I don’t sew very often nowadays. I’ve made lots of complicated things – my prom dress, a wedding dress, a lined jacket, etc – and even earned my BSc in Fashion Design & Technology where I learned proper drafting, patternmaking, draping and construction. But after over fifteen years of sewing, I’m only just now starting to learn more about the seamstress that I am. Or used to be.
Years ago my personal sewing style was to make something quick and dirty. I knew all the right things to do, but I deliberately cut all the corners to get so a finished garment fast. But along the way I started to knit – a lot. Knitting forces you to slow down, to consider every single stitch and how it affects design and shape. The more advanced I became in knitwear, the more I realised how I appreciate a well-thought-out garment and a perfect fit.
When I would have in the past sewn a quick shirt that after a few months I’d realise isn’t fitting right, or doesn’t sit well in my wardrobe, I found myself just not sewing at all. Then I started lose faith in my sewing abilities. I’d been so out of practice, and a lot of the more recent things I’d made I just wasn’t that keen on anymore. If you’ve read this blog for a few years, you may remember the Crafters’ Ceilidh, a blogger meet-up in Edinburgh. Meeting up with so many fantastic sewists renewed my resolve to get back into sewing again, and to do things right this time. That’s when I made Minoru. What a success that was!
Then I made a Lonsdale dress. Again, a slow but perfect success. I was really started to understand that by taking time, planning, sewing in stages (no more all-nighters ending in tired sewing and angry seam-ripping), I could make a real piece that was just perfect for me. And perfect enough to wear to my big brother’s wedding!
A few weeks ago I bought and downloaded the pattern. Last weekend I bought my fabric – enough of each colour to later decided which should go where. This weekend I made a muslin while watching dressmaking videos. Months back, I also purchased the Sew Retro Bombshell Dress online class by Gretchen Hirsch through Craftsy.
I don’t think the lines of that dress are right for me, and while in the future I could easily adapt it to something more me, I’m not just ready to do that yet. So while working this weekend on the Kat dress muslin, I watched through a lot of the class videos, just for tips and to get into the dressmaking mindset. It really helped to learn a few tricks I didn’t already know, and was nice to have on also in the background. Plus if something strikes you and you want to ‘bookmark’ it, you can with a notes option! So while watching the videos, I also started to think about which colours to put where. I realised I couldn’t visualise it properly and had to sketch out different versions.
I thought that I’d prefer the predominantly pink version, thinking it needed the heavy blue at the bottom to anchor it, but looking at the predominantly blue version, I think that’s my actual favourite. Which is good because blue is more flattering to my skin than pink. It was easier to continue with the muslin too, after having made the decision. Its nice to envision which fabric I’d be working with when on a particular piece.
So it turns out that the fit of the muslin is perfect! Obviously, you see it here pinned to the mannequin, but that’s just for display. The mannequin isn’t exactly my size, but rather more for photography purposes – rest assured, it does fit me! Some might think, well that was a waste of time since no pattern alterations were needed but I’m glad that I made the muslin. I feel that sewing the muslin familiarised me with the pattern and steps. I now know where I should clip in order to prevent puckers, and I know where to expect trouble. There are a few puckers and creases, but I now know where to expect the trouble, and how to compensate for it.
Making the muslin of a pattern whose design you are still working out the details for is super helpful in encouraging you to make those decisions. Plus now, I’ve had the time to think about other changes to make. For example, I’ve decided (thanks to the Bombshell videos) that I’d like to underline the skirt portion with organza to give it more body. Looks like I went from a sewer who used to cut corners now to one who creates more corners.
This morning after assessing the finished muslin, I decided to clean up, shower, and do dishes. Years ago I’d have stayed in my pajamas, dirty, hunched over the machine all day, rushing and making bad decisions (sure, why not a pink zipper for a blue dress? I don’t really care). But today I’m glad I put it all away. I’m excited to get it all out next weekend, once my properly-matched zipper and my organza have come in. I think my finished dress will be just perfect for taking my time. So now, 9 PM on a weeknight, what I really want to do is start cutting out that fabric, but what I should do, and will do, is settle in with some tea, my ongoing blanket knitting, and a book (I’m currently reading Foundation on my Kindle) to wind down before bed. Look at me, growing up!
How did this happen? Last week, I cast off my most recent FO (Kirkja Shawl by Karina Westermann) and just as soon realised I now have 3 green hand-knitted shawls. What is it about green + shawls? They’re all lovely mind, and I have no regrets. Just perhaps a bit more awareness and a vow not to think a little more clearly before I cast-on a fourth!
Pattern: Aestlight Shawl
Designer: Gudrun Johnston, The Shetland Trader
Yarn: Shilasdair Luxury 4-ply
Status: Nearly 3 years old. Worn year-round on an almost daily basis. When I ride in airplanes or in long car-rides, this is my security blanket. On cold wintry days, I tie it tight around the neck. Note in the fourth image, while any eye can spot the yarn breaking from far too much wear, a trained eye can spot where I first mended a previous hole. The week after the mend, a new break sprouted, and I have yet to mend it.
Pattern: Simmer Dim
Designer: again, Gudrun Johnston, The Shetland Trader
Yarn: High-Twist British Falkland by Ripples crafts (yarn no longer available)
Status: Nearly 2 years old. The shape of this piece is best for shawl-style-wear and I prefer to wear my shawls to the front like a bib. So while this shawl has not become my staple, I do very much love it. The simplicity of the design works really well.
Pattern: Kirkja Shawl from Knit Now Magazine
Designer: Karina Westermann, Fourth Edition
Yarn: Highland Pony Sport by YarnPony
Status: A week old! I started this for a quick and instant-gratification project, and boy did it gratify! I love fun and simple projects. The yarn was so squishy and soft, and the each stitch of the lace pattern fed beautifully into the next.
So I’m not sure what I’ll cast on next, but I think I’ll be more careful next time I reach for the green! Do you find yourself inexplicably drawn to similar shades or styles?
So that spindle is addictive. Once I start with it, I find that I have zoned out, staring at the spinning, spinning, spinning. I really enjoy it, and would probably be spinning and not typing right now if I had more fleece. Sorry. Anyhow, I spun all 100 grams of the Corriedale fleece of my loot from EYF. And of course the second the last of those fibres flipped through my fingers I was on to Ravelry. What to make, what to make. I chose the Bubble Hat pattern.
Fun, quick, perfect. I was still agog over the tubular cast-on after having talked about it in the class I taught at EYF, so I thought, better give it a go. Gosh, it makes a firm and sturdy (yet flexible and NOT tight) hat brim. Ysolda does a fabulous video on this cast on.
On a different topic (albeit wooly still), a few weekends ago was Easter. I spent the Saturday with my friend and colleague Lizzy, working an event for Eribe. The event was called Casting the Net and was organised by the Borders Arts Trust. They did a fantastic job on the event and there were loads of visitors. Felicity, one of the project managers, did an excellent blog post about it all. She even got a nice picture of me at work!
It was really fun to set up Eribe products, interract with the visitors, and teach everyone to knit/finger-knit!
On Easter Sunday, Trent & I strolled up to a nearby farm to visit some lambs. They were wearing clear plastic jackets – I assume the jackets are meant to keep the lambies warm, as it is still unseasonably cold here.
And then, emerging from the open barn, were some just-born lambs! Following their mummy! Being herded! Under the watchful eyes of the cows!
Of course, some weren’t ready to follow just yet and had to be carried.
What a treat to see some just-born lambs! I hope to befriend a farmer next lambing season and actually get to see some births. The rest of the walk was relatively lamb-free, but we sure did get a eye-ful of the lovely Scottish Borders landscape.
Here’s hoping for a long warm summer, and soon!