Mommy and Me

For the longest time I’ve avoided patterns. I’m not sure why. I think it might be because I’m a stickler for pain and patterns make the sewing process less figuring out and more getting it done…? And I really do enjoy the figuring out part…makes me feel…accomplished!

So I don’t often use patterns and try to figure things out myself, often causing myself and those around me a few migraines along the way. I also don’t get into too many complicated or structured garments that way and don’t actually challenge myself enough.

So I finally bit and bought a vintage pattern off Etsy a while ago. Why I chose to use a vintage pattern as my first ever is beyond me, but at least I had the smarts to wait till mommy dearest visited before starting it.

So mum helped me figure out how to place, trace and cut the pattern out.We then re-sized it a bit, lifting it up from the shoulders and dropping the neckline accordingly. Apparently vintage ladies were longer in the torso than moi.

She also drafted a peterpan collar pattern and showed me how to make bias tape out of the contrast fabric and hand sew it on properly.

By now you’ve figured out I don’t have any actual photos of the process, as mum often worked on the dress while I was at work. Plus I really just wanted to let her work her magic rather than stopping to take a million pictures on the way…and other such excuses.

So here it is…a vintage 1960’s shift…

From Sew What
From Sew What
From Sew What

Things I learned along the way – don’t modify aspects of a pattern unless you actually know what the effects will be.

I chose to shorten the zipper initially and realised the dress is just not meant to be pulled on that way. In the 60’s, ladies liked to step into their dresses and so I couldn’t actually put it on over my head. I quite like the idea now – you can get all your hair and make up done and then just slip on the dress, zip up, and off you go!

I chose to go with an exposed zipper to make this classic shift a little up to date, since the fabric choice was fairly granny in the first place. Just before summer hit I finalised all the stitching, added the zipper and took it for a stroll on a hot day with a 40 degree humiex!

I’m super pleased with how it turned out and am trying to make a gajillion more before the weather gives out. It’s sexy, not too revealing and fits in all the right places!

Mum and I make a great team!


Ripping what I sew…

Slowly but surely, I have been working towards a wardrobe that will be a fair mix of my own creations and store bought items. I regularly wear the clothing I sew, but I realised that if I were to try wearing only self made clothes for a month ala Me-Made-March, I would pretty much have to go topless. As attractive a prospect as that is, this country won’t allow me to go hatless or gloveless let alone topless for better part of the year.

I only sew things that I’m inspired to, either by fabric, other garments or vintage designs, but I’m usually only attracted to skirts. I absolutely LOVE skirts and I love sewing them. But I am trying to branch out and the possibility of participating in Me-Made-May is egging me on to complete some long intended blouse designs.

I’m playing it pretty fast and loose with the word ‘design’ for this creation however. It’s so simple, it’s laughable. The idea has been kicking around in my head since forever and I’ve just left it aside, partly because it posed no challenge and partly because skirts kept seducing me away from it. I’ve seen them in stores and actually laughed out loud because I’m pretty sure a 6 yr old could sew this kind of blouse up with a toy sewing machine.

So when a lazy Tuesday off presented itself as did laundry and cleaning, I chose to take up this 2 hour project and spread it across the day. In between organising shoes, hand washing hand washables and lounging in my jammies I started work on this previously cut and readied fabric…

From Sew What

I had cut two almost square pieces from this fabric you might recognise from my Sewing Star audition video. I then abandoned it for a while, but it’s always nice to come back to an already cut project. Thank you past-self!
Having worked with this fabric previously and feeling I might need every inch I could save, I chose to zig zag stitch, rather than hem the raw edges. When done just right, the fabric rolls under and makes a smooth finish.

I started with the top edge – neck and shoulders. I edged both pieces and marked, on the fold, my shoulder measurements from centre and neck measurement from centre.

From Sew What

Several things went a bit wonky hereafter, even though this was the simplest of simple designs. I blame the TV, the dishwasher and my boyfriend who was not home at the time.

Firstly and most idiotically, I went and sewed both pieces together, a nice straight seam, without leaving an opening for the neck where my head could get through. Then, once I’d unpicked it, and tried it and failed to try it because the opening was too small, I unpicked some more. And then I FINALLY remembered that this is to be a pop-over top. No zips, no fasteners. So the neck opening has to be as big as my big head! Once that was sorted, I checked to make sure no fumes were leaking from anywhere that might have been the cause of this sudden bout of oafishness.

So yes, I sewed the top edge, leaving an opening wide enough for my head.

From Sew What

I then pressed the seam open and edge stitched as close as possible to the neck opening, to secure it and make it all neat.

Now, this top was supposed to be somewhat of a kaftaan blouse and so the seams are to be on the right side. So, taking into account my own girth, the length of the sleeve opening and the amount of fabric I had I marked a line about 9 inches long, 3.5 inches in from the edge and about 8 inches down from the shoulder.
I pinned my edges to avoid any slipping and hand basted the line first.

From Sew What

I did this on both sides and tried it on to make sure the seams were long enough and everything was in place. I also made a note of where I would like my sash to go through.

Once I was sure I pinned along the hand basted line itself and finalised it with my machine. I also marked and sewed an inch long buttonhole on each side with the trusty buttonhole setting on my machine to allow a sash to run through and through rather than go over and around.

From Sew What

I then just heat sealed the edges of a navy blue satin ribbon, called it a sash and was done!

From Sew What

Here is another view so you can see how the sash threads through.
I’m super pleased with it and once the starch washes out, I’m sure it will fall better. It’ll be perfect with a pair of olive/khaki shorts I plan on making. Summer harbour cruise here I come!

Seamingly perfect!

This past weekend I decided to try out a tutorial from burdastyle. I tried a tutorial once before from another sewing blog and it all went horribly wrong so I’ve been shy/ticked off ever since.

But this one seemed so idiot proof, I was sure I would at least come close!
And boy did I ever!

From Sew What

This is the first time I didn’t actually bother taking pictures of every step because I followed the instructions EXACTLY and my pictures would simply be duplicates of the ones in the above linked tutorial.

I’m super pleased with how it turned out and the curved waist band has partially solved my ‘mutant proportions’ problem. I say partially because, as the pictures show, the skirt sits nice and flat ever so slightly lower than my others, just a touch below the belly button. This is where I measured and so that’s all very well.
However, when your umm…derriere… is a fair bit larger than your waist, a fitted skirt tends to sidle upwards, as if escaping from the gigantic proportions it is meant for to the fairer, less demanding plains of your teeny mid section. I imagine it to me some sort of cartoon worm like movement. Yes.

While I consider this project finished, I might just be possessed with the obsessive impulse to add darts once again to the already curved waist to make it sit tight. Either that, or I will simply throw a belt or sash on and live with it. It sits. It just won’t stay.

Darts or tucks are the simplest way to shape a garment and since I have been in possession of my peculiar body all my life, I have had to use them for just about as long. I’m one of those ridiculous people that do not gain weight, aside from the bare minimum you gain as your body grows from childhood to adulthood. My proportions have been somewhat the same since, I want to say age 17 or so, and my mumsie taught me how to alter things early so I wouldn’t shy away from buying things that didn’t fit just so. I think the ulterior motive there was to make sure I didn’t run around naked and embarrass her, but we’ll just assume it was altruistic.

For most garments, I put it on and very scientifically pinch the fabric between my thumb and forefinger to see how much I need to take in. Usually I do this on both sides of my waist or at equal intervals on the back or front and either pin or safety pin it while I’m still in it.

It must be mentioned that dart placement is important and it varies from garment to garment. For most of my skirts and pants I find two darts at the back, corresponding with my hip bones, work best. You don’t have to be perfect while pinching though, for now.

From Sew What

I then measure how much I pinched and round up or down depending on how large the garment is for me to begin with. If I can afford to round up, I do, if not I round down.

For example’s sake lets say I need the waist to be taken in 2 inches. Each dart will be an inch wide at the top and taper down to a point from there. Once again depending on the garment, I either only nip the waist band, or then go further down into the skirt or pant as well.

I mark the point at which I want the dart to originate and then using it as centre, I mark half inch on either side to make a one inch dart. I usually draw one line from the centre point and another from one, slanted from the side to meet the centre line. Where they meet depends on how long you want your dart.

From Sew What

Then you simply fold along your straight centre line and press to reduce bulk a little. Sew along the slanted line and press your darts outwards.

I usually hand baste the dart first to make sure it’s the right length and if it’s going to work properly before finalising with a machine stitch. It’s better to go through your trials and errors with hand basting before you commit. Or maybe I’m just afraid of commitment. Either way, undoing hand basting is easier than having to pick apart a row of machine stitching!

From Sew What

Thats all there is to it.
Wow. I’m an expert at making simple procedure sound like rocket surgery!

La…a note to follow sew…

Lets start at the very beginning…a very good place to start…when you read you begin with A-B-C…when you sew you begin with…well…fabric.

Clearly I’m in a Sound of Music phase. And clearly, rhyming isn’t my strong suit.
Nonetheless, we’ve gotten here.

Fabric is usually where I get my jolts of inspiration from. I see material, and more often than not, I instantly have an idea or vision of what I’d like to make out of it. If I buy a piece of fabric just because I like it, I wait for inspiration to strike. I try not to force it. I have a drawer full of fabrics my darling mumsie brought for me from India, but since I didn’t have that moment in the store of seeing it and being struck with an idea, I’m waiting.

The skirt that follows is one of those ideas that struck me almost instantly, although the fabric is not store bought. I acquired it for free from the staging department of an events company I worked for. I was always amazed at how much fabric was either thrown away after an event, or just lying in rolls fading and dusty, just aching to be turned into something greater than itself.
One of the senior staging guys noticed that I often salvaged barely used fabric from events- I could not STAND seeing it discarded. He pointed me to the rolls and rolls of unused fabric in different colours and offered me whatever I wanted, since they would EVENTUALLY throw them out – colours aren’t often used for staging. Its usually black or white for the kind of gigs we did.

So I picked this gorgeous cobalt blue fabric that just happens to be suiting quality gaberdine.

From Sew What

From the way it flowed I knew I wanted to make a much fantasied asymmetrical skirt, longer in the back, shorter in the front and pleated on the back for extra effect.
I started by deciding how long I wanted it to be at its longest, and how short I wanted it to be, at its shortest.
I cut the fabric to the longest length and then drew a straight line to the shortest point on the selvage. I then marked some points, interpolating between the shortest and longest marks and drew a curve and cut this on the fold.

From Sew What

I curved the edges on each side and this is what the whole piece looked like:

From Sew What

I then zig zag edged all of it, and then hemmed it all. I should mention here that I had previously marked and measured the back pleats, added sewing allowances and such, and only then cut the fabric. This didn’t stop it from still coming out some what wonky, but we’ll pretend I intended it to be this way.
I knew I wanted it to be a front closure and left enough allowances accordingly, though I made a lot of it up as I went along.
Since the whole piece was curved I took great care to mark out and pin the hem before sewing.

From Sew What

Once it was hemmed I folded and pinned my pleats and hand tacked them down about 3 inches from the top for some definition. I later finalised this with top stitching.

From Sew What

I had left one inch allowances on each side, or rather, the front seam of the skirt. I pinned and hand basted the seam accordingly and sewed two darts on either side of the front seam, to help shape the front. These were also finalised by stitching from the widest part of the dart to the point and making sure to tie off the loose thread. Darts will and do unravel. I then pressed them outwards.

From Sew What

I then ironed on some fusible interfacing to the front seam edges and the waist band piece. This is where it starts to go downhill.

From Sew What

I then moved on to attaching the waist band.
Once again this proved to be my Achilles heel. At the time though, I naively believed my unnatural proportions would fit a straight waist band and cut out a 6 inch strip and, as shown above, interfaced it. This too would prove to be a blunder, as interfaced fabric is REALLY difficult to mess around with after the fact. Also, I should have interfaced only HALF the width. I interfaced it all and hence once it was folded over, it was ridiculous. TWO layers of interfaced fabric might as well be a quilt.

I basted and sewed on the waist band as per usual and since I was going for a 50’s/80’s revival look, I made an arrow shaped tab at the end of the band and used the buttonhole function on the machine to make a horizontal button hole.

From Sew What

I then finalised button placement and while I managed to do the top button perfectly, the second button hole landed up being horizontal instead of vertical, something I cannot fix and sorely regret.
I tried getting over that and the rest of the front seam was sewed shut, with buttons being placed on top – basically a false button placate.
What I couldn’t get over however, was the fact that once again despite measuring and hand basting and meticulously pinning everything, the waist band stuck straight up. AGAIN!
I just didn’t understand it and still don’t to a certain degree. I reached out to my sewing community and basically, my suspicions are confirmed.
I am a mutant.

Also, and probably more reasonably, I have a larger than normal difference between my waist and hips and for any waist band to fit properly, I will most likely have to cut it curved – smaller at the top and wider at the bottom. THUNDERING TYPHOONS!!

The skirt though…its gorgeous and perfect and I just didn’t have the heart to rip off the waist band and start over.

After much hemming and hawing (HAW!), ripping off and re-positioning buttons, whining, fuming, re-positioning buttons some more, talking to mum, talking to burdastyle members, vacillating back and forth in my head and writing half this blog post, I decided not to rip off the band.

I made my usual darts on the side and luckily, since there are already darts in the skirt, it doesn’t look half bad.

From Sew What

Mistakes? I’ve made a few…I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face…but I’ve come through.

The sides that come around my hips pull a little too much…the pleats are just not deep enough and I cannot even begin to understand why I did that. I measured and pinned and did everything right but all I can put it down to is haste.
I will make this one again. It’s too nice a design to leave without fulfilling it’s potential in entirety.

For now, I will wear it still, with a crisp cotton shirt and exposed seam stockings as soon as it’s more spring than winter, somewhere in the 1950’s.

Sew do la fa mi do re…

Before I launch into my usual spiel, I feel the need to offer feeble excuses for my absence.

A busy summer with mumsie visiting, vacations to New York, Bombay, Goa and Winnipeg and a busy work schedule left me little time to blog. I continued to sew and documented the process too, but actual writing took a back seat.
Cry me a river please. I had 4 vacations in total in 2010. I thank you in advance for your sympathies.

On to more pressing matters (ha!).

The weekend sewing blitz that produced my favourite red vintage inspired skirt was quite a prolific period for me.
I couldn’t stop after one successful venture and promptly started on my next project; a linen/cotton two toned ‘paper bag’ skirt. I noticed an influx of pleated ‘paper bag’ skirts with self belts in the stores and decided to make a drawstring version of my own.

I found some gorgeous natural coloured linen in the remnants bin of Fabricland for I think $2.50.
It was a sizable chunk and in retrospect I didn’t need to use it ALL in this skirt. A few slivers could have been saved since there’s a fair bit of extra allowances and folds in this project, as will become clear later on.

From Sew What

As pictured above, I also found some pretty small printed cotton on sale and used it as the second tone in this ‘two toned’ skirt.

I’m particularly proud of this next bit because it’s one of my first attempts at any sort of constructed design, so to speak, as opposed to my usual pleating or gathering.

I started by cutting out 2 simple rectangles, each half of the total length of my chosen circumference size. I think this was simply half the length of the remnant piece actually. Wastage was apparently no object!
I then chose one rectangle to be the front of the skirt, folded it in half and free hand drew a curve from the chosen top edge to the side edge/seam. Stay with me now…

From Sew What

I cut along my rather perfectly drawn curve, through both layers of the folded front piece and opened it out, so I was left with the above pictured shape of fabric. I then went over the raw edges of the curves with a zig zag stitch for proper finishing and achieved an even MORE amazing feat.
I managed to fold in the fabric about half an inch and iron along the curve. Bless linen for its give and forgiveness!

From Sew What

I then proceeded to tack it down to make sure it didn’t suddenly re-defy the physics I had already defied in getting it folded in the first place. After I machined sewed both sides in place I moved on to the next part of my increasingly fiendish plan.

The mysterious curved cut outs, you see, were actually to be part of rather large pockets and the windows to reveal the other tone in the garment i.e. the printed fabric.

I cut out two rectangles from the printed fabric, zig zag edged and hemmed them and placed and pinned them behind the curved cut outs.

From Sew What

I arrived at the measurements of the printed rectangles by first lining the fabric up with the other uncut linen rectangle, which would be the back of the skirt.
I then laid the front piece with the curved cuts on top and made some approximate markings, making sure the printed pieces that I would cut out would be large enough to fill in the curves and then some, but did not exceed the original, uncut rectangle. Get it?

Basically, I wanted to make sure that all told, I had two rectangles, identical in size i.e. the front and back of the skirt, pockets, printed pieces and all.

From Sew What

After that actually simple procedure, but rather convoluted explanation, the composite front piece pictured above was the exact same size as the uncut back piece of linen.

I then tacked and finalised the side seams. Both seams included the outer edges of the printed pocket pieces, except I left one side open from the top for about 3 inches and hemmed in the open edges.

From Sew What

I then zig zag edged and hemmed the top edge of the entire skirt, all the way around, at about a 1/2 inch. Normally I would not bother with a hem as this top bit would be covered and taken in with the waist band. However, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted this to be a drawstring skirt, so that the ‘paper bag’ effect was actually real, as opposed to achieved with pleats. So I folded over the entire top edge, about 3 inches in, sewed it down and then sewed 2 straight lines within it, at 1 inch intervals to make a channel for the drawstring.

From Sew What

I could have done a separate waist band and run a drawstring through it anyway, but that would not achieve the cinched look I was going for. I sewed in the 2 lines for the same reason – One, I wanted some of the fabric to stick up and ruffle outwards from the cinched waist that the drawstring would achieve. And two, I also wanted to make sure that the drawstring had a narrow channel to flow through and did not move around too much within it – that is what the second line of stitching achieves. I learned early on from mumsie sewing curtains that if you wanted that top ruffle, you couldn’t just fold and sew, you had to sew a channel.

I then hemmed the bottom edge, about 2 inches in.

From Sew What

I’ve always been partial to wide hems. I’m not sure if that’s an aesthetic choice or because I still cling to some misguided hope that I will one day need to let it out to accommodate my sudden miraculous height gain. Either way, once the hem was done I was in the home stretch.

All that was left was the drawstring.

I cut a two inch strip of printed fabric 15-20 inches longer than my waist measurements and sewed it into a tube.

From Sew What

I turned it right side out and pressed it with the seam towards the centre. I then cut the ends off at diagonals folded the raw edges in and top stitched them closed.

All that was left was to thread it through my super special channels. This is where those 3 inches I left open in one of the seams comes in handy!

From Sew What

I put it on, tied off the drawstring in a big bow, and it worked like a dream!

From Sew What

The drawstring allowed me to wear it either high up on my waist or lower down, something I could not manage with a fixed, pleated waist. The large amounts of fabric and the cinching at the waist coupled with the stiffness of linen made it flare out in that little girl style I adore and the pockets could not be more to my liking if I’d invented the concept of pockets!

I wore it in the summer with flats and a brown V-neck t-shirt and carried emergency candy supplies, random bits of string, a button and some pennies in my pockets. Yes yes.

Sewing star??

I know it’s been a while since I posted any of my projects, but I assure you I have been sewing and there are quite a few projects that need uploading.

However I am also working on some video projects to upload, and while I was doing so, I came across this lovely opportunity to star in a 10 minute spot on US television!

Soooo…I’m entering the Burdastyle Talent Search!

Here is my submission, and also a sneak peek into the kind of videos I will be posting soon!

I do realise this video focuses more on me, but it is an audition after all.

If you want to make your own Charlie Bag you can find the free downloadable pattern here and if you’re not a member of, you really should be!
I find it to be a great resource for not only patterns but techniques and ideas from other members as well. And no, I’m not just saying that because I want to win the contest. Really.

Thanks for watching!

Sew simple

It may not be apparent from my previous posts, but I absolutely ADORE all things vintage. This IS apparent however, from my taste in both men and clothing. HA!

I often want to buy vintage items but find that they are often too big and not always in the best condition – depending on where you buy from.

So, in keeping with my see-it-and-make-it-myself philosophy, I saw a vintage skirt that I just adored and decided to copy it to my size and modify it slightly to my style.

This is my inspiration..

From Sew What

Its a vintage wool number with a zipper in the back and pockets I think. I loved it instantly but it was both not my size and a bit too expensive for my liking. I decided to make one for myself. I chose to make it in red twill, having wanted to make a red skirt for a while. I was in a bit of a hurry for some reason so I used a side zipper and skipped the pockets. I think I might replace the zipper with an invisible one soon. Maybe.

From Sew What

I cut out two rectangles to a suitable size, usually guestimated by how wide I want the circumference to be at the bottom. I then edged all sides with a zig zag stitch, since I don’t have a serger, and hemmed the bottom of both pieces.

I then randomly picked one of the pieces to be the front and went about duplicating the pleat.

From Sew What

I basically did a large box pleat, the “box” facing in and folded in as much as was needed to reduce the waistline to the right size, plus seam allowances. I pinned everything in place and moved on to the back.

From Sew What

At this point I was still distrustful of machine basting, so I hand tacked and gathered the back piece and again, gathered enough to reduce the waistline down to the right size, plus seam allowances.

Next I hand tacked both front and back pieces together and inserted the zipper.

From Sew What

After hand tacking and making sure I was satisfied, I finalised everything with proper machine stitching.

I then moved on to the waist band. Having learned my lesson from my first skirt, I kept the zipper closed and stitched the waist band around the tube of the skirt to get the right curvature.

From Sew What

I hand tacked, first on the inside, folded over the band and then tacked the outside. I tried it on to make sure it was proper and then finalised with machine stitching. Yes I hand tack or baste a lot. I prefer it to pinning…for now.

At this point it was pretty much done. I trimmed down the waist band and added a few hand sewn snap buttons on the side to keep it down.

All I needed now was the bow.

Since I’m stubborn and unreasonable, I did not go back to look at my original inspiration and roughly measured out a rectangle, folded it in half, stitched it up and made a bow. It turned out to be bigger than the original skirt’s bow and sagged somewhat on the sides. I decided to just go with it and instead of permanently attaching it, I added a brooch pin and made it detachable, in case I suddenly decide bows are dumb. I have been known to suddenly decide that, among other things, jean shorts, dungarees, harem pants and camo mini skirts are dumb. Which really, they are once you’re out of college and not working as a talent wrangler on Canadian Idol. So I’m never sure enough to commit to permanently attaching things.

Once I pinned on the bow I was done and I’m actually quite pleased with how whimsical and over the top it looks with the over sized bow. I’m going to wear it with a polka dot top and exposed seam black stockings. 😀


From Sew What