Tag Archives: Sewing

Bess Top

7 May

IMG_7462A few months ago I wrote all about the 241 Tote purse pattern that I bought online, printed off at home and sewed up.  I loved how easy and convenient it was and have decided that it’s the perfect solution for someone like me who lives in rural Italy where it’s almost impossible to find any decent sewing patterns.

And from what I’ve seen online lately PDF sewing patterns are really gaining popularity amongst the online sewing crowd all over the world.  Just this week I saw that Jenny from The Southern Institute launched the Sew Fab Pattern Sale which is a bundle of 19 (+1 bonus) PDF patterns for $29.95.  For a girl who in the past paid upwards of $15-$20 for one pattern I find that a pretty amazing price.  IMG_7464

So after my success with the 241 Tote I decided to try my hand at another online pattern.  And seeing as I’ve been a Sew-Fan of Imagine Gnats for a long time I ordered her beautiful Bess Top pattern (which is all over Pinterest!).

I love the style of the top and the versatility of the pattern (3 different lengths and sizes 2-20 included).  It’s flattering on just about any body type as well.  Believe me I know, I’ve made all my friends try it on.  

As you can see above I made one blouse/shirt length and the other a tunic length.  I also really love the subtle high-low hem.IMG_7448I used 2 Max Mara linens for the shorter version.  The linen has a lovely drape and will be perfect for our hot Italian summers.  I find that little pleat at the shoulder just the perfect touch as well.

IMG_7431 For the longer tunic version I used a really lovely patterned cotton (again Max Mara) with a solid black for the shoulder/back.  Turned out very elegant and will be perfect with black leggings in the winter.

The pattern calls for jersey knit strips to finish all the edgings.  Unfortunately I don’t have any jersey in the house so I used a thin bias instead and it seems to have worked out just fine.  

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Can’t wait to make up some more Bess Tops in all sorts of fabric and colour combinations this summer.  Now to convince Rachel to draft up a few kid’s sizes… 

**Get 10% off everything in the Imagine Gnats Shop (including the Bess Top and many other lovely patterns for women and kids) with the discount code Jillian10 until Monday May 12th.

Days For Girls

6 Mar

IMG_5806A few months ago I was poking around online and came across a site for the grassroots non-profit project called Days For Girls. From the second I read their action plan, and subsequently their entire site in that first sitting, I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.

Days For Girls was founded in 2008 by Celeste Mergens after working in a Kenyan orphanage and noticing that the girls weren’t educated about their menstrual cycles nor equipped to deal with it (no feminine hygiene products available to them).

This feminine hygiene program’s motto is: Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.  Their vision is for every girl and woman in the world to have feasible access to quality sustainable hygiene and health education by the year 2022.  Like I said before, I’m on board 100%.

Days for Girls volunteers produce reusable menstrual cycle kits.  The program has already sent kits to over 60,000 girls in over 60 countries worldwide.  These kits last approximately three years and have literally changed the lives of many girls and young women who before had to skip school and/or work due to their menstrual cycles.  This in turn has resulted in lower school drop-out rates in many areas as well as a lot less lost income for days missed at work.IMG_5817

Days for Girls is also very active in helping set up local sewing cooperatives and teaching the local women how to make the kit components themselves.

After writing back and forth with their International Chapter Liaison Cindy Murdock I started up one of Europe’s first Days For Girls teams.  So, I’m now official and couldn’t be prouder!  I’ve been busy cutting, sewing and gathering supplies for kits and luckily I have a fantastic group of friends who are happily getting involved and helping me out.

A project that helps girls and women in need and that involves sewing?  A match made in heaven for me.

If you are interested in becoming involved or donating supplies contact Days for Girls here (or look here for a team or chapter near you).  If you’re living in Italy or even Europe and would like to help out my team by sewing kit components or donating supplies (cotton, flannel, ribbon, miniature soaps, new cotton underpants or facecloths) contact me at VareseItaly@daysforgirls.org.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Handmade Winter

30 Jan

It’s a cold and rainy day here in Northern Italy.  We had a very much anticipated snowstorm last night that had lots of local school kids crossing their fingers in their sleep for a day off school.  Unfortunately the snow turned to rain and the school buses left at their usual time.  There were quite a few disappointed kids heading to school this morning.

After months of mild and sunny days I have to get used to these lower temperatures and the need to wear scarves and winter coats.   In general I’m not a huge fan of the cold but I do love these chilly days where I get to hole up in my house with the fireplace on and putter around keeping myself busy sewing, baking and crafting.  I know the novelty will wear off pretty quickly so indulge me while I wax on about my love for these wintery days.

Today I wanted to tell you all about a great way that you can keep positive, creative, warm and busy through whatever kind of winter you’re experiencing.HANDMADE WINTER SMALL COVER

A few months ago some very talented artists, designers, bloggers, mothers and overall amazing ladies put together an incredible e-book called Handmade Winter with over 50 winter-inspired crafts, activities, recipes, entertaining ideas and more.  They’ve included everything from how to brew the perfect cup of tea to a maxi-skirt sewing tutorial to instructions on how to make yourself a leather and chain chevron necklace.  One of my favourite things about this book is the variation it offers.  There is something for everyone (husbands and kids included).

creative-mamas-winter-ebookThis book will help us all get through these long cold wintery months (especially thanks to the Warm Masala Chai recipe found on page 25/26!).

Handmade Winter costs $15 (US) and is easily purchased and downloaded on-line.

241 Tote

21 Jan

A few months ago I posted about how much I loved Buzzmills version of the 241 Tote. Immediately after seeing her version of the purse I clicked over to Noodlehead and purchased the pattern.

I love the fact you can buy pdf versions of so many great sewing patterns on-line nowadays. Living in the Italian countryside has made it very difficult to get my hands on certain patterns for years so the fact that I can easily buy them online and print them out directly at home is just perfect.  Plus, the prices on most pdf patterns are much lower than buying one in a sewing or pattern shop.  The 241 Tote pattern costs $8 (approx. 6euro).
IMG_3925 The 241 Tote is a simple and straightforward pattern to follow. The pattern comes with several different features to choose from (pockets or zippers on the outside).  As the pattern is quite adaptable I opted to only include the pockets on the outside although it would be possible to have them on the inside as well.

IMG_3926I bought this lovely linen in Japan a few years ago (I think it’s Echino but am not certain) and have been patiently saving it for the perfect sewing project. Since it’s quite a bold pattern I paired it with a few solids and I love the result.  Come to think of it I really need to get back to Japan to find some new fabrics.
IMG_3932I even made a very bright version for my daughters.  This time I used a heavy (almost canvas) cotton from IKEA and some light cotton Petit Pan fabric (which I enforced with interfacing).  IMG_3931Definitely not a look for everyone but my daughters are in love with it!

 I’ll definitely be making a few more of these purses in the near future.

SuperCut Fabric Shop

9 Jan

As some of you may know, I love pretty fabrics of every kind.  I don’t drink.  I don’t do drugs.  I don’t smoke.  But I do love to buy (lots of) beautiful fabrics.  I have a gorgeous collection of materials that I have purchased all over the world and I use them on a daily basis.  I may use a new fabric right away or I may even save it for years before using it.  I often sit in my sewing room and look through my beloved materials and imagine what beautiful projects I could make with them (that’s what happens when you don’t have a TV).

Since living in Italy (for more than a decade) I’ve bought almost all of my fabrics outside of Italy.  I really searched for shops here that had beautiful fabrics but I just couldn’t find any that really appealed to my taste.  So after years of buying primarily in Canada (every time I return with a suitcase full), in Belgium (here is my favourite shop) and from Dutch online shops you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about the Italian online fabric shop SuperCut that is based out of the city of Bergamo.  I’ve always been a huge fan of supporting local small businesses so this was a great find for me.

The very sweet French owner Marine has excellent taste in fabrics and after going through her shop I realised that she picks out pretty much every fabric brand and design that I myself am so fond of.  It’s really a match made in heaven!  You can find fabrics from Liberty, Petit Pan, Echino, Kokka, Kitsch Kitchen and many more.  Marine stocks cottons, canvases, linens and even has a great selection of oilcloth and notions as well.  And SuperCut ships all over Europe.

Yesterday I ordered my first SuperCut fabrics and they actually arrived in my mailbox this afternoon.  I was like a kid at Christmas as I was opening the beautifully wrapped package.  And everything I ordered was perfect.  You can’t imagine how long I’ve been looking for fluo pink and yellow bias!

My lovely purchases

My lovely purchases

And as an added bonus many of the SuperCut fabrics are currently on sale (even the Echino and Kokka fabrics!).   So pop on over and take a look!

Internet Inspiration

1 Oct

Since I haven’t been able to do much of anything blog-related lately I thought I’d share some favourite projects, links and videos I’ve been enjoying on the internets lately:

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Ever wonder what it would be like to buy an old factory in France and renovate it into an amazing designer house?  My friend Judith from the blog Joelix did just that and is letting us all take a virtual visit throughout.  So beautiful.

Another talented friend of mine Jennifer from the blog Classic Play just released her new PBS video series called Adventures in Learning.  These short videos are a full family project with her and her kids starring in them and her husband filming and producing them.  They are great fun to watch as a family and have the added bonus that they are educational!  Above is the video on stargazing and learning about the constellations.  Click here for the second video where they visit the local farmer’s market:

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Here’s a great board to follow for all you Pinners out there.  The Mamas….Making Pinterest board is full of the most amazing and creative ideas for families of every kind.  Everything from kid’s art projects to family friendly recipes to sewing projects just for Mom.  And I’m proud to be part of it.

6a01156fdc946b970b019aff9f79ca970c-800wiI cam across this gorgeous purse made by Jane from the blog Buzzmills. It was one of her Selfish Sewing Week projects and I absolutely love her choice of fabrics, designs and colours. The pattern is the 241 Tote from Noodlehead.  I’ll be buying it to make with my weekly sewing group (and I have the perfect Japanese Echino fabrics to use!).

Some days you just need something silly to put a smile on your face.  This did it for me.   And it’s possible I even headed out to my chicken coop with my old fashioned ghetto-blaster and re-enacted the whole thing.

Snail Mail

3 Jun

Any snail mailers out there?  Turns out it’s becoming the hip thing to do.  My instagram feed is full of photos from serious snail mailers from around the world and their elaborately decorated letters that look like little works of art.  Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved sending letters and packages to friends and family all over the world – it’s such a nice feeling knowing that someone will open their mailbox to find a sweet little surprise (and will maybe send one back in return!).

So when Giova of the lovely blog One Bunting Away asked me to do a guest post I jumped at the idea to participate in her snail mailing Flat Project (these accordion envelopes are my favourite).  Any project that involves ideas to pretty up your snail mail is a project for me.   I had a lot of fun making up these little fabric embellished note cards with my daughters (we had actually made similar cards for their birthday invitations a few years ag0).  Take a look here.IMG_8468

Slacker Update

15 May

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For the first time in years I actually don’t feel like a serious slacker.  After writing about being the Queen of Unfinished Projects a few weeks ago I went into sewing overdrive and actually finished most of my half-done and half-sewn projects that have been lingering and taunting me in my sewing room for the last months (years).  I hemmed, I mended, I button-holed, I zippered and I even hand sewed until the wee hours of the morning.  I guess writing it all down and addressing the fact that I needed to get my act in gear helped me to realise it was time.  Time to have a clean sewing slate and move on to new and fresh projects without the niggling feeling of having all those almost-finished purses, bags, dresses, shorts and wallets that I would eventually have to deal with.

These dresses were supposed to be ready for my twin daughter’s 11th birthday.  Obviously that didn’t happen as it was on March 28th (it was too cold and rainy in March anyway to be able to wear dresses like this).  As I mentioned last time the pattern is one of the basic dress models from the book Stof Voor Durf-Het-Selvers (only available in Dutch).  The book has some great patterns  for children’s dresses, skirts, tops and accessories and gorgeous photos using the most lovely fabrics.  I used contrast colour zippers on the dresses to give them a little something special and actually ended up making one dress with a side zipper instead of back zipper by mistake.  Don’t ask.  These will be perfect for special occasions this summer while we’re in Umbria and Canada.

IMG_8298I did a double lined hem on these seersucker shorts for my son and actually sewed on all 4 buttons needed (miracle).  Unfortunately they’re still too big so he’ll most likely only get to wear them next year.  Until then I’ll display them for all to see and admire (poor guests).  These were some seriously complicated and time consuming shorts to make and I’m pretty sure I could buy similar (even nicer?) ones in H&M for a fraction of the cost to make them.  But I guess I shouldn’t think about that…

IMG_8374I also finished this simple summer sleeveless shirt.  Very quick to sew up and comfortable to wear (even if I did make mine 2 sizes too big).  Fabric is from Max Mara and the pattern is Simplicity New Look 6871.

IMG_8356And today in my sewing group I managed to finish up this boxy shopper bag with zipper closure.  Just what I needed in my life…another bag.  I think I could open up a shop with all my hand made bags and wallets that I’ve been stockpiling over the last few years. Stay tuned for details of my Etsy Shop in the near (or far?) future.

I’m still finishing off the last of my projects and I’m feeling great about it.  Now to get busy with my new projects that I’ll most likely have to finish in a few years time….

Queen of Unfinished Projects

30 Apr

This morning I was tidying up my sewing room (seriously one of my favorite things to do) and I came across quite a few projects that I enthusiastically started but never actually got around to finishing.  Some of them I started  in the past few weeks and a few are from the last few… years.  The shame.  Last month I actually found a half sewn pair of pajama pants that I started when I was in university in the 90’s.  So now I’m mentally gearing myself up to finish up these projects  once and for all and get started on some new ones.  Please tell me I’m not alone with this problem.  Do any of you out there also have some unfinished projects taking up space and taunting you whenever you see them?
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Here are some Seersucker shorts that I made for my son.  The pattern was one of the most difficult I’ve ever done (thank goodness for friends with such great knowledge of pattern language!).  There are fancy pockets, belt loops, a zipper and way too many buttons and button holes.  I learned a lot of great sewing techniques from these shorts.  But I will never make them again in my life.  Now I just have to motivate myself to hem them.  Hemming is always my weak point.

20130430-143759.jpgOne day I holed myself up in my sewing room (about 8 months ago) and sewed up all of these fabric leaves and circles.  I never really had a solid idea of what I was going to do with them but I was confident  it would come to me sometime.  It still hasn’t come to me.  Any ideas for what to do with these out there?

20130430-143906.jpgMy mother-in-law and I started these dresses above during her time here at Easter.  The pattern is from my newest sewing book Stof Voor Durf-Het-Selvers by Lies Bottermans and Griet De Smedt (as far as I know it’s only available in Dutch).  They are absolutely lovely and so close to being finished.  One needs a zipper installed (not my favorite job) and they both need to be hemmed.  In any case, I’ll make sure they’re done by summertime.  Maybe my Mother-in-law should return to finish them with me (hint hint).

20130430-144044.jpgA little summer sleeveless top made with Max Mara fabric.  I’ll be finishing it up with my sewing group this Friday.  So at least I can check that one off my list right away.  It’s a start!

20130430-144350.jpgThis is the project that I started about 18 months ago.  I made about 8 of these purses for Christmas gifts and I guess by the time I started this one I just couldn’t bring myself to finish yet another one.  It’s made with black linen and a soft  thick cotton.  I think I’m finally ready to finish it up and make a few more.  If I can remember the pattern of course.

So wish me luck on finishing all of these projects and making room (mentally and physically) for some new projects that I’ve had simmering in my head for a while.  And if a few of you harassed me every now and then to see the finished products  I’d really appreciate it.

Tutorial: Small Fabric Basket

19 Mar

{Here’s  little simple sewing project from the Jillian In Italy archives.  I think this would be a great project to do for Easter for the kids or even with the kids.  I can just imagine a garden full of these sweet little baskets filled with Easter eggs and candy.}

Here is a very basic tutorial that a good friend of mine designed for a very sweet little fabric basket.  Very quick and gratifying.  I used oilcloth for the outside and a cotton for the inside but it would be possible to use only cotton as well (or even nicer would be linen).  If using cottons or linens I would recommend using interfacing to make it stiff enough to stand up on it’s own.  The paper clips are used to avoid getting little pin holes in the plasticized material or oilcloth. Please let me know if I wasn’t clear on any of my instructions (I know the corner part is a bit hard to see in the photo).

Read on to get full tutorial. Continue reading

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