Who do you dress for? // Clothing as performance

Clothing as Performance // Boots & Cats

About 8 years ago I was working at a clothing store that specialized in modern retro and rockabilly styles. Think 50s circle skirts with fluffy crinolines, brightly coloured 60s wiggle dresses, and polka dot everything. I’d always had a soft spot for mid-century fashion, particularly the glamour of Audrey Hepburn and the sophistication of the editorial photography of John French, but had never previously adopted the clothing into my daily life. As I worked there, surrounded by beautiful dresses and co-workers who lived the look, I started to dip my toes into the style myself. I became obsessed with acquiring new pieces, both new and vintage. Wearing a crinoline became something that happened on a semi-regular basis rather than just at a costume party and I learned more than one hair roller set. But as I did so, it became increasingly clear that there were places where I was excited to go full on Pleasantville and other times where I couldn’t imagine leaving the house in anything but a basic tee shirt and jeans.

This internal debate made me feel like a poser. If I didn’t feel like I could wear the retro look in all aspects of my life, then I mustn’t *really* be into it, right?

Clothing as Performance // Boots & Cats

One late summer weekend that year, I had a family barbecue approaching and I was torn between wearing a new brightly patterned fit and flare dress, or denim shorts and a tee. On one hand, I wanted to wear the dress, because it was a) fabulous, and b) It was the perfect weather to wear it before it got cold. But on the other hand, I had a feeling that it might welcome comments, perhaps like “wow, where are YOU off to?” or “someone’s fancy tonight!”, and figured it might be easier to catch up with my relatives without that getting in the way. Maybe it would be easier to connect if I could just blend in with the crowd?

As we are wont to do in this day and age, I took the question to social media: “Would you wear clothing considered more “out there” to a family function if it might mean it becomes harder to connect with people?”

Naturally, and as I expected, all the answers were something along the lines of “Of course! You do you and don’t care what anyone else thinks!” “Dress how you want to!” “Don’t let the haters bring your style down!”.

Which, to all those people, I completely get and support! We should be able to embrace what we love and express ourselves visually the way and not feel pressured to suppress ourselves for the comfort of what others deem appropriate.


It also got me thinking about how we use clothing as a communication tool. We all know about dressing for the situation as is applies to your environment; you dress nicer for the office that you do for a Saturday on your couch, you wear sneakers for running and old jeans for painting, but what about your social environment? How does it change depending on which crowd you’re with?


For me, it really boiled down to who I was expressing myself to. I use my clothing often to speak for me. I will dress down to create ease around other people, to blend in so we can just relax and play lawn games. I’d pull out my funkiest pieces for an event catch the attention of people I admire to invite small talk to break the ice (“oh I love that skirt!”). Sometimes I’d dress a little extra to stand out as an authority in a situation that other people can look to as a host.  But mostly, it’s communicating something about myself that I might be too shy to say outright (“I’m fun and creative! Trust me! Look at the crazy patterns I’m wearing!”)

I started thinking about this again as we all went into isolation last year. Until I began taking photos for Me Made May, I stopped coloring my hair. A part of me felt like using my somewhat-expensive purple color conditioners would be a waste. Why would I style my hair if no one would see it? It wasn’t until I was regularly taking and sharing photos that I started to wear more than the 3 outfits (sweatpants) I had on rotation. I started to play with my expression but even I had to admit it was completely for the presentation of other people. And I know this because as soon as the month ended, the 3 sweatpants ensemble reigned supreme as of June 1.

Why could I not feel that I owed myself purple hair and fun dresses? There are parts of my wondering that soars straight down the patriarchal-beauty-standards rabbit hole. To go really deep on the topic I recommend this Jessica DeFino article (I have fallen in love with her writing over the past year). But on a lighter level, how does this affect my sewing practice and personal presentation?


As sewists, we create to have control over our self-image. Either by making fantastical things no one could ever buy, or just preferring to have more say in what colours, fibre types or fit we prefer our clothes to have. Yes, it is a hobby that takes skill, precision and creative thinking, but we WEAR the output of that endeavor. Over the years I have found that I don’t wear the clothes I make or feel as comfortable in them as something I picked up at the mall (or more recently, Poshmark) in most situations. Not because they aren’t made right or fit poorly (okay, in my case it is sometimes the fit, but I’m workin’ on it), but because the clothes I make are usually the most distilled version of myself in my head. She’s glamourous, artsy, fun and cool. She takes risks and wears weird clothes! But in a word designed to make us feel self-conscious most of the time, I rarely actually feel like that person. Is it disingenuous to express what I don’t feel? Is that what makes me feel like a poser?

I am working to steer my wardrobe and sewing practice to a place that meets somewhere in the middle. Not totally look-at-me, center stage, neon yellow lace but not boring back-of-the-closet t-shirts either. Things that can be cozy and casual and still capture the light of who I am to someone I’ve never met. And maybe being mindful of which environments I feel like I can let the guard down just a little and feel a little more of the “ah screw it, I’ll wear it anyway” energy.

Now more than ever it’s so interesting to think of our clothing and why we dress the way we do, especially as we are emerging into this new social world. I know I am STILL wearing my Hudson pants most days, and I doubt there will be many non-stretch fabrics in the winter months to come. But here’s hoping there are more opportunities created where we can all express the most sartorial parts of ourselves shamelessly, and grace for ourselves in the times when we don’t.

Photos by Dallas Curow,  a total throwback to our first shoot together in 2016 and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Comfortable Sewing // Hudson Pants and Odgen Camis

For the longest time I was a one-and-done seamstress. It was rare for me to make the same pattern twice, and if I did, it was in a wildly different fabric or for a specific situation. I sought out novelty and let the TNT (tried ‘n’ true) train chug right on by. It felt wasteful to have multiples of the same thing in my closet when variety was the spice of life. Why wear one thing, when you could wear ALL THE THINGS?

As time wore on, my skills improved and I settled into my style persona. I started making patterns that were quick and satisfying, but elevated my wardrobe in a major way. And repeating them. Thoughts would drift to new fabrics and colours of these basic patterns that could fill multiple spots in my wardrobe. It became apparent that if I made variations of similar building blocks, I could make outfits I knew would look good without much thought. They could be mixed and matched in endless ways, which turns out to be much less wasteful than lots of single pieces that would only work in one specific outfit. Maybe there was something to this TNT thing after all.

The first of this new wave of TNT’s was the True Bias Ogden Cami. I was wary when it first hit the scene, as I traditionally avoid v-necklines at all costs. But one New Year’s Eve I needed a quick pattern for a sequin top and the simple lines and easy PDF print made me take the plunge. And whaddya know, I found the neckline to be flattering in a way that v-necks typically aren’t on me. I really loved that sequin one, and then a few months later I needed a project to bring along to a sewing afternoon with a friend. Few pattern pieces, no fiddly notions, and could be completed in a few hours? Check, check and check. The rest, as they say, is history.

As this spring approached, I cut out three more in a variety of fabrics to suit different moods and outfits. One sophisticated solid linen, one punchy Liberty lawn and one breezy polyester polka dot print. I decided to knock them all out in tandem. Can I just ask, how come no one told me how awesome batch-sewing is? It was so satisfying to watch them all come together as a group and having 3 full new garments at the end of what felt like one project.

In order to streamline my progress, I determined that a navy thread was a common enough colour denominator between the three fabrics. I used that for the entire construction, only changing to matching threads for top-stitching and under-stitching at the end.

The only pattern changes I made were extending the length about 4 cm (which I slashed and spread right into my pattern pieces so all future ones will be this length), and I got slightly adventurous and rounded the neckline on the polka-dot one, to see if I’d like it. It works, but it takes away a bit of the “style” of the pattern I think, and makes it more basic. I’ll only do this again if I am making ones specific for layering with other things.

Now, normally I’d be pairing these new tops with jeans and a cardigan and be on my way, but as we all very well know, ain’t no one wearing jeans right now. I needed comfy pants (that aren’t literal pajamas) and stat.

I knew the ticket would be the True Bias Hudson Pants (I just realized this is a full True Bias look!). I’ve had this pattern for years in PDF form after it came bundled in the Perfect Pattern Parcel (RIP). I bought the bundle for the Julia Cardigan, but was interested in the Hudson; I just never really had the need for them until now.

I searched my stash high and low for the right fabrics, trying to not break my recent “no shopping until you complete the other things you started” rule, but right now, most of what I have on hand are woven fabrics and novelty prints (or not enough of something for pants). Blackbird Fabrics just *happened* to release a collection of bamboo and cotton stretch fleece fabric a few weeks ago and it just called to me as the comfort I’d want in a house pant.

And yes, these are going to be house pants. I could wear them out in the world (once it’s safe to do so, obvs), but if you’ll allow me a small side story…

A few years back, a few sewing bloggers talked about the Kibbe style identities. I went down the rabbit hole, and while there are some issues with the system (and fashion has no real “rules”), one part of the system really struck a chord with me and helped define something I had trouble articulating in my closet. The system recognizes 3 different ‘levels’ of dress, 1 being most casual, and 3 is most formal or “dressed up”. Different style personalities can play with the bounds of these levels more than others. For example; on some people, joggers and a tee looks stylishly casual as level 1, while myself in the same outfit feels like I look like I’m heading off to help paint the fence (level 0? Ha). I fall under soft dramatic, which tends to work better in things that are a little more streamlined and crisp, leaning a level higher than other types. I’ve always felt sloppy in very casual clothes, like cute hoodies or graphic tees, even when those items look SO GOOD on others. On the flip side, I feel like I might wear my Keilo Wrap Dress in more casual settings than the style typically suggests. This is just what resonated with me though; you sew you.

Anyways, for comforts of home, these joggers were a super fun and fast make, and especially since I also batch-sewed these. I did them up mostly on my serger and they came together in just a few sessions with very few changes. I wanted the lime green pair to be cropped at the ankle but not as short as mid-calf pattern option, and the grey pair to be full length. The pattern is drafted for a 28″ inseam, and since I have a 30″ inseam, I left the pattern as-is for the green, and added the 2″ extra to the grey. My only complaint is that I wish I took in the waistband juuust a smidge. It’s slightly too large and I have to rely on my drawstring more than I intended. I could take the elastic in, but the amount of unpicking required isn’t worth the amount it actually bothers me. It’s more a note for future versions I may embark upon.

I am super happy with these pants, as they are as comfortable as pajamas, but I feel a little more like myself putting them on in the morning. I love the contrast details with the black and grey and the bright punch of color with the green that make them extra special. I’m not embarrassed to go check the mail in these, and the soft fleece is so heckin’ cozy.

Once I finished both the pants and the camis, I wanted to finish them up extra special. Enter: some fun labels! These are from Kylie and the Machine and I got them from Blackbird Fabrics. The “this is the back” tag I find especially useful on the Odgens, since the back and front are very similar and I have gotten mixed up on more than one occasion. It’s an extra special touch that I want to put into more of my garments, especially the ones that I know I will wear a ton. It just feels a little more legit, y’know?

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to live out the rest of my Me Made May days in these comfy clothes and make more progress on my UFO (Unfinished objects) list. Happy weekend!

Comfortable Sewing // Linen Kielo Wrap Dress

When we rang in 2020, I dubbed it: The Year I Finish all the $#*t I’ve Started. I wrote a list of all the crafting projects that have been initiated to some degree, and told myself I wouldn’t purchase anything new until these were done. Whether it was a project I only acquired the materials for, one I began working on (and abandoned), or something I technically completed but needed to ‘finish’ for it to be wearable/displayable/useful, they all went on the list.

I knew it would take some time to get through this backlog of UFOs, but in the end I would end up with a clean craft slate. I hoped that it would 1) absolve the guilt I feel when I see half knit sweaters crammed in a corner and my fabric stash literally busting my furniture at the seams, and 2) help me zone into what projects I actually really enjoyed doing, and not what I felt like I “had” to do, or simply liked the idea of.

By forcing myself to complete what I started, perhaps I could diagnose what caused me to abandon them in the first place. Maybe I just like pretty, fluffy yarn instead of knitting? Or maybe I just need less distraction from faster projects to get into the stitches? Maybe I love looking at tailored garments on the internet, but only really have the time for making comfy, one-day stretch clothes. Maybe by helping Rory finish his sewing project, I could unlock the gift of self-less sewing! Really, it was going to be a craft revolution.

Then, lo, we found ourselves in the midst of some pretty unprecedented times. I was laid off my job pretty early on, and in what should have been the gift of ALL THIS FREE TIME to get crackin’ on the list… I was feeling more in the how-’bout-we-don’t territory. I guess it’s hard to feel motivated when the world comes to a screeching halt.

(The fact that Animal Crossing came out at the end of March had NOTHING to do with it…)

Then, we have the practical side of things. Getting dressed each morning knowing full well that you aren’t going anywhere presents a bit of a problem. Yes, putting on normal people clothes like its a normal day is supposed to be good for your sense of routine, but if I’m mostly gonna be curled up on the couch reading books, playing games or crafting, I wanna be comfy. No jeans or frilly dresses happening here, folks. And after a week of the same pair of yoga pants pulled from the floor each day, I realized my lack of options in the “comfy but not painting clothes” milieu. Think pajamas, but presentable (to whom, I am not sure, but roll with it).

Plus, as the snow melted and the sunshine came through, I needed some warm weather options as well. Y’know, for all those picnics with myself.

Hmm, better look at that list… hey! A Kielo wrap dress! This pattern from Named is one that caught my eye long ago. I was always intrigued by it, but worried it was too weird? Would the flying squirrel wraps work in daily life? Then I remembered to take my own dang advice and embrace what I find attractive in clothing and just run with it. I purchased the pattern last spring, with plans for a breezy summer make, but never got around to it while it was still warm.

The fabric is a viscose linen slub I bought from Blackbird Fabrics. The wonderfully cheerful chartreuse tone is what did me in. I actually bought this in person, during a jeans making workshop with Lauren I attended in Vancouver last April. It feels like a million years ago that something like that was even possible. (I did make some jeans, and they are awesome, but I have another pair cut out with some tweaks and I want to compare before blogging ’em. And yes they may have been cut for a year. Yes, that’s on the list!)

The sewing of this dress comes along actually fairly quickly. The biggest thing is having the space for all that fabric to be cut and pressed. Thank goodness for the floor.

I found the Named instructions/diagrams to be a little sparse, so I recommend reading them over twice before going in, but there’s nothing in the actual construction that a beginner couldn’t handle.

The only change I made was in drafting an all-in-one facing for the neck and arms, as I didn’t want top-stitching along the neckline. Also, I waaayy prefer facing finishes… bias tape and I don’t get along on curves. The tutorial on the Named blog was super useful and I just burrito-ed away. I did tack the facing down at the underarm seam to keep them flipping out, and also re-enforced the seam there with a few extra stitches.

In terms of cool, but comfy clothes to loft around in, I’d say mission accomplished. It feels like a chic, modern house dress. Now as the sun shines I can swan around my apartment wrapped in a big linen hug. Ah hugs… those were the days (how long do we need to keep acknowledging the *thing* in all our writing, btw?).

There’s something simplistic, yet complex about the shape that just takes it from being just any other maxi dress. I also enjoy the versatility of wearing it with the ties wrapped either way, but I much prefer the drama of the cocoon front. While the linen screams summer, I cannot WAIT to wear this in the fall, layered with a dark turtleneck for super cozy vibes.

Will I get more of my “list” done this summer? Only time will tell. Now that I’ve accepted the new normal, I feel my creative juices creeping back in. I have a few more comfy house clothes that unceremoniously jumped the line with a fast pass out of necessity, but I think this is a good motivation to keep moving forward and keep the days from feeling repetitive. Hope you are all doing alright out there, and can enjoy the sunshine.

Linen in the Sun // V1507

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was lucky enough to visit sunny Palm Springs earlier this spring. In packing and preparing for the trip, I made a discovery. I had so many options I wanted to bring! I LOVE my summer wardrobe. It was also here I realized the items that I loved the most were garments I had made. I looked to my left at the winter wardrobe I was leaving behind, and to my right all my summery options I was packing and realized; my me-made wardrobe…is a summer wardrobe. My cold-weather closet has few hand-made garments in it, and even fewer that I would say I loved. This is unfortunate because our hot, summer season is so short. That fact is made doubly-unfortunate when you consider my summer wardrobe now includes this:

This is a floaty, frilly, pastel blue linen, Rachel Comey design from Vogue patterns in all it’s sunshine-y, ruffly majesty. When I was buying V1501, this pattern also caught my eye. It had a saucy amount of flounce and the sort of exaggerated shape I have recently been craving. After a quick search on the sewing blogs and seeing this version, I was completely sold (and destined to make it in light blue linen).

Once again falling into size 12-ish, I decided to read some reviews before cutting. Many recommended to size down due to the wide back opening, so I opted to cut out a size 10. It feels like a good fit and I am glad I sized down. Just a note if you are making this pattern- make sure you double check your sizing on the pattern pieces. I noticed in mine the piece for the back yoke (number 4) was labeled in the range 6-14 instead of 4-12 but the sizing was the same (so I cut a size 12 in this piece which was really supposed to be the 10).

For adjustments,  I didn’t want things to feel too short since I always need to add length, but this pattern looks straight up weird when you look at the pieces and I feared messing with proportions too much.  I added just 1.5cm length to the entire bottom hem on both front layers, and I think it was a good amount. As for cutting the pattern out, I was able to save some space by eliminating the centre front seam on the bottom layer and cut on the fold.

In putting everything together, it was surprisingly straightforward and not as fiddly as the strange pattern pieces might lead you to believe. I did make a few small changes though. I skipped bias binding the seam on the inner yoke and just overlocked it instead, and did the same when I attached my sleeves. I understand that these could give your project a clean, elevated finish, but I fight with bias tape on simple hems and simply didn’t feel the need to wrangle it into an armhole. I also was confused by some of the sleeve notches and where the edges were supposed to overlap so I eyeballed it, and confirmed by measuring the pieces against each other.

Other than that, just be prepared for so. many. tiny. hems. Recently with many projects, I have gotten into lazy habit of just overlocking hems and just folding it up to finish. Don’t like fussing with pressing, meticulous measuring and doubling over and the invariably wobbly, stretched out or puckered hem that can result. This pattern would not let that fly, as it would be super visible. I spent probably as much time pressing and folding these edges as I did actually sewing. Surprisingly though, it felt therapeutic and it came out so beautifully. I might have to start doing things properly again.

At the end of it all I was worried that things would be just too floofy. It seemed dicey when I first put it on but after I got Rory to help me properly tie the back, which pulled in some of the volume, I fell in love with the look. After sewing, some of the hems got a little over-stretched so I tossed it in the wash to shrink ’em back up. This inevitably lead me to crease-town. I tried giving it a good press, but once this baby is assembled, it’s pretty tricky to iron everything crisply flat. But this is the linen life. We just go find a hammock and let the cares about wrinkles float away.

This top is the epitome of summer dressing. It is light, it is fun, it has so much personality. I highly recommend playing around and giving it a sew.

Palm Springs was the perfect place to make its debut, what with the blissful heat and colorful atmosphere, but I am already counting down to some nice toasty days here at home to bust it out in it’s cool linen glory.

It’s me-made season. That winter wardrobe can wait.

Embracing the Weird and Wonderful // V1501

I’ve always thought myself of someone who just knew what they liked and generally trusted my first impression. However, I have learned this to be completely untrue. I remember the first time I started seeing women wear their hair in high top knot buns and really disliking the look. Fast forward to today and well…there’s a 80% chance my hair is in a high bun. The same thing happened with this pattern, the now well-known Rachel Comey Vogue Pattern 1501. When it first came out I thought it was trying a bit too hard to be cool. I told myself I liked patterns that were simple and straight-forward in design. As time wore on and I saw some extremely chic versions crop up here and there, I slowly started to fall in love.  I stocked up on this fabric late last fall and finally found the motivation to sew it up this spring just in time for a trip to Palm Springs.

The more I observe stylish sewists and artsy people, I find myself being far more open to the “weird”. However, I have big fears of not liking what I make or not quite landing the look and feeling foolish, so I tend to play it really safe. But as time goes on, I am allowing myself to lean into garments that are “weird” and “fashion-y”and kind of loving it. I want to go bigger with silhouettes, manipulate fabric, create unique shapes and make something that truly feels unique. I really admire Sophie’s style, who exemplifies the look I feel more and more drawn to in my sewing (and ready to wear) purchases. I recently made another one of Rachel’s Vogue patterns which I LOVE and am feeling drawn to the Keilo wrap dress for the summer (another pattern that I initially felt was a little too odd) and need to give myself more permission to take the risks and make things that are anything but ordinary. Anyways, back to this wonderful dress.

The fabric is a Telio viscose broken twill. I knew I wanted a fabric in a rich navy color and something that would hold it’s weight and showcase the pattern design, but still drape beautifully to give that floaty element in the skirt and in the back. It turned out to be the perfect mix of both worlds for this garment.

It’s been a while since I’ve sewn with a Vogue pattern, so I sort of guessed with the sizing. I am technically between a 12 and 14, but I have heard a lot about the excess ease in these patterns, so I cut a “generous” size 12. I added my standard 2.5 cm length to the bodice so the skirt would hit my proper waist. Wearing it now, the bodice feels a teensy bit long. I am not sure there’s much I can do at this point, besides making a note to only add 1.5 cm to future makes of this pattern. As I was cutting everything out, I was pretty distracted and forgot to cut the back bodice piece on the fold since I’m so used to working with a centre back seam. I would have had enough fabric if I had just laid things out correctly at the beginning but sadly I did not have enough to recut the piece. Luckily, in this dark, solid color you can barely tell the back seam is there. Had I been working with a bold print, I might be complaining a lot more.

The instructions were easy to follow and even introduced me to some new techniques… had I had the brainpower to attempt them. It featured a new way of inserting the in seam pockets that I hadn’t seen before. However I was sewing on a deadline (ie. flying out the next morning) I decided not to risk the task of trying something new and made a note to try it on my next pockets when I have more time.

I opted out of the shoulder pads (wasn’t really my thing) and so I got to skip a few fiddly steps there. I inserted the facings using ye olde burrito method for a fast, clean finish. This did slightly change the assembly order in regards to the shoulder and side seams, but nothing dramatically. I say this every time I sew all-in-one facings, but damn I love those things. Everything feels neat and tidy and no arguing with bias tape.

Once everything was complete and I tried it on, I seriously contemplated giving the length a chop to bring it up above the knee. Nearly all my dresses are that length and the skirt felt a little too long. Time and energy kept me from doing it (see again: flight the next morning) and I told myself if it was always something I could adjust later. Interestingly though, the more I wear it, the more I find this length a little more dramatic, and refreshingly different. For now, it’ll stay as is.

As many people have pointed out already, it’s a bit of a puzzle of how to store it. The skirt is only attached at the center front pleats, so the entire skirt is just pulling on that seam if you use a regular hanger. For now I have it on a pants hanger, with the waistband in the clips and the bodice draped down. Also not ideal, but preferable to wrinkles from folding and stuffing in a drawer.

I had a lot of fun making this dress, and in terms of construction, it wasn’t all that different than other things I typically make. I feel sophisticated and cool and yet totally comfortable, which I think makes it the ultimate win. In terms of my wardrobe, it fits right in with this new version of clothes I want to make and wear and I hope it can keep me inspired to go for the bold.

A Cozy Knit Vest

As we emerge from the coldest February of my life (seriously) I am excited to share a simple, cozy, chunky knit project that helped me survive the plunging temps. It is basically a wool blanket that is chic enough to wear out in public. Is there a wardrobe staple more Canadian than that?

The yarn is Loopy Mango Merino No. 5 in Iceberg. I found it over a year ago at Stash Lounge during a road trip. Some people go sightseeing, I buy yarn. It happens. I loved the soft airy squish and the perfect cool grey tone. I didn’t have a pattern idea yet in mind so I bought 4 balls in hopes I would be able to make something reasonably cozy with it that would be more than just a scarf.

After seeing some cool friends rock the style, I felt inspired to try and make some sort of slouchy draped vest that I could wear over dresses and light sweaters. Instead of searching for a pattern I decided to keep things simple and make my own with basic shapes. I figured that I could make it with one big rectangle for the back and two for the front. The only challenge was how to figure out how long and draped I could make it with my limited yarn. Time to bust out the math.

I began by determining the minimum width I would need for the panels so it would drape over my shoulders while still fitting comfortably, then estimated an ideal length for the relaxed style I was going for. This left me with a back panel that would be 80 cm by 80 cm and two front panels 30 cm x 80 cm. Using 25 mm needles I then knit a 10 stitch x 10 row swatch to get an idea of my gauge. This swatch ended up being about 20 cm by 17 cm, and when I unraveled it and measured that it used around 10 m of yarn. The combined length of my 4 balls was 272 m of yarn. I calculated based on my swatch that I would not have enough yarn for these original dimensions and started scaling back until I counted that I could reasonably knit a back panel that was 72 cm x 70 cm long and two front panels that were 30 cm x 70 cm. This translated into 36 stitches x 41 rows and 15 stitches x 41 rows.

To show off the texture of the yarn I went with a stockinette stitch. It was a little ridiculous knitting with such large needles (and I was told it also appeared ridiculous) but it made for a very quick and satisfying project once I sat down and got to it. Once I finished the three panels I used a large sewing needle and seamed up the top of the shoulders, and the side seams, leaving a 30 cm space for arm holes. Because the knit is so loose and the project is fairly heavy, I am noticing that it pulls funny at the shoulder seams. I went back and reinforced them by looping another row into the seaming but I am not 100% happy with the finish. Also, I tried weaving in my ends, but with such an open knit, I am finding little fuzzy ends occasionally popping up. If any knitters have tips or other methods for seaming and ends, I am all ears!

When all was said and done, I ended up with nearly 3/4 of a ball of yarn left. My math wasn’t perfect and my gauge was a lot tighter than my swatch. The final measurements are smaller than anticipated but not by much. But silver lining, I have some of this amazing yarn for another small project.

Speaking of delightfully chunky knits, I also had this ball of giant roving in my stash that was begging to be knit for so long. I decided to sit down one evening during the cold spell and arm knit the silliest, largest, coziest scarf ever. The thickness made the perfect exaggerated texture. I kind of eye-balled the dimensions, which resulted in re-knitting it about 3 times to get the right length to height ratio. Luckily because it is SO THICK, it took maybe 2 hours, start to finish, even with re-doing it that many times. It is now my go-to winter statement piece.

As much as I still prefer the puzzle-piecing of sewing to the repetition of knitting, I am really happy I made these. They were really fun projects that made dressing for -30 C a bit more of a joy. That, and the fact that I cannot resist the allure of a fluffy yarn.

A Pink Paisley Pencil Skirt // #SewFrosting

For the past month, the sewing world has gotten colorful, sparkly, and oh-so-fancy. Inspired by Heather Lou from Closet Case Patterns and Kelli from True Bias, sewists everywhere are embracing sewing “frosting”. The fun, less-practical pieces that truly exemplifies the magic of making your own clothing, in contrast to (the very essential) “cake” basics of our wardrobes.

As someone whose been sewing seriously for nearly a decade, it’s no surprise that my style has evolved over that time. In the last year or so I’ve been stuck in a weird place, where I have started feeling better and more confident in clothing that I’ve purchased over the things that I’ve made. It’s not the quality or construction of the garments (like my earlier pieces) but a general feeling that I want to feel a little more sophisticated than the wild array of prints, colors and silhouettes that dominated my early 20s wardrobe. This disconnect between my past style and current vision of what I want to wear left me sort of in limbo. I felt I needed to sew with what I currently owned, but if I did, I wouldn’t wear it. Things slowed down.

When I saw the #SewFrosting challenge, I felt the buzz to participate. I had clearly been taking everything to seriously. I took this fabric off my “want to make soon” pile and whipped it up into this skirt last weekend.

The fabric is a special gem from my trip to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. On the top floor they had all the sale fabrics and “end of the roll” materials and from the pile, this bright neon pink caught my eye. Emerged was this gorgeous jacquard paisley in brilliant swirls of pink and grey. It had to come home with me. With just 2m left on the roll it was made to be.

I anticipated making a pencil skirt with this from the beginning, knowing that the excessive print would probably be *too much* on anything else. Because of the yardage I got, I have plenty leftover from this project to make something else fun in the future.

The pattern is a basic skirt from my vintage stash, Butterick 3882. I love a good pencil skirt and haven’t made one in ages. Since I was using a vintage pattern, there was only one size available in the envelope, and sadly it was not mine. I had to increase the waist by 5cm, so I added 1.25 to each of the side seams. I did grade the pattern back down to the original pattern size from the hips to the hem to keep the silhouette from being too flared. I drafted and cut out an extension to sew a back vent, but after I sewed up the side seams, I tried it on and found I had no problem moving around in it, so I simply closed up the center back seam and saved myself the trouble.

When I make complicated projects I get really lazy about my finishing techniques, in a rush to get things over and done with. However, when a project is as simple as a pencil skirt, I make sure everything is really fancy. I fully lined the skirt, and hand stitched the invisible zipper and inner waistband so everything was smooth and sleek-looking.

Feeling inspired by both this project and the movement online, I got some shiny new fabrics and created a plan for my wardrobe using patterns I already hadve and getting some new patterns that will fit my new vision of my style. We’ll see if the energy keeps up but right now I am feeling excited, rejuvenated and looking forward to this frosting-filled, thoughtful wardrobe.

In A Twist Dress

Last summer I very distinctly noted a desire to wear only comfortable knit dresses, especially when in a heatwave. Naturally, I had only one knit dress at the time. In my seasonal wardrobe planning this year I mapped out a cool, grey t-shirt dress with some sort of fabric detail to fill the void. I felt inspired by the style of knotted t-shirts, feeling like in dress form, it would be the perfect mix of casual and a little dressier.

I found the perfect grey bamboo jersey at Blackbird Fabrics which I set aside for this dress. I hadn’t an exact pattern in mind but I knew the vision I had for it, so I kept my eyes out. Eventually, after some more intentional searching, I found the In a Twist Dress from So Sew Easy. It was was still simple with the right touch of visual interest and detail.

For something that looks so complicated, the twist “knot” was actually the easiest part of constructing this dress! The directions are super clear and the funny looking pattern pieces just seem to fall into place. It has such high impact for low-effort, and I will definitely be using this pattern again.

The difficult parts in the construction came from my own meddling. I wanted to make the pattern a little more casual and t-shirt style. I decided to use the Deer and Doe Plantain tee as the top of the bodice for the neckline and sleeves. I wasn’t sure the best way to merge the patterns together so I began by just lining up the underarm seam and tracing the Plantain pattern above. I noticed that the top of the shoulder seam of the Plantain was about 6 cm higher than the top of the shoulder seam of the In a Twist dress. I wrote it off as extra fabric for the sleeve. But obvious to me now,  the hack meant that the bodice was 6 cm too long, and resulted in the waist knot sitting nearly on my hips. Whoops.

I remedied the situation by unpicking everything above the waist (sooo many little threads thanks to overlocking everything), and retracing the Plantain bodice 6 cm lower than initially planned. After all this frustration (and third time sewing it) my neckline binding was over-stretched and flopping all over the place. This is where we note that sewing late at night, with expectations of finishing a project for the next day, and patience running low is not the best combination. Frustrated at what felt like a failure of EVERY SINGLE neckline I’ve sewn EVER, I basically vowed to quit sewing forever and that’s where this post ends.

I am kidding. Don’t sew while sleepy, friends.

After a few days and mental recovery I cut another neckline binding (and to the advice of the sewing community I cut it on the bias for extra stretchiness and recovery) and it was beautiful. It all came together in the end.

Sadly, summer decided to bid an early adieu. I was lucky to get this out on the town exactly once before the chill. But oh boy, next year I will be cruisin’ cool and comfy alllll the time.

I would like to say that I have a perfect road map of my fall and winter sewing, but I am really feeling like I need to go with the flow right now. I have some fun ideas in the queue (will this be the winter I make my Ginger jeans??) and I am going to follow my inspiration and sew what gets me excited and motivated.

Happy fall!

Refashioning an Old Project // 50’s Circle Skirt

It’s always a little strange looking back on old creative projects. Sometimes it feels like all you can see are the mistakes. Luckily with sewing we have an opportunity, in some cases, to fix those mistakes and revive an old item into something fresh you’ll actually wear.

This project was the outcome of the first vintage pattern I’d ever sewn with, probably back in 2008. I had the chance to raid my grandmother’s pattern stash and while I found mostly late 60s-80s patterns, I found this one gem of a circle skirt from the late 1950s. I swooned at the full skirted silhouette and especially loved the giant pockets on the panels. I instantly imagined myself as the featured girl on the envelope cover (as I tend to do with vintage pattern illustrations…) swirling and twirling to class in university.

For fabric I chose a beautiful teal knit that had gorgeous drape and quite a bit of weight. I made my fabric decision entirely on the color. Sewing the skirt itself was an experience to say the least. The directions were quite vague compared to modern big 4 patterns I had been used to and there were no diagrams. In my novice-ness I made many guesses on how things should be done. Once it was all sewn up, it was wearable and kinda cute. I wore it once to show it off, but the heavy fabric required a crinoline to hold up the volume. I also didn’t have any other retro inspired clothing to go with it so I wore it with modern accessories. It was definitely a LOOK.

Needless to say, I never wore it again.

I kept in in my stash, not really bearing to just throw it away. I was thinking maybe one day I could harvest the fabric into something new since there was so much of it in there. It was only this summer I realized that I could probably just tweak a few things to make it more wearable.

Upon fully revisiting the skirt I noticed a whole host of sewing foibles. Uneven top stitching, incorrect stitch-in-the-ditch, a completely inexplicable insertion of the waistband interfacing and… velcro as a waistband closure. Oy. As humiliating as it is, it’s nice to look back at old errors and naivety as a frame of reference to see that, even though my skills aren’t exactly where I wish they could be, they are a hell of a lot farther ahead than they once were. And that’s pretty cool.

The first step in this refashion was evaluating the areas that had issues and what could be salvaged. Truthfully, I could have probably unpicked EVERYTHING and started from scratch, but ain’t nobody got time for that. The main structural issue was the waistband, and style-wise, the true 50s tea length was not something that I found I could wear on a regular basis, so some of that had to go.

I started by trying on the skirt as is, and pinning up the hem until I found a new length that was more wearable but still long enough to have that retro swing feel to it. I marked the length and measured the new hem length all the way around with chalk. After the big chop I unpicked the waistband and traced a new one from the off-cuts of the hem. The original waistband was just one side and the facing, but I decided I wanted to insert elastic to help hold up the weight of the fabric so I cut out twice the width so I could double it over.

I attached the new waistband onto the skirt, and gave the skirt a final, basic hem. I usually like the look of a deep hem, especially on skirts, but with this much circular volume that can be a recipe for puckers and folds, so I kept it a simple 2 cm.

About 3 hours from the start I had an entirely new skirt. The elastic in the waist makes it comfortable to wear, and the new length doesn’t require a crinoline. This makes it more casual but also shows off the gorgeous drape of the fabric (I swoon at the sight of the light reflecting those dramatic folds… is that just me?). I’ve had the pleasure of wearing this skirt 3 times now already, tripling it’s previous wear usage and love that I’ll be able to transition it into the fall with some cute layers. (hmm…I just realized I have a black turtleneck, maybe I can be that girl on the cover after all…)

To pair with it for summer weather, I made my second Hunter tank! It has that retro nod that complements the skirt without feeling costume-y. After making my first one in white, I wanted to make my second in black and had the perfect soft, drapey fabric in my stash from another project. I had to get thrifty with it though because I didn’t quiiiiite have enough for cutting it all out on the bias. The back pieces needed to be cut out in sections, with little triangle bits at the bottom. I drafted these pieces by tracing my pattern piece on the fabric and with paper underneath where I ran out of space, and cut the paper to make a new template. The effect is nice and subtle, which I am grateful for. I even tried to take photos of the back but you really couldn’t tell at all (black fabric is great on cameras for that), so I didn’t even feel the need to post it.

I used to carry this mentality that once something was done, it was done. So it was a nice reminder to know that changing things up can make them more worthwhile in the end, even if it does feel like sinking more work into something you’ve already spent so much time on. But in the long run, fixing something that’s already done is way faster than starting something new from scratch, and produces less waste! Win win!

If you are seeking permission to cut up an old project and re make it, here it is! Go do it, I promise it will be worthwhile.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle // Sweet Printed Tate Top

A cool fall has come quick and swift to us here this year, which I am somewhat lamenting because I had one last linen summer project in the queue that I was excited to make but I might save until spring, so I can jump into sewing cozy fall things. Luckily, this is not that project and it’s aborable-ness arrived just in time and ready to take on the world.

This summer I overcame many excuses and finally bought myself a bicycle! I love cycling but would only really do so on vacation, and felt like it would be too impractical to have my own bicycle in our chilly Canadian city. However, we are getting more bike lanes and more of my friends were taking two wheels to get around and I finally gave into the urge of having my own.

So, meet Bridget! (Named for the outgoing, athletic Sister of the Travelling Pants). I’ve had the privilege and joy this summer taking her on my commute, through parks and on errands. It’s hard not to feel like a fancy European lady on a pretty little bicycle through town. Naturally, she needed a garment to celebrate her place in my life haha.

I reached for the fabric with bicycles all over it. It is a cotton shirting scored in a Blackbird Fabrics remnants sale many, many moons ago. It may have been the first remnant sale they ever held, if I am being honest. I was obviously drawn to it for the teeny adorable little bicycle doodles all over it. However, a stiffer cotton shirting is like, the last type of fabric I am drawn to. I like things with drape, softness or squishiness, so this structured (but still adorable) fabric sat on the shelf for much longer than usual. I was pretty stumped with how to use it.

Then Bridget arrived and a retro-looking, bicycle-filled crop top seemed the answer.

The pattern is one of my tried-and-true crop top patterns, the Workroom Social Tate Top. A free pattern, I love the simple shape, ease and speed of sewing and it’s wonderful stash-busting capabilities. This is my fourth version of the top. Because of the stiffness of my fabric I carved out a little depth in the neckline, and added a little bit of length so I can wear it with different skirts and pants without showing too much skin.

I toyed with the idea of complementing the fabric with details and notions, like a ruffle or contrast hem. It ended up looking a bit fussy so I just added a touch of sass with these amazing vintage buttons (which I got in this years SVE) and let the teeny print shine.

I don’t know how many more days I’ll have to cruise around with Bridget (or to wear crop tops for that matter) but I am happy to wrap up summer on this very cute note. On to cozier things!