Faux Jumpsuit

I knew it would take an amazing outfit to get me to pose in public and I was right. Enter the jumpsuit of my dreams. Which, it turns out, isn't a jumpsuit at all, but two separate pieces that give the appearance of a jumpsuit. Faux jumpsuit for the win!

For anyone that has worn a jumpsuit, you know that this solves some very real struggles with this style, namely, having to completely undress whenever you use the bathroom. I also find that the torso-crotch region never fits quite right in a one-piece — always too baggy or too tight — with two separate pieces, I can fit and adjust that area easily. And if you're on the fence about whether you're even a jumpsuit-wearing kind of woman, it's a great way to try it out and still have two wearable garments if you don't like it. But I think you will. We're talking pyjamas you can wear to dinner, here. You can't really go wrong with that. Let's all get on the faux jumpsuit train, ladies!

I have to give credit to Sarah, who first blew my mind with this idea a year ago. I've been dying to replicate it ever since. I didn't have either of the patterns that Sarah used, but since I'm getting more confident with pattern drafting, I decided to try tweaking some of the patterns I already own: the kimono bodice from the Sallie Jumpsuit and the Hudson Pants. Both of these are knit patterns, and I was set on making this in rayon, so there were quite a few adjustments to be made.

Get ready to nerd-out on some serious pattern-hacking!

100 Days of Farmer's Wife Quilting

A couple pretty big things happened in the last couple months that I've been slow to share. First, the completion of my 100-day project.

Yes! I did it! Woohoo! High five!

In case you missed it, back in April, I challenged myself to sew Farmer's Wife Quilt blocks every day for 100 days. Initially I thought I would sew a block a day, but quickly realized I had to give myself some grace there. If you've ever flipped through the Farmer's Wife Quilt book, you would know that some of those blocks are super complex and would require several hours of time. There's no way I could keep up that kind of intensity for 100 days. Plus, this was real life: in 3 months, there was sickness and vacations and doors needing painting.

But even if I didn't complete a block, I was always working on it: calculating quilt math, cutting out paper pieces, buying fabric. I even hand-pieced several of the blocks so that I could take it with me on vacation.

There were a handful of days, mostly on vacation, that I did nothing at all, but I tried not to beat myself up over those days (I added them on to the end). I'm not a machine. This project wasn't about cranking out a certain number of blocks. The goal was to surrender to the process, to see where a daily practice could take me.

I'll admit, some days were difficult. Days where I only had half an hour to sit down and take a breath, and I knew that half hour was also my only chance to sew, so I dragged my weary bones up to the sewing room. How was that helping anyone? But the majority of the time, I enjoyed having an excuse to sew every day, without thinking about all the things I "should" be doing isntead. At the end of each day, no matter what else happened or didn't happen, at least I did that one thing and I could be proud of that.

There were many things learned along the way, about both quilting and myself, but ultimately, my biggest lesson came from letting go, pushing perfectionism aside and placing greater value on a daily fresh start. Don't like the block you just made? Oh well. Add it to the stack, you'll make a new one tomorrow. It's only fabric.

Shirtdress Summer

Every summer it's the same thing. I start with a long list of super ambitious sewing plans, and a few months later I'm left wondering how the summer could possibly be coming to an end with hardly a dent in that sewing list. Hmph. I need to work on setting more realistic goals. My only consolation is that of the few things I did sew, two of them were worn pretty much non-stop the entire summer. Those two things were both Alder Shirtdresses.

I love a good collared button-down, I love sleeveless sundresses, and I love a roomy waist.  This pattern checks all the boxes -- I don't know why I didn't sew it sooner! I've had it since it first came out, for goodness sake.

That's a lie. I know exactly why. Until recently, I was majorly intimidated by collars. It was a challenge I set for myself to tackle this year, and now that I've learned how, I can't seem to stop. Haha! They can be tricky, but like anything in sewing, it all comes down to a series of steps and the more you do, the easier it gets.

I've been holding on to this fabric for almost as long as I've had the pattern, I think. It's called "Purrfect Hiding Spot" from the Cat Lady collection for Cotton + Steel. And the selvedge was too adorable not to include in the garment. I thought about putting it along a side seam or the front panel seams, but decided to sandwich it within the yoke instead so that I would see it every time I put on the dress. I think it was a wise choice. It always makes me smile!

The advantage of sewing a lot of patterns from one company, is you typically make the same alterations to them all. For Grainline Studios, I almost always have to pull up the shoulders and do a forward shoulder adjustment (FSA).

Once I took 1/2" from the shoulders, the bust dart and waist gathers were in the right place. I then needed to lower the armhole and the neckline by 1/2" as well.

I wasn't sure how the yoke and collar would react to an FSA, so I decided to wait to see how my muslin fit without it first. I was really happy with everything, except that the collar stands away from my neck. Nitpicky, I know, but I'm nitpicky about fit. The neck did not gape before applying the collar. I thought that maybe an FSA would fix it, so I tried it with my second version. But that just made things worse, so I went back to the original. It's a really small issue and certainly doesn't bother me enough not to wear it. It's more of a curiosity for how to fix it. If anyone knows, please share.

The only other thing that I changed was to add inseam pockets. All my dresses have them now, so I'm too used to having them there. When I'm wearing my muslin, I keep pawing for them. It's such an easy thing to add, it's kind of odd that they weren't included to begin with. It was easy to tack the pockets to the front panel seams too, to keep them from flipping to the back.

I had a tough time with the pivot points on both dresses. I'm almost certain there will be holes there over time. Again, no one seems to mention this, but if anyone has any tips for perfecting that area, please share.

Everything else about this pattern was great and constructed as instructed. Even the hem was perfect, which is unusual, as I'm 5'4". You will probably need to lengthen it, if you are any taller.

The other Alder that I made this summer was my muslin in a plain grey chambray. I took these photos spontaneously on vacation in Halifax, so you get to see it in its most commonly worn state, wrinkly AF. I could blame my suitcase, but let's be real, it looks like this at home too.

While my husband was taking these photos, two ladies asked if we wanted our photo together. What was I going to say? "Umm, no thanks, this is all about me and my pretty dress." LOL! I never take photos in public, so this was a first for me. Turns out they were both from Hamilton too! Blogging is weird.

I'm sure you've gathered that I love both of these dresses. I love how you can throw on one item and instantly feel both stylish and comfortable. It's casual, but not too casual. Haha! And I think they'll transition to Fall quite nicely as well, paired with leggings and an Astoria sweater. I'm not ready to pack them away, that's for sure. Or maybe I'll make another one? I've seen some cute Alder-Archer mashups out there.

What has been your favourite handmade garment this summer?

East Coast Road Trip

I was lucky to spend a couple weeks in the East Coast this summer and it was fantastic. With so much world to see, it's easy to forget about all the beauty we have right here in our backyard. We're so lucky to call this country home and I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday than a road trip around some of its most scenic vistas.

We flew into and out of Halifax (from Hamilton - bonus!) and rented a car to road trip around from there. We explored Halifax, Peggy's Cove, Lunenberg, and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia; Prince Edward Island; and finally Shediac, New Brunswick.

Me Made May 2017

Another Me Made May has come and gone. If you remember from previous years, this is an annual event in the online sewing community where we make a pledge to wear more of our handmade clothing. You can set whatever parameters you like for the challenge, but most people, myself included, try to wear something we've made every day of the month. The idea is to get more wear out of the clothing we make, but I get so much more out of it than that. When you wear only handmade clothing for a month, a lot of stuff comes up.

It forces you to to stock of your wardrobe and really think about the clothing you wear, don't wear and want to wear. May is the perfect month for examining your closet, at least where I'm from, because you're transitioning from cold to warm weather. I took note of both what I was bored to death of wearing all winter and what I was excited (or not) about pulling out from my summer things. I realized I rely a little too heavily on t-shirts and cardigans when it's cold, which is at least 6 months of the year in Canada. How boring! I also noticed that I have a lot of tops, but hardly any bottoms. And a few of my sundresses are looking worn and just not fitting well anymore.

Based on that information, I can focus my sewing for the year. Clearly I need to up my warm and cozy game next fall with some dressier pieces and by sourcing some better sweater knits. I also need to get sewing more skirts and pants stat. I always make a couple of new dresses every summer, so I'm not too worried on that end.

Once you figure out what you need to sew, there's no better time or place to look for patterns to fit those needs. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sewists around the world sharing their creations every day and I love scrolling through it all. Thank goodness for Instagram's new bookmark feature. I saved so many outfits!

All that inspiration is incredibly motivating. It fires up my productivity like nothing else. Even though the 100 Day Project stole a lot of my sewing energy this year, I still managed to sew eight new garments! Three tank tops, sweat pants for both me and my husband, a button-up blouse, a sweater and a t-shirt. Woo! Blog posts coming soon!

Every year the challenge gets a little easier as my handmade wardrobe grows. Daily selfies, on the other hand, do not. Haha! (I only documented 28 outfits, after all.) I think we all suffer through that part. Knowing we're in it together, through the pattern taping, the stitch-ripping, the baby hems, the double needles, and that bloody camera self-timer, is probably the best part of the whole thing.

For a closer look at all of my Me Made May outfits, hop on over to my Instagram. :)

The 100-Day Project

I first heard about The 100-Day Project from Elise Joy and was immediately into it. Doing something creative every day for 100 days sounds like a really fun 100 days to me! I've been thinking a lot lately about the practice of sewing, like a yoga practice, and this was a great opportunity to explore that concept. It didn't take me too long to think of a task to commit to either — the 111 blocks in my neglected Farmer's Wife Quilt seemed like a perfect fit. I don't know if I would ever complete that quilt without some sort of challenge like this. And so it began. On April 4th, I sewed up my first block and posted it on Instagram with the hashtag #100daysof FWQ. 

I told my husband over dinner that night and suddenly I was filled with doubt. What the heck was I thinking? A quilt block every single day for over three months? Am I crazy? What makes me think I could actually stick to that? 

That's why I've been hesitant to talk about it on the blog — I honestly didn't know if I would be able to follow through. Until now. I'm happy to say that today is day 53, over halfway through the challenge, and I've worked on my Farmer's Wife Quilt every single day. It's safe to say I'm in it for the long haul. 

I have given myself some grace on the block-a-day. I've made 42 blocks so far. Because I have a million other things I want to make, I try not to devote more than an hour a day to this project and some of the blocks are just too complex for that. There were a few that I cut one day and sewed the next. There were some that I completed one day and re-did the next day (or two) because they weren't right. I was also sick for a few days in there, so I did some construction planning in bed instead. I took a day to cut out all the paper pieced blocks. Things like that.

I don't want to talk too much about my feelings or lessons learned just yet. I'll save them for the end. But I will say that although some days are a real struggle, I am enjoying the process. Not only can I see improvements in my sewing and decision-making skills, but ultimately I'm giving greater value to the idea of everyday being a fresh start. Didn't like the block you just made? Oh well. Add it to the stack, you'll make a new one tomorrow.

I'm posting every day on Instagram, if you want to follow along and cheer me on for the next 48. 

Collection Quilt

This small quilt may not look like much to you. It's only 38" x 50", not even big enough for a twin bed. But it's hanging proudly on the wall of my home for a reason. Finishing this quilt was a massive achievement that came to mean much more to me than I ever thought. It's one of my most prized possessions.

In short, it's completely sewn and quilted by hand. And I had never appliqued anything other than a small square before this project. Hand sewing is slow sewing — it took me a year and a half to complete—a crash course in discipline and patience. Over time, I began to really value this slow practice, it started to feel like an act of love. I have specific memories sewed into these blocks, where I was, who I was with, what I was thinking about, worrying about. I took it with me from road trips to hospital waiting rooms. It's a beautiful thing.

Fashion Revolution Week

It's Fashion Revolution week. A week where millions of people around the world will ask Who made my clothes? A week that asks everyone to be curious, find out, and do something. A week to demand greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. 

This is a cause that I am pretty passionate about but rarely talk about. I think it's because I don't feel well enough informed. So, I've been using this week to learn and to speak up about what ethical fashion means to me. I've been doing this every day this week on Instagram, but I know not everyone is on there, so I wanted to share some of my story here with you as well.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, feat. Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas

What should I make for dinner? 

Ugh. The million dollar question. I enjoy cooking most of the time, once the recipe and ingredients are laid out in front of me. But thinking and searching for recipes and dinner ideas, and gathering supplies for said recipes, is a constant struggle. A privileged problem, but a problem just the same. I can't be the only one. I would bet that even chefs are annoyed by the search for sustenance from time to time.

At the beginning of a new season, I'm full of excitement, busting out all my tried and true recipes that have been forgotten for months. Comfort foods in Fall, barbecue in Spring. But that passion doesn't last long. Within a few weeks, I'm back staring at an empty fridge and scrolling through Pinterest, wondering yet again, what should I bloody make for dinner?

When in doubt, open a book. Cookbooks, in this case. The OG of recipe inspiration. This winter I started checking out cookbooks from the library and making as many recipes as I can from them in the three weeks before their due date. Some books fail hard (I'm looking at you, one-basil-leaf-in-the-pasta-sauce Tucci) but others have multiple wins and multiple renewals as a result. The Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman is a perfect example of the latter. Everything I tried became an instant favourite. Because this book isn't a new release, I was lucky to be able to renew it several times and cook from it for a couple of months.

2015 Quilts: Two Weddings and a Baby

When I redesigned the blog, I found this post buried in my drafts. I could've sworn I had published it ages ago. In 2015, to be exact. Mind you, I still have moving boxes to unpack from that summer, so it's not surprising at all that it fell through the cracks. What is surprising is that I found the time that year to sew not one, not two, but three quilts! Perhaps I'm motivated by extremely limiting circumstances. Or perhaps I sew to survive extremely limiting circumstances. Hmmm.

Keeping It Cozy

A Linden Sweatshirt, a crochet hat and a cuddly cat. If that's not a recipe for cozy, I don't know what is. Since we're back to winter temperatures again today, it seems like a good time to share two of my comfiest, coziest makes of the season. (Guest appearance by my crazy cat, Pekoe, who wouldn't leave me alone during this photo shoot.)

This is my very first Linden and I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to try. It's been out since October 2014! Perhaps I was just waiting for the perfect fabric to cross my path, because as soon as I saw this super soft, flecked fleece come in at Needlework, suddenly the Linden was all I could think about. I whipped it up in a couple of days after buying the fabric, and I've been living in it ever since. It was super quick to sew too, only took me a couple of hours. I'm thinking it's because there are no hems to fiddle with. Bands for the win!

And before you dismiss a boring old sweatshirt, my husband declared this his favourite thing that I've sewn in awhile. So there ya go. Bringing sexy back, one sweatshirt at a time.

Ebony Tee Two Ways

Meet the Ebony Tee from Closet Case Patterns. I don't usually jump on newly released patterns right away. I'm much more likely to wait a year, so I can waste hours obsessively scrolling through hundreds of Instagram photos and blog reviews of course. I wasn't even sure that this trapeze style was "me", but darn if it didn't look like the most comfortable dress ever. Then one day I suddenly remembered a funky grey jersey print I had been holding onto for a couple of years. It would be perfect for this style. Shortly after that, some bamboo terry at Needlework screamed "Ebony" too loudly at me to ignore. Within a week, I had both a top and a dress. 

And then the weather miraculously cooperated with a freakishly warm long weekend in February, so I could give my new Ebony Tees the photos they deserve. 

Meant to be. Clearly. Ha!

I'm still not entirely sure the style looks great on me. I'm pretty faithful to a cinched waist. But I do know both garments make me feel great. It's hard to go wrong with knits in the comfort department, but there's also just something about a big flowy skirt that is so feminine and fun. When your clothes have the power to inspire a spontaneous twirl or just give you an extra bounce in your step, in February, it's a very good thing! 

Your Auntie Made That

I was going to title this post "Baby Making", until it occurred to me that may be a little misleading to people who may be googling that sort of thing. Ha!

I became an Aunt for the second time this past August, right before we left for Spain, so naturally I dropped all my vacation sewing to make as much as I could for my new niece before I left. She was born five weeks early, so she needed preemie-sized clothing stat and I was happy to oblige. The smaller, the cuter, in my opinion.

Plus, sewing for babies is so fun and satisfying. They're super quick to sew, can usually be made with scraps, and look freaking adorable. I remember feeling special when I was told that my Aunts made this or that outfit for me or my dolls. I still am. And I love that I can now pass that on to my own nieces!

Ginger Jeans

Jeans, baby! I MADE JEANS! 

If you can't read my blogging tone there, I'm pretty darn excited about it.

Sure, the fit isn't perfect. But, considering I've never even sewn a pair of pants before, the fact that my first pair look like "real" jeans and can be worn in public is pretty monumental for me. 

I went into this project excited to beef up my technical skills and just generally learn how jeans are constructed. Like, how does that little coin pocket get there? And where do you even start with a zipper fly? Well, it turns out none of these things are difficult at all. They just take a lot of little steps. If you take it one step at a time and try not to get overwhelmed, before you know it, you'll have a pair of real deal, wearable jeans too! Yay us!

Now I'll give you permission to take my very sage advice with a grain of salt, because I was lucky enough to have hands-on instruction from the pattern designer herself, Heather Lou, in a 2-day Ginger Jeans workshop at Needlework this past December. So I actually have no idea how difficult it would be all on your own. Taking that workshop meant no second-guessing and Googling at every step. It also meant I had someone eye-level with my butt to make all those fun crotch adjustments and pocket placements. (Ahem. Thanks, Heather.) But guess what? No one ever has to find out how to sew jeans alone, because Heather just announced that she is offering an online jeans-making workshop. The class I took with her was so beneficial, I considered signing up for the online one too, just so I would always have it. I still might.

Anyway, enough gushing about lovely, talented Heather. Back to me. Me me me. Let's look at those jeans, shall we?