Tagged sewing

Hello? It’s me…

CaptureWell. It’s been 18 months since I was here. That’s embarrassing. I have a really good excuse for abandoning this blog… I got busy with work. Yes, that work wardrobe I was working on? It gets used (although I’ve put on a few pounds and a few things aren’t fitting like they should). And yes, I do like my job, even if it does mean there’s much less time for sewing and knitting.

That does not, however, mean that I don’t sew and knit. I can frequently be seen in the lunch room with a knitting project, and I’ve even started to teach a coworker how to knit. I also sometimes manage to knit on the train on my commute, but I rarely get a seat in the mornings, so if I am knitting in transit, it’s usually in the afternoon. Sewing has taken a bit of a backseat, because I don’t have a true dedicated sewing space, and I’m so busy that I rarely get time to sew, especially given the overhead involved in setting up.

I do want to get back to blogging again though. I miss it, even if I don’t have a large readership (if you do read, I’d love to hear from you!) I’m rather inspired to get back to it this year, especially since I’m listening to the Love to Sew Podcast (hi Helen & Caroline, I love the podcast!), which has really encouraged me to reach out to the creative community and get myself more involved, even if it is only via blogging.

I am taking a break from social media for the month of January, so I’m cheating a little, but when inspiration hits you, you need to strike while the iron is hot. I won’t be posting a link on Facebook or Instagram until the end of the month, but I will be back on social media again. My Facebook is a private account, but you can find me on Instagram as @aspiringthreads and of course, I’m on Ravelry under the same username.

Anyway, I’m going to try to post once a week, to get caught up on my projects from the last 18 months, and to share what I’m currently working on. I may miss a week here and there, but if I do, it’s probably because I’m in the middle of a project and would rather work on that!

See you soon!

 

Alterations to jeans

I haven’t updated in a while. Been meaning to do that, since I’ve got several things to share, but I haven’t felt like writing. I’m here now though, because I’m excited and wanted to share.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’ve been complaining for a while that my jeans don’t fit properly. I’ve tried different brands, in different styles, supposedly intended for different body types. I already know that I can’t wear skinny jeans, because thanks to the amount of walking I do, I’ve got pretty muscular calves, and there’s no way I’m getting skinny jeans over those suckers. I live on a hill, and of course, everywhere I go is uphill from home, so I’ve got muscular thighs too.

So-called “curvy” jeans are a joke, because they’re supposed to fit women with a larger hip to waist ratio than a standard fit, but guess what? These are curvy fit jeans.

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Look at my tattoos! Oh wait, you’re supposed to be looking at the terrible gap…

Look at that gap! It is pretty significant, and causes no end of discomfort. Why? If I don’t wear a belt, my jeans constantly fall down, and I’m always grabbing my belt loops to hike them back up, only to have to repeat the process thirty seconds later. Yes, I could wear a belt, but they’re terribly uncomfortable after a while, because my jeans still want to fall down (they seem to get hung up on my calves), so the belt ends up digging in at the top of my hips. I’ve tried higher rises, but I really don’t like them. These jeans are a mid-rise. And they look nice, so it seems like a huge shame to get rid of them when I know that every other pair of jeans I try will result in the same fit problem.

For the record, my hip to waist ratio is not huge. It’s only 8″, but the combination of having to fit my muscular legs plus the hip/waist ratio means I have to buy jeans a little big to fit all of that.

I tried this tutorial, because it looked really helpful, and it was AMAZING. I tried it first on a pair of Gap boyfriend jeans that are great for springtime, but have such a huge waist gap that I can take them off without unbuttoning them (they are almost too small for my calves though). I figured that if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t be too heartbroken. Guess what though? Now they’re the best fitting jeans I’ve ever owned.

Until today, when I altered my Silver Suki jeans. They’re even better than my Gap jeans.

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My cat and birds are almost hidden now. The yarn ball is entirely hidden. Properly fitting jeans hide my tattoos! Not sure how I feel about that… LOL!

See that? The gap is gone. Waistband alterations are life changing, I tell you. I used to hate wearing jeans (I love the look, but they’re uncomfortable when they don’t fit properly). Now I love my jeans.

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Peek-a-boo kitty!

They look a little tight above the waistband, but that’s because I’m squishy. They’re very comfortable, and don’t dig in.

The topstitching thread was hard to match, because you can’t buy this shade locally. I’ve looked, and my options are white, two shades of gold, and navy. Fortunately, I was able to find a greyish brown and a pale golden yellow thread that, together, are pretty darned close. You really have to look closely to see that the thread is different, and if you’re that close to my backside, we’re going to have a very interesting conversation. I have two pair of these jeans, and it took me about an hour and a half to do the alteration on the first pair. I took in the waist 4″. Crazy, right? They just look and feel so much better now.

The only issue is that they’re a bit hard to get over my hips now, because the waist is so much smaller, but I did the alteration on jeans that were fresh out of the wash. After wearing, they stretch out a little, so it’ll be easier. Even if they didn’t stretch, it’s not that big of a deal. I just need to wiggle a little.

If you don’t have the skills or tools to do this yourself, definitely ask around, because properly fitting jeans are something beautiful. Heck, if you’re local and I like you enough, I might even do it for you.

A trio of Sewaholic Oakridge blouses

I found these great fabrics on sale at Fabricland in the fall, and knew they’d be perfect for Oakridge blouses. I already have two with the bow, so I decided to make things easier on myself and do the version without the bow.

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This first one is quite possibly my favourite, because the fabric is so unique. It reminds me of a Monet painting, specifically Waterlilies. You got your first peek at this fabric when I posted my machine sewn button tutorial. Excuse the creases in my skirt, I wore this outfit for a job interview this morning. Wish me luck!

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I loved this fabric too, because it is so difficult to find autumn colours. I love orange, and I thought I’d never say that. I still remember the adorable peach dress I had in eighth grade. It suited me really well, except for the colour, which was far too light for my complexion, and resulted in me looking pallid and ill. I generally prefer reddish or rusty oranges, and this fabric has both. I loved that the dots are random and imperfect.

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This is the final blouse. Remember that I said a while back that when I find a pattern that I like, I tend to make several garments all the same?

I didn’t need to make any adjustments to the pattern, since I’ve already sewn it twice before. I did, however, use some cotton lawn for the bias binding at the neckline instead of cutting a bias strip out of my fashion fabric. The reason I chose to do so was that fussing with a skinny bias strip in a slippery fabric felt like torture to me. Because I skipped the bias strip, I have quite a bit of fabric left over, so I plan on making myself some Colette Sorbetto tanks, which I can wear with sweaters or blazers. Thus far, I’ve only made them out of cotton.

I’m pretty pleased with my new blouses, and my work wardrobe is really coming together. Now I just need a job!

Colette Phoebe Dress

Well, I’ve been avoiding posting this one because I was so excited about the pattern and my dress really didn’t work out very well. I’m just going to get this done and over with…

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It looks more or less okay from the front, I suppose. There are definitely issues though.

The neckline is way too high for me. I don’t like a neckline that comes higher than my collarbones, even if it’s a t-shirt. Why? Because I’m rather well-endowed, all that fabric just makes my bust look even bigger. There’s nothing to break it up. Maybe some chunky jewelry would help, but that’s not my style. The neckline needs to be lowered about 2″ in the front, and 1″ at the back, because it’s just a wee bit high for me there too.

The fit in the waist is good. The fit in the bust is good. The fit in the hips is okay. The fit across my tummy is terrible. This is more apparent from the side.

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Look at those drag lines! I have a bit of a tummy pouch, and that’s what is causing them. I blame my kids, but really, I need to exercise more and it would be less of a problem. There’s not a whole lot of room in this dress for my tummy. Because my tummy is bigger than this dress can comfortably accommodate, it is pushing up the waistline, causing weird wrinkles below the bust.

I don’t want to have to wear spanx, which might help somewhat, but I don’t honestly find them all that helpful. They do smooth out lumps and bumps, but they give me a sausage silhouette, which isn’t much better than lumps and bumps.

I’m not sure I’ll try making this dress again. It just needs too many modifications in order to work. I love the idea of sheath dresses, but with my tummy, I’m not sure they’re the most flattering on me. I’ll try this one again someday, after I get my tummy under control, but in the meantime, I have fabric for four more of them that I need to find other uses for.

Not every project can be a success, and this one definitely was not one of them. I’ll keep it on hand, just so that I don’t have to sew it again later if/when my belly is less pouchy, but this definitely is not a wearable dress.

The other fabrics I purchased are fine wale corduroy and lightweight suiting. There’s definitely enough for either pants and skirts, or dresses. I’m inclined to go for dresses, but I need to find the right pattern. I thought about the Sewaholic Cambie as an option, but it isn’t going to be suitable for the corduroy. I made one out of quilting cotton a while back.

I came across this blog post from Sewaholic, and love the finished dress, but Tasia’s body type is very different from my own. I’d end up with the same issue with the neckline being too high. I don’t like the back either, but the front is nice.

This might be a good option, because of the neckline variations. I find it frustrating that the pattern companies don’t list everything that is in the catalog on their websites though. I’d rather go through the patterns at home, then make a trip to the fabric store. Sadly, I don’t have anything in my collection of patterns that would be suitable.

Another Colette Mabel

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Would you believe I made another one? I went to Dressew for notions, and meandered around the fabrics, because you never know what amazing things you’ll find. Lo and behold, I found this gorgeous black and red damask knit, which had to come home with me.

Laying it out was a bit tricky, since I wanted to be sure that everything was lined up perfectly. To do this, instead of laying out on the fold, I traced around half of my pattern pieces with chalk, then flipped the pattern over and traced around the other side with chalk, and cut along the chalk lines. I did the same for the outside waistband pieces. I didn’t have to do the back this way, because it has a seam down the centre, and I didn’t care how perfectly spaced the damask pattern was on the inside.

Hooray for pretty, comfortable clothes! It’s pretty comfortable, too!

Colette Mabel

I’m sick of jeans that don’t fit comfortably. The rise is always too low, and I’m always having to either wear a belt (which is uncomfortable) or pull my pants up every few minutes (also uncomfortable, and not very convenient). In the case of the one pair with a nice, just below the navel rise, the fabric doesn’t have enough memory (2% spandex simply is not enough), so they stretch out of shape after an hour or so, which results in needing to pull my jeans up constantly. No thank you.

I am eventually going to get around to making myself a pair or two of jeans that actually fit, but that’s going to be quite a project, so in the meantime, because pants are STUPID, I have made myself some comfortable skirts that I can wear with tights.

I thought about drafting a pattern, however as my eldest would say, “it would be easy…but, lazy”. I decided to go with the Colette Mabel skirt pattern, with a minor modification… I don’t like my skirts super short, so I added 3″ to the length of the mini skirt. I don’t usually sew with knits, which meant I had very little in my stash, so I had to go to the fabric store. I found two fabrics that I liked, which will go with everything… One was a solid black knit, and the other was a heathered charcoal colour.

DSC_4699After taking my measurements, I determined that I landed exactly in the range for the large size. I made the black skirt first. First lesson with this pattern is that it doesn’t have standard 5/8″ seam allowances, so my usual habit of snipping my notches into the seam allowance meant that I had some fussing to do at the notches, since I snipped too far and ended up with tiny holes everywhere there was a notch. Doing notches this way makes cutting your fabric go much faster, but the time I spent fiddling with the stitching negates any time I saved cutting. Lesson learned: read the instructions before cutting, in case the seam allowances are not standard.

DSC_4698I didn’t feel like making the charcoal right away, so I nabbed this funky, retro heathered print from my stash. I bought it at Dressew a few months ago, from the clearance section. I think it was only $2 per meter, and I couldn’t resist it. I figured if I hated it as a skirt, I could donate it to charity without feeling like it was money wasted. In the end, I rather like it, so long as I balance it with dark tights and a dark top.

DSC_4700After actually wearing the two skirts, I decided that the large was just a touch too big, so I trimmed the pattern down to the medium size and cut the charcoal fabric. The fit is much better, and after making two skirts already, I didn’t need to refer back to the instructions, and I had all of the bugs worked out.

DSC_4701Because my black and charcoal fabrics were 60″ wide, there was quite a bit left over. Not enough for another skirt, but there was plenty to make a colour block skirt! I redrafted the back piece, and cut the centre pieces as well as the waistband out of the charcoal, and the side pieces in black. Talk about making the most of your yardage!

The last two skirts were done assembly-line style, because I could use the same thread for both. It only took me about an hour and a half to make the two, plus cutting time.

As a bonus, I scored on sweater tights at The Bay this week, because they’re clearing them out for the season, so I have plenty of options for comfy tights to wear with my comfy skirts! It was fairly inexpensive too. I spent only about $15 CAD on fabric for four skirts. The pattern is a bit pricey considering that the Canadian dollar is so low, but because I can as many skirts as I want, I think in the end it is money well spent.

The Magical Button Foot

I have a confession to make. I’ve always looked at the button foot my machine came with and thought “this thing is more trouble than it’s worth, I’ll just sew on buttons by hand”. I finished a blouse recently, and didn’t feel like sewing the buttons on by hand. It is one of those finishing things that I detest. Hand sewing is a big pain, even though I enjoy cross stitching. Go figure.

Anyway, I decided to write up a little tutorial, considering that I know people who have the same opinion on button feet that I did.

DSC_4622 First, mark your button placement. I like to make sure that my chalk lines extend past the edges of the button so that I can make adjustments to the position and still be able to see my markings. I don’t like to mark button placement with a pin, because it creates a bump under the button that makes getting the button in the right position really frustrating.

DSC_4624Attach your button foot to your machine, lower the feed dogs, and select the button setting. Make sure that you have about 3″ of thread tail, because you’ll need it later. Place your button on the location you marked, lower the foot, then use the hand wheel on your machine to lower the needle into the hole.

DSC_4626Adjust the stitch width. Buttons have the holes spaced at different widths, so you’ll have to play with this setting. I find that on the buttons I’ve been using, I have to make the zigzag wider.

DSC_4628It turns out that on this button, I set it a touch too wide. Fortunately I didn’t bend or break my needle, but I did break the button. Oops. This is why it’s best to do the first few stitches using the hand wheel instead of running the machine. You can make further adjustments if needed, without doing damage.

I adjusted the stitch width to 5.5, which was perfect. My machine has an automatic setting for sewing on buttons, which takes eight stitches to sew on the button. I just press the pedal until the machine stops automatically, but if your machine doesn’t have an automatic stop, make sure that you use about 6-8 stitches.  Cut the thread tails at about 3″.

DSC_4629After your buttons are all sewn on, pull the thread tails on the top of your work (where the button is visible) to the back. Tie the tails in a knot, including the tails on the back of the button, and snip off the excess thread.

DSC_4631Using a button foot makes sewing on buttons go much faster. Rather than hand sewing them and cursing at tangled thread for twenty minutes, I got seven buttons sewn on in about seven minutes, so I have no excuse to let a project sit because I don’t want to sew on buttons.

You can use this technique with buttons with four holes as well, just sew the first two holes, then move the work to line up the needle for the second set of holes. Easy!

If you’re using very large buttons that your machine can’t accommodate, obviously you will have to sew on your buttons by hand. The button foot doesn’t work for buttons with a shank, either. If you have really expensive or delicate buttons, you might want to sew them on by hand, just in case you mess up like I did above.

 

 

Sweaters and skirts, oh my!

I haven’t been posting much lately, because I’ve been busy with job interviews, holiday stuff, and making things. I did say I’d be posting a few projects though, and here they are!

Rock the Lobster is the first project I’ll show you, because it was a milestone. I finally made a steeked sweater! If you’re not a knitter, you probably don’t know what steeking is. If you are a knitter, you may have been avoiding steeking, because it involves cutting your knitting! Tackling this technique was a game changer for me. I love colourwork, but most colourwork sweaters are knit in the round and steeked, so I avoided them like the plague.

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Steeking looks scary, right? The trick is to use a yarn that will felt, so that the stitches stick to each other. You can also run a line of machine or hand stitches along the steek so that you prevent raveling, which is what I did. Knits generally don’t unravel side to side, so steeking is pretty safe, believe it or not.

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The finished sweater. I really love it – the yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes sport, so it’s warm but not too warm. The buttons are fantastic – they’re made of wood with a little bronze  wire accent. I bought extra buttons because I liked them so much. I didn’t bother doing any bust shaping, and probably should have. This sweater doesn’t have any waist shaping, but it doesn’t really need it. My Ravelry project page is here.

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The first time I wore my new sweater was out to brunch with my husband’s hiking friends. I wore it with a chocolate brown wool pencil skirt. Yes, it’s the pleated pencil skirt again, and I skipped the lining. I don’t really think it needs the lining, if you use good fabric.

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Sorry this one is so poor quality, but it was the best photo I got that day, and ran out of time, because I was dressed for an interview and had to leave! It’s another pleated pencil skirt, this time in an olive green wool. Now I have three pencil skirts, which is pretty reasonable, I think. The brown and olive wool were both purchased at Dressew. I still want to make my poppy skirt, but haven’t started yet.

Pencil skirt FAIL

I wanted to make myself another couple of pencil skirts, because I like the look of them and their versatility, so I sewed some up about two weeks ago. I had made the black one a touch too small, so I remeasured myself and made the size I thought I needed.

The two skirts I made, both out of stash fabric, ended up several inches too big. I don’t know how I could measure myself that inaccurately, but it can happen. I suspect it was because I didn’t write the measurements down, and misremembered them. Pencil skirts are a real hassle to alter, so I offered them to friends, but unfortunately, the size didn’t work for anyone that I know. I’ve put them in a donation bag that we’ll be taking to a local centre that is collecting donations for Syrian refugees. At least they won’t be going to waste!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have sufficient brown fabric to make another brown skirt, but the poppy print cotton sateen had enough remaining yardage to make another two skirts, so I remeasured myself today and cut another poppy skirt. I even made sure to try it on when I basted the zipper, to ensure that it would fit (it was perfect). The zipper stuck a little bit at the waistband seam, but I thought “no big deal, I’ll just trim down the seam allowances and everything will be fine”.

broken zipI tried to zip up my skirt after completing the lining, and this is what happened. First, the zipper got stuck in the same place, about 1/4″ above the waistband seam… it wouldn’t go any higher. When I tried the skirt on, the zipper would unzip, but this time, it was STUCK. It wouldn’t unzip, it wouldn’t zip higher. I have no idea what happened to my zipper, because it worked just fine before I sewed the lining into the skirt. I checked to make sure the lining wasn’t caught anywhere. So I did what any frustrated seamstress would do. I tried to convince the zipper to get unstuck. That’s when the zipper teeth burst apart. I tried to fix it, got more frustrated, and ended up tearing the zipper tape. I just can’t cope with tearing it all apart and fussing with it, so the skirt went into the trash. I still have enough fabric to try again.

I think I’m done with this pattern. Between sizing issues and frustration with the zipper (lining up those seams is not much fun, let me tell you), I just can’t say I’m enjoying this pattern anymore. It’s not a bad pattern, I’m just too frustrated to do it again. I’m not too frustrated to make a different pencil skirt though. The next one I’m trying is from Sew Over It, and it doesn’t have a waistband, or even lining, which means it will be much quicker to sew. I can always wear it with a slip if I need to. The only problem is that the pattern is from the UK, so it prints on A4 paper, so before I even buy the pattern, I need to find out what I need to do in order to make it work on letter sized paper. Page scaling isn’t an option, because then the skirt won’t fit.

High Light Quilt – Finished

DSC_4551-001 Remember my post about the quilt I was making for our bedroom? It’s finally finished!

My sister in law has a home-based long-arm quilting business, and because of the size of the quilt, I asked her to quilt it for me. This quilt is massive! I knew there was no way I could ever possibly quilt it on my machine without hating every minute of it, so having it done on a long-arm was the way to go. She quilted it with a series of leaves, in pale yellow thread. I’m really pleased with the quilting, and there’s no way I’d have been able to do it myself.
DSC_4552She gave me the finished quilt in October, but because other projects were a priority, I let it sit for a while. I spent a few hours on Sunday binding it, and threw it in the washer today. Thank goodness for glue basting, or I’d have lost a lot of blood thanks to all of the pins I would have needed! I’m really pleased with my quilt, and love how it looks on the bed. It’s so much better than the boring Ikea duvet we had on it previously.