Sewing and lifestyle blog of a wannabe "full-time vixen"

Author Archives: Caroline

The French Vanilla Top – Plantain Variation #2

So here is my second variation on the Plantain pattern for the Deer&Doe sewing contest. I created a yoke with scalloped edges and changed the neckline to a bateau or boat neckline.

The scallops are kind of appliqued to the striped portion of the top by using a zig-zag stitch around the edge. I used a grey and cream striped fabric which is a bamboo rayon blend — oh so luxurious! It feels amazing and drapes beautifully. The cream fabric for the yoke and short sleeves is just a simple cotton interlock. Both fabrics were purchased at Dressew.

This was an interesting project for me to sew. Trying to figure out how to sew the scallops onto the striped fabric gave me a bit of a headache but I persevered. The knit fabric made it a lot more trickier than if it had been a stable woven fabric.

Anyways, I certainly had a lot of fun participating in the contest. I don’t know if I’ll try to participate in any more in the near future. What I really have to do is take stock of my wardrobe and figure out where my sewing focus should be this year; try to fill in the gaps and focus on what my personal style is.

I read this blog post on the Colette Patterns blog which is a part of their new Wardrobe Architect series. It really got me thinking and wondering about what my core style is. It’s definitely girly and whimsical with a touch of vintage, a touch of goth/rocker edge, and a touch of clean contemporary lines. It seems like such a strange mix but it works for me, for the most part.

It’d be nice to go through my whole wardrobe and figure out what the heck I’m actually doing with my personal style!

Patch My Heart Dress – Plantain Variation

Earlier this month, the France based sewing pattern company Deer&Doe released a free t-shirt pattern which they’ve named Plantain. To kick off the release, they’ve decided to host a sewing contest. The challenge is just to create your own version of the Plantain pattern. Here is one of my entries (yes, I’m actually working on a second one!).

I lengthened the t-shirt pattern into a dress and added a gathered ruffle to the bottom. I also changed the oval shaped elbow patches that were designed for the pattern into red heart-shaped patches. In essence, I’m literally wearing my heart on my sleeves!

The dress is sewn from a nice navy jersey I found at Dressew. It’s so soft! I love the fabric and it wasn’t too expensive either, just $7/m. I only used 1.5m for this dress. The heart-shaped elbow patches are made from leftover bits from my Olivia dress.

The winner of the contest wins a couple of gift certificates, one to the Deer&Doe store and the other to a fabric store that sells pretty organic fabrics. I don’t know if I’ll win but I’m so happy with how this dress turned out. I love how pretty and simple it is and since it’s made from jersey, it’s so comfortable and wearable for all sorts of situations.

Anyways, wish me luck but even if I don’t win, I’ve already come out a winner from having participated in the contest. It was a challenge that engaged my creativity and pushed me to meet a deadline. And now I have a cute dress!

Knitting Instead of Sewing

For the month of December and part of January, I switched gears and threw myself into a bunch of knitting projects. Sewing went on the back burner but don’t worry, there are a couple of projects brewing right now…They should be revealed by the end of the month.

All the things I knit were gifts for other people. I know! All that work and I don’t get to keep any of it. It’s okay, I know my gifts were well received and my intention for knitting these projects was to make something thoughtful for my recipients.

I knit two triangle shawls, both patterns are designed by a local Vancouver designer (and fellow coworker!) Sylvia Bo Bilvia. She’s a very talented designer who has made a lot of splashes on Ravelry and in Vancouver’s local knitting scene.

Her most famous design by far is the The Lonely Tree Shawl. I knit my own version of this shawl, altering it slightly so that the leaf design was symmetrical. My Ravelry notes can be found here if you want to read about the nitty gritty details on the project.

This is what the shawl looks like while it’s blocking. Blocking is the procedure where you gently wash your finished knit garment and then lay it out somewhere to dry. You can also use pins or wires to give your project some shaping and “open up” the knitting. Lace patterns usually need to be blocked to open up the lace and help it look even more beautiful. As you can see, I bought a set of foam mats from a children’s toy store to use as blocking mats. You can use pretty much anything, as long as you can pin into it. These were just the most affordable for me…and aren’t they just so silly and cheery!

The second shawl I knit was The First Few Fallen Leaves. My Ravelry notes here.

I used both Cascade 220 Heathers to knit the shawls; it’s an affordable worsted weight wool yarn that I bought at one of my local yarn stores, Three Bags Full. The Lonely Tree one was knit in the colour way Peacock and the First Few Fallen Leaves was knit in Saphire. These shawls have been the largest projects I’ve successfully completed knitting so far and I’m pretty proud of the intricacy of the lace I was able to knit. I do actually have a sweater that’s in my UFO pile and I hope to finish it in February…maybe.

I also knit these! They’re double-sided Star Trek pot holders. Ravelry notes!

To achieve the reversible double sided mirror imaging effect, these pot holders were knit using a technique called double knitting. You knit with two strands of yarn held at the same time and switch back and forth between them depending on which colour you want to show up on the side that’s facing you. The other colour will end up on the other side. Yea…it’s kind of mind-blowing to think about the mechanics of double knitting. I am becoming quite the knitting nerd…and I love it!

I am actually going to knit one more Lonely Tree shawl for my grandmother. It’ll be a Chinese New Year gift and I’m knitting it in red yarn of course.

I really love knitting and I’m glad I decided to pick up the hobby back in April 2012. The only thing is that I go long gaps without doing any knitting so in total, I probably only have about 7 months of knitting experience. I’m hoping to knit more regularly in 2014 and have it as a background hobby to sewing. I’d like to do one sweater project per season and I think that’s a reasonable time allowance — 4 months to knit a sweater? That sounds doable!

Feel free to creep my Ravelry profile to learn more about my knitting. You will see from creeping that I started off with lacy dishcloths as my first projects. So here’s to knitting! Hurrah!

The Olivia Dress – Simplicity 2865

So I’ve finished another project after a bit of a hiatus. Things were just so nuts in October. I was also working 40 hour weeks for about 4 months. This really cut into my ability to keep up with my hobbies when combined with everything else that got thrown at me in October. But I’m back at full form and raring to go on my sewing machine now

The pattern I used for the project is Simplicity 2865 which is an older pattern from their Built By Wendy line, a collection of patterns I really like. I’ve got quite a few of them stashed away. I made this dress in a red and cream interlock knit fabric purchased from Dressew.

This dress would have taken me a lot less time to sew if I didn’t have so many fitting woes! Can someone please remind me never to cut a size 10 in the Big 4 pattern companies? I’ve had nothing but trouble whenever I cut a 10. I should always be a 6 or lower. For this pattern, I should have cut the smallest size available which was a 4.

I cut a 10 because the pattern said the finished garment measurements for the bust was 32.5 inches. WRONG! I really should have measured the bust across the pattern because it was a lot more than that. I had to take in the side seams by 1.5 inches on both sides but only on the back pattern piece because I didn’t want to alter the front armhole shape. I also had to take in the shoulder seam by 1.5 inches. Even with these modifications, I had to throw the finished dress into the washer on hot water and then into the dryer to shrink it up even more.

I have a feeling even if I had cut a 4, it still would have been too big so it’s mostly the fault of my small frame. Luckily I did not have the recut the collar. Knit fabric is so forgiving to sew with! Anyways, I managed to get through the problems and now I have a cute dress.

Here is a close up of the little red candy buttons I sewed to the placket. I also purchased these buttons from Dressew.

Now the reason I call this dress the Olivia dress is because the inspiration came from a children’s picture book. Here take a look!

Can you see what I mean? I even wore the black and white striped tights to really capture the spirit of Olivia. This is a book series about a very petulant, adventurous, imaginative little pig named Olivia, written and illustrated by Ian Falconer. She’s quite a fashionable little pig too.

I love children’s books and as you know, I work at the public library so I constantly come across old classics and new ones to read. Children’s picture books are an inspiration to me because their whimsical nature is very appealing. I love to pour over the illustrations and get lost in a more dreamy place.

I plan on sewing more projects inspired by children’s picture books in the future. I think this is a great way to combine two of my great loves in life — sewing and reading. So expect to see more of the other sides of my life (the book worm and in a previous post, the nerd) in this blog as I slowly reveal them.

Outfit details: Shoes are from Payless (bought them this autumn and I love them!)

The Saltspring Dress

I was participating in the Saltspring Dress Sewalong held over at the Sewaholic website. I completed it this weekend, take a look!


This pattern is perfectly drafted. I made no alterations and cut a straight size 4. It fits amazingly in the bodice! This is the third time I’ve sewn a Sewholic pattern and all times I’ve never made adjustments.

I did however alter the straps so they tie at the front using Caroline’s idea from one of her variations, which involved sewing both straps to the back and making a loop at the front. (She’s Tasia’s aide over at Sewhoalic Patterns, and yea she’s got the same name as me!) I guess one other thing I did was lop off a bit on the end of the ties because they’re too long for me otherwise.

The fabric is a polyester crinkle fabric from Fabricland. It’s got such a lovely pattern! I didn’t try to match the pattern at the side seams but rather made sure it was centred down the middle of the front and back. I also took care to line up the pattern for the back seam.

I used Bemberg lining throughout the dress and added a skirt lining even though I didn’t really need it. I used the lining method suggested by Caroline. I handstitched the entire lining down to my zipper tape though as I prefer not to have things flying around loose! Linings make everything feel so lovely and luxurious! Well worth the extra effort.

I am definitely going to get a lot of wear out of this dress. It’s going to transition well into autumn with a pair of tights. I’m warming up to the idea of having more wearable dresses with elastic at the waist. When done well, elastic waists don’t have to be tacky. I ate so much food today wearing this dress. Couldn’t have done that with something like my Lonsdale or one of my other projects!

What a way to kick off the end of summer — I’ve got a new dress and successfully participated in another sewalong.

I do have a funny story to tell about the Saltspring dress though…One day this summer a couple of weeks ago, I went to Spool of Thread to buy the pattern. When I go shopping for sewing related things, I have a laser focus and bounce from one thing to another in the store with blinders on. I take notes in my notebook and muse about future projects as I feel up the fabrics. I was pretty quick with my purchase since it was the only thing I wanted to buy that day.

So I go up to the cash register and the person working asks me if I was ready with my purchase. I said, “Yes. Just this pattern. I’m going to join the sewalong!” The employee at Spool of Thread says something like, “Oh, well the creator of the patterns is right here!”

I turn my head to the left and there is Tasia! Standing right next to me! She had been at the store earlier than I had been, purchasing fabric and I didn’t even notice her the entire time I was there until I got up to the register. My mind froze. Here standing before me was one of the local sewing “celebrities” that I admire for her talent and all the hard work she’s put into her own small business.

I tried to chat with her as calmly as I could but I was so nervous and felt like a buffoon. So Tasia, if you ever get to read this, I think you’re awesome and you’re as friendly in real life as you seem from your blog. That was the highlight of my week to get to meet you! Thank you for creating Sewaholic Patterns. It’s been great to follow along all these years through your journey and sewing your patterns has brought me great joy.
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