds beads to some stitches, focuses on different threads for texture and contrast, and shares ideas from her specialty, crazy quilt stitching. There is so much inspiration here, it's a great book just to look through and dream. But then try some of the things she shares -- this is a resource that I know I'm going to be turning to over and over again. It's well done, and really energizing, encouraging creativity and the love of stitching. 

Since February is National Embroidery Month, (at least in the States ;) ) this is a good time to share this book, and a few others to follow over the next couple of weeks. If you have a favourite embroidery book, please share the title in the comments! 

For now, enjoy Sharon Boggon giving you a flip through of her book in the publisher video below.