Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three Sewing Breakthroughs

I'm thinking a lot about learning these days, as I progress into my second month of intensive Swedish class. Learning a new language is a huge time commitment, and between that and a small business that keeps growing, it is often challenging to find time to do the things that I love -- sewing and blogging. I'm sure many of you will relate to this challenge!

As I learn Swedish, it's interesting how it's not just Swedish that I'm learning, but a new worldview (according to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, anyways, or the latest version of it). It's kind of exhilarating to feel yourself learning -- thereby transforming -- so quickly. Grown-up life can be mundane sometimes, between kids, work and everything else, so it's a real treat to be in a position where I'm still learning, and I feel very grateful and privileged for that.

So today I want to talk about learning. Learning to sew. And experiencing breakthroughs in our learning journey. Here are my three biggest sewing breakthroughs:

1- Embrace hand-sewing. I used to think: Hand basting? Pfff. That's what a sewing machine is for! Erm, actually, hand-sewing is quite important. It's the difference between off-the-rack, fast-fashion garments and high-quality, custom-made ones. Also, if you haven't discovered the handpicking method to zipper insertion yet, well... do yourself a favour. :-) I also started enjoying hand sewing a lot more when I realized how much of a difference it makes to wax your thread and then to iron your thread to seal the wax, preventing those annoying knots from forming. Then I found I could really appreciate the relaxing nature of hand-sewing as a true tactile experience -- feeling the fabric in your hand, the thread as it passes, and having full control of the fabric.
The thimble is actually made of moose skin, and made exactly to fit my finger. It is definitely among the most memorable gifts I've ever received, from someone who had spent a lot of time with the Cree First Nations of Abitibi, my home region
2- Always, always, always make a muslin. At the very least, make a wearable muslin. It took me all too long to realise this! With experience, it is possible to get away with measuring the pattern pieces themselves against our own body measurements. But more often than not, there are elements of a pattern to tweaks and perfect that can only be noticed with a muslin, even for an experienced dressmaker.
3- Fifty percent of your time should be spent by your ironing board. I had previously never heard of the three-step pressing, but that simple rule instantly took my garments from "Becky Home-ecky" to "designer quality". Really, this point is as much about realizing that sewing is just as much about putting different pieces of fabric together as it is about shaping the fabric with your iron. This is traditionally especially true when working with wool, and this is what tailoring is all about. But it is also true of all fabrics. (And this is why some garments can absolutely not be washed and must be dry-cleaned, at the risk of damaging the shaping that has taken place during pressing. Another thing that took me far too long to understand!)
Have you experienced sewing breakthroughs in your learning journey? I'm curious to hear about them! If you're fairly new to sewing, what are you finding the most challenging?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Welcoming Spring with Ruched Sleeves

Such a beautiful, sunny day in Goteborg today. The days are getting longer, the streets are smelling of fresh earth, and before we'll know it Spring will be here! (At least for us in the Northern hemisphere.)
With Spring on my mind, I'm finding myself reaching for this shirtdress these days, which has already gotten a lot of wear in its 18 months of existence.
And my ruched sleeves tutorial (with Part Two here) is now the #1 most popular post of AS+AS, which is making me very proud, too.
If you have made anything with ruched sleeves, why don't you post a link in the comment section so we can all admire your work! And get inspired!

Happy sewing everyone!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wardrobe Strategy in Pictures

Hello little chickadees!! I've missed you!

After a wonderful time in Toronto where I've accomplished a lot on the work front, it's good to be back in my things -- namely, it's good to be back in my sewing things. :-)

I've spent a lot of time thinking about sewing these past weeks (rather than actually sew, ahem) and I've really developed a clear picture of what matters to me overall. As I was playing around on Photoshop one day, it all came to me in the form of this graphic, which I think sums it up pretty completely. Lol.

In line with that, I've just gone through a huge purge in my closet to get rid of anything I wasn't wearing -- including handmade items... I'm SO excited to focus on simplicity, functionality and quality from now on. I know many would say this is the Scandinavian influence rubbing off on me, but I would answer that the Scandinavian was in me all along! Rather than talk about my aesthetic, though, I'm eager to SHOW IT to you with real, sewn garments!
Neat and orderly 3
I know a lot of you are taking part in the Wardrobe Architect project over at Coletterie and I've been enjoying reading your style and wardrobe posts. For the rest of you, tell me: has been helpful to sit down and actively plan your wardrobe and define your aesthetic? Or do you find something is lost in that process, the spontaneity and experimentation side of it?

Happy sewing everyone!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chanel Shorts

The sewlution trousers didn't happen people. But look! I made shorts! I tell myself that spending quality time with my friends and family (i.e. Project Runway marathons with mom!) were more important this month than meeting a sewing goal. Why I had to wait until the very last month of 2013 to start thinking about my sewlution, I'm not sure, but I do know that the trousers will get made sooner or later. If anything, because my wardrobe is in urgent need of some comfortable and chic black pants. Hells, my wardrobe is pretty much in need of everything!
The Chanel shorts: My idea was to make these simple shorts in order to perfect the fit of my pant bloc before cranking up the volume on the trouser complexity. All in the name of perfect fit, three muslins were made, each more disastrous than the next (we just about had a second crotch growing out of the side on one of them) only to return to the original version, which frankly embodied godly perfection next to its monster cousins. (Cousins not shown -- not that they were not deserving of pictures, but we were concerned with protecting the sensibility of our more delicate sewist readers.)
The fabric, purchased at Mood's in NYC, has NOT spent the entire year of 2013 being cuddled and sweet-talked by its proprietress (no way). I don't think the photos here can convey the extent of its beauty (black is always tricky to photograph) but it's a synthetic bouclé woven with strands of lurex -- black lurex on one side and silver on the other. I chose to work with the black side for a less flashy (and tacky?) effect. I freaking love this fabric.
The best thing about these shorts is that they require next to no yardage. The temptation to pick up gorgeous brocades from the Toronto fashion district and whip out a few more of these will be strong, I know!
What would I do differently next time? The fabric is quite loosely woven and not very thick, so I would actually interline it with either silk organza or muslin. I would also make sure to use a zipper with a "stopper" that would prevent it from accidentally coming undone. I was able to partially solve the problem with a hook and an eye, but it still doesn't feel 100%.
A note about the background: whenever in Toronto, I love to visit my sister at Bobette and Belle, where she works. I know the Quebeckers among you will probably think "what an unfortunate name choice" seeing that "bobette" in Québec parlance means "undies". Nonetheless, this name has not stopped the business from becoming one of the most established cake decorators of the city, and, in my book, the perfect place to have a coffee and a slice of cake on a Sunday morning. So cool that my sister works there. *cough* discounted macarons *cough*
Can you imagine spending your days surrounded by these beauties? Dream job! Though, how my sister maintains her vavoom figure in this environment is a mystery to me. Featured: chocolate ganache cake, a.k.a, the Ferrero Rocher of cakes a.k.a the best cake EVER.
Happy sewing everyone! (Are you suddenly hungry for chocolate cake? I know I am!)

Adrienne xo

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Sewing Year in Review: 2013

It's been really fun to reflect on how I've progressed this year. I've started out thinking I hadn't really progressed, and then realized that I had actually accomplished a lot! It goes to show how important it is to stop to see how far we've come sometimes!
2013 was the year of sewing breakthroughs for me. It's been mostly an internal process, rather than a change that manifested itself in the actual things I've made:

1) I've finally realized my dream of taking a college-level course in pattern drafting this winter and I'm so incredibly happy I did. The ironic thing about it is that it brought me closer to commercial patterns. Fit for Real People and my sewing guru, Lorraine Henry, have also contributed to this big time, but for a variety of reasons, 2013 has been the year where I've suddenly had the revelation and the skills to pick up pretty much any pattern and work with it. It's felt like a world of possibilities!
2) But a world of possibilities can also feel overwhelming sometimes. And I've had to stop and think about what it is I wanted to make. I've slowed down the actual sewing in the fourth trimester to take a step back and refocus my sewing aesthetic. I'm so excited to report that my vision has never been clearer and I look forward to aligning my sewing with this new vision in 2014.

New direction in snippets:
- Quality over quantity.
- Lux fabrics.
- Cohesiveness.
- Dress shirts, wool blazers, classic pants and smart, structured dress in neutral colours.
- More to come on that later!

Other thoughts about this year:

Sewing Friendships
It was sad to leave Toronto just as I was getting to know so many local sewists after organizing the sewing meet-up with Gillian of Crafting Rainbow in February. That said, the beauty of our community is that it's transnational, so I've been able to enjoy keeping up with all of you on your blogs. I've also slowly been building a sewing community of my own in Sweden, meeting up with Joëlle from Handstitched Files, fabric shopping in Kinna, in addition to joining my local sewing club. I'm so grateful for these friendships.

Blogging Consistency
I've been keeping this blog alive for three and a half years, so I know something about consistency. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement! The ability to stick with something for a long period of time is a good skill to have in all areas of life -- whether professional or personal -- so I really want to work at it. One strategy that's proven effective for me is to plan my blogging a couple of weeks in advance, and I want to do more of that going forward. It's less about the blogging per se (because, let's face it, posting 2, 15 or 45 posts a month won't really make a difference to anyone) as it is about the exercise of developing consistency and dedication over a long period of time. 2013 has been the most consistent so far, so I hope 2014 will be even better!

More Sharing
I still find it difficult to assess how much of my life to share with you guys here. How I've dealt with this in the past has been "if it's not sewing, don't share" and "whenever in doubt, don't share." But your positive reactions to posts about snippets of my life in Sweden this year have made me reconsider. And I really do enjoy reading those kinds of posts in other blogs. After all, it's not as if the sewing is happening in a vacuum in our lives! Of course, there is a balance to everything (don't worry, I won't start blogging about my dog's eating habits. Although you'd be surprised at how interesting that would be!) and defining that balance is a very personal thing. All this to say: in 2014, expect to read more about the elements of my life that are intertwined with the sewing.

I'm going to conclude this post (and this blogging year!) by thanking you all so much for your continued support. I deeply appreciate your visits and comments and I'm sending you all my best wishes for a new year filled with love, peace, community... and productive sewing!

Happy New Year everyone!
Adrienne xo
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