Catching up: tops!

I find that this is a very apt topic, as I am again working on the Shirts pattern, this time for a quilt. As my little shirts go together on their paper templates, I wonder whether these are fussier than actual shirts.

Even so, today is about people tops, not inordinately fussy quilt blocks. I have been doing a lot of reading and fretting about wardrobe planning over the last several months. What became clear was that mine lacked tops and blouses that I actually wanted to wear. I had several cuts of beautiful fabrics that were sitting unsewn because I had not yet figured out what they were to become. (I continue to suffer from this issue, although I alleviated myself of the stress of some 30 metres of suiting last week, partly in preparation for my move this summer, but also as the result of a rather ruthless assessment of what I really want and need in my wardrobe.)

I had (and have!) several knits intended for tops. I like to wear knit tops with trousers or skirts. The old standbys (Sewaholic Renfrew, Angela Wolf’s ruched tee and Jalie  2794) had been made in horrific polyester ITY that was unwearable. I also really like cowls, so I tried a PDF pattern (so much taping!!) with viscose (rayon) knits.

I actually made two, but only one is still with me. It is in a striking fabric, called Recollections, from Sawyer Brook. I added sleeves from another Maria Denmark pattern to make it a multi-season top. It takes me out of my comfort zone (so much orange!!), but I love the print and the dramatic cowl. Although my measurements aligned with a small, I ended up making a medium due to the negative ease, particularly at the bust. My test garment screamed “Boobs!”, and I was a bit distressed with respect to dressing appropriately for work! Sizing up helped, although the top is still quite close-fitting at the bust.

Despite there being a year and a half between these makes (I made the following items whilst performing jury duty this winter), I feel it makes the most sense to continue with knit tops. I am late to the discovery of Ottobre magazine. It is a Finnish publication that contains patterns, along the lines of Burdastyle magazine. It is great for basics, such as knit tops. I ordered some back issues last fall, which arrived promptly, with instructions in Dutch and Swedish! (To be fair, I did get to download the English instructions for certain issues.)

Ottobre 2.2006 & 2.2009

Ottobre 2.2006 and 2.2009, with Dutch instructions! My mum gave me a subscription (to the English version) for Christmas. Thanks, Mum!

I started with the most basic of knit tops, pictured in pink, from the 2.2006 issue. The photos showed a very close-fitting top, so I sized up when tracing the pattern.

Ottobre 2.2006.1

The line drawing shows a neckband, but when I made my test garment, I disliked the effect. I decided to use a facing at the neckline instead. I ended up making three tops.

The blue print on the left was my first iteration. I ended up making quite a few alterations. It was too long and too big. It is still a little looser than I would like, so I may revisit it once more. For the moment, it works. It is a viscose knit from Emma One Sock. The brown and black tops are bamboo jersey from Queen Textiles. I decided that I prefer an elbow length sleeve in this style of top, and they are considerably shorter than the blue print. The side seams are much more curved as well (harder to see in the black version, but quite evident in the brown). This is a great base for solids and busier prints that would obscure design details. I think this is my new go-to knit top pattern, as it also includes a V-neck option.

The other issue of Ottobre pictured, 2.2009, has the Waterfall top. I love a cowl, so I had to try it.

Ottobre 2.2009.5

Ottobre 2.2009.5 Waterfall top with Dutch instructions, but an English name…



I really like this top. The cowl is not as deep as in the Maria Denmark top, but it works. I learned how to change the shape of the cowl from Pam Erny’s tutorial about this very top (scroll down to Fold and Flip Facings). By changing the shoulder gathers to a pleat and playing with the placement of the pleat, the cowl deepens or becomes shallower. I had fun experimenting. Again, I made three, all out of beautiful prints that had been aging in my stash for about two years.

I tell a lie: the grey patchwork print on the left was purchased in November 2015! The two brown prints have been around for awhile (grey and pebble prints from EOS; watercolour floral from Marcy Tilton). The centre top is the first iteration; I can tell because it is so much longer! Although I make test garments for every new pattern, the length is not always an issue until I get to the fabric. Fabric content and degree of stretch play a role in making further length adjustments necessary. These tops get a lot of wear! I love the prints and they work with jeans, trousers or skirts. Another keeper!

I bought three yards of the brown pebble print from Emma One Sock, intending to make a twinset. When the print arrived, I felt that it was too lightweight for a cardigan, and a little too busy. I toyed with the idea of making a dress, but felt it would be awfully clingy. So, it sat. Until I came across the Debra Zebra top from Style Arc.

Style Arc debrazebratop

Style Arc Debra Zebra top

There is a theme here: I tend to prefer autumn and winter clothing. I prefer sleeves to sleeveless or short-sleeved garments. I like interesting necklines. As the cardigan queen, I need tops that work as layering pieces.

Style Arc Debra Zebra

Style Arc Debra Zebra top. Look familiar? I made this before the Ottobre top.

It does not really fit my dress form well, but it is difficult to show these things without arms to fill out the sleeves. This one does not get as much wear as the cowl top, but the funnel is not my preferred neckline.

I made only one blouse that gets regular wear. It is from a pattern that I bought while travelling through Maine last summer. I always stay in Bangor en route to Nova Scotia (coming back home to Ontario, I always stay in or near Freeport so I can go to LL Bean!). We no longer have New Look patterns available in Canada, so I purchased a few at a JoAnn store in Bangor. I had never worked with New Look before, but I liked the look of this blouse.

New Look 6407

New Look 6407

The funny thing is, I actually wear mine exactly as in the photo! This is a casual blouse that looks great with jeans, although I have worn it with cotton trousers that read as trouser jeans. It is too casual for skirts, in my iteration.

Cuffs up or cuffs down? I prefer cuffs down when I am the cardigan queen. I also prefer my shirts well-pressed. Oops.

The navy gingham is a stretch cotton from Queen Textiles (leftovers of which were added to Bleuet). It allows a casual look to be a little more polished. In a shirting, it could probably work in a dressier context. I had to do a lot of work on the pattern: the waist had to be raised, as did the neckline; there was a lot of length to remove above the bust, at the hem and at centre back. It was worth the effort, as I wear it a lot. The neckline is not my favourite, which is why I have not made more versions. I am still working out what my ideal blouse looks like and trying different patterns in an effort to attain the holy grail of blouse-ness.

The back has waist and shoulder darts. I am learning that I need shoulder darts! I love the buttons on this blouse, bought locally at Capital Buttons.

Enough tops for now. In the time that I spent writing this post, I have completed five more shirts, made a batch of applesauce and my lunches for the week. (I take a lot of procrastination breaks!)

Shirts 5 blocks

Shirts quilt. Eight blocks done, four to go!

Catching up: skirts!

The dresses last week were just the beginning, as I have skirts and tops to catch up on as well. Let’s start with skirts!

I have made several over the last two years, although I only put them into regular rotation this year (last winter was way too cold to don such garments!). Skirts are great: they use very little yardage, they are easy to fit and construct and they have become easier to co-ordinate as I move toward purchasing more basics (as opposed to fabrics that are beautiful, but destined to become orphaned garments).

The Patterns: Burdastyle 8/2013.130, Silhouette 2913, Simplicity 1322, Burda 6835, Hot Patterns Lantern, Liesl & Co City Stroll, Style Arc Janet and Mary-Ann.

Skirts can be kind of boring. I am always looking for interesting shapes and details, and I found them in many of these skirts. My most recent skirt was from Burdastyle magazine and I loved making it. There is a front zipper closure, a wide waistband and an overlap at the centre front. It has a kind of eighties bell shape with slant pockets and sits near the navel. Burdastyle 8.2013.130 frontThe hem does line up, I promise! It is difficult to fit skirts on my dress form, as her waist is much smaller than mine.

I used a beautiful wool for this skirt, in blue, of course, since most of my fabrics are blue or brown. I usually avoid pleats or tucks at the waist, but these ones are not so bad. They add interest to an already interesting skirt.

Burdastyle 8.2013.130 waist

I used a cotton for the waist facing to reduce bulk. Also pictured is the front zip closure, akin to a fly front, but much easier to construct using a separating zipper.

I used the same cotton for the pocket facings. The skirt is unlined, which is unusual for me, but it is not strictly necessary here. You can also see my hand stitching to keep the front facings in place. I did the same herringbone stitch on the hem.

Burdastyle 8.2013.130 closure

A view of the front closure. I used a large snap and hooks and eyes on the waistband overlap. The zip is angled quite steeply.

Burdastyle 8.2013.130 buttons

Buttons are just for show.

I really like this one. It is quite unique and fun to wear. Isn’t that why I do this?

Silhouette 2913: I made this one before in denim, but always planned one in a faux leather that I had purchased from Emma One Sock. It has been in my wardrobe for quite some time, but I had never worn it, until this winter.

Silhouette 2913 faux leather

Silhouette 2913. I still love the panels in this one and I still dislike the waist treatment.

I had to shorten this one quite a bit, which I did in the top panels. I like having the longer panels below. This was an exercise in extreme care whilst topstitching the faux leather. As with velvet, there are no second chances!

Silhouette 2913 faux detail

Topstitching detail.

The waist treatment is something to consider if I take this one on again. I hate it. The pattern calls for fold over elastic, which is not widely available here, and certainly not in colours. I would much prefer a waistband, but that is for another day. Not sure if I would make this one again: it is quick to construct, even with the lining that I added. The shape may just be a bit too unique, although I have a beautiful brown (naturally!) faux suede that would work well.

Simplicity 1322: It turned out so nice, I made it twice!

These are view F. In hindsight, the A-line is a little wide on me. I may revamp the side seams a bit to bring in the excess width. The grey is a J. Crew suiting while the houndstooth is a lovely wool, leftover from the Style Arc Odette skirt. (I could only purchase full yards and needed more than one for that skirt). I lined these skirts, which complicated the construction somewhat, but was necessary. The finishing called for in the pattern would have been ugly.

The wool needed a cotton waistband facing in order to reduce bulk. I had leftover fabric from a quilt I made for my mother that I thought would be fun. And it is!

The second Burda skirt, also made quite recently, confirms my love of all things Burda! The patterns go together beautifully, they fit me well and they have details with a bit of an edge.

Burda 6835 front

Burda 6835

I love this skirt! I love the exposed zipper on the front (although it makes driving a little inappropriate!) and the shaping of the panels. There are seven panels in this skirt and it has a centre back zipper. Amazingly, I did not have to shorten the skirt panels! View B hits exactly at my knee. I did have to find a shorter separating zipper than called for in the pattern, as I did not want it to be wrapped around the hem. So, I have some extra zippers hanging around!


The skirt is fully lined, which I did by hand at both zipper closures. The fabric is called Galileo, a cotton brocade, purchased from Sawyer Brook in 2014. I purchased four yards, with the idea of making a dress and jacket. The dress was a major fail as the pattern was overwhelming. I sat on the remaining fabric for a long time before finding the Burda skirt in the 2016 spring release. I believe it to be a great match of pattern and fabric.

Burda 6835 Galileo detail

Galileo cotton brocade in blue (of course!). Stunning!

In the pursuit of interesting shapes, I came across Hot Patterns’ Lantern skirt. It has a hem band that gives it a unique shape that is difficult to capture on my dress form. I call it my Hallowe’en skirt (even though I made it last summer), due to my fabric choices: black linen from Designer Fabrics and orange bemberg lining (I have a lot of this for some reason.).

My linen needs to be pressed! This was an easy make, although I had to shorten it considerably. It is very loose at the hip and the waist is a bit too big for me. This probably explains the fact that I have worn it just once, to my Shakespeare book club last fall. I may give it another go, if I size down and shorten further.

Liesl & Co puts out great patterns that are easy to wear. I made the Maritime top last summer, and purchased the City Stroll skirt at the same time. I really like wrap skirts, or mock wraps (as shown above, with Simplicity 1322). I used a beautiful linen that looks a bit like denim.

The overlap is rounded and uses a facing to finish the edge. There are slant pockets and buttons used as a closure on the inside. It is unlined, although I used lining for the pockets. It is a cute, casual skirt, great for summer strolling. I tend to dislike summer styles, as they are often a bit sloppy, but this one allows me to appear a bit more pulled together.

Style Arc is one of my favourite pattern companies. Their patterns are classic yet current. I had a fabulous cotton from Marcy Tilton that was reversible.

Style Arc Janet reversible

Inside the Style Arc Janet. The gridded side of the fabric is a bit overwhelming, but works in the godet.

The Janet skirt offered the chance to use both sides of the fabric in a fun way. I like the godets and the interest they add to a basic panel skirt.

When I traced the pattern, I wondered if it was a doll skirt as the pieces were so tiny! Because of the wide waistband and the godets, the panels are quite small. The waistband took quite a bit of work to fit, but it fits well now. I lined in bemberg, as ever, this time in hot pink!Style Arc Janet lining

The Mary-Ann skirt has been made before, in what I call my non-threatening librarian look. I love this skirt, although I have yet to actually make it with the pockets! Neither of my fabrics would work with the pockets, as they were too thick.

Style Arc Mary Ann faux suede

Style Arc Mary-Ann in faux suede.

I have worn this one a lot this winter. It is a great shape on me and I love this fabric (even if it is polyester!). The neutrals of the fabric make it easy to co-ordinate with tops and the length is perfect. I made it ages ago, but it is another that just started to be worn this winter.

Style Arc Mary Ann faux waist

Waist facing in quilting cotton and a gorgeous grey bemberg lining. I love the stitching detail around the checkerboard squares!

The fabric was too thick to make nice pockets, which is why I left them off. The waistband had to be faced with cotton to reduce bulk. I believe the lining is hand stitched to the zipper and I am building better waistbands, although the corners could be tidier!

So, skirts! I have to say that my favourites are the two Burda skirts. They are just so unique and push me out of the non-threatening librarian zone. All eight skirts have been worn this winter, some more than others, but all are still hanging in the wardrobe.

Clearing out and catching up

Delinquent again! Almost two months this time, so at least I’m being consistent in my absence. I have spent the week-end cataloguing my fabric stash. I have always kept a running spreadsheet of fabric as it comes in, but I added photos to help me remember what it all looks like. In doing so, I managed to relieve myself of 13 cuts of suiting and two unfinished projects that were never going to get back onto my roster. This is good, as I will be moving in the summer and I hope more of my fabric will be moving as finished garments, in my suitcase, rather than as yardage.

Since I had the camera and the necessary light (it was sunny in the mornings), I opted to take photos of all the garments I have made but not shown in the last two years. Quite a job! It would all be too much for one post, so I propose breaking it up by garment type. Today will be dresses. There are three and I’ve only had one nap today (it is Sunday, after all), so I feel that I can manage.

SA Layla, M6187, D&D Bleuet

Style Arc Layla, Deer & Doe Bleuet, McCall’s 6187

I completed these dresses over the past two years: I believe Layla was finished in summer 2014, Bleuet in summer 2015 and McCall’s was my Halloween costume in October 2015. Shall we go in chronological order?

Style Arc Layla

Style Arc Layla I love how Style Arc includes a swatch with the patterns!

I wrote a post last fall about my rules for dresses: no waist seams! Layla seems to scoff at this rule, but I scoff at making patterns as they are. The test garment revealed that, indeed, a waist seam would not work for me. The skirt and bodice darts, moreover, were virtually impossible (for me) to align satisfactorily. The beautiful thing about Style Arc is that there is almost always a separate lining pattern. That was the case with Layla. I used the lining pattern, with fisheye (contour) darts as the dress exterior (and as its lining!). It worked well.

Bear in mind that my dress form only shares my bust measurement, so the shaping of the darts is not remarkable on her. Layla is a great office dress, not so great for working with little kids in a classroom. I had a bit of a panic attack after completing the back vent and was almost resigned to hand sewing the rest of the lining. (I always do back vents first, even when it says otherwise. It is easier before the entire dress is assembled.)

Style Arc Layla vent

Style Arc Layla vent

I sought advice on a sewing forum and got my head around machine installation. Linings are tricky; I have developing spatial sense (yes, I did use report card lingo!) and there is a lot of mirroring in the process. I got there in the end and am quite pleased with the result, although I have not yet worn the dress.

Style Arc Layla back lining

Style Arc Layla I did it all by machine!

The sweetheart neckline is not quite as pronounced as in the line drawing, but I think it may be some of the unpicking/restitching that had to happen in order to get the lining in. Style Arc Layla sweetheartCap sleeves are also not my favourite. The fabric is a poly/rayon suiting from Sawyer Brook. The rayon content makes it wearable for me and the poly helps prevent wrinkling. The lining, as ever, is navy rayon bemberg from Downtown Fabrics.

Deer & Doe Bleuet

Deer & Doe Bleuet Will you recognize it in my version?

Where to begin? I love shirt dresses. I needed one in my life last summer. I had a fabulous navy stretch cotton woven that needed to be a basic dress that I would actually don. I love this dress! It ticks so many boxes for me: no waist seam, princess lines that elongate my non-tall form, gentle A-line in the skirt and a whimsical bow. I did not love making it. I made four versions: two test garments and two dresses before I almost got it right. Mine does not look like the line drawing, as you will see.

Deer & Doe Bleuet front

Deer & Doe Bleuet Wrinkly because I had just worn it!

The first major difference is the sleeve. I have broad shoulders. Puffed sleeves are not an option. That aspect of the pattern was a non-starter from the outset. I redrafted the sleeve, not entirely successfully, as there is still just a bit too much ease for a truly smooth installation. But it works well enough. Done is better than perfect is becoming my mantra.

The major issue at the beginning was sizing. My initial test garment, made in a size 40, according to my measurements, would not even close at the front. I sized up to 42 and tried again. Still a bit too close fitting, but I went ahead and made it in some black stretch cotton. The collar and neckline were ridiculous! In this navy version, I used a 40 for the upper torso, grading to a 44 through the waist and hip. I prefer a silhouette that skims my body, unlike the version pictured on the Deer & Doe website, which is a little small for the model. I also opted for a contrast bow.

I love the bow! I used a gingham stretch cotton from Queen Textiles (the navy was from there, too) and it worked beautifully. I used it on the inner collar stand and hem facing as well.

In the collar photo you can also see where I used stay tape to stabilize the shoulders. I love hem facings! They make a hem so crisp. This may be a new practise for me going forward.

Although I love this dress, there remain a few issues: the sleeve head needs less ease, the collar is a little skimpy and the bow is perhaps too whimsical to employ in subsequent versions. The shaping in the dress is wonderful for my columnar body and I foresee making more Bleuets, after working out these changes.

McCall's 6187

McCall’s 6187 Usually I just disguise myself as a teacher for Halloween, but this year I made a costume!

Halloween at school is kind of a nightmare. This year, however, I decided to join in the madness (after lunch). I am fortunate to teach Grade 2, as the major thrust of the Social Studies curriculum is multiculturalism and celebrations. So, in the morning, we can talk,  read, and write about Halloween and how it is celebrated before embarking on our parade and structured celebration in the afternoon.

Early in October, I picked up the McCall’s pattern and the requisite fabric and notions to become Little Red Riding Hood. I read some great books with my class that contained variances on the theme.


Lili rouge

The lion has a plan for dinner. It’s great for teaching procedural writing!

Arrete d'interrompre

Spoiler alert for several fairy tales! Interrupting chicken is hilarious; his advice to Red: Ne parle pas aux étrangers (Don’t talk to strangers!)!

The pattern is pretty straightforward and sized S-M-L for adults. I made the medium without any alterations, because I was in a time crunch. It went together without issue and I used poly/cotton broadcloth from Fabricland for most of the costume. The apron and sleeves are a cotton I picked up at JoAnn Fabrics while passing through Maine last summer.

I opted to not do the ribbon across the centre front bodice. The dress is actually a black gingham (are you sensing a theme? You’ll see more when I get to the tops I’ve made!). Then there was the cape.

McCall's 6187 cape

Cape over a different dress!

I decided to go fancy on the seam and hem finishes. I had no red serger thread, and you may have noticed I’m a little matchy matchy on these sorts of things, so I had to choose a different seam and hem finish. Did I mention that there are 4 metres of fabric in this cape? That makes for a lot of long edges to bind, which is what I did.

This process took ages! I had the dress done, and, thinking the cape would be really quick to assemble, left it late. I was scrambling to get all the seams bound before I had to wear it. I also used the gingham for the hood lining.

McCall's 6187 cape back

The cape is a bit wrinkly after wear.

So ends the dresses I have made and mostly worn since the summer of 2014. There remain the tops and skirts made in that period, and Coco is finally done, too, with trims and chain but no pockets.

Winter endeavours

Winter 2016 has been most interesting. As ever, it started off quickly, with a return to school on January 4th, and all that that entails. On the 5th, I had to report for jury panel selection. That case was cancelled, but, in Toronto, jury panels must be available for one week, so I had to go back two days later for selection in another case. And I was selected as juror #2! For four weeks, I was a member of a jury. It was fascinating to have this glimpse into our justice system, not to mention playing a role within it. Sequestration for three days of deliberations was not so fun, but the process was illuminating. Throughout, I amused myself by engaging in a new hobby: knitting!

My neck warmer, made of Malabrigo Rasta.

My neck warmer, made of Malabrigo Rasta.

I took a class at Eweknit in December, just before Christmas, and completed my first knitted project: a neck warmer. It has been very cozy and much less bulky than a scarf. I made one for Mum, too. I subsequently decided that I wanted to make hats. I love hats! They use small amounts of yarn and time, and are very useful for one whose head is always cold!

Completed hats

Completed hats (and my neck warmer!).

So far, I have made seven hats. (I have actually made eight, but my hat class hat is hidden so well that I have failed to locate it.) It was tremendous fun to make all of these, and I have learned so much in making each one. I have made repeats (and a three-peat) in my ensemble of hats. The first hat I made was a Barley hat, from Tincan Knits.

My first hat! Using Cascade Eco Duo in Chicory.

My first hat! Using Cascade Eco Duo in Chicory.

It turned out well, if a bit large for me. Still, I’ve worn it many times and it is very warm. The yarn is an alpaca and merino blend, which is very soft. I love how the yarn striped in the body of the hat, but that the colours remain neutral enough to wear with either of my winter coats (one is black, the other camel). I learned how to use my gauge swatch to get more accurate sizing for my particular measurements, although I really did not need to do so with this yarn. I did the math correctly, but the yarn is more elastic, so the hat is a bit large. Oops!

I liked the Barley so much that I made two more! In Riverside Studio Merino (blue/brown) and Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.

Barley three-peat! In Riverside Studio Merino (blue/brown) and Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. 

As with so many of my garment fabrics, my yarn choices tend to be in shades of blue and brown. I am not, however, exclusive to those colours.

A pair of Sweetpea hats in Loops & Threads Charisma.

A pair of Sweetpea hats in Loops & Threads Charisma.

I made the Sweetpea hats as part of a Craftsy class. They are very cute and I may make myself one in a non-acrylic yarn. I really disliked the feel of these yarns as I was working with them, but they served their purpose of helping me in my knitting journey. These will likely go on our hat/mitten tree next winter at school. For these, I learned how to do an eye cord (I cord?) tail. I think the tail is my favourite part (if a bit eccentric for a woman of my age to don!).

Colourwork! Insulate hat in Berroco Ultra Alpaca (grey/fuchsia) and Baable in Debbie Bliss Blue faced Leicester aran.

Colourwork! Insulate hat in Berroco Ultra Alpaca (grey/fuchsia) and Baable in Debbie Bliss Blue faced Leicester aran.

I decided to try stranding. The Baa-ble hat is tremendously popular and for good reason: it’s so adorable!


Baa-ble unfolded. 24 rows of ribbing!!

Baa-ble unfolded. 24 rows of ribbing!!

I love the little sheep grazing in the meadow. This hat was fun, once I got past the enormous section of ribbing. It is very warm, and the Blue faced Leicester yarn was lovely to work.

Insulate! My Dalek hat.

Insulate! My Dalek hat.

I may not have made another Baa-ble, but I tried another hat with stranding. You may remember that I am a Doctor Who fan, so when I saw this pattern, a Dalek hat was inevitable. I learned a new decrease and really enjoyed making the hat. The Ultra Alpaca was a pleasure to work with, and the hat is so soft and cozy!

Thus ends the hats of winter 2016. I did knit some washcloths as well, as a way to practice stitch patterns.

Washcloths for practice.

Washcloths for practice. The blue one is a TARDIS!

Starfleet washcloth.

Starfleet washcloth.

These were early projects, so my finishing is not great. Corners are a little wonky, but they are usable! Again, we see the blue/brown trend in my colour choices.

So, knitting! It has not supplanted sewing, but I do have to balance my hobby time among the different types of projects that I wish to pursue. I like the fact that, in knitting, not only am I making a project, but I am also making the fabric for it! However, I see myself staying small in my knitting projects, due to the time involved. (Having said that, I DO have a sweater quantity of Malabrigo Rios in my yarn basket…)


Happy New Year (22 days after the fact)! I have been remiss in keeping up to date on my projects, but here I am, with one of them. This post is about a Christmas present for my favourite sister-in-law! I have made quilts for several family members, but she was the only one who had not yet received one, and I felt really, really bad about that fact. For the record, my mum has three, my nephews (SIL’s sons) have three, my aunts each have one, my cousin’s sons (except the latest, but I’m on it!) each have one, even my brother and my dad (via my mum!) have one each. This was not entirely neglect on my part; I was waiting for the right pattern and fabrics to speak to me on my sister-in-law’s behalf. And it finally came together this autumn.


The Kittens by Elizabeth Hartman

I love Elizabeth Hartman’s animal patterns, and have already made Fancy Foxes and Hazel Hedgehog. When I saw this one, I immediately thought of my sister-in-law and downloaded it. I knew that I did not want to make it as a 30 block quilt and plotted it as a baby sized, 12-block quilt. Until I found two things:

1. all of the kittens have names, one of which is shared by my sister-in-law

2. the ideal fabric


Zen Chic Reel Time

There is a pair of adorable, friendly cats in her household. There is also a great love of movies. There is a block with her name in the quilt. Could this combination be any more perfect? Her block, then, had to be the centre block, which meant an odd number of blocks. There were four other kitten blocks in the pattern, which meant I could not get the balance of blocks I like to have in a baby sized, 15-block quilt. So, I went up to 25 and decided on five of each block.  But, that wouldn’t work with only one of her block! Luckily, the pattern had a solution.

Plain cats

Plain cats

There is a plain cat block in the quilt pattern! These four blocks became the four corners of the quilt! I used these larger scale prints because I felt that they wouldn’t work as well in the more detailed, named blocks, which have many little pieces.

Before I got to the point of construction, however, I spent a long time (3,5 hours!) plotting the layout. If you have read one of my quilt posts, you already know how obsessive I am about balancing colour and blocks in a quilt. This one involved six different blocks (5 named kittens and the plain cats above), so I could not simply run up the blocks and hope for the best.

Kittens fabric plan

This was the fabric layout I came up with.

I attempted to get all of the main background colours into each row: white, orange, grey, green and black. I also tried to get a balance of print: the little x-print either side of the centre, the dots diagonally around the centre, the TV print and film reels on the corners, the film strips print at the centre of the top and bottom rows and so on. Once the fabric was chosen, I plotted the different blocks to get a balance of kittens.

Kittens project box

Difficult to read, but I drew the quilt, naming the blocks and fabrics, as well as the position of each in the quilt. This was my bible during this project!

Kittens block organization

These are all the same block (Mr Snuggles). The number on the bag indicates its position in the quilt. Yes, I drew each block during planning! I pinned those little drawings to the finished blocks until they were in their rows!

I constructed blocks five at a time, as there were five of each. Here is one (Mr Snuggles), laid out before construction.Kittens blockAnd here are the finished Mr Snuggles blocks:

Mr Snuggles

Mr Snuggles

I worked in this way for all of the blocks, constructing them five at a time until all were finished. I constructed the four plain cats with the centre block.





Bacon Bits

Bacon Bits



I should have used a colour other than black for the eyes and nose on this block. When it was complete, I noticed that the darkness of the background makes it difficult to discern the little facial features. Oops!

And, that is where the photos end! I was absolutely convinced that I had taken a picture of the quilt top, pre-quilting, but I am, apparently, not that clever. I took all these process photos to help with playing “Spot the kitten” on the finished quilt. Again, oops! Maybe my favourite sister-in-law will be a dear and snap one for me…

Kittens for Chrissy courtesy of herself

Kittens for Chrissy

Back of quilt Thank you for taking and sending the photos, Chrissy!

Back of quilt
Thank you for taking and sending the photos, Chrissy!


I think I can safely share a project mostly completed awhile ago. I completely completed it on Sunday and gave the gift today, so it is out of my hands now!

Since 2009, when my first nephew was born, my family has expanded. So has my fabric stash, both for quilts and garments. Then there was another nephew, and now three more male cousins. No girls, and quilting fabric tends to be oriented towards the female of the species. It has always been difficult to make quilts for all my boys (and the latest male cousin, born in May, will have to wait a little longer, I’m afraid. I have a cunning plan, in theory if not in any form of reality or practicality…). All of these delightful lads require lead time, fabric sourced from anywhere but here, and they usually get their due on their first birthdays.

Happily, my workplace seems replete with co-workers having girls and my girly fabric stash is diminishing with each announcement (when I plot and plan) and birth, when all is complete. So it was over the summer, when I sourced a delightful line of fabrics by Lewis and Irene called April Showers. (Click on the link to see the entire collection.) I used just five prints from the collection.

Lewis and Irene: April Showers

Lewis and Irene: April Showers 

I love these prints! Whimsical and sweet, and I kept things simple with a churn dash block.

Churn dash block

Churn dash block.

It is a simple block to construct and has such an interesting effect as it gets assembled with the others.

I like the corners between churn dash blocks!

I like the corners between churn dash blocks!

I am unsure if it is apparent, but every fabric in this quilt is directional, and provided an extra challenge in deciding how to use the directionality. The umbrella print is obvious: one does not wish for upside down dogs or people! The yellow is more difficult to discern because of the quilting, but it presented its own challenges. The balloons, however, caused much consternation! I ended up rotating them around the block. This involved the rectangles in the block. In the first photo above, of the single block, you can see that the balloons are upside down in the lower rectangle and that the ties of the balloons always face centre. In the triangles, the balloons are always floating downwards. This was planned from the cutting stage, and followed through in the sewing. There were some redos, because I am me and I mess up and get sweary.

How I currently feel about my Halloween costume.

How I currently feel about my Halloween costume. I got very sweary earlier.

However, Sans la pluie (the quilt) was mostly delightful: the fabric caused me to exclaim in glee throughout. It’s so cute and I am so pleased with the end result.

Sans la pluie

Sans la pluie

The back presented some problems, as I only had 1,5 metres of the backing. I came up with a solution.

I added a line of blocks to fill out the backing.

I added a line of blocks to fill out the backing.

This fabric was also directional, so the line of blocks had to be vertical in order to maintain the design. I prefer to offset a line of blocks as it looks more interesting. I think it looks great here!

The only fabric not from the collection is the binding. I had originally planned to use one of the fabrics, but miscalculated what I would require. I found the red in my stash, from a trip to Fabric Shack near Columbus, Ohio two years ago. It worked out well, I think! It gives a strong line to the edges and pulls together the main fabric, which is so city chic in black, white, grey and red!

Back to my Halloween costume tomorrow. Perhaps I’ll have more patience and a less blue vocabulary.

Whatever happened to…

Me? September 29th and I am sick. I cannot keep myself in tissues with this runny nose of mine! Sometimes I think I must be playing that lava floor game because the box of tissues is in the other room and I will not go and bring it to where I am. Apparently tissues are for when I am prone.

No, the title of this post refers to things I have made. I often feel as if I have spent a lot of time in these endeavours, but I have little to wear. I will admit that my sewing is more about process than product. I delight in trying new things: patterns, techniques and fabrics. I don’t always love the product at the end, though, and I started to think about which products have hung around and why.

I am fortunate enough to live next door to one of those clothing donation boxes, so some of my garments have gone on to other wearers. I fear that more have moved on than have stayed on my hangers and in my drawers! As for the quilts, I really only make them to give away. I have held onto my first quilt, although I sometimes wonder why.

Libellules: sitting in a big plastic box near my printer.

Libellules: sitting in a big plastic box near my printer.

The garments were things that I meant to keep and wear. This has not happened with many of them. It has been a process of learning what works with my body, being displeased with the outcome due to technique, fabric choices and simply being more satisfied with how I worked through a project than with the product at its end. Despite the expense of effort, time and money, I am not unhappy about these discarded projects. I see it rather as a part of the process. And, for once, the learning I have undertaken is quite selfish, in that I am making garments for myself. If it doesn’t always work out as I would wish, it’s not the end of the world.

On to the rejects!

Sewaholic Pendrell View A : As someone with broad shoulders, those pleats were never going to look good. Also, I used a horrible polyester that I hated to wear. Worn once, donated.

Sewaholic Pendrell View A 

As someone with broad shoulders, those pleats were never going to look anything other than ridiculous. Also, I used a horrible polyester that I hated to wear. Worn once, donated.

Simplicity 2177: The dress that never got hemmed.

Simplicity 2177: The dress that never got hemmed.

This dress hung on my dress form for more than a year because I loved the linen so much. I would look at it, wishing that I had made something else. The dress has a waist seam, with pleats, which looked terrible on me. I finally disassembled the dress and saved the fabric from the skirt, although I have yet to do anything with it.

April Rhodes: The Staple dress

April Rhodes: The Staple dress

Although there is no waist seam, the shirred waist did not work for me. I am not a fan of cut-on sleeves either. This was a weird make for me that I wore once on a windy summer day, having to hold the sides against me while I walked around the corner to the bank. Donated.

Sewaholic Cambie

Sewaholic Cambie

Waist seam + gathered skirt = bad idea on me! Donated.

Vogue 8667 View A

Vogue 8667 View A

I really loved this linen. I really loved the silk/cotton lining. I liked the shaping of the princess seams through the bodice. I put the zipper in backwards (twice!), but I could fix it, and did. I put the skirt pleats in backwards, but I could live with that.  Two things that I couldn’t live with: the waist seam and, in spite of the fact that I do cultivate my pallor by wearing big hats and a lot SPF 60 sunscreen in the summer, the fabric here read as beige (it is actually very tiny brown and beige houndstooth check) and washed me out completely. Donated.

Sewaholic Renfrew

Sewaholic Renfrew

The Renfrew is well-loved and for good reason. I like the dramatic cowl option. The cuffs and hem band work with certain fabrics, including this one. The fabric, however, did not work for me. It was a poly ITY and so horrible to wear, I donated the top.

Angela Wolf 1123: The Ruched T

Angela Wolf 1123: The Ruched T

Another one that I loved in theory but not in fabric. Horrible, horrible poly ITY that made me feel as if I was wearing plastic wrap. Pattern is great, though.

Burda 7185

Burda 7185

I like this skirt. I made the shorter length for a class project at Seneca and found it too short. So, I tried the mid-length version and found that it was too long. I feel like Goldilocks! I ended up donating it.

Another ruched T

Another ruched T

This fabric was seriously awful to work with. The stripes were a nightmare to match, and the fabric had to be lined and was still scratchy against my skin. Donated.

Jalie 2794

Jalie 2794

I love this fabric! The top turned out well. I wore it to work once and nearly melted. It still sits in my drawer because I love the fabric, but it is another horrible poly ITY that I cannot wear.

Burda 8155 aka the 42,5 hour skirt

Burda 8155 aka the 42,5 hour skirt

I was really proud of my work on this one. The vent was done beautifully and I loved the lining. I lost a mark (it was a Seneca class project) because my front darts were different lengths (oops!). It did not fit with my life, however, so it went in the donation box.

Jalie 3022 Back.

Jalie 3022 Back.

Jalie 2795

Jalie 2795

The Jalie pant and jacket were a also Seneca class project. I did not check for fit, as I was short on time. These types of garments are not really my thing anyway. The lengths on both garments were ridiculous on me, non-tall as I am. I would like to try both again and even have fabric to do so, but these ones were donated.

Style Arc Kate

Style Arc Kate

Love this dress. Love the look of the fabric. There was not enough fabric, however, and it ended up way too short. And it is a poly ITY. This dress presently hangs on my dress form as I love the look of it.

Kate take two.

Kate take two.

So, I tried again and got the length right. The fabric was very soft and it felt like I was wearing pyjamas. Problem? It looked like I was wearing pyjamas, too. Donated.

Sew Over It: The Ultimate Wrap Dress

Sew Over It: The Ultimate Wrap Dress

Last wrap dress, I promise! The fabric was wild and a horrible ITY. This was my test garment to check fit. It was short and the neck was too low. I made some alterations on the pattern, but have yet to work up another version. Donated.

Tilly and the Buttons: Mathilde back

Tilly and the Buttons: Mathilde back

I love back closures. I hate this itchy, cotton Ikat fabric. Donated.

Vogue 8772 C: What was I thinking? This fabric is evil!

Vogue 8772 C: What was I thinking? This fabric is evil!

Vogue 8772B

Vogue 8772B

Vogue 8772 is a favourite of mine for blouses. It has basic versions and then it has the fantastic pussy bow iteration. The first photo shows one of the basics in a cotton gauze that was an absolute horror to work with. I believe it was trashed as I would not wish on anyone the immense displeasure of wearing such a fabric. The pussy bow version turned out well. I made a few mistakes in attaching the bow, but was pleased with the result. Until I put it on. The fabric, a silk/cotton, felt lovely but was way too wild for me. I donated that one, but I hope to make it in a more suitable (for me) fabric.

So, what have I kept? Dresses without waist seams. Knit garments made of rayon (viscose)/lycra or cotton/lycra. (Poly ITY fabrics have been relegated to fitting garments.) Garments that are more neutral in colour and pattern. I have also kept most of the patterns used here, although I cull my patterns regularly to let go of the ones that I know will not work for me. I have learned to be more selective in my choices as I discover what I want and need from my clothing. I could probably go on, but I need to cross my lava floor to get to where the tissues are!

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