Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More mini clothes

With Christmas getting ever closer, I've put my blazer project on hold for the moment so that I can finish up some presents in time. Last weekend I finished up the other pieces of the mini wardrobe that I'm making for my soon to be nephew. I made a long sleeved version of the Oliver and S pattern I used for the Hawaiian shirt, this time out of a remnant from a button down shirt that I made for myself (I still haven't blogged about that shirt, maybe it's time to get the SO to take some pictures of it!).

Little mini details like these cuffs are cute but certainly time consuming. I have to say, though, the instructions for stitching the sleeve slit were really good, and I'll use their technique again when I'm making my own shirts.

I ran into some problems with the shorts. Partway through making up the shorts, I realized that there was something amiss with the pattern. I went online to the Oliver and S forum and found that the pattern did indeed have errors, but unfortunately my pattern envelope was missing the errata slip that was supposed to come with it. Miserably, the pattern piece for the back of the shorts was missing seam allowances, and so there was not much I could do to salvage the pieces I had already cut. I ended up retracing, correcting and recutting the back pieces, and I only hope that this didn't use up too much fabric as I have the rest of this piece of fabric earmarked for another project.

In my frustrated state, I wrote Oliver and S to complain about having such an annoying error in a rather expensive pattern, and they wrote me back to offer me some patterns of my choice to try out free of charge. Nice of them! I'm glad that they offered me some "second chance" patterns, because I probably wouldn't have bought from them again after having tried this as my first pattern.

Errors aside, the instructions for this pattern are really thorough, and the pants have some nice design details like the faux fly front. I thought this was going to be time consuming to sew, but it wasn't at all. The trickiest part of sewing up these pants (after correcting the pattern, that is), was figuring out how long to cut the elastic for the waistband, since I have no idea at all how big a six month old's waist is!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mini clothes

This is my first attempt ever at sewing children's clothes, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out I had to post right away! My brother and his wife are expecting a boy this winter, and I thought I would make them a mini wardrobe as a present. I just got the pattern in the mail a few days ago, and I was so excited about it that I put aside two other projects that I had already traced out to make this up.

The pattern is Oliver and S' sketchbook shirt, which is basically a classic button down in mini form. The only difference between this shirt and an adult sized shirt is that the collar and stand are one piece, which is nice because a collar stand of this size would probably be just impossible to sew. I used this as an opportunity to work on my shirtmaking techniques, so even though this will probably be worn all of three times before the kid outgrows it, I finished all nicely -- flat felled seams on the side seams and sleeves, and edgestitching on the placket and collar. It looks just as nice from the inside as it does from the outside!

I'm planning to make the long sleeved version of this shirt in some leftover shirting material and the shorts up in some khaki cotton to complete the mini wardrobe.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two finished items in a week!

I have a bad habit of taking on very complicated sewing projects, which means that they tend to drag out forever and I start to lose interest in them because I've been simply staring at them for too long (processor quilt, anyone?). After my last complicated project (which I will post about soon), I decided to do something much, much simpler so I could have a finished garment to wear right away. I thought Vogue 1179 was a good candidate; it only has three pieces and wouldn't be heavy on the fitting since it's drapey. I also had the perfect fabric for it in my stash, a printed silk jersey that I bought ages ago from Fabric.com.

And here it is! It came together super quickly, even though I don't usually sew with knits and there were a few things I had to figure out here and there. I don't have a serger, and I'm still a little bit intimidated by sewing with knits on my regular machine. I ended up stabilizing the neckline with some ribbon to keep it from growing, and I did the armholes with clear elastic as the pattern suggests. The armholes are a bit high on this pattern for me. I took an extra half inch or so off of the armhole at the bottom, but it still feels a bit snug after installing the elastic.

For the seams I used a narrow zigzag, and that seemed to work fine since the jersey didn't have a lot of stretch in the length. I wasn't sure what I should do for the hem. I thought about using a twin needle, but I haven't been all that happy with my twin needle attempts. I'm still getting the "tunneling" effect no matter how much I bump the tension down, and the resulting stitch is not all that stretchy. I hemmed a RTW shirt with my twin needle recently, but it snapped after a few wears because the stitching just didn't have enough stretch. So for this dress, I stabilized the hemline with some stretch lace on the inside before sewing it. It makes it less stretchy (and therefore less comfortable), but also less likely to break.

I always end up smiling too much when the SO takes my picture. This is me trying to make a serious face, and ending up just looking goofy!

After my success with the dress, I immediately whipped up a tunic length version in another knit that I had in my stash. It looks great with skinny jeans and is very comfortable. I think I'll wear this outfit tomorrow on the plane as the SO and I set off for Cleveland. Bon voyage!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More adventures in mass cooking

It seems the preserving season is not over for us yet! We visited the St Jacobs Farmers' Market with my parents last weekend, and it was overflowing with good produce deals (and people, since it was the long weekend). We went intending to get some apples, which were there in abundance. We bought two big bags of mixed apples for sauce making for six dollars a bag. Here's one bag, with a paint can for reference:

We've now made two batches of sauce, one batch of apple pie filling, and one apple pie. We bought a food mill while we were making all of our tomato sauce, and the food mill is fabulous for making apple sauce. Just chop up the apples, cook until mushy, and then take out all the seeds, stems and skins with the food mill! A few random little bits of things still seem to get through, but I'd say it's worth it to not have to peel and core all those apples.

The apples weren't the only cheap items at the market, and we ended up coming home with a giant bag of carrots as well (about 30 pounds for six bucks). A few stands had similar quantities of peppers for sale, and if I'd been able to figure out what to do with that many peppers I would have bought those as well. We're still working on using up those carrots. After making giant batches of Zeus' thai carrot soup and a morrocan stew, we're stumped. Anyone have any recipes that call for about ten pounds of carrots?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Introducing my new sewing room!

This is a post that I've been waiting to do for a while! Like many other sewing obsessed people out there, I've always wanted to have a space of my own for sewing and crafting projects. In the past I've had my sewing machine set up on the kitchen table, and then graduated to a little desk in the corner of the bedroom, but the mess has always managed to spill out and take up more of the house than was really desirable. Now I finally have a room of my own, custom designed for sewing. I also have enough storage space that I hope I'll have at least a fighting chance of staying organized, and a door to close if I don't!

Our apartment in Montreal is a three bedroom (or a 5 1/2, in Montreal speak), which sounds quite large (and it is a lot bigger than other places we've lived in, to be fair), but the bedrooms are pretty tiny. The room that we use as our bedroom is barely large enough to hold our double bed, let alone a dresser and clothes. After mulling over what to do about the bedroom setup, it dawned on me that there's no law saying that I have to get dressed in the bedroom -- in fact, it makes quite a lot of sense to keep my clothes along with all my sewing stuff. So, the room is actually a sewing room/dressing room, and now my dresser is right across the hallway from the laundry and in the same room as the ironing board.

I repainted our old dresser to match my new color scheme, and made two sets of curtains. Since the windows are just above street level, I wanted one set of curtains that would stay permanently closed for privacy, and then some sheers for decoration. I finally managed to make peace with my rolled hem foot while making these curtains. They were so long that there was no way I wanted to go over each seam twice to do the rolled hem manually, so I just sucked it up and messed around with the foot for a while. I watched a lot of internet videos to try to help me along, but really, I think the rolled hem foot is all about tacit knowledge. And after sewing 30 or so feet of curtain edges, I'm finally getting a feel for how to hold the fabric so it feeds through nicely.

On the dressing side of the room, my SO installed some wall mounted clothes bars for shirts and skirts. I like the idea of having some clothes out in the open -- I can hang things out there that have a tendency to get lost in the back of my closet to encourage myself to wear them, and it's also nice to have some things that I've made on display in the room. I hung a few pegs on the wall for works-in-progress or hanging up pajamas or so, but in reality I tend to dump them on the dressing chair. The chair was a great find that I bought off my neighbors who have a scrap metal collecting business. They were about to dismantle a set of these excellent chairs before I ran outside and saved them.

On the sewing side of the room, I bought some of these Ikea shelves to use a cutting table/storage area. My most excellent sister bought two of these shelves for her sewing room, and when I saw them at her place I couldn't believe I'd never thought of turning them on their sides and using them as a table. The two shelves together comfortably fit my cutting mat and ironing board, and I hung some baskets on the wall so I can have my rotary cutters and chalk markers nearby.

I took allllll of my fabric out of storage and folded it up neatly so that it could be stored in the Ikea shelves. The SO has a really great picture of me surrounded by fabric mid-organizing, looking totally overwhelmed. With the notable exception of some fabric shopping done while on vacation in Paris, I'm still refraining from buying new fabric until I use up at least half of my stash. I'm hoping that keeping it out in the open will motivate me to sew! I also made some storage bins for scraps and interfacing/random notions. The bins turned out really well, but they were truly more complicated than they needed to be (what with the binding around the edges and all), and I was really annoyed with myself for spending so much time making storage bins by the time I was halfway done. One little idea that I'm really pleased with was painting the front of the drawers of an organizer with chalkboard paint. Now they can be relabeled easily if I ever decide to store something else in there.

And finally, I really lucked out with finding this little desk for my sewing machine at a garage sale in my neighborhood. It's a really tiny desk -- my chair just barely fits under it, and that's after we added little legs to the bottom to raise the height a bit. The person I bought it from said that she thought it was from the 50s or 60s, and probably held a piece of infrequently used office equipment.

So there you have it -- my new sewing room. Now that I'm finished painting and organizing, perhaps I'll actually be able to get some sewing done!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's a canning frenzy over here

The jetlag from our recent trip to Europe had us up early in the morning for our first few days back, and what better to do with that extra morning energy than go to the market? Early September seems to be tomato season around here, and there were giant bins of tomatoes at the market. We picked up a bushel of roma tomoates (52 pounds!) for 16 bucks and felt quite pleased about it, but as the SO was walking them home on his bike a guy stopped him to say you could get a bushel of tomatoes for ten dollars elsewhere. So cheap! I don't feel sad about paying 16 bucks for these lovely tomatoes at all, especially considering how much we pay for sad and lifeless tomatoes here in Canada in the winter.

Tomato based things are pretty labor intensive to can. We did two batches of tomato sauce over two days, and it takes a good afternoon for the sauce to slowly simmer and reduce enough until it's thick enough to can. We also made ketchup (a looooong time to reduce for that), and salsa, which didn't have to cook very long but involved a lot of prep work (scalding the tomatoes to remove the skins, and then de-seeding them).

But, those cans of salsa look pretty awesome, don't they?

We also ended up with a lot of cucumbers this week from a friend's CSA share. The SO, who is extremely picky about both mustard and pickles, found a recipe online for mustard pickles that appealed to him, and he tried these out. Unfortunately, he used a bit more (actually, a lot more!) horseradish than the recipe called for, so these may end up being pickles of death. We opted to keep them in the fridge rather than processing them, and every time I open the fridge now I get a whiff of horseradish.

After a long weekend of canning, my favorite part is labeling the lids and arranging all the nice jars of stuff in the cupboards. I'm a bit of a hoarder and find it very comforting to have a stockpile of stuff around, so the sight of this cupboard full of sauces and jams and pickles makes me very happy. I'm not sure that it's quite enough to last us through the long Montreal winter, but it's a good start.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Oh, those Germans

The SO and I just returned from our vacation to Europe, and we're currently unpacking our overstuffed suitcases. Seriously, we brought back a lot of stuff (we were within a kilogram or so of our weight limit for the flight), and a lot of that was stuff from the grocery store -- tomato paste in a tube (great invention!), cans of vegan mushroom pate, ridiculously cheap and tasty fizzy vitamin tablets, German christmas cookies, etc. My SO understandably misses a lot of food items that you can't get in North America, and even though I've never lived in Germany there are already some things that I'm pretty addicted to as well.

While I love browsing through German grocery store for new things to try, I also like going for the amusement factor. There's some wacky stuff in there. Exhibit one: jars of pickled white asparagus. I don't know quite why I find this so weird, but I really do. Every time I see this stuff, it still strikes me as Star Trek alien food and I wonder why it is that someone would actually want to buy/eat this. Pickled albino alien tentacles!

Another thing that I find amusing about German grocery stores is that they have a lot of beverages that you wouldn't find in North America, and a lot of drinks in general. We went to one "drink store," which was an entire store for juices, water and beer. Some of them are familiar -- I find tomato juice quite tasty, and I'd be willing to try vegetable juice and beet juice, but sauerkraut juice? Who buys that?

Here's the water section of the drink store. Yep, that whole big warehouse space is entirely devoted to different kinds of water! There are several dozen different brands of water here, from different springs and with different degrees of fizziness.

I'm a big fan of fizzy water, but even I can't imagine a need for this many different kinds of fizzy water. The SO suggested that we have a water tasting, and we picked five different brands to try. The green bottle is a "medicinal" water that is supposed to help with digestion and comes with instructions on recommended usage. They do all taste different, but not in any strongly identifiable way. I thought that I'd be able to pick out the ones with high sulfur contents, for example, but they don't really taste like sulfur.

Finally, it's funny but a little horrifying to see what other countries think of your own food culture. It happened to be "American week" at one of the grocery stores that we were at, and the special foods section was stocked with products like these:

I'm guessing the "hamburger sauce" is some sort of blend of ketchup and mayo? Every single "American Way" product was pretty terrifying, and I'm sure that at least some Germans are just as weirded out by those marshmallows as I am at pickled asparagus.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A metric century

Things have been lovely but busy here in Montreal. The SO and I relocated all of things from New York in July, and we've been busy setting up our new apartment here. All of my spare time has been taken up with little projects around the house so I haven't had much time for sewing, but we have had some time for a few little bike adventures. Our new place is just a block from the Lachine Canal bike path, which connects up with the Route Verte network of bike pathways that runs throughout the province. You can bike for miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers!) on nice, paved bikeways.

This weekend we decided to try for a metric century (100 km, or 62 miles). I love hitting little bike milestones, and this seemed like a totally doable goal even though I haven't been riding all that much this season. The furthest I'd biked in one day up to this point was around 56 miles, so it wasn't that much more mileage and many of the routes around here are dead flat (nothing like hilly upstate NY!).

It takes a little while to get out of town and through the suburbs, but parts of the urban bikeways are still really pretty. The photo above is taken along the bike path that runs on top of the Champlain Bridge ice control structure. It's a 2 km long barrier that spans most of the river and it's closed to cars, so you can take it easy and look around while you bike across.

We headed down towards St Jean sur Richelieu, a small town about 50 km from Montreal. We took the Route Verte on the way down, which goes through the countryside a bit and then follows a canal all the way into the town. This was one of the nicest stretches of the ride, but unfortunately I was also the most tired for this part -- by the time we were approaching the town it was mid day and I was hot and hungry. Being out in the sun for 6 hours was probably at least as challenging as being on the bike for six hours; I really don't do well in the heat.

But, we made it through and found a great little pub for lunch. I can't remember the name of this place, but I really hope that if we ever bike this way again we can find this place. It had a huge, shady patio with Adirondack chairs, ping pong, a foosball table and even a bike parking area. I got a giant plate of nachos and a beer for lunch. These were seriously cheesy and giant, I didn't even finish half of them! All that good cheese gone to waste...

Prying myself out of that Adirondack chair after lunch was difficult, but the SO was determined to keep us on schedule so that we could make it home before it got too dark. Somewhere after lunch I hit my stride, and on the way back we only made two brief stops (for a popsicle, and to enjoy the view from the other side of the river). By the time we made it back to the Lachine canal the sun was getting low in the sky, just in time to give us a nice view on the way home.

It took us about six hours of riding time, with a total distance of 108km and an average riding speed of about 11 mph (17 kph). I was trying to keep it slow so that I wouldn't wear myself out, and in retrospect I think that this was a little too slow -- my butt hurt more than my legs at the end of the day, so I think I could probably push a little harder. This trip was almost exactly 2/3 of a century ride (100 miles), and honestly, I can't imagine biking 50% more, even on those flat bike paths. But then, I certainly didn't imagine myself ever biking 100 km a few years ago, so maybe I'll make it to an imperial century yet!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bahn mi bowl

I was in the mood for a good bahn mi last night, but I sometimes get tired of buying baguettes because it's hard to eat all that bread before it gets hard (the perils of living in Montreal alone). So, I decided to make a bahn mi bowl, inspired by the dragon bowls at Aux Vivres. The bowl has wheat noodles, lettuce, baked tofu, pickled carrots and radishes, and a dressing made out of tofu marinade and veganaise whipped together. I already had the pickled veggies and baked tofu made, so this was super fast to put together.

The baked tofu is part of my ongoing efforts to figure out a recipe for Tofu Kan, an Ithaca specialty that I've been missing since moving here. I'm already starting to forget exactly what it tastes like so it's hard to say how dead on this iteration was flavor wise, but the texture is quite close and the flavor was delish.

In case there are any other frustrated Ithaca ex-pats out there, here's how I made it.

Soy sauce
Lime juice
Chopped ginger
Dash of liquid smoke
Garlic/cilantro bullion cube thing (it's rather oily, so I didn't add any other oil)
Enough hot water to dissolve the cube and cover the tofu slices

(Unfortunately I can't really tell you which of these ingredients are essential, and I definitely can't tell you the amounts. I'm more of a dump-stuff-in-and-taste-as-you-go kind of cook, which makes it hard to reproduce things sometimes).

Drain and press the tofu, and then marinate it for a few hours (I left mine overnight in the fridge this time). Take the slices out of the marinade and bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 F for about 40 minutes, flipping them once. They should start to shrink up and brown on the outside. You definitely don't want to bake them in the marinade, I've tried that before and the texture just doesn't come out right. Then, after taking them out of the oven put the slices back in the dish with the marinade to cool down. It finally dawned on me that Tofu Kan is sold packaged in some sort of marinade/liquid, and this seems to be the final trick to really getting the baked tofu to be nice and flavorful.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Still in process...

It's been a while since I've talked about this project, hasn't it? I think the last time I did any serious work on this thing was over a year ago, about the time that I was starting up this blog. When I last put it away I had around half of the quilt done, pretty much everything on the left side of the center line. Further progress on the quilt had slowed to a stop because I hadn't actually draw in the pattern for the other side of the quilt on my graph paper plan (it's not exactly a mirror image, so I really did need to draw it all out on the other side for my own sanity down the road). I've been having crafting afternoons with a friend of mine here in Montreal, and I thought that filling in the rest of the quilt road map would be a great lazy sunday afternoon activity.

After doing some work on the plan I was motivated to sew again, and as you can see I've made some pretty good progress on the upper part. I spread out the pieces I have so far in a bedroom that's mostly emptied out (as we're all preparing to move here) to get an idea of what it will look like overall.

First impressions: it's HUGE. And it's going to take me forever to quilt. This really is the project that never ends!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Could I bike up this?

My SO sent me a picture last night of this mountain pass, which is near to the hotel that we're staying at in the Italian Alps while on vacation this summer. He's thinking about biking up it (which I have no doubt he could), but crazily enough I'm thinking about biking up it, too.

If we started right at the base of the pass the trip wouldn't be all that long distance wise (about 25km), but of course since it's a mountain pass it is quite a bit up (1800m or so). That makes it substantially more climbing than anything I've tried to to before in one day, but maybe with the short distance and taking it slow I could spin my way up this thing.

One of the things that I love about biking is that I feel so thrilled every time I reach another small milestone that I've set for myself. I've never been an especially athletic person, and biking is one of the few activities that makes me feel proud of my physical abilities (as opposed to intellectual or whatnot). I already have a few new biking goals in mind for myself, one of which will be to try a metric century sometime this summer, which I'm pretty sure I could do as long as it was a fairly flat route. Should climbing this mountain pass be another? I'm pretty sure I'll hate myself halfway up the mountain for doing it, but I'm also pretty sure I'll feel amazing if I make it to the top.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sorbetto top and a cheater FBA fitting method

Like many others on the internet, I was thrilled when Sarai and her team at Colette patterns released the free Sorbetto pattern a little while ago. The weather was finally warm in Montreal, the pattern looked quick and easy to sew, and it's easy on yardage so I could use up some of the one yard pieces I have in my stash. The finished product is very easy to wear (see how relaxed I look on my balcony up there?), but it did take some doing to get there.

The problems were entirely of my own making. Instead of doing a full bust adjustment, I cut a straight size 12 with the overly optimistic idea that it was just going to fit. Foolish, right? Every once in a while I do this, probably for a variety of reasons -- laziness, thinking that patterns drafted for a C cup might be just close enough, failure to think about what the pattern will look like on me and not the model, etc. In this case I think I saw the pattern being modeled by Sarai, and I thought to myself, "Her boobs look awesome in that top! Mine will look awesome too!" Of course, I'm forgetting here that I'm not Sarai (Shocking, right? She's an awesome pattern designer, I'm an awesome academic... it's easy to see how you could get us confused).

So, for those who are both full of bust and full of optimism and have cut yourself a size or two too large, here's a method for dealing with full bust fitting problems that I used to save this top. Keep in mind this is NOT a true FBA or a substitute for actual pattern alterations, this is more of a cheater method that can work on an already cut garment (I use this a lot on RTW clothes as well).

First, let's diagnose the problem:

On the left you see what the shirt looked like me on first fitting. This is a nice pattern to troubleshoot fitting problems because what you see after sewing up the side seams is pretty much what you're going to get -- the binding follows the raw edges of the top, so this is essentially what the shape will look like finished. As you can see, the straight size 12 on me is less than ideal everywhere other than the bust. The straps are towards the outer edges of my shoulders rather than being centered, I have a wrinkle at the neckline on my large boob side, I have a lot of gaping around the armhole (enough that it shows my bra from certain positions), and the fit overall is a little loose.

If you've ever wondered whether or not you need a FBA, the armhole is a great clue -- go try on one of your sleeveless ready-to-wear tops and see if you have a big wrinkle or gap there. It looks like the fabric wants to form a dart at the armhole, an indication that you need more shaping. This problem now drives me crazy on RTW tops, but before I started sewing I honestly barely noticed it. Having my bra peeking out at the armholes was just a fact of life, so I made sure to always have nice bras on. No more!

The main problem here is that the armholes and neckline are too large and don't have enough shaping, so we're going to solve that problem with some creative gathering. I started with the neckline because it's easier to fix -- you have a longer distance here and less gathering needed to make it fit. Plus, if you've followed the pattern instructions you already have your staystitching there that you can use for shaping. Just take one of the ends of the threads, and use it to gather the neckline very slightly until it lays nicely against your body. Smooth out the gathers as you go so that they are as evenly distributed as possible. You can see here that the shirt looks better already after I gathered the neckline -- it sits better on my shoulders, and I no longer have that neckline wrinkle (the gathering will create wrinkles as well, but these should be small enough that you can press them out in the end). I also took the shirt in by the side seams, leaving the hem at a size 12, tapering in to an 8 at the waist and back out to a 10 at the armholes.

For the armholes, you'll need to add a line of stitching to use for gathering. I bump the tension on my machine down and put the stitch length up to 4.0 or so to give nice, loopy stitches that are easy to gather with. To keep the gathering in place, I tie off one end of the row of gathering stitches so that it's anchored and doesn't move while you're pulling the other end.

You can see above here that I have a row of stitches just inside the seam line, and where it ends at the side seam I've tied it off. The top is open and ready to gather. Slip the shirt on, get in front of the mirror, and start pulling on one of those top threads until the armhole begins to flatten against your body.

On the left you can see me awkwardly trying to show you how to fit the shirt by pulling on the loose threads. It may be quite puckered, and you may have to find a happy medium between a fitted armhole and a wrinkled blouse. Remember, this is the cheater method so it's not going to get you to fit nirvana if you have lot of bust to deal with.

On the right you can see the difference between the two armholes. See how the one I've adjusted is sitting closer to the body, while the unadjusted one still pops away? When you get something that you're happy with, tie together the threads at the top. This keeps the armhole from loosening back up as you take the shirt off and handle it. You can also adjust the gathers a little bit more to smooth them out and make them more even once you have the shirt off of your body.

After you've finished sewing on the binding, you're going to need to give it a good press to make the binding lay down nicely and to try to smooth out any wrinkles caused by the gathering. If you have a forgiving fabric they might mush out entirely, and if you have a busy print they'll be less noticeable. You can see below I have a few puckers that I'll try to press out here.

Here's the finished product -- you can see now that my bra is totally covered at the sides, even with my arm raised in this rather unnatural position. The top still feels big through the shoulders, but that's just the way it's going to be since I cut the size 12. Hopefully this method will help some of you fix your gappy tank tops, but I hope even more that my impatience will be a cautionary tale. Fit first, or you'll be annoyed later!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The no-drama blouse

After my last project (a button down shirt that I have yet to photograph because it's been too hot here in Montreal to wear it recently), I wanted to make something that would involve absolutely NO fitting drama, just wear and go right from the pattern.

I decided to make a blouse from a dress in the April '11 Burda issue (dress 135A, in the plus size section -- this is one of those cases where I'm lucky to be a size 44 in Burda patterns because it often means I just fit into the high end of the normal and the low end of the plus patterns!). As a dress I thought this might end up a little shapeless overall, but I thought it might work as a blouse in a very drapey fabric. It's also perfect for a no-drama project fitting wise. It has raglan sleeves (therefore no fitting that the shoulders), lots of space in the bust and the waist, and opportunities for gathering the neckline a bit more if it's looking too wide. I used the purple rayon print from my trip to Japan, which was a tight squeeze out of only a yard of fabric but doable.

The construction was super easy; I didn't do anything fancy on the inside other than finishing off the seams with my faux-serger stitch on my Pffaf and I finished the arms and neckline with self fabric binding. I like the way that the binding gives the bottom of the sleeves just a little volume.

The neckline did turn out to be a bit wide on me, which is at least partially my fault for not staystitching it to keep it from stretching out during construction, but it probably at least partially because the pattern is drafted for someone who's wider across the shoulders than I am. I considered just easing the neckline into the binding to reduce the width all around, but I ended up just gathering it between the two raglan seams at the back. Reducing the width right there rather than all round seems to help it stay in place on the shoulders better (which it does pretty well, considering what a big neckline this is).

Silly things that I did here that I should know better than to do by now: The blouse ended up being a bit short; it's okay, but definitely could have used another two inches. I guess I just didn't plan well here and it wasn't until it was all cut and hemmed that I realized it was a little 80's cropped shirt looking. Since it's a blousy blouse I didn't want it to become long and tent like, but the blousiness also means that cutting it a bit short makes it feel quite short. I also cut the binding strips on the straight grain rather than the bias. I certainly know better than to do this, but I had a severe lack of fabric here and thought the fabric was drapey enough that I could get away with it. Obviously you can, but it's not ideal and the neckline doesn't lay as nicely as it could.

One major lesson to take away for the future here is that I need to stop buying one yard pieces of fabric as souveniers! I always think that I can squeeze a top out of a yard of a fun print, and then I always do end up *just* squeezing a top out. From now on I'll buy myself 1.5 yards minimum of "just for fun" fabrics.