September (aka. Teacher Problems)

It happens every September. I blog like mad all summer, I save some posts up for the start of school, and then school starts and… crickets.

My husband was sick 5 days into the school year, and I made it 9 days. I wake up in darkness, and I get desperately sleepy by 8:30pm. I’m getting back into driving 2.5+ hours a day. We even coped ok with having to buy a new car sooner than expected, when the driver’s door stopped opening on our old Pontiac.

I love my job, but I’m a crap blogger at this time of year. I’ve got posts ready that I could put up on the blog, but I’m too worn out to reply to comments, so I won’t post them. WHICH IS OK! I’m not really apologising… just putting my thoughts out there, because I love blogging and it’s part of what keeps me happy and positive.

So instead, find me elsewhere on the interwebs:

  • On Cali Fabric’s blog, with matching t-shirts for my sister and I.
  • At Spool and Spindle, teaching t-shirts in October and t-shirt hacks in November. I’m so excited for the hack class!!!
  • On Instagram, where I tanked out of the #sewphotohop in the first week!
  • On Facebook, where Nicole Morgan and I started a closed group called “Sew that dang coat already!” for people like me who make big promises but never actually make that coat!
  • On the Curvy Sewing Collective, trying to politely tell beginner sewists not to get sucked into the quest for perfection with WAY TOO MANY MUSLINS.
  • On Facebook in the Curvy Sewing Collective Community closed FB group. We started this group in August, and holy moly, it’s unstoppable! I honestly can’t stay on top of it (lucky we’ve got such great volunteer mods, because otherwise it would take more time to run than the actual CSC website, with is time-consuming enough!) If you are looking for a welcoming and inclusive place to ask any question about sewing, or get 40 compliments on any picture, this is your place. As always “curvy” is undefined, so if you sew or want to sew, you are welcome.

Here’s what else Instagram says I’ve been up to:


Making a Pinterest-inspired asymmetrical tunic that I didn’t like, and turned into pyjamas; Trying out a MyImage magazine from; Making a simple kimono tee because somehow I don’t have enough tops in my wardrobe. 


Sew That Dang Coat Already; Volunteering at the Terry Fox Run; Buying kitty fabric at and stripes at Fabricland!

Funny that I started this post thinking I’d been silent online… I guess I’ve been busy enough! See you back here when routine settles in and my body catches up with the demands of the day!

Comino Blouse


I’ve been really into boxy and flowing tops this year… but as we head back into the school year, I felt like maybe I should make a few more polished items. I’ve been obsessing about sewing neckline keyholes lately, so I combined the two goals into one top!


The pattern is one of my all-time favourites: the Comino Cap dress. Seriously, this has been the pattern that keeps on giving: I’ve used the dress as-is, the bodice with other skirts, the skirt with other bodices, the t-shirt pattern, and now, a short version of the dress as a peplum blouse.

The fabric is so pretty, isn’t it? I love a floral on a dark background. It’s an ITY, which worked against me a bit… My neck and sleeve bands came out a bit tight, which is gathering the shirt up and making the waist sit higher. Truth be told, It’s probably time to reprint the pattern and cut a bigger size – my pattern is labelled with little prompts to cut on the fly, like “add 1 inch here!” That said, it’s totally wearable like this, so I’m not going to fret too much! In a rayon, the size is just right.


The keyhole is low-tech: I used a scrap of fabric as a facing, and freehand sewed a shape I thought would work. It’s trimmed and topstitched, and that’s it! I serged the neckband as normal, pinning either side of the keyhole to get the right spacing. I handstitched the serged seam allowance up towards the neckband so it wouldn’t show through the keyhole. Super simple!


Oh, and the pants? Jeggings that I made before jeggings was a word! They are Espresso leggings sewn in a stretchy twill sewn in 2014. I know sometimes on blogs we see things when they are new and never again, so I’m trying to mix in some older stuff I still wear.

I’m really pleased how well this dress pattern works as a blouse – I wonder what other TNT dresses are just waiting to be shortened? 



Wardrobe Padding

I cleaned out my summer scraps from the sewing room the other day – aka. the huge pile of scraps from everything I’ve sewn over the last 3 months! In the process, I finished up some WIPs and sewed some scrap busters. Sewing scraps is almost like tidying, right?


First up, a Maria Denmark Day-to-Night top, sewn up using leftovers from my Groove dress. That dress highlighted the bold Baroque scroll border print, and I didn’t think I could use that twice and get away with it! So for this top, I just used the centre part of the yardage, which is a kind of abstract houndstooth. I picture wearing this top with black pants and a sweater – kind of a classic, work-friendly, don’t-notice-me sort of look!

(OK, only in my wardrobe would this count as a slightly conservative look!) 


Next, a reworked dress! This was a Mission Maxi dress that I made last summer, and it was actually the outfit that prompted the Better Pictures Project! I just couldn’t get good pictures of it, and I decided to increase my skills! The dress was never a great fit (Hello, sneaky weight gain!) and didn’t get worn. I like the fabric, so I cut it up into a Jalie Dolman top. Hopefully now it will at least get worn!


Third, a Groove dress top! I used the hem from the Santa Fe to shorten the Groove dress. Groove is more fitted in the bust, and has proper sleeves, so I like it better than the kimono tee variation of the Santa Fe. Fits quite like a Plantain in the end!

I got this faux-tye-dye rayon jersey locally… and then realised the circular pattern made print placement rather awkward! The first time I cut the front I got a boob-target… so I used that as the back, and recut the front. Except when I threw the top on for pictures, I put it on backwards! Ooops!


Finally, a pair of Ginger jeans. I’m in love with my Cone Mills pair, but couldn’t quite bring myself to cut into more precious Cone Mills denim, so these are made with cheap, stretchy local denim instead.  It’s not nearly as good, but it does wear a good 4 times or more without getting too baggy.

I’ve been having lots of thoughts about jeans fit lately… namely, how much should I care about wrinkles? I did even more knock-knee adjustment on these, and I can’t say it’s changed much. I do have quite a curvy bottom half, and it’s a lot to ask of a stiff fabric to drape around me without folds and wrinkles! Part of me wants to quest for the perfect fit, and part of me is tired of feeling like my jeans aren’t good enough, when they are as good as RTW or better. What do you think?

None of these pieces are show-stoppers, but they fill gaps in my wardrobe. I’m thinking of them, as the title says, as wardrobe padding: the sort of B-list clothes that give you a few more choices in the morning while you wait to strike sewing gold and make something you’ll love! I’m blogging them anyway, because I like the honestly of it. Slightly mediocre photos, slightly mediocre makes… but practical, cute enough, and I cleared some fabric out of the sewing room!

Proportion and Practicality

Today I’m blogging over at Cali Fabric about my coral leopard Santa Fe tent dress… which really got me thinking about what works on my body and what I like to wear. Proportion and practicality – this dress needed some tweaks to get there!

PicMonkey Collage

First, proportion. I started off with the version on the left. The mesh ruffle felt cute and flirty while I sewed it, but in pictures (and real life) it made the skirt too long and the dark colour dress distracted the eye. I felt very “ladies who lunch”! So I cut off the ruffle and rehemmed (actually, there is still some ruffle in the hem, which does give it some useful volume). Shorter = sassier = cuter, to my eye at least!

And yet… the belted dress felt so short to me. Like, can’t sit down without touching skin to the seat short, which is just not comfortable to me. Which is where practicality came in… because realistically, I’m never going to wear a non-stretch belt with a knit dress, even if it makes it more flattering. So I’ve been wearing it like this, instead:


To my mind this is a true tent dress – angling out right from the underarm with no shaping. I think it’s a silhouette what works because you feel good in it, not necessarily because it makes your body look bangin’. Does that make sense? It’s the smile and strut that sell it, not the look itself.


On a tangent though, isn’t it nice to remember that your favourite patterns can take you from work to play with very few changes? One version I’d wear to give a presentation at work, one I’d only wear on weekends, and the only difference is a belt and 3″ of length.


This dress reminded me of how clothing creates identity: The longer length and ruffle made it feel older, and helped me role-play “competent professional with a hint of sass”… but I sewed it in the summer, when what I wanted to channel was “34 isn’t old!”

That is rather a lot of deep thought to come out of a coral leopard jersey dress! How proportion changes perception, how practicality dictates what we actually wear even when it isn’t the most “flattering”, how one pattern can be easily changed, and how we want our clothing to make us feel. I love sewing blogging for giving me a chance to process all those thoughts, and in the end, still have a cute dress!

Thoughts on Teaching Sewing, and Upcoming Classes

I taught my first two sewing classes this summer, and I loved it! Both were intro-to-sewing-knits classes, using the Grainline Lark and Cashmerette Concord patterns.



My first class! It was great to have some familiar faces – I’m grateful to them for their support!

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Everything goes a LOT slower than I predict! But stressing about time takes all the fun out of it for everyone, so we lengthened our class and now there’s time to enjoy each stage of prep and sewing!
  • Every machine is different… and the settings that get a workable stretch stitch are totally different on every machine. Be prepared to experiment.
  • Lark and Concord are both beautifully drafted, and the sizing charts are excellent. In a nice cotton spandex (like Art Gallery knits or Laguna jersey), the sizing has turned out every time.
  • Have a wide range of sizes is important. It’s been great to have women of all sizes walk into class, and been able to have a pattern that will work for the. We’re adding Thready Theory and Jalie men’s/boys tees next time to that we can be even more inclusive!
  • Women know their fit issues. It’s been great to be able to ask women what fit problems they often have in RTW, and help them pre-emptively make sure the pattern will work for them! Also, knitters make great sewists!
  • Teaching is exhausting! It’s like the first day of school – all adrenaline and excitement, and a long nap afterwards!
  • Students are awesome. I’ve been so impressed by everyone who has taken the class! The big buzzword in teaching these days (in my area, at least) is “grit” – and these women have stick-to-it-ness in spades!



Lovely, talented and resilient students! 

I’ve got two classes book for the fall, so if you are within driving distance of Waterloo, Ontario, you should join us! I’m teaching at a brand new store called Spool and Spindlethey’ve got a nicely curated collection of high-quality fabrics online and in person, if you are interested! I’ll be teaching “Everyday Tees” again on October 23rd, and an intermediate class called “More Than a T-Shirt” about t-shirt hacks in November.


I’m so excited about teaching hacks – I hope we get some adventurous sewists! 

Have you taken any sewing classes? I’d love to hear the best (or worst!) advice, wisdom, or experiences you’d had with a sewing teacher! 


Coral Sweater

Coral Sweater

Not a me-made, but a gift from my sister!

Anne mentioned a few months back that she’s been eyeing a pattern thinking it would suit me: the Lady Bat. Isn’t that a great name? And so kind of her to knit it for me! You can read all her Ravelry notes here.

Coral Sweater

I don’t really know how to describe this shape – it’s a hexagon, I guess, but an irregular one. (Hello, I feel like I’m teaching geometry! Which is, actually, one of my favourite math units to teach…) Anne brought the neckline in higher/smaller than the pattern called for so that it would be more work-appropriate.

Coral Sweater

I can still wear it Footloose-style if I want – I’ve always liked off the shoulder tops but never felt comfortable in them! (How do you wear this style without always fussing at the neckline?) It’s shorter and boxier than what I usually wear, but it’s a beautiful colour and a fun shape!

Anne says it can go straight in the washer because it’s cotton – that seems a little scary to me though! How do you care for cotton sweater, O Crafty Ones?

p.s. Thanks Anne!

p.p.s. I’m writing this on my brand new MacBook Air! Cost a small fortune to get the specs I need (aka. larger enough to store all my photos on), but it’s so fast! It also doesn’t heat up hot enough to give me contact burns, so that’s a good thing, and a sign my old computer was really struggling!❤


Concord Dress #3

Look, I hope you follow my blog because you like the sort of thing I sew… because all I’ve sewn this summer are endless rayon jersey dresses! And I’ve got one more for you today – a last-minute Cashmerette Concord tee hack before my first class teaching local sewists Concord and Lark tees!

Concord Dress

Essentially, it’s a regular Concord, lengthened into a dress, with a partial wrap over the bodice. It’s inspired by these dresses I pinned lately: 1 and 2 ! I’ve also been admiring all the Named Keilo dresses that have been popping up again this summer. My goal with this hack was to get the wrap effect with minimal extra fabric around the waist. I think it worked!

I know this print makes it pretty impossible to see the design lines, so here’s how it looks up close:

Concord Dress

The “hack” could work with any t-shirt pattern. The wrap is cut double-layered, with a fold on the diagonal edge. I just laid the pattern piece over the folded fabric, eyeballing the angle of the wrap, and cut the shoulder and side seam to match the pattern. You could slash and spread for more drape, but I didn’t bother!

Here’s the order of construction:

  • sew shoulder seams, sandwiching the wrap on one shoulder
  • finish neck with a folded band, staying clear of the wrap
  • finish the armscyes with folded bands, treating the wrap as one with the bodice
  • sew long ties, leaving about 30cm unsewn on the end of one tie
  • turn the ties inside out, and fold/iron the seam allowances of the unsewn section
  • slide the bottom edge of the wrap into the unsewn section of tie, and attach by topstitching
  • sew the side seams, catching the wrap and the back tie into one side
  • hem

Concord Dress

I picked up the fabric for cheap on one of those shopping trips where you just can’t find anything fabulous… it’s a little pale and warm-toned for my usual palette, but in the end, I like how it works in a very summery dress! It’s a slubby rayon knit.

One accidental detail I like is how the straight edge of the wrap makes the neckline asymmetrical. And how perfect is this necklace my mom bought me a few years ago while we were on vacation?

Concord Dress

It was a little tricky to finish the neckline once the wrap was sewn into the shoulder seam, but the solution was to cut the wrap narrower at the shoulder than the dress, so that there was seam allowance for the neckline. The neckline band is folded inside and topstitched down. The shoulders are cut in slightly for a better sleeveless shape, and finished with folded bands.

When I wore this dress to my t-shirt class, I pointed out to the students that the hem is totally crooked. It’s higher in the centre front, and slightly shorter on one side than the other, because I was cutting sloppily and almost ran out of fabric. But did you notice? Nope! And I doubt anyone would in person, either. It goes with my general philosophy of of sewing: No one is going to notice those tiny details when you are wearing it on your smiling self! Plus a garment is almost always in motion, and viewed at an angle. Don’t stress the small stuff!

(Unless you are going to present in a large venue, where people have time and space to inspect you more closely! Then, aim for perfection.)

Concord Dress

I can picture a winter version of this dress: slightly longer, with sleeves, and maybe in ITY knit? I think it could be quite chic! (Of course, I’m planning to use some royal blue and white polka dot knit to try it out, so it will probably be cute instead of glamourous.)

This is now my third dress version of this pattern, and I love how different they all look! (Well, ok, they are all short shift dresses, but I don’t think the average person would look at them and say “Wearing your favourite t-shirt pattern again, Gillian?”)

PicMonkey Collage

 In other news, my 2009 MacBook seems to have bit the dust, and I’m faced with dropping big bucks to replace it. I’ve had a Mac laptop since about 1994 though, and they’ve always been worth it. If it wasn’t for blogging, I could probably get by with my iPad – so it’s time for my biggest ever blog expense?! Console me, dear readers! 

Tent Dress Trial and Error

It’s my 5th wedding anniversary today, and we’re celebrating by going to see one of our favourite bands play in Canada for the first time! A few days ago Jamie was showing me live concert video on YouTube, and I got inspired by the stage costumes the band wears… and half an hour later, I had my own knock-off/tribute version all cut out!

Everything Everything Santa Fe

(Here’s a link to their YouTube so you can listen as you read:

You know how unlike me it is to sew a solid, so I was rather proud to find enough jersey in similar colours. You’ve seen all three fabrics before as this scarf, this top and this tee! The neon coral was the only one with enough yardage to be the dress, so it became the main colour by default.

Wherein lies the problem. This fabric is in no way thick enough to be a dress, and I knew it when I bought it. Last summer I made two tops out of other colours of the same fabric (Actually, that might be the real start of my tent-shape obsession!) but as a dress? It doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

Everything Everything Santa Fe

Folks, I am wearing SPANX with this! Goodbye, easy breezy summer dress, hello sweaty tight Lyrca! I take it as a point of pride that my blog pics are honest to how I’ll actually wear clothes, so I almost never wear them in pictures. Worse, every bra I own shows through, in outline if not in colour as well. Why you gotta be so sheer, jersey?

(OK, obviously it’s not indecent, but I’m a prude AND I like to be totally comfortable in my clothes!)

Everything Everything Santa Fe

That said, let’s talk about what’s great about this dress;

  •  I LOVE an unplanned project. It’s fun, it’s on the fly, it’s like a Project Runway challenge without the judging!
  • What else would I ever have made with a metre of neon coral jersey and some pink and purple scraps. This isn’t my favourite garment ever, but it isn’t because I chose the wrong pattern or sewed it poorly!
  • The pattern! It’s my spring/summer obsession, the Hey June Santa Fe tank. I’ve actually already made it into a dress, which I can’t blog yet because it’s a Cali Fabric project… but I can promise that when this is sewn in a cute print, I love it!
  •  The colour blocking. Reader , I NAILED that V, even in a lightweight jersey. Thank you, handbasting. You really are worthwhile!

Everything Everything Santa Fe

As I went out to take blog pics, I told Jamie, “It’ll probably end up as pyjamas!” But after a few days, I decided it could do better – like this!


Yup, my dress is now the tank the pattern always intended. As a top, the sheerness doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I thought for a while about sewing a denim mini to wear to the concert with it, but laziness prevailed and I dug out these Profontaine shorts from last summer instead. Why throw good fabric after bad?

So there you have it, my third tent dress trial. An excellent pattern if you want a swing tank or tee, either of which can be lengthened into a dress. Unlike my first two dresses (Jorna and Groove), this one has no shaping at the bust and angles straight out from the armpit. A good pattern, and poor fabric choice!

Paint Daub Maxi


My first post for Cali Fabrics is now up! I made this maxi in early July, using the Comino Cap bodice, and the skirt from the Sallie Jumpsuit and Dress pattern. I can tell this dress is a favourite because it’s what I reached for on the first day of ESL camp, and another time to meet a friend I haven’t seen in 10 years. When an outfit is what you want to wear to look trustworthy for work AND fun for friends, it’s a winner!

(I was also wearing this dress the day I bought the crazy border print for my latest tent dress, and it entertained me how similar the colour scheme is on the two fabrics. This dress is part of why I bought that fabric!) 


For those of you that are curious (as I would be!) here’s the arrangement the #Caliblogsquad has with Cali Fabrics: We get a set allowance periodically (not monthly as with most blogger networks), and we blog about what we make with our fabric. We choose what to make, which fabric to use, and get complete control over what we say about it. As you can tell from my fabric haul videos in the past, I’ve been really happy with my orders from Cali Fabrics, so it was a no-brainer to partner with them.

You can read more about the dress on the Cali Fabrics blog! (Please come over and say hi or follow – the blogging team is 20 people strong, including a few of my favourite bloggers!) There’s also a giveaway to win a $100 gift certificate, which at Cali prices, would go a LONG way!

Tent Dress Trials – The Groove Dress

Groove Dress

Ta-da! It’s my latest tent dress! This one is the Groove Dress, which has both a child and a adult version. It comes with a bunch of variations, like short and long sleeves, a cowl and hood, and a high-low hem or straight hem. There is some interesting shaping: the side seams don’t flare out until under the bust, and there are optional fisheye darts in the back. If you are looking to dip your toe into the world of tent dresses, this is a nice place to start!

Groove Dress

I feel like the real story is this amazing ITY knit – amazing, as in probably not many other people would buy it, but I  love it! Teal, black, royal blue, orangey coral… it’s right up my alley. It’s a border print, with the baroque scrolls running up both selvedges. Thanks to everyone on Instagram who helped me decide on placement!

Groove Dress

In all this pictures I’ve seen of this dress online, it looks really swingy… but comparing it to other patterns, it’s actually about the same shape as a Santa Fe top. I shortened it at the hem (as the pattern suggested) but the end result was it’s not nearly as tent-like as I imagined! That’s also partly because I sized down one size, thinking that would give me a slightly fitted bodice to balance the very swingy hem… which I actually created was an almost too-snug bodice. In a drapier or stretchier knit, it would have been the right choice. Oh well! The upside is that this is now a very wearable dress, instead of the bonkers over-the-top tent I planned.

Groove Dress

A couple little details that I enjoy – look how perfectly the print matches across that centre seam! I admit, it’s partly accidental. I hand-basted it to make sure the twigs would meet, but I didn’t realise until I sewed it that the design actually flows across. I did a nice deep hem to give it weight, and added some ruching on the sleeves when they turned out a little longer than I wanted. Oh, and I cut more of a scoop neckline on the fly because the high neck is seriously close fitting!

For a bit of Better Pictures Project fun, I tried to get some lens flare…

Groove Dress

…which ended up as a bunch of super dark pictures, and some pictures of me with a halo, but no actual lens flare! Anyone know the secret?

Groove Dress

All in all, I’m happy! It’s not quite what I pictured, but maybe that’s a good thing. A really crazy dress would only get worn in summer, but this I’ll actually wear to work!

Next up in my tent dress trials: I’ve got plans to make a Papercut Sway in navy crepe. The tasteful ying to this dress’s yang!