Monthly Archives: December 2012

our low-key christmas tree

So low-key I only have cell-phone pictures!

wpid-20121214230449926The first night of decorating we put up gingerbread hearts and ornaments we already had on hand.

I really loved Solveig’s recent advent calendar, which includes both an activity, as well as hanging one ornament on the christmas tree every day. So when we picked ourselves up a small tree a couple of weeks ago, that was my plan (already a late start being a good week and a half into the advent period, oh well!). We don’t have a tree-stand, but John fashioned a makeshift one out of a bucket and an upside down metal lamp shade. I tell you, he’s pretty crafty this man of mine.

Anyways, that went pretty well with my desire for really low-key christmas tree decorating. I wanted to do something like Solveig with a couple of decorations a day, but it sort of fell apart after a week. No worries! We still put stuff on the tree, and I’m happy with how non-stressful it still was. Gingerbread-decorating with the girls provided the hearts; John and I did some papercutting one night; I found ribbons in a box looking for something completely different, so those went up too; a dried flower; some ornaments we already had; and of course the popcorn-chain we made while watching Lewis the night before leaving. All in all it’s a charming, funny little tree! No lights though. Maybe we’ll get some tree-lights when we decide to be grown-ups and get a proper tree-stand as well. I couldn’t tell you when that’ll be.

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I’m sorry there are no detailed pictures, we snapped this one right before leaving to get on the train. Note the printer and the easter egg to the left, and the gifts in a bag and traditional knit sweater to the right! This is real-life christmas straight from our apartment. And on that note, I’d like to wish all of you a peaceful and lovely holiday, and I’ll see you all in the new year!

around here

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More winter in these parts – in the past few weeks my view in the morning, stepping out of my apartment, has been a stark moon over a sparkling, snowy city. It’s been cold, but look how crisp!

I’ve done a lot of sewing lately, finally finishing the gathered sundress, after making a pink mess in my little sewing corner. That’s what my sewing corner looks like in the middle of a project. Also, sewing on the job, lots of suits and chalk and pins.

I have also had a total love affair with pak choy – that’s sautéing it in butter with dill and black sesame seeds in that picture. I love how it wilts down to tender greens, except the white part that stays crisper and so fresh-tasting. Yep, that’s my plug for pak choy. Go buy it, haha! Earlier this week I had a lovely evening of adventing with good friends, filled with decorating pepperkaker (gingerbread cookies), drinking gløgg, and eating clementines and christmas cookies. The gingerbread hearts I decorated is already on my tree, making that corner of the apartment smell all christmas-y! And finally, the city marked the start of the advent with lighting the tree, a concert, and a fireworks show. We have front row seats from our apartment for stuff like that, and it’s one of the many many reasons I love living right here.

gathered sundress in winter

Of course you make summery dresses in the dead of winter! Why wouldn’t you?

I think a core reason I’ve been knitting so much lately, is the overwhelmingness of my current pile of half-finished sewing projects – none of which have been calling my name lately. The one project I got excited about, was the Gathered sundress by Pattern Runway. And, I had some lovely cotton/silk that I always planned on making into the perfect summer dress, so it seemed like a good match.

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I’ve shared some snippets of this fabric and the making of the dress in several recent posts, and I’ve really been taking my time (and now that I’m finally ready to share, I feel like I have so much to say about this dress!). I’ve come to realize that part of the reason I sew is to do it as neatly and well made as possible. That might not be the driving desire for other people who sew, and that’s ok. But it is a driving force for me, where I really enjoy the process, and adding little construction details wherever I can and want. Of course this means this dress took much longer to finish than I thought – especially when you add the part where I was careful during the cutting process so the pattern would match up, and the part where I decided to have the side front panels and the inside of the pocket cut on the bias.

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I was inspired by Oona’s delightful lace insert version of this dress, where she made some of the panels contrasting. With this kind of busy, but still orderly pattern, I thought it might help to do something similar to break up the mass and create a differentiation. That was also the thought behind the deliciously colored piping I made for the belt and the pockets (my tips for making and using bias tape is right here). I’m not sure it was a roaring success – this print pattern looks much more busy from a couple of yards away than it does up close, so the fabric hides some of the details and lines until you’re quite close. I’m not super comfortable with prints to begin with, so I might be a little biased and feeling in unfamiliar territory here!

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Like I mentioned, I did enjoy adding a lot of touches to the construction of the dress, and a lot of them is due to the sheer and thin nature of the cotton/silk printed fabric:
· Using iron-on stay-tape along pretty much all curved edges, both on the lining fabric and the self fabric. (seen in this post)
· Edgestitching the seamallowance to one side to add some heft and structure to the seams. I was afraid that the light fabrics might not feel substantial enough for a dress of this style, and adding more seams in form of edgestitching, top-stitching, and piping helped with support.
· Backing the bias cut side panels, the belt, and pockets with straight grain organza, so they wouldn’t be completely bent out of shape. I figured the pockets would feel more solid and sturdy (but still light!) with the organza as well.
· Binding the raw edges of the pocket with more of the same green-yellow silk dupioni I used for the piping.
· With the patterned fabric beeing lighter and more see through than I was expecting, I lined the skirt as well for a full lining in a cotton voile. This changed the construction a bit – I sewed the lining as a full separate piece, but to keep the layers together, and again, add stability and a little more heft, I sewed together the seam allowances of the top belt seams on both the lining and the patterned fabric. It’s a technique also used in lined jackets, to keep the outer and inner layers of the collar moving as one!
· As for the fit, I did shorten the bodice by a good inch or so, which seems like a common alteration for this pattern. I also added some width at the princess-seams after a bodice muslin, and pinched off a little on the back pieces for some neckline gaping. I may or may not have overfitted a bit. I intentionally kept the fit a little looser – I wanted an easy, effortless dress, but that doesn’t define the waist as much as this style of dress usually does.
· Finally, not a construction note, but worth mentioning: I had some weird and random problems with these fabrics. I swear I cut out the exact sane patternpieces of the voile and the cotton/silk, handled them with extreme care, and interfaced the edges to prevent stretching out. And yet, sewing the lining to the self fabric along the armholes had me looking at over an inch to ease in on a 6″ stretch! (picture above) I also had an issue with the hem not matching up in a way I can’t even explain, despite being super careful matching everything up while cutting and sewing! To a perfectionist as myself, this was most maddening.

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The sheer fabric also means that the seam allowance shows up, especially having interfaced them first! I trimmed down the seam allowance on the princess seams as much as I could get away with, but a better idea might have been to underline everything instead. Hindsight is 20/20, but I really think I’m going to like and wear this dress, and I do consider that a success – even if it might not have come out as awesomely as I was picturing.

I did have some pretty high hopes for this one – I might have been expecting too much! It’s funny to see a similar sort of feeling discussed by Tasia quite recently – that even if, as a non-sewer I talked to recently put it, we can make things any way and exactly how we want it, not every project is an absolute success. Maybe I didn’t choose the optimal pattern for the fabric or vice versa, maybe I didn’t choose the best combination of fabrics, and maybe I didn’t choose the ideal construction methods at every point. I do feel some pressure to absolutely love everything I make (though I’m not sure to what degree that pressure is external or internal, or some combination of the two). I think I will try to simply accept this as a piece in my wardrobe, and that it doesn’t have to be “the perfect garment” all on its own. If it’s a garment that fits, and I’m happy to wear, that’s a lot just by itself.

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outfit: February fitted pullover, winter wonderland style

Thanks for the suggestions I got for how to wear my newly finished February fitted pullover that I shared recently (and here is the ravelry link to the project)! I have a short list of ways to try wearing it (feel free to offer more suggestions if you can think of any!). I did wear it last weekend the way I mentioned in that post – with my grandma-dress.

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It’s a little funny; in my mind, the blues of the sweater and the dress would match perfectly, but in certain indoor lights they were purpely blue and green blue, respectively. It looked fine though, so the lack of perfect colormatching doesn’t bother me too much. And I can tell you this much – that sweater is quite warm! It certainly kept me toasty even with just the strapless dress underneath. Score one for the sweater. I paired it with a belt to break the blue expanse up a bit (and match my boots of course).

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The pictures are on the artistic (wacky?) side – taken at dusk one day with the only camera lens available that day (it’s actually broken, but works as a sort of handheld tilt-lens). I find it funny how the city behind me in this last picture kind of looks like a little model!

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