Is it a Bird? Is it a Crane? No, it’s a Canard*!

*Canard: french for duck. Also means a misleading/unfounded rumour or story. Or a beautiful dress that you’ll never wear.

Check out this gorge fabric. I bought it in Rome, and had my scissors into it within hours of landing back home in Toronto. When I bought it I thought those were cranes, but on closer inspection they look like ducks or geese. Canard! Ducks and geese just don’t have the same cachet as cranes, don’t you think? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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It’s a very finely woven cotton — ‘crisp’ is the word that comes to mind. It also creases like a sunnuvabitch the minute you look at it, as you can see from the photos taken after wearing the dress for about 4 seconds. The fabric hasn’t got much drape but rather it’s quite structured, so I thought it would be perfect for M6959, a fit-and-flare wrap dress with contrast trim, and indeed it had the perfect weight and body for this dress.

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Note to Longsuffering Husband Photographer: there’s a cat growing out of my head.

I was going out on a bit of a limb choosing this style, as I’m generally not one for the fit-and-flare shape. I think they look fabulous on others, and while it’s true that I get a lot of my sewing inspiration from seeing other sewists’ fit-and-flares, I just feel a bit froufy wearing this style. I’m definitely more of a jeans-and-tops kind of person, with the occasional sheath-style dress thrown in, but I’m one of those sewists who just. keeps. buying. dress. patterns. It’s pathological. I have a closet full of dresses I hardly ever wear. But man, are they fun to sew!

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Hello 1950’s housewife. (I’m thinking a little snap at the bust might be needed, yes?)

I definitely love the look of this dress, if not actually wearing it. It’s been hanging outside of my closet so I can admire it daily. ๐Ÿ™‚ I particularly love the orange bias binding around the edges that play off the orange spots on the fabric — what a great contrast to the periwinkle blue.

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One other issue I had with the fit (or maybe the fabric selection) is that I can’t raise my arms above shoulder height — the sleeves are holding my arms prisoner. They’re not particularly tight around the armscye, but the fabric has no stretch to it at all so it’s completely unforgiving that way. One more reason why I probably won’t wear this. I wonder if there’s something I could have done differently with the sleeve caps to avoid this….do you have any advice?

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I just discovered twirling is hard…I seriously almost barfed after twirling around 3 times. Also, that’s about as high as I can raise my arms in this dress.

However, I still think this is a great dress and it was very easy to put together. I haven’t used bias binding to finish edges before and I love it — so easy using purchased binding, and no fiddling with hems.

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Alright, WHO AM I KIDDING when I say I will never wear this? I’ll find myself someplace to go where I will not be required to lift my arms above my shoulders for any reason (so it’ll have to be a short stay — not long enough to have to powder my forehead, which means this oil-slick-faced gal’s outing will last no longer than, say, 15 minutes). But one outing should suffice for a compliment or two with the requisite “Why thank you! I made it myself” replies. I will reach up to coyly pat my hair and realize I can’t, but there will nonetheless be much ensuing cooing and clucking. Or honking and quacking as the case may be. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Special thanks to Longsuffering Husband Photographer, my #UnsungSewingBlogHero!

The Unsung and Long-suffering Heroes of the Sewing Blog World!

Hey girlfriends,

You all look SO GOOD in your blog pics! You worked hard to sew that dress, then pick the right shoes and accessories, do your makeup and hair, find the right backdrop, and wait for good lighting. But who’s taking those photos? Maybe you use a tripod and remote shutter release, but we all know that method isn’t nearly as satisfying, fun, and rife with pitfalls as the tried and true method of cajoling your significant other into doing a photo shoot for you.

This is what happens when I try to use the self-timer and tripod. I’m all WTF, camera? Yick. Not good.

Ladies, it’s time to give praise where praise is due! Who are those unsung (and lawd knows long-suffering) heroes of your blogs? Your wonderful amateur photographer who knows s/he has no choice but to obey your shouted directions — No! Zoom IN! Are there shadows on my face? Make sure you get my shoes in the picture! No, three pictures is not enough! Take more! Stand over THERE! Make sure my nose doesn’t look too big! Next time TELL me if my skirt is tucked up in my underwear! — for fear that not doing so could make domestic life a bit rocky. They even put up with it when we make them do the shoot all over again because we think we look ridiculous in every. single. photo. that was taken the first time. “Honey, can we do this again? These photos are all shit!”

Tell me about your long-suffering photographer…are they happy to do the job? Or do they do so begrudgingly? What do you have to promise in return for compliance? (Should I be worried I asked that?? Nevermind — DISH, girlfriends!)

And have you ever FOUGHT with your significant other during one of these photo shoots? No doubt there are good stories to tell, hopefully all with a happy ending.

The result of a minor -- and good-natured -- dispute during a photoshoot. This might actually have been the best shot of the bunch. I briefly considered trying to photoshop out my finger and use it in a post.

The result of a minor — and good-natured — dispute during a photo shoot. If I recall correctly, this was in response to Longsuffering Husband’s comment that “you’re not going to look any better in more pictures” when I asked him to keep shooting. LOL. This might actually have been the best shot of the bunch. I briefly considered trying to Photoshop out my finger and use this pic in a post but realized my Photoshop skillz aren’t that mad.

But above all, let’s give those guys and gals a pat on the back. Maybe they’ll take a turn in front of the camera so we can all give them a round of applause in the comments section? And if it’s just you and your tripod, let’s give YOU a round of applause for making that shit look good. I don’t know how you do it.

Here’s my long-suffering and wonderful guy, who only occasionally gets impatient when I’m insisting on yet more photos, puts up with doing photo shoots in sub-zero temperatures, has been known to wait patiently for me while I slip into time-warp absorption in yarn and fabric stores, and regularly answers “YES!” whenever I ask him if I look like a dork in this outfit, if my ass looks huge, or if there’s spinach stuck in my teeth. I’ve known him for 20 years and married happily for 14. Love. This. Guy.

That’s right, long-suffering husband! Raise a glass! To YOU! My unsung hero!

Now over to you. Introduce us to your photographer! Post here in the comments section, or post on Twitter, Instagram, or your blog and tag it with #UnsungSewingBlogHero . Pass it on. Let’s give these people some LOVE. โค

Fabric Porn: Fabric Shopping in Rome (with some Shoes, Cats, Ancient Ruins, and Cheesecake thrown in for good measure)

While I was on vacation in Italy last month I got a little obsessed about finding fabric stores wherever I went. Yelp was being cheeky and sending me to anything from card & gift shops to a grungy little hole-in-the-wall where a couple who should’ve long since been retired were presiding over some dusty old packages of sheet sets and were NOT happy when I wandered in asking “Tessuti? Avete tessuti?” (fabric? do you have fabric?) in broken Italian. Despite that, I managed to find some fabric shops and I thought I’d share my adventures with you.

I visited three fabric shops in Rome, all within a couple of blocks of each other.

Basetti Fratelli Tessuti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 73)

This was the most extensive fabric shop I visited….room after room after room of fabrics stacked to the (very high) ceilings:

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Bassetti Fratelli fabric shop: view from one room into another

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Another room choc-a-bloc with fabric

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I’m getting sucked into the Bassetti vortex here…it just keeps going.

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A stack of designer fabric. Versace, anyone?

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The old-school ‘cashier’.

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My long-suffering husband kindly colour-coordinated himself for the shirting room.

I was actually way too overwhelmed to buy anything in this store. Option paralysis overcame me and I wandered out in a fabric overload haze.

Azienda Tessile Romana (Via S. Nicola Dรจ Cesarini, 13) & the The Largo di Torre Argentina Ruins

Just a short walk away from Bassetti Fratelli was Azienda Tessile Romana.

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This was a much more manageable store, although I also left here empty-handed.

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The most interesting thing about this shop for me was its location directly in front of a giant hole in the ground containing, oh, you know, ho-hum, ancient Roman temple ruins over 2,000 years old — the Largo di Torre Argentina. Apparently Julius Caesar was assassinated on or just adjacent to this site. NBD as the kids say ironically, or as as us oldies translate, No Big Deal.

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The Largo di Torre Argentina, ancient ruins just hanging out in the middle of a busy Rome intersection.

This archeological site is in the middle of a fairly large and busy intersection, and you can wander around the edges having a look without buying a ticket or anything. It’s also home to a big feral cat colony who took advantage of all the nooks and crannies and respite from people and cars. You’re allowed to go in to a small area to one side during certain hours to visit the cats, and there’s a small shop of cat toys and souvenirs that help fund the cat shelter.

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Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

If this were anywhere else but Rome, this spot would be a VBD (Very Big Deal), complete with lineups of tourists anxious to part with their Euros to have a look around. But because it’s Rome, there seems to be something like this on just about every street corner. It’s an amazing city.

Oriani Gioielli Shop, Rodeo Belt Shop, and Discount Italian Shoes

If you were to draw a straight line from the front door of Azienda Tessile Romana right through these ruins and across the street, you would find this little shop that sells jewelry, gloves, and custom-made sandals — pick the style, flat or heel, and the colours and they’re ready within an hour or two. I’m told this style of sandal was popularized around Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri.

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But I digress. (I always digress where shoes are involved.) From here I wandered a couple of blocks south and wound up on Via di Sant’Elena, where I found the Rodeo Belts Shop. Here I bought the elusive yellow leather belt I’d been looking for for a couple of years, as well as a black suede wrist cuff.

Just a little further along the Via di Sant’Elena was a discounty-looking shoe store where I bought a really cute pair of ivory-coloured leather high-heeled oxfords for just 39 Euros. The sign outside says “Calzature Donna – Tutto a 39 Euro” and they take cash only. This is the only pair of shoes I bought while I was in Italy, and those who know me personally will know that I exercised jaw-dropping restraint!

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant'Elena

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant’Elena

Fatucci Tessuti

Around the corner on Via dei Falegnami (#63/64) is a much smaller, more manageable fabric shop than the other two I visited earlier — this one was just my speed. Fatucci Tessuti doesn’t have a sign outside so it’s easy to miss; just look for the red-framed door and the number 63 on the wall.

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The fellow running this shop was very helpful (but camera shy). Lots of lovely silks at reasonable prices, starting at 8 Euros per meter, like this one that the shopkeeper insisted I take a photo of…

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…but it was this cotton print featuring cranes (or maybe geese?) for 12 Euros per meter that I fell in love with.ย  It has an incredibly fine thread count and it is truly very ‘crisp’ feeling. I love the contrasting orange dots sprinkled on the periwinkle-blue background.

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Jackpot! This crisp cotton print is coming home with me.

I have since made a dress with this fabric, which I’ll share with you in my next post.

If you’re in this area you’d be remiss not to go another few blocks to the “Jewish Ghetto”, centred around the Via del Portico D’Ottavia, where you’ll find the Forno del Ghetto (Bakery of the Ghetto). This is another business with no sign at all out front, so look for the window with the burnt-looking cakes.

The window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D'Ottavia. Don't let their appearance fool you.

Cakes in the window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D’Ottavia. Don’t let their appearance fool you.

The appearance of these cheese cakes belies their absolute deliciousness! Don’t even let the super-grumpy women gruffly serving the cake deter you from sampling them. Stand your ground when they glare at you when you walk in, and do not waver in your resolve when they bark at you whether you want chocolate or berry! You will be duly rewarded for your courage.

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM!

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM! I’m only a little shaken after interacting with the shopkeepers. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Have you been fabric shopping in Rome? What treasure troves did you find?

Oh, hai, sweater that I’m going to knit the shit out of

I thought it had finally happened: losing my knitting mojo. Knitterly mojo-lessness. I couldn’t get excited about starting a new knitting project. Which has been UNHEARD OF since I started knitting in 2009 — I don’t believe I have ever not had a project on the go. Is it possible I was suffering from worsted world-weariness? DPN disgruntlement? Entrelac ennui? Fair-isle Fuggettaboutit?

I even bought new yarn just before my vacation in order to make this cool Anna Sui dress (my version was going to be a sweater).

I knit most of the back piece before saying to myself, “Meh,” and putting it away. I wasn’t even tempted to work on it during the 13 hours I spent on various trains, buses, and a 9-hour flight home. Something was seriously wrong.

Truth be told, I was a little panicky. Had my knitting craze finally come to an end? Had I knit everything I was going to ever want to knit? (Lawd knows I have too. damn. many. sweaters. Even for a Canadian.) Had my knitting universe collapsed in on itself? And, most importantly, HOW ON EARTH WOULD I MAKE IT THROUGH FACULTY MEETINGS? I’m pretty sure my colleagues would put their foot down at me setting up my serger in the meeting room.

But then I saw an ad on Ravelry for the Winter Wheat pattern by Anne of Atelier Al-fa:

Stripes? Check. Asymmetry? Check. Interesting stitch patterns? Check. Even contrast piping — check. And, sock-weight yarn for a lighter, finer garment — check.

And then I saw this perfectly executed Winter Wheat project by Charlotte (Lolotte1409 on Ravelry):

And then I remembered that my amazing LYS — Romni Wools — has 20% off all yarns this month!

And then I thought, HELLS YEAH! I’m gonna knit me some Winter Wheat! (Cue finger snapping and hip gyrating)

And girlfriends, I picked up these to-die-for Madelinetosh sock yarns…

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Madeline Tosh Sock yarn (left to right): Victorian Gothic, Dirty Panther, Smokestack, Composition Book Grey, and Fog.

…and BAM!!!! Knitting Mojo Restored! No more stockinette same-same! Vanished is the yarn-over yawning! I have conquered cabling commonplaceness! Is that even a word? Who cares?? Garter stitch gloom is gone!!!

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Oh, and if you don’t see a finished Winter Wheat on this blog within the next 6 months, you’ll know this was just Starting A New Project Enthusiasm talking. Time will tell; so far I am half way through row 2. Wish me luck. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Ombre Woodgrain Sheath Dress

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I’m so glad I was able to wrest another garment out of this fantastic ombre-woodgrain fabric, despite the anatomical challenges it presented! I first made a romper with this fabric and now this dress.

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I wanted a very simple, fairly fitted dress without a lot of seams or fuss, so I used the basic pieces from V8904, a pattern that worked really well for me previously (see my asymmetrical layered dress, which was unofficially Suzanne-Sommers-approved!). Of course I omitted the diagonal over-layers and just used the basic pattern pieces: front, back, 2 sleeves, and a neckband. There aren’t even any darts on this.

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The sleeves on this pattern have a ton of ease, which is something I forgot since the last time I made it. (Must jot that down on the pattern cover or something for future reference.) So I found the sleeves were a bit fluttery for my liking, and instead of recutting them or doing a proper dart or something, I was super-lazy and just tacked down a little fold-over on each sleeve. My vacation departure date was approaching and there was a lot of sewing I wanted to get done before that, so I was all fuck it, lemme just do this lame hack.

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These pictures were taken on one of the first few days of my trip to Italy, and I was able to pose for the photos without passing out from holding my gut in. Let’s just say that this dress did not get a whole lot of wear towards the end of the 3 weeks I spent eating my way through Italy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Time for a Sea Change: Head for the Mountains

I have a giant girl-crush on Debbie of Lily Sage and Co. I’ve raved here about her stunning makes before, so I was excited to try one of her patterns: the Sea Change Top.

Sea Change Top

The front panel is lightweight cotton knit with a panel print of mountain scenery from Mood. Ironically I passed over this fabric the first time I saw it last time I was in NYC — for some reason I was feeling morose and foolishly left without any. Then I saw Debbie post a top she made with this fabric , which looked great, so I had to have some for myself and ordered it online. The things a girl-crush makes you do!

For the back and trim I used a beige knit from one of my local fabric stores, which probably was just a little too heavy-weight for this design. I sewed the Extra Small and made the bottom band longer than called for so the top wouldn’t be quite so cropped.

Sea Change Top

Sober second thought looking at these pictures tells me I may have gone a little overboard on the range of colours in this outfit — but I love those pants, and I shoehorn them into outfits where they don’t really belong all the time. They’re Yoga Jeans by Montreal’s Second Denim Co. (made in Canada!), skinny ankle pants in watermelon. Yesterday I found the same pair in “citron”, which is the loudest, happiest shade of greenish yellow and makes me absolutely GLEEFUL, and they were on SALE, so more ill-advised colour combination outfits are in my near future, no doubt!

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I’m honestly not sure I’m going to wear this a lot. It might be a bit too fussy for me. I don’t mean fussy in a covered-in-ruffles-and-bows kind of way, but the bagginess and big-ass kimono sleeves make me self conscious while I have it on, so I fuss around making sure it’s all sitting where it’s supposed to. There’s a certain way to sit with your elbows forward on a table that would give anyone nearby major side-boob viewage up the sleeves. (Well, as major a side-boob as one could get with these barely-fill-an-A-cup girls.) But I have only worn this once so far, so I’ll give it another couple of tries and see if it grows on me (and please not literally — it’s quite big enough already).

Sea Change Top

At first glance I thought the collar band seemed way too small to fit with the very large neck opening, but after quite a bit of wrestling and a little bit of cursing it worked out well. But the finished neck opening is quite wide, so be aware of that if you intend to try this pattern and prefer a neckband that doesn’t drift down towards your shoulders. Overall this was an easy top to put together. Debbie’s pattern is well laid out with clear instructions.