Laurel, Laurel

Laurel Blouse and Laurel Jumper

Laurel blouse and a Laurel Jumper

I finished sewing four more Laurels this month. It was a fun personal challenge to plan a few variations that would fit into my wardrobe. My favorite is this little black blouse. LaurelBlouseTweeds DressI took an old dress that I no longer wore but had always felt great in and picked it apart. I was able to squeeze the front, back and binding out of the skirt portion, and cut out new sleeves from the old sleeve section. I got rid of the center back seam and made the blouse longer because I had the extra length to work with, and I really love it. The fabric is a very drapey crinkle rayon, and the blouse looks nice tied and tucked in, or on its own over a narrow pair of pants. I followed the directions in the “Extras” booklet from the Colette website, but modified the keyhole to be much narrower and shorter. The fabric was so slippery and tricky though, it stretched a bit during construction and looks to be about the size the original pattern intended. I’m glad I modified it as much as I did, or the blouse might have been a peep show disaster!

I made the plaid jumper to go with it from the same pattern, modifying the dress neckline and narrowing the silhouette. I added single welt pockets to the front using guidance from Claire Shaeffer’s The Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts, which is one of those sewing books on my shelves I find myself referring to over and over. I lined the jumper with bemberg rayon, and used this very cool technique from Pattern Scissors Cloth to line up the plaid when sewing the side seams. I am stoked that the invisible zipper in the back is really invisible. I’m quite pleased with this one and, like the blouse, see it getting a lot of use.

Laurel BlueTunicGreen Check LaurelMy muslin to work out the neckline and fit for the jumper was this blue wool tunic, and I ended up liking it so much I decided to finish it off for an arty layering piece. I played with the hemline to find a length I liked over trousers. I drafted the patch pockets to be wider than the pattern and found an old silk necktie at the local thrift shop to cut into bias strips and edge the pockets with. I had enough bias to go around the neckline as well, but held off because I thought it started to look too apron-y. I think it was the right decision and just the right amount of detail. I also lined this jumper with bemberg rayon to slip over layers easily.

And lastly, but actually the next Laurel I finished after my initial flannel attempt, is this green check version. I extended the center front to allow for the addition of pintucks. I am planning a longer tunic version out of linen based on the same variation.

Phew! Now I’m Laurel’d out for a bit, but have several more variations percolating in my brain and will no doubt be inspired by the Colette Flickr group for a while to come.


Corduroy Beignet

Colette Beignet skirt

Beignet side view

Windy day for a photo shoot

I’ve been excited to make this skirt for a while. It’s another lovely pattern from Colette, and I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it. I had to draft out some of the curviness to fit my frame. I started by tracing a size 6 at the waist tapering to a 4 at the hips, but ended up having to add more to the waist in the front and sides. I traced an 8 at the waist for all seams except the back and side back seams, which stayed at a 6. The muslin fit really well in that area.

I used an old sad curtain to make a muslin, and while I was walking around in it, my husband confided in me that it really didn’t look good at all. I think he thought he was being helpful in that spouse way, like telling someone you love that they have spinach stuck in their teeth because you don’t want them to suffer embarrassment out in the world. I reassured him that the faded curtain iteration was only the practice piece. Silly guy.

I used this tutorial for turning small loops right side out to turn the long tie belt. However magical, I just couldn’t see the corduroy doing that maneuver on the belt loops so I cut them along a selvedge, folded them in thirds and stitched them closed. I also cut the loops 1/4″ longer to allow for the thicker turn of fabric when attaching to the skirt. Another change I made was to move the pockets up by about an inch. They felt too low on the muslin.

I’m very pleased with this make, and will definitely sew another one. I used a soft pinwale corduroy and I love the color. The contrasting lining, also used for the pocket bags, makes me happy. I purchased it on my last trip to New York while wandering around the garment district.

The funny thing is that although the muslin fit perfectly after altering the waist I had a lot of extra overlap on the final skirt when it came time to sew on the buttons. I’m not sure if I was having a ‘fluffy’ day when I made the muslin, if the corduroy had more give, or if I’ve continued to lose some size around my waist. At any rate, the next version I’ll adjust the waist down a bit again. I don’t want so much overlap of the front band that the buttons aren’t centered. I don’t think it’s that noticeable here, but it would be obvious if I used contrasting buttons.

Beignet lining

Contrasting lining. See how far the buttons ended up being from center front? I think I can take the waist back in on the next version.

Catching Up and a Blank Canvas

Laurel Flannel TopI’ve been knitting throughout the winter. Just a few more scarves/shawlettes to keep myself busy in front of the woodstove. Now that the sky is finally turning blue, my thoughts are turning to sewing again. I never realized how seasonal my activities were.

Colette released its latest pattern last week, Laurel. The ‘shift’ dress is something I remember my grandmother always wearing. Hers were handmade, always with a v-neck, and always with a brooch pinned right at the bottom of that ‘v’.

I love Colette’s patterns, but I’m not as curvy as who they design for. Let’s face it—I’m columnar, blocky, rectangular. Some of those sweet designs call for an hourglass figure to show them off. But a shift—hey, I can rock a shift! It seems like a simple pattern to purchase, but I like supporting indie pattern designers, and this seems to be the perfect blank canvas for playing around with. Colette has a free downloadable booklet with ideas for personalization, and is hosting a contest that is sure to have the creative sewing community popping out great ideas.

Colette Beignet Pattern

Working on the Beignet skirt as well. The tuna cans are my pattern weights.

I love Sarai’s attention to detail, and if you are frustrated with the usual sewing pattern foldout instruction sheets, you would enjoy Colette’s thoughtfully crafted instruction booklets. Inviting, clear instructions, room for notes, and a pocket in the back to hold the pattern pieces. Sarai’s a smart woman!Laurel Flannel

This time I purchased a PDF pattern instead of the booklet. No booklet, but instant gratification. It’s nice that there are options!

I used some gorgeous flannel I’ve had kicking around for a while. I made DH some pjs out of this years ago and still had enough to make a blouse. I used these fabric cutting tips to match up the plaid.

I made a size 8 with a few minor alterations. I shortened the darts in front by 1/2″ and lengthened the sleeves to a cool weather length. The muslin was gaping at the neck in the back, so I did a square shoulder/erect back/short neck adjustment by taking a wedge from center back above the armscye narrowing to nothing at the shoulder seam. Then I trued the seam along center back. I got the idea for the alteration from this post by New Vintage Lady and the lovely images from her vintage sewing books.

I was using the square shoulder adjustment from Fit For Real People, but it wasn’t quite perfect. I think this “move” works a little better for me.

I also added more room to the biceps. I’ve recently lost 20 pounds, but my arms didn’t get the memo.

I used some Kaffe Fassett shot cotton from this summer blouse to make the bias binding. I used Colette’s tutorial on hand sewing the binding. I found it a very relaxing way to finish this up and I had more control over keeping the binding even. I used French seams inside and serge finished the armscye.

It’s a comfortable, flattering top, and I’m looking forward to making my next version. It’s a great stash buster. I think the only tweak I’ll make to the fit of the next one is to narrow the shoulders a bit.

Laurel Alterations

Two Scarves: Autumn Lace Ribbon and Daybreak

Autumn Lace Ribbon Scarf

I finished Veronik Avery’s Lace Ribbon Scarf. It took me a long time—almost a year! I kept putting it down for weeks, then months at a time and it was hard for me to get into the rhythm of it. There was this that happened too: Tangled Mess of YarnThe nice yarn ‘cake’ that the yarn store wound for me fell apart and then slipped into a tangled hot mess before you could blink an eye. I think I’ve reached a higher level of enlightenment by the long evenings spent untangling this beast. Er, or maybe not. So glad I persevered though. The Malabrigo Sock yarn is soft and the whole thing is very drapey. More details here.

I also finished Stephen West’s Daybreak earlier this month. I used part of a skein of Crazy Zauberball and some Brown Sheep Wildfoote that had been marinating in my stash for quite a while. Nice little pattern and I’m sure a few of us will be grabbing this throughout the winter. DH has requested one in red and brown, specifically, and I’m happy to oblige. It was a nice knit.

Daybreak Shawlette

Teenager soon after waking. He likes it, really.

Black and White Daybreak

Postcard: Sketch Journal from Montreal

My husband and I marked our 21st anniversary earlier this month while he was away on a work trip. We finally got a chance to celebrate the occasion this past weekend, with a quick excursion to Montreal, Quebec. I made a few sketches of our journey. Enjoy!

Montreal sketches - 1st spreadMontreal sketches - 2nd spreadMontreal sketches - 3rd spreadMontreal sketches - 4th spreadMontreal sketches - 5th spreadMontreal sketches - 6th spreadMontreal sketches - 7th spread

I took photos, too: architecture, streets, people, and eye-catching details here and there. But it was fun to use the sketchbook and add to these pages in a scrapbook sort of way to document certain things on our trip that I wouldn’t necessarily have photographed. I think it caught an entirely different experience than my photos—more personal, perhaps!

I used a 5.5″ square “hand•book” journal and a Pitt medium pen. I added the color later with a small set of watercolor pencils and a waterbrush. These tools were perfectly portable and I will definitely take them along on the next journey!

Two Quick Summer Blouses

Out of print New Look 6385 blouse side viewout of print New Look 6385 blouse front

Because that’s all that you have time for in the summer, right? This summer has been flying by, but I managed to eke out a couple of cute blouses. (And a Cambie dress, but that isn’t a complete success due to my seat-of-the-pants experimentation in fitting-land. I’ll get back to try that again later!)

out of print New Look 6385 blouse pattern

The first blouse I finished is an out-of-print pattern, New Look 6385. I made the first iteration of this blouse several years ago, out of a beige striped quilting cotton. I look awful in beige! It was a wearable muslin, and the thing is, I kept wearing it over the years. I clearly loved the blouse even though the color was all wrong for me.

I found this navy dotted swiss in New York at Metro Textiles, buried way in the back. As soon as I saw the color, though, I knew it would be perfect for this blouse. I tried different sleeves this time, did a square shoulder alteration, and lengthened it a scooch. I want to make another with the plain cuffed sleeves in a better color now! I finally retired the beige blouse—yay!

Simplicity 3786 blouseSimplicity 3786 blouse back

The second blouse I made recently is Simplicity 3786. I used a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton in a pretty blue with purple threads in it. I did a square and narrow shoulder alteration, shortened the pattern to squeeze it out of the yardage I had, and a biceps alteration because it looked like the sleeves might be too restricting.

The pattern instructions tell you to sew bias binding for the elastic along the casing line, but the casing line is marked for the other view with the drawstring and goes from seam to seam, even though this view clearly shows only a shorter line of gathering in the back. They don’t tell you how much bias binding to cut, either, which might be another clue. It does tell you to use 4″ of elastic, so I winged it and used 6″ of binding as a good guess. Simplicity 3786 blouse side viewIt brings in the back a little, but there’s generous ease, so I might use a longer length of gathering (6″ of elastic to 10″ of binding?) in the back next time. I sewed a size 14 but ended up tapering in the sides an inch on each side! I’d love to make the version with the long sleeves for fall.

Both of these were quick sews, and I’m so happy I chose colors I look better in. Steph recently wrote an interesting post on color, and it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind. What are MY colors and most importantly, where can I find them in the right fabric to sew up? That is actually the hard part. I’m kind of annoyed with ‘fashion trends’ that dictate the fabric lines each year. I walk into my local fabric store and just sigh when I see the color palette in front of me I have to choose from. Lovely for a painting, maybe, but not next to my face. Knowing what colors I look good in should make it easier to find what I want, but most of the time I find that there are NO shirting or dress fabrics in the colors I want. And I’m not talking anything radical. I’m talking colors like navy or green, jewel tones out of yes, lightweight summer fabrics. I don’t look good in very many pastels or vivids no matter what time of year it is. When I saw this dotted swiss and shot cotton, I bought both immediately only because they were colors I have a hard time finding. Who knows when I’ll see them again? Maybe someday navy will be on trend!

What Works For You

I’ve been attempting to track my food for a couple years. A couple years. I keep trying, but haven’t been consistent. I know this is a key component in weight loss, so I really want to give it a good shot. I have learned how to do burpees and run and lift heavy weights over my head, so I’ve been at a loss as to why documenting my food was so hard when I’ve done all these other things I never thought I could do. I have a notebook with charts and lines I keep going back to, and I’ve tried tracking online as well. Bleegh. It’s just a chore online – It feels like my timesheet at work. The notebook is useful, but I don’t feel inspired to use it, and I don’t see the patterns.

I had a great idea a couple weeks ago. I picked up The Artist’s Journal Workshop, and have been flipping through the pages, wanting to do something like that. Why not start by drawing my food? Why not draw the food I ate in one day?
What I ate on June 13June 14June 15June 18

I have been sketching my food intake every day since June 13th. I’m making better choices. I’ve had some days where my choices have not been great, but now I see the patterns. Oh, I need a little protein at 4pm or I go on a CarbFest right before dinner… Did I really eat three pieces of pie in one day? Uh, yeah, I did.

But the best thing of all is, I’m having fun. I feel like an artist. Sometimes I am Hungry Right Now and draw from memory – ha ha. Other times I try to capture the shape of the pear or the details on my sandwich before I take a bite.

June 21When I’m thinking about my next meal, I look to my sketchbook and see what beautiful food I’ve already eaten today, and I decide to make a healthy choice. I choose a color I haven’t eaten yet because I want it on the page.

What I ate on June 23Everyone always says “Find what works for you,” and I’m happy to say I finally did. I hope you enjoy some of the sketches! Find what works for you.