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 Burdastyle.de 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 Fabric.com

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 Fabrics.com

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!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Literary Sewing Circle: Amatka Book Talk!


It's hard to believe that we are already halfway through our Literary Sewing Circle round for this fall! Today's the day for some serious book talk! How are you doing with the book? Have you started it yet? Finished it? Do you have any reactions you'd like to share? 

Here are a few questions to ponder today and for the next while -- whether you have begun reading, or you've only read blurbs & author interviews so far and still have something to say, join in! Although there might be a few spoilers in the questions and discussion below so if you haven't got too far yet you might want to come back to this post.

I'll add some of my own thoughts and you can reply to them or add your own impressions. If you want to hear other takes on a part of the book that you are curious about, leave your own questions in the comments, too. I hope you are all enjoying it so far!

Sinziana Susa on Unsplash

Is there a particular character that you found especially compelling? Any themes or symbols that really resonate with you?

I was interested in all the characters, but I don't think one stood out as my "favourite" -- except perhaps Berol's Anna, who I would have loved to learn more about. In a world where language shapes reality quite literally, the choice to be a poet seems pretty edgy! I did appreciate the way in which Vanja's viewpoint shapes the story; not only is the world grey and tenuous, so is her perspective on life, which adds to the uncertainty. 

The themes of language and how we name things and affect our world really strike me with this story. It seems quite magical, but makes us think about the ways we easily name things in everyday life shape our experience of them. On a lighter note, the fact that this whole world is based on fungi is kind of funny and intriguing. There's so much research going on right now on mushroom-based textiles and various other areas that this doesn't seem implausible!

Language and its ability to shape our worlds is such a key element of this book. How do you see this idea playing out in our current world?

Like I mentioned above, I think that we use language and naming in everyday life in ways we might not be aware of. How does slotting an experience into one specific named perception change it? How can calling something good or bad affect it? How can using a name for something that is not the appropriate cultural name for it alter it, or how can misusing a word from another culture change it or us? Or, how about the question of personal names -- if your name is hard to pronounce for someone from a different culture, so you change it, or have it changed for you, how does that affect you as an individual? So many ways to think about how language shapes us. That's not even getting into the experience of the world as a monolingual speaker rather than someone who has facility in more than one language. 

What about that ending? Good or bad? Positive development or terrifying one? Why do you think so?

The ending can seem like a triumph, or a disaster, depending on your viewpoint. What's more important, the safety and security of survivalist colonies, or freedom and independence for individuals? Another element to the ending is the question as to whether trying to sustain and reproduce an old system of society in a new world that doesn't quite work with it is wise or even achievable. Does it make more sense in this setting to abandon the need to be human in one specific way and liberate the population into becoming something new and different? The first time I read this book the ending was mind-blowing, and I wasn't sure what was going on. Was this terrible or fantastic? I couldn't tell. When I read it again for this project, I found the ending more understandable and a little bit less unsettling; it seemed more hopeful in some ways. It's tough to settle on one interpretation though!

Did you like the narrative style, with elements laid out but never over-explained? Or do you prefer a little more elaboration of ideas in your reading?

I like a writer who leaves me guessing. I suppose that's why I like Tidbeck's work. I like the feeling of not quite knowing what's happening as I start reading. The way that they describe and mention parts of Amatka, like the tunnels and the mushrooms and the lake freezing each night, but never elaborate to explain why or how or even what part those elements are playing, is kind of interesting. It's like the characters in the story know and understand these things so they wouldn't think of explaining them in detail. In some ways you can sense the beginnings of this story in the dream world, with its strong imagery of inexplicable things. 

Is there anything specific  in the book that has sparked an idea for a project yet? Are you mulling over any ideas?

I am mulling over a few different ideas, some of which may appear in next week's inspiration post! Let's just say mushrooms are a key image from this book, for me, and might appear in something I make. But I'm also intrigued by Berol's Anna so might tie her presence into a project somehow. 

Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Rose Print Melrose Top

I've started into my summer sewing plans even if it's still too chilly to wear summer clothes yet. I started off with the Itch to Stitch Melrose Dress & Top. I decided to make the boxy top first, to test out the bodice fit and see if I liked it.

To do so, I used an upcycled duvet cover, well, the remains of it anyway. I made a Butterick dress from this fabric a couple of years ago, but haven't worn it much. But since this pattern is called the Melrose, I knew I'd have to make it in a rose print, for Melanie! Because the source was a duvet cover, there was quite a lot of fabric leftover to use. 

I like it much better as a short top than a full dress. The fabric isn't so overwhelming this way. It's a tad shorter than I usually like, so if I make the top again, I may lengthen it by a half inch or a bit more. Otherwise I quite like the fit. 

It's an easy project. I cut it out one night and then sewed it all up in one afternoon. It has a sleeve cuff and hem band that can be cut in contrast fabric, as well as a neck binding that shows, so this could also be a good scrap buster. The pattern comes with various cup sizes built in, so for the C cup and larger, a bust dart is incorporated. Since I cut the A/B cup size, it was just a straight front that is close to the same as the back (although the back is slightly longer at the armholes, and wider at hem, for fit). Front and back are sewn together, add the cuffs, hem band, and neck binding, and you're done. The longest part of it was just pressing and pinning all those finishing elements so that they'd be nice and even and flat when topstitching them down. 

I like the fit - the neckline isn't too wide, it isn't gaping, and it is comfortable to move my arms around. Even in this crisp cotton, a bit stiffer than recommended in the pattern, I like the feel of this top. Next up is the actual dress, in a drapier rayon, and another rose print, of course!  Maybe if the weather warms up I can take outdoor pictures soon, too ;)