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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

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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!

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(Here’s a link to their YouTube so you can listen as you read: https://www.youtube.com/user/EvrythingEvrything)

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!)

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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!

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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

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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!) 

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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!

Cashmerette Springfield Tank

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Say hello to my sister, Anne!

When Jenny from Cashmerette put out the call to test a woven tank, I knew it wasn’t destined to be for me. I just can’t stand the feeling of a woven shirt pulling tight when my arms move forwards! It gives me a headache and makes me feel stressed. However, I thought it might be perfect for my sister. She works in an office environment and is a prolific knitter, so she always needs basic tops to wear under fabulous sweaters!

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For my tester version, I used a soft blue and white rayon challis. It’s a wearable fit, but the front angles up. The second top is a polyester crepe that I bought in high school – deep stash busting here! I went up a cup size, and you can see it’s hanging much better. Yes, that is partially the fabric, but the challis would have hung straighter with more bust room.

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There were a bunch of little tweaks made to the pattern before it was released (raised neckline and armscye, lengthened body, darts shortened) but I have to say, Anne and I were both really happy with the fit already! I can’t think of any other woven pattern that I could sew up with not one single adjustment and have it fit this nicely. Bra straps covered, no gaping or pulling, and a lovely scoop neckline that is still high enough to cover the insulin pump Anne wears at centre bust.

If you’ve been sewing for a few years, then the obvious comparison to this pattern is Colette’s free Sorbetto. It was the first piece of clothing I sewed with a pattern since my teens, and I really credit it with getting me over my fears into into sewing in 2011! Wanna see that first top? Here it is!

MMM20 / Japanese for Crafters

I sewed it in silk noile (!!) with store bought bias binding – but check out those self-covered Echino buttons! I wore it twice, and this picture is one of those times. It was always too short, too boxy, and too wide at the shoulders for me to feel fabulous in it. I think Jenny’s Springfield pattern is simultaneously more modern and more classic. I think it would look right on women of all ages, and be the perfect first project for curvy women wanting to get into sewing!

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One things I’ll suggest – if you piece the bias binding/facings, you can get away with far less fabric than it calls for! I think it’s a great pattern for using up odd little ends of fabric, or for splashing out on something really nice.

Now that Anne has proved her sewing skills by taking my tee-shirt class and making an amazing tee (also Cashmerette – we’re converts!) I’m wondering if our family trip to the cottage just might include sewing a few more Springfields. I wonder what other suitable fabrics I can dig up from the stash?

 

Tent Dress Trials

I’m always a year or two behind trends – I don’t like them when they are breaking, but by year two, I’m like, “YAS! I need culottes/jumpsuits/whatever!” That’s where I’m at with tent dresses. Call ’em what you like – trapeze dresses, swing dresses – I want them! I toyed with the idea just a wee bit last year, but with my current obsession over the Santa Fe top, I’m all in.

The thing is, it’s a more complicated shape than it seems. My ideal tent dress has lots of volume, but not so much I look pregnant… it’s short enough to be sassy, but long enough to cover my rear when I bend or sit.

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There are two tent dress patterns that seem really popular this summer: Papercut Sway dress, and the Made It Patterns Groove dress. Additional options include lengthening Hey June Santa Fe, or even the Papercut Clover.

And yet.. I’m starting my exploration/obsession with tent dresses with another pattern completely: the Jorna dress! Aka. a pattern I’ve barely seen sewn up before, and the one and only pattern release by blogger Jenna Brand. (She also has versions for girls and maternity.) Normally I’m a little sceptical of recreational pattern designers… but I sewed this pattern up for my Mom a year or two ago, and it’s super cute! Think art teacher chic, with unexpected volume and shaping in the skirt.

Voila!

Jorna Dress

Basically, it’s a tank dress on top, with a cut-on skirt (no wait seam) that veers sharply off at an angle. The hemline is cut on a pronounced curve so that it’s longer at front and back, but short with lots of volume at the sides. Sounds weird, right? But I think it’s actually cute, and combines sassiness with butt coverage!

Jorna Dress

Here’s how short it is at the sides, if I hold back all the fullness of the skirt – and how it looks from the side normally! 

The reason I thought of this pattern was that I’d asked a friend what the difference between Papercut Sway and Clover is… and she’d shown me that Clover has a curve giving shape at the seams, whereas Sway is a straight triangle. Jorna has that same curved side seam, but even more pronounced. The up-side is that it’s still a loose, flowly shape, but it’s got some waist definition.

Jorna Dress

I managed to just barely cut mine from about 1.5m of rayon jersey by including a centre back seam. The rayon is key – my mom’s version in rayon looked totally elegant, but the version I made myself back then in polyester ITY was appalling and went straight in the recycling bin. (It’s now been remade into underwear.) I think the weight of the rayon helps it cling to curves in an appealing way.

Can I hit you with a non-sewing non-sequiter? I had a strange allergic reaction to lipstick this spring, resulting in puffy, peeling and uncomfortable lips. I blame one product in particular, a lip crayon with minty scent… or maybe it’s SPF lip products? For a month or two, even my favourite wear-them-all-the-time lipsticks and lipbalms set me off! Anyway, long story short, I’ve been wearing a lot of eyeshadow this summer to make up for the bare lips!

Jorna Dress

Including this fun duochrome shade that is rust brown but reflects teal in the light. How fun! (And so hard to photograph! I swear it’s way bolder.) I feel like summer makeup is usually marketed as easy and sheer, but since I don’t work in the summer I really enjoy the chance to play and experiment. How about you?

Jorna Dress

So, round one of the tent-dress trials, and I haven’t really made a tent dress! I’ve got a Santa Fe dress ready to blog though, as soon as it goes up on Cali Fabric’s blog first… and the Sway and Groove patterns waiting in the wings! How do you feel about tent dresses? Wanna talk makeup? Let’s chat! 

Catching Up

Summertime! I’m sewing up a storm! Except… none of it feels blogworthy.

Here’s what I’ve sewn lately:

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A beige bra. Dyed the elastic with coffee, and forgot to use different pattern pieces for right and left, therefore, it’s quadraboobing on one side. Whatever. Wearable.

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Underwear. Two pairs with elastic lace which isn’t strong enough, and therefore they give me a wedgie. 4 pairs with fold-over elastic that turns out to be more stretchy and less elastic than the FOE I’ve bought in the past… came out all wobbly. Wearable.

Hudson pants. Made with a stretch woven which in no way has enough drape for this pattern. Realised immediately after finishing that they look like the horrible polyester work pants I had to wear at fast food jobs in the 90’s.

Sallie culottes. Used a crepe double knit to make mid-calf culottes with the pants from the Sallie jumpsuit. The crotch curve is not suited to a more yoga-pant fit at the waist, and the length makes me look shorter and wider.

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3 projects  for Cali Fabric’s blog, which I love but can’t blog yet.

How exciting, right???

I’ve also been sewing samples for my t-shirt class this weekend, and thinking through how best to explain things… breaking in 2 new pairs of Croc sandals, including the leopard ones above. (My husband asked yesterday when I decided to like leopard, and I think we all have Jungle January to blame/thank for that! My current thought on leopard is that, like khaki green, it works perfectly for accessories because it complements the colours in my palette without actually being part of my colour palette. Therefore, it will always “go”, but never be too “matchy matchy”!)

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I even went fabric shopping with a budget to binge-buy fabric, and left 2 stores empty-handed before buying some not-amazing $4 knits. When you immediately try to gussy up a fabric with Sharpies, it probably means you shouldn’t have bought it! Oh well.

None of that is what I meant to blog about today… but turns out my brain really likes to blog sequentially! Now that these less-then-thrilling projects have been recorded, I can blog about my next dress, which I quite like. Also coming up is an update on Sewing Dares and who has finished what!

How’s your sewjo and blogjo? Going strong or faltering mid-season?

Exciting News!

Two fun projects coming up for me!

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1. I’m teaching a t-shirt class! 

A new haberdashery called Spool & Spindle has opened up in Kitchener Waterloo, and I’ve got a couple classes lined up there over the summer! Up first on July 23rd is an intro to knits t-shirt class using students’ choice of Grainline Lark or Cashmerette Concord. It’s only $50 for the class, so if you happen to live nearby, please join us! It’s my first class ever, and I’m really excited to share my love for knits. (Bonus: the store sells Art Gallery knits and some lovely bamboo. Swoon!)

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2. I’m joining the Cali Fabrics blogging team! 

Last month one of my favourite online fabric stores put out a call for contributors, and I am thrilled to say I’m now part of the team! You might remember my two fabric haul videos from them over the last two years, so you know I’m a long time fan. Ron, the one-man-show behind the scenes at Cali, has put together a big blogging team including some of my favourite Canadian bloggers. It will all get rolling in August, so I’ll tell you more then!