Improvisational (and experimental!) Pleating, 2

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Sometimes when I have an idea, I can't sleep for thinking about it...And I know that no matter how busy I am, I won't sleep properly until I've actually sewn it, however crazy it is.
This is one such dress.

I was inspired by StraightGrain's Improvisational Pleating contest. It got me thinking, just how far can this pleating thing go?
I've already had one go at 'Improvisational Pleating' see here. But this was way more 'improvisational'....

What happens if you do lots and lots of faux seams? They would almost be like reverse smocking, taking in some of the fullness of a dress. And what happens if you leave faux seams partially unstitched? Would it create some interesting fullness? Well yes, kind of...

So I took Straight Grain's bubble dress pattern, but combined the front bodice and skirt into one piece. I stitched faux seams, lots and lots of random tucks, on a very rough grid pattern, leaving square sections unstitched to create pockets of fullness. My idea was this would take up some of the fullness of the bodice, before it flounces out into lovely bubble skirt.

It kind of worked. Certainly it created interesting texture and  pattern. I'm treating this as a 'prototype'. I may do a little reworking on this to get the neckline to sit better, and take in even more fullness. 
This is sewn in the loveliest soft blue chambray, with a touch of red piping and some trim on the back. just to add a little interest. Experimental, improvisational, and not a tape measure in sight! Please vote for me over at Straight Grain ! I need more voile to perfect my experimentation!! I've not been very tactical - because I've got two entries to split my vote. But your support for either is wonderful!

PS - just in case you missed it - here's Improvisational pleats number 1

From My Mother to Me 7; La Gang a Nat

Sunday, 18 May 2014

OK, so Mother's Day was last week...but who needs a label? Um..not me anyway...
I've been running the From My Mother To Me series for six weeks and now we've reached the final installment. I've loved the little glimpses into the lives of some wonderful creative women. The stories have been touching - and the advice wise! 
Now it's the turn of my dear friend Natalie of La Gang a Nat. Natalie started her blog about a year ago, about the same time as me, and has been metaphorically holding my hand ever since. Her enthusiasm and support is wonderful - and that's before I even start talking about her sewing. Three beautiful daughters, a full-time job, yet still some stunning clothes and creativity (have you seen her lovely 'Just my type' skirt?) Things have slipped a little, and Natalie's here a little late, but, hey, my mantra of the moment is 'be kind' to mums, and Natalie, I'm thrilled to have you any time....

Victoria, thank you so much for asking me to take part of this very special series. I am so honoured to be here. "From My Mother to Me" is a heartfelt demonstration of love and appreciation for the women in our lives that have made us who we are today... our mothers! I've been extremely touched by reading the stories shared by the other bloggers that came before me, how their parents and grandparents helped shape the person they are today.

My "maman," Claire, has had a similar impact on the woman that I've become. Maman, the fourth of eight children, started teaching at high school in her early twenties. She had just met my father the summer before, at teacher's college, and had married five months later on December 28 during an insane blizzard that had made it impossible for over half of the invited guests to show up.
I love how they married so quickly... maman is a intelligent, reasoned and logical person, but when she's made up her mind about something, she goes for it. She knew dad was the man for her and there was no point wasting time! I followed in her footsteps 37 years later by marrying Chaughan nine months after we met. 
 From My Mother to Me001 From My Mother to Me003
Maman and papa on their wedding day in 1968 (top) and on their honeymoon (below)

 She was extremely well-loved by her students and known for her creativity and her ability to think outside the box. Teaching was not limited to the four walls of the classroom... she taught various subjects over the years but spent the greatest amount of time teaching the French language to francophone students in our small town of Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. Her lessons were filled with poetry and theatre and songs and story telling. She invited francophone artists from Ontario, Quebec and beyond to come and perform at the school. Her students loved her and felt her passion for learning languages. 
From My Mother to Me005 Maman and me, 1973
At home, maman was just as creative. She painted, she sketched, she macraméed, she knitted, she spent hours making crafts with me when I was little. Although mom did sew, I don't remember her spending much time at it when she was younger.
 She did make the most amazing Halloween costumes a few times! But the art of sewing came more to the forefront once she retired and took formal sewing classes. It was this passion for sewing at a later age in life that inspired me to pick up the craft myself at the age of 37... I don't think I would have realized how passionate I would become about sewing had it not been for maman and the wonderful creations she was making for daughter Maïan. 
From My Mother to Me006 Maman and me, celebrating my 3rd birthday

Maman is for me an endless source of inspiration but perhaps more importantly, of strength. She is my moral code, my compass. I often think of how my mother would react in a situation and then I do that. I thought I would share with you a few of the life lessons that maman instilled in me growing up and that are still so important for me today...
Stay Calm Under Pressure
In every family, there needs to be a pillar of strength during times of crisis. My mother is our pillar of strength. In my early 20s, my grand-maman Irene (papa's mother) passed away unexpectedly on Christmas night. Her sudden death was extremely hard on her children (dad being the oldest of seven) and as we returned to my grand-maman's home after her funeral, emotions were high. Suddenly, the telephone rang. My aunt picked it up and a second later, sunk to the floor screaming. We were all stunned... except for my mother who calmly grabbed the telephone, moved as far as she could from the lot of us (cordless phones didn't exist back then so she was rather limited by that curly cord), explained to the stunned Sears clerk that unfortunately, grand-maman had passed away and would not be needing the package that had just arrived at the local Sears pickup office and to please refund her credit card. She then hung up and came back to console my aunt. That is my mother. That is her strength. That is who I try to be everyday.From My Mother to Me004 My beautiful maman, a few months before meeting papa in 1968
Stand Up For What You Believe In
My mother is the strongest person I know. She taught me at a very young age that I had the power to affect change, that injustice was not acceptable. I was 11 years old when maman taught me about stereotypes, discrimination, and feminism. A year later, I understood what she was talking about... Once a week, in grade 7, the girls in the class would head off to Home Economics, while the boys went across the hallway to Shop Class. This was back in 1984 and was deemed perfectly acceptable as it had simply always been the way those two classes were taught. I didn't mind at first, enjoying the sewing and cooking classes.
 But somewhere during the year, I started becoming envious of those wooden napkin holders the my male classmates were making... I became insanely curious with the loud noises of the machine and the smell of the sawdust. And I started questioning why it was that girls and boys were taught gender stereotypical trades. It felt unfair and discriminatory. I asked our teacher if it would be possible to try Shop class one day. I was laughed at. The answer was simple: girls couldn't use power tools and boys couldn't cook. I mentioned to mom that I thought that that was completely unfair and discriminatory (mom had taught me that word). Of course, she agreed. She made calls, she persisted, she pushed things, and by the next September, things had changed at our school; going forward, girls and boys would alternate on a weekly basis between Home Economics and Shop Class.
 The girls were insanely excited and took quickly to the tools and machines. The boys grumbled at first but I distinctly remember how proud they were when they cooked their first pizza... This moment in time has always stayed with me. Is it any surprise that  I am a lawyer today?
From My Mother to Me008
Maman fetching me at the airport, after a spur of the moment solo trip to Europe when I was 20
From My Mother to Me007
Maman walking proudly next to me during the Changing of the Guard ceremony, Ottawa 1992. Can you spot me? I'm the soldier in the second row, close to maman
When All Else Fails, Use Phentex (AKA Good enough is good enough)
Growing up, it seemed that my home was frequently invaded by maman's beloved Phentex, which we appeared to have in never ending supply. (If you've never heard of Phentex, or you need a good laugh, head over HERE). Broken shoe lace? Use Phentex! Need a hair elastic? Here's Phentex! Can't find rope to moor the boat to the dock? Phentex to the rescue! Yes, mom loved her Phentex but more importantly, she had this amazing knack at finding simple and quick solutions to most of life's problems. She taught me that problems can always be solved with a bit of creativity and imagination, and that the fix doesn't have to come in a fancy package or be perfect. Basically, it's doesn't always have to be pretty, but it just has to work. To this day, I struggle with this lesson... I constantly analyse my actions, question everything that I do, assume it should have been done better or at least differently. I am working on this one guys... Blogging is a prime example: When is good enough good enough? Sure, I could spend even more hours writing and re-writing my posts to perfect them... I could spend thousands in photography classes to improve the photos on my blog... I could start over those sewing projects that are just.not.quite.perfect.... But I won't do that because in the end, it's good enough and let's face it, I have to move on to handle the next crisis (which is probably a poopy diaper or a glass of spilled milk!) From My Mother to Me009  
Maman and papa, Thailand, 1997. They had come to Asia on a 2 month long backpacking adventure in order to visit my brother and sister-in-law who were working in Beijing, as well as little old me who was teaching English in Bangkok and Taiwan at the time.
 Paques 2014 Famille2 Easter 2014. The happiest and proudest grandparents on earth, surrounded by all of their grandchildren (yes, all girls!!!!)

Maman taught me many more lessons (and still does) but those are probably the three that guide me on a daily basis: Be calm under pressure. Be courageous and stand up for what you believe in. Do your best, accept it, be proud of it, and then move on. My mother is an incredibly empathetic person, a generous and kind soul, and adventurous spirit, and my best friend. Oh sure, sometimes she drives me a little crazy LOL, all mothers do, but I am the luckiest little girl to have her as my maman.
Maman, je t'aime de tout mon coeur!

From My Mother to Me 6: Sewpony

Sunday, 11 May 2014

It's Mothers Day! Or at least it is for about half the globe. I hope those of you in USA, Australia and elsewhere are having (or have  had) a lovely, lovely Mothers Day surrounded by those you love.
And I'm so thrilled to welcome Suz from Sewpony here for the Mothers Day slot on my Series, From My Mother to Me, over to you Suz...

Hi there! It's Suz I am guest posting here at Victoria's blog for her "From my mother to me", a series celebrating what the older women in our lives have taught us about sewing, and life in general!.  Today is Mothers' day here in Australia, so I am really excited to share a bit about my wonderful Mum and how she inspires me every day.

I don't remember a specific age at which I learnt to sew.  I know my Mum taught me and by the time I reached secondary school, the pieced cushion cover we were making as our first project was a breeze for me.  Thanks Mum!  My Mum learnt to sew mostly from the nuns that taught her up in the catholic school she went to in northern Queensland.  They were meticulous teachers and very thorough.  Everything had to be perfect and my Mum loved it.  She learned sewing through her secondary schooling, including basic pattern drafting.  When my Mum and Dad were married over forty years ago, she was given an elna sewing machine.  She still has it today and it is the machine her four daughters learnt to sew on!!

Here is my beautiful Mum on her wedding day with my three Aunties - all four dresses were made by Mum at the age of 23.  So cool!  

With Grandma and Grandpa

Mum and Dad xx

My Mum made most of our clothes as children.   She is what inspired me to create my When we were young series.  I am very fond of this photo taken about thirty years ago with me an my siblings and my Mum and hers and my Aunty and Uncles' wedding.  I still remember all the dresses my sisters and I wore. I loved them all - floral with frills, puffs and ties (nothing over done though!). I am the the little girl with short hair front row on the left.  Mum is far right.

My Mum made all of our 'deb' dresses (year 11 debutante ball).  I am not sharing my dress here because I no longer like it at all (not because of my Mum's sewing, but because of my 16 year old taste!).  She also made three of her four daughters' wedding and bridesmaids dresses!!  Here is my sister Jules on her wedding day with me in pink..

and my dress on our wedding day...

Characteristics and tips from my Mum as a sewer:
- she is particular, no sloppy or unironed seams
- she is not afraid of the quick unpick and rarely curses while sewing (except for making curtains)'s all part of the process
- maintain your sewing machine - get it serviced when it starts to sound off or not sew as well as it should
- oil and clean out your machine regularly
- thread your overlocker in the correct order or you will run into trouble!
- keep your scissors sharp
- run a couple of small straight stitches at the completion of your buttonholes to secure them
- if your stitches are not looking right or your machine making a funny noise, start by re threading your cotton and bobbin.

General life tips my Mum has taught me that I try to remember every day:
- the future has a way of sorting itself out, so try not to worry about it
- be grateful for what you have today
- make the most of your life and be thankful for your family and friends
- laugh

Thank you so much Mum for teaching me to sew...I am grateful for the talent I learnt from you.  I experience a lot of joy and satisfaction in my sewing.  And more than that, thank you for all that you do.  Happy Mother's Day!

Suz, This is such a lovely post! I love the wedding photos.Your mum and her bridesmaids are all so beautiful. And I'm so thrilled that this series has uncovered a little about every blogger's creative heritage. Sewing is a medium for passing on and sharing so much.

 PS - look out for a late addition from Nat and the Gang next Sunday!

Improvisational pleating and birthday lessons... (#1)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Oh it's good to be back!
At last I have a camera again - and I feel like I'm back in the blogging world.

You may have heard about the Improvisational Pleating contest An is running over at Straightgrain...This is my entry, and  if I was being tactical I should probably save this for a week or two, but I'm waaaay too impatient.
Especially as I actually sewed this MONTHS ago, and completely coincidentally to An's contest.

I just couldn't resist this rose-print muslin which was in the 'reduced' basket of my local fabric store.  Honestly it was ridiculously cheap. And also it 'spoke to me'. It brought back memories of a story I loved when I was Missy's age. Did anyone else read My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards? With the most wonderful Shirley Hughes' illustrations?
There's a tale where 'My Naughty Little Sister' is given the most beautiful white muslin dress with rosebuds and a pink sash. Then she gets so worried about getting it dirty that she takes it off and runs round the party in her underwear...This tale proved to be prophetic...

So I bought the muslin with a view to making a 'Birthday dress' for Missy, back in March, but also to create something that was completely whimsical, almost a dressing up dress. A little bit Princess or ballerina, but not a kitsch costume.

Late night sewing ensued ahead of Missy's birthday. (late night, code for; 'don't look at that hem closely - have you tried hemming muslin?')
This is, again, An's Hanami dress pattern, with ta-da, a panel of improvised pleating on the bodice. Honestly, no measuring was involved, I stitched down random folds in the central panel. The dress is completely lined in blue cotton, and ever-so twirly. 
It's a little bit 'Marie Antoinette' no? Or Angelina Ballerina?  Or at least this is how I tried to present it to Missy on her birthday morning...
She loved it - for about five minutes. Until she opened the birthday present from her grandparents; a "Made in China" nylon Pirate Costume...

My 'Angelina ballerina' rosebud muslin could not compete with pirate hat, sword and attitude....Missy was 'Pirate Captain' for the day.
And I was left remembering My Naughty LIttle Sister, who also rejected the rosebuds, and pondering the lessons to be learnt.
There are more 'birthday
lessons' to come... I'll keep you posted.
Happy birthday my gorgeous pirate princess...

PS - what do you reckon to the camera? Photographic advice welcome! What on earth do I do with all these button thingies..?

Take One Dress 5; Sewpony to Groovy Baby and Mama

Sunday, 4 May 2014

It's May...the most lovely month and the Take One Dress trail of inspiration continues with Trine from Groovy Baby and Mama taking on the challenge passed to her from Suz of Sewpony.
For those yet to discover Groovy Baby and Mama, it's where Trine showcases her distinctive sense of colour and often understated, vintage-yet-modern, sense of style. I'm thrilled to welcome her here!

Hi, it's Trine from Groovy Baby and Mama. I'm so thrilled to be a part of this unique series - a really great idea, Victoria.

My adorable inspiration dress was provided by my sweet friend Suz from sewpony. I had just bought 1 meter of this beautiful floral jersey and when Suz showed me this photo I immediately knew what to make with it - a floral Little Betty Dress. I simply can't get enough of Little Betty. This is my third dress using Suz' pattern. This time I've done it a little differently. Instead of sewing the frills on top of the dress I've inclosed them in a seam. I've also eliminated back opening and therefore made the neckline a little wider. When making the neckline wider you have to move the frills a little closer to the shoulder seams, so I drafted a new line for the frills, cut along this line (remember to add seam allowance here) so the frills could be enclosed in the seam.

I left the dress unhemmed - not that I wanted to but I think it'll be to short if I hem it. She grows like a weed that girl...

Now it's my turn to choose a inspiration dress for the talented Heidi of Elegance & Elephants. I'm madly in love with this dress found on Pinterest. I haven't been able to find out a whole lot about it - but here it is:


 Hope you like it, Heidi?
Oh Trine! That's so lovely! It's so very Groovy Baby and Mama, you seem to have a gift for seeing how fabrics that I might walk past will look fantastic when sewn up. Love the simplicity of this dress. I think it's high time I started sewing knits!

Now it's over to Heidi at Elegance and Elephants who'll be here on Monday June 2. I'm enjoying this series so much! Can't wait to see where Heidi goes with the latest 'inspiration'

From My Mother to Me 5; While she was sleeping

Saturday, 3 May 2014

I'm so thrilled to welcome Jenya from While she was sleeping for the next installment of From my Mother to Me...We're getting ever closer to Mother's Day next week!
Jenya is not only a really talented sewist, but she's been a great blogging friend over this last year, helping me out will all kinds of little questions. Over to you Jenya!

Hi guys, my name is Jenya. I share my sewing adventures at While she was sleeping. It is a pleasure to be sharing what I have learned from my Mum and Grandma today. Thank you Victoria for inviting me to be a part of this exciting series!

I grew up in Moscow, Russia with two wonderful crafting people - my Mum and Babushka (Grandma). My Babushka was a brilliant sewist. She sewed for herself, my mum growing up, and my brother and I. I have fond memories of the many beautiful outfits she made for me when I was little. Unfortunately I don't have any photos to share with you. I cannot remember Babushka using a pattern once. Mum said she had one or two tucked away somewhere, but she didn't need to use them. Babushka had the coolest foot powered sewing machine! I loved playing with the foot pedal pretending I was driving a train when I was a little girl.

My Babushka passed away when I was 15. Recently my Mum brought me some fabric that Babushka never got to use. It is an amazing feeling to be able to turn precious fabric left from her to make something special for my daughter. Please click on images if you would like to read corresponding posts.

My Mum can sew as well, but knitting is her preferred craft. She is simply amazing at it. When I watch her knit it appears as if her hands have a life of their own! She designs her own patterns and she never stops. I think my mum's To Knit list is twice as long as my To Sew list!

Here are a few of my favourite things my Mum made for our Little Monkey.

This jumper is my all time favourite (and Little Monkey's too!)

These amazing women have encouraged my pursuits in various forms of crafting over the years - making soft toys, cross stitching, beading. I remember hand stitching clothes for my dolls when I was in primary school.

I believe I have learned a lot from my Mum and Babushka. Mum always pays a lot of attention at the beginning of every new project. I also make sure I take my time when outlining and cutting out the pattern pieces. This way I know they will align nicely and ensure the sewing process is enjoyable.

Mum and Babushka always managed to find time to sew and knit. I have a nice routine that allows me to enjoy some 'Me' time without sacrificing precious family time (well, at least not too much hehe).

I learned that it is OK to make mistakes, developing new skills can be fun and that you won't know what you can do unless you give it a go.

Over the past two and a half years I came up with a couple of rules for myself:
- do not cut fabric when tired;
- always pre-wash and press the fabric before cutting it;
- always press the seams;
- don't sew past 1 am. Being a mum at 6 am is much more enjoyable if one gets a good sleep (OK I may have broken this one a few times).

Love for knitting and sewing runs in my family. I am wondering which craft Little Monkey will prefer when she is older! 

Thanks Jenya! It's so lovely to see knitting and craft skills crossing generations and  continents. Love your rules, sewing past 1am is always a bad idea (and I'm trying to add blogging and picture editing to that rule)...
Next week it's Mothers Day in USA, Australia and all kinds of places. We finish up our tour with Suz from Sewpony...Can't wait....!
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