Category Archives: Uncategorized

Do I like shopping more than sewing?

I’m at home, I have a half hour to kill while waiting for some pizza dough to rise, I have some seams in Gertie’s Portrait blouse to let out, and I’m not hopping onto the machine to get it done.

Is it possible that I like shopping for patterns and fabric more than I like sewing them up?

Or is this just a sewing funk?

I spend ages of time browsing online for fabrics and patterns – even if, IRL, I don’t even have the urge to buy because I have too much waiting in the stash. I’m trying to just love the ones I’m with. Yet, I find myself dragging my butt to the machine. I’m more interested in vacuuming at the moment. What’s that about?

(Maybe it’s about my pride not wanting to let seams out. The blouse is just a smidgen too tight for comfort. And maybe it’s also about me hating to re-do things).

Shout out for the awesome Portrait blouse pattern, which you can download for free here on Makezine. I’ve made one up in what I think is a silk/cotton blend, and am putting the finishing the finishing touches (er, letting the seams out) on a second version in cotton voile. Because I take ages pressing things, the whole garment, cut to finish, is taking about 5.5 hours. Faster seamstresses could get this done in a short afternoon.

As for the PDF download, the one hitch, which could be a big one depending on what computer programs you have and use, is that the PDF doesn’t come tiled. The pattern shows up and prints as one big sheet.

You could have the pattern printed on one big sheet at a copy shop, but I think it’d be large format printing (which is $$$, at least here in Vancouver). If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro or Adobe Illustrator, you can also “tile” the page for printing, which turns it into 10 or 12 sheets that you can then tape together. I can’t remember exactly how I did it in Illustrator, but it’s not very difficult to do. You just have to find an online tutorial, which you can find through googling something like  “Illustrator tiled printing.”


Well isn’t this just smurfy! Liebster Blog Award

How happy was I to wake up this morning, only to discover that I’ve been awarded a Liebster blog award *and* a Versatile Blogger award, both from LSASpacey of As I said…?

Very happy 🙂 Danke Schoen, as the Germans say!

The liebster blog award (liebster = german for dearest) is an award that you can give to 3-5 blogs that are newish, have fewer than 200 followers, and that you think deserve a larger following. The Versatile Blogger award is for blogs that you’ve recently discovered (and enjoy reading!). One of the lovely features of both awards is that you get to pass them along 🙂

Before I get to figure out how to put the new badges in my sidebar, I want to get to my Liebster award winners…

I’m a little focused on bloggers in my home province of British Columbia – and in Vancouver, if poss. I just get such a kick out of seeing the cool things these folks are making with the fabrics we have available to us locally.

1) It was a chance encounter with Ms Modiste at a local fabric store that led me to start my blog in the first place! Her garments are beautiful and intricately finished. No wonder she’s twice been featured as Burdastyle’s Project of the Week, and once featured on the Coletterie!

 2) I’ve fairly recently discovered Snappy Stitches – also a local. She’s a super accomplished quilter who’s also starting to make some gorgeous garments. I love her B5619 out of a cotton sateen print that I’ve got a metre of in pink, and that I’ve seen in used in the collections of two local designers. Apparently it was on clearance over the winter, but it’s now back at regular price! Grrr! (Okay, I’m just happy they still have it in stock! My god I love that fabric!)

3) ElleCSews is from Kelowna, BC in the heart of BC’s Okanagan wine country. I love Elle’s wonderful sense of humour (and her name… Elle!) and especially how non-plussed she is about posting her self-stitched undies on the internet! Not to mention that she’s down with showing projects that didn’t quite work out. As an educator (and learner), I love that! Being a leader – I think – is all about showing your stumbles along with your successes, because that empowers others to feel okay about stumbling and to keep on keeping on!

4) Wearable Muslin doesn’t come from Vancouver, but rather a place I called home for a couple of years – Austin, Texas. Funny thing is, when I was in Austin, I followed an old blog of hers, and only recently tripped upon her new sewing blog! Like Elle, I love how Neemie is cool with saying, you know, this dress… not really feeling it. And you know, this dress… can’t be bothered to hem it right now. Cos I’m exactly the same way!

5) Anne from South Carolina’s sewing output over at Pretty Grievances makes me blush, and while her garments are gorgeous and her wit dry, I’m always secretly hoping her next post will include photos of her adorable long-haired dachshunds. They are so cute it hurts!

moving on up

Because I need some money, and because a friend needs a cheapish (we’re talking vancouver…) place to live for four months, I’m renting my place to her as a summer sublet. I’ll be at my bf’s in the meantime – a trial run for moving together I guess, though I already stay here much of the time.

It’s a funny thing doing a half move. I don’t have to worry about moving my pull-out couch and other furniture, but am bringing my foodstuffs, summer clothes, some of my books, and most of my sewing gear. The bf has a 2nd bedroom that until the last couple of weeks was barely used. Now, we’re converting it to a little creative studio. It’s a nice place to work at during the day too! It’s on the 2nd floor, and while I don’t have much of a view beyond other highrises, I do get to watch the dogs walk by.

I’m so behind on posting projects! It’s because I have a hard time getting good pictures, and because I’ve been living in two places until now, only occasionally heading home to grab a change of clothes or two. I have a full vogue 1247 outfit, two pairs of trousers (V1051), and two skirts (simplicity 2512 and V1170) almost ready and waiting to blog up. And a Colette Macaron that I finished up ages ago. Of these, I’d say, the Macaron and the 1247 outfit that I’m wearing the hell out of, one of the trousers, and one of the skirts (thus far…) have been successful. The 1170 skirt fit right until I put the waistband on. I’m not sure what’s going on with that skirt + my body, but that thing is going far past my waist and up my ribcage. And I hong kong’d every last stinking seam! I hope that taking off the waistband and replacing it with a facing will make it work (Tim Gunn style, obvs).

I have another ambition project coming up – a spring blazer for the BF. He has a navy herringbone cotton twill blazer that he has worn past it’s best before date that he wants me to replicate. We’ve sourced a blue herringbone twill that he likes, and he’s cool with me cutting up the jacket to make a pattern from it. There isn’t a lot of tailoring involved at all – there’s a facing at the front, but that’s about it. No lining! I’m using a Burda men’s blazer pattern to guide me in drafting some of the pattern pieces, and in constructing the collar.

My job hunt has admittedly been sputtering. I have a teaching job lined up for May/June, which will give me some much needed cash. So I’m really looking for July. One of the annoying things about these teaching jobs are the weird hours – I teach in the late pm, twice a week. I imagine it’s difficult to find a f/t job that would allow me the flexibility in my hours to leave early twice a week to teach.

Truth be told, I had a rejection in mid March for a job I *really* wanted, and it’s been hard getting over that. I know I have to change my mindset towards seeing each these setbacks as one more step towards attaining my goal of gainful employment that pays enough that I can adopt a dog.

A change of <3

Until now, my fabric choices have tended towards the drapey – the drapier the better – and I rail against the use of quilting cottons for garments.

Now that I’m starting to get interested in quilting, I’m wondering… are those cottons really so bad? Am I just fearful of the unknown? After all, the dense weave of the highest quality cottons could substitute for interfacing. It could eliminate the need for interfacing altogether! I imagine that in strapless dress with princess seams, the bulk and stiffness of the seam allowances would probably eliminate any need for boning. And the prints… so whimsical; so fun; so unrepentantly crafty!

Now that I’m about to rid myself of all of the polyester in my stash in a what-not-to-wear style mass chucking, I’m wondering – it might be worthwhile to put myself onto a quilting cotton challenge. April will be the month of the quiltings! Jackets, tunics, a-line skirts, oh my!

new sewing adventure: city quilts!

These have been some tough weeks at Casa Muslinette: I’m job hunting. I’m hunting for my first real full time job, having spent a lot of years chasing a PhD and then a string of teaching gigs. It’s as tough as they say – the job hunting, I mean. Academia is so much more clear cut (write paper, succeed)!

Monday was an especially tough day – I got a rejection email for a job I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago – and which I thought would be a perfect fit. I thought I rocked the interview. I have a phone call scheduled for early next week to get some feedback. Maybe it wasn’t me, and maybe it was. I’ll find out, and my earnest hope is that I’ll make a positive enough impression to expand my professional network.

Anyway, there I was on Monday evening, feeling very disappointed, and having a cheer up talk with my fellow. At one point, he asked me to close me eyes and to put my hands out. In came:

I’ve recently started expressing a bit of an interest in quilting, and my sweetie asked me to make him a quilt. I said, you know, a quilt is a lot of work. I’m willing to make us a quilt – meaning, when we decide to live together, I’ll make a quilt for our bed.


I’m excited to get quilt planning! The book has lots of great ideas. While it provides patterns (12), I love that it focuses on giving guidance on how one might design one’s own city quilt. How wonderful!

I checked into the software they recommend, Electric Quilt 6, and it’s just too much of an investment for me right now. I think we’re just going to play around with quilt design on illustrator, to come up with our perfect bedcover 🙂 <3.

Looking ahead to Spring 2012: Sewing Plans

With the help of my two new apps (fabric stash and pattern pal), I’m putting a beautiful spring wardrobe sewing plan together…and almost entirely from my stash! Over the past year, I’ve really noticed that my self-made separates are the garments that I wear again and again – those and my Colette Macaron – and so I really want to focus on them.

Two more pairs of vogue 1051 Alice + Olivia are almost done; the denim pair is down to the hooks, eyes and hems, while I’ve got the waistband and finishing to go on the camel cords, inspired by a beautiful pair I spotted in Holts a couple months ago.


I’m also really looking forward to making a couple of Rachel Comey skirts from Vogue’s collections: 1274 and 1170. My 1274 – to be sewn in black sateen –  is inspired by a Marc Jacobs skirt from the S12 collections – though I’m disappointed that my sateen is looking a bit cloudy from just my prewashing. I’m wondering if it’s a poor quality sateen – or if sateen is just that fussy to work with…

I’m doing 1170 in a 5.5 oz denim that I last used on a pair of vogue 1051 trouser jeans. It’s soft and beautifully fluid. I’m *really* looking forward to this skirt.

Best of all? By using my new apps to document my stash and scraps, I knew that I had about .6 metres of this leftover from my trouser jeans… I ended up saving myself from buying a half metre of fabric. Love that!

And another Rachel Comey pattern… my mom bought me this one – plus the fabric – for Xmas 2010. I muslined it over the holidays, and am eager to cut into the real version. It’s an awesome pattern, and i’m really wanting to do a casual version for late spring/summer. Navy linen is a possibility – soft linen/rayon blends are my latest love – but Dressew’s also got a cute voile with embroidered polka dots. Since it’s fully lined, it’s also a good candidate for my take on the lace trend…

This aqua crepe de chine is one fabric in the stash that I’ve had a hard time finding just the right pattern for… turns out the right pattern was in my stash all along – Burda style 07.2011.113 (yay apps for helping me put these together!). This is going to look amazing with the alice + olivia pants. I think I’ll give the rose pin a pass however. It’s pretty, but not very me…

Just before the holidays, I was motivated to rub off an American Apparel top I’ve long loved, but just can’t justify paying $30 or more to replace. Plus it seems my closest AA (downtown) tends to focus their stock on the hideous lame leggings, rather than their rather lovely basic cotton tops. I love the result – even better than the original top – and I can’t wait to whip up a bunch more… including in bamboo for the gym! Best of all… it only takes about 3/4 of a metre!

Plus, pattern drafting makes me feel so badass, and its something I want to do much more of!

I’ve had this outfit in the plans for a while, and I’m looking forward to putting it together. However, I have to land on a skirt pattern… the Burdastyle 02.2011 is the one that first caught my eye, but I’m wondering if the… fishtail?… at the back makes things needlessly complicated… I was then thinking of Butterick 5466, in my stash, but I’m keen on the higher waisted and shapelier Burdastyle 11.2011. The only drawback? I’d have to print and tape the damn pattern sheets together. Can’t overstate how much I hate that!

Saving the best for last… this fabric that I’ve had my eyes on for a year at Fabricana has hit the clearance shelves… a wool blend for $8/metre. I couldn’t resist! For this season’s ambition project, I’m really looking forward to making a coat, and sinking my teeth into some tailoring skills! Bring on the pad stitching!

Because the fabric is so excellent, I’m thinking of doing this princess-seamed, raglan coat in one of the ost straightfoward versions – single breasted, with a simple collar. But, I’m so attracted to some of the mod styling from the late 60s – I’ve been drooling over some of the late 60s Vogue Paris Original and Vogue Couturier patterns – and am thinking of the double breasted version, but with one row of buttons, and a simple collar (which this pattern doesn’t offer for the double-breasted version).

App Review: Pattern Pal (Blueshift Software)

App review: Pattern Pal (Blueshift Software)

Is it a fall thing? Over the last couple months, I’ve noticed a few bloggers writing about how they organize their patterns, fabrics, and notions. Tasia’s post from earlier this month – asking whether we start our projects with the fabric first, or the pattern first – really got me thinking about getting on top of my pattern collection. I know that some have binders, others have databases. I want something I can have with me in the shop. And I’m not going to maintain – let alone carry with me – a binder of info and swatches, as beautiful as it could be. And so with an iTunes gift card (bless!), I downloaded Blueshift Software’s Pattern Pal application ($4.99).

not my screenshot; a typical pattern entry

Pattern Pal is a sewing pattern database, and a great complement to their Fabric Stash app, which I already bought and started using. I’ve enjoyed inputting my pattern info – and then searching Fabric Stash to see what I already have in store. I love that I now have sewing projects in the queue, made entirely from things in my stash – patterns and fabrics that I would never have put together! I wish both databases were in the same app so that I didn’t have to keep jumping around form app to app. I understand that the Sewing Kit app does let you keep track of both, but it’s not been particularly well reviewed.

My issue with Fabric Stash is that it’s really designed for quilters rather than garment sewists (Yeah, I know, quilting is really driving the ‘renaissance’ of sewing, esp among young people. Still, I want things for meeeeee). Pattern Pal is obviously directed towards garment makers, but I still don’t feel that a garment maker designed the app – and I don’t get the feeling that they had very many test drive it before putting it out on the market. Useful though it is, it has some hiccups that could be ironed out – fairly easily, I expect. These aren’t – I don’t think – major architectural issues.

There are a few places where PatternPal could simply add a few more data fields:

  • So many patterns require more than one fabric – they have linings, and contrast fabrics. Sometimes two. I wish Pattern Pal gave us room to input more than one set of fabric requirements – though it does helpfully provide fields for both 45” and 60” width bolts.   I’m getting around this by typing in something like “1.5f, 1.2l” (f and l standing in for fabric and lining respectively) in the single field they give us, but it can get unwieldy.
  • Nearly all patterns have multiple views. However, Pattern Pal only really accommodates one view per pattern.  You have to choose the view/piece you’re most likely to make, or create new entries for different views or pieces.Which makes my database longer than it need be.
  • Most garment patterns require some interfacing. I wish Pattern Pal had a field to input the type and amount of interfacing needed. To be honest, I’m pretty shocked that there’s nothing about interfacing in an app for garment sewers.

My other issue – which I imagine would be fairly easy for the developer to solve – has to do with the lists of options for a given data field – fabric, for instance. They provide a short but eclectic list (though why they include velvet and not, oh, jersey or crepe is beyond me), which users will have to add to. No worries.

Who sews velvet!?

However, when I add something – like Sateen which I use more often than Seersucker (!?) –  I expect it to then automatically show up in the pattern record. It doesn’t. I have to go through that extra step to click on it to get the magic checkmark (shown above). I know – I really sound like I’m grousing, but it’s a basic usability feature. It could be really easy to type in “double knit” for a pattern, forget to also click on double knit, and then have it not show up in the pattern record. As for the notions list, it would be nice to have a field where we could include the required amount. I want my drop down list to be as concise as possible – I’d rather simply put in grosgrain 1/2” than to clutter that list by adding the amount as well (grosgrain 1/2” 1.5 metres). However, there’s no place in PatternPal to specify how much (e.g.) grosgrain or how many buttons a pattern calls for. Again, I wonder, how many sewists did they test this out on? These issues became apparent to me within the first half hour.

Overall, I’m happy I downloaded PatternPal. I am happy discovering that I have fabric that goes beautifully with patterns I own – but that I just never thought of putting together. I’m looking forward to putting in all of the line drawings so that I have them as quick reference. It’ll be awesome to have it with me next time I’m in the fabric store and see that perfect piece – and want to see how much I need for different patterns – keeping me from wasting $, especially as I’m moving into sewing with higher quality fabrics. Overall, it adds happiness *and* $ value to my sewing, and it’s already saved me more than the $4.99 I paid for it.

Santa’s Workshop: Simplicity 2276

It’s been Santa’s workshop here at Casa Muslinette over the last couple of weeks… lots of sewing, and several hours of (hand) embroidering. I’m officially wiped. Here’s to buying gifts! Kidding… give me a week and I’ll be making once more!

Two of my sets of gifts haven’t yet been opened, so I can’t (yet) share them publicly. And one of them is the apex of sewn gag gifts… oven mitts, from Simplicity 2276, and a french press cozy, self-drafted, sewn in Free Spirit’s Be a Man collection…

Aggro male quilting fabric: the scary looking dude on the top left would make BA Baracas blush

I also used Windham Fabrics’ Adventures in Wonderland collection – along with a toile tea cups print – to make a set of kitchen accessories for my boyfriend’s sister-in-law, whose academic work centres on Alice in Wonderland:

I was so glad that she understood the reference straightaway. All our fabric store had was the army of cards prints from this colleciton – nothing with Alice herself. I was thinking, either she’s going to get it, or she’s going to think we’re suggesting that she has a gambling problem.

The oven mitts are from Simplicity 2276, and I self drafted the potholders and the napkins. After two trial runs – a pair of mitts for me, made straight from the pattern, and the Be a Man mitts, made from a lengthened version of the pattern, I ended up making a number of changes to the Simplicity’s mitt design:

  • Simplicity’s mitts, as designed, are really short. They look short on the envelope. They reach my wrists – but go no further. I lengthened them by two inches so that they’re closer to RTW oven mitts in length.
  • I slimmed down the design by about a cm for the Wonderland mitts – as the recipient has quite small hands, but widened it for the Be a Man mitts. This is easily done by slashing and spreading the on the grainline.
  • I added the loops for hanging these on a hook. I think that’s pretty standard on oven mitts, though I reckon Simplicity wanted to keep the design as easy as possible.
  • I used a combination of insul-bright and cotton batting. Simplicity has you use two layers on batting on one side of the mitt, and one layer on the other; I followed this because I was running short of the insulated batting, and four layers (two insulated, two cotton) makes the mitt quite thick. The issue is that it’s not that easy to determine which is the thicker side of the mitt. I do think they should be equal.

I was thinking of doing the teacup shaped pot holders shown below – perfect for the Mad Hatter’s tea party – but again, they are quite small – no bigger than my hand. And I worried they might be a little too quaint. I’m not sure how useful Simplicity’s potholders are intended to be – they have them decorated with buttons. Am I the only one thinking… wouldn’t plastic buttons melt?

I simply drew a 8.5″ square for the potholders and rounded off the corners. I made some wide double fold bias tape to bind the edges – and sewing that on evenly turned out to be the trickiest part of the whole project.

With my scraps, I put together a couple of small napkins (also ‘self-drafted’ – if drafting means drawing two squares and some rectangles!).

I’m pretty proud of these guys. At first, I was just going to do some narrow hems, and leave the seams between the main fabric and the contrast binding exposed, while finishing them with my pinking shears. However, while I was playing around with the fabric, I decided to fold the contrast binding right over the seam allowance. Because I stitched in the ditch, the seams are fully enclosed and almost invisible from the right side. The napkins are small – but I’m hoping to make some bigger ones for my boyfriend and maybe his parents too.

All of this was done with my new (to me) straight stitch machine – a 1951 Singer Featherweight. It really does sew a beautiful stitch and lives up to the hype.

Cue Stevie: Isn't She Lovely!?!

Burda 9635 Ocean-themed baby gear

Just as I start talking about stash-busting for Movember, I stop sewing! Well, that’s not quite true, I did get out a pair of bedpants (still unhemmed!) from some flannel I had hanging around (and even stashbusted some notions for that!), and I have a nice working list going of fabric scrap projects that don’t suck (wanna know the worst one? fabric scrap menstrual pads. Totally not joking. Totally not happening.).

But the Mr and I also got an invite to an ocean-themed baby shower – for two of his ocean scientist colleagues. And my stash was not going to do it for baby. I had to buckle down and buy some Minky, and I sewed up a couple projects from Burda 9635: Baby Accessories.

I sewed the bunting bag, and a couple of bibs (not figured).

bunting bag detail - narwhal applique

I used double-sided minky fabric in a custard colour, with cotton broadcloth for the applique/bias binding (using Colette’s continuous bias tape tutorial, as always). The parents don’t know the baby’s gender – but really, I went with this colour because it was the only colour my local (Dressew) had in double-sided Minky! (I could have done single sided minky, and they had an amazing white with blue background one that looks like the white foam on the crest of waves, but I didn’t want to have to either line it with minky on the inside for requisite softness for baby’s skin).

I had read terrible things about sewing minky, but it seemed okay to me. I serged most of the bunting bag, but the applique and bias bindings stitched up pretty well on my regular sewing machine. Of course, my sewing room looked like a blizzard hit it with minky fluff everywhere, but it’s nothing my dirt devil can’t handle. I am glad I heeded advice I found somewhere online to putting minky through the air dryer after cutting – thankfully my building has free laundry on every floor. I handpicked my zipper, as I almost always do. Not only do I find handpicking relaxing, but I find *not* sewing in a zipper by machine relaxing!*

The pattern came with a very adorable bear applique, but for this specifically ocean themed shower, I knew I had to change it up. I *can’t draw* and thought of using ocean themed cookie cutters for applique patterns, but found this adorable narwhal embroidery pattern on urban threads. Who doesn’t love narwhals? Who say that they love you too? I had heard that embroidering onto minky can be tricky due to the stretch, so we embroidered onto the broadcloth, cut it out, and then stitched it onto the minky.

The only annoying thing with this pattern is that the bunting bag pattern calls for 1.15 metres of 150cm wide fabric, and I used about .4 m less than that.  I hate it when patterns (vastly) overestimate yardage! I made an extra two bibs – one with a seal, and the other with an octopus applique – but they didn’t get photographed (Mr M being our resident picture-taker). I still have a ton of minky, and no idea what to do with it. 10 custard minky bibs!?

*Of course, I don’t yet have a zipper foot for my… new sewing machine!! A new to me 1951 Singer Featherweight in beautiful condition, bought from a featherweight specialist on ebay – in located in BC! I got it about 3 weeks ago, and a buttonholer, also an ebay purchase, is waiting for me at the post office. My old machine (which actually belongs to my non-sewing mom) is now my backup machine at my bf’s place. Since my featherweight is a straight stitch machine, I had to bring the project to his to zigzag the appliques on. Oh – and he helped me with the embroidery. Which, imho, makes him the awesome-est boyfriend ever! 🙂