Tag Archives: sewing

Me-Made May 2014, Week 2

I had so many plans.

Plans that nice weather would come and I would be able to wear skirts–that I’d made–to work.

And then Frances got sick. And then her stepbrother got very seriously sick, and Frances spent an extra day with me, sick. And making sure I wore my me-mades was maybe no longer quite such a priority–nor did I have as many options. But I did my best.

Day 8

mmmay-6-2

Work From Home and Run Errands outfit, including the new crochet sweater I finally finished. I won’t repeat my post about it, but here it is, and I wore it.

Day 9

mmmay-4-1Frances still sick. Stepbrother still in the hospital. Therefore Frances still with me. Blue Friday: it’s just a wearable muslin of a Jasmine blouse in some inexpensive polyester, but I did make it and it even fit the theme. Go me!

Day 10

Last day in homemade winter pajamas.

Day 11

First day in homemade summer pajamas–the pajama pants from Amy Butler’s book, but cut short.

Day 12

mmmay-5-2My Moneta! All finished. Yes, Frances was still sick and yes, I was still at home with her–but we had to leave the house anyway for her doctor’s appointment, so I might as well wear something I made. Right?

It’s a lovely rayon-spandex knit (from Fabricland–dirt cheap); so soft and very light and super comfortable to wear. I had maybe not anticipated quite how snug this dress would be, made up. Next Moneta I’ll give myself a bit more space on the top half (ahem) and I don’t see myself wearing this particular dress to work. But finishing and wearing this was part of my Me-Made May 2014 pledge, so hurray!

Day 13

Titled: Multitasking. Artist's statement: We were hungry.
Titled: Multitasking. Artist’s statement: We were hungry.

Is it possible that Frances is still sick? Good god. Yes, but she only coughed up part of one lung instead of all of both, so I’ll take that as progress and make her go to school for the afternoon–and wear my linen-silk sheath dress of doom out of the house for the first time.

Fun fact: on Tuesday, the high was 22C in Hamilton and 17C in Oakville. Who even knew that was possible? So I was comfortably warm when I left home and quite cold when I got to work and it was only 13C. Yikes. But the first thing my boss said when I got in was a compliment on the dress, so there you have it. It is officially a winner, and a soft, comfortable winner at that. With homemade flowers on it.

Day 14

The Meringue. With the same shirt I wore in that post, and no tights. Figure I should wear the skirts now before it gets cold again. Because you know it’s going to, this year.

And there you have it. Two weeks down, two weeks-and-a-bit to go.

the silk-linen dress of doom

Half-shaped, no hemming yet, no lining.
Half-shaped, no hemming yet, no lining.

The Creativ[E!] Festival in 2013 was the first time I bought serious garment fabrics. Oh sure, I was a regular at Fabricland (I have a two-year membership, after all) and enjoyed pawing through the mountains of poly to find the occasional linen or wool. I’d go hunting for cute prints on Queen West and in various online fabric shops. But I didn’t really know what I was missing.

The Wool House and Sultan’s Fine Fabrics both had booths, and while I had passed them up in previous years because their fabrics weren’t eye-catching from a distance, that time I found myself spending 30, 45 minutes fingering a bolt of alpaca or ooohing and aaahing over a lovely soft shirting fabric. It was hard to restrain myself. And in fact, I didn’t. Or only in the broadest theoretical sense, in that I didn’t bring home a few metres of absolutely everything.

I did bring home a few metres of a nice light italian wool, two beautiful and dirt-cheap wool-silk ends, 1.5 metres of outrageously expensive flannel-weight alpaca, and two metres of a gorgeous linen-silk. Light creamy yellow, somewhere between ivory and sunshine, tending to ivory, with a very subtle twill weave giving a slight chevron effect close up. All the softness and sheen of silk with the stiffness and body of linen. It would have to be something special. A sheath dress, I thought; the body would hold a nice shape and the weight and fibres would be perfect for summer. There being no rush to make such a dress in October, it basically sat (together with the bemberg rayon lining I got to go with it) waiting for Spring.

We waited for Spring for a long time in these parts, but I wanted the dress to be ready for the first really nice day so it came off the top of the Someday Shelf. And the Built By Wendy Dresses book and the included sheath dress pattern came off the bookshelf along with it. I mean, why buy a new sheath dress pattern when you’ve already got one you’ll never use? Right?

(Slick segue to book review here)

I was not about to cut into my beautiful and irreplaceable linen-silk without making a muslin first, so I cut out the pattern from some leftover heavy-weight polyester. As it turns out it wasn’t the best choice: while the poly fabric was about the right weight it draped very differently and as a result, this was not really a good test of the linen-silk fit. The poly test muslin, by the way, is going to be finished into a winter version–in the fall.

There were a number of problems with the poly and linen-silk versions:

bloggish-8-31. The raglan sleeves don’t fit at all. This is a deficiency noted by other reviewers, and I wish I’d read those reviews before committing to this pattern. There were several inches of excess fabric at the front neck, and just around the shoulder seam both front and back. This was after I’d taken down this seam to a small based on the muslin fit–and I’m not small! I’m 5’8″ and my shoulders are not narrow. So I took out about two inches from either side of the front neck piece and resewed it. My raglan sleeves now have a bit of a bend but the front of the garment lies flat. It still isn’t perfect and the front and back shoulder seams are still looser than I’d like, but I worried that if I made this any smaller, I wouldn’t be able to raise my arms.

2. There was no back shaping. Others have also noted this, and added back darts. I decided to just shape the centre back seam, taking it in by about an inch on either side at the waist and tapering up to the shoulder and down to the hips. This worked fine.

3. Even grading up to a large at the bust was not large enough. I had to let out the darts, lowering the dart point by 1-2″ on either side to give myself more space.

bloggish-9-44. The waist was a bit too baggy, so I brought it in at either side by about 1/4-1/2″.

5. And the skirt pattern, for some ungodly reason known to perhaps no one, was a-line. What kind of sheath dress pattern has an a-line skirt? Ideally, your hem will be pegged a bit, narrower at the bottom than at the hips by 1-2″, to make that lovely flattering hour-glass shape. So I altered this as well.

6. The back of the neck is about 2″ too high.

This is an awful lot of altering for one sheath dress pattern, and some of it just seems sloppy. There’s no excuse for the poor fit of the raglan sleeves nor for the weirdly baggy shape of the skirt. It’s called a sheath dress because it’s supposed to fit like a sheath.

It was my first effort with an invisible zipper, though, and I do have to say that this part worked out very well. I made an invisible zipper! It’s invisible! And it zips! Properly! This has nothing to do with the book, by the way, which contains as its entire instructions on this step, “Install zipper.” If you’ve never installed a zipper before, good luck to you.

Other notes on the book:

The general sewing and dress information in the front of the book is decent, but not targeted to beginning sewists. The patterns do not have seam allowances included–you have to add them before cutting. No information on seam finishing is included, so a good basic knowledge of garment construction will be required to know when and how to do this. The dresses are unlined; for the sheath dress, I needed to add a lining (and I am tired of it in advance). The ideas for altering the basic patterns to make different kinds of dresses are interesting and a good spark to creativity, but it’s unlikely that any of the ideas included in the book will be perfect as-is, especially since the book is now a little dated (and so is its fashion sense). However, once you get an actual dress pattern fitted properly, it’s likely that you could alter it in any number of ways to make different kinds of dresses.

Also, there are no photos of the finished garments, and the drawings included seem a little suspect. It would have been nice to have photographs to see how the actual finished garments look, rather than someone’s artistic conception of it.

(insert nice transition back to dress post here)


All of my alterations and markings on the pattern worked fairly well, and the lining was much easier to put together and fit. So hurray. But before I put the lining in, I wanted to add a little something. I love embroidery and I love clothing with little embellishments and details, and I’m always wishing I had the time to make some of those little (but greatly time-consuming) additions. Well, if a linen-silk sheath dress isn’t reason enough, what is? So I took my stack of torn-out magazine pages and decided on some fabric flowers a la Dolce and Gabbana (sort of), only without the background painting, since I can’t paint, and not as all-over.  Vogue Patterns had instructions on how to make your own fabric flowers, so…
mmmay-8-2Some of them I made from leftover linen-silk, lightly painted with lilac acrylic paint; the others I made from cochineal-dyed wool from a natural dyeing class I took last fall. I used fray-stop on the edges, gathered and beaded them, and the linen-silk ones were also embroidered to help them stand out against the dress. I played around with the placement a bit with safety pins and tacked them on between the dress and the lining. It took a while, but I think it was worth it, and if I ever get tired of the flowers I can cut them off.

I guess this is where it comes in handy to have a mountain of craft supplies in the house. If you are ever struck with the wish to embellish a dress with handmade beaded flowers, you can! Without leaving the house.

Titled: Multitasking. Artist's statement: We were hungry.
Titled: Multitasking. Artist’s statement: We were hungry.

Fun fact: It took about eight hours to cut, paint, stitch, embellish and tack on the seven flowers I have on my sheath dress. If I were to sell this, at minimum wage and without counting materials, that would be at least $80 in addition to whatever the dress itself would cost. Let’s pretend that I didn’t take a full day first figuring out the cut of the pattern, and just count the second day of putting together the shell–and then another day of putting together the lining and attaching it to the dress. So twenty-four hours altogether=$240 + materials = $300 at least and that’s if I’m paying myself minimum wage.

A) I am wearing a dress I could never afford to buy in a store.

B) If you’re wondering why high-fashion dresses cost $1000, there you go. This would be a forty hour dress, with the background painting and all the flowers, at least, and those folks aren’t making minimum wage (nor should they). Forty hours at, say, $30/hour = $1200, plus materials. See?

Here is the finished product, and it is finally warm enough in these parts to even wear it. Yay! The rayon lining makes it so soft and comfortable to wear, and the purple/pink of the flowers highlights the yellow in the linen-silk. I love it.

I will never again make a sheath dress with raglan sleeves, but this dress is a reminder to me to slow down on the finishing side and take the time to add those little details.  It’s part of what makes sewing your own clothes so worthwhile.

Me-Made May 2014, Week 1

Day 1

mmm-8-5

Subtitled: I was just running some errands and thought I’d stop off in the backyard to admire the non-greenery in the freezing cold while wearing a bunch of stuff I made myself.

Everything you can see in this picture, I made. Pants (V1266, fabric a light italian wool), shirt (Colette Jasmine, Liberty lawn fabric), bag (Craftsy, ostrich-embossed cowhide), shopping bag (behind my knees– 1,2,3 Quilt, stash scraps).

Day 2

mmmay-1-1

I am once again just casually stopping in to my frigid and grey-brown backyard for no reason in particular while coincidentally wearing a shirt I made myself. The photo part of this is all kinds of goofy, isn’t it?

Anyway. Shirt’s a Butterick tunic pattern made from Liberty lawn. It’s soft and thin and just the right length for skinny jeans though, again, the pattern ease was way too much. I’d make at least a size smaller next time.

Day 3

I wore my homemade red-and-pink fleece pajama bottoms, and you don’t get to see them, mostly because I was too lazy for the picture.

Day 4

Pajamas again–I told you I’d get a lot of mileage out of those!–and Frances wore the nightie I made her last year, plus her mom-made raincoat and bat-wing t-shirt for our jaunt to the book club. Tag this one Mom-Made May ’14, and I think it still works. Also, Frances loved her shirt and wore it happily all day. Yay for sewing with knits! I have two more t-shirts cut out for her.

Day 5

mmmay-5-3

V1266 top to bottom. Fingers crossed, we won’t be able to wear long-sleeved shirts in this part of the country for much longer, so I thought I should get it in.

I’ll stop commenting on the goofiness of the Fashion Selfies now, but please know that I am thinking it. So goofy! Yet is a communal sort of goofiness that all the MMMers take part in at least partially, so here I am, being dutifully goofy with the goof-crowd. In spirit.

Pleated undersleeves!
Pleated undersleeves!

I’m not thrilled with how the shoulders turned out on the shirt, but otherwise I love the pattern and the finished product. The ridiculously pouffy sleeves are just the kind of thing I love, and with the concealed front buttons and self-covered buttons on the sleeve, plus the pleats on the back of the sleeves and at the cuffs, it all adds up to a very fun shirt. If only Vogue didn’t believe that anyone over a size 8 must want to be swathed in sheets of fabric, because I cut out my size according to the pattern envelope and, despite that it was supposed to be semi-fitted, it was way too baggy at first. Too much ease. Next time I’d take a size or two off of the pattern, and even then maybe fit the waist down a bit.

Day 6 & 7

None!

Ok, not strictly true. Handmade PJs at home, and my new leather work bag. But that’s it. Two rushed mornings = no time to look into my closet and ponder how to incorporate my handmade wearables into functional workwear in new and surprising ways. But I’ll be wearing the handmades again Thursday and Friday, if only because I need to show off the crochet sweater that is finally (finally!) done.

leather, part 2

bloggish-15-8In short: the bag looks great, but I picked the wrong leather.

It doesn’t look wrong and goodness knows it should be very sturdy, and when it was only two or three layers under the needle, it sewed up fine. But whenever it was any thicker than three layers (which happened more than once), and even using the biggest leather needle I had, it would jam up something fierce and sometimes strip the thread. What this means, from a practical perspective, is that I’m not entirely sure of the sturdiness of my seams.

Time will tell, I guess.

BUT:

1. It has lovely flat handles with d-rings, making it look more like a professional bag, and also allowing the handles to rest flat when I put it down. The tabs holding the d-rings to the bag should really have had studs to reinforce them, but I didn’t think of it until it was too late. If it comes down to it and the tabs start looking like they’ll rip, it should be a pretty easy fix.

bloggish-21-122. It has an outside pocket that I lined with leftover nylon from Frances’s raincoat, and is the perfect size for a little umbrella.

3. It has both an inner pouch pocket and an inner zippered pocket. Sadly, I found this pocket very very exciting. I made a zippered pocket! I know how to make them now! Yay! I now must make another purse so I can have a zippered pocket on it! Zippered pockets for everyone forever!

bloggish-19-114. I added a little key fob to attach key rings to. One of my pet peeves is having to muss around in the bottom of a bag for my keys, thus panicking myself every time that I left the keys somewhere or they’ve fallen through a grate. Little key fob means keys always stay in one place.

5. And I added purse feet to the bottom so it can stand up properly and the bottom will stay out of the dirt when I put it down. Also, it makes a very satisfying little chink when I put it down on a hard surface.bloggish-22-13

I’m also very pleased with the recessed zipper top. I like bags that can theoretically be closed altogether, especially when it’s raining or snowing. Plus it’s big enough to hold all of my work stuff, including dayplanner, book and lunch.

bloggish-17-9If any of (the three of) you have ever wondered, the Craftsy class I made this for was pretty good. I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth. Like those lovely zippered pockets, and what kind of thread to use, and that the inside of leather acts like sandpaper and will erode the fabric lining if you don’t interface it. But next time–goatskin or lambskin, not cowhide.  Something that can theoretically pleat and will fold without being beaten with a little hammer (yes, really).

Me-Made May ’14?

I’ve been sitting on this fence so long my butt fell asleep.

So Me-Made May is an annual thing whereby you commit to wearing a certain number of your own hand-made garments each day/week/over the month during May. Just because.

On the plus side, I do like to show off my handmade pieces, even if I’m the only one who knows that they’re handmade.

On the downside, the last thing I want is anything that smacks of even the faintest hint of work to taint my beloved hobby.

It’s like running. I like running, so long as I don’t track my times or distances or make any effort to improve in any way. I just head out the door, run for a while, run home, and then stop. The moment I try to start a Program or run faster or train for something, I quit. I know it’s motivating for other people, but for me it’s quite obviously and emphatically demotivating. Running to run is fun. Running to run better is Not Fun.

Sewing is a great good joy in my life in part because there isn’t the slightest obligatory thing about it, unless you count “I promised Frances a raincoat and I have 2m of blue waterproof nylon and no desire to go to Gymboree” as an obligation. Which maybe it is. But in general, I have a big pile of fabric, a pile of patterns and a stack of sewing books and I just tackle things as I want to. I’m under no illusion whatsoever that I would enjoy sewing for a living–I’d have to sew something that needed to be sewn! Terrors.

I do like wearing the things I make and I already wear them fairly frequently. But it might be cheating. I mean, I made myself a leather workbag. If I carry it to work with me every day, then I’ve fulfilled my monthly commitment without lifting a damned finger. Or at least, it’s a damned finger I would have lifted anyway. Is that fair? Plus the handmade lunch bag and business card case, and my handmade jammies–I’d have to work not to have something me-made on me in May.

I could just wear stuff I made in May without being such a joiner, I know. But then I can’t really participate in the whole community side of things. It’s nice to talk about the stuff you made and wore with people who also think it’s significant instead of odd or grandmotherly. Once people stop taking you aside to suggest that you go home on your lunch hour and change into something more work appropriate, or at least stop thinking it–say, if you made a shirt out of a too-heavy fabric so that the back zipper bubbles by your neck, not that this has ever happened to me–no one notices. If they’re thinking anything, it’s likely, “Andrea’s wearing a nice shirt today.” Even more likely it’s “goddammit how am I supposed to finish that report by tomorrow?”

So there’s the benefit of being able to show off shame-free to a group of people who Get It.

I know that I have turned into A Thing something that is not supposed to be A Thing. I’ve Thinged it. But I need to make up my mind. Like a cat at the back door. Am I in, or am I out?

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OK. I think I’m in. But in my own way: I’ll wear or use something handmade every day in May–pretty hard not to, considering–and I’ll document it when I can, though I make no promises given other responsibilities. I’m allowed to repeat, so the workbag counts if there’s nothing else I can use or wear. And I’ll try to finish the following, and wear them too:

  1. the linen-silk sheath dress of doom
  2. the pink blouse I cut out the pieces for, and which now sits on the dining table
  3. a Moneta
  4. and two t-shirts for Frances, though I obviously won’t be wearing those. It might look funny.

Besides poetry month

13913216782_455e1c2c64_oI have been sewing up a storm this April, and not writing about it. Bad me. Projects include a raincoat for my darling Frances, the leather bag, quilt blocks, a little bat-wing t-shirt for Frances, and a sheath dress for me.

I sewed the raincoat up on Good Friday, except for the hems and buttons so I could make sure it fit. Good thing, because Frances asked for a number of adjustments: the pockets are too low and the waistband is too tight (despite cutting it out bigger than I thought I’d need … sigh). The pockets will require a fair bit of seam ripping and re-sewing. Hopefully I can get that done this weekend, and then she will have a lovely raincoat to wear this spring, that fits.

We also made the executive decision to replace the buttons with a nice zipper, mostly to make it more comfortable.

On the whole, though, I’m pretty proud of it: it’s a lightweight fully waterproof nylon that I lined with a very soft fleece for a bit of extra warmth and comfort. The shoulders are perfect and she can move her arms easily. The hood is just right. And it’s blue, which is her New Favourite Colour. When you’re ten, favourite colours are pretty important. Practically her entire wardrobe is blue at this point, which at least makes getting dressed in the morning easy.

13667469873_52cd09863e_oThe bat-wing t-shirt was a snap: fast and soft and it fits perfectly. Frances loves it, and asked for another one in navy blue. So there is now of course some navy blue rayon knit in the den waiting to be cut out.

I also have been working on my leather bag.

I found a Craftsy class covering this very subject that includes a pattern, and for not much more than the price of a book on sewing purses–at least, since I got the class on sale. It recommends making a felt mock-up first, so I sighed and, beginning on Good Friday and carrying over to Easter Sunday (since Frances was at her Dad’s house and my mother is not speaking to me right now, giving me a ton of free time), I made the mock-up, decided it would work, stocked up on all the little notions and odds-and-ends required to sew leather like double-sided mounting tape and binder clips, cut everything out, and assembled about half of the pieces before I ran out of the tape. But there are several lovely pieces on my dining room table, including two flat shoulder straps using d-rings. This was my own improvisation since the Craftsy pattern called for round straps that attach directly to the bag, and I didn’t like them.

I still like the idea of a pleated bag, but the leather I chose was too stiff for it. Next time. I’m undecided on whether or not to embroider the bag, problem being that the tannins in treated leather will rot natural fibres, and nearly all of my embroidery threads are natural fibres (silk, cotton, etc.). I guess I do have some rayon flosses. I’m just not sure I want to use rayon flosses on my leather bag. So.

And I’ve been working away on a silk-linen sheath dress, which will get its own post. The amount of stitching and basting and unstitching and rebasting and pinning and letting out that went into getting a shell that fits completely exhausted me this week. However, I did manage to sew a shell I’m happy with. Now I’m taking a break before repeating the whole exhausting process with the lining.

13936414393_2e3d61b33a_oPlus a couple of Farmers’ Wife Quiltalong blocks. I’m about halfway to having enough to make a lap-sized quilt, which isn’t bad for April.

Not too shabby for a week’s work, eh? But of course, as fast as I take things off the Someday Shelf new projects arrive to take their place: a grade 5 grad dress for Frances, a Moneta dress for me, a knit sheath dress, and something with the too-fabulous-to-pass-up Italian silk print I picked up last weekend on Queen West. I’m thinking a drapey shift of some kind, muslin most definitely required in advance.

Sara Teasdale in needle-book form

poetry month-3-1I like poetry, a lot. A shelf of my Favourites Bookcase is devoted to poetry books (and there are more in the basement).  I also–as you may have gathered–like sewing and embroidery, a lot. So what better than to combine them?

A few years back, I was in need of a needle-book (a fabric book with fabric pages for storing needles not in use). There was a pattern in an issue of Inspirations magazine that I liked structurally, with its multiple pages and french-knot border, but at the time I was not a fan of stumpwork and wanted something different for the cover art. I took a Sublime Stitching bird pattern (I realize it is not a wood thrush) and combined it with my favourite Sara Teasdale poem to make this little needle-book, which is in more or less constant use.

It has a page for sharp needles, a page for crewel needles, and a page for beading needles, and little endpapers of crazy bird fabric scraps. The needle pads themselves are made out of wool felt, since it holds needles so nicely. The titles are just poetry month-4-1stamped in with regular ink, and the wool felt is held to the pages with regular zig-zag stitch–nothing fancy.

Sara Teasdale was not the world’s happiest poet, though she did win the first ever Pulitzer Prize for poetry. I once spent an afternoon reading a chronological anthology of her work, which became progressively more depressive; unsurprising since she died of suicide in her late 40s. Wood Song is one of her more uplifting poems, and it’s from comparatively early in her career. As you can see, it’s not so much the work of someone who is happy, as of someone who is trying very hard to be happy.

Wood Song

I HEARD a wood-thrush in the dusk
Twirl three notes and make a star—
My heart that walked with bitterness
Came back from very far.

Three shining notes were all he had,
And yet they made a starry call—
I caught life back against my breast
And kissed it, scars and all.

It is gorgeous work, if sad. As much as I appreciate its artistry and the portrayal of having found meaning and solace in an interaction with nature, I also wish someone had been there to hold her hand and offer her some solace.

Meringue!

Cross one item off the Someday Shelf: I finished my Meringue skirt.

meringue-13-7I added a lining since the fabric was both slightly sheer and also would stick to tights. The wool silk, though lovely and soft, also is not happy about holding a crease, which made pressing the scallops tricky. But anyway, it’s done! And Simba approves.

I might unpick the stitches joining the lining and skirt facing, though. They pull a bit. And I took about an inch out of the hips by making the back darts bigger, since I found the hips too loose.

It’s a really cute skirt and I’m glad I made it, but I’m not sure I’d make another one. Scallops just don’t feel like me. Although, I don’t know. What about in leather or suede? Then the hemline’s a lot easier, and it might be fun. It would mean putting seamlines along the current darts and making a version with much less ease so that it hangs properly … but it might be doable. Hmm.

Leather

No ... too plain.
No … too plain. But the colour’s lovely.

Last week, I finally got around to buying a big piece of cow skin to experiment with. It’s brown, which isn’t my first choice, but I wanted something less fancy to make mistakes on; it’s embossed to look like ostrich skin and should distress well, so I hope whatever I make will be successful enough to use. Even cheap leather is not cheap, when you’re buying what used to cover half an ungulate.

What I need now is a pattern. A pattern for a tote bag that is slightly slouchy, would look good in a brown bumpy leather, is roomy enough for all my work stuff but not excessively so, has good interior pockets with a nice cotton lining, a solid bottom so it won’t collapse when I pick it up, and handles suitable for a shoulder-bag.

Hmm. Maybe. But also a bit plain.
Hmm. Maybe. But also a bit plain.

I cannot find even a pattern for a leather bag that isn’t hideous. Well, if not hideous, at least not boxy and boring. Even the patterns for not-leather bags are either way, way too much (picture frills and frou-frou exploding all over the place, or enormous trendy showstoppers designed to look appealing in quilting cotton) or way, way not enough (as in, two pieces of fabric sewn together at the sides, make a gusset, attach straps, and that’s it).

No no no.

I’ve pretty well resigned myself to making my own pattern. Which so far has involved looking through approximately 1,000 pages of fashion magazine so I can rip out pictures of leather bags I like, and squint at them to see if I can figure out how they were put together. Where are the seams? How did they attach the pockets? Does it have a top zip closure, or a clasp? What did they put in the bottom to give it structure?

The top pleats are cute. I wonder what they did for the sides and bottom?
The top pleats are cute. I wonder what they did for the sides and bottom?

I have previously made shoulder bags without a pattern. My favourite was the one that started with an old pair of jeans for the lining; then I cut some boiled wool for the top facing and attached it, used that to sketch out a pattern piece for the front and back, estimated a length and width for the straps and used cotton scraps to line them, embroidered the bag front, sewed it all together and added a gusset. It looks great and it’s very functional, though embroidering through boiled wool with yarn is no joke.

So I know it is doable. But the prospect is less intimidating when one is experimenting with old blue jeans and $5/metre boiled wool, rather than embossed leather.

purses-7
I like these darts too, especially the way the handles are attached on top of them.

I also thought about adding a bit of cross-stitching or other embroidery, and bought glover’s needles just in case I end up doing any hand-work. Glover’s needles are serious weapons. I could probably sew my fingers together with them.

Current thoughts are something like the Dior bag, but a titch smaller and maybe with some embroidery; a separate side piece to give it some good interior room and avoid the need for darts or gussets; and a top-zip, if I can figure out how to assemble and install it. I want rings for the handles, like in the aqua bag, and studs to reinforce joints and seams. I want it to have feet, and a base that is attached to the side piece for a bit of extra strength and structure. And maybe I’ll have my spring/summer work bag in time for fall.

party animal

In December of last year, I had an over-active thyroid.

In March of this year, I have an under-active thyroid.

Go figure. According to the endo, there is a type of thyroid infection where it goes into hyperdrive for a while, completely drains itself, boomerangs low, and then rebounds to a normal level, and I am now in the tail end of this process. I don’t quite follow the details–I’m going to blame this on a hypothyroid-induced mental fog–but whatever. I’m too tired to care. I thought it was the hyperthyroid thing continuing or recurring, but apparently not.

I’m going to blame the whole mess on stress. It’s a stress mess.

I am now just under the normal range, so I can expect to start feeling better soon. As in, maybe I can sleep for 8 hours and wake up feeling rested, without my hands shaking.

On Monday, I turn 39; what’s more, Frances is with her Dad all weekend. If you think I’m planning an exciting and fun-filled Saturday and Sunday, you are exactly right; if you are thinking that exciting and fun-filled means being someplace other than my living room, you are maybe partially right. My favourite local fabric store has exciting! new! fabrics! in stock, and even though my stash is getting embarrassing, I cannot pass up exciting! new! fabrics! Also, it is my birthday, and I need to buy books. It’s a law, I believe: Thou Shalt Buy a Book on thy Birthday or Face the Wrath of the Bookseller. Or maybe that was just the fine print on the Chapters membership application. I forget.

I duly obliged with a bookstore visit yesterday, and three books, one of which is for Frances so doesn’t really count. But I might read it first.

I am also going to scour fabrics as part of my natural dyeing adventures. Scouring is basically boiling fabric with some heavy-duty detergents to get rid of whatever natural oils or pectins they have, so they will better accept dyes. I started with the linen last night–fresh, beautiful, never-used, brand-new linen–and the water turned as brown as dark tea. It was pretty revolting, but made a good case for the importance of scouring.

So there’s the bookstore, and the fabric store and maybe, if I’m feeling crazy, the tea store; there’s a haircut tomorrow; and also my basement for fabric scouring. There’s the short ribs in red wine & cinnamon curry I want to make for dinner on Saturday, in the kitchen. Plus sleep. Otherwise I will be in my living room, sewing. I want to finish my Meringue skirt and Jasmine blouse, and have them all ready to go for when the weather isn’t atrocious; I want to dig into Frances’s rain jacket; and I want to do some of my Farmers’ Wife Quiltalong squares. I also want to sew up a bunch of other things and add to the Someday Shelf, but this is unlikely, even with a slightly-more-cooperative thyroid.

If I emerge from my house on Monday pale, raccoon-eyed and covered in bits of thread, you’ll know why.