Mar 30, 2011


 Despite not being pregnant (see earlier post) everything I make seems to be maternity-like. It's due in part to the fact that I like my summer tops to allow as much air flow as possible around my midsection. New York is hot! (a new friend recently pointed out to me how much I complain about NYC in summer — even in the wintertime. It's true. I start sweating just thinking about summers here. As a West Coast (Canada) girl, I cannot take the heat. In the words of Rachel Zoe: I die!) Luckily, I just love the look of loose tunic-style tops with leggings or skinny jeans. This work-in-progress here is another version of the Lace Ruffle Tunic by Sew Daily — minus the ruffle, and made in silk (leftover from this project here) not jersey, like the pattern calls for. I loved this printed silk and had just enough left for this yoke and some details. I added a band of the contrasting printed silk at the hem, and on the sleeve cuffs. My yoke did not sew together nicely at all (silk is hard to sew!) so I have to take another crack at it.

Mar 29, 2011

Spring in New York Makes Me Feel...

I just took my first-ever negative pregnancy test.  Congrats are in order because we are not trying to get pregnant (actually, we are trying pretty hard not to). The reason I took the test was because I've been feeling a sort of fatigue I haven't experienced since I was pregnant with this girl here to the left (that's what getting a haircut looks like in 2011, BTW). The first third of pregnancy is like one long flu bout. The last third is one long back spasm. And the middle part...well, not too bad if you don't mind nightly heartburn and being sweaty all the time (now you see why I'm so happy about a negative result). 

I've been blaming my general lousy state of being on the Nasonex I started taking about two weeks ago in preparation for allergy season (which hits me HARD in NYC), but I just needed to be sure. I also came down with a sinus infection and had blood coming out of my sinuses, so I'm pretty sure it's the Nasonex, which I have since quit taking. You do get nosebleeds when you're pregnant, but not until much later (you get everything when you're pregnant; it's relentless). My allergist won't call me back so now she is dead to me. I'm switching to homeopathy (gemmotherapy, to be specific) and am going to wear a mask this allergy season.

Wearing a mask is so low-tech, but when all else has failed me (and made me feel pregnant), it just has to work, right? I was putting my kid down for a nap and was brainstorming ideas for allergy-proofing my life. Product idea: burqa with built-in HEPA filter. Or: beekeeper chic? (The mesh would have to be pollen-proof, obvs).

Then I thought to myself: Self, why don't you wear a mask? Duh! And then I Googled "Allergy mask" and it turns out there are dozens of masks for allergy sufferers. I'm going to look like a psycho germophobe, but at least it may keep me from making a trip to the emergency room this spring (it really is that bad. I know what you're thinking: allergies? Isn't that, like, itchy red eyes and a runny nose? But for me I cannot breathe when the pollen count is high.)

Anyway, all this feeling shitty has left me with little time to post, though I do have two finished projects and two others on the go. I've also had real, paid writing assignments to work on. Check back soon for more sewing goodness.

Mar 23, 2011

"Not Tonight Dear" Nightie?

 I'm trying to figure out how to cover the unsightly holes in this lace on the tunic I'm sewing. This embellishment (a number of lace circles, folded twice and then pinned on for now) does the trick of covering up the holes, but it may be having the unfortunate effect of making this top look even more like something Betty Draper would wear on the nights she doesn't want to be intimate with Henry. Maybe if the lace was black? It could use a little edge. Any suggestions?

More Works-in-Progress

I'm not sure who this blouse is for. Prissy librarian? Office administrator by day, Pride & Prejudice-role-playing secret sex nerd by night?

Either way, I'm not sure this top, which is another class project, is right for me. Maybe it will depend on the styling. We'll have to see whether this work-in-progress will get hung in my closet. My pattern worked well, and I think I did a good job sewing it. It's a size 10. Do you think it's perfect for you? Let me know.
Here's another work-in-progress: the Lace Ruffle Tunic from Sew Daily. So far it's looking very '70s sleepwear to me. Again, maybe it will be redeemed in the styling: skinny jeans and suede boots....a halo of light on my feathered hair...oh wait: it is '70s sleepwear!! (Except it's cotton jersey, not some icky poly blend).
I've hit a snag though — literally. After sewing together the yoke, ruffle and front, I realized there were holes in the lace that were not there when I cut the pieces. So I think the lightbulb on my sewing machine melted the synthetic lace. Yargh! (see up close)

So I'm going to have to figure out some means of covering this up. But I need to come up with something that will make this less precious — not more so. Some sort of applique? But no flowers. Any ideas? Comment!

Mar 22, 2011

A Silky Skirt and Shirt

Don't you love American Idol audition week? They're the only episodes I like to watch because the grotesque pageant of absurdly overconfident strivers just makes me feel so good about my life.
You get the feeling that for a percentage of the contestants, it was either Idol or  Jerry Springer that day. They're all defined by their tragedies, but they're fighters. And you'll see! One day, you'll see!! Why? Because they want it more than anyone. That's what it takes to reach success in America these days: wanting it real bad.

New York magazine writer Jennifer Senior had this great article a few months back about how politics in the U.S. has become really infantile — literally. Angry, illogical...prone to tantrums. All feelings, no facts. But confidence in spades — despite lack of experience, smarts or talent. (For example, Sarah Palin accepting McCain's vice presidency invite without any self-reflection on whether she is actually qualified for the job). Just like the early Idol episodes, right?

But in Idol as in life, eventually we tire of the blustering buffoons and want to watch somebody who can actually sing. (Or vote for somebody who actually knows what they're doing).

Anyway, what I'm getting at: being Canadian, I totally lack American bravado.  I wish I had a little. Maybe then I wouldn't question myself, second-guess and criticize my own work so much. Like this silk number, for example:
I made this blouse to go with the skirt for a wedding we have coming up in Wisconsin (Ryan is a groomsman and Lucy will be a flower girl). The skirt was a class project and I love how it turned out. I also loved the vaguely animalistic print and the combination of navy and peach. Who knew those two colours looked so pretty together? But this blouse...sigh. I just don't know. I drafted the pattern myself, tested it out once, made some changes and then went for it. I'm still not really sure I like it enough to wear to the wedding. The sleeves are a little off. Though I like the silhouette and the fabric choice, the execution is not the best. It just kind of looks....homemade. Silk is hard to work with. I should do some research on how better to work with the slippery fabric. Maybe I just need to press it again. I definitely need new shoes.

I WON something!!

I religiously enter all of the contests over at because I love free stuff but almost never get any of it because, you know, unless you're Charlie Sheen, winning can be hard to do.

But not this time! I just found out via Twitter that I won a selection of printed cottons from Snoozer Loser. According to Burdastyle: "Sonia Tay launched New York-based Snoozer Loser back in 2005 out of an art collective of the same name. She takes an environmentally conscious approach to fashion by hand-printing materials with eco-friendly pigments, using vintage overstock fabrics, and producing her lines on a made-to-order basis."

Anyway, I'll post pics when my fabrics arrive and then it's time to figure out what to make with it! Yay! It pays to enter contests.

Mar 21, 2011

Lace Ruffle Tunic by Sew Daily

 I'm a big user. I make regular use of both the free user-developed and the low-cost company-made patterns. Also, whenever I need to sew something and don't know how, I check for tutorials, which have been absolutely invaluable to me on so many occasions. 

So, you could say, I am loyal. Except when I'm not. For example:  I just downloaded this free pattern for the Lace Ruffle Tunic over at Sew Daily. It's not quite Burdastyle, but I think it's trying to be. And that's OK. There's room enough for numerous open-source sewing websites, in my opinion. Sew Daily so far lacks the fashion bent of Burdastyle. And many of the free project downloads are pretty novice: pillows, bags, drawstring skirts, for eg.

Anyway, I've got my pattern downloaded. I'll be using some white stretch lace I got from my neighbor who was cleaning out her fabric stash, plus leftover peach jersey from this batwing top I made a few months back. I'm all about the peach this spring.

Equinox is Not Just A Gym

Who in New York City wasn't totally confounded this morning when it started snowing? I know I was. I came out of the subway station with my kid strapped to my back, on our way to the babysitter's place, and saw solid water in the sky. On the first day of Spring. Allegedly.

Of course there's no guarantee for good weather as of the equinox, which just means day and night are of equal length today. Or something like that.

Anyway, here I am modelling my menswear-style class project at the playground last weekend. I only look warm, of course.

I really like how this pattern turned out, though it took me THREE tries to get the collar right. I still don't know why. One thing I do know: I can sew a collar with a stand like nobody's business now. Another thing I learned drafting and then sewing this shirt: how to sew a sleeve placket (with some help from this Burdastyle tutorial).

Mar 19, 2011

It Took Me Six Months To Knit A Baby Sweater

That's totally a toilet cozy. And a Sink cozy. And a bike cozy!
So I guess those are people cozys? Anyway, this exhibit, "Knitting is for Pus****", is at NYC's Christopher Henry Gallery. I feel kinda hot and claustrophobic just looking at it.

Mar 14, 2011

It's a Baby Bjorn, Which I Totally Don't Recommend

When you have a blog there are certain things you can track. For example, what did people search for when they stumbled onto my blog?

The oddest one yet has go to be: "baby carrier that Zach Galifinakis has"

Just thought I would share that.

OFFER: Two collars, both a little on the small side. Pickup only.

If only there were something that could be done with an extra collar — or two. Because I had to make THREE of them for my latest project before finally getting it right. So if anyone out there thought I was good at this, think again. (And if anyone out there has any ideas about what to do with a couple extra collars, let me know).

There's Lucy above wearing my smallest collar, Chippendale's-style. If it fits a two-year-old, it's probably not going to fit a Size 10 blouse. Here's another one destined for the garbage can:
And here's the finished shirt with the third collar firmly attached.

The shirt fits me really well, and I quite like it. The only fix now left to make is the hem on the bottom. For some reason one side of the front is bigger than the other. I haven't yet checked my pattern to see if it was a pattern problem or a sewing error. I have a hard time respecting my seam allowances, which makes a big difference when you have so many different pieces all fitting together. I also think there's some voodoo that happens when you use fusible interfacing....maybe it shrinks things somewhat? How else to explain why my perfect drafted collar wasn't even close to fitting on the neckline of this shirt? I will never, ever take for granted a collar again.

Mar 12, 2011

Of All the Ways I Could Be Like Denise Huxtable, I Don't Want This To Be The One

Remember this shirt? Theo's "Gordon Gartrell" knock-off Denise sewed for him when Cliff wouldn't give him the $95 he wanted for a designer shirt to impress his date?

I'm straying into Gordon Gartrell territory today: my collar is too small and my sleeves are too big for my menswear-style blouse for patternmaking class. I can see where I went wrong with my collar, but the sleeves don't make any sense. The pattern is perfect. I must have eaten up extra seam allowance in sewing in my yoke. Lesson learned: respect your seam allowances or you could end up like this!

Check out this guy I found. He made a Gordon Gartrell for Halloween a few years back. Hilarious:

Though this is still my favourite obscure Halloween costume:

Mar 11, 2011

Another Work in Progress

I am so beside myself with glee tonight over the fact I just bought a plane ticket to Cancun (staying in Isla Mujeres) on Easter weekend. This trip with two of my favourite ladies is sorely needed. I've never been away from my kid for more than eight hours. I need a freaking break. Of course, my husband also needs a freaking break. But he's as generous as this shirt is leafy and never hesitates to put my needs before his own.

Anyway, this here is my latest patternmaking project in progress. It's a menswear-style button shirt with a collar, cuffs and pockets. I found this leafy print for $2/yard at the little store I like on 39th Street. I'm still undecided on whether this is actually going to look cool or not. It may all work itself out in the styling.

My pattern is awesome except for my collar, which was way too small. The shitty thing is I don't have enough fabric left to cut a new larger collar and collar stand. So I have to go back to the fabric store (in midtown Manhattan, which is not a trip I want to take with my toddler tomorrow). Ugh. Mistakes suck!! See the too-small collar here:

But still: Mexico. Ceviche and margaritas. Best friends. A full night's sleep. Who cares about a stupid collar, right?

Mar 10, 2011

Somebody Buy Me Some of This NOW

How much do I love the news that Canada now has an official tartan? (This one pictured above, obvs). Called the Maple Leaf Tartan, it was designed in 1964 by Toronto garment maker David Weiser ahead of Canada's centennial celebrations (we were 100 on July 1, 1967).

Apparently 11 of the 13 provinces and territories already have their own official tartans. But finally we are unified — from sea to sea to sea (yes, we've got three. Suck it, America) under one big red, green and yellow kilt.

Winter's almost (please?) over, so the time for tartan is nie done. But I still want some of this for next year. If anyone knows where to get some, let me know.

UPDATE: You can buy Maple Leaf Tartan in various forms (from cotton flannel to 100% wool) at Tartan House Canada (Tagline: "Every Body Looks Good In Tartan!"). The prices vary depending on content.

Also, British Columbia's tartan is pretty nice too:

Find your province's official tartan at Wikipedia

Mar 9, 2011



I learned to drive on a car with a standard transmission, which is unusual, I think. Most young people learn automatic transmission first, and then move on the more challenging stick-shift once they have the basics down. Am I right? Anyway, my boyfriend of many years taught me how to drive on an '85 Ford Escort that was only happy at certain speeds, none of which were the usual speed limit. After teaching me how to effectively cut corners on the Island Highway (I grew up on Vancouver Island, which is hilly — thus the roads are winding), he coached me on how not to freak out like a maniac every time I was at a red light on a hill, which happens often on the hilly island from which I hail. For the first six months I drove (I might still do this if I ever actually drove, which I don't because I live in New York City), I played a panicked game of Chinese Fire Drill every time I was forced to stop at a red light on a hill. Endlessly patient, he'd try and try to assure me that I wouldn't actually roll back far enough to hit the bumper of the car behind me. But after screaming "Why are they so close? They're too close!! Too close!!!" over and over, I'd get out of the car and go around to the passenger side so he would have to switch with me and take over the wheel.

But then I borrowed a friend's automatic for my driver's test (in Ucluelet, B.C., a teeny town on the West Coast) and I was just fucking amazed at how easy it was! I had to parallel park on a hill, which is pretty much the hardest thing to do in a standard. But on an automatic everything seemed easy. Turning the last corner on the way back to ICBC (British Columbia's DMV equivalent, for you American readers), I got my only 5 demerits, for apparently not shoulder-checking before the turn, which I still believe was bullshit because I am OCD about shoulder-checking due to a huge fear of hitting a cyclist, and that the tester just didn't want me to have a perfect score. I should have told him that the only reason I was able to get a perfect score was the fact I learned on a stick-shift and was accustomed to so many more challenges.
Anyway, what I'm trying to get at here is my new serger. Sewing with it is like making the switch from standard to automatic.  It takes like four fewer steps to do everything. It's so easy (if you study the manual sufficiently) and saves so much time. If you can afford it (mine was only $219 US on, get one. I have much yet to learn, but so far I have:
Finished seams on this peach silk blouse that is still a work-in-progress:
Used it to gather ruffles and do shirring:

AND...drumroll please...sewed a rolled hem, which I think looks very nice on this silk (see the edge of this ruffle and the sleeves):

I'm not one for naming appliances. But if I were, I'd call it Sergio. But only so I can post this video from Jon Hamm's appearence on SNL:

Mar 7, 2011

Work In Progress, Plus How You Fit a Sewing "Room" Into a 1-bedroom Apartment With Three Residents

If you're wondering how to fit a sewing room into a one-bedroom apartment that you share with a grown man and a toddler (the only one among us who gets her own room, lucky bastard), here's how you do it: in between the bike-parking area, the stroller holding pen, about five feet from the front door, the kitchen, and just about everything else. In short: it's a good thing my child can be trusted with pins and scissors.

I consider this photo at left a public service announcement to all those people who are made to feel badly by looking at the lovely homes owned by curated by other bloggers. (You know who you are.) My boogers are full of teeny little fibers that float around my apartment because my sewing space is located in our home's central nervous system. When my child runs back and forth in her fancy shoes with her best friend "Camila" (a real friend who is also an imaginary friend she plays with when the actual Camila has better things to do than gallop back and forth across our apartment), she stops just short of my sewing machine pedal. When my husband needs to ask me where the butter is, I can point to it with my free hand. My family is very, very lucky I am long on patience.

And yet I will manage to find room somehow for new things like my Brother serger pictured above. I just bought it from after a depressing experience trying to buy one used from Craigslist. I love it and wish I had bought one years ago. It's saving me lots of time already (and patience, which I can instead dispense to my family constantly underfoot).

For example, this peachy silk blouse I am working on (pictured in pieces at right here) — I can use the serger to make gathers lickety split, finish seams and hopefully (if I can figure it out) make rolled hems. fancy! This is the blouse I'll be making with the same pattern from my last top and to go with the navy and peach skirt you can see on my dressform here.

I have some cooking to do now (darn family, always needing to eat food) so it's time for a break.


So I realized I never actually addressed HOW you fit a sewing room into a one-bedroom apartment in this post (as the title suggests I should).  Here's my addition:

In point form:

-Shelves. Lots of them. But be careful not to kill yourself or your partner mounting them. IKEA shelving should come with complimentary marriage counselling.
-Hooks. Lots and lots of them. Get everything up on the wall, but within reach. I string things between hooks, hanging pattern pieces from the cord.
-I stand while I sew, with my machines on my drafting table. Otherwise I would need two tables of different heights. Not gonna happen unless we start eating our dinner off our bellies like cute little otters.
-Just give up on the idea that you will ever have a tidy and cute home like you did back when you had two bedrooms all to yourself in Winnipeg (and for less than half the rent we pay for one bedroom in NYC). I digress.

Mar 5, 2011

Attempt No. 1 at Pattern for Silk Top

 Can you even believe how nice it was in New York City today for, like, five whole hours? The rain is coming, but we had enough time to hit the new playground and snap some pics of me in this top I just made (at Scavengers, the local antique shop).

This blouse (in an Alexander Henry printed cotton) is actually the "muslin" for a pattern I'm working on for a silk blouse to wear with the navy and peach silk skirt I made for school recently (scroll down to a few entries back and you can see it). Though it's not made of muslin, and I'll definitely be wearing it for its own merits, making a mock-up is so important when drafting your own patterns. Among the changes I will be making to my draft: a much bigger ruffle, a slightly longer peplum (that's the little skirt-like thing below the waist), and the sleeves...well, I'm not really sure what to do about the sleeves, but they will be different for sure on the next attempt.
 Shot of the back. Pretty shirt, but what would Tyra say (WWTS)? That I LOOK LIKE AN AMPUTEE! Quelle horreur!
My husband says this picture is inspirational — because I sew so well for a lady with two stumps for hands.

Mar 3, 2011

Menswear-style shirt

So our assignment this week for patternmaking class is a menswear-inspired buttoned-up, collared, cuffed and placketed shirt. So many elements (10 pattern pieces to draft, then cut and sew). And so not something I'd usually wear. But looking at Elizabeth Hurley here in a photo from her Estee Lauder campain (this is the photo our prof put up on the board), maybe I should give the white collared a go. She makes it look darn sexy, right? I don't think it would look like that on me, however.

Realistically, it will probably look a little more like this:
Boring! And stuffy too, right?

Waitaminute though: this is cute:

 And so is this (though girlfriend needs to tuck the rest of her shirt in before the photoshoot:

So the verdict is, roll up the sleeves, and make sure there are pockets. Check and check. If you need me, I'll be busy as hell trying to get this thing done in a week!


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