Thoughts on PatternReview Weekend

I have satisfied another resolution I made at the new year – to attend a sewing retreat. I went to PatternReview Weekend in early June in Stratford Ontario, Canada. I am glad I went, because I wanted to meet in person many people I’ve known only through their comments and sewing projects on PatternReview. But, the whole event was not really my cup of tea, so I don’t think I will attend again.

My favorite hands-on moment was getting to know some fellow sewists. Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow gave us advice on how to take better pictures. Here’s me and my photo friend, Debbie, trying out some techniques.

Selfie practice with Debbie

I also really enjoyed a tour of the Stratford Festival Theater’s costume shop. We were allowed to only look at most costumes, but at the end of the tour we could try a few on.

We marveled at how well-made the costumes were for durability, and how many fancy trims and techniques were used. I really would have loved a tour of the sewing workroom, but that wasn’t on the tour. Boo.

The rest of the event was OK. There were a couple of demonstrations, but it was hard to see well. I am more a hands-on learning type. Also, I am not a very sociable person, and since it was my first time at this event, I didn’t know anyone there. About half of the 80-odd attendees had been before – some multiple times. As is inevitable with all-female events (one man attended) cliques formed and first-timers ended up together, trying to make connections.

Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Some organizers of the event were “ambassadors” who did a great job of seeking out newcomers and chatting them up. All the same, it was a bit exhausting to have to introduce myself over and over, and to try to make connections with people. This isn’t a complaint – I am just better in a small group than in a large group.

One of the highlights of the event is a pattern swap. Attendees brought in patterns they didn’t want anymore, and all the donated patterns, books and magazines were piled onto tables. Then there was a rush at the swap table to take away whatever you wanted. I donated five patterns to the swap – a suit pattern that was part of a lot I got from eBay, a free dress pattern from a magazine, a dress pattern I bought in the wrong size by mistake, a jacket pattern I knew I’d never sew, and a home dec pattern for a project that a friend asked for, then cancelled.

I decided I’d rather eat lunch than peruse the swap table at first. I am not much of a “stash” person. Most of the time, I buy the patterns and fabrics I want for specific projects. I seldom buy on spec or just because something’s on sale. I realize I am VERY spoiled in this regard – I can shop at the Garment District in New York anytime I want, there are Joann’s nearby for basics and cheap patterns (sometimes at little at 99 cents apiece) and a very good fabric store in Connecticut if I don’t want to go into NYC. Speaking with sewists from rural places, who have to shop online, and from Canada, where patterns seldom go on sale, I appreciate how fortunate I am. Still, I didn’t want to take things just for the sake of taking them.

I visited the table later on and took five patterns – a vintage skirt, a Style Arc top (been meaning to try Style Arc), a couple of dresses that seem suitable for me and a coordinates set of officewear. In my  goodie bag was a voucher for a skirt pattern from Deer & Doe and the Vogue “5 Easy Pieces” pattern – a great haul, all in all.


The goodie bag also had coupons for discounts on fabric and patterns, gadgets such as measuring devices and snips, decorative pins, info about area attractions and other fun stuff.

There were two contests with prizes – making a camp shirt and making sleepwear. I made a camp shirt for the contest and wore it all day Friday, since I thought it could be judged anytime. It turned out the shirts and sleepwear were judged in the evening only. I had changed out of the shirt for dinner since it was pretty sweaty and rumpled from being worn all day in a stuffy church basement. The contest judging took a long time and I found myself getting pretty antsy to get out of there.

Saturday was a shopping extravaganza. We piled onto school buses and toured three sites – Len’s Mill (a warehouse-like place for fabric, yarn, housewares, crafting supplies and what have you), downtown Hamilton, ON, which has several great fabric stores along a cute commercial street, and Ann’s Fabrics in Hamilton, which sells mostly knits and activewear fabrics.

The only thing I really needed was lining fabric – I really like to stash that so that I don’t have to think about it. I scored 12 yards of nice 54-inch Bemberg in four colors at a shop in Hamilton, European Textiles.

Bemberg – wide and great price

Otherwise, I was shopping for fall and winter. Yeah, summer just started, but my summer sewing plans are spoken for by now.

At Len’s Mill I found this cute cotton Canada-themed flannel, which would make good PJ bottoms for my husband (he’d requested some earlier this year). I also bought some nice quilting cotton with a Liberty feel for a top to go with new pants I just made  (I am thinking about a wearable muslin of the very popular Butterick 5526). Finally, I got 3  yards of a wine-colored suedecloth in anticipation of a work blazer for fall, possibly from Vogue 1418. It was lightweight and odd, so I may regret it. Or it may be fabulous.

Len’s also had some interesting buttons – I bought a giant one for who knows what (a bag? a poncho?) and two cards of red and black handpainted wooden buttons for a thrifted leather jacket I’ve been thinking of upcycling.

At Ann’s I found some heavy knit with a border stripe that would make a cute long-sleeved T-shirt, maybe without the overlay from McCall’s 7247.

My favorite place was Marina’s Fabrics in Hamilton, because it reminds me of the small family-run places I know in New York, complete with a jumble of unusual fabrics,  negotiable prices, and a talkative but grumpy immigrant lady behind the cutting counter.

Hamilton, ON garment district

It’s where I found two interesting pieces: a light wool loose houndstooth suiting in white and wine that would make a wonderful summer shift dress (probably Deer & Doe’s Arum dress – and would coordinate with the suedecloth too if I have fabric left over for a bolero or such) and a border print in a knit of some kind – probably poly/acrylic – in black, gray and cobalt blue that would be perfect for a high-waisted pencil skirt from Simplicity 8058.

IMG_20180604_104419 (1)
My fabric and button haul

I had budgeted to spend $200 on fabric and other sewing materials, and I managed to do it – 16.5 yards in all, plus two books and assorted other items. Looking at my take, minus the Bemberg, I wonder what kind of fabric magpie I am. None of this makes sense with anything else. That’s the problem with stash shopping – the thrill of the hunt doesn’t mix well with a coordinated plan.

I started on the prewashing chore when I got home and then I got to work, making the PJ shorts for my husband.

PJs from McCall’s 3019 (out of print)

I wanted badly to sew something, after just talking about sewing for two days! That’s the main problem with PR Weekend for me. I prefer a hands-on event much more than an event where you mostly shop, eat and drink, and socialize. Still, I am glad I went. If it’s nearby again (next year it’s in Portland, OR) and if there’s some hands-on activity, I might go.


Me-Made Weeks 3 & 4

I have been dealing with some health issues, so I didn’t manage to wear me-made every day. So, I didn’t meet the challenge for Me Made May. So what? I did the best I could.

The images right and left have items from the Japanese sewing book Happy Homemade Sew Chic – the Tunic with Roll-up Sleeves (worn with Colette’s Moji pants) and Bolero Jacket with Front Tucks. The blouse in the center is from the Italian sewing magazine La Mia Boutique. So I guess I was a bit international. And blue.

I also repeated a few things because the weather was lousy and I was stuck at home.

Then we were on vacation to Corning, NY, and to Canada – Niagara Falls, Toronto and Stratford.

I forgot to take pictures every day, but here are some highlights. I managed to wear Me-Made head to toe a couple of days, so I felt good about that. And I wore my newest make  – the high-waisted McCall’s 7726 trousers.

In Stratford I attended the PatternReview.Com weekend – a get-together for home apparel sewists. More about that another time.

Thinking back about Me-Made May, I don’t think I will do it next year. I felt bad that I didn’t meet the challenge this year. And then I felt stupid for caring about it. It’s fun to see people getting excited about it, but it’s also not all that important to me. Anyway, I tried.

Picture Time!

I’m at PatternReview Weekend in Stratford, ON. We were challenged by Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow to take better pictures, so here we go…

picture by debby

This picture was taken by my picture-taking buddy, Debbie. I’m wearing a MariaDenmark me-made ensemble: the Edith blouse in cotton batik and a denim Yasmin Yoke Skirt, to which I added a button-front placket.

Gillian’s advice was to take a lot of pictures – 100 is better than 10 – she said – and find a few poses and locations that work for you. She uses a tripod, digital SLR camera and a shutter remote. I rely on my husband to take pictures most of the time. I feel I can do better. I hate having my picture taken, but if I am going to share my creations, I will have to get over it, I suppose…

Going Sugar-Free

I am trying this week to go Sugar-Free, and I am not talking about switching to Diet Coke.

I am trying not to eat any added sugar at all, in anything.

This is harder than you might think. You can’t go sugar-free just by avoiding sweets. In the U.S. anyway, sugar is in almost everything. I went through my cabinets and fridge and marked with a sharpie all the sugar-laden foods with an X.

Why is there sugar in mayonnaise? I’ve made it from scratch before, out of only egg yolk, oil, mustard, lemon juice and salt. Same deal with spaghetti sauce. Aren’t tomatoes sweet enough? I definitely don’t add sugar to my homemade sauce.


Obviously, all cereals are out. I am not a big cereal eater anyway (this is my husband’s hoard), but I checked just for fun. Cheerios has only 1 gram of sugar per bowl – that’s about 1/4 of a teaspoon – so the best of the lot. Some of these so-called “healthy” cereals have 13 grams per serving – about 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Oddly enough, the “Crispy Cocoa Rice” cereal is not the sweetest cereal in my pantry

I’m also astonished at how sweet foods have more than one kind of sugar in them. A barbecue sauce, for example, had two kinds of corn syrup, brown sugar, and plain ol’ sugar in it. Yuck.

Food companies do this mostly so that they can hide the amount of sugar in foods. U.S. regulations require food companies to list ingredients by volume, most prevalent to least prevalent, in the food. If they just used, say, corn syrup, that item would appear high up in the list, maybe even first. You think you’re eating tomato ketchup, but the label would reveal you’re eating corn syrup flavored with tomatoes. So they spread out the sugar content among several different types of sugars to hide this reality. There are more than 60! Common ones you see are: sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, honey, agave syrup, cane juice, beet sugar, sucrose, fructose, etc.

Some people think that some kinds of sugars are “healthier” than others. Not true. It’s all basically the same. Just because honey and maple syrup come from nature doesn’t mean they’re less sugary than corn syrup that comes from a factory.

I stumbled upon another reality of processed foods – things tend to get sweeter over time. I had in my pantry two boxes of Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate granola bars – one “original” and one “improved.” Obviously, these have sugar in them. I have been bringing them to work sometimes if I want a sweet treat to have with coffee, because it’s a better option than, say, a pastry or doughnut. I compared the old nutrition ingredients to the new, and look what I found:

The “new and improved” is actually “new and worse.” There’s more sugar and fat and less protein now, but more chocolate! The bar is denser and also stickier from the extra sugar. Brands like Kashi have a “health halo” around them. They use packaging and advertising to make people think their products are good choices, but they’re not.

Finally, here’s a Tale of Two Salsas.


The one on the right is a Peach and Mango salsa. It’s sweet, yes, because there are peaches and mangos in there. Yet there’s also sugar and agave syrup, which is supposed to be “better” than corn syrup. As if.  WHY? The salsa on the left is a roasted tomato and pepper concoction – no added sugar. Its 1 gram of sugar occurs naturally in tomatoes. So it’s what I am going to have.

Me Made May Circa 2010

“Hey Soul Sister” was on the radio and my husband couldn’t put down his new iPad. It was 2010 and I made this shirt:

Mystery pattern top from 2010 and Simplicity 3688 pants.

This week’s highlight from Me Made May is the oldest me-made garment I still have. While this shirt is old, it’s still in pretty good shape – at least if you don’t look too closely.

I can’t remember what the pattern was. I think it was one of those “quick and easy” ones Joann has in racks near the pattern cabinets: See & Sew? New Look? Kwik Sew? Even If You’re an Idiot, You Can Sew This? Anyway, it’s your basic knit T-shirt with a handkerchief hem, made with godets and a Y-shaped side seam. It was an impulse purchase. I was in Joann shopping for Halloween costume patterns and fabric for my niece and nephew. I saw this pattern on the rack and thought, “Why not also make a top?”

I was heavier at the time than I am now, so this design appealed to me for its “lump hiding” ability. When I lost the weight, I ditched the pattern but kept the shirt for old time’s sake. I am tempted to make another doing a rub-off – how hard could that be?

I’m wearing this with black jeans made from Simplicity 3688 – high-waisted pants with a 1940s vibe.

Also in Me-Made fashion this week were these looks for the office:


I get a lot of “looks” when I wear the Oki Style “Joker” shirt, pictured here with RTW skinny pants. It’s a lot of look, but I like it. I had to go more business formal one day last week, so I put on my trusty eggplant-colored Cordova jacket from Sewaholic Patterns and my boring-but-serviceable McCall’s 6901 trousers (RTW shirt).

These are some casual looks – toiling in the garden in a faded and stretched-out McCall’s 7247 long-sleeved T-shirt, and walking the dog in my fleecy half-zip Kwik Sew 3452.


Plus, here are a couple of weekend outfits. The red bomber jacket from Simplicity 8174 was just the thing to spice up a look for an otherwise boring trip to the hair salon and the grocery store on Saturday – worn with the Simplicity 3688 pants again. The sweater and top combo was going to be my Mother’s Day outfit: the Jalie drop-pocket cardigan and a blouse from the Italian sewing magazine La Mia Boutique, worn with RTW jeans. Really need to make jeans!


Unfortunately, I was dealing with allergy-induced headaches and fatigue all weekend, so we cancelled Mother’s Day and I didn’t get out much. When you dress up to go grocery shopping, you really have to question your life.

A Winning Upcycle Project

I won second place in the 2018 Upcycle Contest for my Hudson’s Bay knock-off coat! Woot!

I am pretty amazed. This was not the most creative upcycle, but it was pretty striking graphically, I guess. Or maybe my funny story about it charmed everyone.

Here’s another funny thing. When I mentioned to my mom that I entered this contest, she said she remembered the blanket from my college days. A few days later, this picture arrived in the mail.



Yep there I am, and there the blanket is, looking very 1990 or so.

Remember how cameras back then gave you red eyes? Lovely!

I can’t believe how bad those bangs look. I must have cut them myself.

Also, I am wearing a black Swatch, an oversized sweatshirt and faded mom jeans. Sexy!

I cropped pictures of the other dorm-mates out, since I can’t remember their names. So sad! It was only 30 years ago…

Soooo…. old…..

But I have a cute coat!


Week One of Me Made May

I wore at least one Me-Made item every day during week one, starting with May 1! Here’s a picture from each day in order:

The highlight of the week was Saturday, when I wore my tablecloth upcycled dress to a Kentucky Derby party. Run for the roses? Oh yeah!

On Monday, I wore lingerie (Colette’s Florence Bra), and for the past couple of nights I’ve worn me-made sleepwear (McCall’s 7297), but I am not showing you pictures of those.

Bonus round! My husband got in on the action for Friday cocktails on the patio with the Kwik Sew 4045 shorts I made him two summers ago.


This week I have a plan for officewear Tuesday and Wednesday (including a business dinner). Then I am working at home casual Thursday and Friday. Sunday there’s a Mother’s Day luncheon for my mother-in-law. I am not sure what I will wear to that.