Ultimate Winter Coziness // Named Talvikki Sweater

featuring the named patterns talvikki sweater

Hurray! It’s the first make of 2022! In fact, its’ my first (garment) make in nearly a year now. A lot of that had to do with moving to a new space. If any of you have moved recently, you know how much of a disruption it can be to your sewjo. It’s not just getting it unpacked, but also organized and inviting, making it easy to feel inspired to get going on a project. It’s been a while putting this room together and there’s still so much to do, but I’ve gotten to a point where I am feeling creatively excited and have the space to make some fun things happen. On to the sweater!

The pattern is the Named Talvikki Sweater, a much loved pattern in the community for its classic silhouette, developed in a really fashion-forward way. I’ve had it in my stash for years but found myself struggling to find the ideal fabric for it. I wanted something that had some texture or color variation, (worried that a solid, smooth color would feel too bland on such a high-coverage sweater) but not a print. I wanted something snuggly to play with the oversized vibe, but structured enough to hold the shape of the neckline. It also needed a decent amount of stretch too, to get it over your head. Quite the tricksy combination. For the last few years, as the winter seasons approached, I kept my eye out for the seasonal fabric launches. Luckily this year Blackbird Fabrics had just the ticket: a lovely boiled wool in a light, heathery grey.

Kat peeks out from behind the high neckline of the sweater

I bet the first question you have is… is it itchy? If you are super sensitive to the feeling of wool, you may find it a tad rough. I can be picky with wool sometimes, but because this fabric isn’t particularly ‘fuzzy’ (which is what bothers me), I find it comfortable. It has a pleasant squish and it feels like pure cozy. But just in case, I did take a few steps to mitigate any potential irritation, and I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I cut a size 4/6, and I did my usual length-adding adjustments. With each new pattern I will start by holding up the pattern pieces to my body and deciding how much I need to add, since it can vary depending on the style. I decided to add just 1 cm to the waist length and about 3cm to the sleeves. I think the proportions are perfect, especially the sleeves. In a softer fabric I may consider increasing the waist length a bit more since it may feel a little short with the fabric drape at the front (notes for future self).

Kat poses to the side to show the side split and high-low hem

Because the boiled wool is so structured I opted out of adding interfacing to the neckline, knowing it could hold its own. In fact, I was worried that even just a facing of the same fabric would be *too* structured. This was also where I was most worried that the fabric might be irritating on my neck. So the two-in-one solution? Cut the facing from a soft ponte knit. It had a smooth feeling for the inside of the sweater, reduced bulk and there’s still plenty of structure. The ponte facing was sewn with under-stitching to give it a fighting chance against the wool pulling it to the outside and I vigorously tacked it down to the shoulder seams and darts as well for good measure.

Kat rolls up sweater sleeves to reveal contrast lining

When I was cutting out the facing piece from my ponte, I also had the idea to add some sleeve facings. At first for comfort, but also as a nice contrast if I decide to roll the sleeves up a little. To cut them out, I traced the sleeve pattern piece from where the fold-up hemline was marked to about 10cm up the sleeve.

Flat lays of the sleeves and sleeve facings being attached

To make the cuffs, I sewed the bottom of the sleeves to the facing right sides together, turned up the hem allowance, pressed and under-stitched. Here, I decided to topstitch the facing down before sewing the sleeves. I could have sewn the side seams starting from the cuff up the sleeve then rolled it inside and topstitched. This would have given a ‘cleaner’ finish on the inside of the garment, but I was concerned that having that ‘double’ seam on the inside would be bulky and wobbly. By doing the side seam after, you can see the overlocked seam on the inside cuff when I roll up the sleeves, but all 4 layers of fabric are overlocked together which feels smoother.

before and after demonstration of strengthening the seamlines

Speaking of the fabric thickness, I did need to make a few construction accommodations. I adjusted my stitch length on my machine to 2.8 to keep things running smoothly. The instructions call for a lot of the assembly to be done with the overlocker, which I love and did, but because the fabric is so bulky, the stitch threads were looser to accommodate that and looked ‘pulled apart’ on the right side. Structurally, the seams were fine, but I did opt to run some of the higher stress seams (shoulders, armholes) through my regular sewing machine to get them real snug so there were no snags or mishaps in the future. 

I sewed this sweater during a -30 degree cold snap as the perfect solution to the chill and 2 days after it warmed right up to 0. Naturally. It made it nicer for photos but I have to wait until our Canadian winter gets back into gear before I can really enjoy the full cozy majesty of the wool.

After waiting so long to make it, I can say I am so happy with this pattern. It’s a dream. The shape of the neckline with the cool darts just feels so chic for a pullover. Its the perfect ‘elevated casual’ I aspire to. Upon reflecting on my me-made wardrobe a while ago I noted that I don’t really wear as many makes in the winter because I just wanna live the snug life in sweaters and pants instead of the dresses and skirts that usually come off my machine. This is a perfect winter addition to my wardrobe that feels classic but also casual enough for lounging around. My only hope is that it doesn’t take nearly as long to find ideal fabric if I want to make another in the future.

Spooky Sewing // Halloween Boo-nting

Halloween Bunting // Boots and Cats

Happy October everyone! Hope the autumn season and approaching Halloween festivities are making you feel nice and cozy. 

If you know me, you know that I LOVE Halloween. Something about the warm autumn vibes mixed with the cool creepiness of an oncoming winter, plus the creativity and the CANDY that comes with it all just gets me. Don’t come at me with scary things though. I get nightmares. I’m all about the cute here.

Halloween Bunting // Boots and Cats

One area of cute I love to drool over is the array of adorable halloweenie fabric prints that come out each year. I am not a quilter, so I have little use for these seasonal printed cottons. I love looking at the quirky, funny, delightful little ghosts, pumpkins, and black cats that adorn these sweet prints and it makes me sad to not have a reason to acquire them and hoard them like dragon on a pile of gold make things with them. 

Until now.

This past year we moved into a new place, which meant that as October approached, I had an array of new areas to consider decorating. I was struck by a simple idea to fill some space with some Halloween fun, but also mostly as an excuse to buy printed fabrics: a festive bunting!

Halloween Bunting // Boots and Cats

I purchased my fabric from Rick Rack Textiles (they have the BEST prints) and chose a few assortments that complemented each other, to be softened by some neutrals/ solids from my scraps bins. I didn’t really follow a tutorial for this, I mostly followed my gut.

I made a cardboard template of the triangle that was 16 cm wide at the base and 18 cm tall and used it to cut my fabric out with a rotary cutter. I cut from folded fabric to get a front and back of each triangle. The all-over prints were really fabric efficient since I could just flip the template upside down and cut another piece using the shared edges, whereas the one-directional prints ate up a lot more fabric. Luckily for this project, you don’t actually need much fabric at all, but I am so conscious of scraps and waste (especially after moving boxes of small offcuts haha).

Halloween Bunting // Boots and Cats

From there I sewed the triangles on the sides with a 0.75cm seam allowance and left the top open so I could flip them inside out. I trimmed off the seam allowance at the bottom point and the bit that popped out the top and pressed them flat. I arranged the prints in a pattern that felt balanced then pinned them sandwiched inside some double fold bias tape. All it took from here was to run the whole thing through the machine with my edge-stitch foot, sewing close to the front edge of the bias tape, capturing all those raw edges inside. And boom! We got a festive bunting.

Halloween Bunting // Boots and Cats

Halloween Bunting // Boots and Cats

I hung one of them up in my new sewing space (it matches my *very* grown-up window clings) and will find a space for the more neutral prints somewhere else in our home. This was a fun and easy make to kick off the new sewing space and the spooky season. Hope you are all having fun with your seasonal crafting! Boo!

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.

But.

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?

Katryna-5493

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?

Katryna-5609

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!