Sunday, 17 August 2014

Ch ch changes

So I think it's about time I brought you up-to-date with my news...


Douglas Ludwig Photography

Yes! After 11 years, Mr Fabric Maverick and I got married just the two of us while on holiday in beautiful Tofino, Vancouver Island.


Our photo from our Tofino seaplane tour





















We exchanged our personalised vows in front of the ocean, celebrated with a local craft beer, took romantic walks along the beach and spent every minute of the day together. All sandwiched in the middle of a roadtrip round Vancouver Island where we saw bears, whales and eagles for the first time and savoured the change of pace and scenery from city life in Montreal.

Our photo of a Vancouver Island bear eating a crab for breakfast





















We came up with the plan in less than a month, and only told a handful of people, which injected a lot of spontaneity and fun into the whole thing, and I enjoyed changing my Facebook status straight from 'In a relationship' to 'married' before anyone could rush out and buy a hat.  The reason for the rush is also exciting, as it follows Mr Fabric Maverick being offered a 2 year post in San Francisco.  So following a successful visa interview at the USA consulate last week, we'll be leaving Montreal for California in just two weeks time!



















So with so much going on round here my sewing machine has been a bit neglected of late.  But in June it faced a flurry of activity as I managed to squeeze the sewing of By Hand London's Anna dress into our three weeks of wedding preparation.  The dress was made from crepe satin with a beaded trim that had little gold suns dancing along it in celebration of our move to the Sunshine State.

Douglas Ludwig Photography





















It's a long way from a masterpiece, but fortunately I still have the rose-tinted glasses of an easily impressed beginner, and I blithely sailed through the dressmaking process, safe in the knowledge that if it didn't work out there were plenty of simple summer dresses in the shops that would have worked fine for our relaxed beach ceremony. 

Douglas Ludwig Photography























But fortunately not only did it work out, but I was really happy when I got the photos back afterwards and discovered that the ocean breeze had caused the dress to magically take on some classic bridal train silhouettes in some of the shots.  A totally unexpected fluke of taking an Anna down the aisle!  

Douglas Ludwig Photography






















As we organised everything so quickly I didn't draw inspiration from the usual sources like wedding fairs, bridal magazines etc. Instead my surrogate source became the sewing community, with special credit to:

Tasia at Sewaholic- for introducing me to the destination of Tofino and for enchanting me when I read about her own wedding there last year.

By Hand London- for the fabulous Anna dress pattern. I've been sewing for a couple of years now, but I'm not particularly prolific or accomplished, so it was only actually the fourth dress I've ever made. But earlier this year I enjoyed celebrating my birthday in a shorter version of the Anna dress, and as the fit and construction that time went surprisingly well I felt confident enough to try a bridal version, and was thrilled with the result.

Lizzy at Sew Busy Lizzy- it was looking at Lizzy's beautiful rose Anna dress and her romantic beach photos that sealed the deal for me that Anna was the way to go.

Wendy at Wendy World- after meeting Wendy at a Montreal Sewing Bloggers meet-up last year it was fun to go to her new hair salon for my pre-wedding haircut the week before, and let her in on the secret :)

The Montreal Sewing Bloggers- it was through the Montreal Sewing Blogger meet-ups that I discovered the St Hubert fabric district where I ended up buying the fabric for the dress. The last meet-up I attended in June was actually one week before we were flying over to Vancouver Island.  At that stage I'd done little more than cut the main fabric, so I used the opportunity to covertly grill Vicki and Shannon about the merits of different lining fabrics, having never lined a dress before.  

Tilly and the Buttons-Making a tight belt was the easiest way I could think of for getting round the issue of how to sew the beaded trim round the waist of the dress without interfering with the invisible zip at the back.  So I used Tilly's bow belt tutorial but wore the bow at the back rather than the front, as I'm not a big fan of bows, but it made quite a nice understated little detail at the back. 

Everyone who has ever made an Anna maxi dress- I spent a while looking at everyone elses versions before taking the plunge and there are certainly some stunning ones out there.  So thank you for all the Anna eye candy.

Everyone who has ever 'twirled' in their sewing blog photos- we just left our photographers Douglas and Ocean, to do their (very talented) thing, with the exception of requesting some twirling shots to show off the dress like I've seen others do on their sewing blogs. These ended up being some of our favourite photos, and seemed to capture how free-spirited and fun it all was.

Douglas Ludwig Photography





















Once we're settled in the States we're hoping to arrange a party back in England to celebrate with all our (not-so-) nearest and dearest across the Atlantic.  So I'm thinking it'll be a nice touch to make a second version of the Anna dress in a different colour to wear to that.  But that's a long way off, and first we must say our goodbyes to Montreal. Sob. I've loved living here, and it was loathing French classes that made me take up sewing in the first place! So merci beaucoup et au revoir Montreal, and next time I blog it should be from my new home in California!!! Wow!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Final Thoughts on Me-Made-May 2014

A week has now passed since the end of Me-Made-May, and reflecting back I can see that the challenge has been one of the biggest leaps forward for me since I started sewing nearly two years ago.  I now see my home-made clothes less as fragile show pieces that might unravel at any moment, and instead for their potential to inject some well needed colour, interest and fun into my everyday wardrobe.

It was the first time I've ever worn me-made to work, and my colleagues ended up embracing the concept to the extent that they were disappointed on the days when I was wearing my regular shop bought clothes!  It also motivated me to tackle some of my repairs pile.  A pile that always sits neglected at the back of the queue, but which actually seems to harvest the best effort to output ratio of all, as in little under an hour three flawed hand-made items were restored back to life.

For me the challenge also highlighted how being a technology dinosaur is hindering me from getting the most out of the sewing community. I don't have a smart phone or instagram account, and as the month progressed I became more and more aware of how I was missing out on the realtime interaction and updates that other Me-Made-May-ers were enjoying online :( But my phone contract will be up shortly so hopefully Me-Made-May 2015 will see me join the twenty-first century with lots more online mingling!

Me-Made-May inspired many more thoughts, resolutions and insights into my wardrobe and sewing endeavours but I don't think they'll make for very interesting reading.  So instead I'm going to dive straight on to the final batch of Me-Made-May photos for the second half of the challenge.  I've lost track of the dates, but these are the last three weeks worth of my challenge (three items per week):




An un-blogged Sorbetto top (Colette patterns).  The fabric was from the Liberty store bargain bin in London, but I find it a bit old-fashioned so I kept my jacket buttoned up all day!


Home-made PJ pants (no pattern) to chill in at the weekend.  After seeing Dr Who's Matt Smith in American Psycho the musical in England at Christmas, I've been keen to try the book...


Unblogged baby blue Simplicity 2451, version D.  Definitely not going to win any style awards for this outfit combo but at least I'll not inadvertently be hit by a bus either!




Unblogged Tilly and the Buttons Coco top (the same fabric as my dress but I had enough left over to make a top too).  I was off to support my Irish friend Martin who was doing a charity fun run.


Colette iris shorts.  I'm not quite convinced by the fit on these but I was happy enough lounging around the house in them.  

Backdrop is the lively little park in my neighbourhood with the famous picture-postcard traditional Montreal houses

So that's all for Me-Made-May 2014.  Although I missed out on the instagram mingling during Me-Made-May, at least I get to do some real-life mingling next week at the Montreal meet-up Caroline has organized!  Looking forward to seeing the locals there :)

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Lladybird inspired Tie-less Miette

One thing Me-Made-May has taught me is that I really don't like clothes that crease. I'm getting down to the last few handmade items I own now, but I still keep on bypassing my wrinkle-prone Miette skirt.  The stretch denim fabric looks fine when freshly ironed, but after the simplest of exertions, like sitting down, it's plagued with unflattering creases.

Second time round I've found a more savvy and softer fabric, and so now it's only my shop bought strappy top that's looking dishevelled (jeez!) 


This second version is also much more me, as I've always been slightly wary about the big bow at the front of this Tilly and the Buttons' pattern.  Very cute, but not a look that is quite my cup of tea, and so I loved Lauren from Lladybird's recent tie-less version and followed her instructions for switching the ties to buttons.  I was also tempted by the shorter length of Lauren's skirt, but thought keeping the original length showed off the patchwork pattern on this particular fabric better.


The fabric was a steal at $4 CAD total from the bargain rail of my local haberdashery. It seems to be a cotton linen with a fleecy backing and the patchwork pattern has a decorative wavy stitching around each piece. It reminds me of a favourite skirt I had a few years ago that I wore to Mr Fabric Maverick's first graduation and so it's nice to have a nostalgic replica. 


I think the only difference I made from Lauren's instructions was that I hid my buttons on the inside. You can see from my poor mis-matched button choice that this was probably for the best, although it does make a nice design feature to display them on the outside of the waistband like Lauren did.


Skipping out the ties was also hugely time saving, especially as for once my buttonhole foot was having a good day. I wouldn't go as far as to say I whipped it up but if we're going to use cooking terminology I'd say there was just some gentle simmering going on here! 


I'm hoping that now it's G&T on the terrace weather this first addition to my Summer wardrobe will quickly be followed by the floaty Tania culottes (Megan Nielsen patterns) that are currently on my sewing table.  I've not worn culottes since the Girl Guides so this should be a nostalgic make too! Ha! 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Me-Made-May Part 1

Just checking in to Me Made May HQ to report that all is going well over here.  My pledge was to wear three handmade items per week, and being eager to get started I counted my week one as Thursday 1st May to Sunday 4th May.  So with two completed weeks now under my belt, here is my diary of Me Made May so far (with apologies in advance for the excessively cheesy photos):

WEEK ONE 
1st May to 4th May 2014

My denim Kelly Skirt (Megan Nielsen pattern) 

Day one kicked off with a promising start, as it was my first time I've ever worn anything I've made to work.  We've a relaxed dress code so there hasn't been any real reason not to.  I've just got into the habit of saving my homemade clothes for 'best', not quite trusting my seams to not unravel all over the office floor.  So it's been great to get rid of that irrational fear, while also getting rid of the unevenly spaced buttons on this Kelly skirt as MMM made me tackle the boring but beneficial task of redoing every single button.


My striped red skirt (Simplicity 2451, version D)

Cheesy grin alert and a shout-out to my colleague Amanda for being my MMM office photographer.  She's also good at listening when I'm occasionally overcome with excitement at some not-very-exciting-to-a-non-sewist new pattern or fabric that I spy on the interwebs and just have to show someone!





Home-made PJ pants 

Outside of Me Made May these are my most worn handmade item, as they are so comfortable to lounge around in, and in this case to start making summer holiday plans in.

WEEK TWO 
5th May to 11th May

My purple striped Coco dress (Tilly and the Buttons pattern)

Ridiculously comfortable to wear, and I like this 'action shot' as it shows off the pattern matching of the sleeves #proud.


Mathilde blouse (Tilly and the Buttons)

As my workplace posing gets more contrived, news of MMM is starting to spread around the office and I've even had a couple of requests to do a twirl so my colleagues can inspect more closely :) 


Anna dress (By Hand London pattern)

To get the most out of my limited me-made wardrobe I need to find occasions to wear my more dressy pieces.  So I made sure that I chose a suitably stylish restaurant (Les 400 Coups, Montreal) to celebrate my eleven year anniversary with Mr Fabric Maverick last week.  Look how pretty and pink  my fish starter looks! Just like something out of Masterchef, and tasted divine too.

So I deliberately left the wording of my MMM pledge vague enough to allow for repeat outfits. But as the first two weeks have required little more than a few extra minutes of thought (and ironing), I'm now going to up the ante and attempt for no repeat items. It'll mean I'll need to wear almost every item I've ever made. Fortunately I have a couple of nearly finished makes and a couple of unblogged makes up my sleeves, which should go some way to helping me achieve the challenge without some of my more dubious earlier makes having to see the light of day! 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Concert Coco

My mum thinks this Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress is the best thing I've made so far, and I think she might be right.


It certainly is one of the easiest things I've made, and it's instantly been adopted as my favourite thing to wear at the weekend.  Which is quite an achievement as the only dresses I usually wear are either party dresses or summer dresses. So a casual dress for the other three seasons of the year definitely fills a gap in my wardrobe. And the Coco fills it with something that's so comfortable it's actually like wearing 'secret pyjamas', which is the wonderfully accurate description that Sonja from Ginger Makes gave the Coco in her review.


It was my first time working with a knit fabric and I'm not 100% sure exactly what type this is. But as soon as I saw it in Fabricville I knew that it would be Coco friendly as it was low stretch and high quality- although the price tag of over $20 CAD a metre would have ruled it out had it not been for the accompanying buy one metre get two free promotion.  

It was also my first time using stripes, and although the dress pre-dates Tilly's useful post on cutting and sewing with stripes, I had picked up the general gist from watching the stripe matching challenge on this latest series of the Great British Sewing Bee. When it came to the sleeves I also found Grainline Studio's post on plaid matching helpful, and for a first attempt it seems to all match up ok.


The only bit that didn't quite work for me was that there seemed to be a bit of excess fabric at the lower back. I'm a complete novice at fitting, so I played around with moving the side seams in, but this just seemed to displace the excess rather than remove it. I wasn't too fussed as it's a loose casual style so I just went with it, but if anyone has any tips for fixing this on a knit fabric?

This Coco means I've now scored a Tilly and the Buttons hat trick, as it proudly joins my earlier Miette skirt and Mathilde blouse.  I had wanted to make it in time to attend Tilly's Coco party last month, but after misjudging the amount of TLC my stripe matching would need, it wasn't quite ready.  So me, my Mathilde and my Bombay Sapphire gatecrashed the party and happily (or as gin was involved that should probably read hazily) sewed the night away.

Coco Party over on twitter
As well as meeting up with other sewists at Tilly's party in the virtual world, I've also recently met up with a sewist in the real world.  I first met Wendy from Wendy's World at the last Montreal Sewing bloggers meet-up in the summer (I never blogged about the meet-up but Caroline did a much better write-up than I could have done here).  Wendy has just opened her own hair salon called Sweetchops and I wanted to give a shout out to her and her new business after she recently cut my hair. 

It really is a beautiful, sunny salon and being an avid quilter she's having fun personalising it with her creations.  As if being a salon owner isn't already cool enough, she is even thinking about moving her sewing machine into the salon for when it's quiet. Living the dream or what?! Being able to chat fabric with your hairdresser is quite a dream too (!) so I'd definitely recommend that any Montrealers check out Wendy's salon.  

This would usually be an out-take but it's the only close-up of my new haircut (a bit windy to do it justice though)
Also incase you were wondering why I titled the post 'the Concert Coco' it's because its first outing was to see the pioneering electro-pop German band, Kraftwerk. Not my choice, and not really my cup of tea, but the randomness and retroness of it all kept me entertained, and they were a big influence on my beloved (David) Bowie so I tried to be open minded. The audience all donned 3D glasses to watch the accompanying computer graphics which of course accessorised most excellently with my Coco!  


Excitingly we're now only a few days away from Me-Made-May and I'm looking forward to taking part in So Zo's challenge for the first time.  I don't usually wear my homemade clothes or in fact anything smart to work, so I'm a bit worried my colleagues are going to think I'm having an affair when I suddenly start spicing up my outfits next month! I've pledged to wear three handmade items each week of May and this Coco is a very welcome last minute addition to my Me-Made wardrobe :)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

My Ghetto Betty Mad Men Dress

As a fan of Mad Men I've been excited to take part in Julia Bobbin's 2014 Mad Men challenge and make a Betty inspired outfit.


With my plastic sunglasses, shiny fabric, and high-ish hemline, my version is definitely more ghetto Betty than glam Betty.  Though we do both share a similar bright and splodgy flower fabric and similar shift dress silhouette, so hopefully you can see past my lack of uptown elegance and spot a glimmer of Betty here somewhere!  

Source
 

 

I started this project looking for a basic shift dress pattern totally forgetting that I owned the Colette Laurel.  This ended up being effortlessly easy to make, although I did cheat and skip out the invisible zipper.  I feared my pattern matching skills weren't up to matching the two back pieces, so by leaving the zipper out and cutting only one back piece it averted an eyesore.  I then just have to do a bit of sixties style shimmying and the dress slips on ok.
  

I used the Laurel Extras booklet for guidance on how to make the sleeveless dress version.  New for me was using single bias binding as a facing for the armholes and neckline. My internal slip stitching at this stage left a lot to be desired, but luckily the print of the fabric is chaotic enough to disguise the occasional hand stitch that has strayed to the front.

 

Also new to me was sewing contour darts at the back. The diamond shaped markings looked a bit daunting on the pattern piece but were barely any different from a regular single dart.  It's also great how the accompanying 60+ page Laurel Extras booklet has beginner friendly photo tutorials for trying out some new to me techniques like making your own bias binding, ruffles and keyhole necklines.  So although it's not a wildly challenging pattern, it comes with more options for customizing it than I could ever have dreamed up myself. 


We were deluged by a spring snow storm in Montreal on Sunday and so Mr Fabric Maverick thoughtfully dug me out a path and posing area on our terrace! The absurdness of this last shot cracks me up, and makes me wonder what the neighbours must have been thinking.  To me this also embodies the spirit of Betty as I'm sure she would never let a bit of snow and sub zero temperatures stand in the way of her getting her gladrags on!


So that's my ghetto Betty outfit. Can't wait to see all the other Mad Men outfits in the round-up on Sunday!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Nicola Wrap Top

I was debating whether or not to blog this make, as it wasn't my finest sewing hour. Or should I say hours, as for a little top it seemed to take up a lot of time.  

It's the Nicola wrap top by Victory Patterns, and seeing it displayed on the hanger I do quite like it. I've just got it into my head that it looks a bit like an elephant!


See those big flappy elephant ears. I was becoming quite fixated with the Nellie the elephant resemblance until I caught sight of the back.  There I seem to have a big n' burly American Footballer look going on.  Hmmm, not the most flattering of looks!



In fairness I did go off-piste and deviated from the pattern when inserting the sleeves. I had started out religiously trying to follow the instructions, but for the sleeves there was so much excess fabric, no amount of wrestling with it was going to make it fit. It's an issue that I've also seen mentioned on Sewin' in the Rain's blog, so I'm thinking it could be a technical imperfection in the pattern markings or instructions.  

Not having much experience in sleeves I muddled through by increasing the overlap of the kimono sleeve until it fitted. I wish I had seen Sewin' in the Rain's post earlier though as it's really helpful in highlighting some issues with this pattern and how to fix them (she used two rows of ease stitching at 3/8s and 5/8s for her sleeves).


The pattern also included a technique called sausaging. This technique was meant to neatly enclose the raw seam allowance on the waistband, but the instructions were really confusing so I had no idea how to do this. Strangely, I've googled the technique and looked it up in my sewing books but it's not really mentioned anywhere and I couldn't find any tutorials. If anyone knows anything about the world of sausaging I'd love to know?! Does it have another name maybe? 

My googling for help with the instructions led me to discover a fair few stylish versions of the Nicola dress online, but hardly any wrap tops at all.  I can understand it as you can see from the pattern cover below how enticingly elegant the dress is.  
 
Victory Pattern Cover
Also for me the billowing kimono sleeves more suit the silhouette of the dress, as the flow of the fabric over the hips seems to balance the shape more so it's not as top heavy. A plus point for the wrap top though is that it doesn't use much fabric and I was able to cobble it together from a few off-cuts of purple chambray from my Mathilde blouse. I also suspect that if I had used a lighter fabric the sleeves would have looked more relaxed and flowing like in the cover photo.

I typically live in jeans and a strappy top, and so I like how throwing on this wrap could instantly and effortlessly smarten me up a bit. For this reason I'm seeing a black version with less puffy sleeves in my future, as I'm sure I'd get lots of wear from that.


No sooner had I completed this first Victory Pattern than another Victory Pattern has unexpectedly arrived on the scene. This was courtesy of the Perfect Pattern Parcel I bought last week which included the very pretty looking Ava dress and top (if you've not heard of the Perfect Pattern Parcel initiative check out this blog post by Dixie for more information). The Ava is an intermediate, so as I didn't find this beginner pattern a walk in the park I think I'll be saving it for a bit, but I'm keen to give Victory Patterns another try.

I just wanted to finish with showing you my new system for organising my pattern pieces that I came up with while working on Nicola.


I used to have my pieces scattered chaotically around my sewing room. It meant crumpled fabric and paranoid quadruple checks every time I reached for a piece to make sure I was taking the correct one. So I've now started pegging them all to a clothes horse with the paper pattern piece on top. Much more organised and fabric friendly, so I just thought I'd share it and see if anyone else does this or has any other good tips for what to do with the pieces during the project? 

And that’s a wrap, folks (geddit?!?!)