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?

done: burda 1/2016 #123 coat re-do

Burda 01-2016-123 redo frontAnd it’s finished!  I have a car coat that I am happy with, and that I have already worn more in the last week or so than I ever did in it’s first iteration.

Compulsory inside view of the back with ease pleats.  I am so much happier with this lining than the first make-do version!
coat re-do lining back
I kept the pretty blue silk piping on the inside.
coat re-do lining Here’s the inside view of the properly placed in-seam pockets, complete with pocket stay, attached to the front facing with ribbons saved from the Christmas Fiasconaro panettone. Do you do this? I keep all those decorative fabric ribbons that make boxes pretty: Maison Birks, Jo Malone, Fiasconaro, Pottery Barn, etc., etc. If anyone decides to dissect my jeans, they’ll be in for a surprise! They work surprisingly well when twill tape or some sort of tape is required in places. recycle ribbon
Here’s another picture of the inside. I didn’t underline this coat because the fabric is actually a sort of knit, and I wanted it to be ‘free’. I did reinforce the hems, seams and facings with a combination of silk organza strips (straight grain) and horsehair (straight for the front and bias for the sleeve cuffs).
coat re-do inside The grain across the high chest is now straight. The front is lapped, not snapped shut, so it looks off, but it isn’t. coat re-do shouldersBack view on my double in the workroom. I’m happy with the grain and the slimmer fit.
coat re-do 3 And then the back view on me. No glamourous fashion footwear here; just practical warm winter boots. Burda 01-2016-123 redo backAnd a side-ish view, both belted and unbelted. I usually wear it belted.
Burda 1-2016-123 side

I changed the placement of the belt loops, too, because they were too high in the original coat.  You can see closeup photos of the actual loop with it’s lining back (less bulk) and it on the coat with the belt drawn through it here.

I am so very happy with this coat now!  The fabric is from EOS, and it’s cozy and so pretty up close.

Burda 01-2016-123 redo tied

Woo hoo! First major project of 2020 is in the closet.  Now I’ve just to finish altering DD3’s jumpsuit and get some photos of it so I can show you here make from a couple of years ago.  Alterations are necessary due to height changes and the general slimming down that happens in mid-teen years.  After that, all my alterations are done and I can start on new things!

remake & re-fashion

green coat pocketsMy first project of 2020 is to remake the last winter coat I made back in 2018.  I intend to shorten it to car coat length so that I will actually wear it, as it has only been worn twice since it was finished.  There are several things that just bug me about the coat:

  • It is a BIG COAT, which is what I was going for in the first place, but I really hated my slap-dash-use-whatever-I-have-lying-around-the-house-that’s-the-right-tone lining (drapery silk shantung that had been washed in hot water and put through a hot dryer cycle with tennis and dryer balls to soften up the hand) because it just made it so…. so…. ridiculous to wear, I guess.  I really wanted a different lining – a softer, lighter lining; lighter than flannel-backed satin or kasha lining, typically used in winter coats.
  • The original Burda pattern is a tall pattern, and I didn’t bother to place the pockets accurately, so they sit about 10cm lower than they should on me.  I want to move the pocket up to where they will be useful and easy to access with my not-tall arms.
  • The R front facing and front edge bugs me.  It’s a grain thing, and I hate wearing it because of this.  I intend to straighten it out and do it properly.
  • It’s just too long and dramatic to get worn much, and I have other fabric for other dramatic coats in my stash that I hope to make up soon.
  • The contrast band of linen velvet is nice in a dramatic coat, but I do actually want to wear this coat, and the current length makes it rather a process to get in and out of the car.
  • It’s too wide.  I hate coats that fit small, and I was very enthusiastic in adding ease to my original iteration of this coat, so each side seam will be reduced by 4cm, for a total width reduction of 16cm.

Coat Re-do 1

I’ve re-cut the lining from a lightweight satin-backed crepe fabric from my local Fabricland that was actually marketed as drapery fabric (???).  I laundered it to get that horrid polyester chemical smell out of it before cutting it out.  I used the old lining as a pattern, after making forward-sloping shoulder alterations and taking in the sides by a total of 16cm.

Coat re-do 2

So far I have completed the following alterations:

  • removed the lining
  • moved the pockets up 10cm
  • taken the side seams in 16cm
  • straightened the grain across the upper chest by doing a forward-sloping shoulder adjustment (Why didn’t I do this the first time around?!)
  • removed the lower velvet band
  • redid the facings, which, in combination with the shoulder adjustments, has made the fronts hang straight.  Happy day!

All that is left is to put the lining back in after deciding on the length I want.

More importantly than my news about remaking my coat, I want to thank each and every one of you for all your comments and kind words on my last post.  It may be cliché, but your wishes and encouragement meant so much, and on hard days, I go back and re-read them.

Ta da!

The lace tunic is finished.

The lace is quite substantial and the tunic has some weight to it. The silk charmeuse lining is wondrously comfortable, and makes this such a pleasure to wear.

The centre back pleat was a bit of a pain to manipulate so that it lays flat but adding a small flower appliqué helped tack it all down into place. There is a facing which I interfaced with silk organza, under stitched, and then ‘topstitched’ invisibly 5mm away from the neckline in order to keep it in place. I also discreetly secured the edges of the facing through all layers so that it wold behave as one layer.

My solution for the side seams was to use a true Hong Kong finish, using the silk underlining, and then stitching an appliqué on the interior of the hem to hide the bottom 4 cm of seam allowance.

Another close up of the hem and side seam finishing.

I’m pleased with how this turned out.

A happy compromise

I have come to terms with my desire for couture construction, having a garment to wear within a reasonable amount of time (since I cannot commit full days to totally do a garment with hand sewing) and finishing that I will be happy to on and wear.

Exhibit A: the sleeve seams. I undid the bias binding on the sleeve seams, trimmed the bias silk down to 2.5 cm in width, and bound each allowance edge separately.

And because I disliked the way the seam allowances are visible at the hem of the bell sleeves, I chose to appliqué one of the larger flower motifs on the inside of the sleeve to cover the bottom part of the seam.

In the photo, the bottom sleeve is inside out; the top left sleeve is right side out, but you can see the wrong side peaking out with no seam allowance showing – just another flower. Yay!

I am much happier with this, and am contentedly constructing the rest of the garment along the same idea. Hopefully I’ll have a finished garment to show you by the end of the week.

What to do…

Lack of knowledge, expertise and planning are my nemeses, and cause endless delays, doubt and paralysis in my sewing room.

Case in point: this lace tunic.

I made the sleeves first, and bound the seam allowances in bias silk (the same fabric of the tunic lining, which will hang separately from the lace itself, attached only at the neckline and armscyes). But after doing my invisible bust darts yesterday, I’m at a crossroads of decision. Here’s the left bust dart: Did you find it?

And the right bust dart:

…slightly more obvious.

They’re only ‘mezzo couture’, but the ‘invisibleness’ of them is making me rethink the rest of the seams on this garment. I have enough scraps left of the lace that it would be feasible to make every seam invisible: shoulders seams, side seams and the sleeve under seams. If I really wanted to go crazy, I suppose I could attempt to make the armscye seams invisible, too.

So instead of the shoulder seams above, I’d have invisible seams. In retrospect, why didn’t I cut it out without shoulder seams? The seams are bugging me now, but do I want to give myself the extra work? Would it make me like the finished garment more? Would I be happy to wear it if I don’t make the seams invisible, knowing that I could have should have maybe wished I had?

Or is this trying to make ‘mezzo couture’ into ‘alta moda’ and should I even bother with the attempt?


I’m working on a tunic top with bell sleeves made from this beautiful three-dimensional cotton guipure lace. This is a bust dart, which I’m trying to make ‘invisible’.


I have been sewing.


Three pairs of Jalie 2908 jeans and two pairs of slim BurdaStyle trousers, just in the last 10 days. Of course there’s no photos, mostly because it’s winter and I have no decent place indoors for photography.

I confess to also making a few garments recently that didn’t work out as planned, and they took the wind out of my sails for a bit. The first was a waterfall cardigan for DD3 which just did not work. I was not happy with it, and neither was she. Fortunately, there is a lot of fabric in a waterfall style, so no waste! It will be remade into something else sooner or later.

The second was a deep red silk velvet dress for DD2 which I was hoping would be a success. DD2 is a difficult client, sometimes, and although she loved the dress, she has yet to wear it, and didn’t want to wear it for the function it was made for.

And the last ‘failed’ project was an olive silk velvet dress that I wanted for myself – actually wanted for Christmas, but it wasn’t finished in time – for a wedding in February. The design was inspired by a green velvet D&G dress I saw in September 2018 Vogue, and I have not seen a photo of it anywhere else. But I am not a tall pencil, and I seem to have become more ‘mature’ in figure recently, so it wasn’t the most flattering of dresses. I did wear it, however, but it’s not a finished project, as I want to change a few things.

And now I’m facing a pile of mending, the largest of which is this inner thigh section of a favourite pair of Roots sweatpants for DD3.

Hundreds of tiny running stitches

And this is just one leg. What you see above is about 30 minutes of work. The patch was put in about a year ago, when I had no idea what I was doing. But I have a better idea now, after taking a visible mending class in February.  In order to do this patch ‘properly’ I should cut away the worn fabric and patch from the outside. But this would not look good on these sweatpants, and I don’t think it would be aesthetically pleasing given the location if the patch. DD3 wants it to be as discreet as possible, and I agree. So I will leave it as is, reinforce all around it to about 5 cm beyond the current patch, and see if it holds up for another year or so.  Here’s the rest of the required mend.

Big mend
Monster mend