Tia Dia: World’s Best Seamstress/Mom

To all the wonderful sewists that follow this blog, this is DD3 writing this post. Sadly, Tia Dia passed away on March 21st, 2021 after a 1.5-year fight with cancer. It’s taken this long to write this post because well, losing a parent is extremely difficult, especially when that parent is as amazing as my mum. I confess I have no idea what I should write here but I figure word vomit is better than nothing.

I am going to start by talking a bit about my mom; my mom has been a seamstress since she was about 9. She made most of her clothes and was determined to live as if her life was a Vogue magazine; this was in a way passed on to us 3 daughters but sadly none of us have her talent. She was a walking encyclopedia of fabric and stitching, and yet she always thought she never knew enough. She always wanted to fly to Paris and take an embroidery course, then visit the Outer Hebrides and bring back a suitcase of tweed for coats. She wanted to take a tailoring course and learn how to make jackets better than Chanel. I hope that wherever she gets to do all that; I’m sure the angels would love handmade Chanel tweed coats haha.

My sister and I were scrolling through her previous blog posts a few days ago and we both remarked just how invisible our mum’s stitches were. I would kill to be as meticulous as she was. It pains me to know that she gave away most of her sewing projects, but at the same time, it makes me happy that someone has really wonderfully made clothing. Each item my mom made had a story. The story made up of: where she picked the fabric, who it was made for, the creative process of frankenpatterning, the frustration with small seams, the endless amount of thread mess on the floor, and how proud she was of each and every project. They all brought her so much joy, and it hurts when I come home and remember I’ll never see her at the sewing machine or the ironing board again. The mountains of fabric that were for a specific project will never achieve their potential, and we won’t get to say “Thank you my mum made it” when a stranger compliments our outfits.

My mum is my hero. She was one of the kindest people I know, she raised 3 daughters in not the easiest circumstances and she made the world a little prettier with each garment. I will dearly miss her and her shenanigans (she had the best dry sense of humor). The world is a little poorer without her and with that we say SCREW CANCER at the top of our lungs.

I just wanted to let all of you know why she hadn’t posted anything in a while, as well as, say that this blog will stay here forever in memorial of her amazing sewing skills.

I know some of you may ask what you can do or if there is anything that she wanted to happen after she died, and yes there is. In the place of flowers she asked that we make a lump sum donation to L’Arche Canada.

L’Arche Canada is the ”umbrella” organization for L’Arche in Canada, and is focused on supporting all of our communities from coast to coast. In L’Arche, people who have intellectual disabilities and those who come to assist, share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods. L’Arche is a global network of people with and without intellectual disabilities who collectively live, work and learn together, creating communities of belonging.

The link to the fundraiser is here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/4440691769279193/

We hope that you will chip in a little in remembrance of her.

I just wanted to let all of you know why she hadn’t posted anything in a while, as well as say that this blog will stay here forever in memorial of her amazing sewing skills. Much love and blessings to you all!! I remember how much my mom loved following all of you and your sewing endeavors. Your comments always brought a huge grin to her face 🙂

I hope you all stay safe throughout the remaining days? Weeks? Months? of the pandemic.

DD3 (or Bella)

trendy burdastyle march 2019 outfit

First of all, I apologize for this post publishing without photos! I had intended to save it as a draft, and had not intended it to publish! But that’s okay. I took photos of it today on my ancient dress form so you can have a look. And now on to the original post:

I had to write that title. I am not a very trendy person, rather the opposite. But this was a completely impulsive make, and all within a week. I don’t know why, but this combination of patterns really struck my fancy. It also checks off a lot of the current trends: big sleeves, blousey peasant-style top, high waist, wide legs….

First, the trousers: Burdastyle 03-2019-102.

High-waisted, straight-legged wannabe kinda sorta cargo trousers with big patch pockets. I have been staring at the lightweight loden stretch-cotton fabric since last December, when I had hoped to make trousers? jeans? a jacket? I really couldn’t decide, although I wanted bottoms of some sort. Most of my fabric is neatly stored away out of sight, which isn’t very conducive to inspiration, but I have an excellent fabric stash-pattern memory which serves me relatively well as I look for inspiration. “I have the perfect fabric for that outfit!” sort of thinking. Funnily enough, I have never put this length of fabric away after mulling it over for a couple of months, like I do so many times to so many lengths. I just kept it lying out where I could see it because I was determined to sew up something with it. So here is my new pair of currently trending stylish trousers.

Burdastyle 03-2019-102

I had to add 4 cm to the pattern length. I will not wear wide-legged short trousers, as I think I look short enough. And I prefer the option of rolling up hems to wishing I had more hem to let down.

Burdastyle 03-2019-102 belt with grommets

The fun part was all the hardware for the belt. I added a front fly zip instead of the side zip suggested by Burda.

Burdastyle 03-2019-102 and 103

And a close up of the very deep patch pockets.

Burdastyle 03-2019-102 big patch pockets

I like these. I may make another pair from a drapier, softer fabric in my go-to favourite deep chocolatey brown. Yum!

And now the top: Burdastyle 3-2019-103.

About the fabric: I purchased a Liberty Art Fabric dress by Lord & Taylor a few years ago on clearance. It was missing it’s belt, but I absolutely loved the print (if anyone knows the name of it, please let me know, because I cannot find anything other than “Tropical” in all my sleuthing.) The only place I have found anything remotely close to it was at Shaukut’s website in the UK, and so I purchased this length of silk-cotton voile, but the colourway is different from the dress. After looking at it sitting beside my loden fabric, I decided they looked good together, and, since I wanted something easy to sew that would be a showcase for the fabric, and rescue it from ‘stash sentencing’, I compulsively traced it off and sewed it up.

Burdastyle 03-2019-103 sleeves

I made some changes:

  • raised the CF by 5 cm
  • forward shoulder adjustment 1.5 cm
  • sloped shoulder adjustment 1.5 cm
Burdastyle 03-2019-103 tied

The pattern calls for a belt with carriers. I just cut the belt – a little shorter due to my 1 yard of fabric! – and will wear it around my neck, or as a belt, depending on the day.

Burdastyle 03-2019-103

Have you done any compulsive, impulsive or inexplicable-without-any-forethought sewing lately?

a coat becomes a skirt

First, a very Happy New Year to all of you dear readers. I am so looking forward to 2021, and all it brings. The pandemic has been so hard, so destructive, so debilitating for so many, and I know I have been relatively unscathed by it all. It has actually been a tremendous blessing and help to have most programs for my daughters cancelled and put online, because it meant they were all home, and I was (am) in such need of help. Silver linings, and perfect timing. But I often think of those of you who have been struggling with the isolation and the grinding-to-a-halt of normal societal interactions. May you find some small thing, each day, to be grateful for, even in the midst of the trial.

But moving on to 2021’s projects. Remember this coat?

Vogue 8626 pockets (523x800)

Well, the more I didn’t wear it, the more I didn’t like it. And it wasn’t fitting like it used to, so what to do? Dismantle it and make something useful.

Like this beautiful skirt. I pulled it out of my closet on Tuesday last week to wear to the oncology clinic, and it gave me such incredible joy to pull it on. Do any of your makes do that for you? My heart was literally singing with the feel of the tweed juxtaposed to that of the satin lining; the feel of the support in the garment from the silk organza underlining; the grosgrain ribbon waist facing. I so love this skirt.

I used a OOP Vogue 8045 because the panels fit on the bottom portion of the coat sections. The zip is hand picked, which is my very favourite way of inserting a zipper.

Vogue 8045 hand picked zipper

Pretty satin lining and back pleat details.

Vogue 8045 back pleat

Waistband grosgrain ribbon facing.

Vogue 8045 interior waistband

I know I haven’t posted much recently, but I have been managing to sew a little bit. The last couple of weeks my health took an unwanted detour, but I am back on track again and able to put coherent thoughts together. In the middle of all this, I finished off my alterations pile…. the dreaded pile of projects that need to be re-fit or tweaked or remade. And I made a linen sundress for DD3, which I will post about next.

So my cut projects are all caught up and I can start afresh. If you could see my sewing space, which is in the basement, you’d probably laugh. I have pulled fabrics with ideas I have percolating in my head, and they sit in piles on a chair in the reading nook, on the cutting table, and in the corners of the table where my machine and serger live. BUT, now my space is clean of fix-it projects, and I can make things because I love to make.

Is there anything off your sewing table recently that you were rather glad to see the end of so you could get down to making things you really wanted to make?

Are there any garments in your closet that, as you put them on, something about them makes your heart sing for sewing and wearing joy?

frankenpattern top

I love fall. I love all the colours as they change, and the different shades that the changing light provides on the same tree throughout the day. They make me happy!

My top is a mix of Vogue 1412‘s front bodice, the back bodice from Burdastyle 09/2019 #111, and the sleeves from Burdastyle 09/2010 #136. I didn’t know what to do with this fabric, so I draped it around my sewing area on and off for what seems like a good 12 months, trying different ideas, laying out different patterns (not enough fabric), trying to work around a pattern repeat that I ended up completely ignoring, and generally second-guessing myself until I was struck by lightening (or courage), and laid out the pattern for the front bodice and started cutting. I would have preferred to use Vogue 1412’s back bodice, too, but I didn’t have enough fabric and wanted a more fitted back.

Burda 10-2013-140 back

This is the third version of Vogue 1412 that I’ve made. I really like the front neckline, although this iteration, due to the slightly dropped shoulders of the back, and because I didn’t stabilize the shoulder seams, required a shoulder pleat, extending from a dart in the upper back through to a pleat in the front. It’s quite hidden with the busy pattern, but if you look closely, you can see it.

Vogue 1412 frankenpattern top

The fabric is a treat. It has a very fine herringbone weave, which just makes this that much more luxurious.

modal-wool-cashmere challis detail
a modal-wool-cashmere challis

And it goes with so many different items in my wardrobe, just because of all the wonderful colours.

Burdastyle 01-2016-135 jeans
these are not the shoes to wear with jeans

This is probably my fifth pair of Burda 01/2016 #135, the skinny jeans with the interesting seaming details. I have worn this brown pair to the point of the colour fading, so I over-dyed it with Rit in my front loading washing machine and couldn’t be happier with the result. They don’t look faded and yucky! 🙂

Have you ever re-dyed a garment?

vogue 2923 tops

Vogue 2923 woven top

My youngest, DD3, loves tank tops of all kinds and varieties, which makes for fun use of shorter lengths of fabric. Enter the gathered top from OOP Vogue 2923, a DKNY design.

The first version is in a polyester pebble crepe, which I purchased from Fabricland. Every now and then there is a winner of a fabric to be purchased from my local store. I also made a second version of this top with this fabric. Arctic icy blue is DD3’s favourite colour.

Vogue 2923 top woven back

And another version in red rayon jersey from EOS, which is worn very often, even now that the weather has changed.

Vogue 2923 Burda 10-2013-140

And here’s the back. The pattern directions call for jersey, but there is so much ease that it works just as well with a woven fabric. Confession: I salvaged a wadder cardigan project to make the red top, and had to piece it together down the CF and the left back. Funnily enough, the piecing isn’t noticeable when DD3 is wearing it, unless one looks hard for it.

Vogue 2923 top back

One caveat for this pattern: when made up in jersey, the straps, which are supposed to be cut on the bias (I cut them on the straight grain) stretch out like crazy. For the red version I ran a length of piping cord through in order to keep it at the correct length.

And that is the last of the summery tops for this year. On to garments suited to the cooler weather.

Tell me, do you have a favourite go-to tank or tee or top pattern for 1m lengths of fabric?

vogue 1247 summer tops

I’ve used two lengths of silk from my stash for a couple of new tops for late summer wear. The first is a silk chiffon, but it’s a bit more opaque than chiffon. The lack of weight to the fabric makes this floatier than the second version, if there is such a thing. (Spell check says no, there is no such thing.)

Vogue 1247 top pink silk
It was so nice to wear these wedges today!

The second is a lovely silk crepe – exactly what the pattern calls for – and the drape of it justifies the fabric suggestion on the back of the envelope.

Vogue 1247 top green
The top is supposed to have a CB seam, as per the pattern, although I prefer to cut it on the fold.

This pattern has been sewn, reviewed and posted about hundreds of times in SewingBlogLand, so I have nothing really new to say about it except for the following:

This top can be squeezed out of as little as 1.2m of 140cm wide fabric, which is less than what the envelope recommends. Speaking of which, when I learned to sew using Vogue patterns, I was taught to always purchase a little less than what the pattern envelope recommended in order to avoid having small almost-useless leftover lengths of 10 or 15 cm (instead of cutting scraps). I don’t follow that advice anymore, for some reason, but I can manage to finagle garments out of shorter lengths than what the patterns call for, pattern matching excepted, of course. Do you do this, too? I must admit it sometimes make a project more work, more involved, more mentally challenging (exhausting?) that it need be. Sometimes I wish I just had enough fabric to lay out the pattern pieces without trying to make it a perfectly-fitted puzzle, eking it out of whatever I have decided should work. On the other hand, it is very satisfying to use up an entire length of goods.

Vogue 1247 top back
I thought this top would be rather twee, but it’s so pretty. And I didn’t need to seam the centre back on this version, thank goodness. I like it better without the designer’s CB seam.

Anyway, these two tops have several adjustments:

  • Centre front has been raised 4 cm
  • Each of the seam allowances under the arms have been taken in by 1.5cm.
  • The front has been shortened by 2.5cm in length, along the hem, grading to nothing at the side seams.

Also, for reference, the lower centre front panels (triangles, really) of the green top have not been cut on the correct bias grain, in order to maintain as much of the horizontal dashy design of the fabric.  I had cut it out as instructed, but the bias grain looked completely absurd with the fabric’s design. I’ll spare you the photos. Here’s the amended, altered version. Truth be told, I was quite displeased when I took photos of this top the other day, so I dismantled the centre bottom panels, turned them around and put it back together so the fabric’s green dashes were more or less running horizontally.

Vogue 1247 green
much more pleasing to the eye, trust me….

Each of the necklines has been finished by hand because I feel like I have more control over the outcome than with a machine, as carefully as I know I am capable of stitching. Besides, it’s good practice. 🙂

The pink top’s understitching along the neckline was also done by hand because I just felt like sitting at my sewing table quietly stitching by hand.

Both hems have been hand rolled. 

Left: hand rolled hem. Right: pick stitched neckline.

Honestly, every time I try to do a narrow hem on a silk top with the machine I hate how stiff it feels, so I just do them by hand now and don’t bother with machine stitching.

hand rolled hem shown step by step, counterclockwise from top left

Both these tops have seen a lot of wear over the last few weeks.  They’re comfortable and a nice alternative to a T-shirt. And I love how they’ve been made from roll ends I’ve collected over the years.

Are you making up anything from little ‘ends’ in your fabric collection?

burda 8680 denim skirts

It’s been my goal to work through my stash as much as possible, instead of buying new fabrics to only have then sit and wait to be made into wearable garments. These skirts for DD3 have put two lengths of denim into her closet for wear, and gotten them out of the dreaded stash! Yay! DD3 doesn’t really wear a lot of skirts, but I think she’s probably finished growing, so making up these two made some sort of sense. I have purchased various sorts of denim in a variety of blue shades for DD3 over the years because she prefers custom jeans to RTW. She is short-waisted, but her waist-hip length is 5cm longer than the usual 23cm RTW typically is drafted to accommodate, so every pair of trousers or jeans or shorts or leggings rides low, which she dislikes.

Burda 8680 black back

However, skirts never seem to present a fitting problem. Hopefully she will wear these as a casual alternative to shorts next summer season. She wanted a plain ‘jean’ style skirt, and so I pulled Burda 8680 out of my pattern stash.

The first version is the View A from a black stretchy denim from EOS. I initially used this denim to make a pair of capris for DD3, but didn’t cut them in a single layer, and the grain of the right front was off and caused a lot of twisty annoyance during wear, so they were thrifted. I suppose I could have made them into a skirt back then, in perfectly 20/20 hindsight as I type this, but I didn’t. Someone else is wearing them; hopefully, happily.

Burda 8680 black front

It’s a rather plain, utilitarian pattern. I added the belt loops and didn’t bother to add back pockets for her phone.

She was nonplussed about the omission, as the front pockets on this pattern are plenty deep. I finished the interior with gingham scraps leftover from a Dorothy costume I made for her three years ago.

Burda 8680 black back waist
No back pocketses….

But I did add the pockets on the second shorter version in blue denim.

Burda 8680 blue pockets
yes, it’s truly a dark navy, despite how it looks in this photo!

And, for a lark, because I felt like hammering studs, I added studs for all the pockets. It was a very simple make, and the fit is really good on this pattern.

Burda 8680 blue front

loss & (re)discovery

bias binding

I don’t know about you, but I am so often genuinely surprised at the quality of work when I look at some of the garments I have made over the years. Take, for example, this jumpsuit, made in 2017 and worn perhaps three times: once for a family Christmas, and couple of family events. The fabric is rather a heavy-ish crepe from EOS. You can find more of it here. It comes in a myriad of colours. I ordered a few lengths way back when: this gorgeous shade of wine red, a moss green, which ended up as a version of DKNY’s dress courtesy of Vogue 1351 (a disaster project that looked horrible on me, although the dress was beautiful), and some yet-to-be-sewn yummy chocolate brown. But I digress.

I have changed shape significantly over the last year or so, and, going through my closet one day looking for things to wear, pulled this jumpsuit out and tried it on. It’s BurdaStyle 04-2016-130.

It didn’t fit properly anymore, and would have required a complete dismantling in order to alter it properly. But here’s a photo from when it fit. I don’t have any photos of the front, probably because I didn’t like any of them and intended to re-shoot the garment, which never happened.

Burdastyle 04-16-130 back
This is actually the true shade of the fabric. Isn’t it rich and gorgeous?

As someone who has a tiny lower back and relatively large hips, this pattern fit perfectly out of the magazine. I was very impressed. But, again, I digress. Because I will never wear it again, I thrifted it. But I wanted to write about how each garment that I gift away (unless I really hate it) brings on a sense of loss, sometimes, and regret. Regret for the time ‘wasted’ in making something that didn’t actually get worn. I realize this is actually a negative voice speaking, from the last couple of decades of my life. In actual fact, each garment is a learning opportunity, and the hours spent making are practice and will end up giving me more proficiency and skill in making. When I check over the garments to make sure they’re in good condition, after cleaning them, to give away, I inevitably am surprised (why?) at the quality of work.

lined trousers

And the attention to detail, like lining trousers. I really do not like wearing unlined trousers or skirts. I think it’s because my mother taught me to sew, and, having sewn herself all her clothing when I was small from Vogue or Simplicity designer patterns, she was a stickler on quality of workmanship. I recall going RTW shopping with her, and every single garment she purchased was lined; she would not have ever worn an unlined garment, much less spent the money on it. Funny story. I recall strolling through a Chanel boutique when I was in university, and looking through the RTW garments for sale, and was shocked – shocked, I tell you! – to see that neither the skirts or jackets in that small boutique were lined. And $1250 in 80’s dollars for a 100% polyester blouse. Polyester. Bubble popped, I assure you.

hem finishing

So, needless to say, I line everything. It gives me tremendous pleasure to make something well, and finish it well. It’s like a mental health perk-up to wear a garment I’ve made that I have taken the time to carefully construct.

side zip

Slow careful sewing, and making the interiors of garments pretty, is something that I really enjoy doing. I hope whoever purchases this garment from the thrift store enjoys wearing it and appreciates the workmanship, too.

What do you do with garments you no longer wear? I see so many IG feeds about sewists making and making and making, and I wonder how on earth do they every wear everything? I don’t have a very large closet, and I have many garments that are in pristine condition. Do you feel a sense of loss when you see garments you’ve spent time with walking out the door?

vogue 8379

V8379 blue stripe

This is an old make. It dates from 2017, and I confess I have never worn it except to take photos… well, perhaps I wore it once? But I absolutely love the dress, so why haven’t I worn it? I don’t know. I tend to reach for the easy and familiar in my closet which usually doesn’t mean a dress like this. I need to just decide to wear it.

Who hasn’t seen a version of the classic Vogue 8379 pattern?

image patternreview.com

I purchased the fabric specifically for this dress from EOS, at least 10 years ago. It was one of my first purchases from Linda, and one of my first forays into sewing knit or jersey fabrics. This is a printed rayon, and it behaved beautifully while I was working with it: no curling, no stretching out of shape. And despite hanging in my closet for three years, it hasn’t stretched out, either.

V8379 blue stripe skirt movement

The dress is a fabric hog: just over 3 metres of 150cm wide fabric. It’s the skirt, of course, and I don’t begrudge it a centimetre because it moves and hangs beautifully.

V8379 blue stripe back
I love the back of this skirt!

I love the sleeve cuff detail. It isn’t perfect pattern matching, but, if you look at the first photo, you can’t really tell. I actually had to rip these cuffs off, not once, not twice, but three times (!) because I put them on wrong. So much for accurate markings; and by that time, I was so sick of trying to get the cuff on correctly that I couldn’t be bothered matching the patterns perfectly. But I love the split cuff.

Vogue 8379 sleeve detail
split cuff, not perfectly turned or pressed

Some construction notes: I serged the seams for quick and stable construction, and simply turned up the hems and used my knit zig-zag stitch. I love using this stitch for knits, as it is strong and yet has enough give for the stretch in a knit.

Vogue 8379 hem
It looks like a loose sloppy stitch, but the stretch zig-zag stitch works so well!

vogue 8888

V8888 front

This is the second silk dressing gown (because it seriously looks like a dressing gown with that rolled collar) that was made from stash because…. well, because my girls need robes for walking around the house.

The pattern is Vogue 8888, a well-loved much-made pattern in all corners of the sewing online world. I made View A for DD3.

The sleeves were a lot longer than they look on the model. I had to trim off 15 cm from the length so they would not drag through breakfast. Definitely more a ‘dressing’ gown, not an all-around-the-house robe with the longer sleeve length.

V8888 silly

DD3 chose this purple silk charmeuse from deep stash that I had purchased several years ago with the hope of purple silk pajamas for myself, but I have no regrets sewing this up for her. It has gotten a tremendous amount of use.

V8888 side

The pattern was sewn up out of the package with the exception of a 3cm square shoulder adjustment, as DD3 is a swimmer, and her shoulders bear testament to that. As a note, I made the garment two sizes larger than what Vogue’s size tables recommended at my young client’s request. It fits her well with room for swanning.

V8888 purple silk

Since handing it over, finished, it has not come off. And I have to say I am so pleased to meet DD3, walking down the hallway, in a pretty purple robe rather than her schleppy tank top and fleece Christmas print pajama bottoms. I’ve got two more of this pattern in the longer length scheduled, selfishly both for me, and am hoping there will be another one in her future, perhaps in a Liberty tana lawn print or some other stash-busting fabric choice.

Have you made any robes or dressing gowns?