Does This Look Handmade?

What makes something look handmade? And is that a good thing or a bad thing? Those are the questions Helena and I are asking your opinion on for the next episode of the Clothes Making Mavens Podcast. Sometimes I worry if someone asks me “did you make that?” — why do you ask, is there something wrong with it?? is usually my first thought. On the other hand, friends are now asking me almost every day if I made what I’m wearing, regardless of whether I actually made it or bought it at the store, so I guess that’s a vote of confidence in my sewing skills. The question for many of us is whether we want what we’re wearing to have a ‘handmade look’ to it. And what does that mean, exactly? Does that bring to mind the thought of “Becky-Home-Ecky” projects? Or gorgeous, one-of-a-kind creations that no one else has? Do you embrace both?

Why don’t you leave me a comment or a voicemail and tell me what you think? You can call 401-64-MAVEN, or click below to use your computer’s built-in microphone to leave a message. It would be so cool to include your voice on our podcast!

Here’s a recent handmade creation of mine. And it has an absolute dead giveaway sign that it’s handmade.

NewLook 6210 dress in Art Gallery Tiny Dancer fabric in Midnight

The pattern is New Look 6210, View D.

I was in the mood for an easy-going summer tank dress with a racerback which is why I picked up this pattern. But for some reason I chose to do the v-neck version with a fuller back instead. Maybe because I find v-necks are more flattering on me than u-necks, but I seem to forget so easily that sewing v-necks is the bane of my existence! It’s always a struggle to get the point of the v looking good.


I also didn’t realize just how much positive ease is built into this pattern — it came out huge. When I first popped it on for fit I lamented to my husband that I had made myself a Soviet-era Russian house dress. A sack, really. I had to hack away at the sides, the back, the shoulders — everything — to get it to fit. Here’s one weird hack I used on the back to try to give the dress a bit of waist definition:


I considered adding darts, but instead did a couple of pleats, folded in toward the centre back seam and stitched across.


It’s not perfect, but it improved the overall shape of the dress dramatically, and adds a bit of interest. I don’t even care that it looks a lot like THIS, from Kurt Vonnegut’s book Breakfast of Champions:


But that little hack is not even the handmade dead giveaway! If you’ve ever hemmed a knit with a twin needle before, I *KNOW* this has happened to you, too. I stitched around the armhole with a twin needle (the original armhole band having long ago been hacked off for a better fit — and please, no, don’t ask me why I didn’t adjust the fit before sewing on the armhole band, thanks), and then got to work trimming away the excess fabric as close to the twin-needle stitching as possible. You know how this ends. SNIIIIIIP!!! Feels like the scissors just bit into something they shouldn’t have bit into. You know that feeling. Yes, I cut a chunk out of the dress itself just under the armhole:


I think that little hole could be considered a true mark of handmade-edness, no? Lucky for me, I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable so I’m just rollin’ with it.


The fabric is Art Gallery Tiny Dancer knit in Midnight, which I ordered from (no affiliation). It’s got white dandelion puffs on a steel-blue background with dashes of bright spring green in the centre of the dandelions. It was the spring green that got me hooked on needing this fabric, but I was a bit disappointed in it in person. The fabric is good quality, but the base fabric is white with the blue printed on top so when it stretches some white shows through. Also, the blue isn’t as saturated as I would like; it’s kind of a dull greyish-blue. A sharp navy would’ve made me like this much better. This was my first time ordering from and I was very pleasantly shocked to find the order on my doorstep within 24 hours. This was coming from Georgia, USA, and I live in Toronto, Canada. Wow. Shipping rates were actually reasonable, too. I did have to pay duty to the good old government of Canada on delivery but access to fabrics I can’t find around here and such a quick delivery time was worth it.


Next summer I will try this pattern again to make a striped racerback tank dress, but I’ll be sure to adjust the pattern before cutting out to remove the positive ease.

So long summer! It’s been nice sewin’ ya.


Have you caught the latest episode of the Clothes Making Mavens Podcast? Listeners tell us about their proudest sewing moments, Helena and I chat about where we get our sewing inspiration from, and Maris drops some knowledge about some sewing machine presser feet you could be putting to good use.

Clothes Making Mavens Podcast Episode 5

If you’d like to be featured on our next podcast, don’t forget to get in touch and tell us your thoughts on what makes something look handmade! Can’t wait to hear from you. 🙂


Finished Knitted Cardi & Work-in-Progress T-Shirt Dress

Black Knitted Cardigan with Lace Collar

I just finished this cardigan…started it in December — whew! It was an on-again, off-again kind of affair. It’s a bit of a milestone for me because it is the first garment I’ve knitted for which I didn’t follow someone else’s pattern! When I first started knitting a few years ago I remember browsing through projects on Ravelry and seeing knitters who had made modifications to a pattern to suit their liking or, even more shockingly, had knit something out of their own head! It seemed as easy to do as traveling to the moon as far as I was concerned. But now having knitted dozens of sweaters (not all of them wearable, of course), and then having added sewing to my pastimes, I’ve gained a pretty good sense of garment shape and construction, so now it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Experience is everything, I guess.

Black Knitted Cardigan with Lace Collar

Black Knitted Cardigan with Lace Collar

It’s a basic top-down raglan cardigan, and I added a collar band knitted in a lace pattern I found in a book called 400 Knitting Stitches: A Complete Dictionary of Essential Stitch Patterns by Potter Craft. (Ok, so I didn’t make up the whole pattern; making up a lace pattern still seems like landing on the moon to me.) Looking at these pictures now I think this style would have been better just a few inches longer, but whatever. Still also debating whether to rip back the sleeves a few inches and add a sideways lace panel to each sleeve to finish them off. I also notice I look pretty puzzled in the pics where you can see my face — that’s me still figuring out whether my remote control shutter release is going to work or not. 🙂

Black knitted cardigan with lace collar

Sewing-wise, here’s what I’m working on at the moment, and I need some advice from you experienced sewists! This is Burda’s Cap Sleeve V-Neck Dress from the June 2014 issue.

Burda Cap Sleeve V-Neck Dress 06/2014 #102

I was intrigued by the subversive little design detail on this otherwise very simple dress: the front and back are cut a little skee-wiff (how do you spell that word, anyway?) so that you need to straighten out the side seams once it’s on, creating a twist across the midriff.  But I screwed up sewing the neckline, as you can see in these pictures. I sewed it with a twin-needle, didn’t use any stay-tape/binding at the neckline as instructed (cause I’m a rebel that way; a stupid, regret-filled rebel), and I clearly stretched the fabric out a bit as I sewed it. So you can see the neckline doesn’t lie flat because it’s stretched out of shape. My question for you is: can I rip out the neckline seam and resew it, and will the fabric survive and the neckline become a shining example of my sewing whoop-assiness? Or do you think this basic T-shirt fabric would be shot by the time I’ve sewn and ripped and sewn it again? Should I sew with a twin needle or regular straight stitch? Is the bias tape really necessary if I don’t stretch the fabric while stitching? Ok, that’s several questions for you.

Burda Cap Sleeve V-neck Dress 06/2014 #102

I think it would be a gorgeous little dress if I got the neckline right…and if I can hold in my breath the entire time I’m wearing it to ensure full gut in-suckage. This pattern is definitely drafted with negative ease, so bear that in mind if you intend to sew it — go up a size if you want a little wiggle room.

Truth be told, I’ve thrown myself into gardening, sewing, and knitting lately because all this refusal to acknowledge all the misogynist fuckery going on in online editorials & comments lately is actually, truly making me feel despair. Anyone else feeling the same?

Anyway, let’s get our heads back in the sand(box) of sewing and please let me know what you think I should do: rip and re-do, or start again? Thanks for your help!

The Four Leaf Clover Coffee Table

Just gonna brag a bit here about my talented husband! Back in January I mentioned in a post that he was working on a wooden-slab table. I’m happy to report it turned out really well, and is an amazing one-of-a-kind creation.

Four-leaf clover coffee table designed & made by Dave Rose

Four-leaf clover coffee table designed & made by Dave

This table started life as our neighbours’ huge, old maple tree. Unfortunately, it had reached the end of its life and had irreparable rot in the trunk and had to come down. Our neighbours were kind enough to let Dave have a huge section of the trunk that wasn’t rotted out. They know he loves woodworking and he’s made them bowls and serving trays out of bits of their black walnut tree when it was pruned back. The table began as horizontal slabs of the tree trunk:

tree slabs to be made into table

He spent hours and hours and HOURS flattening those slabs out and sanding them down. Literally days and days on this part. I think at one point in the process he would have preferred to be poking his own eyes out with a dull spoon.

He carved mortise-and-tenon joins in all of the pieces so they fit together firmly without any screws or nails.



The legs were created from 2 sets of X’s…he and I spent quite a while discussing how criss-crossed legs could be put together. I’m happy I can be of help in the design process. Often all you need is to bat around some ideas with another person to finally hit on the right solution.



Braces were added to attach the table top to the base and ensure the legs are completely stable.


Finally, the table’s surface was finished with linseed oil to bring out the natural colour and shine of the wood, then sealed with polyurethane to protect it from wear and tear.

Four Leaf Clover Coffee Table

Gorgeous, isn’t it? The ironic thing is, it doesn’t really fit in our house. We both knew that would probably be the case as he was working on it; because the table’s got a rustic, natural look to it we knew it wasn’t going to go so well with our modern decor. So Dave’s thinking of selling it. The next challenge is figuring out how to price it. As with all hand-made creations that take weeks of work and a lot of skill as well as expensive materials — ok, in this case, the materials were free, but it’s not every day that an 80-year-old tree comes down in your neighbourhood — it should be worth a LOT of money. On the other hand, if you actually ask for what it’s worth, that usually seems way too expensive to most people in our Ikea-saturated world.  He’s thinking of asking $1000 for it. But then, how does he get it in front of the eyes of the right people? You can’t just post something like this on Craigslist and expect to sell it in your own city. Or can you? Maybe Etsy is the way to go, but I get the sense that Etsy sellers need to have an established Etsy business — in other words, maybe it’s weird to set up an Etsy shop just to sell one thing. What do you think? Does the price seem reasonable? What’s the best way to try to sell it? Dave will appreciate your advice!

I’ve got a crush on an 81-year-old woman

I’ve managed to turn out a couple of new garments in the past couple of weeks, and I’ve also developed a school-girl crush on an 81-year-old woman in Britain.

First, here’s my new Annika cardigan, based on the pattern by Milla Mia Sweden.

Annika Cardigan

I modified it a fair bit from the pattern directions, mainly making the bottom half far narrower than called for. I’ve detailed the mods on my project page in Ravelry. I used Sandnes Garn Mini Alpakka yarn, a sport-weight alpaca which made this cardigan lightweight but warm, wonderfully soft, and with a great drape. This may be my new favourite yarn, and lucky for me my Local Yarn Shop, Romni Wools, carries lots of it at a very reasonable price.

Annika Cardigan Sleeve Detail

Annika cardigan back view

While I was finishing up this cardigan, I binge-watched The Great British Sewing Bee. Ok, there’s only 4 episodes altogether so it’s not like I stayed on the couch for 5 days straight. 😉  What a nerdy, amazing concept for a show! A bunch of competitors are given sewing challenges (e.g. sew an A-line skirt in 5 hours, modify the neckline of a store-bought shirt, etc.) and a couple of professional judges decide which competitors have to leave at the end of each show. If you’re a sewing enthusiast, I highly recommend it. You can watch all the episodes on YouTube starting with episode 1 here. During the course of watching I developed quite a crush on Ann Rowley, the competitor who had been sewing for about 70 years. I defy you to watch this program and not develop a crush on her, too!

One of the projects Ann sewed for the show was a Chanel-style jacket in a pinkish tweed fabric which I just loved. So I Googled a bit to find out if the pattern was available (it’s Vogue 8804 and Ann has posted a picture tutorial for sewing it here), I discovered that Ann is also a knitter, AND — and you’ll only understand why this makes me happy if you’ve ever had a school-girl crush on a fellow knitter — in lurking on her Ravelry projects page I found that she had also knitted the exact same Milla Mia Erika cardigan I had. Squee! (Weird, right? I know, can’t help myself.) This is my version of the cardigan below, and you can see Ann’s version on Ravelry if you want to, but you probably don’t because you don’t have a crush on her like I do. 😛

Milla Mia Erika cardigan

Since there were only 4 episodes of the show, I was left wishing there was more…when along came word that they had just put out a Great British Sewing Bee Christmas Special. Yikes. I’m really not much for Christmas specials, but wanting a fix, I checked it out. But BBC, I’m afraid you took this just a little too far. The 4 finalists from the series were brought back to sew some twee Christmas decorations while the audience was given updates on what they’d been up to since the show (which, I take it, was only maybe a year or so before). Even I, who had proudly watched the whole series without one whiff of shame, felt a little dirty just half-way into watching this one. Ick.

But I still love Ann! 🙂

Have you seen the show? What did you think?