Redleaf Etc. Posts

I just shared my first post at Minerva.com – I’m delighted to be a new member of their Maker team! Full disclosure: the Liberty of London Tana Cotton Lawn was gifted to me by Minerva in exchange for a blog post on their site, most of which I’m also sharing here now.

I may possibly have made an embarrassingly high-pitched sound when the parcel came, and I may possibly have made a lot of ‘ooo’ noises when I opened it. It’s light, smooth, and even silky. It’s just a touch crisp but with a lovely, almost fluid drape; I love cotton and cotton blends and sew with them all the time, but the quality of this fabric is miles above what I’m used to. Featherweight fabrics can sometimes be a challenge but this was a dream to sew.

Even the gathering, which is something I don’t tend to enjoy, wasn’t a problem because the fabric was so easy to manipulate and to evenly spread out the fullness.

I knew, for this, that I didn’t want to take a chance on a new pattern. I wanted to sew something that I’ve sewn before, something that I knew I’d wear over and over. I chose Chalk and Notch’s Fringe dress – I’ve made it several times and, amazingly, it fits my under-five-foot self without a ton of adjustments. All I need to do is shorten the bodice by two inches and I’m ready to go.

I’m a fan of Chalk and Notch patterns in general. There are only a few left I haven’t made, and I tend to sew them repeatedly because I’m always pleased with the results. The Fringe has two views to choose from, and either can be made as a blouse or a dress. There’s quite a bit of built-in ease – and if you’re like me, too much ease isn’t always preferable – so do check the finished measurements along with the body measurements to choose a size.

My body measurements fall into the size 20 but I sewed a 16. I usually do view A, but this time, for something just a little different, I went with view B.

And I love it. It’s light and airy and beautiful, and the fabric feels wonderful against my skin. It’ll be nicely cool when summer comes around again, but I’m not about to wait for that – leggings and a cardigan, or long-sleeved tee underneath, will make it a year-round dress. It’s definitely my favourite Fringe so far.

Fringe wasn’t the only Chalk and Notch pattern I sewed this week: I also made a new (slightly hacked) Page hoodie. I’ve wanted to make a sweatshirt with a lace overlay for months but couldn’t decide on a colour. I found this soft dusty green at the local fabric shop – 95% of their stock is quilting cotton but they’re starting to bring in small amounts of basic apparel fabric as well – and thought it would be perfect.

I used the length from the drawstring hem but the band from the other view, and I also cut the sleeves to elbow length and gathered them in to the cuff meant for long sleeves. The hood was going to be the same as the front but I thought I could get away with two layers of lace, instead, and I do really love how it looks. I love the whole hoodie, really, and – of course – I’m thinking about making another one. In a darker or brighter colour, this time, for a different kind of contrast.

And now I need to sit down at the machines again and finish a hot pink cat-print (yes) dress so I can take photos before the sun goes down.

Catch-All Finished! Handmade Sewing

We’re expecting 20 to 30 cm of snow late tonight and into tomorrow, but this morning was not quite chilly enough to keep me from taking photos of recent makes.

First up is a Love Notions Melody Dolman. Look, I sewed a collar! Camp-style, so on the lower end of complicated, but still – a collar. And my one-step automatic buttonhole thing on my sewing machine decided to behave, too.

I started off with a size XL for the shoulders and bust, blended to an XXL for the waist and hips. I also – of course – cut a couple inches off the hem. No other modifications… oh, wait, actually, I didn’t follow the button guide. It was laid out in such a way that there would have been a gap between buttons right over my bust, so I added a sixth button and recalculated the distance between each so I’d have a button in the right place.

The fabric is quilting cotton. I sew with it quite frequently – it’s all I can get locally, aside from a few solid-coloured cotton/lycra knits, but besides that, there are tons of great prints that don’t come in other fabrics. I’ll never quite understand the “quilting cotton is unsuitable for garments” mindset, because I’ve had a ton of fun sewing all kinds of printed cottons into all kinds of different items of clothing.

Next up! An Ellie and Mac Everday Tee. I sewed a straight XXL, shortened by almost five inches. Really like the fit of this tee – the scoop neckline, the dolman sleeves, the high-low curved hem.

The fabric was kind of a bitch to sew, though. It’s a very thin rayon/spandex knit that my sewing machine and serger both really wanted to eat. The twin-needle hems I sewed tunneled like crazy, and it’s definitely noticeable in the photo.

Next time I should probably use a stabiliser under the fabric – I’ve never done that before, but then again, I’ve never sewn with something quite so thin, insanely stretchy, and shifty. I found it in a fabric shop about an hour from here, in a bin of mixed knits that were rolled into balls and sold by the pound. (I also found some fantastic cuts of spandex and stretch lace that I’ve been sewing into dance leotards and leggings, but that’s another post…)

Third make is a Chalk and Notch Fringe Blouse with puffins! Quilting cotton, again. I sewed a size 16 with zero mods – I love how well Chalk and Notch patterns fit me right off the printer. A 16 is a couple sizes smaller than my body measurements say I should make, but there’s a bit more ease in the pattern than I prefer for my own clothing so I sized down, as I usually do.

I really should make the other view of the Fringe one of these days. I made one ages ago but I’ve stuck to the button-front since then. Fake button-front, I should say, because if I can get the garment on over my head without undoing the buttons you’d better believe that’s going to be a non-functional placket.

No, I’m not a lazy sewist – why do you ask?

One more make to go, and then I’ll throw myself back into my studio.

Last one for the post is a Made by Rae Trillium top. I love this pattern, and I love this whale-print fabric, and I think they look great together. I pondered sizing a lot and ended up going with an XL – it’s a bit snug, but my weight has been trending downward lately so maybe it’ll be okay. It’s still pretty and wearable.

Trillium really is one of my favourite patterns. It’s a good shape for me, and fits without adjustments. I can’t wait until the expansion pack – with different sleeves and necklines and pussy bows – is released for the updated pattern size range.

Speaking of favourites, I think the Art Gallery cotton I used for this might become one. I’m used to standard-quality stuff, I guess, so when I get my hands on the good stuff I tend to make all kinds of ‘ooo’ noises while pressing, cutting, and sewing. It’s cool and smooth and feels almost silky, in a way.

And that’s that.

On a final note, I’m super-excited to mention that I got an invitation to join Minerva.com’s Maker team! My first fabric arrived last week and it’s on this weekend’s list of projects. It’s a special fabric, too, so I’m doubly excited.

Back to the sewing machines.

Catch-All Finished! Handmade Sewing

So… yes, I’m still alive. It’s been a while, to say the least, and I’m not even sure where to start. Summer passed in a millisecond and now, suddenly, we’re into late autumn and the first snows have already fallen.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and I’m not sure I have the spoons to get into everything I’ve had to get through to make it to this point. Maybe all I’ll say is that things are good, now. Stable and warm and okay. I’m as healthy as a chronically-ill person can expect to be, and things are on an even keel.

I have to share, though, that I lost my beloved Parker cat at the end of June to kidney disease. I’d been expecting him to live for so many more years that it’s been really hard to get used to life without him. The rest of the cats are healthy and I love them to the moon and back, but Parker was such a special boy with a huge personality, and there’s a space where he used to be.

I’ve been sewing all this time. It’s been a bit of a challenge recently because my body size has been changing, and I’m not as confident in my fitting adjustments as usual. I also find myself a little unwilling to cut into favourite fabrics, because what if my makes don’t fit in a few weeks?

My Instagram has been more active than this blog, for certain, but I’ve been procrastinating with photos of new makes because it’s flippin’ cold outside and I’m losing the desire to freeze even long enough for photos. I’m not sure what I’m going to do this winter, because indoor photos never look nice enough for me.

Enough rambling, I think. Time to sew.

Catch-All News & Updates

I got so caught up on Instagram with Me Made May that I forgot to blog six (6!!!) new makes. Clockwise from top left: a Cashmerette Springfield, two Love Notions Vivace Dolmans, an airplane-print Sew Liberated Estuary skirt, and two Cashmerette Websters. A couple of those patterns – the Vivace and the Webster – are new to me, and both were easy sews. Er, mostly. Attaching the collar on the Vivace may possibly have given me fits, both times, and it doesn’t lie quite as nicely as it should.

Thoughts on Me Made May: I sometimes get into a rut of wearing the same things over and over, and this challenge allowed me to put some thought into it and reach for the makes that I might not wear as often as I’d like. I don’t have enough handmade bottoms to make it through a month of only handmades, but I did have enough tops and dresses to not have to repeat anything – and I still have a few makes I didn’t wear during May.

I’ll definitely do it again. I’ll try to take better photos next time – my facial expressions on half of the photos were just this side of stormy.

In other news, I adopted a kitten from the rescue I volunteer with. Meet Reynir:

He’s so cute I can hardly stand it.

Catch-All Finished! Fur for Brains Handmade Sewing

Yes, pants. I’ve never sewn proper pants before, just PJ bottoms and a couple of ill-fated pairs of shorts in 8th grade about a hundred years ago. I’m terrible for not doing muslins, but pants fitting seems like a complicated thing so I decided to do it this time. Pattern is Muna and Broad’s Sculthorpe pants, and I used a medium-weight cotton twill that I’m fairly certain I inherited from someone.

The pattern was surprisingly uncomplicated, and overall I feel like the finished pants aren’t too bad for a first go. The thigh/calf fit is great, the length is great after I chopped off a couple of inches, and the pockets. Oh, the pockets. I love them. The elastic waist is comfortable, if a bit too big. I’ll tighten the elastic next time. The back rise is spot-on, too.

Fit adjustments for next time: a different size, to start. My shirt hides it in the photo but they’re too big around the hips and waist. I made a size 1 as per my hip measurement, so next time I think I’ll start with one size down and then blend back to a 1 for the legs. As far as the front rise goes, well. I have a tilted waist. It’s a couple of inches lower in the front than in the back, and any pants I try to wear higher than that waistline just slide down. I adjust the waist curve in my muslin and will do the same next time.

I really expected to have all kinds of micro-fit problems with these, and I… don’t? There are a few things I need to change, but these are definitely nicely drafted to fit plus-size bodies. The crotch curve alone is so much better-fitting than anything I’ve ever gotten in RTW. I’m kinda excited to see what the next pair looks and feels like; I’m leaning toward a light non-stretch denim for some reason.

But for now, back to a nebula-print Webster. It’s all cut, and waiting to be sewn.

Catch-All Finished! Handmade Sewing

Still coming right along with Me Made May. Today’s choice is a brand new Springfield top that I sewed just this morning. Cupcake fabric, just because. Nobody will ever accuse me of being mature for my age, and I’m just fine with that.

This time I went down a size in the bust, to a 20 E/F, but graded out to the same size as last time in waist and hips and I’m pleased with the fit. It doesn’t gap under the arms anymore and covers my bra better.

It’s such a fast project – took me about two hours start to finish, with a break in the middle to drive my latest foster cat to her new forever home.

I don’t talk it about it often on here, but I’m involved with animal shelters & rescue and have been for around a decade. I’ve fostered dozens and dozens of cats, from bottle babies right up to senior kitties. I haven’t been able to do it recently because of the pandemic situation, but I’ve spent years taking photos of adoptable cats – and sometimes dogs, too. It’s difficult at times but so, so rewarding.

I wonder if I should start posting some rescue photos here. Hmm. I also wonder what I should sew next – another Webster (looks like I forgot to post the first one here) or the Holyoke I’ve been planning for months.

Catch-All Finished! Fur for Brains Handmade Sewing

So Me Made May is in full swing and I’m pleased to be participating this year. I’ve actually managed, thus far, to keep up with photographing my daily outfits and putting them on Instagram, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing everyone else’s makes, too.

Most of the things I’m wearing this month have been made over the past year, but of course I’ve got to sneak in a few new ones as well. Like this Springfield that I made a few days ago. Please excuse my “selfie in the rain” face and focus on the top, which turned out cute as hell (in my opinion, of course).

As far as alterations, I had to raise the bust dart by an inch (standard for me with Cashmerette), and I graded from a 22 E/F to a 24 at the waist/hip. I’m contemplating going down to a 20 E/F for the bust – and still grading the same for waist/hip – next time, because I find it sags some under the arms. I like tops to be rather fitted in the bust. Thankfully Cashmerette has great finished measurements charts to make choosing a size easier.

And that brings me to a bit of a gripe, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before. It drives me absolutely bonkers when I cannot access finished measurements for any given pattern. It’s likely because I’m so short and round, but I find clothing with too much ease, while looking great on taller people, makes me look just… sloppy, I guess. I don’t like the way I look or feel when there’s a ton of ease. Finished measurements charts are therefore gold to me, because going by my measurements alone is often not enough.

A good example is Springfield – my measurements technically put me in a 26 waist/hip, but I find that the 24 waist/hip fits with the amount of ease that I like when I’m working with wovens that don’t have a lot of drape. I was exactly in-between the bust measurement for the 22 E/F and 20 E/F – I rounded up, but it turns out I probably should have rounded down.

And I just realised I grouched about this in my very last post. Oops.

Next time, in addition to sizing, I’m likely going to narrow the neckline a bit. I find the straps a little thin when it comes to hiding a bra, and wider straps will also make it a little more work appropriate – less of a tank top vibe.

Back to the sewing machine I go.

Catch-All Finished! Handmade Sewing

The sewing streak continues with a 5 out of 4 Josephine sweatshirt in a really nice french terry with jersey cuffs/collar. It only took a couple of hours – I’m always so amazed at how quickly knits come together as compared to wovens.

No issues with the pattern – it was a 2x bust graded to a 3x waist and hip, though the resulting sweatshirt fits slimmer than I would have expected for something labelled ‘relaxed fit’.

And now, a mini-gripe. Why do some designers not put finished measurements anywhere in their patterns? It drives me around the bend. I get that designers put a specific amount of ease into their patterns, but I’d like to know finished measurements to help me choose a size. When you’re super-short and curvy, it’s not always as simple as ‘my measurements say x size’, and it’s a pain in the arse to have to measure the pattern pieces and attempt to figure out final dimensions.

But enough of that. I’m pleased with the sweatshirt. Not sure what’s next in the sewing queue – I finished an airplane-print Estuary skirt yesterday but have yet to take a photo. Or rather, have yet to take a photo that I like. I took a few outside in the shade but they ended up too washed out to see the skirt much at all. Will have to try again this afternoon once there’s a bit of shade. Right now it’s all bright sun, and as much as that’s lovely to lie around in it’s not great for photos.

Note to self: change lenses before you take more photos. Your 85mm f/1.8 is a better portrait lens than your 50mm f/1.8.

Catch-All Finished! Handmade Sewing

My parcel of birthday fabric arrived yesterday afternoon! After the requisite several minutes of fabric-petting I bundled part of it right into the wash so I could spend the evening sewing.

And I did! I’d planned to finish a mini Fringe before jumping into a jersey pile, but my sewing machine decided its buttonhole functions weren’t going to behave themselves. Erg. With all the quirks the machine is developing lately I worry that it’s coming to the end of its life.

So instead of finishing in-progress projects I made another I Love the 90s dress – one of the few projects (along with my Estuary skirts) I’m able to make with no alterations. Actually, that’s not quite true – I do always lower the neckline and make a band instead of lining the bodice, but I made pattern pieces for those so it feels just like a cut-and-sew project.

I was expecting the print to be smaller, but it still looks cute so I’m not complaining. I did accidentally manage to put a hot-air balloon on each boob, though. Oops. I don’t think it’s too obvious, is it?

I made another little Going Home raglan, too, with the scraps from the 90s dress. Took under an hour because a) knits; b) tiny. I love projects that let me use up my leftovers, especially since fabric tends to be on the expensive side for me. The only local fabric shop sells exclusively cotton wovens (and a bit of flannel), so if I want anything different I have to order online.

Really wish I had a local source for knits.

Tonight I’m going to start (and, let’s be real, probably finish) a third Page hoodie, this one in red with a contrast hood lining. I’m thinking about colour blocking the sleeves and putting a wide stripe of contrast down them, but I only have half a metre of contrast so I’ll have to see what’s left after I cut out the hood and cuffs.

It’s finally warm enough to take photos outside again! I mean, it was -5 when I took the photo above, but I can manage that for a little while in short sleeves.

Catch-All Finished! Handmade Sewing

It’s a dull, washed-out kind of day but at least I have a bright red York pinafore to make up for it.

It’s kind of ridiculous how long I’ve waited to make this – I tagged the pattern for future sewing when it first came out, but was convinced that it just wasn’t going to look right on me and waffled back and forth for literal months. Not sure what made me decide, yesterday, to just dive in, but I’m glad I did. I kind of love it. Even the slight cocoon shape works.

Alterations were simple – I shortened the yoke by 1.25″ at each of the two lengthen/shorten points, and I graded from a 22 yoke to a 26 waist/hip. It works well with the thick corduroy, but if I make one in a thinner fabric I may go to a 24 waist/hip instead. I might try the other pockets, too, just for fun.

I used much less bias tape than the pattern called for – I’m guessing the estimate was generous. I made my own out of a scrap of red/green/white tartan and it’s super-cute on the inside. I always seem to convince myself that I don’t like the process of sewing a bias facing, but every time I do it I conclude that it’s not at all the pain in the butt I told myself it would be. Good thing, too, because the neck, open sides, and pocket openings are all entirely finished with bias tape.

I’m not sure how much time I spent on this but it seemed like a fairly quick sew. It’s not a dress but I’m tagging it as one anyhow, because I’m not likely to need a ‘pinafore’ tag anytime soon.

Catch-All Finished! Handmade Sewing