Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No space? No problem! How to transform your kitchen into a sewing lab

You don't necessarily need a lot of space to sew. Right now, I live in a tiny attic apartment in Granada, Spain, and I manage just fine. The key is smart storage solutions as well as accepting to spend an additional 5 min. before and after your sewing session to set-up and put away your gear.

1) Pick a cupboard or a section of your closet. This will be your "sewing cupboard". In my case, my low kitchen cupboard was always a bit inconvenient for food stuff. Also, it was close to a power outlet for my sewing machine, and offered a lot of light from the window.
Top shelf: sewing supplies, tracing paper, and iron.
Bottom shelf: sewing machine, pedal and patterns.
When visitors come, simply shut cupboard door!
2) Set up your ironing board close to your sewing machine and power outlet.
When you are done, simply tuck away your ironing board behind a door...
and hang your work-in-progress behind that door using a skirt hanger.
3) For folks who don't have enough table space, remember that a couch makes for a great pin board...
and that a foldable table can easily triple your work space.
Important tip: set up your sewing machine close to the fridge so you can easily reach for snacks.
There you go! When everything is tucked away, no one will guess your kitchen is in fact a secret sewing lab!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Moving on...

Thank you to all those who gave me their advice on fitting the Rooibos and who shared with me their experience with the pattern! It made me feel better to hear that I wasn't the only one experiencing problems with it! As great as it is for other body types, I think it's just really difficult for pear-shaped figures.

So, after officially abandoning the project, I seriously needed something uplifting and easy-breezy to focus on: Simplicity 2451.

This is what the muslin looks like. Pardon my wearing it over jeans, I haven’t shaved my legs in 2 months it was very cold in my apartment.

The pattern and construction is fairly simple, so I am really taking my time to construct it perfectly. Also, I’m lining it for warmth and to wear with tights this winter. Lining a skirt with a vent turned out to be fairly tricky, but more on that later.

On the subject of perfecting the construction, I’ve had a major breakthrough when coming across Gorgeous Thing’s post. Readers, I’m telling you, pressing correctly makes a world of a difference! All of the sudden, my stuff looks like couture! (Barely exaggerating. Seriously!) How could I have been unaware of the importance of pressing so long??

You know, it’s not that I didn’t press before – it’s just that I would often attempt to “save time” and press everything at the end. Either that or I would quickly tap my iron on the garment without doing the proper “three steps.” Did you know that “pressing” and “ironing” are two completely different things?

Readers who’ve been following me for a while are probably wondering why Adrienne is churning out so many boring skirts.

“Is she done yet?”
Well, Readers, no, she's not done yet.

Name the three things these skirts have in common
Because I’ve not (yet!) participated in Me-Made and Self-Stitched events, I've never really talked about the wearability of my garments. If I had, you would know that every single one of those skirts ended up either:
a) in The Black Hole (a.k.a back of the closet),
b) donated to Value Village, or
c) being worn by someone in rural Nicaragua as a result of not having been sold at Value Village.

What was wrong with these skirts? I look at the pictures and think “they look OK.”
But they’re not great.

And great (or at least the intent of it) is why I sew.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roobois dress = big mess

After disgressing a little bit in my last post (you must admit that Granada is gorgeous!), I now return to sewing to show you my muslin for Colette's Rooibos dress.

This project has been on the back burner for a while now. Ever since I saw Karen's version, I began fantasizing about my own wool Roobois whenever the humid and cold climate of Britain would cause me grief (pretty much every day of last year). Now that Spain has become a little chilly and humid as well -- but not nearly to the same degree, thank goodness -- I naturally went back to the Roobois.

Well, I can't decide quite yet if this pattern is actually worth my time. This is again a confirmation that Colette patterns are designed for women who are heavier in the top than me, as in, robust shoulders and full bust. Maybe I should give up on Colette altogether.

There are several problems with the fit. And due to the complexity of the pattern, fixing these would be anything but a piece of cake. (Speaking of which, cake would be good...)

Here is why this Roobois dress is not working for me:

1) I'm pear shaped, so this means I have to cut a different size for the top and the botton. In this case, though, there is not "a top and a botton," but "a top, a middle, and a bottom". Also, the bottom part is made up of SIX different sections! So basically, I've got myself a fitting nightmare. In the picture above you can see the problems I've had with joining the pieces at the side: the top, middle and bottom are respectively size 0, 4 and 8.

2) Problem with the top: The top is too tight. The pattern advised a size zero according to my bust measurement. This is what I cut. However, it was a mistake because now the other sizes are gone. I did not think that I should have selected my size according to my rib-cage measurement -- and then done a Small Bust Adjustment (SBA). Also, I just had a look at the Coletterie tutorial for performing an SBA on the Roobois and it looks a-scary. The main problem is that the other sizes are gone, so I would have to grade my size zero up to a size 2 (or 4?). Again, this would be alright on a simple pattern, but on this one, it would probably involve several muslins.

3) The shoulders are too wide. I know a lot of people have had this problem with the Roobois. In my case, the adjustment wouldn't be just a matter of narrowing the straps, but I would have to re-draft the angle as well so it would not drop off the sides of my shoulders. You see what I mean? I'm pretty sure this dress is not supposed to be crew-necked... Lol.
Straps falling off my shoulders

Conclusion: All these things taken into account, I think it would be less time-consuming for me to draft my own dress pattern from scratch.

In any case, I will be putting this aside for a few days in order to clear my head.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beautiful Granada

As promised, pictures of my new city. These were taken in the Alhambra, in the city and in Monachil (Los Cahorros hike).
Inspiring patterns of La Alhambra

More than my fair share of restaurants! 

Los Cahorros, only 15 min. from city

Los Cahorros

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lucky Lady

 Readers, I’m telling you, I'm a lucky lady.

First of all, earlier last week, the mail brought me a package from the USA.
“A package from the United States?”
Yes, from the United States. From none other than Natasha of Natty Jane Sews, of course, because she had participated in the Pay it Forward project a few months back!

Here are all the wonderful handmade pretty things lucky me has received. I noticed everything is perfectly crafted, down to the most minute detail -- this is very "Natty Jane"!
Please pay no mind to the poor lighting in this picture that really do no justice to Natasha's beautiful things 

I love the little fox pouch not only because the fox has always been my animal alter ego, but also because it turns out to be the perfect size for my passport.
See! A match made in heaven
My favourite part of her care package was without a doubt reading her grandmother’s stories. She moved to Hull UK when she was around my age and I could easily imagine her riding her bicycle to the school where she taught. How difficult and crazy it must have been to go through the war and the bombings… What an interesting lady, and what an interesting life! Natty Jane, I think you could write a whole book about your grandmother’s life and many people would buy it – I know I’d certainly be the first one in line!

Thank you Natasha for such a thoughtful gift!

Now moving on to the second reason why I’m a lucky lady, readers…
Ta-daaaah! Proud owner of Alfa Next 30.

Seeing that I was becoming pretty miserable without my sewing machine, my mom and my boyfriend conspired to buy me this pink and white wonder! It’s a Spanish brand and it’s pretty extravagant considering I’ll be using it only 6 months, but it feels very strong and sturdy, which is very good. I know I can count on you, Alfa Next 30!

Thank you mom! Thank you Olivier!

And now, let the sewing begin!

Next post, some pictures of my life here in the beautiful city of Granada.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sewing Machine Hunt in Granada

Yesterday, Germano and I went shopping for a used sewing machine. We spent over three hours digging through junk stores all over the city. Not only did he show me second-hand stores, but along the way he also showed me the best fabric stores and sewing machine doctors in town. I was surprised to see how vibrant the sewing community is in Granada -- certainly more so than in Hull, unfortunately. I cannot thank Germano enough for being so generous with his time last night. What a great sewing tour of Granada.
Germano, surrounded by sewing machines
In the end, I didn't buy anything because I'm not willing to pay CAD$150 for a machine I'll have to leave behind at the end of the year. As much as I am itching to sew, I also want to find the right machine -- at the right price. After all this work, I must admit that I felt a bit disappointed when I came home, but I'll keep going to these stores regularly and hopefully the right machine will show up.

Other than that, we came across this beauty! It wasn't working, but we still enjoyed it as an eye candy. So cool!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surprise from England

When I got home yesterday, I was greeted by a surprise from England. Marie's package had arrived!

Back in September, I was the lucky winner of Marie's giveaway. I was still homeless then, so Marie had to wait before shipping her lovely gift. Sending Marie my new address was probably one of the first things I did when I moved in (can you blame me?). Thank you Marie for the cute fabric and the wonderful vintage pattern. I can't wait to work with it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Update from Granada

Although my last post was only two weeks ago, it feels like it was over a month ago. So much has happened since then. I'm now all settled into my new apartment, here in Granada, I've familiarised myself with the city, I've started classes, I've stuffed my face with tapas and I've even made a few new friends.

Only one is thing missing right now (aside from my dear Olivier, who is still back in Canada) and you've guessed it, it's a sewing machine. My hunt is proving to be more challenging then last year's. The first thing I did was to look in the local newspaper for the classifieds. I did find the classifieds, only the wrong kind of classifieds (ehem). My next strategy was to look online. No luck there either.

When I came across a used sewing machine store near my university, I really thought I had scored. From the window shop during the siesta, I could see the exact model of the 80s Singer I had in Hull. I was already imagining myself with her, sewing away all kinds of cute summer dresses.
"This is meant to be." I thought.

I was in for a surprise when I went back and inquired about the price.
Turns out, the machine was almost 250 euros. I believe my reaction went something like:
"WHAT??? 250 euros!?!? for a 30-years-old machine?!?"

How that stores stays in business, I do not know. And they would not budge when I tried to negotiate the price. My only explanation is that they cater to naive older women who still have the mentality that any sewing machine is something very, very expensive.

So my hunt continued, and just as I was getting a little discouraged, something unexpected happened. I saw a young woman reading a fashion illustration book on the bus. I don't why -- because I don't usually talk to strangers, I'm too shy -- but I started talking to her. And you know what? I'm really glad I did. It turns out that she is part of a craft collective (no less) and she is pretty sure she can help me find a sewing machine.

Fast forward a few days and I have a date with Germano, a Brazilian designer who kindly offered to take me to a market to buy a used sewing machine. We are meeting on Wednesday: I'll keep you update, Readers!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sewing and The Happiness Project

I’m reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin at the moment. With two beautiful daughters, a husband she loves and an apartment in New York’s Upper East Side, the author wonders one day why she is not feeling happier. She decides to dedicate an entire year to becoming a happier person.

Every month, she focuses on a different aspect of her life: eliminating clutter, improving her marriage, and so on. During the fifth month, she resolves to add more fun to her life. She explains there are three kinds of fun:
  1.             Relaxing fun. The easiest to do, it requires no effort from you, but also does not challenge you very much. Watching television is a prime example of this one.
  2.       Accommodating fun. This one requires a bit more effort. You engage in it to maintain social relations rather than because it is truly pleasurable to you. Bringing your children to Disney World might fall in this category, or organising a dinner party.
  3.       Challenging fun. This one requires the most effort. It often involves “frustration, anxiety, and hard work”. In the end, however, it is by far the more rewarding kind of fun.

Now, what does all this have to do with sewing? Well, Readers, I think we all agree that sewing falls into the third category. Sewing has certainly caused me frustration, anxiety, hard work. On occasions, it’s even made me cry! But it’s undeniable that sewing has given me a satisfaction and reward unmatched by anything else in my life. I’m so glad I started sewing seriously a year and two months ago. I can’t imagine what my life would be if I hadn’t.

I’m writing from Montreal airport, waiting for my flight to Toronto. I can’t believe it’s already time to leave for Spain on Sunday. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be looking for a sewing machine. Anyone in Granada looking to sell or rent their sewing machine?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Barter Babes Skirt

I am writing from Montréal, where the sky is blue and the air is crisp.

This summer, I participated in Shannon’s Barter Babes project. She proposed to assess 300 women’s finances in the context of a non-monetary exchange. Thank you so much Shannon for your financial advising session -- it was very useful! For my part of the exchange – surprise, surprise – I decided to sew her something.

I did this little sketch to show Shannon what I had in mind, and was glad when she responded with enthusiasm. 

I found a flashy hound’s tooth wool blend, which I paired to Simplicity 2451 (the same Zoe used in Big Flowers, Little Skirt). I wished I had more images to show you of both the making of the skirt and of the final product, but I will try to make up with words what I lack in pictures.

The Making
I learned the hard way that when you are making something for someone else, it is not the time to be ambitious. You should pick something that you know for sure you can do well. For example, last Christmas, when a friend ordered a baking bonnet, I decided to try my hand at making bias. I was under a tight deadline because of exams and left myself very little room for error. Unsurprisingly, the end product was pretty catastrophic, and I had no choice but to send it anyways.

Apparently, I hadn’t learned the lesson when I tackled Shannon’s skirt. This was the first time I was making this particular pattern, and, to add another level of difficulty, I also decided to self-draft a lining. As if that was not enough, I had never worked with a fabric that was as thick and had such an extreme tendency to fray. During the 48 hours I had to work on it, I would go to bed thinking about the project, dream about the project, and wake up in the morning with the project in mind. Lord, did I sweat.

The waist piece was truly what gave me the hardest time. For one thing, the thickness of the fabric made the insertion of the zipper super tricky. In one area, I had four layers of fabric PLUS bias. I only succeeded on my third attempt, and every time I unpicked the zipper, more of the fabric would stray. This made me nervous that the skirt would end up being too small because I was constantly cutting part of the waist piece. Little did I know that I should have been worrying about the opposite.

I took the time to make a muslin first and go over to Shannon’s house to carefully fit it on her. Unfortunately, when she tried on the finished skirt, the waist turned out to be too big. This left me scratching my head. How this could be? The most likely explanation was that my fabric stretched while I manipulated it. Lesson learned: it is important to stay-stitch your fabric to stabilize it. I’m never going to skip that step again.
See, I did fit the muslin on my client!
Shannon insisted the waist was fine: she would simply wear it lower on her hips. She did seem impressed by the overall quality and finishing of the skirt, which gave me a bit of satisfaction, but of course I would have preferred that it fit perfectly. My offer to adjust the skirt still stands, Shannon!

The finished skirt -- there is actually a clip holding the skirt at the back here!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ottawa skirt v.2.0

In South Carolina, I found a big tunic at a second-hand store and immediately saw potentiel in the soft, high-quality denim for an improved version of my Ottawa skirt. I wish I took a picture of the original garment! Quite dramatic transformation.

Anyways, the main problem with my original Ottawa skirt was the length, which I'm not sure is flattering. Also, the type of denim I chose was fairly low quality and stiff. I still loved the idea of a denim skirt though. It doesn't take much room in a suitcase, doesn't get wrinkly and goes with every pretty much any top.

I test-drove version 2.0 for a morning of shopping before finishing the edges. I'm glad I did because I realised it clung to my tights like crazy and rode up my legs when I walked -- fashion disaster! I obviously needed to line it so I unpicked the waistband in order to do so. My criteria for picking this particular lining fabric was "those colours look pretty good together". Wrong!! I learned that cotton lining -- however lightweight it is -- will not prevent static and clinging, but will amplifie it. So to redo the lining, and  unpick the waistband once again in order to redo the lining. Not too excited about that, Readers.

Since I'm going to Montréal today for a few days, I may not even have time to do it before I leave for Spain on the 25th. And once I'm in Granada, I have to look for a place before I can think of looking for a sewing machine. The latter is more fun, tough!

The Baseball Shirt

I made this shirt earlier this summer (can’t believe summer is already over now) and wanted to share it with you. I was definitely an “instant gratification” kind of project because it’s made from my Grannysmith blouse pattern, a tried and true cut-sew-wear. The fabric is a light-medium weight cotton sear sucker.

I wanted to try something less girly and frilly than my original Grannysmith blouse (which I still love very much). I’m thinking I may have gone too far in the opposite direction. I don’t know why but it reminds me of a baseball shirt. I tried to add a little bow on the pocket in an effort to feminize it a bit, but I think this kind of collar is probably more successful with frills. Next time I’ll feel drawn to clean lines, I think I’ll go for a classic dress shirt collar. I actually have never made a dress shirt and I’m dying for a perfectly tailored white dress shirt in luxurious shirting cotton.

That day, my sister Katheryne and I spent the afternoon cooking and biking. Here, we are at the Rooster Café on Broadview – a super trendy place I discovered recently. I will definitely miss hanging out with her when I’m in Spain this year!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why I've been MIA

Where has Adrienne been all this time? Readers, she’s been traveling.

First, to South Carolina, where she was completely charmed with Southern accents and food. The primary goal of our trip was to visit Mr. AS&AS’ American family in Charleston, but we also detoured through Florida.

Highlights of this trip:
- Finally meeting Nana, Mr. AS&AS’ paternal grandmother in her perfectly preserved 1960s home,
- A big family dinner of the freshest shrimps I’ve ever had
- The town of Celebration

An inner courtyard of Charleston in baking heat
Cypress trees and retro downtown of Savannah, Georgia
I wore my Lobster dress to the Charleston Aquarium!

Our American trip did involve a lot of driving, but not nearly as much as our Northern Québec trip, where we drove 2,500 KM in 3.5 days to visit two Cree native reserves (Nemaska and Wemindji) and one of the biggest hydro-dam in the world. As you can see, it's another world out there and it really makes me want to continue exploring Canada.

Poutine, a québécois delicacy
Beautiful nature
I discovered that many Cree families still have teepees in their backyard, which they use for traditional cooking
Other than traveling, I’ve been spending my days “collecting and reading material for my thesis,” and “getting ready for my move to Spain.” Really, I’ve been spending my time feeling unproductive and unhappy about not sewing and not updating my blog! I agree with Tilly's paper: sewing does make people happy. And I should sew more.
All this to say that last night I re-immersed myself into the world of sewing by reading blogs and I felt better afterwards. My favourite blogger right now is the lovely Marie, who is about to open her Etsy shop. Seeing everything she's produced during the summer really has inspired me. Also, it warms my heart to see her progress towards a goal she has set for herself, which she had mentioned at the Fabric Fandango last Spring. 
Wait a minute, what?!? You went to the Fabric Fandango and you never told us??? 
That’s right friends. I went to the Fabric Fandango and I never told you. That is how delinquent a blogger I am. In the spirit of redeeming myself, you get to indulge in these never-before-seen pictures of the sewing event of the year.

Our group consisted of Melizza, Marie, Dibs and Justine (with Portia and Zoe in the far-right background)

In Dibs favourite fabric shop, where she is known on a first name basis and her haggling skills are feared

Have a nice day everyone!

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