Thursday, August 18, 2016

Finally, Anna

Let me tell you a tale of two Annas!
So, I really honestly believed that I was the very last of the sewers/sewists/seamstresses (whatever the heck you call us these days!) to make the By Hand London Anna dress.  Or at the very least I was the very last in the sewing blogosphere to make it, but I've been reassured there are others out there like myself that hadn't yet gotten around to making it for whatever reason.

To be honest when I first saw it a few years ago I was kind of underwhelmed by it.  It's not my usual style.  It's better suited to willowy figures.  It's almost $17 Cdn with the exchange.  I had reason after reason why Anna was not going to join the ranks of dresses hanging in my closet.  But over time I grew to like Anna.  Really like her.  Covet her graceful lines and feminine bodice pleats.  I had it BAD.  Every time another one popped up in my sights I was smitten even further.

Finally this spring in a moment of madness (and not terrible exchange rate) I snagged the pattern.  I don't know why it took me until now, at the end of summer to finally sew it up.  I kept waffling.  I was nervous after reading about so many fitting woes and then I couldn't find fabric I loved and again the reasons why not to dive in were popping up even though I really wanted an Anna of my own.  Some times I suffer a lack of confidence and it really does my head in.  But then the Maxi Dress Sew Along popped up on my Facebook feed and it was all the push I needed to get me going.

I hit up a sale at Fabricland at the end of July and what a sale it was!  I struck gold in the bargain centre where everything was 50% off, finding a quilt cotton that was reminiscent of the beautiful African wax prints I've been eyeballing for the last several months on line with its bright colours and interesting print.  At $2.50/metre I knew that even if Anna turned out to be my most hated sew ever (see - told you I was lacking confidence at the time!) I would have spent less than $8.00 on it.  I can do that.  I also got a great cotton sateen tropical print for 70% off that day that I'd been wanting for awhile but  was to cheap thrifty budget conscious to spend the money on.  With possible Anna fabrics purchased, washed, dried and stashed away at the ready there really was no valid reason for not giving it a go.

I muslined Anna and found that the fit issues didn't actually seem to be that ominous.  I wasn't experiencing any of the horrible back of neck gaping that so many did.  The neck line didn't seem too high.  The bodice was short, but bodices are ALWAYS short on me, so no big deal.  The fit felt good, although I was nervous about the snugness of the bodice.  I'm hard to please with that - I like to have a bit more ease in my clothes but there's a fine line between ease and sloppy and I hate sloppy.

I decided to cut out my quilt cotton first and make the midi-length version so that it wouldn't be such a fabric suck if things went south with it.  Sewing was super easy - except the zipper.  WHY do zippers always have to give me such fits???  That beast took one try for the first side (as always) and three tries and a chocolate bar for sustenance to get the second side looking decent.  I sewed up the side seams with a 3/8" seam allowance instead of the instructed 5/8" to allow for more ease and then I tried on my dress.  Dismay.  It felt and in my eyes looked like a frumpy dumpy sack.  Which in turn of course made me feel like a frumpy dumpy sack.

My zipper installing supplies at the ready!
I didn't know what to do to salvage it.  I consulted blogs, loads of pattern reviews and finally asked in one of my Ravelry groups where there is a super helpful, supportive lot of members who sew.  I took all their suggestions, thoughts and advice into consideration and decided to start with the easiest of them all.  I went back and stitched the side seams with the 5/8" seam allowance tapering out to a 1/2" allowance at the waistline.  Put the dress on again and couldn't believe the difference it made. I also made a mental note to stay stitch the heck out of the neck line next time, because I'm pretty sure that was part of my problem.

I wore the dress all day on Tuesday and while the neck line still feels a bit loose, it's totally wearable and what's better?  It's totally comfortable.  That dress is secret pyjamas I tell you!  I immediately cut out my tropical sateen when I got home and thought I'd finally tackle the maxi dress version for the sew along!

I have to tell you that I'm not sure I'm actually even a fan of maxi dresses.  I like them well enough on others, but for me?  I'm just not convinced.  Plus there's that danger of tripping and falling.  I have a history.  I once, during my ballet exam, when I was about 9 years old, managed to step on the hem of my circle skirt during the Italian Tarantella and instead of ending with a swish of my skirt and a clap of my tambourine, I ended up with the heel of my character shoe tangled in the skirt and me on my butt trying not to cry from the humiliation of it all.  Anyways.  That's enough traumatic wandering down memory lane for now.  Back to my maxi Anna.  I decided in for a penny in for a pound.  After all I had several maxi length dresses in the 70s as a little girl and I survived to tell the tale.  So I  spent Tuesday evening and yesterday afternoon sewing it up.

This time I shortened the boat neck line by about 5/8" inch on either side and stay stitched it.  I redrafted the facings and interfaced them right away so they wouldn't stretch out any on me.  I also had run low on printer ink so had Little Man measure from my hem of my first version to the top of my feet to know how much to continue down from the original midi length pattern (I also saved myself from having to reprint and assemble something like 43 pages just for the bottom half of the skirt that way).  Unfortunately, Little Man isn't necessarily the most accurate of measurers and my skirt is WAY too long.  Drag on the floor, potentially trip me up and make me fall down too long.  But he's seven, so you know.  You get what you get.  He did his best and I was glad for his assistance.  I'll just either wear stilts from now on or shorten the dress a few inches.  Oh!  I also, at the last minute decided to add pockets and just used the first pocket pattern I found in the disaster that I call my sewing room.  (It was the Emery Dress pockets in case you're at all curious).  I also tried the trick of putting a strip of interfacing down the zipper line.

I love the fit of this bodice even better than the first! My seams and pleats are a bit off (HOW?!?!), but they're symmetrically off so I'm just going to live with it.  My zipper oddly only took one try for both sides and turned out great!  The gods of sewing were clearly smiling on me.  I ate the chocolate bar as a reward instead of as a consolation like the first dress required.  My happy face seam ripper was not needed.

I'm ready for you invisible zip!
Anna.  She's a good one.  I'll definitely be making more of her.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

You Spin Me Right Round

Early morning spinning session.
If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or have run into me in person over the last two and a half weeks you know by the title exactly what this blog post is about...

For years I've desperately wanted to get into spinning yarn.  Over time I've acquired some drop spindles and what turns out to be way too little fibre.  After a few aborted attempts with the drop spindle, a book and some youtube videos I finally decided to take a class last spring at one of the LYS.

It was a few hours long, thoroughly enjoyable, but truth be told I was a bit of train wreck with the whole co-ordination thing although I did leave the class with my drop spindle holding a little bit of a spun single attached to it so not all was lost.  I practiced a bit following the class but then got frustrated, set it aside, then couldn't figure out what I was doing when I picked it up again.  Still.  That dream of spinning was still there.

Imagine my surprise when, on my birthday, at the beginning of July I opened a lovely card from my husband and when I was instructed to keep reading, I turned the page of the inset of the card to find a note saying I was to have a one day class with a local master spinner in the city AND after my class I was to choose the spinning wheel I wanted.

OH MY WORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next day I phoned and booked my class for July 23rd and then anxiously waited, like a child waits for Santa Claus, for the day to arrive.  I was all kinds of nervous when I walked up to the door, but within minutes of entering the woman's home I was put at ease.   She was lovely and friendly and so very interesting.  It was a day filled with not only learning how to spin, but of history and tidbits of knowledge she'd gathered over her years as a spinner and former mill owner as well as just general camaraderie of two people who share a mutual love of all things wooly. I was fascinated, and couldn't believe when the time had come for the little boys and (BF)G to pick me up again.  I can't say enough good things about it.  It was just an all around fantastic day.

My new crafty tool!!!
After the day of trying out three different wheels I was completely taken with the Ashford Kiwi 2, so the cheque was written, the wheel carried out to our vehicle along with a bag of fibre, a skein of my first ever hand spun single I made that morning,  a skein of plied yarn that I'd made that afternoon clutched tightly in my hands and my imagination running wild with the possibilities that lay ahead of me.  My instructor had given me the advice that I should spin every day if I could.  "Five minutes a day is better than one 35 minute session a week" she'd said often enough throughout the day that it stuck.  I sat down to spin some more as soon as my wheel came into the house.

Top is my first ever single, bottom is my plied yarn 
I've found that I don't have a problem spinning every day.  I have a problem stopping when I start.  Supper?  Who needs supper?  There's still fibre to be spun!!!  It's soothing, it's therapeutic and it's addictive.

Mystery roving yarn plus a teeny tiny skein of mystery roving plied with the polwarth batt
I quickly finished up with all the Polwarth fibre she'd given me to "get me started", and then dug through my stash to find some mystery roving I'd bought years ago in hopes of learning to use the drop spindle that N made me one year when I must have talked non-stop about drop spindles.  (I think he was about 12 or 13 at the time).  I went through the mystery roving in a day, so then I moved onto a drop spindle kit (BF)G had given me for Christmas a few years ago.  It held the promise of three different types of fibre to be spun.  When it was getting low, I quickly contacted a friend who I know spins and asked her if she had a good local source that she could tell me of for fibre.

Last of the fibre in the house!  Panic was setting in!
Turns out there is a wonderful little farm not five miles away from me.  I paid them a visit last Friday afternoon and was in heaven!  I came home with enough stash of fibre - shetland and shetland/alpaca blends if you're curious - to hopefully get me the next few weeks at least!

Shetland Sheep, Shetland Sheep have you any wool,
Yes ma'am, yes ma'am, three bags full!
My poor husband is wondering what kind of monster he has inadvertently created in buying me the wheel, and he keeps gently suggesting that maybe, just maybe I'd like to start knitting something with all of the yarn I've made.  I think he worries that he may some day be buried alive by the ever growing pile of skeins of yarn that is amassing in our room.

Resistance was futile.
I had to dive right into my shetland/alpaca blend rolag as soon as I got home!
Right now I've been working hard on trying to get more consistent with my drafting so that my finished yarn is more consistent.  The shetland/alpaca blend from up the road is amazing to work with - so easy to spin and makes me happy to know it was prepared right in the little room at the back of the farm house.  I love the idea that this is local to me and hand produced from beginning to end from sheep that I've been introduced to! (although they seemed to be much less enthusiastic about our meeting than I was, choosing instead to largely ignore my ooh-ing and aaah-ing and I want one-ing!)

Spinning has really taken over my crafting world right now and my knitting and sewing have mostly fallen to the wayside.  I can't help it.  I am completely smitten.  I have always loved that with my sewing and knitting I could take a simple object of yarn or fabric and turn it into something.  The fact that I can now take essentially a blob of fluff and turn it into yarn and then turn it into something is just takes it to that next level for me!