Friday, April 19, 2024

Literary Sewing Circle: To Say Nothing of the Dog Inspiration!


It's the first week of our Literary Sewing Circle featuring To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Have you found a copy yet? Have you started reading? If so, how are you finding the opening chapters? 

Today's inspiration is going to look at some of the characters in this story; we'll find ideas based on their names and personalities. We'll also see what place names might inspire projects. Here are a few suggestions of projects you could make based on these elements. 

Let's start with the main characters! 

Verity is our leading lady, and we could make something inspired by her modern self, or her time in Victorian England. 

You could try the Verity Knit top from Style Arc for a modern look

Or go for a Victorian vibe with any of these garment patterns from Verity Hope, a pattern shop on Etsy. 

Moving on to Ned Henry, our narrator and protagonist, well it's a bit harder to find something directly linked to his name despite it being a suitable moniker across the years. 

Maybe you'll just make a comfortable outfit for time travel duties by using the Jalie Henri joggers, and perhaps a colour blocked sweatshirt inspired by the Henry sweatshirt by Oh Me Oh My Patterns.  

There are plenty of side characters to inspire you as well! How about Lizzie Bittner, widow of Bitty Bittner, either in her aged 2057 years or her youthful years in the time travel lab? 

Lizzie might wear the Lizzie Dress by Sew Simple as an easy day dress! And the Style Arc Lizzie Wrap would be a nice addition for all weathers. 

Or how about this pretty Lizzie skirt by Sew Over It patterns? 

You could add the Jimmy tee/bodysuit by Makerist to the Lizzie skirt, in a nod to Lizzie Bittner's own lab partner, Jim Dunworthy. 

Or you might want to try these workaday Jim Overalls by Ready To Sew, inspired by Mr. Dunworthy -- not for him, alas. 

Mr. Dunworthy's able assistant Finch, who finds his metier later in the book, might inspire a make or two as well. Try out the Finch button up by Common Stitch, a classic that Finch himself might have happily worn. 

Or go more feminine with the unusual Finch Fold Skirt by The Sewing Revival

You could try a pair of trousers -- maybe the Callahan trousers by Seamwork, in honour of a character late in the book. 

Or you could take the poor frenzied net technician Peggy Warder as your inspo, and use this free pattern to make a pair of Peggy Trousers by Posner & Posner

Maybe it's the very capable Maud Peddick who interests you. You could put together a practical outfit that would suit her if she travelled to the 21st Century, using the Maud Trousers by Homer & Howells, along with the Maude Tunic from Style Arc

You could even be inspired by some of the minor characters, like the flowery Chattisbourne sisters, Rose, Iris, Pansy & Eglantine, adding in the church lady Delphinium Sharp for a full bouquet. Try the Dusky Rose Dress by Made Label, the zero-waste Iris Blouse & Dress by Fibr & Cloth Studio, the Pansy Dress by Rosery Apparel, the Eglantine Coat by Wissew, or the Delphium Hobo Bag by Blue Calla Patterns.

Or you might go more meta, and make something inspired by the author's name! Like this free Connie skirt from Swim Style Patterns -- maybe paired with the Willis Waistcoat by The Printed Pattern Company!

Maybe it's the place names that will catch your attention. You could try out a pair of classic Oxford bags as a nod to Terence, and to Ned's fictitious college. Reconstructing History has a pattern. 

Or you could go for another classic, the Oxford button down shirt. There are many options for this. Perhaps you'd give the "Old Money Style" classic Oxford oversize top by VictorinoCo on Etsy a go. 

Or just make a Classic Men's Top from Jalie 2111 -- it has all the details of a real Oxford shirt, including the button down collar and the front pocket. You'd use real Oxford cloth, too, of course!

Or you might decide to go in a totally different direction and just make yourself the Oxford Dress by Treize Coquelicot! 

Or you could just literally take the river itself as your inspo, and make the River Dress by Megan Nielsen 

If you're a knitter, take a look at this View From the Thames Illusion Knit! You'll make a view of Westminster and the Thames if you look one way, and only static straight on. Kind of like looking through the Net! Check out the product listing on Etsy to view to full effect, it's very cool. 

I hope that some of these projects have given you ideas! If you have a favourite character, hopefully one of these patterns will fit right into your style. Another inspiration post will be coming in two weeks so if nothing sparks your interest here, just wait ;) 

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Weekend Review: Basic Black

Basic Black / Sato Watanabe
translated from the Japanese by Leeyong Soo
Tokyo: Tuttle, 2014, c2005.
64 p.

This is another Japanese sewing book written by Sato Watanabe, who has created quite a few by now. This one is almost twenty years old (!) but it's the first time I've been able to see it. You would never know that it was an older book, since the fashions are chic and edgy, and yes, classic too. 

It includes 26 patterns, ranging from jackets/coats to vests, blouses & dresses, and even a skirt. They are all distinct enough to count as unique patterns, and while a silhouette might be basic there are interesting details to each one, like subtle tucks in a tiered skirt, or unexpected darts to add a focus. Plus all the black fabrics have different textures and weights - jacquards, cottons or gauze, wool, lace - lots of variety. Of course you do not have to make your own in black, you might use these patterns and make yourself a rainbow wardrobe! Here are all the patterns inside: 

I found this was a little bit different than many Japanese sewing books, mainly in the fit of the patterns. There is a bit more body awareness and fit in this book, rather than only a loose or boxy aesthetic. With that comes the one con of the book, the sizing. It is of course limited when used by non-Japanese readers. And the sizing is organized by finished measurements, with three levels - Loose, Shaped, and Fitted. And the size chart shows each pattern by its letter, then the finished measurements (ranging from XS-S-M-L). This way you can judge how the fit will work for you, however, I found it visually confusing. I would have to take a bit of time to figure out what I want to make with this one, even though every project looks really great in the book's photos! 

After the first part of the book, which just shows all the patterns, there is a short 'materials' guide, and then for each pattern there is a Sewing Guide which includes the supplies needed, list of sewing steps, a layout plan, and then diagrams of each sewing step. It's very clear and feels like more instruction than some other Japanese sewing books. I was impressed with this one with the one caveat about sizing which is always noted in these translations. I found most of the patterns ones I'd probably make if I had all the sewing time in the world :) 

The book comes with two fold-out pattern sheets in an envelope in the back of the book to trace your pattern pieces off (it's overlaid like Burda patterns are) but if like me you read the book in an online format, you can also download the pattern sheets from the publisher's website. That's a nice touch. Overall an engaging addition to the sewing books by Sato Watanabe that I've read, and one I'll be looking for to add to my collection. 

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!