Thursday, June 8, 2023

Liesl & Co. Santa Rosa

My latest project is one that I made as part of the Liesl & Co. Advisors Circle. You can see my full post about it over at their blog now! 

A few notes about it here for my readers, though. I combined the top and dress views for my outfit; I cut the dress length but used the cap sleeve of the top view. I also decided not to include the breast pockets from the top view. Instead, I added some side seam pockets, marking the waistline when cutting it out so that I could place the pockets correctly. To add these, I just used my favorite pocket template that I keep pinned up in my sewing room.

I made a couple of minor changes aside from these - I graded from 10 at the neckline to 14 at the hip, adding a tiny bit more across the hip area. I also changed the self-tying sash to a narrower D-Ring belt as I was using bronze toned buttons and had matching bronze D-Rings in the stash and thought it would look nice together! 

I can see switching the box pleat at the back yoke to an inverted pleat for another option, if you wanted the back to be less poofy at that point. Because I'm using a fabric with nice drape, it works very well, although I will always wear this with a belt, as the design intends. My height and shape means that the back is too voluminous for me without a belt. If I was a bit taller or the dress a bit shorter, it could be carried off loose, I think! 

In any case, I love this fabric and was so pleased to match it up with this pattern. It works really well, and is light and comfortable to wear. I was a bit worried when I started that the colour was a bit too orangey for me, but when it was all done it actually worked well and is more red than orangey against my skin so it works! It's a nice pattern with a very interesting placket construction so I'm keeping this one in the rota for potential duplicate makes. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

In A Tracing Frenzy!

This week is all about pattern prep for me! I have a ton of patterns that I've purchased in the past that I have not made up yet. PatternReview is running a two-month challenge to make up some of those stashed patterns using stash fabric. Since this is the way I sew quite frequently, I took a look at what I had in the queue. The only caveat for this contest is that patterns & fabric must be prior to 2023, and the patterns can't be repeats or even ones you've already prepped for making. I decided to try a few of my Indie patterns for this challenge, although I have numerous big four envelope patterns that I could use as well ;)

First up is the Zoe Dress by Simple Sew, it's a casual shift I've been planning on making for this summer so it fits right in! I also have a purply-magenta linen a friend gave me last year that I'm matching up with this one. 

And I bought the Wiksten Shift Dress/Top late last year when it was announced that Wiksten was closing. I put off buying for a very long time during its peak popularity, but impulse bought it once it was going away. So that matches the contest rules as well - I have that ready to trace, and I have a couple of different fabrics in my deep stash that might work, I haven't chosen which one to go with yet. 

I am also going to make the Afternoon Blouse & Shift Dress by Jennifer Lauren, another one I've been meaning to make for AGES. I bought this pattern sometime pre-pandemic and it has been on the queue ever since. Once I get it traced out, I'm planning to make the blouse view in a bright grassy green linen blend? cotton blend? well, mystery fabric I got from a friend last fall when she was cleaning out her mother's stash. A dress will follow but I don't know which fabric I'll use yet. 

And I think I will also trace out the Fresco Blouse by Studio Calicot in this round of tracing. This is a pattern that is on my Make Nine for this year, and it's such a cute one. I might use a black rayon or a multicoloured silky poly for this, haven't made up my mind yet. Both are pieces I thrifted in early 2022.

I was also going to make the Antonia Dress by Pattern Division for this contest (also on my Make Nine) but imagine my surprise when I opened my envelope to discover that at some point I had already traced and fitted the pattern pieces, but never actually made one! So this won't fit into the PR Contes rules, but I am still making one for my summer wear. It's such a neat pattern. 

I think it's clear that I'm into shift dresses for this summer! Hoping for some comfy summer wear in lovely fabrics. Are you planning new items for your summer wardrobe this year?

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Weekend Review: Quilt Talk


Quilt Talk / Sam Hunter
Lafayette, CA: Stash Books, c2014.
144 p.

As many of you already know, I am a sewist but also a librarian. I love seeing sewn text! Lately I've come across a rash of books on adding text to quilts, using varied techniques. This is the first one I'll share this month. 

I picked this up thanks to my library, and have been really entertained by it! It includes 12 projects, but the projects are not all full quilts; as shown on the cover, she has small projects with just a few letters so you can get started without too high a level of intimdation! 

This book is focused on paper piecing - there is a big section at the end with all the patterns to copy for all the letters. The book opens with a guide to paper piecing, if you've never done it before this will be particularly useful. You sew bits of fabric onto your paper foundation backwards to get the letter shape -- I've never done paper piecing and must admit that the process looks quite complicated to me, even though she's created a process that doesn't require specialized tools. There are also a couple of charts full of math and measurements in order for you to size the letters up and down, and adjust the kerning as needed (the spacing between letters & words). There is a full alphabet included, both upper and lower case, plus accents, and a row of special characters you might be most likely to need. If you're into this kind of text making this book will be a great resource.

It's a bright and cheery book, with many of the colour choices bright and modern. The photography is clear and plentiful, so that it's fun just to look through this book for inspiration. There are a variety of projects and each one has the instructions for the lettering, but also how to make the project itself (like the little bucket bags on the cover). Projects range from baby quilts to full size quilts, from wallhangings to house decor. So you could do any project as is, or just use the lettering guide, or even just the bigger project without lettering. Lots of options here. You can find out more about it on the author's website if you're interested, and of course could get a copy at your local library to check out the techniques if you're also wondering about the possibilities of sewn text. 

Friday, June 2, 2023

Stepping Stones: an art quilt

One of my other sewing hobbies is making art quilts, although I really am a beginner in this area. However, I mentioned last month that I'd started a little 12x12 quilt based on the materials I picked up at the SAQA Conference in Toronto. 

And I've finished it! Finished and hung within a month, it's a record for me ;) I wanted to get this done to hang it up in the staff art exhibit at my library, which I've called The Creative Library. I manage the art program so when there was a gap in the schedule I knew it would the perfect time to highlight the many creative coworkers that I have. There are photographs, digital collages, old-school collage, paintings, cross-stitch, and my textile pieces - so far! 

I am really pleased with this little piece, which I'm calling Stepping Stones. It was made with fabric picked up at the Community Stitch table at the Pathways to Possibilities conference, and it looks rather stepping stone-like. Also it's another stepping stone in my learning journey. I put the fabrics together fairly quickly, and added some embellishment, but I was a bit stuck on how to finish it. After looking up varied techniques, I decided to create a binding with butted ends (I can't get the hang of neat mitreing). I used this tutorial almost exactly. I think that it worked very well, and would definitely use this style of binding again on a small quilt.

I used my own fabric for the binding and the backing, but everything else was from the community table.

Backing with a split sleeve and a little hook 
to hang it as well (a pop tab)

 I really enjoyed how this worked out, and it's now up on the wall to share with my own community! And to balance it all out, I hung one of my older small pieces above it. Nice to have them out for viewing. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Weekend Review: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris


Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris / Paul Gallico
NY: Bloomsbury, 2022, c1963
320 p.

I've always known about this book but didn't read it until recently; I finally picked it up when this movie cover edition crossed my desk at the library. It's a fairly short book but it was a delight to read. It was published in the 60s but there isn't too much in it that is terribly dated to ruin it, which is always nice. 

Mrs. Harris is a London char-woman who is always positive and down-to-earth. She has her regulars who she cleans for; some are lovely and some are, well, not so much. But when she's cleaning Lady Dant's apartment, she sees the most beautiful thing she's ever seen in her life: a Dior dress. She determines at that moment that she is going to have one, despite how ridiculous it sounds. 

And so she embarks on a savings journey, squirrelling away every extra penny and even going to the track. After two years of determination, she heads to Paris on her quest. But there is so much she doesn't know, like that you don't just walk into Dior like it's Woolworths and pick up a dress off the rack. But fortune favours the bold, and despite barriers in her way, she is put in the path of so many people who decide to help this charming lady. And she passes any help and good fortune she has on to others, too, taking joy in the small things of life and valuing love and connection. 

There are some events near the end that I wished the author had decided differently about, but in the main this is a charming book with a sense of joy and community, leaving you with a definite feel-good vibe. I thought it was full of the delight of Paris and of course of Dior and dressmaking in general -- there are employees and customers of Dior who befriend and help Mrs. Harris, and even a cameo by the great man himself. There are dreamy descriptions of dresses and fabrics and ateliers, as well as of the beautiful streets and markets of Paris. It's so lovely. 

I enjoyed this one so much that I immediately watched the new movie. Unfortunately it doesn't have the same uplifting charm; it highlights a little more of the disappointments and dissatisfactions in the story. It was a good film and Leslie Manville was great as Mrs. Harris, but there is no real 'edge' to the book while there is in the film, and perhaps it was because I had just finished the book two days before the film that I wasn't completely taken with it. I'd say that with this one, as with most book to film experiences, be sure to read the book first if you can ;) This edition also included a second novel, Mrs. Harris Goes to New York, but that one is missable. There is none of the charm of dressmaking and Paris, and it definitely loses something for it, becoming more sentimental than delightful. Stick with Paris and Dior and you'll enjoy the reading!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Vyshyvanka Day and big plans for 2024

Vyshyvanka Day is a relatively recent celebration, held on the 3rd Thursday of May each year. The aim is to celebrate traditional Ukrainian embroidered clothing. The idea of Vyshyvanka Day was suggested in 2006 by Lesia Voroniuk, then a student of Chernivtsi University, and has grown to involve all of Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora across the world. 

I've worn my store bought Vyshyvanka the last couple of years (a gift from my sister). But as I have mentioned previously, I would like to make my own to wear next year! So I'm planning on starting now, to hopefully get it done by next year ;) I won't be making a fully traditional, heavily embroidered one, since I don't have those skills. But I have a few patterns to try out for the base, first, and then I'll choose some less complex embroidery that I want to add. 

Here are a few patterns that I already have in my stash, which might work with some small changes or adaptations. I hope to try them out and see how I like the fit before choosing the one I like best to embroider. 

First is this older pattern, Simplicity 3786. While there are some pintucks in the centre panel, I do like the sleeve and overall silhouette of the view she is wearing.

Simplicity 3786

Next up is this more recent McCalls 8042, which I picked up in a sale just recently. I really like View C but am not quite sure about that neck ruffle bit. Probably would change that!

McCalls 8042

I also have two Indie patterns that have potential -- one is the Love Notions Rhapsody Blouse. This gives a little bit more of a modern shape to the traditional blouse, which I might like.

And the other, which might be the most likely of all of these to be the one I use, is my recently purchased Poppy Blouse by PatternScout

There is also the option of making the blouse in the traditional manner, which is just following body measurements and cutting mostly rectangular pieces. There is an example of this in the book Ukrainian Embroidery, by Ann Kmit, which I might follow. Or if I'm lucky enough, I might be able to take a sorochka pattern class with Myroslava Boikiv from Toronto. 

With all of these options, I see some fitting muslins in my future. Then, on to deciding on the embroidery patterns -- and that's the more complicated bit, both the choosing and the stitching! And that's why I'm starting a year ahead :) 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Weekend Review: The Dress Diary of Mrs. Anne Sykes


The Dress Diary of Mrs. Ane Sykes / Kate Strasdin
London: Chatto & Windus, c2023.
303 p.

This is a new book I've been eagerly awaiting! I've heard so many interviews with the author on many stitching and sewing podcasts, and first saw a mention of this upcoming book in Threads magazine last year. It's finally out, and my library got a copy :)

If you are interested in history, clothing, textiles, and material culture, you'll love this one. The author was given an unusual scrapbook, which was full of snippets of fabrics from across the lifetime of Mrs. Anne Sykes, stretching from her wedding day in 1838 onwards. These snippets had little annotations, but because Anne Sykes referred to herself in the third person, Strasdin had difficulty finding out who had created this book and the context for it. But in one entry only, Anne Sykes referred to herself in first person, and that helped Strasdin crack the code. 

The book is then made up of chapters describing the scrapbook itself, or sharing the history of some of the textiles included (like the cottons that made Anne Sykes' family's fortunes), and also an explanation of Singapore's colonial society (where Anne and her husband lived for a few years after their marriage). Then, some of the chapters explore the other people who Anne included in her book, especially the ones who show up repeatedly with many swatches. 

Thankfully for a book of this kind, there is also a central section with many colour plates of various fabrics from the original. It was fascinating to see them all, and I found some of them quite striking and not what you'd expect from the mid-1800s -- one in particular looked so art deco I was shocked to see it there. My favourite was the green and red checkerboard on the bottom row below -- striking indeed! I'd buy that fabric today if I saw it out there :) 

This is more of a social history inspired by Mrs. Anne Sykes' diary, than a straightforward story of the scrapbook and Anne Sykes herself. Strasdin takes us on many side journeys into textile and social history while also explaining and outlining how she did her research and found more about the people mentioned in the scrapbook. That was quite a feat as she had just begun when Covid hit and she had to do most of the research online and via email/phone calls to libraries and archives. 

But if you are a history fan, or a dressmaker yourself -- or both -- I think that you'll enjoy this approach. It's very readable and has both the colour plates in the middle and some other images throughout. It's a fascinating way to explore this era in history, through a physical artifact that survived for nearly 200 years somehow, and made its way to the author. Definitely one to look for!