Saturday, 10 January 2015

New year, new fabric shop

Howdy! I'm still here. Not sure if any readers still are, but hi and happy new year if you're there!

Just checking in with a belated two last projects from 2014.  I've had the luxury of ridiculous amounts of free time as I await my work permit, so I really should have made an entirely new wardrobe by now. But I've found myself a couple of voluntary jobs, and made a lovely group of friends who are also waiting for their permits and who keep me entertained with lots of San Francisco sight-seeing and socialising.  

I've also been trying to mix it up a bit and try out new things, like this month I'm booked on a hula hooping workshop, a first aid course and a beginners knitting class. I do want to try and do more sewing this year too and although I'm not making any concrete resolutions, I'm vaguely aiming for one item a week, which I've already fallen behind on, ha! Based on the success of this latest dress (below) I think knit fabrics might well feature more heavily this year too.

The dress is the Moneta from Colette patterns, with no alterations except hemming it a couple of inches shorter.

The khaki-esque knit fabric is from Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley, CA, which has quickly become one of my favourite ever sewing shops and which Jenny from Cashmerette's recent review gives you a good flavour of. We've actually now moved from our temporary San Francisco apartment across the bay to Berkeley and although I miss the bright lights, big city wow-ness of living downtown, having Stonemountain and Daughter on my doorstep is one of many compensations Berkeley has to offer. 

There's not much to report construction-wise for the dress. I did find hemming the neckline tricky until I invested in some Wonder Tape to stabilise it which worked a treat.

When I first tried it on I wasn't convinced as it's not a style I usually wear and I thought it looked a bit frumpy and shapeless.  But adding heels and a belt made it grow on me.  Its first outing was on Christmas Day which we had back in England, and although it doesn't scream 'festive frock' it survived the trans-Atlantic flight, turkey eating and post-dinner vegging out beautifully.

This year I didn't sew any Christmas presents with the exception of this little tunic top for my friend's two and a half year old. It's the Lucy Top by Shwin & Shwin. It's designed to be reversible, although the wooden heart buttons I chose looked like they might be a bit rough on the reverse side so this version is just one way.

I really like the design of this pattern and how it can easily be layered over leggings and long sleeved tops and worn year round.  The swirly purple cotton fabric is again from Stonemountain and Daughter, and their selection is so extensive and inspiring that I must have been there for a good hour deliberating what to buy. 

So it's a bit of a mish-mashed post but I just wanted to also show my new sewing set-up.  My husband's colleague was selling this large Ikea table which is great for cutting out on. And our new flat has this bright little alcove by the window which is an ideal sewing spot. In the distance you can see giant palm trees, which four months after moving to California still gives the Brit in me a c'est la vie holiday feeling!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Belcarra Blouse for Beck

This week I made my first ever Sewaholic pattern, the Belcarra blouse.  

I like a lot of the Sewaholic designs but until now I've always steered clear as I've not got the pear-shaped figure they are designed for, and the idea of intentionally buying a pattern that takes more effort to fit doesn't really appeal.  It reminds me of the time when after a lot of beer we went to an Indian restaurant and our friend amused us by ordering a 'peas pilau rice without the peas please!'.  What I really want here is 'a pear shaped pattern without the pear shape please!'. 

But after continuing to be seduced by Sewaholic's designs, I decided to give the Belcarra a go on the basis that the larger hip measurement hopefully wouldn't be too critical to a blouse, so shouldn't need much adjusting.  

It seems to fit quite well but it did take a lot of deliberation to work out what size to make. On their sizing chart I was an 8 for the bust and waist measurement, and a 2 for the hip.  But when I took a look at the finished measurements I saw that the blouse was designed to be very loose fitted which I'm not so keen on. I also looked at other versions online and thought that this top that Lauren from Guthrie & Ghani made looked roughly me-sized (!), so I took a gamble and made a straight size 4.

I followed the sewalong posts which were detailed and straight-forward, and I'm happy with the result. I'd definitely make it again as it's a simple design that in a less glossy fabric would be a good wardrobe staple.

Though the fabric is a bit shiny shiny, I was particularly drawn to it as the design makes me think of lots of little moonlit globes.  I'm not entirely sure what type of fabric it is, but it's very similar to the unknown fabric I made my first Anna dress from which Vicki from Another Sewing Scientist thought could be a poly-charmeuse which sounds very probable.

The fabric was easy to work with but not a cool fabric to wear as I found out to my detriment when I took it on it's first night out this week.  We went to see Beck perform in concert, which was just brilliant as we had tickets to see him in June in Montreal which we had to give up as it fell on the eve of our last-minute wedding. So we were chuffed to get to catch up with him three months later in San Francisco.  Although the concert venue was only six blocks from our flat it was at the top of Nob Hill, one of San Francisco's many steeeeeeep hills. So the uphill walk combined with jumping around to Beck's dancy numbers like Loser and Devil's Haircut, meant that by the end of the night I craved a cooler, more breathable fabric.

So going forward I'll save this top for more sedate, less vertically inclined evenings out!  But overall Beck and the Belcarra didn't disappoint.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Settling in with a Paisley Sorbetto

Hello from San Francisco!

So we're finally here, arriving just in time for what our guidebook claims are the nicest months in the city, September and October.  Most days so far we've been treated to clear blue skies and a somewhat picture-postcard welcome to California life.  

As you can see we travelled light. Hhhhmmmm.  Out of shot there is even more additional luggage including my cabin bag with my treasured sewing machine.  Much to my relief the machine passed through airport security and the onward journey problem-free and in a bid to make our temporary apartment for the next month feel more like home I've wasted no time in getting it all set-up.

It's not quite the dedicated sewing room with humongous corner desk I was spoiled with in Montreal.  But it does the job, and with no walls to screen off the chaos that usually accompanies my projects I'm making a big effort to work more neatly.  An effort that has been helped a lot by my choice of one of the easiest first patterns I could think of to get me back into the sewing swing.  The trusty Sorbetto, by Colette Patterns.

The fabric is from San Francisco's legendary Britex fabrics.  It was exactly a year ago when by pure coincidence we were visiting the city on holiday and I made the customary sewer's pilgrimage to the store.  That time I saw the eye watering prices and left empty handed.  This time round I was less fazed (even by the rather condescending sales assistant!) and treated myself to a lovely soft Italian cotton paisley print as a welcome to my new hometown.  Only buying a yard of fabric meant it wasn't silly money, and so I'm curious to know if anyone else has any other favourite one yard patterns that I can use to justify future Britex trips?

I found applying the bias binding trickier than I remember.  I should also really bite the bullet and try making my own binding so I can move beyond the limited colours in the stores.  But beyond that nothing much to report about this simplest of makes, which remained cool and comfortable for our walk around Lands End yesterday.  

It's going to take a few months for my work permit application to be reviewed, so while I'm a lady of leisure (yeah!) I've got a few plans up my sleeves. I've applied for some voluntary work, I'm finally reading Middlemarch, I'm going to try and edit our wedding video, and I'm hoping to take some courses including knitting, jewellery making and a water sport.  And of course, lots of sewing! So hopefully you'll see a bit more of me on here for the next few weeks. 

We're now just about to head off to a chocolate festival this afternoon at Fisherman's Wharf.  A year ago we went to the same festival as tourists never dreaming that a year later we would be returning as residents! What a difference a year makes...

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):

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.

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!