Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Georgia O'Keeffe Blouse

Tricky bit to sew
Pattern: Vogue 8855, view B
Fabric: Synthetic leftover from the Petals of Rose Blouse purchased in Leeds market in 2011.
This pattern turned out to be a bit of a surprise. It caught my eye at Fabricland, and I decided to pick it up on the spur of the moment. When I got home, I felt a bit like “Oh, why did I get this pattern? I could have easily drafted it myself”.
However, I was very pleased to find out the pattern was more complicated than I thought. Not too complicated, just complicated enough -- we’ve got to keep ourselves challenged! All and all, making it has been really enjoyable. Partly because I had already worked with this fabric, so I knew the pitfalls (“press, press, press; pin, pin, pin; and remove the pins before feeding your fabric to your machine otherwise you’ll end up with a mess!”). But also because it picked up a couple new techniques along the way.
As for the modifications, nothing out line for me: I cut a size 6 in the shoulders-bust and size 10 in the waist and gradually extended to a size 14 in the hips. (Just to give you an idea, the pattern recommended sizes 10∕14∕16 for my measurements.)

I should probably have cut a size 12 in the hips, though, since I ended up removing one inch from the bottom of center back and adding one inch at the top of center back. Other than that, the blouse was pretty much perfect and needed no major adjustments (woohoo!).
The sleeves:
I had never seen or sewn sleeves constructed like that. I don’t know if you can really see in the pictures, but they’re a type of kimono sleeves. (Hopefully, you’ll see the pieces better in my next post, where I’ll review the tissue fitting method from Fit for Real People.)

Since then, I’ve spotted a few of these sleeves on the subway in oversized cocoon coats. I’m totally in love with the pattern and these sleeves and I’m already planning another make in mustard yellow sandwashed silk. I’m thinking of making it into a dress this time.

What I'm NOT tempted by, however, is View A. Some interesting pocket placement they've got there!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Toronto Sewing Blog Meet-Up!

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that all the really cool sewing blog meet-ups happen too far away to attend. That’s why this winter Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow and I have decided to change that: We’re hosting our own Toronto Sewing Blog Meet-up!

Here's the super cute graphic Gillian made for the event:

The plan so far is to meet and do a bit a fabric shopping around Queen West and Spadina. After that, we'll cozy up in a coffee shop nearby and possibly proceed to swap patterns or fabrics, or simply enjoy a nice hot chocolate.

Are you excited??! Finally, a sewing meet-up nearby!

Whether you have a sewing blog or simply enjoy reading sewing blogs, we really hope you'll join us! Just leave us a comment or email Gillian or myself to RSVP.

We look forward to meeting you, we've never met a sewist we didn't like!

Sneak Peek: Georgia O'Keeffe

At the moment, I'm working on...

The fabric has a softness and sensuality that reminds me of Georgia O'Keeffe.




Thursday, January 24, 2013

My temporary sewing space

In spite of it being "temporary", this is ironically my first "permanent" sewing space. As in, the first time I don't need to put away my sewing machine after each session. (SUCH a luxury.)

But unfortunately "temporary", because the space is not actually mine. This is my mother's sewing room -- also my room since I moved back from Spain. I'm afraid I've pretty much invaded mom's sewing space, starting with her, hem, SERGER! Yes, I've been enjoying every minute of that. As you can see, I'm very lucky to have such a patient and generous mom!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fake people don't need fitting!

A trip to the library last weekend proved to be not only fun (isn't always!) but super useful! I found, among other fitting resources, Fit for Real Peoplewhich I completely devoured in a few hours! I'm sure you people have clued in long ago of this gem of a book, but it's all new for me and I'm loving it!

The authors argue that their method is the easiest and fastest way to modify any commercial pattern -- I sure want to believe it!

The idea of being able to work from any commercial pattern really appeals to me, of course, but I look forward to really putting their method to the test! I'll let you know how it goes!

My favourite aspect of the book, though, was hands down its wonderful body positive outlook (a topic dear to me: have you read my post on dressmaking and body image?). For one thing, there is an extremely wide range of body types portrayed which is just so nice.
Second, the book is peppered with cute comments like this one:

Throughout the book, the message is clear: All bodies are good bodies! And anyone can look really good in clothes that fit!

Tell me! Have you tried this method and do you like it?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fact or fiction? Each pattern company is different.


I used to think that each company had it's own particular "fit". Although it's true that independent pattern companies do get to chose whatever measurements they see suitable for their standard size (and they do) big pattern companies are all the same. (Sewaholic patterns, for example, are drafted for a pear shape, while Colette patterns are drafted for a bigger bust, and a broader torso.)

Now, independent pattern companies are very dear to our heart within the online sewing community, but the advantage of the Big 4 pattern companies -- Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, Vogue -- is that they all use the same measurements for each size.

Wait a minute? This can't be true!

Yes! See for yourself! "Living proof that pattern brands fit the same!"
Fit for Real People, Palmer & Alto, p.21
The authors of Fit for Real People tested out the bodice bloc for each of these companies and found virtually no differences.

This is because since 1972, the Big 4 agreed on a set of measurements for each size. These very measurements are still in use today. The exception is Burda, which stands alone in using different measurements. This is why, you may get frustrated if you're used to working with Burda and you switch to a Big 4!
Fit for Real People, Palmer & Alto, p.27
The beauty of that is, if you order the "basic pattern" from any of these companies, you can figure out your maximum number of alterations, which will come up again and again and again. Once armed with this knowledge, it will be much easier to understand your fit problems!

This was a big breakthrough for me this week! I feel like the world of commercial patterns has suddenly opened up to me!! One of the reasons I've been mostly drafting my own patterns lately is that I was getting very discouraged with the fitting process. Now I'm thinking that my lack of experience with patterns was probably more to blame than the "uniqueness" of my figure.

What about you? Do you enjoy working with patterns and are you satisfied with the fit you are getting from them? How long did it take for you to feel comfortable with the fitting process?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Confessions of a Sewing Know-it-all

I don't know many bloggers in this community suffering from this condition. Actually, most of you probably suffer from the opposite condition, if being too humble can be called a condition!

My problem? I'm a sewing know-it-all!

Instead of sewing and blogging with an open attitude of "there is so much for me to learn and I welcome the help of others",  I've been closed off to the breadth of sewing resources available to me. When I run into problems, I don't ask for help. When I need to learn a new techniques, I don't go to sewing books. When I want to draft a pattern, I figure it out on my own. I prefer to continually reinvent the wheel!

Classic example: two years ago, I was writing about my struggle to figure out what I called the "bound pocket". What on earth was I thinking? These are called welt pockets and I could have made my life much easier and read about that in a sewing book! Not to mention the massive amounts of resources available online! (For example: here, here, and here!)

Another key moment recently was when my mom expressed that she feels I don't value her sewing knowledge. After thinking about it, I was saddened to realize that she was right. Under my roof there is sewist of 40+ years. She has a wealth of knowledge and she's willing to share it, but I've been closed off to it!

Without attaching too much importance to popular personality tests, this fault of mine fits right in with my Myers-Briggs INTJ personality type. According to this page, INTJs are "quick to express judgment" and "are convinced that they are right about things". "This tendency may cause the INTJ to dismiss others' input too quickly, and to become generally arrogant". Phew... It's a miracle I have friends!

So: My sewing resolution for 2013? Be less of a sewing know-it-all!

For one thing, I was able to ask for your help in yesterday's post -- and I'm very glad I did! The consensus seems to be that I should line it with a slippery knit. Gillian informed me that Fabricland usually carry this fabric. Thanks for your input, everyone!
George Brown Sewing Lab (!!!) Source
A for a second step in the right direction: I've signed up for a Pattern Drafting class at George Brown college. I've been meaning to properly learn pattern drafting for so long and had been looking for a good class in Ottawa, Kingston-upon-Hull and Granada. Now that I'm back in Toronto, the options are many!

I was particularly happy to find this course -- at $310 for 42 hours, it's a good value. If you live in Toronto, and would like to join me, the first class will be on Tuesday, January 22nd. You can sign up here.
(Eek! How much fun would it be to take this class with fellow bloggers and/or readers!!)

Calling on all stretch experts!

Readers, I've got a sewing problem that I'm hoping you can help me with!

As you know, I've just started sewing with stretch this fall, so I don't really know what I'm doing.

At the moment, I'm in the process of making a black peplum skirt (fabric: rayon & spandex blend), but I realized tonight that it clings to my tights and rides up when I walk. It seems it needs a lining!

Not actually me in the actual skirt, but my skirt looks almost identical to this one! (source)
The issue is, the fabric has quite a bit of stretch to it, and I want to make sure the lining stretches along with the fabric when I move -- so the lining also needs to have stretch in it! The other thing is that the skirt is quite fitted (although perhaps not as much as in the picture above), meaning that simply using a "bigger" Bemberg lining (as in, to account for the stretch) would be too bulky and the bumps would show underneath the skirt.

So Readers, what kind of lining should I use in this case?? And should I attach the lining to the skirt since it has a vent?? Or should I only wear this skirt bare-legged? Please help!!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Muslin: Cynthia Rowley Simplicty 2215

First of all, I wanted to thank you for your kind responses to my last post. I wasn't sure about sharing, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was impossible to write an authentic and sincere review of my sewing year without getting personal. Besides, personal posts are the best. :-)

Here is what I was hoping would be a wearable muslin...
I do like the fabric, but making it wearable at this point would require unpicking the lining, the waist seam and, worst of all, the zipper.
My sister and I had fun with chiaroscuro (clair-obscur)! I usually don't take pictures in the afternoon
when the sun shines directly on that wall, but it does create interesting shadows!
Pattern: Simplicity 2215, Cynthia Rowley
Fabric: Old curtains from my mother's stash. Linen and acrylic blend is my guess.

I used the method of overlapping my bodice block with the commercial pattern to redraft the bodice of the dress, like I had done for the Beyoncé Dress, but it wasn't as successful this time. It must have been because I stayed too close to the commercial pattern?
Further Modifications:
- Take in the bodice pretty much everywhere.
- Raise the neckline by 2 or 3 inches.
- Raise the waistline by 2 or 3 inches.
- Reduce skirt volume a bit.
Tried my best to match lines
Most of all, though, I need to think carefully about whether or not I should be going ahead with this make. Would I actually end up wearing a dress like this?

I think I'll put this project aside for a week or so, and work on something else... like a black peplum skirt for myself, at long last!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A sewing year in review

At New Year’s Eve last year, someone told me: “May 2012 bring clarity.” Both professionally and personally, you can't imagine how badly I wanted things to fall into place. Instead, things fell apart! As if the pressure of moving alone to another country, and of deciding on a post-Masters course of action wasn't enough, my grandmother passed away this winter, and I separated from my ex-partner a few days later. I didn’t sew or post at all for several weeks and months after that, and last year turned out to be one of the most confusing and difficult years of my life.

But in spite of my irregular posting this year, you didn't give up on me, Readers! You kept visiting my blog periodically during these months, some of you even leaving little comments like "More sewing pictures please!!", which was really heart-warming and cute. And to my surprise, given all this, you grew more numerous as readers, and the blog hit its 100th follower in December!

From a blogging perspective, learning to do without my then-partner was an adjustment, since he had been part of All Style and All Substance since the beginning – as creative advisor, photographer and head cheerleader, when not directly featured in posts! On the bright side, it forced me to become even more resourceful, and to master the tricky art of self-portrait photography on a budget...
Yep, that's the Gorilla pod with a good-old broom and chair (left) 
...and that's my photographer friend (right) who helped me capture the Garcia Lorca and the Pansy dresses (bellow).

When I was finally able to return to sewing, I found it very healing. The power of “feeding the creative spirit,” the “flow” of getting lost in a project… but most of all, the sense of being part of the loving and supportive community that you are. Through your comments and personal accounts (I'm thinking of Dibs, who opened up about her struggle with depression, and Jane, who wrote this very personal account), I was able to overcome my personal challenges. I may or may not have done it with grace and style, but I have done it with sewing, and with your help.

Academically, my gender-studies thesis on the online sewing community has also been quite the sewing event this year. I was able to mix business with pleasure!

What a privilege it was to talk about my project at the 8th European Feminist Conference in Budapest, and to give my feminist sewing workshops! But my favourite part of it all was definitely interviewing bloggers (thank you to all those who participated!) as well as analyzing your blogs (as long as I'm going to spend my days reading blogs, might as well make it productive!).

If I were to do it again, however, I think I would share more of the thesis process with you. But I look forward to continuing my Thesis Snippets series, and to posting my thesis here when it's all done and finished. (I swear I'm hosting the BIGGEST giveaway when it's all finished and done with!)

On a technical level, my big sewing breakthrough this year has been that knits are not scary. Quite on the contrary – they’re one of the most forgiving fabrics! It all started with the Pyjama Dress, which I’ve been wearing non-stop...

continued with my puff-sleeved Renfrews, Cranberry Bliss and Confetti Fanfare, for which I made a tutorial (part 1 and 2)...

and everything ended in booty beauty with the Beyoncé Dress.

Writing this post has made me realize how much I've achieved this year! And has also made me extremely excited for 2013.

As my sister told me this fall: "Aren't you glad for all the sewing you'll be able to do in your life? You have a whole life of sewing ahead of you!"

I sure am glad!

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