Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Rochester in Rayon

I decided that I would make myself a new birthday dress this year, but before I cut into my fancy fabric, I thought I'd better try this new-to-me pattern on a less treasured fabric first. I dug around in my stash and picked out this super bright rayon from a bunch of rayons I had waiting to be used.

I really love it! I bought the Rochester Dress from Maven Patterns after coveting it for quite a while. It's a simple silhouette -- no darts, as the neat neckline feature gathers the bodice. This neckline was the reason I was drawn to this pattern, and it turned out really well, I like it. it is a casing for a length of elastic sewn right onto the facing, which you then adjust for fit and stitch down at the shoulder seams. There are two options, either gathered right at the neckline like I chose, or you can place the elastic in a second casing sewn just below, and then there is a little ruffle created at the neckline. The extras are a back pleat and a lovely hem facing that finishes the split hem very neatly. It's a pretty easy sew, since there are no darts or closures. 

The only slight difficulty I had with this pattern was with the hem facings at the side seams. There is good instruction about sewing only to the marked dot and pivoting, but I always find these kind of precise stitches hard. There were a few puckers when I turned the hem, and I had to unpick a few stitches and then press the life out of it to have a nice flat seam join. Good thing I practiced with this dress! 

Before I started cutting it out, I reduced the hi-lo differential between front and back. Not a big fan of this feature in dresses for me, maybe because I'm so short -- I always feel like either the front is too short or the back too long when I try it. In my version here, the back is just a pinch longer than the front. If I make the top version I will probably leave the hi-lo as is. 

This dress also has pockets. Of course! I like the pocket here, it sits in the right spot and is a good size - big enough to use but small enough not to flop around too much. 

Once I tried it on I loved it! There were only a few changes to make to the pattern for the next go. I found that it was slightly too short for my preferences (covering the knee in this case) so I lengthened the skirt by 1.5". Being so short I hardly ever lengthen anything so this was new ;) And I also found that the shoulders are wider than mine -- in this version, the shoulder seam falls slightly off my shoulder. So I reduced the width of the shoulder seam by 1/2" and just blended it down to about halfway down the armscye. I didn't adjust the sleeve at all since there was a fair bit of ease in the shoulder cap to start. 

I happened across a matching blue blazer at the thrift shop just after I finished this so of course I had to buy it. And then I wore it out to an art gallery opening on the following weekend. You can see one of the outdoor murals painted by a teen summer program this year behind me :) I love our local gallery and enjoyed dressing up to visit a new exhibit. Next week I'll highlight the actual birthday dress that I made after adjusting this pattern in the ways I found out about with this version. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Weekend Review: One Patch Quilts


One Patch / edited by Karen Costello Soltys
Emmaus, PA: Rodale 1995
122 p.

A bit of an outlier for today's review! I have had this book for many years, even though I am not a quilter. But I alwayus found it a lovely & approachable book for that distant day when I would surely make a quilt 😄

I like the frugal aesthetic of one patch designs; it's another way to use up a lot of random scraps. And while my other reviews this month have been focused on mending & maintaining your wardrobe this book gives you an idea of another way to use pieces of clothing or off cuts from your sewing in a different way.

The book has a handful of different traditional one patch templates, ranging from 'easy' to 'advanced'. The instructions for each give you the yardage requirements for different finished sizes, a traceable template, and assembly steps.

This makes it useful to all levels of quilters, but as someone who has only made a handful of baby quilts in the past, I was attracted to the stark simplicity of the Thousand Pyramids design, made of a triangle patch.

The colours in this example are a little dated since the book was put out in 1995 but another feature of this book is that they provide a line drawing of each pattern at the end of the instructions for it so that you can play with colour layout for yourself. This can allow for secondary patterns formed by colour layout, always fun to experiment with. 

But I didn't bother with this because I am planning on making a Charm quilt -- that's one in which each piece is a different fabric.  I started cutting a triangle from all of my cotton leftovers a couple of years ago now, and keep them all in a small bin that I add to as I have fabric bits to cut. However I have fallen behind so have to catch up to my scraps!  Since I am going to be making this for myself I am not fussed about perfection. 

I am thinking about using some of my dress weight scraps as well and just interfacing them to give them more of a cotton hand. That way my potential quilt will be full of memories & I might reach enough triangles sooner!

But aside from all this personal information, I do recommend this book if this might be something you would also like to try. It's clearly laid out, gives lots of basic info on the patchwork & the quilting elements & is beginner friendly. It also has bright clear photos, and some of the advanced patterns are quite striking. Just another idea for small scraps, even if you aren't usually a quilter!

Friday, October 22, 2021

Literary Sewing Circle: Author Feature

Today's the day to talk about the author of our pick for this round of the #LiterarySewingCircle! Simone St James has written 7 books, and has another (The Book of Cold Cases) releasing early in 2022. Her debut novel The Haunting of Maddy Clare won 2 RITAs and a best first novel award from Crime Writers of Canada.

Most of her stories focus on women in spooky situations -- lots of supernatural elements in all of the books in some way, and usually a romantic thread, although in The Sun Down Motel, there's not much romance, but much more focus on the women in the book themselves. But if you like spooky reads, any of her books are definitely in the genre. 

St. James is very interested in ghost stories and true crime, which shows in this book. You can sense this trend in her social media accounts, and also through this list of 5 suggested reads that she shared with the blog SheReads! 

If you're interested in learning a bit more about this book and the author's thoughts on it, check out this interview with Hank Garner on Youtube.


While none of the characters in her books are full-time seamstresses, there are a lot of mentions of clothing and, in her historical settings, references to sewing and mending in places. 

Here are a couple of quotes about those things - the first seems particularly suitable for a sewing readalong ;)


To find out more about Simone St. James, check her out online: 




Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Burda D-Ring Pencil Skirt in Basic Black

My last project for the PatternReview mini wardrobe was this Burda skirt from 2019. It's a blend of pattern 109 & 110 from the November issue -- the length & back vent of 109 but the D-ring feature from 110. It was also my muslin for my intended fabric, a checkerboard canvas print, which I am planning to also make a matching jacket for because who doesn't want a checkerboard suit?

Anyhow, this first black version was made of some suiting that I thrifted a while ago, very nice quality. I cut a 44, but found that I needed to take the waist in by nearly 3" -- partly because I can't stand skirts that sit below the natural waistline. Size 44 fit very well everywhere else so just narrowing the waist was the main adjustment I made. I trimmed down the side seams by 1/2" on each side and took some width in on either side of the zip. For future, I adjusted the pattern so that the back width is reduced by increasing the dart intake, not trimming the zip edges! 

It's fully lined, and the Burda instructions have you attach the lining to the other edge of the folded waistband, flip it all inside and then topstitch the waistband seam from the front to finish. I hate that; it is so messy and frustrating! Next time I'm just going to use my favoured technique of basting the lining to the skirt at the top edge, then attaching the waistband. Much tidier in the end, at least for me. It just means you have to think ahead about finishing the lining edge at the zip, but that's pretty easy. 

But as a wearable muslin it worked out, and I love the cute little D-Ring accent in the front. Those are just tabs that you sew into the waistband but they give it a great look. Again, slant pockets, which I love. I really like the shape and fit of this pattern and think that with my adjustments it might be a go-to. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Weekend Review: Wear, Repair, Repurpose


Wear, Repair, Repurpose / Lily Fulop
NY: Countryman Press, c2020
160 p.

This cute little book about mending was published last year, alongside a bunch of other mending books now that it's becoming a trend. But this one is a fun one by a young instagrammer (@mindful_mending) and is clearly aimed at those really new to the idea. 

It has sections on visible mending, darning, patching, basics like sewing on a button or repairing a split seam, and starts with an overview of techniques (including standard embroidery stitches) and basic tools needed. It's clear, simple, and not overwhelming for someone totally new to the sewing world. The layout is also good -- attractively designed, with coloured text blocks and good illustrations and clear photos. The images aren't necessarily gorgeous and styled but I like them more for their everydayness. 

The second section of the book is more about repurposing/upcycling. This is more unusual, and it's fun. She covers projects like rag rugs, patchwork pillows, applique, knitting/crocheting and even latch hooking. This section starts by showing readers how to make t-shirt yarn out of worn out clothes and then use them for these projects. A bath mat from latch hooked t-shirt yarn sounds really great, actually - very washable and so soft on the feet! There are also tiny projects like how to use t-shirt yarn to make pompoms and tassels, and she recommends checking online for more ideas and techniques too. 

It's a very relaxed book, with a casual, friendly tone, and will probably appeal to those new to the concept of remaking and mending. There is discussion of sustainability and fast fashion, and how the author came to this field, and that also adds to the appeal of the book. If you already sew or have read a lot in this area there'll be not much new to add here -- this is a basic intro for younger beginners. It's not an in-depth hand-holding instructional, rather it's more of an overview and an introduction to possibilities for mending and upcycling and why you should care about it. I found it a quick read with some interesting content!

Friday, October 15, 2021

Literary Sewing Circle: Sun Down Motel Inspiration!


It's time for some more sewing inspiration for our Sun Down Motel readalong! Today we're looking at Carly's contemporary timeline. I'll start with characters and see what we might want to make. 

Carly is our main character in this timeline, and one of the first times we see her she describes herself for us:

"I looked down at myself: worn jeans, old boots that laced up the ankles, black t-shirt that said BOOKS ARE MY LIFE beneath a stretched out hoodie, messenger bag. Add my dark-rimmed glasses and ponytail and I was pretty much a cliché."

We'll start with the Carly Cardigan by Treasurie. It's not quite a stretched out hoodie, but it is a knit sweater, so pretty close! 

To really catch Carly's student look here we could also make the Carly Bag by IThinkSew, a very messenger bag influenced shape, although a little more compact. Enlarge it a smidge and add a zip-covering flap and you'd have a classic messenger bag. 

A little later on, Carly heads to the public library to investigate some newspaper articles, and thinks she might be mistaken for one of the local students as she was wearing "jeans, my lace-up boots, and a sweater under a waist length jacket, my hair in its usual ponytail". Perhaps that waist-length jacket was something cool like the Carly Aviator Jacket by Style Arc (which is a little more hip length, but close!)

Carly's roommate Heather is also intrigued by the mystery of Viv's disappearance, and agrees to help Carly out. On first meeting, Heather is wearing a big poncho, and when they go to the Sun Down Motel for the first time together, she changes to a black puffer coat. Carly notes that she thinks Heather is always cold. 

Maybe she'd be comfortable in a cozy knit Heather Dress by Sew Over It. Made up in a sweatshirt fabric and worn with leggings, it would keep her toasty.

Or if she made it in a lighter weight knit and needed an extra layer, she might toss on the Heather Blazer by Friday Pattern Company, made in a cozy wool blend.

If you're a knitter, you might also want to try creating the Heather Poncho by Deborah Cowell, for a really direct influence! 

When Carly meets Nick Harkness at the Sun Down Motel, she finds an ally, one who she is also interested in in other ways. Nick fixes the vending machine and while doing so, Carly talks to him about the events at the motel. However she can't help but be distracted a bit by the way his arms look in his t-shirt. The obvious choice here is to make the Nico Raglan Tee by Jalie, a classic for men & boys! 

Or you might just want to take a hint from the whole storyline and make up this Drama Dress by George & Ginger! 

And now, moving on to some of the settings in Carly's timeline, and how they might inspire us. First off, of course, is the Sun Down Motel itself. The retro vibe of it might appear in fabric choices or silhouettes. 

You might try a novelty print dress in something like this On the Road vintage cotton:

Or a summer dress called the Summer Sundown, a free pattern by So Sew Easy. The photo is even taken by a pool, yikes! 

Or perhaps some home decor inspired by Motel Keys, like this pillow by Lucky Spool.

If you want to recreate something in direct homage, check out this vintage motel dimensional embroidery project found at Sew Daily! Just change that "Starlite" to "Sun Down" and you'll have a reminder of this creepy locale whenever you want it ;) 

Then there is the diner in which Carly, Heather, and Nick meet to discuss what's going on, and where Carly meets people from Viv's timeline in their later years. This could be reflected in fabrics or pattern choices as well. 

Another novelty print, this Route 66 fabric found on Etsy covers motels and diners alike

This slightly more sedate "Arnold's Diner" novelty print found on EBay might be a little more to your taste

Or maybe you'll just take a Diner influence and make the Muse Melissa Dress, which has a hint of retro waitress uniform to it. In the right fabrics you could serve up a soda, no problem!

Carly also spends a lot of time at the Fell Central Library, researching newspaper articles from the 80s in their archive room. As she says: 
Libraries were my places. I was that girl who maxed out her library card every week, starting with The Hobbit and The Witch of Blackbird Pond and moving up from there. I could kill an hour by wandering into an unfamiliar part of the Dewey Decimal System and checking it out. Computers, card catalogs, microfiches -- I could navigate them all.
Perhaps some newspapery/library influences can be found here. You might use the new Bookish collection by Sharon Holland to whip up a cute cotton dress or top. I like the Passport design, but many of these are fabulous! Page Turner is a more sedate colourway that could be used for a nice blouse, I think.

Bookish - Passport

Bookish - Page Turner

Or maybe you want to go more on theme with this newsprint clippings cotton, that looks kind of like a pile of printouts that Carly might have stacked up on a table. 

If you're more into home decor, there are tons of bookish quilts and wall hanging patterns designed by Heather Givans, also quite famous for her library related fabric prints. This Book Club quilt is a great idea for our sewing book club, don't you think? 

To finish it off, you could whip up this easy Academie Cardigan by The Eli Montster, as a nod to Carly's studying in the library. 

Or if you're more inclined toward something in crochet for the fall, check out this Reading Room Sweater at AllFreeCrochet. 

Whichever you choose, and whatever your project may turn out to be, I hope this has inspired you in some way! If you have further ideas, feel free to share them in the comments to inspire other readers, too. 

Next week, we'll learn a little more about our author. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Maria Denmark's Kirsten Tee, Take Three

Another simple tee to wear under jackets for my Fall wardrobe! This is a very good quality jersey that I picked up at a garage sale a few years ago, from a really nice man who had been a tailor and was moving house. I found a lot of excellent fabric there. 

I only had a small piece though, so thought about which pattern to use for a long time. I finally just went with the Kirsten, as I have made it twice before, and wear those simple tees a lot. I found while I was home a lot I was reaching for them often. 

I really like the fit of this one -- now that I've made my adjustments, that is. As drafted it is pretty straight up and down so if you have a larger lower half like me, you'll probably want to add width at the hip. The first one I made was very tight, so I added wedges of extra fabric to each side, then altered the pattern piece itself for future makes. I added 1.5" to each side seam at the hem, making a gradual slope up to meet the original seamline just under the arm. This gives me 3 extra inches on each side, which fits me smoothly, not too tight or too loose. So be aware if you don't like negative ease at your hip/belly area. 

The neckband worked out almost right this time. I miscalculated and didn't cut my strip short enough so after I'd stitched it on (even though I was planning on basting it on to test first) I realized it had a bit of floppy excess at the shoulder areas. Grr. But I didn't want to unpick it all on this fabric and redo if I didn't have to. (Pro tip: don't sew when overtired). 

Anyhow, I took a trick from the Mandy Boat Tee by Tessuti and just put a shoulder dart into the neckband at each side (only about 1/2" in total each). This allows the neckband to sit flat at the shoulder line and with the print you don't even notice it. Whew, easy fix! As it turns out I did the same at the back centre but the print disguises the dart line well. It looks better than having a bubble sagging out at the back neckline! I'm glad this worked out with all my tweaks and that I can wear this lovely fabric. I'll think of the gentleman I bought it from each time I wear it.