Tag Archives: sewing

autumn {wiksten tova dress}

since our weather is no longer calling for summer-wear, i’ve set aside my wiksten tank pattern and have finally made my way to the more seasonally versatile wiksten tova.

tova is an easy sew.  it reminds me of some of the gamine dresses one sees in japanese dress books – shapeless and soft with some sweet little finishing details.  tova is made interesting with a front placket set into a gathered panel.  the plackets overlap and are topped off with what i think of as a band-style collar.  or maybe a chairman mao?  either way, it’s a nice touch.  the three-quarter length sleeves are gathered slightly and finished off with a tiny, straightforward, non-restrictive cuff.

like the wiksten tank, you can cut the tova at two different lengths: top or dress.  i made the dress length because i wanted to wear it with leggings and boots this fall and winter.  were i wearing it on its own, sans leg coverage, however, i’d consider making it a tad longer to allow a little more modesty on the gams.  i am fast approaching 40, after all.

i was a good girl and followed the instructions, with the exception of the hand-stitching – i just couldn’t see the point when you end up topstitching the same pieces anyway (this is called for on the collar and the cuffs).  i found that with some careful pinning, i was able to skip the hand-stitching and move right on to the topstitching.  in order to ensure the stitching looked good, i pinned amply from the right side, checked to make sure i would catch the folded edge with my topstitching, then did the topstitching, as you would, on the right side as well.  it worked brilliantly and saved me all of that slow and mostly needless hand-stitching.  hurrah!

a note on the fabric. this print is called ‘eyelet’ and it comes from denyse schmidt‘s ‘flea market fancy’ collection.  it’s pretty sweet, but i’m afraid that the grey of the fabric, along with its subtle white pinstripe and the style of the dress make the whole thing look a little too much like an old-fashioned nightshirt.  i was going to link to a photo of a man yawning in a nightshirt, but it was too disturbing.  here’s hoping i’m the only one who notices this similarity (good thing i pointed it out…).

i didn’t make any changes to the fit – i cut a medium and i find the size accurate and ample.  it’s not the most figure flattering cut, sure, especially in a heavier quilting cotton, but it’s a quick and cosy make and has great multi-season potential.  tova is definitely a keeper.

do you have a favourite basic pattern you keep going back to?  do tell!

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{reversible headband}

i’ve been busily sewing lately, trying to churn out goodies for an upcoming studio tour which kicks off in, gasp, 12 more sleeps.  this will be my second year as a guest artist of my friend, the super-talented kim (who not only paints, draws and creates amazing mosaic glass pieces, but is also a first-class baker who has been sharing some of her recipes at crumbsbykim).

one of the lessons i learned last year was: for goodness’ sake, do not leave all of your creating to the last-minute.  last year my procrastination lead to blood, sweat and tears in my sewing room (i am not exaggerating), and too many exclamations of “why, oh whyyyy am i doing this?”.  crisis-driven sewing and crocheting is not fun.

characteristically, despite my hard-learned lesson last year, i find myself once again frantically trying to come up with just the right items to tempt this year’s discerning studio-tourers.  will i never learn?  to add to the struggle, i’ve been working on a few me-designed items which have taken significantly longer to refine than one would think, including some jersey-knit infinity scarves (more on those in another post) and these reversible headbands.

they look simple enough, don’t they?  sure, now that i’ve sorted out the pattern and the process, i can make one rather painlessly, though getting to this point was far from painless.  i spent an entire day doggedly trying to come up with the right shape, drafting and re-drafting, sewing lousy muslin after lousy muslin, muttering curses and vexing myself for pretending i was capable of coming up with something on my own (much the same experience i had with my phone cosies and my tobermory hat).

despite all the head-banging, i’m pretty happy with the results.  overall, this is a comfortable and flattering headband that actually stays put (yes, it’s true!).  being reversible, i think it’s a little more fun than a standard, one-print number, and it’s certainly more versatile.  i really  struggled with the seam that joins the elastic to the ends of the headband, until i came up with a really simple solution which you can see in the close-ups.  the best part?  no hand-stitching!  and no necessary top-stitching, though i may go back and add some for accent.

once the studio tour chaos passes, i plan on writing up a tutorial for the headbands (as well as keeping my long-standing promise to write-up the patterns for the cosies and the hat), though, fair warning, i may procrastinate the tutorialing for just a bit longer so i can do some sewing for myself (i’m desperate to try making a hazel and some summery skirts, though i’m afraid by the time i get to make them, it will be fall).  in the meantime, i’d love to hear from any of you who have experience selling your homemade wares – how do you do it without losing your sanity (or your shirt)?

•  •  •


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sewing kindergarten {schoolhouse tunic}

i find the big world of garment sewing downright intimidating.  you see, as i’ve said previously, when it comes to sewing, i’m great at following instructions, but not so great at ad-libbing.  i really admire folks who can alter a pattern to fit their figure and style, and i seriously envy those who can forego the guidance of patterns altogether and make their own.  respect, mad-sewists!  if a lack of experience is at the root of my sewing inferiority complex, the solution must be to broaden my sewing horizons, no?

i’d had my eye on the schoolhouse tunic pattern for a while (it’s by meg mcelwee, a bona-fide member of the league of mad-sewists.  she’s way too talented).  her tunic pattern is both sweet and modern, with just enough forgiveness in the fit to make it a non-intimidating sew.  i made my first tunic in a baby-soft and surprisingly lightweight corduroy by amy butler.  i absolutely adore the slightly exotic feel of the floral pattern.  it lent itself very well to this simple, comfy project, and i was quite chuffed with the results.  i did find it a little too maternity-wearish initially, what with the double-whammy of front and back reverse box pleats, which look really sweet but aren’t terribly figure flattering, so i sewed down the back pleat which helped to minimize the poufiness of the rump area.

for my second schoolhouse tunic, i went a little more summery and used a slightly graphic, slightly romantic cotton from ty pennington.  yes, that ty pennington.  despite his overly caricatured personality, the dude has good taste in fabric design.  because the sewn-down back pleat in tunic number one was still a little bulky, i decided i needed to delete the back pleat entirely.  though it was the babiest of baby-steps, nixing the pleat did involve a tiny alteration of the pattern (what a brave girl!), and i’m pleased to report that it turned out perfectly.  not only am i much happier with the fit and the silhouette, but i’m quite impressed with my not entirely deliberate fabric matching at the back seam – it’s almost spot on.  silly detail, i know, but it’s progress.  i may not be ready for the league of mad-sewists yet, but i’m happily on my way.

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creative fuel

i love a trip to the city.  i mean the city.  toronto.

once or twice a year i have a work-related stay in TO.  when i’m there, my mission is to cram in as much walking, gawking and general city-imbibing as possible.  the chaos and crowds are both exhilarating and exhausting, and i find, for a short time anyways, that i am strangely soothed by the rhythm of urban life.  it couldn’t be more different from our home in the countryside, where trees outnumber people exponentially and heavy traffic means actually having to stop at the stop sign before turning.

one of the benefits of city excursions, apart from the fashion lessons, teashops and people-watching, is the improved access to all things crafty and the ability to refuel for my creative pursuits.  this trip allowed me to expand my stirandstitch stashes quite nicely (and to soothe IDS, who can get a little testy when left in the countryside for too long).

{crochet-fuel}     the yarn related highlight of this trip was my first ever visit to romni wools  – the epic toronto yarn store.  i don’t use the word epic flippantly here.  romni’s monstrous, bursting, teeming and towering collection of fibers is daunting to even the most yarn-starved shopper.  it was utterly overwhelming, but i managed to find some lovely, squishy goodies to take home, including some bright malabrigo sock and some nifty ‘braided’ cascade.

{sewing-fuel}     i discovered the workroom online and was instantly smitten.  they have a fabulous selection of contemporary fabrics and high quality notions, a friendly shop dog and a great calendar of sewing classes.  the timing of my trip worked out perfectly for me to take their three hour ‘serger essentials’ course – instruction i’ve been needing for years.  i came home with some new-found serger confidence and a set of rolled-hem napkins which we made in class.  i couldn’t resist a couple of pieces of lotta jansdotter fabric and three marvy patterns (including one for a sweet colette blouse) that i can’t wait to dig into.

{baking-fuel}     i have a cookbook addiction.  i could read cookbooks all day.  really.  this obsession has necessitated a moratorium on cookbook purchases (i also have a moratorium on tea mugs and flip-flops).  i had to allow myself an exception in toronto, though, for dorie greenspan’s ‘baking – from my home to yours’.  it’s been around for a while now, so it seemed less impulsive and more appropriate to add it to my collection (and really, what baker’s library is complete without it?).  i’ve been eagerly flipping the pages, wondering which recipe will be the first into my mixer.

•  •  •

stirandstitch has refueled!  three days in toronto allowed me to absorb just enough urban sensibility to remain connected to city-life.  it also offered loads of tea, a little bit of chocolate and plenty of creative fuel for projects-to-be.  and it was just long enough, just windy enough and just lonely enough to make me (and even my testy IDS) feel happy to come home.

•  •  •


Filed under baking, crocheting, sewing

mighty {stash baskets}

this is the project that marked my return to sewing.

i learned to sew as a youngster (on my sew easy) and carried on with it right through high school.  my twenties, however, saw me neglecting my sewing skills in favour of travel and adventure.  when i finally settled long enough to start nesting again, i bought my first grown-up sewing machine.  despite moving with me from the arctic to the rockies and from the rockies to ontario, my machine didn’t see much regular use until i faced 3 months away from work after knee surgery.  i found myself a copy of sew liberated and became inspired.  i started searching for fabric shops and discovered the likes of amy butler and purl soho online (this would be akin to a trendy bargain-hunter finding h&m).  i planned all kinds of nifty projects to while away my time off, and this was my first.

i chose molly’s sewn stash basket pattern from the purl bee (one of the most amazing craft blogs ever).  these make great multi-purpose storage baskets – perfect for corralling yarn, books, knickers, extra toilet paper…they have so much potential!

the bird basket was take one.  i chose lightweight cotton for both the exterior and interior (that great bird fabric was from ikea), which i learned wasn’t particularly well suited for this use.  even though they were stabilized with a mid-weight interfacing, the fabrics weren’t sturdy enough for the basket to stand up on its own when it was empty.  still, it’s perfect for holding mitts and scarves and shopping bags – all of the bits and bobs that collect near the front door.

i wised up for take two.  i used heavier canvas-weight fabric for the exterior and the lining, et voila – they stand on their own and hold their shape nicely.  i thought that the mama basket needed a baby basket, so i modified the pattern in order to make a smaller version of the  purl soho size.  aren’t they cute together?

actually, when i think back, i made another slight modification – instead of hand stitching much of the bottom and back seams as instructed (sooo tedious and time-consuming, not to mention super difficult to do with 4 to 6 layers of canvas-weight material), i machine-sewed everything and it worked out perfectly (but see the safety caveat below).

these baskets taught me that i need to sew and create.  they led me to discover that there are legions of like-minded crafty folk out there, eager to share their patterns, ideas and experiences.  they also taught me a valuable safety lesson worth noting…whilst powering my machine through said thick layers, my needle broke and the tip flew from the machine, narrowly missing my left eyeball.  yikes!  from thereafter i donned my cycling glasses whenever sewing the thickest sections.  who says sewing is for sissies?


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call me cosy {iphone cosy from scratch}

this summer, i finally took the neo-luddite’s leap and got myself an iphone.  given its cost, and its potential fragility, i quickly decided it needed to be enveloped in something protective.  i didn’t want anything plastic or mass-produced (IDS strikes again), so i crocheted up a wee apple green cosy for it, complete with a handy drawstring at the top to cinch as desired.  it did look very fetching on my white phone.  simple, practical, acceptable.  but kind of boring.  so i set to work on a one-of-a-kind iphone sleeve, and this is what i came up with.

i’ve since refined my pattern and have managed to apply it to ipads, tablets and e-readers (and i must say that i’m really quite pleased with the results!).  i know – they don’t look terribly complicated, and, admittedly, they are not.  my great sense of accomplishment comes from the fact that i made them from scratch without a pattern or any form of guidance.  it took some number-crunching mathematics (not my forte), a few major gaffes teachable moments and several frustrating prototypes before i came up with my very own original pattern.  hurrah!

my goal was to chicly protect my phone from offending items such as keys and assorted handbag flotsam while tumbling about my bag.  i padded it with some fusible fleece for protection and added a tab-closure which uses a snap, allowing one-handed operation (and it’s much less fiddly than a button and button-hole).  i’ve had a little fun with the fabric, experimenting with patchwork and adding an unexpected lining here and there.  i’m in the process of writing up a pattern/tutorial for it, which is proving much more difficult than i first, naively, expected…so check back if you’re interested in making one for yourself (it will, of course, be free for fellow stitchers).


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new year, new bag

being a grey and rainy january 1st, the only sensible thing to do was to remain indoors.  apart from a soggy dog-walk, i happily partook of solely indoor domestic activities today.   i stoked the fire.  i made hearty soup.  i baked some lovely cheddar biscuits.  i let the dogs in and out approximately 157 times. and i sewed!!

new year's bag

just before the holidays, i came across a brilliant pattern for a simple, unstructured, reversible bag.  the pattern is offered on this marvy blog by novita, aka ‘very purple person’.  if you sew and/or appreciate handmade clothing and accessories, you must have a look through her work.  she is enviably talented, has a great sense of style and is generous enough to share some of her patterns and ideas with the whole wide world.  so, back to the bag.  it’s ever so sweet and worked up quite quickly.  the hardest part was deciding which fabrics to use.  i chose a soft grey paisley print for the exterior and a classy neutral print of a map of paris for the interior.  i had a lovely time reminiscing while pressing the fabric…retracing steps i’d taken along the seine and the streets of paris too many years ago…sigh. but i digress!  i decided to add an inner zippered pocket and i must say that i’m pretty chuffed with the results .  i see myself making many more of these in the future.  thank you, novita!

though i hadn’t planned it this way, i kind of like the symbolism of creating a new bag on new year’s day.  maybe i’m getting a little too sentimental this evening, what with the backpacking memories and all, but this bag has that ‘new pencil case/first day of school’ kind of feel to it, you know?  what a nice and nesty way to start the new year.  cheers!

fat stack of potential


zipper pride

interior & pocket

ah, paris

c'est fini!


Filed under sewing