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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