Friday, 29 July 2011

and for my next trick ...

Can I sew a bathing suit? Well gee whiz, I'd like to. And if it's a question of what is possible, then yes of course I can. I do have to keep reminding myself that commercial garments too are sewn by somebody. Ok, somebody very proficient on industrial equipment (and possibly in dismal conditions) but, nevertheless, they are sewn.

I'm taking my inspiration from this Marimekko for H&M swimsuit that was on the market about five years ago. I actually tried it on and, of course, fit was an issue. Interestingly, this swimsuit was 100 per cent cotton - a cotton weave on the outside and a very fine cotton jersey lining with elastic at the legs. I ended up buying a black and red bikini version of which I mostly wear the bottoms with a plain black swim tank. Well, wore - my further inspiration for sewing a new swimsuit is that I seem to have lost the two of them.

So, a cotton swimsuit? Of course people used to knit woollen swimsuits in the 1930s. A quick look on ebay shows that swimsuits from the 1940s and 50s were often 100 per cent cotton with a whole lot of shirring and oftentimes a zipper. And let's not forget (as much as one might like to) the crochet bikinis of the 1970s.

Anyway, my point is, I would like to sew myself a vintage-styled swimsuit from something other than swimsuit material. Really, it seems to be a matter of styling more than fabric that makes something a swimsuit. I would probably use something with a bit of stretch (I love this floral from Mood fabrics) and maybe even a zipper, but that's ok with me, I wouldn't mind a zipper in my swimsuit. Just to clarify, I will not actually be swimming in it. Getting wet yes, taking my children to the wading pool yes, maybe even a parent-tot swim class but this swimsuit will not be seeing any athletic action.

So, this floral is a medium weight cotton sateen, 97 per cent cotton, 3 per cent spandex. Any ideas out there, dear readers (apart from something to help with my delusions)?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


This makes me think of chiropractics for dressmaking - a full bust adjustment. Lo and behold, over at Sew, Mama, Sew! there is a tutorial about altering the Amy Butler Lotus Dress for a full bust (thanks Regan for the tip!)

Work has continued on my Marimekko version of the dress, I have only to complete the binding on one sleeve and work out the hemline. (Initially I thought that I would need to add extra fabric to achieve a good length but that doesn't seem now to be necessary - thankfully).

But I tell you, opening a sewing pattern has turned out to be the equivalent of opening a can of worms, and all because of one issue - fit. It turns out that commercial sewing patterns are designed with a B cup bust in mind, so if you're a size or two larger (unh, or three or four larger) buying the pattern that matches your bust measurement will give you a garment designed for a very large person with a small bust. And that doesn't fit.

I was really lucky this past weekend that a friend's mother was visiting and shared some of her dressmaking and fitting expertise with me on this toile. It's the DKNY Vogue 1573 dress, made up in some scrap fabric that I have had lying around forever. (Actually, I got this fabric for free at a yard sale; the same one where I bought the fabric for my roses quilt. It came in dozens of strips which I sewed together into sheets of fabric; hence my toiles have seams all over the place. Not to mention that sometimes I get confused when sewing and put the seams on the outside (observe under the bust).)

Susanne made some great alteration suggestions which I'm really excited to try out when time permits. I've also borrowed and requested a few books from the library and even found a couple of gems on my own shelves. I pick books up at the thrift store all the time if they are on a topic that interests me and then find them again six months later when I need them.

Getting immersed in all these fit and alteration issues has my head spinning a bit. Do you know that great sensation when you can feel your brain stretching to understand something and integrate that knowledge? It's really exciting and interesting and challenging but a bit of a distraction from the actual sewing. All for the better though if I can just get a dress that blasted well fits.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


So, miss bear came home from preschool asking "Can we bake bread mama?" Sure, of course we can, but only because I had seen reference to a no-knead bread recipe. The instant yeast was a bit hard to come by, I ended up buying it online but that was about the most difficult aspect of this recipe. It really is four ingredients mixed up and let it sit for quite a while. Then wrap the dough up in a teatowel and let it rise for a bit. Then bake it for 45 minutes all up.

I've been quite elastic with the first two timeframes, once I let it rise overnight. No discernible difference. I've also been experimenting with using all whole wheat flour, all unbleached all-purpose flour and a mixture of both. And I added a tablespoon of sesame seeds to one loaf which came out fine.

The next thing miss bear asked if we could do together was wash the dishes. Uh, no, that's what we have a dishwasher for.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


The Vital Statistics
: Nine Lives by Kieran Foley of knit/lab.
Yarn: Recycled red heathered wool and burgundy heathered wool from an Old Navy vest and a J Crew sweater respectively (thrift store purchases), supplemented with Rowan Pure Wool 4ply in Eau de Nil, Vintage and Gerbera.
Needles: 3.75mm.
Start to finish:
6 June to 17 July 2011.
Stash/recycle content:
Mostly. I purchased the Pure Wool 4ply in Vintage for this project, the Eau de Nil I had from a while ago and the Gerbera came from another raveller. I also purchased the matte silver beads.
Comments: This was my second attempt at this design, the first colour scheme not being to my liking. I changed around the colour progressions too and knit only two instead of three garter stitch ridges. This was my first project that incorporated beads; it was slow but fun to do. I'm really glad that I found matte silver beads (Fusion Beads in Seattle, wonderful place).

Knit/lab patterns are fantastic and if you feel like knitting some wonderful lace, elegant stranded colourwork or a combination of both, I highly recommend a look at the available designs. I'm going to have fun wearing this.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

wanted: this skirt

Oh, how I love this skirt. Oh, how I want this skirt. Oh, how I am already plotting making this skirt. I've been researching floral jacquard ribbons for the hem and am considering silkscreen printing what looks like lace appliques. Unless someone can tell me where to buy it; oh, please do!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

making the grade

At about the same time that I did my dressmaking course I also did a pattern drafting course. It focussed on taking some basic pattern blocks, drafting to fit your size and how to make changes to the block for different styles.

What I know about pattern grading is that which appears to be self explanatory from a multi-sized pattern: a size 10 is not just an allover reduction of a size 12 (although I guess for some very simple patterns pieces it may be, like pockets). And the 'everything-must-be-more-complicated-than-it-appears' voice in my head says that the interval between sizes would probably not be constant but rather proportional to changes in frame that accompany changes in size. And I'm sure that there is some arcane pattern drafting knowledge about these things (can I find it at the library?) and expert pattern drafters who know all of these things.

Having said all of that, I graded the size 14 bodice pattern down to a size 12 by just following the intervals and putting lines in what looked like the right places. Why did I have to do this? because the size range in my packet was 14-16-18 and there is no 8-10-12 on the market at the moment (besides which, I don't want to pay for it again).

* A-ha, thanks wikipedia; yes, there's an algorithm for it. *

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Ooh, my pattern arrived in the mail. And I jumped the gun a bit and went out and bought fabric. So it turns out, upon receiving the pattern and closely reading the fine print on the back, that the recommended fabrics for this design are chiffon, georgette or crêpe de chine: basically, a lot of drape. And not so often made from natural fibres (although you can get silk chiffon or wool crêpe).

After consultation with a very helpful sales assistant at Nancy's Sewing Basket, I've decided to try out some Italian cotton voile. It's hard to tell from the photo but this is actually an extremely dark blue and there are two bands of the floral across the bottom of the yardage (which will be the bottom of the skirt).

I will also need to line the dress and am considering using Kaufman Radiance, a cotton/silk blend. Anyone had experience with this? or with sewing voile? or pronouncing it? and will I have to make french seams?

Monday, 4 July 2011

a decade in the making

This sewing pattern dates my dressmaking aspirations.

I took my first (and so far only) dressmaking course at the CAE when I was twenty-four. Then, as now, I was inspired by wanting to have clothes in my wardrobe that fit.

This pattern is dated 1995 and is one that I had in mind way back when and decided to look it up again. I remembered that it was DKNY and that the dress pictured was in a coin-spot print. Thank you internet - Vogue 1573. Thank you ebay, it's on its way in the post.

It's a bit hard to tell from here whether options A and B are the same shape-wise, just from different fabric. And while I can't see myself making a lace dress, perhaps an eyelet cotton of some sort which would require a slip underneath.

Anyway, I've taken a bit of a gamble here - the only size available online was this 14-16-18 and I'm not sure whether the 14 will be too big. I'll be doing another toile (or two).

Saturday, 2 July 2011

june reading

The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb - More in the 'Ballad Series'. I started this one a while ago and couldn't get into it. But as it is a series, of course I have to read each book, in order. Second time around I got into it and enjoyed it. It is prefaced by a wonderful poem about small farms disappearing, only to be found on microfiche or in a "land-developer's safe deposit box".

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri - Drivel; sappy, predictable, boring. But it had such a nice doily on the cover ...

Friday, 1 July 2011

faux prussian stole

I did it!!

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Faux Russian Stole by Katie Nagorney and Ann Swanson from A Gathering of Lace.
Size: I only did four-and-a-half of the lace panel repeats instead of five and a half. The finished stole measures 56 by 178 centimetres (22" by 70").
Yarn: Recycled!! Cotton/linen/silk blend from an RL Polo top purchased at Value Village in Redmond.
Needles: 4mm Addi Lace.
Start to finish: 22 March 2009 to June 22 2011; 27 months.
Recycle/stash content: 100 per cent, so lovely. This stole cost about $6.00.
Comments: Well, clearly this took me a really long time to knit. It was a slog, two years and three months. The lace repeat for this design is 81 stitches wide and 96 rows deep which means that you have to keep looking at the chart all the time, and counting all the time. There are both k2tog and ssk decreases, depending on what direction the eyelets are running, and I often had to move my markers around in order to make the decreases which initially drove me nuts.

I did one less of the central lace repeats and am very happy with the length that the stole blocked out to. Had I done that one more it would have been too long.

Stunning! I'm very happy with this and delighted that it has turned out so well. Two years ago when I blithely cast on for it, I don't think that I had such a good understanding of yarn/pattern compatibility but this has worked out really well.