The Couture Dress

dresseries

I purchased the couture dress craftsy class by Susan Khalje almost a year ago now. But I wasn’t ready to make a dress, I watched most of the lessons, took some notes… slowly gathered my supplies. And now I think I’m finally ready to start!

I thought it might be interesting motivating to do a series of posts based on the construction of the dress, following along with the class. While I’m a big fan of seeing finished garments on blogs, I find I’m really drawn to post series where people are blogging the journey to a finished object. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m much more likely to snuggle up on the couch with a cup of tea and read a blog series following the progression of something (sewing, knitting, home decor, etc), than just browsing finished object posts. There’s just something about the ups and downs, tips, would do differently, would do again mixed in with little anecdotes that is just so compelling to me. I hope that someone out there is interested in this as well, worst case I will have a wonderful log for myself!

The couture dress class by Susan Khalje has 15 lessons (although one of them is an introduction). It comes with Vogue 8648 (the pattern actually gets mailed to you!! If you live in Canada you might understand why I’m excited about that). I elected to use the caroline dress by mouse house creations instead, I just don’t like V8648 that much, but I might try it in the future! I’m using thrifted hunter green cotton/acrylic blend fabric, my aim is to make a wearable muslin (I will be adapting the lessons as I go, since the class makes a separate muslin out of actual… muslin).

My current plan is to make one blog post per class lesson, at least. Unfortunately I haven’t even gotten around to the first lesson yet, since the first lesson involves marking your stitching line (as opposed to the typically marked cutting line). Then every single pattern piece has to be cut, traced onto the fabric, and then the tracings should be stitched over in thread…

So that is what you can expect in the next post!

 

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler

curlerbox

Sometimes I feel like I could write a novel about eyelash curlers. I have had 3 different eyelash curlers and I’ve tried countless others. I think my problem is that my eyes are very large and very round. Most eyelash curlers leave a little bit out either at the inside or the outside, or both! On a whim I decided to purchase the (very) expensive shu uemura eyelash curler. I considered it a christmas present to myself.  (more…)

Salt & Pepper

cuffI discovered a few years ago that salt and pepper is the (un)official uniform of Canada. I don’t know how I never noticed it before, but after I did I saw it everywhere. And then one day (years later) it happened… I realized I really, really liked salt & pepper, and I needed it. [Taking a moment aside, I just realized I don’t even know if salt and pepper is a “colour” outside of Canada, I’m assuming that it is, but I’ve ever seen it referred to as marl on the internet.] Of course I could buy salt and pepper clothing, but it’s mostly found in the sweatshirts and sweatpants, and I wanted a little more sophistication. And I found it when the Tongshan Sweater pattern came out. The Tongshan Sweater is in my opinion a very timeless, versatile piece. I could see myself wearing it with jeans a riding boots, or over a dress or a skirt, in my mind it integrated so seamlessly into my wardrobe! So I purchased it and I got to work, last year.

And I’m not done.

But I’m going to show you where I am in the process. And it’s not perfect… While I love showing full outfit pictures of my finished projects, making them look their very best, making your own clothes is about a lot more than the end result. It’s about a lot of different things to different people, and it’s about a lot of different things to me, but today I’m sharing one aspect of it, which is learning. Whenever I make something new I always learn at least one (but usually many) things. To me this makes it all worth it. Even if I had to restart, things didn’t go as planned, and I’m not happy with the result, at least I can walk away knowing I learned something (and it’s okay if the only thing you learned is that it’s easier to frog or rip up seams with a glass of wine, or that it’s not a good idea to rip seams or knitting up past 1 AM)!

So why am I saying all of this? Probably because things did not go as planned with this sweater. I’ll just give you a list of things that happened and save you a few minutes of reading:

  • I worked the ribbing back and forth – really bringing out unevenness in my gauge
  • I knit each sleeve not once, but three times (!!!)
  • I modified the sleeve pattern because it was too tight, and didn’t take notes, I’m still not convinced my two sleeves are the same
  • I confused the front and back and had to rip back quite far
  • I couldn’t do the shoulder seams and my tenth attempt still looks horrible
shulderseam

Horrible Shoulder Seams

ribbing

Uneven Back Ribbing

And to top off the list, the sweater is currently blocking and based on the newest measurements, it looks like it will be about 3 inches too long. I would be lying if I said there weren’t any tears. But I learned a lot of things too, and I think that deserves a list as well:

  • I learned how to actually frog: taking the stitches of the needle and pulling back down to where you want to go and picking your work back up
  • I learned how to frog ribbing, increases and decreases
  • I learned how important accurate notes are, and to not assume I will understand something cryptic just because I’m the one who wrote it
  • I modified a sleeve pattern to fit my arm better, and I learned how I would improve my modification if I were to do it again

In a time where we are so used to seeing the very selected, highly edited version of everyone’s life and accomplishments, I love seeing peoples mistakes and how they have learned from them. Sometimes just knowing that other people have made mistakes, or that they consider their projects to be imperfect is nice.

fullview

Don’t worry, I’m still going to finish this sweater, and if it doesn’t make the cut to my wardrobe, at least I will have learned a lot.

 

A Lesson in Carpentry

dsc_0086

Just kidding, I’m not a carpenter and I don’t think I ever will be! Although I would like to build my own boat someday, and there is one lesson I learned that I can share… This post is about an idea that I had one day, at least I think it’s an idea I had. I made the mistake of googling my idea after I came up with it and found that it was a pretty common thing. Does that ever happen to you? You think you have a good, innovative idea, and it turns out it’s already been done? I like to tell myself that just means it really was a good idea.

My idea was to find an old ladder on which I could hang my (ever expanding) collection of blanket scarves. Blanket scarves are one trend I have really gotten behind. I personally don’t think there will ever be a trend as phenomenal as carrying a blanket with you everywhere you go (until someone invents comforter scarves, and then pillow scarves… and then memory foam scarves)!

Unfortunately I found out quickly that “antique” and “vintage” ladders were outside of my budget, which was about $30. So I decided to make one, with the help of the boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s roommates’ power tools!

And here she is, a “genuine” antique vintage ladder (because who knows if the ladders those antique shops sell really are antique anyways):

dsc_0073

Making the ladder was really simple, requiring only a bit of math and some patience! If I make another one I will write up a tutorial! It cost about $15 for the wood and $15 for the hole saw (an attachment that fits most drills). I used: a wood saw (to cut the boards and dowels down to size), an electric drill with a hole saw attachment (for the rung holes), a sander and a hammer!

I originally wanted to stain the ladder, but when I saw how the wood looked with only the sanding I changed my mind. The weathered effect was achieved by using treated outdoor wood and sanding it down. The treatment applied penetrates differently across the wood so when you sand down you are left with a patchy finish, which I really like because it makes me think of old weathered barns. A hole saw was used to make the holes along each side, the hole saw we used was the same diameter as the dowels, but it ended up being a very tight fit so we sanded the dowels down to make them fit into the holes.

For the curious, from top to bottom the scarves are: tartan scarf from Jcrew factory store, thrifted wool scarf, and aritzia’s gasperin scarf. There is also a MacAuslands woolen mills scarf on the chair to the right of the ladder.

I am so excited about this project that I want to make another one for my blankets!

And for all of you who would like to try this, here is my lesson: try to pick straight boards. If you start out with warped, bowed boards there is nothing you can do (ask me how I know!)

 

 

The Pleated Plaid Skirt

skirt1

A pleated (plaid?) skirt that hits just above the knee, some high heels and a merino wool sweater, everything a girl needs to be happy, right? I feel like I must be the only person in the world who does this, buy why oh why do I always choose a size too big? With the anya skirt, I at least reasoned with myself that the small waistband could have stretched, leaving me with a larger waist than the actual pattern. This waistband however is large and thick and sturdy, mostly due to the thick fabric (which is an unknown blend I thrifted). I have no excuse! I measured myself twice, and the skirt is too large!

This is McCalls 6706, a pattern so easy you almost don’t need a pattern! Except the pleats are on an angle to give the skirt more flare, so if you’re doing it without a pattern don’t forget to angle your pleats to give a nice fullness. I opted to just buy the pattern, I don’t know why, probably for the same reason that I purchased the anya skirt pattern, I just wanted to get right to work on the skirt without having to figure anything out! The pattern is very straightforward, the only tricky bit is making sure your pleats are neatly lined up. Which I just did an ‘okay’ job at.
skirt3

From the pictures my talented boyfriend took you really cannot tell the skirt is too big. The only thing you can see is that the sweater is bunched up but I don’t think you get a sense for how thick the sweater is bunched up under the waistband! It’s a loose fit, so all the extra wrinkles in the back helped keep the skirt up! I still love the skirt, and with a thicker sweater like this one it works okay, but it is not the fitted, tailored look that I was going for.

skirt2

All is not in vain however because I did learn a lot from doing this skirt, mostly about the importance of having proper markings. I had to go back once the side seams were sewn to try and mark up the pleats because my previous chalk markings had rubbed off (oops!). So next time I will mark the pleats with basting stitches. I will also add an invisible zipper next time because the bulky regular zipper prohibits the pleats in that area from meeting well (or perhaps I just executed it poorly?).

Turmeric: Part 2

dsc_0785

On the right is an un-dyed skein of yarn from the same “sheep-lot” (natural, un-dyed wool) and on the left is the result of dying half a skein with turmeric! I love to use turmeric on face, as you can see in this post! I have to thank the boyfriend for encouraging me to do this, as well as actually doing most of the work AND lending me his pots, stove and floor for yarn dying purposes!

Here is the process we used:

  1. We took half a skein of undyed wool and placed in it a number of pots until we found one where the skein comfortably fit with enough “mixing room” (if you want an even colour you don’t want the yarn to be tightly packed). We used this opportunity to note how much water was needed to comfortably cover the skein.
  2. We filled the (empty) pot with water and poured in some turmeric… boy did we pour in turmeric!
  3. We brought the mix to a simmer on the stove… and added more turmeric! I don’t really know anything about spice chemistry, but I know you can dissolve more salt/sugar when it’s warm so I added extra turmeric to be safe! It simmered for about 45 minutes.
  4. We placed the skein in the bowl and let it simmer on and off for a few hours, mixing regularly but carefully to avoid felting the yarn.
  5. We let the yarn sit in the cooling dye bath overnight.
  6. We rinsed, until the water ran clear.

And step number 6 is where we found out we used entirely too much turmeric. Eventually (after half an hour bent over the bathtub) the water ran clear, but when the skein dried it left turmeric dust everywhere it had touched, so we rinsed it again and again. Eventually (probably third rinse/dry cycle) the yarn stopped leaving turmeric traces everywhere. I will probably exercise caution when knitting this up in case it bleed onto other colours! And talking about other colours, here is my planned colour palette:

dsc_0788

Natural white, natural gray and a beautiful saturated turmeric gold! I can’t wait to knit something up!

Anya Circle Skirt

skirt4

This is the Anya Skirt. I made it to wear to a country wedding on what was possibly the hottest day of the summer (45 degrees with humidex, yikes!) I know it’s a bit silly to purchase a circle skirt pattern, but the pattern came with wonderful instructions which helped through every step of the construction, and I was very keen on inserting a zipper which went all the way to the top of the waistband. The fabric is an unknown blend that was on clearance at my local fabric store.

skirt2

The hardest part was attaching the zipper. Since I used my new (to me) singer 401, I didn’t have an invisible zipper foot. I nearly went crazy trying to install the zipper. The zipper kept curling into a C shape when I tried to iron the teeth (which you are supposed to do for invisible zippers). I finally went for a method that I think will work better than some of the tutorials I tried without success:

  1. I hand basted the zipper into place
  2. I ironed the teeth outwards: with the zipper basted into place the zipper didn’t curl on me
  3. I stitched as close to the teeth as possible, slowly

In the end my undoing was the waistband finishing: I sewed too close to the teeth and couldn’t pull the zipper up all the way. I ran out of time before the wedding so I sewed a hook and eye on the drive to the wedding! (Too bad the car ride wasn’t longer, I would’ve taken in the straps of the crop top as well!)

And surprisingly, the hem was really, really, really, truly, very easy! I followed a popular tip to sew 1/4” from the edge of the fabric, fold up along that edge, and fold up again. Then I stitched it down! That’s it!

I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures during the wedding day, it was so humid and hot that my camera lens fogged up immediately when I took it outside! Thankfully the couple’s photographer was able to get some beautiful photos for them despite the weather!

I have to say I will definitely be wearing a circle skirt to another wedding, it so much fun on the dance floor when spinning around! I even wore some matching hot pink shorts underneath for when the skirt flew up!

skirt1