Sunday, 25 January 2015

Completed: Cowl Neck Renfrew Top

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make Sewaholic’s Renfrew Top! I’ve seen countless versions of this top on various blogs, and I’ve been really happy with all the other Sewaholic patterns that I've tried! When I went to the Sewtionary launch party during the summer, there was 25% off all Sewaholic patterns if you were wearing something made from one. I wore my refashioned muumuu Pendrell blouse and my denim Hollyburn skirt, and picked up the Renfrew pattern!

The pattern calls for a medium-weight knit, so I chose this royal blue organic cotton and bamboo double knit that I bought at Dressew (of all places! It really wasn’t where I was expecting to find organic cotton). Compared to Montreal, it was a little pricey at $15 a metre, but I got this top out of under 1.5 metres, so I’m not complaining.

I chose view C, the cowl neck variation, with the long sleeves from view A. I cut a straight size 0, which usually fits me pretty well in Sewaholic patterns.

From cutting to hemming, I finished this top in an evening! The instructions were well-written but brief, as is usual for Sewaholic patterns. I didn’t follow the instructions too closely, since I’m pretty familiar with how to put together a knit top, although I did noticed that the instructions say to sew the cowl with the wrong sides together. The picture, however, shows it with the right sides together, which is the correct way. It’s not a new pattern so I was a little surprised to find a mistake in the instructions, but I might have just bought an older version that hadn’t been corrected yet.

I wasn’t sure if I had any ¼” twill tape to reinforce the shoulders, so instead I used ¼” clear elastic, which I bought lots of for Moneta dresses but don’t use anymore since I prefer the 3/8” stuff.

I sewed all the seams on my serger, and my regular machine seems to have recovered and did a nice job on the topstitching around the cowl. I used a straight stitch rather than the recommended zigzag, because I find that it actually had enough stretch when it’s topstitching a seam that’s already been serged – I used a straight stitch for all the topstitching on my Bronte tops and haven’t had any problems with broken stitches.

Since I tuck in most of my tops, I wanted a less bulky finish at the bottom, so I hemmed it instead of using the band. I didn’t add any length; I simply omitted the band and the length was perfect. I finished the edge with my serger, turned up 1”, pressed with Stich Witchery, and hemmed with a twin needle. Unfortunately, I didn’t use a walking foot so my hem is a little ripply, but since this will usually be tucked in, I’m not too concerned.

I originally hemmed the sleeves this way as well, but I found that they were just a touch too short, and a little too wide, so I cut off the hem and added the cuffs a couple days later. I like them better, I think!

The fit on this is pretty good, but not perfect. I need to take in the shoulder seams about ½”, maybe more, and if I make a version without the cowl, I’ll need to take in the neckline a little since it’s pretty wide. I’ve seen some people recommend making it a size down since the fit is roomy, but I was already making the smallest size and I didn’t really want to size it down. I think I’m reasonably happy with the fit, though! It’s really comfortable and still looks good tucked it – I actually prefer my shirts to be a little blousy at the waist, otherwise they ride up and get wrinkly.

If I wear it untucked, though, there's some pooling of fabric at the lower back. I might look into doing a swayback adjustment for next time.

I will definitely be making this again! I can see why it's such a popular pattern - it goes together so quickly, and I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of it. I just wish I had enough of the wool I bought it Montreal to make a wool cowl neck version, but the cowl takes up a fair bit of fabric, so I don’t think I do. I’m also planning a Renfrew-Moneta hack to make a cowl neck dress - I just love the cowl neck!

Top: Me-made (Sewaholic Renfrew)

Skirt: Not sure of the brand, refashioned from a dress to a skirt
Belt: Bought at a craft market
Tights: Smartwool
Boots: Steve Madden

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Completed: Muse Jenna Cardi

When I first saw the Jenna Cardi pattern from a new(ish) indie pattern company, Muse, I was very intrigued! I wear cardigans all the time, so they are definitely a gap in my homemade wardrobe. Most of mine are pretty nice wool cardigans that I’ve found at thrift stores, but I still like the idea of making my own. Knitting cardigans is another story completely… they’re fun, but they sure are a lot of work! (Spoiler alert: I actually just finished knitting my first cardigan! It still needs buttons, and then once I find a way to take some pictures, it will be up on the blog!)

Anyways, I really wanted to try out this pattern, and I figured that this lightweight acrylic sweater knit that I bought in Montreal would be a good fabric to try it with. (I’m not sure exactly what to call the fabric – it’s not really what I think of as a sweater knit but it’s definitely not a jersey, so I’m sticking with “lightweight sweater knit”). I usually stay away from synthetics whenever I can, but I loved the print on this one, and it was second piece of my $5 fabric bundle from the by-the-pound bin at Stretch-Tex. It also went really well with the fabric I used for this dress, so it made a lot of sense to make a cropped cardigan that I could wear with it!

I decided to go for variation B with the shoulder yoke detail, even though it wouldn’t be super visible with the print. This was intended as a wearable muslin, and I knew I would want the yoke if I made it in a solid colour, so I wanted to try it out. I made it waist length, and I originally cut out the full length sleeves (although as you can see, they became ¾” sleeves when I decided that the print was too overwhelming for long sleeves).

After taping together the PDF pattern (which went quite quickly, since it’s designed so that you only have to print out the pieces specific to the view you’re making), I sized it down one size. The second and third patterns from Muse are available in my size, but this one wasn’t! Sizing it down was really straightforward though, so I’m not complaining.

Muse patterns are designed for a height of 5’ 10” (!), so being only 5’ 2”, I figured I would need to shorten this quite a bit! I held up the pattern pieces and compared them with a cropped cardigan I already own, and decided to shorten it 1½” from the main bodice (I left the band as-is). There were no shorten/lengthen lines on the pattern (something that might be a good addition for future patterns, especially since they’re designed for someone tall), so I just cut it about ¾ of the way down the bodice, overlapped it, and smoothed out the edge.

This went together pretty quickly and easily until reaching the button band. I sewed all the seams on my serger, and lightened the pressure of the presser foot on my regular machine for the topstitching. When I got to the button band, I realized that I forgot to shorten that piece to make the shortened bodice pieces. This would have been an easy fix, although instead of doing the logical thing and also shortening it by 1 ½”, I just held it up to the edge and cut it where I thought it need to be cut, without taking into consideration that it doesn't stretch after interfacing it, whereas the rest of the cardigan does. My button band ended up just a little too short, so I had to take in the seam that attaches the bottom band to the bodice a little, and now it’s just a bit too short in the front and I find myself tugging it down. In retrospect, I probably should have just re-cut the button bands since I had enough fabric left over.

That wasn’t the worst part about the button band… while topstitching it, my machine had a bit of a temper tantrum and I ended up unpicking quite a bit. Let me tell you, unpicking black topstitching on a black sweater knit is NOT easy! This was probably the longest step in the whole construction because of it.

I used my Singer buttonhole attachment for buttonholes, which worked quite well… until the last one. And of course, I always start buttonholes at the bottom, thinking that they’ll get better as I go along. So, the one it messed up was the very top one! You need to go over the buttonhole twice with it, and the second time, it was completely crooked! I think the bulk where the binding and the button band seam overlap might have caused it to shift while it was doing the buttonhole. I was going to unpick it and redo it, but then I remembered what a nightmare unpicking the topstitching was. In the end, I just used a lot of fray check and used some hand stitches to fix it up, and I think it’ll stay in.

The buttons were vintage from my Grandma’s stash, and I really like them! They’re maybe a little flashier than my usual tastes, but I think they suit the fabric. You can't really see them that well in any of these photos, but they're black, shiny, and shaped a little like gemstones.

Buttonhole issues aside, I’m quite happy with this cardigan! There are a few things I would change in terms of the fit, but it’s very wearable and very cute. I think I shortened it a bit too much, and for my next version (which I’ve already just about finished), I only shortened it ½”, which I think is better. This one looks good with a dress but is a little too short to wear with a skirt or high-waisted jeans. The shoulder seams where also a little too wide in this version, so I took them in a touch. If I make it again with ¾ sleeves, I’ll lengthen them just a little. I’m not sure how they compare to the ¾ length pattern piece, but I just chopped off the long sleeves where I thought it would look good. I like how the length looks, but the seam hits right at the crook of my elbow which isn’t the most comfortable. 

I would also probably make the cuffs a bit snugger. If you look closely, they are actually slightly different sizes, because I when I originally cut it out, I thought I was making it with full sleeves, so I cut the cuff for that variation. But I made the mistake of only cutting out one! By the time I realized this and had to cut the second one, I had already shortened the sleeve, so I cut a cuff for the 3/4 length sleeve without thinking, and didn't realize it until after sewing it on, so that one's a little bigger. I actually prefer the full length sleeve though, and might take it in a little further for a snugger ift.

Overall, I’m seriously impressed with Muse Patterns! As I said, the PDF was easy to put together, and the instructions were very well-written. I love that the designs have little vintage details, but are still very wearable, and I LOVE that they’re designed for knits. I’ve already bought and made the Nathalie top as well, and I’m really happy with that one too. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Cardigan: Me-made (Muse Jenna Cardi)

Dress: Me-made (Colette Moneta Dress)
Tights: Hue
Boots: Steve Madden

Friday, 9 January 2015

Completed: Maroon Colette Moneta Dress

Finally, a finished project! I hope you’re not getting sick of seeing Moneta dresses, because I’m certainly not sick of making them! This is the first thing (besides underwear) that I sewed once reunited with my sewing machine in Vancouver. It felt very strange to be sewing again after such a long break, so I wanted to make something quick and easy that I’d made before. This is actually my fourth - I made a third one during the summer and never got around to blogging about it.

I made this dress out of the maroon cotton jersey that I bought from a by-the-pound bin at Stretch-Tex in Montreal. It’s lightweight but not sheer, and it has some spandex, so it’s perfect for the Moneta. I bought this and some printed sweater knit for only $5, so this dress cost about $2.50 to make!

I wasn’t sure I would have enough fabric for a collar or pockets since I only had 1.5 metres, but with a creative cutting layout, I managed to get both. I’m really glad, because the collar is my favourite part, and I do like to have pockets, even though knit pockets aren’t the most practical. I don’t use them much in my other knit dresses, but they’re nice to have when I just need to carry my phone or some lip balm around!

I shortened the bodice another ¼” from my last version, and I think the waist finally hits at the right spot! In total, I raised it 1½”I also raised the pockets 1”, same as with my last version, which puts them at a better spot for me.

This went together very quickly, since I sewed the entire thing except for the hems on my serger. This was my first time making the ¾ sleeve variation (although they’re really more like ½” sleeves), and I found that the sleeves were a little big, so I took the in ¾”. I really like the length, though! I find it very flattering to have them hit around the waist when the waist is defined like in this dress.

I also shortened this 1” when I hemmed it, because it’s more of a wintery colour and I’ll be wearing it with boots. A longer dress doesn’t look bad with these boots, but once I’m back in Montreal, I’ll be wearing winter boots, which I find look better with a slightly shorter skirt.

For the hems, I used my usual technique of serging the edge, pressing up the hem with Stitch Witchery, and using a twin ballpoint needle with a walking foot. The Stitch Witchery takes more time, but I find that it makes such a big difference!

The only part of constructing this dress that still gives me a bit of trouble is gathering the skirt. I find that I need to cut my elastic a little (usually 10 cm) shorter than the waistline, because it stretches as you sew it, as I discovered in my first version. The instructions have you use ¼” clear elastic, but I found that quite a bit of it got cut off when I attached the skirt. I tried 3/8” elastic, which worked better, but still got cut off in places, since the zigzag stitch that I attach it with pulls the edges in and makes it narrower. I tried using a straight stich in my last version, but it didn’t lie flat. This time, I used ½” elastic, but I had the same problem with the zigzag stitch pulling in the edges quite a bit, and it made a bit of a ridge. Next time, I might try the 3/8” elastic again, but attach it with my serger instead, and just not cut anything off – I think this might help the elastic lay flat.

Anyways, I really love this dress! It was enough to really get me back into sewing, and I made plenty more when I was home. I like it with a belt, but it looks good without as well. I'll probably wear it more often without, since it's easier to wear a sweater over. I’ve already worn it lots, and I think I might have a new favourite dress!

Dress: Me-made (Colette Moneta)

Belt: bought at a craft market
Tights: Hue
Boots: Steve Madden

Monday, 5 January 2015

Exploring Montreal's Fabric Stores

I didn't realize quite how limited Vancouver's fabric stores were until I went shopping in Montreal! Before heading back to Vancouver for winter break, I spent a couple days exploring Montreal's fabric stores to stock up.

I went first to Rue St. Hubert on my own, one of the main fabric shopping districts in Montreal. It was nothing like fabric shopping in Vancouver! There are so many stores along the road, and as someone who is used to Vancouver’s fabric stores, I found it pretty overwhelming!

I really wish I had taken some pictures, but I didn't think of it at the time. There are some on Heather's post about Montreal's fabric stores if you want to get an idea!

I didn’t really have anything in mind that I actually needed to buy, so I spent most of my time just wandering to get an idea of what the stores are like. I printed off Caro’s excellent guide and made some of my own notes throughout the day, so that I would know where I could go if I needed something more specific.

Probably the weirdest part for me is that in most of the stores, nothing was labelled with prices or fibre content. I wasn’t surprised about the lack of fibre content labels, but in Vancouver, everything is labelled with a price, so it was strange always having to ask for the prices.

Overall, it was very, very different from fabric shopping in Vancouver. Besides the fact that all the stores are together, and there are so many of them, and nothing is labelled, the stores just had a very different feel. 

Despite spending most of the day looking around, I only left with a couple metres of fabric. Both are cozy wool double knits that I splurged on, since it’s pretty hard to find wool knits in Vancouver. The bottom one looks almost black in this photo, but it's actually dark purple.

If I thought St. Hubert was different from Vancouver, I was sure in for a shock when I went to Chabanel! The day before heading back, I met up with Vicki from Another Sewing Scientist to explore some of the stores there, most of which are in industrial buildings, so it really helped to go with Vicki since she knew where she was going. I would have been very lost! I bought considerably more than I did on St. Hubert, yet only spent $15 – I was amazed!

We started off at Globe-Tex, which has a little bit of everything. They had tons of knits in solid colours, but I have a fairly large stash of those already so I didn’t buy any, although they probably would have been a quarter of the price I paid in Vancouver! I did buy three metres of floral rayon jersey (bottom right in the picture). I loved the print, and when they guy told me it was $3.50 a metre, I had to buy lots! Fabric for $3.50 a metre is pretty rare in Vancouver, and if you ever find any, it’s probably the nastiest most synthetic fabric in the store.

Next, we went to Stretch-Tex, where I dug through the by-the-pound bin and found the other two. The maroon one is cotton-spandex jersey, and the print I’m pretty sure is acrylic. I usually avoid synthetics, but I loved the colours and the print (it’s a mishmash of floral print and peacock feathers), and for the $5 I paid for both pieces, I couldn’t resist! I had about 2 metres of the maroon, and about a metre and a half with a chunk cut out of it of the other one.

I've already used three of the pieces that I bought, so I don't feel bad about buying all that when I already had quite a bit stashed from the summer! The others I'll save for when I'm back in the spring. Stay tuned for the posts about what I made!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Happy New Year!

I'm back! It's been... 5 months since my last post, so I thought I would give you all a quick update before jumping in and blogging about everything I've been busy sewing over winter break. I’m sure you’re all sick of seeing year-end round-up posts by now, so I’ll make this quick! 

Although I’ve never really been one to make a big deal out of New Year’s, it was interesting to look back and think about 2014, since it was a pretty exciting year for me, in terms of sewing and life in general.

I was pretty surprised when I added up these numbers! I didn't realize how much I had finished in 2014. Tops and dresses are my favourite to make, but I branched out and tried a swimsuit, a pair of pants, and underwear. (And yes, I will eventually blog about those 11 unblogged projects). Here are some of my highlights from the year, and goals for 2015:

Sewing Highlights

1.      I made my grad dress

This was, by far, the most major sewing project I’ve ever taken on, and I’m so proud of it! Although the construction was far from perfect, it was exactly what I wanted and I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time I had it on. I also had another chance to wear it recently – read on for more about that!

2.      I learned to sew with knits

My first Moneta dress

I can’t believe it took me so long to give knits another try! I absolutely love knits now, and I was amazed by how many of my projects have been from knits this year. They are so comfortable, and most of the pieces I wear most often are knits. Although I had sewn a little with knits before, I chose horrible knit fabrics and didn’t know how to deal with them, so I would always end up frustrated and never wanting to sew with knits again. Now, I’m always excited to sew with knits!

My second Moneta dress

3.      I made a bra

Again, something I should have tried sooner, because it’s really not that difficult! The fabric takes a little getting used to, but it’s true what they say – if you can set in a sleeve, you can sew a bra. Many of my RTW bras don’t fit me very well anymore, so I’d love to make some more, but I just didn’t have time this winter break. Over the summer, I will work on the perfect bra!

4.      I sewed with a vintage pattern, and learned a great way to size them down

As much as I love vintage, it took me this long to sew with a vintage pattern! I also experimented with sizing them down using a photocopier, which has worked well every time I’ve tried it. Next time I do it I’ll take some photos and put together a tutorial for the blog!

5.      I made pants

Despite wearing mostly skirts and dresses, I’ve wanted to make pants for so long. These were my last project before leaving for Montreal in the summer, and I absolutely love them. They are swingy, 40’s-style pants, which I will blog about soon!

Sewing Goals

1.      Finish last year’s Sew for Victory project

I really love this dress, but I gave it up in lieu of faster, more practical projects when the weather got warmer last spring. I will finish it, though, I promise! I just need to wait until I have a sewing machine to use again…

2.      Look for more challenging projects

In the summer and during my winter break, I got very caught up in fast and easy projects. I was trying to finish a project every day or two, which was great when I had limited time to sew lots of wearable pieces. However, in all that, I think I forgot about one of the major reasons I sew – I want to get away from the whole “fast fashion” craze these days. I know that quick and easy sewing projects are very different from cheap clothing made in Bangladesh, but after sewing nothing but quick knit projects all winter break, I’m almost starting to crave some more challenging projects. Last year’s challenging project was my grad dress, and I’ll keep an eye out for more challenging patterns that I can take on and learn some new techniques. I’m thinking of trying the Ginger jeans, or maybe even a wool coat!

3.      Be willing to spend time on fit

One of the things I love about knits is that they require so little fitting, and you can usually fit them as you go along. Fitting is the part I dread about sewing with wovens, and it’s the reason I make the same patterns over and over again. However, there are so many patterns out there that I would love to try, and I know that I will need to spend some time on fitting all of them.

Knitting Goals

I’m leaving out knitting highlights because I didn’t finish very many projects, and none of them are blogged yet! Instead, I’m keeping it simple with this one goal:

1.      Make time for knitting

There are so many wonderful things about knitting – it’s relaxing, yet productive, and it even seems to help my tendinitis when done in moderation. This semester, I got so caught up in everything that I had to do that I never really took the time to sit down and knit. My original goal was to knit a little bit every day, even if it’s just a row, but I know that life happens and that’s not always realistic. Instead, I’m going to appreciate any time that I can spend knitting, and make the most of it.

Other Highlights


2.      I began university

I successfully completed my first semester studying science at McGill University in Montreal! I’m really enjoying it there, and everything is going pretty smoothly.

3.      I’m living in Montreal in residence

My residence on move-in day in August

I didn’t think this would be a highlight for me, but I really love living in residence! I’m in a great residence in a beautiful old building, shown above. It’s a smaller residence with a great sense of community, and I love it there. I’ve made so many great new friends, and it definitely feels like a home away from home. I also really love Montreal, and it hasn’t even been that cold yet! (Although I’ll be eating my words next week, when it goes down to  -25 degrees Celsius).

The view from my window the morning I left for winter break

4.      I’m part of a dance company

I auditioned for a McGill dance company at the beginning of the year, and I love it! We do mostly contemporary ballet, but being part of a group like this one is quite different that dance I’ve done before. Rather than having one teacher, we all take turns teaching classes as doing choreography. I’ve had a chance to do some of my own, which has been great! I really enjoy teaching, so I love that aspect of belonging to a small company.

5.      I wore my grad dress again and the “Yule Ball”

Not a great photo, but you get the idea

My residence has a dining hall that looks like the Hogwarts Great Hall, and it’s also split up into houses, so we also have an annual Yule Ball, just like in Harry Potter! It’s a formal dinner and dance, and we even had waltzing lessons beforehand. I had my mom mail me my grad dress, and it was great to have another chance to wear it!

I think that’s about it! This ended up being a longer post than I expected, so thanks for bearing with me if you’re still reading. 2014 was really a great year, and I’m looking forward to my second semester at McGill, which starts tomorrow! I wrote this post on the flight back here, and I have the day today to get unpacked and ready for classes.

Thanks for reading! What are your goals for 2015?