Friday, December 8, 2023

Fun, free patterns for holiday sewing

I like to make a few gifts here and there every year. This year I haven't done much, but I always like to collect a few potential ideas! So I thought I'd share a few of the interesting patterns out there that I've found that are pretty quick and easy gift ideas. 

There are quite a lot of accessories available for free on the Burda website at the moment. There are a couple of very cute bags which were all in varied Burda issues, but can also be downloaded for free! These range from an adorable crossbody bag to a croissant bag to some denim minipurses (and more).

There are some cool little stocking stuffer ideas too, like a coffee cup holder, a hair wrap, cosmetic bag or even super sweet miniature egg cozies ;) There are tons more placemats, hair bows, pincushions, shawls, slippers and much more! 

One of the more fun and unusual things I saw in Burda is a balaclava -- basically a hooded scarf. It's so cute and doesn't require any fitting. Also it's a little different from the usual scarf. You could add in some quick mittens to make a winter set for a gift recipient, too. 

If you want to give some home dec, Burda also has some decor patterns from the latest December issue  available for free right now. You could make your own stuffed Christmas tree or a lovely scrappy star cushion.

Of course there are tons of places other than Burda to find free gift ideas! 

Heather Handmade has a list of 50 gift ideas, from home goods to bookmarks, bags and more -- plus extra links to other gift lists. 

Of course there are tons of ideas on Pinterest - for a bit more guidance, try this board full of small free sewing projects collected by SewCanShe. 

Vanessa from Diyncrafts put together a list of some free, quick ideas that includes some more unusual ideas. 

Fabricville Canada has some fun projects available for free, both sewing and more crafty. And Fabricland Canada has some fab free projects on their blog, too. 

Hello Sewing has a collection of interesting small gifts to try out. 

Diary of a Quilter has a list of quick last minute gifts, many of which are free tutorials. 

Or, if you prefer to listen to suggested holiday gifts (not all free), you can check out a couple of recent podcasts: 

Sewcial Hour's DIY Christmas Magic
or even the classic Love to Sew "Sewing Gifts" episode from 2019

Whatever you choose, don't stress out and have fun this holiday season! 
(and if you have any fave gift projects to share, please leave them in the comments)

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Cover Designs!: #34 Last Christmas in Paris


Cover Designs is a feature in which I try to match up the outfit on a book cover with a dress pattern and sometimes even potential fabric matches as well. Today's pick is a seasonal one: Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. 

Summary from the publisher: 

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

The startling red of the coat on the cover of this book calls out for a copy! There are a few options to make a classic coat like this. You might start with Vogue 9367. Even though you can't see the front of the cover image, you might want a coat with some interesting detail on the front, like this Vogue pattern has. The back looks nearly identical to the cover image, if you use View C for length.

You might also try the Closet Core Siena Maker Jacket. It would just need to be lengthened a bit from its above-knee option to replicate the look of this coat quite well. 

Or, you could try the free Hydrus coat from Mood Sewciety. While this pattern was created with cosplay in mind, it's quite a nice coat, with the perfect silhouette to copy this cover design. 

While you're at Mood you could check out their red wool blends, like this cashmere/wool coating

Or for something a little more fiery red, you could use this mohair wool coating from King Textiles. 

Whichever pattern or fabric you might choose, coat making could be a fun winter project accompanied by listening to this book in audio format. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Weekend Review: Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones


Dolly Parton Behind the Seams / Dolly Parton
New York : Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed, 2023
336 p.

If you love costume and how people use clothing as self-expression, you'll want to read this fantastic, lushly illustrated, and lengthy book on Dolly Parton's clothing over her career. It starts when she's just a young woman starting out locally, and moves toward the present, with stories told by Dolly, as well as a large number of the people who were involved in her wardrobes at different stages. 

The cowriters/compilers of the book are Holly George-Warren and Rebecca Seaver (the second is Dolly's niece, who is now in charge of the costume archive). They have drawn together excellent documentation on varied pieces from different stages of Dolly's career, as well as stunning and clear detail photos of many garments. 

Sewists and fashion fans alike will be absorbed by this book. Dolly talks about the two local women who sewed for her early on, and started her off on her own style. She's worked with Tony Chase, Bob Mackie, and many more, and each designer gets some airtime in this book alongside examples of their work.

I enjoyed the context given for many of the pieces, and how Dolly states early on that her style was integral to her performance and her personal integrity over the years. When she started to hit it big, executives wanted her to tone it down and move into a more mainstream look, but she refused and stuck to her own sparkly style. It's such a personal brand by now, we can't imagine her another way, but this was long before going your own way was an everyday thing. 

Along with all the clothing descriptions and images, there are discussions of her hair - she owns over 200 wigs, and there's an entry from her hairdresser/wig master. And discussions of her work beyond music as well -- so much to learn and such amazing images to peruse. This one gave me hours of entertainment as I looked through the pictures to focus in on some of the details, as well as read all of the truly fascinating documentation from so many voices. 

What a fabulous read! It's a bit expensive (I read it via the library) but well worth it if you can afford it. It would make a great gift for any fashion obsessed sewist, I think. If you want to be inspired by a woman who forged her own path, stayed true to herself, and worked with many other women along the way, this is a great pick. So fun! 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Literary Sewing Circle Round Up


It's the end of this round of the Literary Sewing Circle, The Blue Castle edition! This was a fun one, with lots of readers weighing in, even if not everyone was able to get a project sewn up. I'm so glad that everyone enjoyed this Canadian classic from a century ago :) 

The winner of our random draw for the pattern from Blue Calla is (via random number generator)... 

#4 -- Silverdell! Thanks Silverdell for making your Brave Overalls inspired by Valancy's bravery in totally changing her life. 

You can see all of these projects by going to the original linkup post and clicking on the images

Keep your eyes on this space for the next round, sometime in late winter/early spring 2024! 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

20s Inspired Talulah for The Blue Castle


I had many ideas for my project for The Blue Castle round of the Literary Sewing Circle - many of the suggestions I made in our inspiration posts were things I was considering myself. But as I was rereading some passages in the book, I came across this image from when Valancy and Barney were going to town to be married, and I just couldn't get it out of my head: 

Everything seemed more dream-like than ever. Valancy didn't know whether she felt happy. Or terrified. Or just plain fool. 
Then the lights of Port Lawrence were about them. Valancy felt as if she were surrounded by the gleaming, hungry eyes of hundreds of great, stealthy panthers. 

To me this felt like a dark rainy night with lots of blurred coloured lights shining and reflecting, showing Valancy's confusion at the life changes she was experiencing. And I had a fabric that made me think of this exact image, too. 

I matched up this light poly-blend knit with a dress that has a 20s inspired silhouette, the Talulah by Style Arc. I've been meaning to make this for a while, in fact it was on my 2021 Make Nine list! So I thought the 20s inspiration together with the quote made for a perfect duo.

So now on to the pattern! I traced off a size 12, grading out to about a size 14 at the hip -- I added on about 1/2" to each seam line, and bumped out the sections to be gathered by the same amount so that I didn't skimp on the gathered panels, which are the highlight of the pattern. It worked out well! I also shortened the sleeves by 3", so that they are full length, ending at the wrist. I have short arms. 

The neckband went in nicely, although do note that it is quite a narrow width; if you are thinking of making a contrast band as a feature, you might want to increase the width a bit. I basted it in first to be sure it was the right size and then attached it properly. Easier than picking out a zigzag to begin with. 

I didn't shorten this one at all. I measured the line of gathering so that it would sit right at my lower hip (although the stretch in the fabric has made it sit just a touch lower in wearing) and then measured down to where I wanted it to end. I didn't need to make any adjustments. The pattern as designed is fairly short, ending above the knee but I wanted mine to sit right at the knee. I don't think this pattern would look right if it was longer than mid-knee, the proportions would be off, at least to me. But I left it and it's mid-knee for me as is. I have quite short legs, so if you are making this be sure to measure your pattern well before deciding what to adjust. 

I really, really like this one! There's a shaped centre back seam to give it a nice fit and it really adds to the pattern. I like the fit a lot - in fact I think if I cut it to a length just above the gathers, this pattern would make a nice basic tee as well. I like that it's close fitting but not clinging, and the little swish of the gathered panels is just perfect. The fabric is light but also substantial enough to hold the shape well, and I think the print is such fun. 

I'm happy to be able to think of this as my Valancy dress, and will definitely enjoy it. The only tiny flaw with it is that there are no pockets -- not easy to put into this silhouette. But I will overlook that this time as it is such a fun and comfy outfit!


Sunday, November 26, 2023

Weekend Review: Crafting for Murder


Crafting for Murder / Barbara Emodi
Concord, CA: C&T Publishing, c2023.
224 p.

This is the first volume in a projected series of cozy crafter mysteries, by well-known Canadian sewist Barbara Emodi. I just had to read it, having really liked her two sewing books as well as her long-running blog. 

It's a fun and light cozy mystery, with many of the expected elements of such -- a middle-aged female protagonist, a dog and cat, a job that leaves lots of room for investigations, and a whole group of side characters that spice up the story. 

Valerie Rankin has moved back to tiny Gasper's Cove, Nova Scotia, now that her three children are on their own and she's an empty nester. She's returned to where she grew up, and where she has many cousins of all sorts, and a family business -- a general store -- run by one of them. She helps out there, and also gives sewing lessons in the back room. But her big plan is to open a Crafter's Co-op in the upper room of the store, to promote local craft and make Gasper's Cove into more of a tourist location. 

This is where she runs into trouble. They find out that the building's upper floor needs quite a lot of fixing up before they can let people into it, pushing back her plans. She has to consult an engineer, who becomes part of the story. And, she was just interviewed about the Co-op on local radio, but her spot is a little overshadowed by the murder of the radio host the next day. 

This book is setting up a series, so there's a lot of scene setting and introduction of characters going on. The action can be a little slow because of it, and because Valerie always seems to get the wrong end of the stick on everything; she does tend to leap to conclusions. But it's still an interesting story, and very true to small town politics (even if two murders back to back in such a small place is a bit unusual). I enjoyed some of the side issues like her relationship with her best friend & cousin Darlene, and the discussion of crafting and what it means to people. 

The mystery part of it was puzzling, with lots of suspects and drama. The conclusion was unexpected but made sense within the story, especially as the reader looks back and sees all the subtle clues that were laid down (many of which I missed on first read!) I think this is a great light read and will definitely be checking out book 2 when it's published on Christmas Day this year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Going Down Memory Lane with Paper Dolls

When I was going through some boxes of old stuff recently, I came across a book of paper dolls that I had forgotten I ever had. How it has stayed with me this long, I'm not really sure! But it was a delight to take a look through it. They even had accessories like a picnic table & croquet set 😄

It was a gift when I was quite young; I really loved Holly Hobbie, Strawberry Shortcake and similar things when I was young -- this set of paper dolls falls into the same general area. I guess my style preferences were quite clear! 

There were four dolls, each slightly different, with colour themed outfits for each. I hadn't even punched out some of the outfits!

But the most delightful thing about finding this old book was that when I opened it, homemade outfits fell out. I had not remembered doing this at all, but I think my interest in clothing started early! Looking at these, I do recall that my Mom would have us tape a doll to the window, and then we could trace outfits around the shape, and spend a lot of time colouring them in and adding decorative details. I'm sure she was happy that we had something we were focused on for so long ;) 

Do you remember paper dolls? Or did you have another way you showed an early interest in clothing and design?