Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category


sew sweet!

July 2, 2014

Back in September I was drafting a comment on Rain City Gardener’s blog about my return to sewing knits when I realized that what I’d typed was more suitable to a blog post than a comment on someone else’s blog.

Many years ago I made my first attempt at sewing with knits: Kwik Sew 3155 yoga pants.

I like to be comfy when I toss and turn in bed but warm, comfy and natural fibres don’t seem to go together in most clothing shops. One winter I decided it was time to learn the art of sewing knits with the help of my serger. (I had just gotten to the point where I liked my serger after struggling with my beasty White machine for the first few years. That machine has changed the sewing game for me and will likely be the only thing that I’ll ever thank Ralf Klein for.)

I found a cheap, not-too-synthetic knit and was amazed that I had a pair of pants that fit reasonably well in part of an evening.

My mom had been lamenting the need for a new pair of yoga pants so, since they were so easy, I passed mine on to her a few days later. I had what I thought would be a nice Made in Canada bamboo knit that I was wanting to serge up and dye. Off I went. Except the results were well… disappointing. The dyeing experiment worked alright but those pants continued to stretch and twist as I wore them. Sure they shrunk back after every washing, but it never lasted.

Over the years they required some mending and re-hemming, but they just wouldn’t give up and I wasn’t about to replace something that didn’t need replacing.

Enter my copy and adaptation of one of my favourite pairs of pants – my pRana lounge pants. My plan was to dye some raw silk to make a new pair of pajama pants so early last year I tested out my draft with the lightest cotton I could find in my stash. There was only enough to make a pair of capris. Well those super simple pants turned out fantastically. I love them so much, that I completely forgot about the silk until the end of the summer.

As it was, it took until Christmas for me to finally make them and sweet they are! (Making them was a funny story too. We were away for the holidays and I packed up everything *but* my pattern or the original pants so I made a muslin out of a sheet. They were so nice that someone else has now adopted them!) Both pair are still in their white, un-dyed state but wow, are they ever comfy! With every washing they just keep getting softer and softer too. I guess some things really are worth the wait. Should I ever need lounge or pj pants again I know just what to do!


i love to sew!

July 2, 2014

Ah, summer! I love that it’s been so hot and that I’ve had so much to do outside so I can be sure to enjoy it! There’s the garden to water, all the landscaping prep that fills our weekends, and lots of outdoor living space to enjoy. I love it!

I got a bit too much sun yesterday so in an attempt to prevent a burn I switched my focus towards sewing this afternoon. You see, back in September I made my first knit shirt. As wearable muslins go it’s great: the double knit cotton is buttery soft and the pattern really does fit me well. The problem? I find cotton too cold in our damp winters so I hardly wear it. Next stop, wool!

When I look at what I wear to work and at home there is a consistent element… knit wool. Not the heavy stuff that I like to knit between two needles but the light, washable merino knit tops like Smartwool, Icebreaker and Ibex make. I wear them so much that two of my heaviest ones have become threadbare.

All winter long I thought I’d make the Renfew again out of wool but then I realized, what I’d really like is another dress or two. When it comes down to it, knit dresses are what I’m happiest in except that finding ones that fit well is a nightmare. Then they never come lined so there’s that whole business of wearing a slip. So not my thing!

But what dress? My own hack of a Sewaholic Renfrew? Kwik Sew 3873? Cake’s Tiramisu? Cake Sewing’s Red Velvet? Before I could decide things got way too busy with the whole house building thing.

Fast forward to the end of June and I was ready to try sewing wool. After three years of heavy use my faithful leggings were beyond mending and patching and luckily I was able to find a cheaper, light weight 100% wool in a colour I liked. I knew I could trace off of my Smartwool pair but it seemed like the perfect time to try a Cake Sewing Pattern.

Sure, leggings are pretty simple but the custom fitting that Cake Patterns get such rave reviews for seems to work. Now just to decide whether I can live with the centre front seam of the tiramisu or if I want to try something else. I do so love the drape of a half circle skirt and the bodice/sleeve patterning sure looks nice.

It is so nice to have such simple and (relatively) inexpensive decisions to make!


time. to. enjoy. life.

March 25, 2011

There’s been a lot to reflect on over these past few weeks but getting outside, spending time with Kevin and making progress on some of my projects has been so satisfying.

Kevin and I have spent our weekends together and sharing activities ranging from creating a Nanaimo Bar facsimile that’s free of eggs and dairy to living outside on the beach to bike shopping. Oh, and so many heartfelt conversations too. It’s been such good medicine for my soul!

Here are a few of the highlights in picture form.

doll homework

our attempt at dairy and gluten free Nanaimo Bars

First camping trip of the season.  'Twas beautiful!

Bunnies on the run!


last minute sewing

December 31, 2009

I love sewing, especially things that I have to figure out my own method for. The crayon rolls were a satisfying project but my favourite sewing is the kind that is done in a day, or better yet, done in a few hours.

With my new camera I want to be sure that I can take it on any and every trip so that it gets used. That means it needs a place on my pack where I can reach it, and a way to protect it from the rain when we’re on hikes. I am determined to make sure this camera stays out of both the lid of my pack and Kevin’s pocket. And it won’t be staying at home either!

When we picked up my camera we found a small, lightweight neoprene case that was just the right size. If not for the zipper it would probably be fairly water resistant. Today I followed through on my plan to add straps so it snuggly fits on the waist belt of my pack and then came the fun part – a lightweight pack cover out of sil-nylon. Sil-nylon is a royal pain to work with but it’s hard to beat for raincovers, tarp tents and stuff sacks when you’re a gram weenie.

modified camera case and rain cover

The form of my two projects aren’t my best but they are definitely going to rock in their function! And it didn’t take me months to strike this project off my list. Hiking season is still quite a few months away for us but I’m ready!

modified camera case ready for action!


crayon roll for sticks and blocks

December 24, 2009

I’ve been wanting to make myself a roll for my growing collection of Stockmar block and stick crayons for a while now and last week I finally got started. I had figured there would be instructions available somewhere on-line but I didn’t find them. I like figuring out these sorts of things for myself so *maybe* I didn’t look that hard. A few friends have asked how I made mine so now I’m sharing my how to.

First off, I used two fabrics and interfacing to give the roll a little more body and support to the outside layer. A scrap of denim, flannel or home dec weight fabric would likely work just as well and is probably only necessary when the two visible fabrics are quilting cotton.

crayon roll

Because I wanted to maximize the use of my fabrics, I worked it out so that I could make 2 crayon rolls for each of my fabrics. The yardage (meterage?) requirements for two crayon rolls are:

Fabric A (purple fabric in my example): 0.4 metres
Fabric B (batik): 0.3 metres
Interfacing: 0.8 metres (or 0.4 if you’re only making one roll since it’s usually less than 104 cm wide)
Matching ribbon or cord for ties: 1.3 metres

Before really getting into this project I washed, dried and ironed the fabrics (but not the interfacing).

1. Cut fabrics and interfacing:
– from fabric A cut two rectangles (one for each crayon roll) measuring 36 cm x 52 cm (14 1/4″ x 20.5″).
– from the interfacing cut another rectangle (or two) measuring 36 cm x 52 cm (14 1/4″ x 20.5″).
– from fabric B cut two rectangles measuring 30 cm x 52 cm (12″ x 20.5″).

2. Stack one piece of each fabric in the following order from bottom to top:
– interfacing
– fabric A, right side up
– fabric B, right side down
being sure to align the two short sides and one long side.

3. Pin the 3 materials together along one long side and sew 1 cm (1/2″) away from this edge.

crayon roll - pinning long edge

4. Align the materials along the opposing long side (note that fabric B will be shorter than the rest but all three should be lined up together). Pin and sew as in step 3.

crayon roll - inside panel is shorter

5. Press seams allowances towards fabric B, then turn the fabric tube right side and press these seams again.

crayon roll - pressing seams towards inside panel fabric

6. Centre the panel of fabric B so that even amounts of fabric A show above and below. (Note that this alignment doesn’t need to be perfect since the seams will be hidden in the pockets.) Press the edges at the top and bottom of your fabric tube.

crayon roll - centering inside panel

7. Make the folds for the pockets. To accommodate stick crayons, I made a fold 5.5 cm (2″) away from one of the creases I made in step 6. For blocks, I folded the fabric over 4 cm (1 5/8″). No matter what the pocket sizes, the folds need to be firmly pressed for the subsequent steps to work.

crayon roll - folding first pocket

8. Pin the the centre of the fabric or ribbon tie in place on one of the short sides of the fabric. Pin to either fabric A or B before turning the whole works inside out.

crayon roll - attaching ties

9. Preparing the fabric for sewing is the most difficult process. In order for the side seams to be neat, the fabric tube needs to be folded along the creases made in steps 6 and 7 but now the pockets stick into the middle of the inside tube as show in this photo. Be sure that the loose ends of the ribbon are away from the open ends so they don’t get sewn into the wrong spot.

crayon roll - positioning pockets

10. Place pins and sew down the side of the roll where the ribbon is attached using a 1 cm (1/2″) seam allowance. Be sure to double back at the start and the end of this seam and where the ribbon attaches.

11. There needs to be a space for turning the roll right side out so at the end without the ribbon, pin and sew a seam over each set of pockets using a 1 cm (1/2″) seam allowance being sure to double back at each end of each pocket.

12. Clip corners. If you would like to reduce the bulk you may also want to grade the seams.

crayon roll - clipping corners

13. Turn the roll right side out. It should look much like it did after step 7 except that the side edges are now concealed by the seams you just sewed.

14. Fold over the loose fabric edges at the opening where you turned the pouch right side out. Pin in place. (Hand sew if desired.)

crayon roll - pinning opening closed

15. Mark sewing lines to make the individual crayon pockets.
– You’ll want 48 cm (19″) between the top stitching on either end of the roll so that each crayon can have a 4 cm (just under 1 5/8″) wide pocket. When I used a lightweight cord my top stitching on either side needed to be 7mm from the end of the fabric.
– Draw (with chalk) individual pocket lines every 4 cm starting after the top stitching line on one side.
– This pattern allows for top stitching along the top and bottom of the pocket 0.5 cm (1/4″) from the edge. Mark this stitching line with chalk.

crayon roll - drawing out stitching lines

16. Add a few pins to ensure that the pocket flaps stay where you want them and then sew the pockets in a zig zag pattern like so:

crayon roll stitching pattern

Once you’ve reached the far end of the roll it’s time to do one final round of the perimeter.

17. Use a clean, dry toothbrush to remove chalk lines and stuff with 12 block and 12 stick crayons!

finished crayon roll


relax mode

December 22, 2009

After a week of trying to get things done and being frustrated by my sore hands I’m finally getting into the season and relaxing a little bit.

My main gift in my family gift exchange is done and in the hands of the recipient, we had a great time with friends on Sunday evening, Kev’s folks are here, and we’ve had some low key evenings with friends. Life is good again!

I haven’t been able to do as much sewing as I would like but when I got word that my mother had broken her wrist on Friday I felt compelled to move into action. (No my mother does not have weak bones or a propensity to fall.) She was complaining about the hospital issue sling and when I had the fracture that changed my outlook on skiing, hockey and mountain biking, I had a similar problem so I bought a more comfortable one. I thought I’d throw it in with the package my sister was taking home but it’s navy and white and I knew my mom would wear it reluctantly because it’s so darn obvious. Taking into account her love of green and corduroy I fashioned this:

mom's sling

It should get to her tonight.

In addition to cleaning up the house, I’ve been trying to make some of our blah areas look a little nicer. Last week I covered up our reference library (which is heavily used in the summer but sits dormant through most of the winter) and made a home for our candles and the plant from the kitchen. Since my wrist and thumb have settled down I was finally able to replace the pieces of our window trees that have disappeared since last December and today I also made a swag for our door.

transformed bookshelf

snowy trees

trees and SNOW!

Following in my mom’s footsteps we always have a swag of conifers and cones at this time of year but since we haven’t made it to the u-cut tree farm and I don’t believe in paying money for branches our door has been empty. Whether we’ll have a tree or not remains to be seen so I waded through the knee deep snow to clip a sampling of twigs from our backyard. It’s small and simple but it works for me!

door swag

Oh, and how could I forget baking!  There’s been chocolates that Kevin and his mom can eat, chocolate almond bark for the rest of us, caramel popcorn, caramel coated puffed sorghum, cosmic power cookies and more…  These treats alone would be too sweet so we’ve also been enjoying salsa and corn chips, veggies and hummus and of course, oranges.  I hope you and yours are enjoying a happy holiday season too!


once a week

November 22, 2009

The past 3 weeks since the torch relay have just flown by! We spent the better part of 2 weeks in the classroom and then this past week we returned to painting, our woodworking project and a new block on high school. It was so great, but at the same time, emotions were running pretty high and that made the week far more exhausting that I had expected it to be. We made it through though, and now it’s a mere three weeks until I’m at home in my own bed. I’ll be making a bit of a strange detour to Kevin’s staff party but I’m sure it will be fun!

How I want to use this space seems to keep evolving and right now I’m going to make it my goal to post once a week, more if I have the time and energy. I’m pretty sure I can do that! I want to have some of the documentation for this year so I think a weekly post can help do that while balancing my need to do lots of other things.

Some of the cool things from these weeks in review:
– Participating in my first ever lantern walk and learning a bit about St. Martin by way of the grade two play.
– Learning a little bit about how to maintain order in the classroom.
– Seeing how important it is for stories to appeal to the different temperaments. It was a pleasant surprise to see what some of the seemingly least attentive students could remember during our review the next day.
– Authentically providing just enough emotional support to a child that was hurt. (Growing up I didn’t feel like much of a girl because sympathy and empathy were foreign to me. I have a lot of ground to cover but I’m catching up.)
– Having a long lost university friend/hockey teammate and his wife over for dinner and a visit.
– Catching up on life, hockey and exploring downtown with a friend from my SFU years.
– Going contra dancing with leather soled slippers – a big upgrade from the birks I wore last time. My real dance shoes arrived two days too late but they’re ready and waiting for the next dance.
– Joining my classmates and the high school students in a singing session. There were fun songs of yester years and today: the Beatles; John Denver; Peter, Paul and Mary and more.
– Dipping beeswax candles for the first time ever! This has been on my bucket list for 20 years or so and last year I came close when I helped toddlers do this at our Christmas fair. This time I actually got to participate in a set up that was geared towards adults and best of all, I was able to do it with friends. I enjoyed it so much that I did it twice. Once with my classmates, and the next day when the childless contingent of water girls came to visit.

winter crafting

There were a number of challenges this week but the biggest one was quite a surprise. I was so excited when we were introduced to a new game – space ball – this week and I didn’t even think about what risks there might be to my bones. That was a pleasant surprise until I fell. In the past decade nearly every fall has resulted in a wrist fracture. I can only recall one exception and I’m quite pleasantly surprised to be able to add this too the list. It’s still surprising though, given how hard I fell and the impact reverberated through my whole body. It easily took half the day for me to return to some state of normal and I feel like I’m still recovering from the shock. I’m not sure what the universe is trying to tell me but clearly I need to pay better attention!

And as if that wasn’t enough, while taking the photo for this post, I dropped my camera and it took 20 minutes to make it workable again. The shutter no longer works so I think it’s days may be numbered…agh.