Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Break Time

I'm going to take a few days off, just to rest and regain some energy. You know how I love February - well, this one has been particularly fun. (Does the sarcasm adequately come across? :-))

At any rate, I'll be back soon with bells on. Or exciting boots, anyway. Kxo

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Link Love

Hey y'all, the sewing blog roll is up on the sidebar. I'm sure it will continue to grow because there are some awesome sewists out there and I may finally be hitting that critical mass of "like-minded" sew bloggers which will, no doubt, point me in the direction of others.

If you can recommend anyone I haven't thought of, please do.


Monday, February 22, 2010

In Praise of Freedom (and Food)

Sally is always right on the mark when it comes to the blogs. This week she turned me on to The Fat Nutritionist, who decries fun-food haters and speaks persuasively in favour of eating what you want. As much as you want.

Do yourself a favour and read this post. It's brilliant.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What a Bust

So, I made my first bra and it doesn't fit. Not surprising - even really awesome sewists tend to have challenges with their first few attempts.

The issue is twofold:
  • Wire bras really are a feat of construction, with all the complexity that entails
  • If you think fitting a skirt is difficult, try getting lift and fit perfection with fabric and boobs
There's a reason Freya charges $125.00 per.

I'm not going to bitch about it. Although it doesn't fit (somehow it's both too small and too big simultaneously) - and although I'm not really so experienced that I feel comfortable doing major pattern redrafting (which might be required) - I'm incredibly proud of myself for having undertaken this adventure.

I mean, I have a bra that looks like a bra. (Part of what demoralizes me so is that it actually looks like a real bra one might wear to good effect.) That's half way there, no?

My new friends on the lingerie blog might be able to guide me. I hope so.

And when the dust settles, I'm going to succeed. I will make a bra that fits me perfectly. I just have to be patient.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I've been reading the sewing blogs for a while, where I regularly observe the acronym TNT, one which (until recently) has meant nothing to me.

While checking out Gertie the other day, it was finally revealed that the acronym stands for Tried 'n True (as in: the pattern in question is so fab, it's tried 'n true / to be duplicated again and again, in a variety of different fabrics).

I think I've discovered my first TNT, a variation on Built By Wendy's jersey fabric dress from her book Sew You: Home Stretch. (Note: This is not her new dress book: Built By Wendy Dresses: The Sew U Guide To Making A Girl's Best Frock. That one, which I pre-ordered, has finally been shipped and I should receive it soon. The reviews I've read, say it's a great book, but not one for the absolute beginner. Some pattern drafting, or editing, is required. But you can make 25 dresses out of 3 basic patterns, if you learn how to adjust the main shapes. Once I've read it, I may have more to say.)

At any rate, I cut the dress pattern from Home Stretch in medium, which is perfect for me. The sloper is quite narrow, but using stretch fabric means that the finished product fits my curvy bits while nicely skimming my less curvy ones.

It's the same one I made, originally, in a pink fabric. Only this time I figured out how the hell to gather at the shoulders and I didn't cut 10 inches off the hem before trying it on.

I'm tremendously happy with this garment. I think it fits well, it's sexy, elegant and practical. I highly recommend it, this version, or one of the many others Wendy M. offers in the book.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Humble Beginnings

I see a lot of posts by a lot of creative bloggers wherein dedicated "creative spaces" are the subject of profile.

As some of you know, since I started sewing (in October 09), I've worked at the dining room table. My system has been functional, but labour-intensive, requiring full set-up and tear-down on every sewing occasion. While very orderly, my accouterments have been stored in the basement (scary place that it is), the family room, under couches etc.

Others of you will know that, since I moved into my "good size for 3 people" home, ten years ago, I've had a yoga room (of my own). It has been without a stitch of furniture, simply filled with yoga props - and most of those tucked away.

A room of one's own is a great luxury. I mean, Virginia had it right. And a room of one's own with no clutter - a space of utter zen simplicity - is its own kind of fantastic.

It's taken me a few months to come to terms with the fact that I can either keep sewing at the dining room table or crossfunctionalize the yoga space.

Ainsi, meet the sewga space:

It's hardly complete - even since I took these shots there have been numerous improvements - but it does provide a dedicated place for my every sewing prop. And there's still more than enough space for a gal to do some good yoga.

So there you go.

PS: The view out that window looks particularly "urban bleak" in February. Spring through fall it has the charm of foliage, which def improves the look - and mood.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brief Administrative Update

Hey Y'all: I've been a bit lax on my commenting (though not reading, to the best of my ability) and responding to your comments. It's not that I'm disinterested, I'm just having a bit of a stressful time which, I'm sure, will abate soon.

I would like to take the opp to tell you that I've heard your comments about Yulanda have been read and greatly appreciated by her family. I too, found them so beautiful and comforting - it's wonderful to know how much she meant to everyone and to find that there are many other bloggers who have lauded her. Kxo

Underwear Underworld

You know my great fashion passion item is lingerie - well, it's also cashmere, but that's more of my passion textile. If only it were practical to wear cashmere bras.

Since I started sewing I've tried to make many different sorts of garments: pants, tops, skirts, dresses. But one thing I never thought I'd have the chance to explore is bra-making. You want to talk about a lost art...

Commercial bra construction has evolved tremendously over the past 50 years - even as home sewing has dropped off. The fabrics available, shaping, line - the size of breasts - all of these things have changed and evolved but who's making the handmade version now?

I know a woman (in design school, admittedly) who is doing her major in corsetry. She's made some bras. When I spoke with her about this for the first time, not 2 months ago, I told her flat-out that it wasn't something I would ever dream of tackling. Then, I discovered (miraculously) Heather's blog, wherein I saw in photos that someone - a real person not in design school - actually is making these things. And you don't need tiny fashion boobs.

The world of sewing blogs is challenging to navigate - but once you get hooked up, you can find the most remarkable, talented sewists! Heather kindly shared her experience with me and also introduced me to a special, private lingerie construction blog (like freemasons but with undies!) I applied for access to this invitation-only community and, happily, it was granted. Now I can benefit from the talent of about 50 women who have made bras - in some instances, many bras. What a tremendous gift!

In the last couple of weeks I have learned the many fascinating channels for obtaining bra-making fabrics, accouterments, patterns and instruction manuals. Imagine my surprise at finding that, perhaps the most fabulous of all the bra-making supply (and instruction locales) is in Hamilton, an otherwise unremarkable steel-town about an hour away from where I live.

Bra patterns are not easy to come by in any size, much less the larger cup-sizes. But they are out there, along with the right sized wires and powernet and delicate fashion fabrics that barely stretch (but have give). And I am beyond excited to know more.

I bought the newbie kit from Bra-Maker's Supply - which comes with all the stuff to make 2 bras (except the wires, which aren't expensive), a pattern and a manual. In truth, with careful cutting, I think it probably makes 3 bras.

I've also checked out the few European sites that cater to this niche hobby. I think I may prefer the shape of those bras; it remains to be seen.

I'm in the process of constructing my very first piece right now - what a trip! Apparently, one's first attempt must be viewed entirely as a grand experiment, from fit perspective anyway. I'll keep you posted, of course. I have an intuition there will be many fun outcomes here.

PS: Just in case you're freaking out, imagining I might actually model underwear on my blog, ain't gonna happen. Dad: I'm sure you're very relieved.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blonde on Blonde

In my 20s I was blond. I enjoyed it but the upkeep was ridiculous and, eventually, I felt more brunette than anything else.

Almost 15 years later, I've decided it's a trend I need to re-explore - with the benefit of modern colour processing (natch) and in the context of my current age and stage.

Meet my new hair:

Whatcha think?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Valentine's Version

To say I could care less about Valentine's Day is the understatement of the century. I actually think it's a mean holiday. Those who have sweeties can celebrate their love any old time. Those who don't are discriminated against. But let's face it, the perceived isolation of the average non-partnered (from hearts and roses, sexy lingerie and passion) is entirely fabricated - as is the greeting card occasion. Note: Jewels are exempt from my contempt. :-)

May I recommend that you never dine out on VDay? The food is invariably crappy and the service rushed.

Wow, I'm just a wealth of romance in this post.

But moving on, when you have a young'un, Valentine's is important. You gotta get the cards (one for every kid in the class). You gotta come up with something pink and sweet.


These are the yellow cupcakes with buttercream(cheese) icing, made one week after the "naked" batch. In pink!

By the time you read this, I will have served them at my latest dinner party.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Epitaph on a Friend

I've never actually done this before so I don't know how it goes, telling people who may not already know - who may know and be grieving - about the tragic death of one of us.

Yulanda Yee, beloved author of littlethoughts, died last night.

Not yet 30, she battled cancer twice in her life. She battled with grace. She battled with solitude. She battled with the love of her family and many friends. She battled with the inextinguishable adoration of her sweetheart, who fought with her to the end.

I don't know how to make sense of this. When an old person dies, it is sorrowful, but a full life was lived. When a person is born with terrible illness that stifles her growth and happiness, then death can be merciful. But where's the context in this?

Yulanda was a wonderful, talented woman. We enjoyed a rich online friendship and the opportunity to cement that friendship in a few special outings around our city. Her life is worth celebration - her many qualities.

So let's remember today: she took spectacular photographs, seen through the prism of an artist. She was always photographing food. You couldn't touch your food till she got 3 good pictures! She loved fashion and had a spectacular eye for it. She was kind and generous. She had gorgeous hair, long and flowy. She had small, gentle proportions, perfect for all kinds of vintage. She had a beautiful wide smile. She has been captured, still life, in the memories of everyone who knew her.

I know she's on to better things.

Much love, Y. I will miss you. xo


Unsurprisingly, full post can be found at

We interrupt this miserable winter, to bring you this moment of imaginary, awesomely designed summer.

As you were...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some Like It Hot

If you think the Toga dress was sexy, you have got to check this out:

Yes friends, meet the Asymmetrical dress, part of the new spring collection by Isabella Oliver.

What do you think??

I'm sure it would bring out the colour of my eyes :-)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Don't Sugarcoat It

When M was sick, last week, I managed to make these vanilla cupcakes. They brightened up her day - and they were super simple.

I think I've mentioned that I'm not much of a cake person. I can't really justify the work (and the calories) for something inclined to go stale so quickly. I mean, you can't eat 6 pieces in 2 days and look yourself in the eye. And by the time you get around to the second half of the wedge, it's really past its prime.

Having never made cupcakes, I decided to go to the source of "recipe basics": The Joy of Cooking. I use this book to understand ratios; then I go to more sexy sources for the embellishments (or make them up, in truth).

It's an interesting exercise in measurement - very easy to remember:

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups premixed cake flour
3 egg yolks
vanilla extract to taste

You mix the wet ingredients (save milk), then intersperse addition of flour with milk to create the batter. Cook at 350 - or was it 375 for 20 minutes (it was 2 minutes too long in my oven). And voila. 45 minutes from start to finish.

I didn't ice them. I don't understand frosting. It just fucks with your blood sugar and makes you crave, with desperation, 15 more cupcakes.

I will totally work with this recipe again. Tweaked, but not too much.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Body of Evidence

I think I've mentioned these personality features before:
  • I'm an immersive learner
  • I'm extremely enthusiastic by nature
  • I struggle with compulsive tendencies - no, I'm not being glib
Each of these factors is influencing my journey through Newbie Sewingland. (So far I have most enjoyed the capital city Ripstichalia. But the food is kind of stringy - hahahaha!)

Let's take a moment and debate the merits of each quality, yes?

Learning by throwing myself into the pool is the only way I know how to do it. I have to say, I think it's a productive method. What you suffer through initially is more than compensated for by leaps of knowledge and confidence. I'm the kind of person who, were she to move to Sweden, would be speaking the language in 6 months. This isn't because I have any talent, but because I need to communicate. Right now I'm learning the language of Sewing, and while we frequently misunderstand each other, we've had some fun games of charades over coffee and booze.

Enthusiasm is my hallmark. Lack of skill (I like to call it "skill-freeness") is overwhelmed by the overriding belief that it can't be that hard and that mucking in will be fun and yield great gains. That's until reality sets in. At which point it's too late.

Now the compulsiveness is an issue. When I'm driven, I will stop at nothing. It's had some very negative impacts on me and others. (Have I ever mentioned how, when M was a baby, I'd frequently look at the - completely new - formula in the fridge and feel like maybe there was something wrong with it? How I'd smack Scott down if he tried to stop me from throwing it away and starting again? I am embarrassed to tell you how many hundreds of dollars I threw down the drain because my brain convinced me that my baby was potentially in danger. Blame it on hormones - or brain chemistry - but I was not rational.)

Living with intensity - ok, let's kill the euphemism - living with compulsion - in any form - can be hard on the system: one's own and those of family and friends. I don't go out much lately, I don't have a lot of extra mental energy to throw at things. My husband has to listen to me talk, yet again, about pattern adjustment and built-in ease. Oh, and given my hit-and-miss spatial reasoning skills, he frequently has to help me to interpret patterns. When I start a project I find it almost impossible to put it down until it's totally complete. Then I bemoan (though I know this is entirely counterproductive) the lack of perfection of my product.

What can I say, I'm a work in progress.

To keep myself on track, you know I'm also a compulsive (and in this instance I mean cheerful) list maker. I've bought a lot of patterns, a lot of fabric lately and I don't want to lose track of its purpose.

Brief Sidenote: I abhor clutter but, if ever I were going to indulge any latent hoarding tendencies it would be with fabric and patterns. One can find all of the potentiality of the universe within them.

At any rate, below please find my (marked up - I have a clean copy, natch) Spring/Summer 2010 high-level sewing project plan. I'm showing you the edit copy so that you can see how it's a living document. Don't worry, I work from a new one whenever I can't stand the scribbles anymore.

As always, I don't view this as law. It's not even a guideline - more of a document to help me organize how to get from point A to point B, should I decide to take that path. I'm not a goal setter so much as an organized person who's reasonably productive despite her desire to sit on the couch for the next 6 hours and watch reruns with chips.

If you're still reading this, thank you my troopers. Your stamina wins you this question: How to you learn? How do you approach new activities? Any special methods I can cop? So interested to hear...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Seams Strange...

Not to go all new age on you, but I seriously think I was a seamstress in another life. I'd like to tell you that's in evidence by my tremendous talent. Alas, if you'd ever seen me wrestling with a pattern you would know that's not the case :-) When it comes to engagement, however, I win a gold star. I am so unendingly enthused by the mysteries of fabric and technique, I should make a movie about it. My friends now nod politely, even as they nod off.

I can't help it. I find sewing impossibly interesting.

But it's not just the technique, which one could work on for a lifetime, as we know, or the fabric (a passion of mine long before I started to sew). It's about bodies and sizing and drape.

Let me tell you a beautiful fact - perhaps even a secret. If you learned to sew, you would love your body even more than you do already. And you'd start to love everyone else's.

And here's why: When you sew, you are obligated - nay privileged - to discover every intricacy of your own shape. How you deviate from the standard is what differentiates you from everyone else. Why would you care to be a standard size, if you can sew? It's much more fun to figure out - to have the skill - to fit anything to your form specifically. It's a mark of talent, even as it's a fun activity - and a resolution of every clothing challenge you have ever had!

Don't kid yourself, the more I read the more I learn that standard sizing has been a necessary evil since the beginning of time. How likely is it that one is going to fit a series of set sizes - either in RTW (modern, vanity sizing) or standard (pattern) sizing? It was no more likely in 1952 than it is now. The numbers might have looked different, and the silhouette. The fabrics may have draped differently, had different ease built in. The bodies were, in general smaller and slimmer. But you were as likely to be an individual with your "deviance" here and there (or even everywhere!) back then.

Some fascinating facts:

  • The first iteration of modern RTW sizing came about in 1972.
  • Standard (pattern) sizing, changed 4 times between 1931 and 1972. That simply means the number on the pattern i.e. 14 became associated with 4 different measurements in that time frame. And yes, the measurements associated with the sizes increased (moderately) over time.
  • Pattern numbers (and this has been contested, but on balance I believe it) were originally aligned to the age of the wearer. A 14 was designed for the "average" sized 14 year old. Apparently, this didn't work for an RTW crowd - though why, I don't know. I mean, it was the standard till that point. Arbitrarily, RTW sizing was assigned smaller numbers.
  • Since then, RTW numbers accord with larger tape measurements than ever before.
  • Pattern sizing is the same as it has been since 1972.
  • Most women who sew from patterns must adjust them, or risk wearing clothes that don't fit.
  • There are zillions of adjustments, some easier than others. Fit for Real People - a book of hideous design but tremendous information - clearly explains it all.
I could go on with 3 more pages of fascinating facts, but by then you will have jumped ship to some other site with a blogger in a cute outfit that fits perfectly. :-) No doubt, we'll return to this topic.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Something Tells Me WendyB Could Pull This Off

...with aplomb! (Oh, those sleeves...)

Dior 1970 Couture Collection, courtesy of Jezebel...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sewing Blogs I Love

My sewing journey has been vastly improved by many amazing blogs - and bloggers - that have helped me to solve the innumerable "issues" associated with taking up a new craft.

Mardel and SKM, particularly, have invested time, care and photo essays?! to ameliorate the tough times. I can't wait for a day when I might help a novice sewist to understand her first projects. Seriously, with this hobby, I've received so much goodwill that I must pass it on.

Here are some daily reads, which offer me insight, new techniques, resources and community. If you sew / are interested in the art - newbie or veteran - these sites are terrific.
Additionally, I've had the opportunity, over the past few days, to find a ton of new sewing blogs I'm just getting to know. Once I know them better, I'll be sure to link to them too!

PS: I intend to add to a new blog roll together for sewing blogs specifically. I just haven't had 5 minutes to get to it, but pls. stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kwik n' Easy

In a move that's unheard of, Kwik Sew ships to Canada (and I believe only to Canada) in CDN funds and they charge $.01 S&H. Yes, that is one cent. Last week I bought a Kwik Sew yoga pant pattern from Pattern Review which cost me $19.00 after shipping. This new pattern - which I will wear in 5 colours, the leotard is my fave kind of top! - cost $12.99 and it should arrive in 2 days.

I know it looks goofy on the website. But I will chic it up, promise.

This brings me to a related topic, that of my pattern, um, addiction. Do we call it patternholism? I have a post coming up (still have to write it), which will contextualize my many purchases. In brief, though I have lots of projects lined up over the next 4 - 6 months, I am averaging one handmade item (either for myself or someone I care about) per week.

I'm trying to buy patterns that will a) build on my developing skills b) look great on me (if all goes as planned) and c) won't throw me over the edge with complexity. Happily, it appears that I prefer, in general, items that are easy to construct. The lines are more appealing to me and on my shape.

I wear my home-sew garments to work all the time. Or I give them to a friend. Last week alone, I wore 3 things I've made - and I was off one day.

I do love investing in my interests. It makes things livelier - and my boredom reflex is almost as strong as my will to master things, so that's a good thing.

PS: The yoga pants pattern is the BEST pattern I've every worked from. In my limited experience - but who are the making patterns clear for if not for the beginners?? - most patterns are horrendously written. Doesn't matter the brand, the item, stretch or woven etc. It's as if they are designed to confuse. This pattern, which yielded an excellent result (let's call it a staple) was so clear that I can only blame my initial error, resulting in 3 hours of wasted time, on my own idiocy. If you sew, you should make these. And then do some yoga.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Nub of the Gist

I guess there's no point in reflecting on the implications of not shopping when there's nothing to to tempt me.

Fortuitously, the shopping goddess has decided to throw me a curve.

While reading Vogue UK recently (I know, what am I doing reading a glorified shopping catalog when I'm not in the market??), I spied this:

See that fantastic vintage silhouette? It comes in my size too - and I can't often say that about a wire-free bra.

Alas, it's not cheap. At 55 pounds plus shipping, I'm looking at a little investment. Not that it would matter if it were 3 bucks - or 300. I'm not buying right now, remember? (Note to reader: Natch, I'm clarifying that for my own edification...)

I bookmarked it on Figleaves and I'll buy it in April if it's still there. In the meanwhile, I'll be (compulsively) checking out the full line of gorgeous foundation pieces here...

Monday, February 1, 2010


This is the Hot Pattern free cowl, I've made three times now:

I'm extremely happy with it, which is the good news and, indeed, the take-away message.

However, what should have taken 3 hours, took 8 because I stupidly neglected to cut 6 inches off the bodice. (It's made for Amazons apparently - and we all know my torso is not long.)

It's like, this weekend, I was fated to rip out stitches - almost as if to snuff out my hatred of that activity. Between this garment and my newly-made yoga pants (more info to follow), I spent HOURS undoing seams I should have thought about more carefully prior to sewing them up.

Truly, there was no excuse for this one. I've made this shirt twice before, for goodness sake! Note to self: shorten pattern pieces before putting them away. Then, when you don't remember that they weren't perfect prior to adjustment, you won't take it for granted and be forced to start again.

Now why I had to rip out the seams, not once, but twice... (that's another story).