Archive for December, 2009


Touch of Whimsy SWAP

December 15, 2009

So, for the first time ever, I have decided to take part in the Timmel SWAP over at Stitcher’s Guild where I am also relatively new.

I’ve heard about these SWAPs for awhile and always wanted to do one but this is the first year I’ve found myself with the necessary time, money and justification to sew up a storm.

I’ve called my plan A Touch of Whimsy, which is basically how I try to dress: classic and professional with just an edge of the more whimsical. I have a lack of cooler weather office clothes so that’s what I’m making.

Here’s my plan sketched out.

I’m itching to start but I need to wait for Christmas.


The Montreal Shirts

December 12, 2009

I’d been living in downtown-ish Montreal for almost two years when I heard about the “secret” shopping street, rue Chabanel on the northern part of the island. As a bargain hunter, the idea of shopping outlets and wholesalers excited me. But what excited me even more was when I caught wind of the possibility that there were fabric wholesalers in the area who opened their warehouses to the public on Saturday mornings. I grew up hearing my mother talk of buying fabric by the pound from textile warehouses in Kitchener, Ontario. This, she claimed, was one way to save money by sewing your own clothes.

I had to check it out. So, early one summer Saturday, I hopped on the metro and found my way to Chabanel and St. Laurent. Die hard Montreal shoppers will be disappointed to know that I didn’t get too far on Chabanel itself. It was a hot day and I only explored about a block. I know there was so much more further down and I promise that someday I will be back to explore more. I did, however, start to wander up St Laurent (after buying 4 summer sweaters for $10 I might add) and that’s where I stumbled upon an open door to a fabric warehouse. Right up front were the remnant bins in which fabric was sold by the kilogram!!

The remnants were decent sized and I quickly picked out a kilogram worth of white printed calico in slighly varying patterns as well as a lavender piece that claims to be cotton but left me skeptical. It was pretty enough that I couldn’t turn it down and the price was right. $20 later (including taxes – which are pretty high in Quebec), I had enough fabric for four shirts which I have constructed over the past year. All of the shirts are now too big as I have lost some weight since I traded my full-time-student-working-two-part-time-jobs lifestyle for a 9-5 job, some exercise and 8 hours of sleep most nights. Adventures in alterations will come later.

This was basic pattern work using the Vogue OOP pattern 7934. At least I assume it’s out of print since I can’t find it on their website and I did buy it at a 50 cent pattern sale three years ago. I whipped this one up fairly quickly last fall and wore it several times. I like the faux wrap of the skirt of the tunic and the empire waistline falls just far enough below the bust that I felt that it accentuated the narrowest part of my torso rather than looking like a maternity top. Although it was, perhaps not wisest to wear it the day my husband and I announced to the in-laws that we were eloping. I think we got a few odd glances.

This shirt also marks my first- less than successful – attempt at a full bust adjustment. I found I kept making it too big in all the wrong places. While I was pretty content with the fit a year ago, I may find altering it to be enough of a challenge that it will wind up on the scrap pile instead. I hope not though as I like the flowing sleeves and vaguely medieval feel (I will say this a lot).

I loved wearing this blouse. I made it while I was unemployed (stash busting is a great way to pass  the hours not spent scouring job ads and composing cover letters that try to make you sound as amazing as you possibly can without out and out lying), and I wore it a lot after I got a job. It’s Butterick 4395 View C. I also made View A with sleeves awhile back and I must say that this is starting to become one of my favourite patterns.  The wrap look works for my larger chest although I do find I’m more comfortable if I wear a camisole underneath so that I don’t have to spend time re-adjusting myself for modesty’s sake.)

I think it manages to look professional and a little but whimsical at the same time. I like a touch of whimsy or quirkiness in my clothes. I aim to be modest and professional with just an added touch of something different. In this case, I made the ties extra long so they would hang to my knees and flutter a but while I walked. I have a soft spot for flowing fabric.

kimono shirt with red trim

I’ve worn this one a lot and actually gotten compliments on it from complete strangers – I love it when that happens. Although my boss did ask me if I’d gotten lost on the way to my dojo… so it is possible I added a little too much whimsy to it. I used McCall 5233. I made view B with the ties from view C and I matched the ties with the contrasting trim. 

I broke a rule in using home decor fabric for the red trim but, in this case, it seems to be okay as the fabric is taffeta look, and the extra heft that makes home decor fabric not good for sewing clothes, gave the trim enough internal structure that I didn’t have to interface it. I think it also adds enough weight to the sleeves to make them fall nicely. Another foolhardy thing I did with this shirt was not test the two fabrics in the wash together before I put them in the same outfit. I got lucky when I washed the shirt as the red did not bleed into the white. I had washed the fabrics separately prior to sewing so there was no uneven shrinkage but I do admit to being a little impatient to get this shirt done.

Although it too now needs altering, I love wearing this shirt and it crosses high enough on my chest that I can pretty much get away without a camisole underneath. I still tend to wear one however.

purple peasant blouse


This is actually the shirt I made first and quite possibly the one I wear the most. I made it from the purple mystery fabric that may or may not be cotton and I used a peasant blouse pattern that I actually bought back in my highschool costume designer days to make some quick peasant blouses for- what else – peasants.

I love the simplicity and comfort of a peasant blouse but I find that with my body shape I need to do my best to define a waist of some sort or I look like a block rather than the slightly top heavy hourglass I usually manage to be. So I added a waist tie that gathers the shirt together just above the hips. It’s probably not the absolute best shape for me but it’s still cute and comfy. I can pair it with dress pants and a sweater or blazer and wear it to work or I can throw it one with jeans like I have in the picture.

Really, I just love the purple.

Some of these patterns have been used before and all of them will be used again… although likely with some tweaking. My internal wannabe designer can’t just let a pattern be what it is. I have to fiddle with it.

Oh and someday I’ve gotta get back to Chabanel.


The return of the seamstress

December 3, 2009

Hello world!

So I started this blog 11 months ago and basically disappeared 3 weeks in. Many things have happened. Jobs were found, moving took place and life got rather hectic. Stupid real world and its crazy real needs. However, I continued to sew and I will now attempt to catch everyone up on what I have been sewing.

Once we moved to our new apartment, the first major bit of sewing I did was to make curtains to maintain our privacy from the prying eyes of the nosey neighbours… Actually I don’t have to worry too much about that because we live on the 21st floor, but we do have an eastern exposure so the bedroom curtains were made first to allow us to sleep in past five on a summer morning.

red bedroom curtain on a sunny day

We were going for a slight Japanese influence in the bedroom so my husband loved the idea of a red curtain. The added benefit is that it changed the morning sun from the glare of an interrogation lamp to a rosy warm glow that could bring us awake slowly.

It’s a basic flat curtain with a sleeve for the rod. I made it to fit the window closely enough that there would be no gathers and I made it a double layer for added sun blockage.

I was working on a budget and trying to use up my stash so the red fabric came from a discount pile at the local Fabricland and the second layer visible in the sun is part of an orange sari I got in India a few years ago. Since I generally don’t wear orange, this seemed to be the best use for it. The sari, however, was narrower than the window so I doubled it up. The middle seam shows in the sunlight but after dark and in the winter no one knows it’s there.

From the rosy red, we move to the soothingSewing room curtains sewing room/ workout room/ second bedroom. Mostly it’s a sewing room which excites me a great deal as it’s the first one I’ve ever really had. I tried to get fashionable and do Roman blinds. Since there is a large blue tapestry hanging on one of the walls in the room, I decided on blue for the curtains and bought the fabric at one of the more affordable fabric stores in the fashion district.

As we are going to be moving at the end of this lease and I knew this when I got to these curtains, I tried to do as little cutting as possible so that the fabric can be repurposed in our next place (we remain nomadic). I hemmed the edges, stitched a sleeve across the top for the rod and stitched the top layer in place. The next flap is held in place by four hook and eye closures attached to the underside of the top flap. This allows me to drop the bottom flap down into a flat panel to cover the whole window and keep the light out. On a sunny day, this means I can actually see the needle on my sewing machine. It will also be useful should we ever put guests in the room.

Kitchen curtains

I think I’m most proud of the kitchen curtains. I first tried to make curtains with tabs in my first apartment. There was an ugly old sheet hanging in the window when I moved in that I modified into a hideously uneven curtain. The tabs were all different sizes and I broke my machine needle before I was finished hemming it so it was partially hemmed by hand.

 I was slightly horrified when I wandered past that apartment a year after I graduated and discovered that that curtain still hung in the window

These ones I’m rather proud of though. The fabric came out of my stash and matches the kitchen fairly well. I was careful with my measurements and unhurried with my sewing. Since my major early sewing experiences involved making costumes for my highschool plays, I’ve always been a little slapdash in my style. One of my goals is to change my style and become a bit more of a sewing perfectionist. These curtains were really my first serious attempt at this new style.

see the pretty tabs

And I think it’s starting to show.





See you soon.