Thursday, September 30, 2010


Readers, I found a sewing machine today! I saw an ad in the local paper for a 1980's Singer.

I really like the Eighties-style instructions!

Alice, the seller, lived in the lovely town of Hessel, which has a nice church.

Surprise-surprise, it was rainy today.

My large table will be delivered tomorrow, which will make me even better equipped than I was in Ottawa. I can't wait to work on my shirt project in the flowery fabric!

By the way, sorry about the quality of the pictures. I forgot my camera at home and had to take them with my phone.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


By the way, it might be the end my my Seven-Week Challenge, but it is NOT the end of my blog, au contraire!

You can see that I've changed my tag line and description (on the right), because I am no longer a "Translator by day, designer by night"! I am now a student again, which means I will have loads more time to sew. Yay!

Also, I want to thank Diann Chea for taking some of the pictures of the Black Bow Dress (the nice ones are hers).

And finally, I am not sure when it is that I will find a sewing machine, so bear with me... But it is definitely a top priority on my list.

The End of my Seven-Week Challenge!

And now, the 8th and last project of my Seven-Week Challenge (drum roll)...

a baker's hat for aspiring-baker Céline!

Readers, you were probably curious about the "secret project" I wrote about in a recent post. I'm sorry I made you wait so long! I couldn't talk about it because I didn't want to spill the beans for Céline's birthday gift.

Céline seemed soooo surprised and touched by my present, which made me really happy.

You can see that I've used some left-over fabric from my yellow dress (and added brown bias), some left-over fabric from my green retro top, and a new fabric I bought for the occasion. The three hats are all so cute and I feel like the pictures don't really do them justice... Maybe Céline will indulge All Style and All Substance with more pictures? Maybe she will also bake us some croissants?

I made the pattern myself and I'm pretty happy with the result. In fact, I was thinking of posting the tutorial online for you people to make your own (if there is an interest).

Also, some of you might be wondering what has happened to the flowery fabric that was supposed to be Project #8. Well, I'm making something with this fabric and you will see it as soon as I find a sewing machine here, in Hull, UK (by the way, can anyone help me with this?). I just didn't have enough time to do the baker's hats AND project #8. So the baker's hats became project #8. :-)

Would anyone rent me a machine for 10 months?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Black Bow Dress

To answer your question, yes, I have finished my Seven-Week Challenge. What a sewing marathon!

In the whirlwind that has been the last week, I flew to the UK, looked for and found a place, among many, many other things. I'm very happy to now have time to focus on All Style and All Substance!

To update you a little bit, in the few days prior to my departure, I worked very very hard on projects #7 and #8. I would fit in about 5 hours of sewing every day -- on top of continuing to go to work and everything else. One night, I even sewed until 2 am! Only when I stepped on the plane, did I feel like I could finally relax.

As you may or may not have noticed, I have granted myself a little extension on the 7-week challenge, which was technically supposed to end on Septembre 17th. I was planning on giving myself a few days to relax before I left, but some problems in Project #7 turned into huge time sucks.

I don't know how I managed to keep sewing, but I did. I resisted the temptation to botch my projects by repeating to myself: If I’m going to make something that looks cheap, that is poorly crafted, or that doesn’t fit perfectly, I better just go out and buy it at the store.

This was the first version of the dress. I think the gold was not a bad idea in itself, but for some reason, it did not look right. I don’t know if it was because of the quality of the lame, or the way I sewed it... I even tried to remove the bottom layer, but it still looked so homemade and crafty!

At this point, I was feeling really discouraged. "I'm never going to have time to finish and I'm going to let everyone down..." Thankfully, a good night’s sleep eliminated my negative thoughts and I came up with a wonderful solution: cute little bows!

The lining almost took more time than the dress, but it makes it so luxurious!

Voilà! I nice addition to my Fall wardrobe!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moving and (some) sewing

After an extremely hard weekend of moving everything to Northern Quebec for storage, we had a bit of time to enjoy the cottage and sew.

What more could I ask? An actual TABLE, a VIEW, a lot of LIGHT?

I did work on my last two projects, but I must confess that I mostly focused on my new, secret project. Is that reasonable considering I'm soooo close to my deadline? No! But you will know all about it very soon and you will understand.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

From Amish to Amazing

6 projects done, 2 to go, and 10 days left!

I had purchased this skirt at a vintage clothing store on Queen West in Toronto. It's hard to believe I actually wore the skirt in it original form in high school!

From Amish... amazing!

It's all just a matter of measuring...

...and cutting. (Can you see my feet through the glass table?)

Making of "Teal with it"

Hello readers!

I'm sorry I haven't updated my blog in the past while. I've been uber busy planing and packing. We're putting everything in storage this week; there is a lot to do.

You can still rest assured that I haven't forgotten about sewing and my last three projects (it's always on my mind). I am still confident that I can make it. ;-)

Here is something to snack on until my next post (very very soon) -- the making of "Teal with It".

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Teal with it

Hi all!

For the record: 5 projects done, 3 to go and 19 days left (gaaah).

Sewing is my favourite and most unreasonable thing to do at the moment... If you saw my ginormous To-Do list before my departure, you would understand!

After the Andrew Sweater fiasco, the success of project #5 has cheered me up. I did make a mock-up version this time around, and was so glad I did, because I had to basically redraft the entire pattern! It actually took a few days.

I instantly fell in love with this pattern from 1963 in an online store based in Utah. I must admit that I was bit apprehensive about working with vintage patterns at first. I was told the instructions sometimes condense 4 steps in one line that takes a whole night to decipher. (!) Luckily, the instructions were one of the clearest I have ever read, with very cute, detailed drawings. (Is there such a job as pattern instruction artist? Can someone tell me what I have to do to get one?)

Quilting cotton with black piping around the collar and sleeves -- all bought at trusty Fabricland!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Figure Skating

4 projects done, 4 to go and 23 days left

Here is what this dress looked like before... In Olivier's words, "a figure skating outfit". I have not worn this dress a single time.

Here is what it looks like now, as a tank top with jeans. The perfect outfit for a night out.

It was such a difficult project.

Stay tuned for the next one -- a cool retro shirt with a peter-pan collar.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Andrew Sweater

3 projects done, 5 to go and 32 days left.

Hello Readers!

I have worked SO HARD this weekend. I am exhausted and also very proud to have another finished project to show you. (Although not necessarily proud of the sweater itself... I have mixed feelings about it and I am still thinking of ways to improve it.) Olivier says he is happy with it, but the real test will be to see if he wears it. ;-)

There were a lot of adjustments to make. Woah. The original Burda pattern was very short -- or maybe Olivier is just very tall! In any case, I learned a valuable lesson. No matter how tempting it is to skip the mock-up of a new pattern (in muslin or pattern paper), don't skip it. If you do, it will cost you. Making the mock-up really doesn't take that long (relatively) and you will be so grateful if the pattern doesn't fit perfectly -- which is most of the time. Readers, learn from my mistakes!

Another thing I learned through the Andrew Sweater is to not overthink things too much. I am very much "think-do-think," while I should be more "do-think-do" when it comes to sewing. Like our guest Martin was saying yesterday: all everyone will see is the finished product. No one will think about all the possible ways it could have looked, all the other decisions you could have taken. Most of the options you showed me yesterday were so minor, I couldn't notice the difference between them! Try to take decisions faster. So yeah, I think he is right and I am trying to make decisions more quickly instead of agonizing over which option is the right one.

I can't even begin to explain all the hurdles I've had to overcome this weekend. I think I need a really easy project now. Like the green skirt or something.

Blue shirt, part 2

(This is a redesigned shirt. See the before picture here.)

More pictures of the blue shirt that I have worn all weekend.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blue shirt

2 projects done, 6 to go, and 36 days left

OK Readers, I’m done the blue shirt. Let me remind you what it looked like BEFORE.


I initially tried to keep the sleeves, but I ran into some problems and realized puffy sleeves are just not meant to be tapered, just like apples are not meant to be bananas.

Instead, I opted for a summer shirt with ruffles, inspired by a Thread Bangers project. (You can find the complete tutorial here:

After I made the ruffles for the bust, though, I realized it looked better as sleeves. (Great idea Olivier!)

I will definitely be wearing this baby.

Once again, I realized that things always take much longer. (Surprise, surprise, Adrienne underestimates time.) I was like, “This project is going to be a breeze! Adjust the sides here, taper the sleeves there, and we’re done.”
No way José. I think I spent 10 hours on it. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Other than that, I have been working on the Andrew sweater this weekend. I printed the pattern from Burda Style and I hope to cut it tonight.

Of note, my friend Martin has come all the way from Germany, via British Columbia, just to cheer me on! (And visit Ottawa).
Left to right -- Stefan, Martin and me, with a plant on my head.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Sneak Preview

Dear Readers,

As a result of some lobbying from my lobbyist partner, I am now directing my energies towards the Andrew Sweater. Here is a sneak preview of what’s to come…

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Sunny Dress for a Rainy Day

Project completed: 1
Projects to go: 7
Days left: 49

Tah-daaah! I finished my dress!

As you may have noticed, I am not doing my projects in the exact order that I’ve set out in my previous post. (I am sorry if this upsets you, but I encourage you to see it as a weekly surprise!)

Today was an awful, rainy day, but I wore my dress and it made it OK. I am usually pretty sensitive to weather -- I've already started mentally preparing myself to England's rainy weather. I might have to wear my yellow dress a lot.

It was funny because I didn’t have anything much to reply at work today when I was asked what I had done this weekend. While everyone was like “I explored grottos”, “I partied like an animal in Montréal”, “I went camping in a nature reserve and bathed in a natural thermal spa.” I was like “Huh… I sewed…”

It made me think: Should I really be locked inside, sewing, when it’s so beautiful outside? Summer is so short! I think a better solution is to enjoy the weather when it’s nice, and to leave sewing for another time. (But not too much, because I still have 7 projects to go!)

I designed the pattern myself, from my basic dress pattern that I have perfected (and that I still am perfecting). Here you can see that we make do with what we have -- floors work just fine!

I was thinking of lining the dress at first, but I then realised that this was going to make for a very hot dress – and go against my idea of a light summer dress. And the awful polyester lining that I picked... not breathable. Question: is rayon that much better? What do you use for lining?

I felt sad to completely discard the lining that I made – I had put so much time into cutting and assembling the pieces, and positioning and sewing the darts – but I certainly knew that it wasn’t working.

So what I decided to do, was to crop the top to only keep the skirt, which I turned into an underskirt with the help of a simple elastic band. Practical, versatile and cute.

The front ornamentation consists of giant, vertical “pin tucks”, which I have folded into what I believe is called “box pleats” (one single horizontal box pleat, to be precise). Readers, correct me if my terminology is wrong, but on that, I laid a band of bright yellow fabric to bring the whole thing together.

As I was telling someone today, it wasn’t that the front piece was difficult to make, but it was rather that it was time-consuming to make, in the sense that I had to figure out the exact proportions for each part so that it looked balanced.
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