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.

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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.


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…

An Upcycle 30 Years in the Making

College is a great time for trying on personas. Even if you’re like me, and you went to college to study and to get a good job, you also spend time trying to “find yourself.” I went to Boston University freshman year with “outdoorsy” affectations. I needed just the right look. The summer before school started, on a trip to Quebec I bought this:


It’s an iconic Hudson’s Bay blanket, 100% wool, keeping Canadians warm for centuries, in a style little changed over the years. This was a twin-size or “four-point” blanket, marked with four blue lines along the side. Growing up, I had understood that the points dictated how many pelts a trapper had to trade for the blanket, but the Hudson’s Bay Company says this story is apocryphal. Boo.

It goes with nothing in my home now and has been toted around for decades. (When I set the blanket out on the bed to photograph it, my husband said, “Where did that old blanket come from?”) I’d long thought of refashioning it into a iconic coat of my northern heritage, so the combination of the Refashion Contest and the Bargainista Fashionista contest left me with no excuses!

As long as there have been Hudson’s Bay blankets, people have been making them into coats, it seems. I’d see them around once in a while, growing up in the 70s in New Hampshire, and I just love these vintage ads:


While these looks are classic, I wanted something a little more modern. I almost keeled over when I saw this coat, from the designer Monse.  Cost: 1,990!

Monse coat

I figured I could make something similar for the grand out-of-pocket cost of NOTHING!

I’ve had Butterick 6244 in stash since it won a “PR favorite” award in 2016. The coat is semi-fitted and unlined, with the front extending into a draped collar. Seems like a good match, right?


The pattern calls for wool double-cloth or coating. The blanket was a bit heavier, so I had to adapt a bit. I added 1 cm to the side and center-back seam allowances to give me plenty of real estate for the turn of cloth into flat-felled seams. I hemmed the bottom and sleeves by hand to reduce bulk.

Instead of doing a bulky narrow hem on the front, I cut off the 5/8-inch seam allowance and finished the raw edges with a machine triple blanket stitch in navy upholstery thread. The stitch is a bit uneven, as the wool was heavy and was hard to feed through the machine. I have decided to pretend this was intentional, to give the coat a “rustic” look. Also, because the blanket’s right side was a bit pilled up and had a couple of small stains, I used the wrong side out.

I skipped the Monse coat’s buckled sleeve cinchers and the weird chest harness, in part because I didn’t want to buy buckles and grommets and in part because I just don’t like them. I sewed the original Hudson’s Bay label into the coat, to match the Monse coat.

It’s too hot (FINALLY) to wear it this year, but it will be perfect for next winter!

Upcycle from the Outside In

I’m committed to upcycling, since I had great success with my tablecloth-turned-dress last year. So when my old bathrobe got a bit too ratty to use anymore, I held on to it in hopes of giving it a second life.

Upcycled from my old bathrobe

The fabric is in good shape – minus a few holes at the shoulder from close encounters with a hairbrush, and a coffee stain on one pocket that defies detergent.

There’s enough fabric here to make a nightgown, so I reached again for McCall’s 7297. The  nightgown is basically a longer version of the pajama top I made last fall:

IMG_20171128_181210 (2)

The PJ top has been great, but with warmer weather coming, I would like something cooler. (The pants are ginormous and have stretched out with use, but that’s another story.)

I lined up the bathrobe with the pattern pieces and sew I could squeeze out the nightgown and even lengthen it a bit.  I will need to remove ease in the sleeves, but they’re basically OK. I have enough of the candy-striped facing and belt for the trim along the bodice, hem and sleeves.

I was hoping to reuse the pocket that did not have the baffling coffee stain, so I gently unpicked it – what a chore! There was all this gross gray lint inside. Ew.


All in a day’s work for the environment, eh?

Which Knit Dress to Sew This Spring?

I have been collecting knit dress patterns for a while now. I have not sewn any of them. I am a wimp when it comes to this type of project – I’m not that well-versed with knits, and I haven’t sewn many dresses because of fit issues of the pear-shaped variety.

Hope – like spring – springs eternal. I am ready to try! I need a dress for the office. Can you help me decide what to sew up?

This is part of The Monthly Stitch’s April Challenge. Please vote in the comments for the dress you think I should sew up, and I’ll do it in April. Here are links, pictures, and a bit of pro and con commentary from me, presented in no particular order:

  1. Muse “Gillian” Wrap Dress 

Pros: Flattering wrap style, with contrast belt for my small waist, sleeves

Cons: Not sure about those gathered shoulder yokes, past experience with Muse had fit problemsGillian wrap dress

2. Vogue 1312

Pros: Very popular and well-reviewed dress, design by Lynn Mozono, edgy style, sleeves

Cons: Too edgy for me? Will the shape flatter me?V1312_03

3. New Look 6301

Pros: Flattering mock wrap style, very popular and well-reviewed dress, New Look fits me well usually, sleeves

Cons: A little “meh?” Too low-cut?


4. McCall’s 7350

Pros: Flattering fit-and-flare shape, McCall’s usually fits well. Similar to a old favorite RTW dress. I would make this shorter, without the hi-low hem.

Cons: Cap sleeve or sleeveless – will require a jacket or cardigan for the office. Also, a little “meh?”


Please vote! Thank you!

Mending Mojo

My sewing mojo ebbed after the pants-fitting debacle and the ass-awkward plaid skirt mess. I decided to take a month off from sewing. Instead, I worked on mending and improving a few me-made and RTW garments.

I have a bad habit of thinking “good enough” when I am done with a project, even if a few fussy details aren’t perfect. I like to wear things a few times and assess if I need to tweak the fit, change a detail or fix a flub. I also want to be sure, frankly, that I really like something I’ve made before I’ll commit more time and materials to it.

I assessed some recent makes and put a few in a “mending pile”:

Simplicity 3688: Fix the wonky topstitching on one of the rear pockets.
skirt front
Sew down the kick pleat better in this Burda 6895 skirt so it doesn’t bunch up when I sit, and sew the hip buttons down more securely.
The sleeve hems in this Simplicity 8174 jacket are a bit twisted with the lining. Need to fix this!
Same with this Deer & Doe Arum dress – the sleeves of the fabric and lining don’t play well together and they’re a skosh tight.
My husband likes these shorts from Kwik Sew 4045, but the back pockets are too shallow for his cellphone – I need to extend them.
The lining hem on this Brooklyn skirt from Colette’s Seamwork magazine is wonky and shows a bit in the back.

This pile of mending should keep me busy for a couple of weeks, by which time I hope the spring weather will have arrived and I can get excited about sewing again!

Everything Sucks

My sewing room garbage can is stuffed. I put in there the muslins and pattern pieces from the Burda trousers 127 from the December 2017 issue. The fit just looks awful, no matter what I do. I will spare your eyeballs the ugly pictures from my third muslin attempt. It was a serious shitshow. The idea to do a “full thigh adjustment” did not work. Excess fabric pooches out in the thighs and just looks absurd. So yeah, I learned that lesson.

Also in the bin is my skirt from New Look 6326. This had two problems – dodgy fabric and a backside fit that just baffled me. The waist was enormous but when I put in another set of darts in the back, I got this bizarre pleating effect. Could I fix it? Maybe. But fuck it. I don’t even want the skirt anymore. It’s made of wool crepe and it’s already mid-February.

Basically, I struggle mightily to fit the bottom half of my body. I can make tops and jackets all day. I can make a fit-and-flare dress or skirt. But I have to deal with my thighs, butt and waist in any way, I fail. This is serious disappointment. Half the point of sewing apparel for me is to get clothes I want but cannot buy because RTW cuts don’t remotely fit me.

I have always hated my legs. Even as a child I hated them. I seriously had cellulite and stretch marks on my thighs when I was 12. I have spent my entire life trying to deal with this. Even at my thinnest as an adult, my legs looked terrible. Now I have gained back some of that weight, and I think every fucking pound of it went to my legs and my ass.

This is a string of failures. I am also having problems with this graduate class I am taking. Work is boring. I can’t seem to lose weight. And our dinner party last night didn’t turn out well either.

Part of me knows that failure is inevitable when you try something new or hard. “Give yourself permission to suck,” I say to myself. Well, I suck all right. Everything sucks. I feel like I just need a good long cry, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I thought maybe if I wrote this – just put all the shit out there – it would release the floodgates.