Man. I can't believe it's nearly February. The holidays and the new year have passed, and deep into winter, I've got the winter blues. Bad. I thought it would help to get some sun - we spent a week at the beach with my family during our recent trip to the US - but it only made things worse. I find myself fantasising about the beach at odd moments of the day and can't keep myself from grimacing at the endless stretch of grey skies and rain. I was even a tiny bit jealous of friends and family back home who got to hibernate in and wait out Juno - even snow would make life in Copenhagen a bit more interesting.
Still, I have a couple of ideas to make the wait for Spring more enjoyable, including planning a 'staycation' detox weekend and dreaming up all of my knitting and sewing projects for Spring. In the next few weeks i'll be sharing a few of my insights into these activities. I also have some new makes to write about, but I can't seem to find a moment to take pictures of them in our short, dark days.
However, I do have two more projects in reserve which i'm excited to share - one of them is the Reese Wraparound skirt from Named in a rich, royal purple poly crepe I picked up at Ditto Fabrics last year. This was a project that was on my wish list since I first started sewing but shortly after, the pattern was removed from the collection for updating until last fall.
While I have loved Named's three collections, I was hesitant to try out a pattern because most of the print-at-home versions are meant to be traced off. Luckily Reese is laid out in one continuous line drawing, but I still haven't been able to fully warm to the idea of having to trace any of their other patterns that come in nested pattern pieces.
As for sewing, the process was well ... interesting. Now that this project is long-completed, i've stopped pointing fingers at whose to blame for a few frustrating moments: me, the fabric or the pattern, but let's just say that there were a few. The poly crepe, while smooth and drapey was a pain to press, especially at the narrow hem. This fabric also frays like no body's business (as was the case in my Laurel dress) so meticulous seam finishing was a must. And if anyone experiences any trouble interpreting the wasitband instructions, I took a page out of Tilly's book and used these instructions from the Miette skirt instead.
Still this skirt is a deeply satisfying project and is relatively quick to complete. I would love to perfect it by working a bit on the fit at the waist and really nailing that narrow hem and waistband construction. I can see a version in sleek sandwashed silk being a cornerstone in my wardrobe, or perhaps one in a fun, graphic print?
Sunday, 1 February 2015
Saturday, 8 November 2014
So this is embarrassing … a summer dress in the beginning of … November? October has been a sheer killer, and between work and exhaustion coupled with bad weather (poor indoor lighting) it’s been really hard to blog and get in photo-taking of new projects. Cry me a river, I know (a bit more on that in a second).
When I was able to finally take photos of this dress, I have to also admit that I hesitated sharing them, because I started to doubt how good this project actually is. At the time of sewing it, I was really proud of myself. This is a reprint of a 1950’s Vintage Vogue pattern. It has some really unique features but is straightforward and enjoyable to sew. I love getting stuck into the details of dress-sewing. I took my time lovingly sewing the princess seams on the bodice and finishing the paneling on the skirt with French seams and contrasting bias tape. It is some of my finest sewing work to date, so why do I feel so glum?
Well, for starters, the fit across the top isn’t the best. The high neckline and current size of the bodice isn't the most flattering silhouette on me, even though the dress pinches in, quite flatteringly, at the waist. Even there, however, I had to add a second tie to the back of the dress to stabilize both the closure and to reduce some of the ease I was seeing especially in the bust. As for the inner closure, I swapped out the suggestion for hooks & eyes to Velcro but later realized that even these could use a better placement to reduce ease across the back. And the fabric ... sigh, it's not my favourite. Do I sound like a broken record yet?
It's time for a little candid truth. Finding myself in the same place again, making the same comments about my work (fabric, fit issues) that I have for the last few projects has made me really frustrated. Not so much with this dress or even sewing itself, but with myself. I have always told myself that creating and blogging, for me, is a learning process and an opportunity for self-discovery. And what I have recently discovered about myself is that, for some reason, I am not learning from my previous mistakes. Without this turning into a therapy session, let's just say that this is a problem that runs much deeper than just my sewing hobby.
For example, how many times in my life have I self-sabotaged myself from trying something new or challenging (taking the time to work out fit issues or sewing with new fabrics) even when I know that mastering that thing will make me more satisfied or competent in the long run? How many times a day do I tell myself that what I make or envision “isn't good enough” (bringing up a project’s flaws instead of enjoying the process of learning and finishing something that’s still great)? How many times in a week do I stop myself from pursuing my goals or dreams for some kind of explanation why I just ‘can’t’ (battling tiredness or doing tiny bits of knitting, sewing or blogging more regularly instead of looking for huge chunks or time or inspiration)?
I wanted to share with you the insights I've had recently, because I know that I must not be the only one. The frustration, coupled with poor time management was getting so bad that I was avoiding sewing all together and definitely making the blog a lower priority. But I kept reminding myself how much I loved both things and that sometimes the things you love don't come easy - they require hard work, perseverance and a little tough self-love, as well as encouragement. So I am trying to adopt a method which is seeming to work well in other areas of my life. Start slow. Do what you can, when you can. Tell the right stories to yourself. Do things right the first time even if it's more expensive/time consuming/tedious. Acting on these things can be a step in the right direction towards a more kind, self-nurturing and positive experience whether in sewing, yoga, relationships or work.
A win for what didn't win
I'm glad at least that engaging with a creative activity at least has given me the chance to learn something new about myself and will give me a vehicle in which I can try to eradicate these issues. So I leave you this with this last image: a small celebration for the imperfect, for the learning curve, for the next-time-will-be-better, or maybe not - but that's okay with me.
Saturday, 20 September 2014
A few weeks ago a friend of mine expressed interest in learning to knit – thrilled, I showed up with needles and yarn scraps in hand and found her really eager for her first lesson. Even though I’ve been knitting since I was 14, I’ve taught very few people to knit let alone someone who was already prepared to take it seriously. So what turned into an innocent request for me, all of a sudden felt like a huge responsibility. See, I didn’t just want to teach her how to knit, I wanted to teach her how to love knitting.
With my friend and other beginners in mind, I came up with quick list of five things I would tell anyone learning to knit, to help them avoid the common pitfalls I experienced when I started out - allowing them to spend less time frustrated and more time loving knitting.
If you try to knit a scarf as your first project, you will get bored and give up. By all means practice and get your feet wet on straight needles, but attempting a garter stitch scarf, in most cases, will make you die from the tedium. Instead, spend a little more time getting used to a pair of circular needles and cast on for a simple hat instead. There are many, many pattern series for beginners, this one in particular, recently caught my eye.
Don’t just learn to knit, but ask or read up about the fundamentals too. The sooner you understand gauge, tension, various notions, and pattern reading, etc, the more the craft will ‘make sense’. While it could be overwhelming for some, I’d recommend, in conjunction with learning, to flip through a beginner’s book (or website or video). You’ll start to get familiar with the basics and see knitting less as a craft and more as an ‘art’.
Make friends with your local yarn shop and buy the best yarn you can afford. Knitting should be creative and tactile. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but those two things will hardly ever occur with cheap, acrylic yarn from the supermarket. An expert in a good yarn store should be able to direct you to yarn that will make you swoon and be appropriate for the project, and price you have in mind. Don’t have access to a LYS (Local yarn shop)? – make sure then that you choose yarn that have the highest percentage of natural fibres like wool, cotton, linen, etc in your price range. Reputable online stores should also be able to direct you to good yarns via email.
Get connected. Knitting is about community too. When I discovered Ravelry my whole knitting life changed – I think it’s so fantastic I even made it part of my Master’s thesis on learning from digital resources. While I’m not super-active, when I’m browsing around the various sections, I feel connected to something larger and have a repository of priceless information at my fingertips – something rather solitary becomes monumental. Also, patterns. You will need good patterns and they are all there made by amazingly talented and knowledgeable community members.
Don’t forget to make mistakes, take it easy and have fun. Few of us will hardly ever conquer let alone attempt cables, complicated lace, a seamed sweater or colourwork in the first month (first 3? 6? 9? months) of knitting – even if we want to. Build your skills little by little with projects just outside your comfort zone. Support the learning process by reading, getting inspired on Rav or Pinterest, asking questions (whether online or in person) and celebrating small milestones. I have so so much more to learn about knitting but when I balance having fun with a desire to be an expert, this is when I really love knitting.
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
A big tak (thanks) to everyone who has taken a look at or left a comment on my previous projects either here on the blog or over on Kollabora or Burda. It feels a bit weird to have my own little slice of the web – but it feels totally great to finally get out there swimming in the sea of handmade, creativity and community instead of watching from the shore. I’ve been a long-time lurker on so many sewing blogs, I didn’t think this world had room for any more to be honest, but even 10 views on one of my posts has made me so happy. If you’ve liked what you’ve seen so far, please don’t hesitate to reach out using any of the links to the right. Eventually I’ll also be back on Instagram too.
Blushing and business out of the way, I’ve got another Burda dress to share today – the #116 sweetheart dress. My first attempt at sewing this was nearly a year ago – I had envisioned a gathered skirt, and a button up back but all those mods plus a lack of any real sewing experience ended in a disaster. Plus, to be honest, this dress is really good on its own. Like really good.
I used a smooth, delicious lawn I bought in Paris nearly a year and a half ago. Off the bolt and in my stash, however I had immediate regret about the print. While I’ve developed a taste for florals, it seemed just really loud – I couldn’t imagine it turning into something I’d want to wear. I can’t really say then why I reached for it for this dress in particular, but I’m so glad that I did. Perfect summer colours and with the cut of the dress everything just seems to come together.
I followed most of the directions and found the fit to be more or less straight-forward. I decided to line the bodice in scraps of cotton voile eliminating the need for facings and used a French seam at the waist – my new favourite technique. There is a little bit of gaping at the bust and I took out about a half inch of ease across the back using a very tiny pleat (two tucks turned inwards toward each other) and shortened the straps, as a remedy. As I mentioned in a previous post, I find the idea of fittings to be quite elusive, but I’m getting closer and closer to better understand my body with each project –maybe the culprit is a narrow over-bust or shoulders and perhaps a short torso? More modest girls will want to raise the neckline to suit their tastes and I might too, about half an inch, on subsequent sews. Or maybe not.
Looking at these pictures now make me long for summer again. I’ve got one last summer dress left to blog about but I didn’t even get to wear it out. Are any of you also completely finished with summer? Any tried and true transition-season patterns I should try out?
Monday, 1 September 2014
Why do the simplest things sometimes have the biggest impact? Take this dress for instance: a great fabric, a few well-placed darts and an invisible zip and you’ve got one very fine dress. I can’t say exactly how the idea for this particular project came together whether it was the pattern, the Burda fitted sheath dress #129 or the fabric, a stretch cotton from local chain Stof 2000 that came first. The result however was one of those rare moments of easy decision, easy execution and easily loved result. I even made a near-perfect side invisible zip.
I sewed this dress in one day, modifying the instructions in my own way. For instance, I
am too impatient to don’t understand Burda’s
instructions for the kick-pleat, and so I followed this tutorial instead to
very happy results. Also contrary to the
instructions, the dress is unlined and I instead opted to finish the armholes
and neckline with pre-made bias tape (tape-as-facing technique). You will
notice one tiny flaw / added design detail however - the wraps around the
straps - intended as a quick-fix to pinch out the extra gapeage in the
In hindsight I should have used stay tape, instead of stay stitching the neck line, and possibly have cut the top one size smaller, as I can see now that this combination + bias tape = a very stretchy neck. Still the dress fits the rest of me like a dream and held up to an entire day of dancing and sweating at my friends’ mid-summer wedding in the most beautiful Italian town.
It’s true what they say - handmade has the power to transform! Coupled with my favourite heels, I felt so put-together and pretty the entire day, proud to wear a dress I’d made with my own two hands!