Author: Clémence

The Couture Dress: Lessons 2 & 3

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Phew. I’m back with the next installment of the couture dress! I know it’s been a while, but I’ve only been managing around 30 minutes of sewing time about 3 days a week! I think I’ve done pretty well within those time constraints, if I do say so myself! I divided this post into two parts, Lesson 2 and Lesson 3 of the course. Lesson 1 was the introduction, so there wasn’t any work to be done there!

Lesson 2 – Muslin 1: Pin and Cut
Sounds easy enough right? Well, not quite… I had to straighten the grain and I’d only ever straightened the grain of fabric which I could tear or pull a thread out! With this fabric, the thread would break about 1 or 2 inches in. Eventually I figured out that I could cut along the line left by the thread, pull another thread, cut along the line left by that thread, and so on. Afterwards I pinned the selvages together using a lot of pins! One thing I didn’t do is clip int the selvages, I forgot to do that but they didn’t look like they were pulling too tight!

Afterwards I traced 5/8 of an inch from the cutting line on each pattern piece. This took FOREVER! I decided to use this time to listen to Spanish language documentaries to hopefully improve my Spanish skills (I’m not sure this worked)… And finally I pinned the pieces to the fabric, measuring the grainlines from the selvages carefully for each piece and cut them out!

And unfortunately (or fortunately?) I actually learned a lot from lesson 2… I thought I should add a little “lessons learned” section so you can learn from my mistakes and as reference for myself. So here you are, here are the lessons learned from Lesson 2 of the Couture Dress class!

Lessons learned:

  1. Trace your pattern to actual tracing paper or swedish tracing paper: printer paper is too thick to pin accurately to the fabric
  2. Clip your selvages
  3. Measure your body carefully (waist, bust, hips, neck-to-waist, waist-to-hips, bicep circumference, shoulder-to-shoulder…) and compare to the pattern stitching lines: make any adjustments based on this

As you can maybe tell from #3, I made some adjustments to this dress even before finishing the muslin. I have wide shoulders. I’ve also been working out a lot more in the last few years. I used to fit (tightly) in the shoulders of commercial ready to wear clothes, but in the last few months I’ve noticed the correct bust/waist size is very, very small in the shoulders… To the point of bursting seams! I measured myself to be about 14 inches shoulder to shoulder (more accurately shoulder seam to shoulder seam), the pattern was only 13 inches, so I added 1/2 inch to each side (front and back) using this tutorial.

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Lesson 3 – Muslin 2: Assembly

Alright I will confess right now: I deviated from the instructions. I used chalk paper instead of wax paper. I know, Susan Khalje specifically says not to use chalk paper. But I spent a long time reading up on wax paper online and most people seemed to say it was not worth using because it was seldom completely removable from fabric. I decided even though my primary goal is to make beautiful, elegant clothes for myself I still want these clothes to be easy to take care of. This means I won’t be using silk organza interlining (unless I’m making a wedding dress!), my wax marks would go directly on my fashion fabrics and could potentially show through at some point. I didn’t want to get used to using wax paper if I wasn’t going to be able to use it on most of my projects. Also it was expensive (bad Canadian dollar is not doing us any favors)!

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I quickly learned that lesson learned #1 (trace your pattern to actual tracing paper) is important for another reason: printer paper is too thick to let you pick up enough carbon to see the marks accurately. I managed by pressing really (really) hard. Afterwards thread tracing was fairly simple, I just had to set the tension to sew correctly through only one layer of the fabric. And this is about as far as I have gotten so far. I haven’t actually gotten around to assembling the muslin pieces. There is a reason for that though…

You guessed it, I have another lesson learned: mark notches! I forgot to mark every. single. notch. on every single pattern piece! How am I going to put the sleeves in? I’m not sure, I guess I will have to try to pin the pieces back to the fabric and add the notches in. That’s my plan for the upcoming week, mark the notches and assemble the muslin. Next up is Lesson 4 – Muslin 3: Fitting and Lesson 5 – Muslin 4: Finishing.

Fingers crossed I won’t have to do very much fitting!

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Boyfriend Hat

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If there’s a set of interchangeable needles under the Christmas tree, you will have a hat when you come back from visiting your family.

Those are words that came out of my mouth. They were directed my boyfriend. Can you guess what was under the tree on Christmas morning? … It was most definitely a set of interchangeable knitting needles. Chiaogoo red lace, to be precise. I haven’t reviewed them yet because I’ve only made one project on them, with only one wool (this is that projet!). I don’t feel I’m in a position to evaluate these needles yet. That said, so far, I absolutely love them!

So technically, I did get him a hat by the time he got back from visiting his family. Unfortunately it was the worst pattern-yarn mix I have EVER made. I will be getting some pictures and most likely blogging about it, if only so that I can save one unsuspecting person from repeating the same mistake. The second try came out a lot better, and a heck of a lot later. 2 months later, to be exact. Thankfully the boyfriend is patient, kind and understanding (or he just really didn’t want to wear the first hat… I don’t blame him)!

But oh my goodness, what a joy this was to knit! I find cable patterns so compelling because you’re always motivated to finish the next round and watch it grow (much like colourwork). Combine that with the beautiful rustic wool: knitting was a dream.

The wool is from Briggs and Little woolen mills. A Canadian, family owned wool mill in New Brunswick. The boyfriend and I took a road trip out to the east coast of Canada last year. Unfortunately we didn’t visit the Briggs and Little mill, but we did visit the store! I was good and only purchased about $50 worth of wool (but only because we went to MacAuslands woolen mills where I spent way too much). The boyfriend picked out a skein of heritage in the colourway Grape so that I could make him a hat. Grape is a beautiful mix of purple, red, navy and teal. The way it looks depends a lot on the lighting, but it always looks beautiful to me. It is only my second favorite Briggs and Little colourway though… my favorite is Fundy Fog! The wool itself is very rustic, minimally processed. It is definitely not Merino wool, it is a workhorse wool that will stand up to a lot of wear. I’ve read that it’s a good (more economical) substitute for Brooklyn Tweed, but I’ve never held a skein of Brooklyn Tweed so I can’t comment on that!

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Although I really enjoyed the knitting process, I did have a few fit issues along the way. I forgot to increase needle sizes after the ribbing and that made the hat very small in circumference. I also measured carefully because I had to extend the cabling pattern since my row gauge was off. But still somehow the hat ended up being way too skinny and way too tall. Thankfully some aggressive blocking helped made it wider and shorter and I think it fits pretty well!

The boyfriend is happy.

The only problem is winter is over!

 

 

 

The Couture Dress

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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

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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
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Horrible Shoulder Seams

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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.

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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

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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):

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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

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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.
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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.

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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?).