Friday, April 12, 2024

Literary Sewing Circle, Spring 2024


Our Spring 2024 session of the Literary Sewing Circle starts today! 

I'm pleased to announce that our group read this time around is:

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis 

This book is from the 90s but it is a true classic of the time travel genre! Connie Willis is a master of the speculative novel, and this one is part of her Oxford Time Travel series. It's also the funniest one by far -- if you've ever read Jerome K. Jerome's Victorian "Three Men in a Boat", you'll know where the title and the inspiration for this story came from.

It follows some time travellers from 2057 Oxford to Victorian days, with side stops in WWII, the 30s and even a brief visit to the 1300s. There is lots of humour, animal sidekicks, Willis' classic misunderstandings, and of course some true love. My thoughts from my first reading are here, but I've reread it a number of times since then, and I hope you'll enjoy it too!


From Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, comes a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel.

Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He’s been shuttling between the twenty-first century and the 1940s in search of a hideous Victorian vase called “the bishop’s bird stump” as part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid.

But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right—not only to save the project but also to prevent altering history itself.

(from publisher)

By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0

About the Author: 

Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis is an American science fiction writer. She is one of the most honored science fiction writers of the 1980s and 1990s.

She has won, among other awards, ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards, including Hugos for every book in the Oxford Time Travel series. Willis most recently won a Hugo Award for All Seated on the Ground (August 2008). She was the 2011 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

She lives in Greeley, Colorado with her family.

(via Wikipedia/Goodreads)

This book is available for purchase in multiple formats.

You can find this title at all of these locations:


Chapters Indigo

Barnes and Noble

Powell's Books

ABE Books

Or, of course, check your local library!


How does the Literary Sewing Circle work? We read a book together, discuss it, and then make something inspired by our reading. As long as you can point out what inspired you from your reading, even if just a sentence, you can share your makes in our final roundup!

Anyone can join, and you can sew, knit, crochet, quilt or embroider - any textile art that you like doing - to participate. This is a reading/sewing circle, very low-key; no competitions here, just reading and sewing for fun. 

There is no official sign-up to worry about; just start reading along if you wish, and leave your thoughts on the book or your project on any of the Literary Sewing Circle posts. We do have a dedicated book discussion post halfway through and again at the end, but leave your thoughts anytime. And you can follow along on Instagram too if you like: look for @sewmelwyk and the hashtag #LiterarySewingCircle and you'll find us.

And when the final post goes up on week 6, so does the project linkup -- you can leave a link to your finished project there, whether it is on your blog, a pattern site, or even Instagram. It's easy :)

So, join in, and share!

Literary Sewing Circle Schedule

April 12 - Announcement & Introduction

April 19 - Inspiration post 

April 26 - Preliminary book talk

May 3  - Inspiration post

May 10 - Author feature

May 17 - Final Post: book discussion wrap up & posting of project linkup

We will have our project linkup live for two weeks after the final post to allow you to finish up and post your projects, which takes us to the end of May, when the linkup will close.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Butterick 6727: My Fabricville "House Dress"

For my latest Fabricville blogger project I've made myself a classic House Dress...well, maybe I'm stretching it a bit. I've made a faux wrap dress from Butterick 6727, in a fun cotton print covered in colourful houses. It makes me think of  Bergen or St. John's or Kyiv

This was a pretty simple project but it took a bit of time thanks to the special details. I made View B, with piping trim and a below knee length. The dress is a faux wrap, with the crossover bodice and skirt both sewn shut together at the waistline seam and then tacked down by the buttons along the front. Which are also faux -- they are stitched on through all layers at the very end, the closure is actually an invisible zip in the back. Although if you really wanted to you could eliminate the back zip and make real buttonholes in the front, as the crossovers are quite deep and all faced. I don't think you'd run the risk of flashing anyone with this pattern any way you chose to make it. 

The only slightly more difficult part was attaching the waist seam. This was because you have to be careful that the two piping ends on the bodice and skirt line up properly so it's a continuous line from neck to hem, and because there are a lot of layers there while you're doing it. With the crossovers on the bodice and the skirt both basted down, along with their facings, you are essentially stitching through 6-8 layers of fabric at one point. So don't choose a thick or heavy fabric for this one! My cotton is very lightweight and crisp, and I used lightweight interfacing, so it worked very nicely. 

This sewed up quickly once I got going. The only alteration I made was to shorten both the bodice and the skirt by 1" each.  I cut a 14 at neck, 16 at bust, and 18 at waist to make easy size adjustments for my figure, which usually works quite well. But, I find there is a bit of extra height in the shoulder area, which I could have taken in a bit so I might add some 1/4" shoulder pads to fill out that space later on. Otherwise, this was an easy sew, with a nice cotton that behaved beautifully. I really like the piping detail and feel secure in this faux wrap, which I never do in an actual wrap dress! My first dress of the season, to appear shortly on the Fabricville blog as well!

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Weekend Review: Tunic Bible

Tunic Bible / Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr
Concord, CA: C&T, c2016.
176 p.

This book is just what it promises: a book all about tunics! It's an exhaustive look at the basic tunic, then all the variations in sleeve, neckline, collar treatments, length, and trimming. It's an older book that I read when it was first published, as it was written by two PatternReview members I was familiar with, and I just had to check it out!  I've just found it in my library so revisited it. 

If you like tunics, you will most likely really enjoy this book! There are many variations shared, with some sewing tips for the various steps -- ie: sewing a facing or an exposed facing, changing sleeve finishes, adding side slits and much more. There are multiple photos, all modelled as worn by the authors or their family members, so the variety of models is limited. All the patterns for the base tunics are included in the book as traceable inserts, or if you are reading this in ebook format, the patterns are all downloadable from a link in the book (they are still available, I checked!) 

They talk about fabric options, even sharing a knit version with tips on sewing this in a knit with things to note about fitting etc. They share trimming ideas, and all of these are shared in the first bit of the book, with lots of photos and some notes about each one. This is followed by a photo gallery of tester makes. Most of these are PatternReview members, including PR founder Deepika herself. There are links to their blogs where they exist, and many are still in action. This gives a wider range of styles and ideas to the concept, following each sewist's personal tastes. 

Then comes a section on the actual sewing bits. It starts with the fabric and size guides. The sizing here runs from XS to XXL, or, a range from B33/H35.5 to B47.5/H49.5. There is a list of basic pattern pieces included, then an extensive section of sewing construction guides for the many elements, and how to put them together. Anything not covered in the basic tunic (ie: split sleeve, ruffle collars) is given separate instructions, and there are many things covered, including how to apply trim and mitre it as well. Again, lots of illustrative photos in this part. I think my favourite variation is the ruffle necked, dress length with sleeves, which turns out not to look too much like a 'tunic' by the time it's done ;) In fact, with all the sleeve, neckline, collar, fabric, length and trim options, the projects can look very different from one another, so that you wouldn't even know that someone had started with the same basic pattern plan.

This is followed by a list of resources - sewing shops, classes, and the like - and then the actual traceable pattern pieces. 

There is actually quite a bit of good sewing info in this book, particularly in the section showing how to sew all the different elements. It could encourage readers to mix and match elements in their other sewing as well as when following this book. The colours in the images are bright and cheerful, and the tone is encouraging but not for rank beginners -- those who've been sewing a while will also enjoy it. It's a good example of how to take a basic pattern and add and change it to create a wardrobe of options. Just for that alone I'd recommend taking a look at this older book that is still a lot of fun to explore. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

April Plans!

I didn't get to much sewing in March, just too much going on. But I have plans for April! I'm hoping that I will be able to do a little more this month. 

I started out strong with some fabric purchases... I am once again trying to diminish by stash by 50 m. this year, but when you are thrifting and find good fabric, you can't pass it up. I picked up some black lining and a length of Thai silk in gorgeous green & yellow while at my favourite thrift store earlier this week. Then we stopped in at another small shop the next day, and I found some floral print rayon. I couldn't resist the oversize print or the colours, so that also came home with me. Plus a few notions. 

But to counteract those purchases, I did start on a spring dress for the Fabricville blog -- I will be sharing that soon. And I have lots of ideas for the Upcycle Contest on PatternReview; I have a bright blue linen dress I want to upcycle, if I can find the right project for it, but there are other items in my wardrobe that might be useful to upcycle as well. 

April has many challenges in the sewing world, especially on Instagram. One that I'm thinking of joining in on is the #SewAprilBlouse24 challenge. This is a fun one every year, and this year I do have a few blouses on my sewing list so may try to finish one this month to join in. I actually have a number of blouses I'd like to make this year, some from my 80s pattern stash and some from Burda or Indie designers that have been on my radar for a while. However, I know I don't have time to make 10 blouses in a month so will have to decide on one! I'm thinking maybe the Fresco Blouse by Studio Calicot

And of course it's getting to be time for another round of the Literary Sewing Circle! Keep your eyes on this space, our choice for Spring 2024 will be coming shortly. I hope you will join in this time if you haven't before -- it's a low key sewalong that's lots of fun. 

That's what April is shaping up like around here -- how about you? 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Weekend Review: Thread Me a Button


Thread Me a Button / Jude Aquilina & Joan Fenney
Port Adelaide: Ginninderra Press, c2012.
73 p.

I discovered this little book of poetry in a library collection online, and the adorable cover and title drew me in. It really is a collection of poems all centred on buttons! It's written by two Australian women, and it's surprising how much they can wring from a button. 

The book is set up in 6 sections, each with an average of 9 poems, ranging from haiku length to full page poems. There are some that are straightforward, some quite funny, and a few that are more serious and moving. 

There is a poem about a woman who lost her lover in the war, and for the rest of her life she wore one of his buttons stitched to a petticoat. There are some celebrating beauty, or relationships. In the section "In the Sewing Drawer" I found some of my favourite pieces, lots about the act of sewing. And this section includes what I think was the most memorable poem, for me, called "In the Light"; it's about the closing down of Mrs. Pearl Morris' haberdashery shop, and I found it evocative and bittersweet. 

This was a chance find, and a gem. I enjoyed reading through this accessible collection, which will appeal to anyone fond of buttons and the garment sewing world. Easy to read a few each night before bed to relax and enjoy some sewing related whimsy! 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Weekend Review: Creative Mending


Creative Mending / Hikaru Noguchi
Rutland, VT: Tuttle, c2022.
104 p.

One more Japanese mending book for this month's featured theme! I also found this one thanks to the library and it was really sweet to look through. Lots of photos, lots of repairs shown as examples of the different techniques on real items -- including a cat-scratched armchair. In fact there are lots of repairs made where it's noted that the damage came from cats chewing on fabric or playing with clothing ;)  

This book has a lot of solid content, some of it familiar from other books but some more intriguing as well. As with any Tuttle book, there are many clear and colourful photos to illustrate everything - this is pleasing just to flip through and look at them all. But it starts off with an intro to tools and threads then moves to four Basic Techniques: Goma-shio (basically seed stitch), Basket Darning (traditional weave) and two based on the buttonhole stitch, Honeycomb and Tambourine. Then examples for each. 

This is followed by seven sections on Advanced Techniques: Patching on top or from inside a garment, Repairing Damage to an Inseam, Underarm, or Edges, Darning using Wool Roving (ie: needlefelting) and Darning Large Holes. Each of these is a compound technique - they use the Basic Techniques and then apply it to the particular situation. She discusses small things to keep in mind, like inserting a finger darning stick into your gloves before stitching so they hold their shape, or using a long needle for larger holes so it's easier to pick up threads, or choosing fabric for patches that suits the garment,  especially for underarm mends. And this is all followed by some "darning samplers" -- more examples of how her techniques have been used on actual garments. I like the use of embroidery to cover stains, personally.

There is a lot of info and inspiration here, with the caveat that you have to share this aesthetic to really benefit from the many styles and examples. It is all Very Visible Mending, with colourful circles, either solid or radiating stitches, spread across the front of a shirt or jacket, or blocks of stitches covering ravelling edges, or "frankenstitches" (here really meaning they resemble Frankenstein's stitches) running up a seam or tear. I like the idea of patches, but I would have to tone it down a little for myself. I still enjoyed this one and particularly liked that she shares photos and info on many threads that can work for darning - I feel that sometimes people hesitate to start mending, thinking they need some special and unobtainable materials to begin. Not so! 

I've learned a lot from mending books this month but still have lots in my mending piles...thankfully nothing too bad that would need the kind of intensive care of the items in this book, though. This one is entertaining but best for those who love the idea of Visible Mending. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Wardrobe Colour Palette & Planning

While I haven't been actually sewing as much lately I have been trying to nail down my wardrobe plans for the next season. That includes the colour palette I want to use. I don't have a lot of love for the trendy colours being predicted for the spring/summer (I don't really like a lot of pale colour) so I've been looking at my previous wardrobe plans and trying to recreate something current. 

I'm using the Design Your Wardrobe process from Seamwork which I used the first time I looked into this topic. I've found that much of what I did then still applies -- the silhouettes and fabrics and colours I identified in my original Bold, Playful Power Suit wardrobe are still appealing to me. But I am going to update it to my current season and desires, and come up with some Spring/Summer plans soon. 

I'm still a fan of jewel tones and black and white as neutrals. I've been trying to narrow things down a bit, and have concluded that cobalt, yellow, hot pink and a slightly subdued green are my key colours. With a deeper magenta and sometimes a red or purple thrown in as occasional additions.

On the weekend I popped out to the fabric store to take advantage of a thread sale, and when I got home I realized I'd unconsciously purchased threads in my colour palette. Quite a few blacks and whites and greys (useful for anything!) but the colours were all these ones. I wasn't even thinking about the plan, only about which fabrics I might be using soon. So I guess this planning is sinking in! 

It made me realize that I'm beginning to narrow my preferences a bit, which makes it easier to keep a wardrobe in which things can be combined. And it also means a stash cleanout should be next, to winnow out the colours and substrates I'm no longer likely to use. But that's a good thing -- and I hope it will make my sewing practice more regular, once I have less to sort through to get to a project.