Friday, December 19, 2014

My Top 5 of 2014

I look forward to Gillian's Top 5 post every year and this is the first time I've written my own.  While I felt ruddlerless with regards to blogging for much of 2014, I am pleased to say that I managed to blog about over 30 of my makes.  Without further ado, my Top 5 Hits of 2014 are (in no particular order):

Navy Pants of Perfection
Pattern: Vogue 2128
Project: Sew Miss Fisher

Oh, these beauties! I think they may be my most popular and most worn make of 2014 - ditto the pink! The navy linen/rayon blend is absolutely heavenly and wears beautifully.  Sewing these pants was the first and only time I've used a Vogue pattern without shaking my fist in the air in frustration.

Floradora Dress
Pattern: Washi Dress

This dress marked the positive turning point with both my struggle with style and turning 40.  I discovered the butter softness of Art Gallery fabrics and the gorgeous saturation of their prints.  This was my third or fourth Washi dress, but it's definitely one of my very favourites.  I wore it weekly and always felt fantastic in it.  Buying this pattern, as well as the expansion pack, was one of the smartest investments I made this year.

Sorbetto Tops
Pattern: Sorbetto
Projects: Sew Miss Fisher, FESA 2014

My love of Colette Patterns' Sorbetto is well documented here.  It is with very good reason that this lovely little building block was the top downloaded pattern of 2011.  This year, I added 10 additional Sorbetto variations to my wardrobe and each one was a success.  Sleeveless, short sleeve, and long sleeve, with Peter Pan collars and 1920's inspired hip ties or without, this pattern will always be front and centre in my sewing tool box.

Linen Shift Dress
Pattern: Ribbon Shoulder Shift,  Feminine Wardrobe
Project: Sew Miss Fisher

I fell in love with linen this year not to mention the simple silhouettes in Japanese sewing books, particularly Feminine Wardrobe.  This was my first version of this pattern (I made another in navy dot cotton) and I literally sewed it up in a couple of hours after work one day.  I love everything about this dress - the gentle silhouette, the gathered details at the shoulders, the pockets, and the length.

Renfrew Tops
Pattern: Renfrew
Project: FESA 2014

Another staple pattern makes the list and with good reason.  Renfrew remains my ultimate favourite knit top pattern.  It comes together easily with a minimum of fuss and took next to no tweaking for the ideal fit.  They are my cold weather go-to top as they keep me warm without sacrificing style.  The cowl neck version is so cozy and feminine - a definite bonus!

The project I am most proud of this year is, without a doubt, Sew Dolly Clackett.  This simple wedding gift turned into a 250+ strong contest with fantastic prizes.   I love that Roisin has a tangible example of how much she impacts the online sewing community, as well as having all of us celebrate along with her on her special day.  Many thanks to Nic, her wonderful husband, for being instrumental in helping me keep this a surprise!

* * * * *

I was quite productive from a sewing perspective this year, although I did not blog as much as I would have wanted.  However, with productivity comes disaster and I had my fair share of those!  Below are my Top 5 Misses of 2014:

Birds of a Feather Dress (complete with angry red eyes!)
Pattern:  Simplicity 1873 + gathered dirndl skirt
Project:  Sew Blue February
Status: Donated

Oh, this dress.  I love me some Mo Willems and his pigeon books and I had high hopes for this dress.  The fabric was organic quilting cotton, after all.   However, it was badly printed off grain, meaning that the rick rack and the feather border print was off by almost 2" at the back.  It drove me nuts!  As well, I could never get the bodice for Simplicity 1873 to fit me properly.

Daphne Doolittle Dress
Patterns: Simplicity 1873 (bodice), Jasmine Blouse (sleeves, collar), 1930's Shaped Seam Skirt
Project: Sew Miss Fisher
Status: Headed for the donation pile.

In theory, this dress worked well.  In practice, it did not.  That damn Simplicity 1873 bodice, or The Bodice That Refuses to Be Fit was my nemesis again, as well as not accounting for hips on the slender lines of this skirt.  The fabric was great but the overall look is too frumpy.

Purple Chambray Pants of Perfection
Pattern: Vogue 2128
Project: Sew Miss Fisher
Status: Uncertain

Sadly, these pants are not perfection.  It's the fabric, I think.  The colour doesn't work for me and I felt washed out and faded every time I wore them.  They are comfortable, though.  Do I keep them for lounging around or donate them?


Staple Dresses
Pattern: The Staple Dress
Status: Remake?

I made three Staple Dresses this year with only one success - the Blue Rose Dress.  Even that success is still shaky as I'm just not sure on the print.  My latest Staple Dress was made with some gorgeous pink and black brushed cotton plaid that feels terrific.  However, despite careful stay stitching the neckline stretched out and, despite careful measuring, the waistline shirring is at least 1" below my natural waist.  Ditto to the pink buffalo check version I made in the late summer.  Despite its simple silhouette, I am not sure if it is the right shape for me.  I may save them to rework into some Dottie Angel-esque frocks.

The Whistle Stop Top
Pattern: Lisette Portfolio Top
Project: Me Made May 2014
Status:  Dye it?  Donate it?

I am always super creatively charged during Me Made May and this year was no exception.  However, with speedy sewing comes speedy makes which can lead to wadders.  I have always loved Lisette's original Portfolio Top and Dress pattern but I think I need to come to terms with the fact that it's not flattering for me.  The neckline is too high and the shape a little too boxy.  I loved the fabric I used to make this top; however, the pattern was a poor choice to showcase it.  I may have to take a leaf out of Evelyn Couch's book and run this top over with Towanda!

* * * * *

So there you have it!  All my dirty sewing laundry aired out for all to see! Ha!  My comments are still migrating over from Rhinestones & Telephones and I hope they'll arrive soon.  I've just about given myself apoplexy trying to figure out code and other computery things to get that done.  Whew!

Time for tea and a hot bath.  Try these fantastic organic bath bombs - the lemon verbena is heavenly.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mary Lennox

Lady Skater dress in rose print ponte knit

One of my very favourite books of all time is The Secret Garden.  When I was younger, my uncle gave me a beautiful version with the original watercolour illustrations.  I read it often growing up and now I read it with my own daughter.  It was the magic of an entirely secret place that intially drew me in. As well, I identified with Mary Lennox as an only child; I spent a lot of time playing on my own, just like Mary.  There were so few books out at that time that had only children as central characters, so I naturally devoured this book.

I remember feeling secretly shocked at Mary's outright rude behaviour at the beginning of the story. It was incomprehensible to me that someone could and would behave that way and seem to get away with it!  Colin's behaviour was not much better and I rejoiced when Mary gave him a very large piece of her mind! A young Raja, indeed!

See my Wilma Flinstone necklace? I love it! I thrifted it for $3.99!

I was breathless reading the chapter when the robin showed Mary the way to the garden.  I was bubbling with excitement when Mary brought Dickon to the garden and they began to bring it back to life.  The illustrations at this point become much brighter and more cheerful; you can see the happiness being planted and slowly begin to bloom within the garden and within Mary and Colin.

It's due to The Secret Garden that I have a love of floral prints, specifically roses.  Rose printed dresses are the most common floral in my closet and I always feel pretty and feminine when I wear them.  I was missing rose prints in my winter wardrobe until Gillian shared photos of her floral print ponte knits.  That girl knows her knits! seems to be my go-to for online fabric shopping of late.  They have what I'm looking for at good prices and the shipping is quite reasonable.  It was a bit of a challenge to find a printed ponte knit that wasn't on a black background (I don't wear black very often) but I did find this one and this one.

I sewed the 3/4 length sleeves and left the bodice about 1" below my natural waist.

The fabric is, of course, 100% polyester but, amazingly!, feels soft and not like you're wearing a giant plastic bag. It breathes (thank heaven!) and the skirt drapes and swishes beautifully.  It's lovely and cozy but not too warm to wear to work where the heat tends to blast.

It's my grown up Mary Lennox dress.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

11 Claverton

Colette Patterns Laurel dress with self-drafted long sleeves

When I was growing up, I used to spend the summers with my grandparents in their little village of Stoulton, outside of Worcester.  They lived in a lovely row house with spectacular gardens - both front and back - and a good sized greenhouse at the very edge of the back fence.  They had lived there since being bombed out in the war.  I remember when my grandpa showed me the back of the piano embedded with shrapnel from the bomb that destroyed my granma's London house.

I learned how to peg out the wash properly and prop up the washing line with my granma's big stick so the clean wash wouldn't touch the ground.   It was really lovely to peg out the wash in the back garden.  I used to go through the scullery where my Soda Stream machine was kept in order to get outside (Intergalactic Space Juice was my favourite flavour).  On the right hand fence, my grandpa grew miles of sweet peas (my granma's favourite) that smelled so gorgeous and, I swear, would perfume the clean wash as well as the lavender rinse my granma used.

I eliminated the back darts and zipper for an easy fit. I add a belt if I want a more fitted look.

The left side of the garden was roses and other beautiful flowers whose names I can't remember.  The back garden looked out onto farmland at the time and my grandpa used to tease me that we could see all the way to Gloucestershire it was so flat!

In the greenhouse, they grew all sorts of vegetables - a habit left over from their victory gardening days - and the longest cucumbers I'd ever seen with the vilest tasting skins! Those skins were so bitter that your mouth would pucker practically closed! My granma would peel off those vile skins so we could eat the cucumbers without curdling!  One lunchtime, my grandpa bet me a pound that I couldn't eat 5 sausages. I ate them and got my pound which I promptly spent on toffee at the corner store down the road

Playing with print direction on the pockets

The front garden was exclusively roses and I remember at least 10 different kinds.  I took a petal from each one and sent them in a letter to my mom one summer.  Over the front door, in pride of place, were these enormous hanging baskets just exploding with fuchsias.  They were so lovely and I remember that I used to bolt through the front door at top speed because I was terrified of the bees that were constantly humming around them.

This fabric reminded me so much of my grandparents' fuchsia baskets and many happy summers spent gardening, pegging out the wash, and eating fresh vegetables.  I wasn't quite sure of the 'proper' way the print was supposed to run and, in the end, I decided I like the leaves pointing down.  When I look down, the fuchsia flowers appear upright to me.

Made with Sweet Lady Jane in Fuschia Rose by Jane Sassaman

Number 11 Claverton, Stoulton, Near Worcester was a summer haven for me.  I loved spending time there and am so grateful for my grandparents taking the time to fly me over.  My granma was the one who taught me to sew and crochet (and, belatedly, knit), as well as cook and keep house.  My grandpa used to tease me mercilessly but always with love.  He used to save his pocket change in a piggy bank we called Percy all year for me.  When I arrived, we'd bag it up and take it to the bank to have it changed into bills.  Whatever was saved there was mine to spend as I wished.

Monday, December 15, 2014

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