Gathering Threads

Neither Rain nor Sleet

Posted by on Feb 26 2010

Everybody do a happy dance!

The fabric for the raincoat I plan to sew for myself over the next couple of weeks has arrived today.

We’re finally seeing some winter weather and the roads are slick and sloppy here but happily, the mail was delivered regardless and with it three yards of Michael Miller laminated fabric. Dandy Damask to be exact.


I’m very pleased with the fabric. It’s slicker than I expected. The plastic coating has an unexpectedly soft feeling. It’s also thinner, too, which is suprising given that it’s a coated quilting cotton. Quilting fabrics often have a fair amount of body; this fabric isn’t diaphanous by any means but it isn’t bulky, either. I don’t expect it to be a problem though. Between the coat lining and the removeable quilting lining, this coat will have plenty of structure, believe you me.

And while the hand is different (not bad, just different), the colour and the scale are just what I was hoping. It’s tricky buying fabric online. It’s not just that, between the monitor and lighting and the camera, colours can be truly wonky.

Sewing is such a hands on kind of thing. I need to touch my fabric, weigh its hand, its transparency, its feel, before I sew with it. That’s why I typically shop in person in our local textile district, because I can feel the fabric before I purchase it.

I bought the fabric from Fabrics on Mill Street, a quilting shop in California. I’m very pleased with the service and from the site, it looks like they’ve got some interesting and atypical fabrics. Not only did they answer all my questions before hand, their shipping and handling charges to Canada were very reasonable. And prompt.

Now, all I want to do tonight is start project-ting. Or planning my trip first thing to Ottawa Street, to buy all the notions and thread that I’ll need.

But I won’t.

No, sirree, bob. Because before I do the fun stuff, I’ve got my pants projects to finish, tests to mark, laundry to fold and dinner to make. But boy, do I want to!

But just like the postal service, neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night can slow the appointed rounds of a working mom. My raincoat will just have to wait.

By the seat of my pants

Posted by on Feb 24 2010

So after my battle cry on the weekend: no more duty sewing! It’s all about me!, guess what I did last night?

Made the first of three pair of pants for my son.

By my count, the four million six hundred and twenty four thousandth pair since birth. (Well, give or take a few pairs!). Such is the lot of a sewing mom, I guess.

He’s been sprouting like some sort of a weed these past few months. I swear, I put him to bed and he’s another inch longer the next morning. So between the flood-water hems and the fact that he’s a boy who plays hard and I can only mend the knees on his pants so many times before they’re a) more mend than pants b) not fit for public viewing, I had to get cracking on something before I was forced to send the poor kid to school stark naked.

So I cracked open my trusty Ottobres and picked out a three pant patterns, tracing them off Monday evening: Pluto (Winter/08), Tarkka (Summer/08) and Kalle (Autumn/08). I know, it sounds like I’ve come down with a bad cold, but they’re great patterns and they look fashionable enough to be school wear, which is always my litmus test for sewing. I want anything my kids wear to be handmade not homemade.

The challenge came from the fact that after falling off the stash diet bandwagon with a vengeance in December at Fabricland’s 50% off sale, I’ve recovered my sanity and am re-committed to using stash for as many projects as possible.

So, after discounting the summer-short length bits, of which there are a shocking number, I’m afraid to admit, I was left with a fine black pinwale, an electric green twill and a combed twill in a dark caramel brown from which to construct the pants.

The corduroy will be easy to use; the electric green isn’t MY tastes, although it has a lovely hand but my son thinks it’s fantastic so I’ll just cross my fingers it fades in the wash; the brown twill though was a challenge because the right side is a brushed cotton, like a flannel and I had less than a metre to use.

I tried laying out all three patterns and the Kalle was the only one that even came close to fitting. I squeezed, I jigged and rejigged, I minimized my seam allowances into submission and when I was done cutting, there weren’t enough scraps left for the Tailor of Gloucester’s mice but I’d gotten it to fit.

And so here they are:




Overall, this was a very straight forward pattern and I’m pleased with the results. I used the wrong side of the fabric, which looks like a twill woven as the exterior of the pants; the inside is soft and flannel-like and will be very warm during the winter and spring. I topstitched all the pockets and seams and worked the bar tacks with a pale blue thread and I really like them, although they could have been a bit darker and not caused a problem. In fact, the only thing I think I’ll change are the knee pleats; in my next version of the Kalle pants, I’m definitely going to edge stitch them, just to control the folds better.


But like always, Ottobre patterns are a winner for me. Because it was my first time through on this pattern, I did take my time on the details, and followed the instructions without any huge variation but it was a very straight forward pattern overall. Most of the sewing time went to the ‘details’ like the topstitching and the bar tacks. Once those were completed, the pattern went together very quickly.

Difficulty: 3/10 Advanced beginner
Tracing/Prep: 30mins
Layout/Cutting: 30mins
Sewing/Pressing: 3 1/2 hours

I’ll be working on cutting out and assembling the other two pants over the next several days and post my experiences with them when I’m done.

The Cobbler’s Complaint

Posted by on Feb 21 2010

I sew.

I embroider.

I smock.

I just don’t do them very often for myself. Seriously, I make pants and shorts and bags and quilts and magazine samples and sun dresses and baby shower gifts. I’m a veritable assembly line of “useful things for others” and Henry Ford’s ghost is very proud.

But just like the cobbler of old, very rarely do I sew for myself. There are lots of reasons for this, all of them pretty lame, to be honest. But over the next little while, that’s going to change because my next project is all about me.

I’m making this coat, which I traced off from the Spring/Summer 2009 edition of Ottobre Woman.
Turns out I have a mommy friend who’s as enamoured of sewing as I am. We made the mutual discovery during a playdate between our two kidlets and thus began the great pattern swap of 2010. I lent her my well-loved Kwik Sew patterns and she’d picked up a couple of the latest Ottobre that I didn’t have.

And what did my eye spy and immediately say “Make me! Make me!”?

Sadly, nothing chic, flirty or special-occasiony. Given my time constraints, I want to get WEAR out of my handmade clothing. See, I have rainwear on the brain, having written an article of the subject for an upcoming issues of Threads and now I’m going to reap the rewards of my writing by making something FOR ME that I’m actually going to use!

So, yup, a raincoat.

This coat is a nice, classic style but hip enough for me to feel cool during the school run and the fabric? Ooh, I’m seriously excited over it. It’s a lovely laminated Michael Miller fabric called Dandy Damask.
Nice big paisley-esque print that I think will be really well served by the clean lines of the pattern. Dramatic and cheerful without being over the top. Very springy, too, with the lovely sage.

Now, it’s going to take some doing during layout, to line everything up symmetrically but I think it’ll be worth it and really give this project some punch.

I’ve got some neat ideas in mind for the inside of this coat, too. It’s rarely warm in the early spring and fall, so warmth has to be a consideration for us Canadian sewers so in addition to using flannel-backed “coat lining” for improved wear and hang, I’m going to make it a three season coat by making a grown-up sized version of my famous “detachable quilting lining”. In fact, I think I’ll be doing a tutorial on that, showing how to modify any coat pattern to make a zip-out lining like this, because it’s such a useful variation – plus of course tips for working and matching big patterns like this.

Check back often, because once my fabric arrives via sunny California, I’ll definitely be going ahead full steam on this one.

Or full cobble, as the case may be. 🙂

Bunny Tracks in the Snow

Posted by on Feb 15 2010

In the world of magazines, holidays come in a very peculiar order. Christmas projects are planned a year in advance and submitted in April. Valentine’s Day has me at my sewing machine in August. And my latest article for the Easter season, my third in Create and Decorate, just dropped through my mail slot and features a very countrified bunny clasping a carrot of dubious origins.

Bunny doorstop
Criminal tendencies aside, he’s a jolly, fat little fellow, made of brown tweed and he’s just perfect for Spring.

Perfect that is, except that I am currently looking out my window and seeing snow. Cold, rather unappetizing snow, that has been well stomped by the young snowsuit wearing barbarians who share our lives aka my two sons.

No chance of seeing a delicate track of bunny prints in that well-mangled surface, let me tell you. And it’s not like I can complain. After a truly ferocious winter last year, for some reason, while everyone else has been walloped, we’ve had only a few small snows round these parts. Nothing that’s stuck. Nothing that’s required serious digging out. For Canada, that’s pretty good. Still, I’m tired of big boots, flat hair, and frantic mitten hunts, indubitably conducted two minutes before the bus is due.

The new spring fabrics are in the store. The spring magazines are starting to crop up on the newsstands. I’ve got my eye on some pretty spring fashions and a couple of sweet smocking plates. In other words, I’m starting to tire of winter.

I’m voting warm. What’s your vote?

Bound and Determined

Posted by on Feb 06 2010

Well, the dress I’ve been working on, on and off, since the holidays is finally complete.

Monkey Dress

Sort of.

It all started with the sock monkey fabric. I’m usually pretty restrained when it comes to impulse purchases but I saw and I lusted. Before you could say “Visa!” I’d bought three yards of the fabric. Now all I needed was a project.

The back wrap

Inspired by a vintage pattern illustration, I made this wrap dress pattern and smocking insert to coordinate with the fabric. It’s got a nifty little cross-over and a really twirly circle skirt. A little (well, a lot actually) bit of blue-and-white polka dot bias binding and a touch of powder blue baby piping helped tone down the vibrant print.

Side view

As with any project, there are details I love and details I’m still hemming and hawing over. It’s the sewist’s eternal debate: to rip or not to rip? Weighing the unhappiness of the problem spot against the agravation of the fix.

But let me show you the part of this project I love the most. It’s a very little spot, totally functional, and usually a spot that doesn’t get much love.

My buttonholes.

Beautiful, totally rectangular, bound buttonholes.

Bound Buttonholes

They warm me to the cockles of my heart. And believe it or not, they were so simple, I don’t know why I was so afraid of them.

They went together just like they were supposed to and when I turned them out, there they were, two perfectly symmetrical little blue lips, just waiting for a cherry red button.

So that’s the good. Now for the ugly.

I’ve tried and tried to convince myself it’s not the case but photos just don’t lie. The circular binding around my smocked insert is, well, ripply.

Picture Smocked insert

Not a lot. Just enough to aggravate me everytime I look at it. Sigh.

So I’m pretty sure my Saturday night will involve me re-doing the binding around the sock monkey face. But these monkeys deserve nothing less, don’t you think?