Monday, 23 May 2016

#OOTD Sew and Style - Review + Giveaway!

As someone who got into sewing in their teens, I'm all for anything that encourages young people to start sewing their own clothes! Back at my high school, everyone takes half a term of sewing, and they make a pincushion, a stuffed frog, and a pair of boxer shorts... which doesn't exactly make most people want to keep sewing. Making clothing that you actually wear and love is so more fun!

That's exactly the idea behind the new sewing book #OOTD (Outfit of the Day) Sew and Style, by Angela Lan. Today, I'm excited to be hosting the a stop on the blog tour for the book, including a giveaway at the end of this post!

What impressed me most when I learned about the book is that Angela is only 14 years old, and already writes her own blog at! She's mostly self-taught, and was inspired to write the book because when she was learning, she found there was a lack of sewing books for young girls that focus on sewing clothing rather than other crafty projects.

The book is aimed at young teenagers and tweens that are interested in clothing design, so the emphasis is a little different than other beginner sewing books that I've seen. I liked that in her introduction, Angela focuses on sewing wearable, everyday clothing and finding ways to make it your own - that's exactly what I'm trying to focus on with my sewing right now, even though I've been sewing for years! 

There's a great introduction to different types of fabric and what to look for when fabric shopping, as well as a helpful guide to reading a sewing pattern. The sewing details are concise, and enough to get started with the included projects.

As you go through the book, Angela introduces some new techniques that are needed for the projects, and along the way, she talks about sewing to fit your style and create unique clothing, and introduces a few pattern modifications for the included projects.

The projects are all pretty simple and perfect for a beginner! They get more complex as you go through the book, starting with an infinity scarf, and ending with a pair of shorts that can be lengthened to pants. Most of them, with the exception of the pants, don't require many more skills than sewing and finishing straight seams. The pants would definitely be a project to work up to, but mostly because they would be trickier to fit! The construction itself looks quite straightforward.

Overall, I think that this book would be perfect for a tween or teen that wants to start sewing clothing rather than those classic beginner projects like pillowslips and pincushions! Everything is explained clearly and simplified just enough to make the projects very do-able for someone younger. It doesn't include many techniques other than what's needed for the projects, but it's a perfect starting point to build upon if you worked through the projects and wanted to learn more, either from the Internet, from a course, or from another book.

So, now for the giveaway! C&T Publishing has kindly offered a copy to give away to a reader (a paper copy if you're in the US, and an e-book otherwise). To enter, leave a comment with an email address, and I'll keep it open until Monday, May 30 at mighnight, EST. Following me (on Bloglovin, Feedly, Instagram, or anything else) is appreciated but not necessary to enter!

Also, check out the other stops on the blog tour for more posts (and more chances to win!):

May 17: Angela Lan posting on the C&T Publishing blog
May 18: Marte Lambin at the Compagnie M blog
May 19: Sasha Werner at Secondo Piano 
May 20: Barbara Emodi at Sewing on the Edge
May 23: Me!
May 24: Suzannah Stanley at Create/Enjoy
May 25: Angela Lan posting at LoveSpunk

And finally, a little disclaimer: I was given a free copy of the e-book for the purposes of this tour, but all opinions are my own. As a fellow teenage seamstress (for another couple months, anyways), I think that this book really would be a great introduction to sewing for a tween or young teen. I would have loved it when I was that age, and I probably would have started sewing seriously a lot sooner!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Pattern Testing: The BHL Sarah Shirt

If you follow the By Hand London blog, you may have seen that I was included in their round-up of pattern tester versions of their new pattern, the Sarah Shirt! I was so flattered and excited when they asked me to test earlier this year, and it was perfect timing, because I was just starting second semester and not (too) busy with school yet. I'm definitely starting to embrace some looser, more casual styles, and I fell in love with the line drawings!

Having said that, my secret shame at that time was that I still hadn't bought a table to set up my new sewing machines, and I hadn't tried either of them yet! So, for that week, I took over our kitchen table at our apartment and finally used my brand new sewing machine machine for the first time.

Aaaand... it's amazing! It handled the drapey rayon so nicely (although the walking foot helped!), and the automatic buttonhole feature is just beautiful. Having only ever sewed on either a cheap machine or a machine that's 30+ years old, it was incredible to sew on such a high-end machine! I feel like this will be the start of a long, happy relationship. Now it just needs a name...

The fabric was from a place on St. Hubert, one of Montreal's fabric shopping districts. It's super cheap rayon and I don't know how well it will last, but I was a little pressed for time and didn't want to spend a ton of money on a shirt that I wasn't sure would turn out. This was only $3 a yard, so I bought lots, and I have enough left for a dress! I really like the pattern so I may whip up something simple with what's left - since it's not the best quality I wouldn't want to make anything super complicated with it. I bought the Sewaholic Nicola Dress pattern a while back and I might use it for a wearable muslin. We'll see!

As for the Sarah shirt, I made a size 2/6, view 2 (short sleeves, and a pointed collar). I also love the long sleeves, but I didn't think they would be that practical for me. I'm always cold, so I never end up wearing shirts that I can't layer a sweater over!

I'm not going to comment too much on the instructions, since I know that the ladies at By Hand London made quite a few changes in response to testers' feedback. The revised instructions have clarified a few points, and they're detailed enough that they're really easy to follow, even if you've never made a shirt before!

Since our kitchen table only had enough space for one sewing machine, I didn't set up my serger for this project, and instead finished everything with French seams. This is definitely my favourite seam finish for delicate fabrics, and it worked really well for this pattern, even the sleeves!

As for the fit, this one has a LOT of ease! It's intentional (unlike the Big 4, which add unnecessary easy to everything), but I thought that it ended up a little bigger than the line drawings suggested. The illustrations on the model show the ease a little more accurately, but they weren't done yet when I tested it!

I love the swingy-ness of the style, but I'll admit that I'm not sure it's the most flattering on me. I've seen lots of versions that look fabulous, but I just have a very small frame, and I think that the ease is a little overwhelming on me. The smallest size fits my full bust and waist measurements, but I think my high bust measurement better reflect the size of my frame, so I maybe should have sized down past the smallest size!

Having said that, I think it's a really fun style to wear! As I mentioned earlier, I've really started to like styles that are less fitted (even if they're not the most flattering on my body).

I think that if I made this again, I might make it a tiny bit more fitted under the arms and then begin the flare from there, possibly adding a bust dart. I think that on me, this might make the ease a little less overwhelming - I have a thrifted blouse that fits like this that I love!

I shortened it by 2", which wasn't unexpected because I'm a little short (5' 2", for reference).

The other alteration that I would make if I made it again would be to make the collar a little smaller. I'm not sure if it's just because I made the smallest size and the collar size doesn't change much from size to size, but I found the collar a little disproportionately big, and definitely larger than the line drawings suggest - it actually covers the pleats completely, which is too bad because they're my favourite part!

So, the final verdict on this shirt?

Looking at these photos, I LOVE it!

But, as much as I like it, it's definitely a stretch from styles I've worn before. I feel like I still need to just get a little more comfortable wearing it - I have a few pieces that I've bought second-hand that I loved, but were very different than the styles I was used to, and I needed to wear them a few times before I got used to the different style.

I really hope that I get some more wear out of it, because really do like it! I think with a couple tweaks I will definitely make the pattern again, and then maybe I'll find it a little more wearable.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I have actually set up a sewing space for myself in my bedroom! It still needs a little work but it'll evolve as I use it. So far my work schedule has been a little unpredictable, but I hope to have some more sewing time this summer than I had during the school year. It looks like I'll definitely have some knitting time if I keep a knitting project at the lab - lab work involves a lot of waiting!

Also, another huge thank you to my friend James for taking these photos for me - these were taken before it started pouring!

And, a final little disclaimer: I was given the test version (and later the revised version) of the pattern free of charge in return for my feedback as a tester. I paid for the supplies and for printing the pattern myself, and I was in no way obligated to post about it. All opinions are my own!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

The Aiken Pullover... Just in Time for Summer!

If you've been following my Me-Made-May 2016 pictures on Instagram, you might have seen that I wore a new handknit sweater on day 1! It's not actually that new - I finished it in January but it took me a while to get photos taken.

This is my second handknit sweater, and I'm SO happy with it! It's the Aiken sweater by Andi Satterlund - a fitted pullover with a beautiful lace detail at the neck. I wish we had a chance to get some close-up photos of the lace, but a thunderstorm came along just as we started taking pictures so we finished up pretty quickly!

I started this project pretty much right after finishing my Marion cardigan, in February last year! It went pretty quickly at first, and I had the body finished in a couple of months. It just took me forever to knit the sleeves! I barely knit at all over the summer because I was focusing entirely on work and sewing for the Super Online Sewing Match, and then I really struggled to find time for knitting during first semester. After finishing up knitting some Christmas presents, I worked on this a lot over Christmas break, and finished up early in January.

It wasn't a difficult knit - like most of Andi Satterlund's patterns, it's knit mostly in stockinette from worsted weight wool, so it goes really quickly, once you actually make the time to knit! I had never done any lace before, but I picked it up pretty quickly and the pattern wasn't difficult to keep track of. Once you get past the lace, it's just knitting in stockinette in a circle with decreases every few rows. Great mindless knitting!

The wool is Malabrigo twist, a gorgeous merino in the colourway 'Velvet Grapes'. It was on sale at a store that was closing in Canmore, when we visited the summer before I worked there. I love Malabrigo, but it's pricey at regular price, especially if you buy enough for a sweater, so this was a great find! I bought 6 skeins, which was everything she had left, but I only used 5. I'll have to use the rest for a cozy scarf or something in the fall!

Malabrigo doesn't give a very specific gauge for their wool, so I tried a couple swatches with different size needles to see what I liked the texture of. Using 5 mm needles as suggested gave me the texture I wanted (thick, and therefore warm!), but the gauge was a little tighter than recommended. If I went up a needle size, it wasn't as thick as I wanted it, so instead, I took a bit of a gamble and just made a size larger than I normally would (small rather than extra small). I know that this probably isn't the best way to adjust, but it worked really well in this case! I don't think there's anything I would change about the fit.

I think the only thing I would change if I made this again would be to knit the ribbing on a size smaller needles - I know that a lot of patterns have you do this, and I'm not sure why hers never recommend it (maybe it's assumed?). I think I'd prefer the look of a slightly tighter rib, especially at the sleeves.

The trickiest part of knitting the sweater was trying to prevent striping! Since the yarn is hand-dyed, I alternated skeins throughout the whole sweater (except for the short rows at the sleeve head), but I still had some striping, so I had to keep cutting the wool and trying to start using it again when it was a different colour. It took me a good few rows to finally stop the stripes, but I think they're only noticeable to me (?).

This also meant that when I was finished knitting, I had SO MANY ends to weave in. I don't like weaving in ends much (who does?), so it took me at least another week to finally finish up after I was done knitting!

Overall, though I'm SO proud of this sweater! I love the lace details - it's subtle, although a little more noticeable in real life! It's also so warm and cozy, and I wear it lots, even now that it's May! It's finally warmed up a little, but the first week was pretty chilly for May.

Also, thanks to my friend James for taking these photos for me! I think this one was taken just before we decided it was time to head inside...

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Me-Made-May 2016: Why I'm Cutting Back This Year

Hello again! I feel like I'm slowly emerging from the cave that is the library and finals and getting used to seeing some light again.

I've also realized that every single time I post, I say that it's been forever and I will hopefully have something else up on the blog soon... but I've just had possibly the craziest, most stressful few weeks of university so far and blogging hasn't exactly been a top priority.

But... I'm now done! I had my last exam Monday morning, and I've been spending some quality time relaxing, catching up with friends, cleaning my apartment, and spontaneously dying my hair red! I've also FINALLY been doing some sewing (including finishing my Ginger jeans and then having a little mishap the first time I wore them...)

I actually have a few blog posts lined up right now, but I'm going to take a little aside to talk about Me-Made-May!

The past two years, I've loved participating in MMM! Two years ago, it was a great challenge and a fun way to find the gaps in my wardrobe.

Last year, it was actually quite easy because I was already wearing me-mades almost every day!

However, I'm actually stepping it down a little this year, for a few reasons:

1. I have a job working in a lab!

I've mentioned before that I've been volunteering in an immunology lab this year, and in the spring, I was awarded a SURA (Science Undergraduate Research Award), which is a grant to work on a research project of my own over the summer. It's a little difficult to explain without some background knowledge of immunology, but I'll be looking at how group 2 innate lymphoid cells regulate IgA production by B cells. If you understand that, awesome! If not, don't let it worry you :)

Anyways, the lab that I'm in is very laid-back and casual, but there are still some basic rules about what you should wear in a lab for safety. Long pants and covered shoes are a must, and I feel a little more comfortable in long (or at least 3/4) sleeves. Over the winter, I wore skirts with tights, but this summer in Montreal, it'll be far to hot to wear tights to and from the lab!

So, this kind of limits my options for MMM! Practicality really is key, and so far my only homemade pants (the Smooth Sailing Trousers, version 1 and version 2), aren't really that practical for lab work. I just imagine them getting in the way!

2. My body has changed a lot over the past couple years, and lots of my homemade clothes sadly no longer fit.

I've had to deal with a changing body over the past couple years, which has made sewing for myself really difficult. I (unwillingly) lost a lot of weight during my first year of university, kind of the opposite of the usual freshman fifteen! I've gained it back (plus a little more) now that I'm not relying on cafeteria food, and although I'm still definitely on the small side and gaining a little weight is not a problem, a lot of my me-made clothes no longer fit. This has led to a HUGE mending pile that I really need to get started on...

3. I feel like I need a bit of a 'wardrobe overhaul', as my friend put it!

Right now, I'm feeling like I'm definitely in need of some big changes in my wardrobe. Lately I've been feeling as if so much of my clothing just isn't 'me' anymore! It feels odd (and almost a little embarrassing!) to admit it here, because my blog has always been about creating classic, sustainable clothing, and right now I just feel like giving a lot of it away and starting anew!

When I first started sewing my own clothes, I was really drawn to girly, vintage styles, like lots of full-skirted dresses and florals. Now, though, I feel like I'm sick of always being 'cute' (not to mention being mistaken for a pre-teen...) and I'm much more drawn to styles that are a little more laid back. I'm trying to find some ways to re-work my old me-mades and make them more wearable!

My 'Pledge':

All these factors combined, I really can't commit to a 'strict' MMM pledge (not that they're ever really that strict to begin with!). Having said that, I've really loved participating in MMM the past two years, and I'd really like to do so again, so here's a reasonable, achievable, stress-free pledge that will make me think a little about what I'm wearing, and the gaps I really need to fill in my wardrobe:

I, Shannon of Adventures of a Young Seamstress, pledge to find new ways to work me-mades into my wardrobe and identify the gaps that I need to fill. I will do my best to wear something me-made every day, but if I don't, that's okay - I'll just learn from it what I need to focus more on sewing!

Rather than doing a round-up post every week with my outfits (which I've always found a bit of a hassle), I'm going to be posting outfit photos on my Instagram, and finish off the month with a round-up post. Head on over and follow me if you don't already!

Since my pledge is super vague (and pretty lenient!), I've set myself some more concrete goals/guidelines for the month:

1. Finish my GIANT pile of alterations

Almost this entire pile is me-mades that could be worn with a few mods, so once I tackle them I'll have a little more to work with for MMM!

2. Focus on separates, especially pants!

Both to wear and to make - I'd like to find new ways to wear my homemade tops with pants rather than skirts like I usually would. I'm also starting to get a little more comfortable with sewing pants, and despite a little mishap with my first pair of Ginger jeans, I'd love to try making another pair. I could probably fix the first pair, but the fit isn't great because my size changed since I started them, so I don't know if it'd be worth it. I also LOVE Heather's new boyfriend jeans pattern, and I'm really drawn to those trendy relaxed but still slim pants - I have no idea what they're actually called. I haven't found a pattern I like yet, so I may borrow my roommate's pair and try to copy the pattern!

3. Learn to copy patterns, draft some simple ones, and continue modifying those I already have

Like I said above, I have a few things I'd like to make that I just haven't found the perfect pattern for yet, or I might have a similar pattern that I'd rather modify than buy a new one (with a student budget and all...) I also have a few RTW pieces that I wear ALL the time and I'd love to copy, so this is definitely something I'd like to try this month!

I think that these goals are manageable and achievable, and will give me something to work on and think about if I can't manage to wear something me-made every day while I'm working. I think it'll also be great motivation to tackle my mending pile and find different ways to wear a lot of the pieces that I don't wear often anymore.

See you tomorrow on Instagram! #MMMay16

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Out With the Old - a (Long-Overdue) Photo Dump!

Hello again, it's been a while! Once again, I've disappeared completely from the blogosphere for a couple months. One of these days, I will figure out how to juggle writing a blog while I have midterms and labs and assignments and applications and dance and life... maybe.

In the meantime, I keep my Instagram a little more up-to-date with a mix of sewing, knitting, food, and pictures of Montreal when it's not slushy and gross like it has been the past few weeks.

I'm currently enjoying some well-deserved time off over my reading break after a really crazy midterm schedule. I've had a chance to catch up on life a little bit, including finally setting up a dedicated sewing space in my apartment. No more sewing on the kitchen table anymore!

I hadn't checked on my blog in close to a month, so I was a little surprised when I signed on the other day to see a lot of new traffic, since I've been voted one of the best sewing blogs of 2016 on Madalynne, in the 'Up and Coming' category! Thank you SO much to everyone who voted for me - I'm really flattered!

This post has been a long time coming. After my winter break, I realized that part of what's holding me back from blogging is my "blogging queue". With lots of old projects photographed and unblogged, whenever I feel like doing a blog post, I feel like it has to be about one of those old projects. But, when I go to write about them, it just seems like I made them too long ago to even bother! I can't remember the little details specific to each project, and some of them I unfortunately don't even wear anymore.

So, before I move onto posting about some newer, more exciting things (like my brand new sewing machines, my homemade Christmas gifts, and some recent pattern testing), I'm going to sum up all those projects that I haven't blogged about yet in one big photo dump.

This feels like some sort of confession - I'm getting all this off my chest before I can move on!

I'll start off with my favourite of the bunch - yet another Moneta dress! This is my third - I've already blogged about my first, second and fourth. I made this in the summer of 2014 (yikes!) and it's one of my favourite dresses to wear (along with all my other Monetas!).

I used an organic cotton and hemp blend jersey, and lined the bodice with cream bamboo jersey. I added the peter pan collar, which looks a little ripply in these photos because it stretched as I sewed it, but it flattened out with a couple washings. I included the pockets, and they worked really well in the more substantial jersey.

Keeping with the knit theme, I made a couple Bronte tops that summer as well.

I made the red one from some rayon jersey (you might recognize it from my Natalie dress that I made last summer!). I cut a size 6, but sized up at the waist because I don't like my T-shirts skin tight, and I found the fit to be pretty good, but the armholes were a little tight.

For the purple one, I just sized up to a size 8 everywhere, and I prefer the fit that way. I made it from a remnant of the most amazing bamboo jersey, and my favourite part is the buttons - they were from my grandma's stash and they have polka-dot bow ties on them! The buttons on the red one were also from my grandma's stash.

Next up is a skirt I made from handprinted cotton voile from Maiwa on Granville Island in Vancouver. I followed Tilly's guide to make a Picnic Blanket Skirt, which is simply a gathered button-down skirt, to which I added pockets and a lining.

It ended up looking really clean on the inside - in fact it's almost reversible and could have been with a little more planning. Too bad! I'll keep that in mind for a future project...

These buttons were also from my Grandma's stash - they were hand-carved ones she bought when travelling in Africa.

I love the print of this skirt, but it's almost a little too gathered to feel practical. I love it when I wear it, but I don't find myself reaching for it! I might shorten it and see if that helps - I've done that with a couple full skirts and I find it makes them more wearable.

This next skirt is the Chardon skirt by Deer and Doe, a pattern company that I've wanted to try for ages. My mom gave me this pattern for Christmas in 2014, and I made it when I was in Vancouver briefly before going to Canmore last summer.

I made a size 36, which was for a waist measurement a little bigger than mine, but it's snug! The pattern isn't kidding when it says it has very little ease. I put in a hand-picked lapped zipper, and I omitted the topstitching on the pleats, simply stitching in the ditch to secure them instead.

The fabric is some polyester crepe that was in my aunt's stash that she passed on to me. I normally don't like poly much, but it was the perfect weight to hold the pleats and yet still drape, but I found that I never wore the colour since it only matched with this one shirt. So, I dyed it! I haven't taken pictures since, but it's now a gorgeous purple-blue colour. Admittedly, it still doesn't match with very much, although I do like the colour a lot more now.

Since learning to sew with knits, I've also made a TON of underwear from jersey scraps. Here are my first four (experimental) pairs!

I used So, Zo's free pattern as a starting point, but modified it for a lot more coverage and more of a boy-short cut. It took quite a few tries to figure out the right length of elastic to use - you might notice the bottom left pair have waaay too much elastic. Now I can whip up a pair from leftover jersey in under an hour, and they turn out well every time!

And lastly, a knitting project!

I used a hand-dyed and hand-spun BFL yarn for this set, which is some of the softest wool I've ever worked with - it's gorgeous! The pattern for the hat was a free pattern I picked up from a local yarn store, but I think the wool wasn't quite bulky enough for it. I used the same cable pattern for the cowl, and skipped the ribbing at the bottom edge to make it roll.

I'm not really sure how I feel about these - they're nice, but neither are quite warm enough for the Montreal winter. The hat is a little small and the cowl is a little big, so they don't really keep my neck and ears that warm! It seems a shame to save these for the fall and spring, so I'm considering re-knitting them into a cozier scarf.

So, that's everything for my photo dump! I'll be back soon with my latest handknit sweater, my tester version of the brand-new Sarah Shirt from BHL, and some handknit Christmas gifts.... promise!

Now to find myself a photographer so I can actually keep that promise...