You’re Kraken Me Up and Jamaican Me Crazy

Dear readers, I want you to understand the huge sacrifices I have made to bring you this blog post. I sewed this summer top in October. I couldn’t very well just take pictures of it while shivering outside in front of a flaming orange maple tree, now could I? My discerning readers deserve better than that! So after much deliberation, I made the tough decision to do a photo shoot on location in Jamaica. No expense was spared for your reading pleasure, dear reader! And I endured daily tropical rains and dozens of mosquito bites, not to mention the horrors of eating succulent jerk chicken and fried plantain along with soursop mousse for dessert! I know what you’re thinking…that I’m such a selfless person to go to such lengths for you. I know, it’s true.

Burda 7051 Tokyo Train Ride Octopus fabric

Ha! Of course it went nothing like that. The real story is that my brother moved to Jamaica over a year ago and it was high time for a family visit, which I managed to plan for the fall reading week. And I couldn’t help myself but to sew something new for the trip. (I did attempt to sew a bikini but only managed to finish the bottoms before the deadline. Luckily for me but sadly for my half-finished bikini, Jamaicans aren’t so big on going topless on the beach.)

I first spied this amazing octopus print fabric — Cotton and Steel’s “Tokyo Train Ride” — on Jolies Bobines. Then a few months later Annie from The Enantiomer Project posted the Scout Tee she’d made from a Craftsy kit featuring this fabric. I succumbed to temptation (and of course, to the sale Craftsy was having) and grabbed the kit. However, I didn’t find the Scout Tee design terribly inspiring, so I used the fabric to make Burda 7051 instead. The kit came with almost 2 yards of fabric, and I managed to eke this top out of half of that.

Burda 7051 octopus top

This is my second version of this pattern. I made one in summer of 2013 in green woodgrain fabric as one of my first projects after getting into sewing again after about an 11-year hiatus. While I think I mastered the fit on this one, I’m not in love with the shape of this top (somehow I feel a bit dumpy in it), and wearing it reminds me that non-stretch wovens don’t make terribly comfortable clothes. This isn’t UN-comfortable, but I find myself having to readjust it fairly constantly after raising my arms up or bending over or whatever. Maybe that’s actually a fit issue but all I know is that stretch knits don’t generally cause that problem for me.

Burda 7051 octopus top

Look! This empty snail shell I just found is going to become a piece of silver jewelry soon. Either that or it’s going to give me a bad case of schistosomiasis.

I picked up a selection of empty snail shells as well as some coral skeletons to use in a mold-making workshop I’m going to be taking soon. I’ve always wanted to craft a silver ring out of a snail shell (I was really inspired by this Shell Ring by Helena Perez Lafaurie) and these shells seem to be the perfect size for a statement ring. I can use the coral as a texture for silver metal clay.

Burda 7051 octopus top

I used navy blue bias binding on the armholes and neckline, accidentally creating a funnel neck — the collar stands up rather than lying flat — but I actually really like the way that looks. Well, either that or I am deluding myself in order to avoid having to rip out the neck and shoulder seams to resew it.

Burda 7051 octopus top

I know it’s practically expected on sewing blogs to apologize for the slightest of wrinkles showing in the pictures, but I have to say that  that drives me around the bend. Since a freshly pressed cotton woven shirt only stays crease-free for about 4 seconds into wearing it, this is exactly what this top will look like in real life every time it’s worn. Full of wrinkles. I’m thinking about trying to start a #StopApologizingOnYourBlogForWrinklesAnd PointingOutThatTopstitchingMistakeYouMadeOrThatYourHairLooksABitFunny OrThatThere’sCatHairOnYourShirt CuzNobodySeesItButYouAndThat’sRealLife movement. (Even tho’ I’m guilty of such transgressions, too.) Let’s shed the shackles of perfection! Who’s with me? I promise to try to come up with a shorter hashtag. 😉

Anyway, it was a lovely few days in Jamaica. If it makes you feel any better (if you’re the envious type like me), it actually did rain every day we were there…but it was warm rain and didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves, so please continue to be envious.

Here’s a little fellow that liked to hang around in the garden of the hotel we stayed at called Goblin Hill.

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The Swallow-Tail Humming Bird (or “Doctor Bird”), the national bird of Jamaica. This fellow defended his territory around the feeder with surprising viciousness.

And the little fella below was clearly VERY happy to see me.

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And here’s me trying to impersonate an octopus, and failing miserably. #outtake

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Thanks for stopping by!

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.

 

Fiddling with Size While Rome Burns…or Falls to Ruin, or…um…Something Like That

I’m pleased to report that this top survived multiple reduction surgeries to emerge in wearable form! Thank goodness, because I just love this floral-and-roman-ruins fabric.

Baggy Roman top

My cat is not impressed with my handiwork. The only way she could appear more disdainful is if she were wearing a beret and smoking a Gauloise.

It started off as Burda’s Keyhole Batwing Blouse (05/2015 #111) but you’ll notice my version doesn’t really look anything like it, starting with the fact that there’s no keyhole anywhere to be found.

Burda 05/2015 #111 Long Blouse #114 Joggers

Burda’s version is incredibly long. My first mod was to shorten the pattern pieces by 10 cm/4 inches at the hem but once I sewed it together I shortened the bottom even more.

The next thing I discovered was that at least two of me could fit inside the shirt. So, I resewed the side seams to remove at least 10 cm/4 inches from each side of the top. After that it was still very baggy on me but at least it looked like it was meant to be a baggy top, rather than looking like I borrowed my obese great-auntie’s muu-muu.

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Next I realized the neckhole was a giant gaping maw. Bra straps just hanging around in public like nobody’s business. No way was I going to add a keyhole to this already precariously revealing over-sized mess. As I looked at myself in the mirror, thinking this was destined for the ‘donate’ bag and feeling rather sorry for myself, I started pinching and pulling and stabbing with pins at the neckline and I was all like, “fuck you, neckline!” and came up with a total hack.  This is the kind of hack one might do when one has no idea how to sew or how to remove existing seams to properly resize something. Because I was too irritated to do anything properly at this point! But this non-sewer’s hack actually turned out looking alright: I ended up gathering in the front of the shirt on either side of the neck at the shoulders, and folded the shoulders down over the gathers and stitched. Turned out looking sort of like epaulettes while adding some nice drape to the front of the top. Triumph! So fuck you, neckline! 😀

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Has that ever happened to you? That moment when you realize the neck opening has already been cut way too big? What do you do?

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This top might look nice with a tie-belt as shown in the pattern photo, but for now my preference is to wear it tucked in.

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If you’re curious about the fabric I wrote about it in this previous post.

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I also notice in the last two photos that the zigzag stitch I used on the arm and back seams is kind of obvious — the seam doesn’t have that nice neat look you get when using straight stitches. Normally I would have used my serger on those seams, but no word of a lie I was just too damn lazy to rethread my serger from black thread to beige thread. So zigzag it was.

What is your go-to method of sewing seams on knits? Serger? Zigzag? Twin Needle? What do you find works best?

Thanks for reading!

McCall’s 6752: Oversized top with cowl neck

McCall's 6752 baggy top with cowl neck

This is McCalls’ 6752, a super-baggy top with a cowl neckline and gathered waist with zipper.

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I made it with “Patriot Blue Ikat Cotton-Viscose Jersey” I ordered from Mood. I thought I was getting 2 yards but I got 2 ‘panels’, which meant two separate, small pieces of fabric that barely made this top. I have a love/hate relationship with Mood. Love the fabrics. Hate the expense of ordering from them, and I especially hated the surprise of receiving this fabric hacked into two measly little pieces. It made it really difficult to not only find a pattern that I could eke out of it, but also to work out how to place the pattern pieces to fit them all in while still having some sense of order as to where the stripes would fall on the top.

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Have you ever seen Lily Sage & Co’s blog? It’s a must-view — Debbie is a garment engineering genius, not to mention that she always looks drop-dead gorgeous in her photos. She makes unique, gorgeous garments, often self-drafted or at least heavily modified versions of commercial patterns, and always finds the best way to show off a patterned fabric. Look at her Chanel-inspired dress using the same fabric I used:

LilySage&coDress

“Chanel Inspired Dress” by Debbie of Lily Sage and Co. Photo used with permission.

Read through her posts and have a look at the other two dresses she made with the same fabric. I’m such a fan. Everything she makes is breathtaking. The only drawback is now that I have made something using the same fabric that Debbie has used, I feel a bit like the “nailed it!” side of one of those Pinterest Fails pictures, you know, like this:

Pinterest fail

While I have worn this top a couple of times and I’m happy enough with it, I feel like it might have been more successful in a solid fabric…the gathered waist area is too busy and although I did my best to pattern-match given the limited fabric, it’s all just a bit wonky.  The zipper detail gets lost in the chaos. I realize now how I could have altered the pattern pieces to avoid having those stripes at the waist sitting at an angle. But hindsight is 20/20, and I chalk it all up to part of learning how to work with patterns & stripes.

McCall's 6752 baggy top with cowl neck

Here’s a little more hindsight for ya:

McCall's 6752 baggy top with cowl neck

I do like the design of the top, and the pattern itself has four options: two tops (this one and a crossover front top) and two dresses. Great summer options for lightweight knits, and easy to sew.

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I added this top to the Link Up that Helena of Gray All Day kindly hosts each week as part of her challenge to “Sew it Chic in a Week”. Go check out what people are sewing each week!

Project Sewn Challenge #2: Pink!

I spotted this hot pink rayon jersey at Fabricland a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t resist the colour! And doesn’t it come in perfectly handy for Project Sewn’s challenge #2: Make it Pink? Coming across that challenge was a good excuse to get this sewn up.

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This was my first time sewing a garment without a pattern. I followed Liz from Cotton and Curls’ handy tutorial on making a top out of 4 rectangles. She has lots of amazing tutorials on her blog so go check it out — and enjoy the amazing mountain scenery in her photos. The fit is loose and drapey and very comfortable. I’m thinking I should get more of this fabric and make pyjamas.

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I’ve just spotted a red-tailed hawk. No big deal, really, but I’m a massive bird nerd.

Making this was super easy! Cutting took about 20 minutes, and sewing/pressing/finishing no more than 90 minutes. I used two layers of fabric for the front and back, and a single layer for the sleeves, as the fabric is quite lightweight. I would’ve liked to have made the hi-lo hemline even more pronounced, but I didn’t cut the back piece long enough to do so (’cause that’s so me: measure once, cut twice where possible).

Pink top - back view

It wouldn’t stop snowing today for 4 damn seconds to take photos, so here I am in the snow acting as if I am not abso-fucking-lutely sick of winter and snow and polar vortexes and wind chills of minus seven thousand. I think I’m doing a damn fine acting job.

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Added bonus for this Valentine’s challenge: I’m wearing all self-made silver jewelry, all heart-themed. I blogged about making the smaller heart ring here and about the giant heart ring here.

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One thing I have discovered about my camera: it does not like hot pink. I’ve photographed bright pink on a couple of other garments (my Anika cardigan and my pink Lady Skater dress) and the colour is blown out each time. In this case, the top looks much more red in the photos than it actually is. You’ll have to trust me when I say it’s a fabulous shade of hot pink, more like magenta.

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Here’s a better look at the hi-lo hemline.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what the Project Sewn contestants come up with this week. I wonder if Oonaballoona can possibly top her entry last week for sheer audacity and amazingness!

Kaboom! Circles Stars Bombs & Flowers shirt is finished!

Just ask me how goddamned pleased I am with myself! Go on, ask me!

I’m pretty goddamned pleased, thanks for asking.

This shirt turned out pretty great and you can tell how I feel by that cat-who-swallowed-the-canary grin on my face. (Or maybe that’s just the look I get when I’m waiting for the camera’s self-timer to go off. Must get a remote shutter release.)

Ta-DA! The completed Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers shirt.

Ta-DA! The completed Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers shirt.

As you might know from my earlier posts here and here, I made this entirely from scratch: I bought the cream coloured stretch fabric and screenprinted it with 5 layers of motifs. I cut the basic tee shape based on the outline of a favourite-fitting tee I already owned.

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I added a pin-tuck down the centre front, two short pin-tucks on either side of the front neck opening, and two long ones down the back. I drafted a couple of sleeve extensions and sewed them on with decorative zig-zag top-stitching with pink thread, leaving the raw edges exposed. I sewed them closed part-way down but left the bottom half free to swing open, giving a bit of a bell-sleeve effect. (Yes, I know I will regret that the very second I have to wash my hands in a public bathroom and my sleeves drag through the soapy puddles by the sink. But flowy sleeves always seem like such a good idea if you deliberately ignore all the practical information in your brain that tells you they are a pain in the ass.)

That last picture reminds me I’m due for some highlights…those roots are getting pretty nasty. Just booked for next week. 🙂

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I left all of the edges raw, except for the neck opening. As a lazy sewist I love working with fabric that doesn’t ravel at the edges!

I think this is a fitting tribute to my creative and poetic friend Jen who died many years ago at far too young an age, but left me with the words Circles, Stars, Bombs, and Flowers to remember her by. Here’s lookin at you, Jen Hiron!

The Betty Draper Dill Pickle Shirt – Burda 7051

Just finished this cute summer top from a “Burda Young” pattern, 7051.   It’s got a retro-vibe, 60’s I guess. I used Woodgrain fabric by Joel Dewberry in ‘dill’ that I bought from Quilthome.com. Green’s not normally my colour but I chose it specifically to go with my ri-DONK-ulous Faith Hi Jericho boots made from kermit-the-frog suede leather, courtesy of the inimitable John Fluevog. Given the 60’s go-go feel of the boots, I think the top goes pretty well.

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I’m also wearing my new fave jeans. They’re Yoga Jeans by Second Denim, a montreal-based company that does all their garment manufacturing right here in Canada. Which is practically a miracle given the fact that most garment manufacturers have skeedaddled from North America over to Asia. There was an interesting article in the Toronto Star recently about garment manufacturing in Canada that’s worth a read, which includes this little factoid: “The number of Canadians making clothes declined from 94,260 in 2001 to 19,340 in 2010, according to Statistics Canada.” If my calculator skills are working, that means only 20% of the jobs in the garment manufacturing industry in 2001 remained just 8 years later. So even cooler that these super-comfortable jeans in this AMAZING coral colour (they were labelled “watermelon”) are also supporting keeping jobs in Canada. No sub-standard sweatshop exploitation here! I bought them at my favourite little clothing boutique in the Junction neighbourhood here in Toronto called Black Daffodil.

I’m sure my sister would have something to say about this outfit — she’s convinced I wear too many bright colours, and lately I hear her in the back of my head just about every time I get dressed: “you’re going to wear THAT with THAT?”. Me, I can’t get enough colour! Suddenly this year there’s colour everywhere in fashion and even in home decorating (FINALLY!–I always wanted to barf all over those photo shoots of bland, monochromatic rooms in tones of beige and cream that filled the pages of magazines for, like, the last decade at least). So what do you think? Is it possible to rock Kermit the Frog green with hot coral (or watermelon, if you prefer)?

I teetered down to my local coffee shop this morning in this outfit and felt like a million bucks (even if I was a bit out of place among all the parents with strollers in flip flops and sneakers). Ran into my neighbour there who said “great boots”, to which I replied expansively, “I know, right?”.

Burda 7051 shirt with Fluevog Faith Hi Jericho boots

“I know, right??”