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  1. I’m back with another sewing project! This time it’s my version of the 1936 Sports Halter.


    Outfit details:
    1936 Sports Halter playsuit - me made, pattern by Eva Dress
    Sandals -  Sears
    Pineapple Earrings: Estate Sale
    Engagement ring substitute - a piece from a ring sizing kit to quell my anxiety about not having my ring while it's getting its matching wedding band custom made


    I actually debated not posting these photos because I don't like how I look (too squinty! Not sucking in enough!) but c'est la vie. I neglected to do something that I've done with most other sewing projects - a trial run! After wearing this to Heritage festival I found that I didn't put the snaps on the top in the right place and didn't take in the shorts enough, so they fall well below my natural waist and just make it look like my pants are about to fall off. Blech.

    Anyway... I bought the pattern earlier this spring from EvaDress Patterns, and I am very impressed with the company! It was shipped quickly, was printed on heavy paper, and packed nicely in a ziplock bag (which I prefer over those fiddly paper envelopes that I can never fit the pattern back into).



    I had high ambitions of finishing it in early July, but since I sew at a sloth’s pace, I just finished it on the August Long weekend, just in time to take photos at Heritage Festival with my gal pal Heather.
    (For the uninitiated, Heritage Festival is like a cultural fair, with dancing, demonstrations, souvenirs and, most importantly, FOOD from hundreds of countries in the beautiful Hawrelak Park. It’s by far my favourite festival in Edmonton, because food.)



    I used this blue novelty print Hawaiian cotton, which has Hawaiian “stickers” on it depicting beach girls and Hawaiian scenes from the 30s to the 60s. It’s slightly anachronistic for a 1930s playsuit, but how could you NOT make a playsuit from this fabric? I got this fabric from my parents last August for my birthday, and I’m so excited that I finally have something to wear made from it!



    There’s two reasons it took me so long to make this playsuit. One is that I was making some seriously derpy sewing mistakes. The fabric loops confused me, despite doing them in previous projects, I failed hard on the zipper pocket (despite doing it perfectly on my skirt) and sewed the snaps on the wrong side. Like I said, just silly little mistakes. Clearly I need to do more than 1 project every season.


    The other thing that slowed me down, but in a good way, was the lining of the halter top. Once I decided that I would make this playsuit, I realized that I didn’t have a bra to wear with it, as my only strapless bra is a longline. Rather than buy another strapless bra (I seriously just bought that longline one, and I just bought my wedding bra, and I need to buy another everyday bra, so I’m kind of sick of bras) I decided to make a sew in one, and I’m glad I did.  This top shows A LOT of skin, so much that I’m not sure I could hide a strapless bra in there.



    So I followed this tutorial to make a built-in bra. I cut another halter piece that ended at my bra band line, then sewed on some elastic. The elastic is only attached to the front of the lining, and hangs free from from the halter waistband in the back. I kind of just eyeballed everything, and it worked! I’m so pleased with myself, and it is great support. I may be tempted to do this in a few other tops.



    My other favourite thing about this top, which kind of gets lost due to the busy print, is those giant collars. Strangely enough, I had no issues with adding the collars, despite my wide range of other silly problems with this top, and confusion last time I made something with collars.



    I did a bit of creative troubleshooting with this make. While I love rompers, playsuits etc etc, I hate having to get all the way naked to go to the washroom, especially since the top requires three different closures. So, instead of following the pattern instructions to sew the top and the shorts together, I added snaps instead. Sneaky sneaky.

    The shorts are really weird because there’s no real waistband; the instructions actually call for you to use bias tape to finish the shorts waist and hem. Since I didn’t feel like mucking around making my own tape, I just turned them in. If I ever make this playsuit again, or even just the shorts, I think I would add an actual waistband with interfacing. It's just doesn’t feel like enough support to keep it up (especially considering this is called a “sports halter”) on it's own, so in the future I'm going to wear it with a matching elastic belt.

    This is definitely going to become a summer favourite, and I plan on wearing it every day when I get home from work and have to sit in my un-air conditioned house.


    Photos by Heather McIntyre / Laurie Callsen

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  2. Musings on a self-made wardrobe

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my wardrobe: what I want in it, what I want out of it, and how I use clothing to express myself. But I also find myself thinking a lot more about where I want my clothes to be coming from.

    So I decided to take a bit of a different take on the Me-Made May Pledge. Instead of pledging to wear X amount of me-made clothing in May, I’ve used last month to seriously assess my wardrobe, and here are some of my personal epiphanies from this retrospective.

    Use expensive vintage and reproduction for inspiration

    I’ve been lusting after pretty much every dress in the Trashy Diva collection, but particularly the Daisy Mae one. Sadly, no matter how much I love it, I know that $163 for a summer dress that I will likely only wear once or twice a year is not the best idea for my budget.

    When I was looking for good project for the black broadcloth I bought for a circle skirt that I don’t feel like making anymore, I came across the Butterick 5209 pattern, which has a close-enough silhouette to the Daisy Mae. And since I am not an all-black dress kind of person, I am going to make it my own with poppies embroidered on the waistband.

    Make what I can, buy what I can’t



    I recognize that I am not the most amazing seamstress (yet) and will probably never have a wardrobe that is even 50% handmade. I also recognize that there are some pieces I enjoy doing more than others. So I’ve decided that I will splurge on making pieces that I wouldn’t be able to make myself yet - like blazers, jackets, trousers - or anything where it is more cost effective to buy it rather than make it (like socks and skivvies).

    That means I’m going to focus on blouses, dresses and skirts for the time being, and hope to start making my own lounge and sleepwear soon. This doesn’t mean I’ll never ever ever make my own pants or jackets, but I know that they require a much higher skill level than what I have right now.

    This also means I can save money (well maybe. Sewing and knitting are damn expensive hobbies) to buy stuff I really can’t make, like kick ass shoes and kitschy brooches.

    Skip the so-so items to splurge on the superb

    This could also be titled “curbing the impulse buys”. There have been so many things that I’ve bought on a whim because:
    1) it was cheap and it didn’t fit me but maybe I could modify it or sell it.
    2) it was cheap and it had some damage but maybe I could mend it.
    3) it was cheap and I wasn’t crazy about it but maybe I’d grow to love it.

    Aaaand all of those things have pretty much ended up in a Goodwill donation bin or some other form of being given away. I can only imagine what pricy items I could have bought instead of throwing my money on things I never wore!

    This is where something like Pinterest is really great. I have the opportunity to pin something to my Wishlist board, and if I keep coming on back to it, I know that it’s something I should invest in. If not, then I know it was only a momentary lust or heart palpitation. If I know there’s something I’m looking for specifically, like my pair of HeyDay trousers, I subscribe to all their social media outlets to make sure I get the word if something is going on sale. If you sign up for ModCloth an add to your wishlist, they notify you if something is going out of stock. I’ve also noticed that Pinterest will give you a heads up if something is on sale.

    My Pinterest wishlist, with very few things I have actually bought for myself.
    I also am slowly learning to invest in great staples. One night when I had a coffee date with a friend and it was -40*C, I learned that my bus home from work stops running at 6:30 pm, so I had the unbridled joy of walking nine blocks home in boots that were sorta functional but definitely not made for those temperatures. The next week I bought myself some nice knee-high faux fur boots that are good to -30 (also, this was February so they were 40% off).

    Lesson learned, and now I’m on the hunt to find great shoes for commuting to work that are 1) mildly comfortable (I take the bus, so transit-friendly is important) and 2) mildly vintage-appropriate. I’m looking for some chunky, low-heeled oxfords that fit the bill, if anyone has seen any!

    Wow, I didn’t intend this post to be as long as it came out to be. Thanks for sticking with me. If you were just scrolling through, here’s the TLDR version: Make what I can, pony up the big bucks for things I can’t and that are investment pieces, and stop buying clothes that I’m not 100% in love with.



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  3. Sewing Redux: Spring has Sprung!

    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    Today’s post is showing off my latest sewing project, the Simplicity 3688 blouse. You may recall the skirt from this set that I made a while back, and now here’s the blouse to match!



    The blouse is made out of some mystery bargain-bin fabric from Fabricland that is likely some polyester blend, as it actually melted when I was ironing the bias tape for the neckline. Luckily I had accidently cut two of the bias tape, so it didn’t set me back at all. Still, it is a good reminder to always check what setting your iron is on before you go to town.

    It's also very billowy, as you can see in these photos. I didn't realize it was so windy when we were out for our little photoshoot. I also didn't realize that the blouse was so sheer.... eep.



    My biggest struggle with this blouse was that I looked at the body measurements to pick the size to sew instead of noting the finished garment measurements. This particular blouse had 5 inches of ease, so I ended up taking in the seams quite a bit. Thankfully that was the only faffy part of the blouse: there’s no interfacing (well, there’s supposed to be but I skipped that step because it didn’t make sense; I think you were supposed to make your own shoulder pads, but I found the shoulders to be quite strong without, thank you very much), no buttonholes to make and no zippers to insert. A quick and easy project!




    The only real variation I did on this blouse was making a binding loop for the button out of some leftover fabric instead of the recommended thread loop.


    I just found the thread loop way too finicky to make, but my bias loop turned out great. And I just love the vintage button I found in my stash - it matches perfectly.



    Another annoyance but not a big deal is that I neglected to ease the sleeves at the same time, and instead eased and sewed in one then the other, which caused one sleeve to be puffier than the other (or so I think). Next time I will definitely ease them both at the same time so they match.


    I love this blouse and will definitely be making it again. It was a great redemption blouse after the finicky red peplum blouse I made this winter that nearly did me in.


    Next on my sewing table? My version of the Trashy Diva Daisy dress, but one that’s fall/winter appropriate using Butterick 5209. Stay tuned!


    Photos by IK Creative
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  4. Life Lately

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

    Oh goodness, what a hiatus I’ve been on. This blog has been embarrassingly neglected! Yikes. So I thought I would fill you guys in on what has kept me so busy lately. 

    The Alberta Legislature

    My new job
    First and foremost, I have really thrown myself into my new job as Communications Assistant for Alberta’s NDP Opposition Caucus, which I started in late February. I am part of a three-person comms team, and work with seven other awesome staffers to support four incredible MLAs stand up for what’s really important to Albertans.  In my day-to-day work, I do a lot of social media and website work, as well as coordinate some marketing efforts - so I’m very behind the scenes.

    I can’t and won’t promise this blog won’t get political from time to time, as politics is now my life. Will you see a lot more orange in my outfit posts? You betcha. Will I start writing long blog posts about pension legislation and curriculum rewrites? Unlikely, as I get enough of that at work. But I will never apologize for talking politics. I know a lot of other fashion blogs that even get the teensy bit political always seem to have some sort of disclaimer at the beginning apologizing in advance for getting a little deep on a fashion blog, which I think is ridiculous. As long as you’re expressing your opinion in a respectful way, I think there is a place for politics and fashion (I love to talk about why I love the 40s because it’s not just the styles but also the deeper socio-economic meaning behind the clothing... but that’s another story for another day).


    So that’s one big reason I haven’t been posting. I love my job, I can get very fired up at work and I am always happy to be there, which means I inadvertently am staying later than I did at my last job. When I first started with the NDP I was so hungry for real work that I was honestly starving all the time and just exhausted, and would fall asleep as soon as I got home. It didn’t help that the proverbial shit hit the fan in the Legislature right after I started (culminating in the Premier resigning). I honestly haven’t sewed, knit or done anything else blog worthy since we went to the Neon Sign Museum (which was the weekend before I started my new job).

    Now that I’ve been at the NDP for 2 months, and with session ending in a few weeks, I’ve fallen into a better routine and am trying to get the rest of my life in order. I went to the pool for the first time in two months on Friday. Ugh, remind me to never do that again! What a waste of $80 to have a gym membership and not go. Not to mention the pain my butt was in after. I’ve also been able to get back into baking, cooking, knitting and sewing.  And, of course, with my new job comes a little bit more money, so I’m able to buy a few more clothes - expect some outfit posts soon.

    Other things I’ve been busy attending to?

    Wedding planning
    Oh yes, that old hat. There are only 195 days (!!) until I am Mrs. Kucerak, and Ian and I have been chugging along quite well in checking things off the to-do list. Despite the fact that we’re not getting married until November, it seems like there are only 4 months until the wedding, since July and August are notoriously fast, people will be on holidays so it will be hard to coordinate things, et cetera.

    Luckily there really isn’t too much “big stuff” to do: the invites are ready to go to the printer, I had my second wedding dress appointment (I’m getting my dress custom-made, and plan on blogging about the experience), the hall, DJs, commissioner have been booked since last summer, and we have an amazing wedding photographer. I expect September and October will pick up again, when we start ordering flowers and cake, making seating charts and finalizing details, but it will be nice to have most things in place over the summer.

    What’s next?
    Well, firstly I have had a post that I’ve been meaning to write since DECEMBER, and am still as excited about it as I was then. How sad is that? I feel terribly, but I really, really hope I will have time to do it soon. It’s one of those things that I’ve been avoiding because I didn’t have the time to do it justice.... but now it’s just time to buckle down and DO IT, for crying out loud.


    Following that post, I will shortly be finishing up a new blouse. All I need to do is attach the second sleeve, hem the blouse and make a fabric loop; it should only take me a few hours (it’s a puffed sleeve blouse, otherwise it would be done already) but sewing is one of those things where I can’t dedicate a few hours to get lost in it, I just can’t do it. I *want* to sew, but can never find the time. Sigh.

    Other than that, who knows! Ian and I are heading to Toronto in 3 weeks (I will get that blouse done for our trip if it kills me!) so there will hopefully be something vintagey to come out of it. We’re going to meet a bunch of his family, hopefully go to the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge and hit up Niagara for a pre-wedding honeymoon.

    Ta-ta for now! Hopefully I will have some more interesting things to post in the weeks to come.
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  5. 2014 Goals: 2-month check in

    Saturday, March 8, 2014

    Hey all!

    Around the New Year I wrote a post outlining all my personal goals for 2014, as well as my fashion goals for 2014, and I wanted to do a quick two month (and a few days) check in on my progress.  I think one of the reason people don't take action on their goals is that they set 'em and forget 'em, so I think a check in every two months will hold me accountable, without it being too boring for your readers.



    Write more - PASS
    When I made this goal, I really didn't say what more meant. Did I mean up my blog posts? Do more freelance writing?
    In this checkup, I'll define my goal as blogging 1x a week, which I haven't really been doing so far - I'm at 5 (well, 6 including this one) instead of 8. That being said, I do have one regular freelance client, as well as a new full-time job that has a lot more writing, so I'll let this one go as a pass, with a promise to get up to speed in the coming months on my blogging.

    Relax - FAIL
    Yeah, again I really didn't quantify what relax more means, so I'll say that it means sticking to my fun schedule I made back in September.  I haven't been doing very good at this one so far in 2014 - I think I've only been to one knitting night, and I haven't been swimming in 3 weeks. Yikes.

    #3GoodThings - PASS
    I've kept up with this really well, although I've stopped posting it every day on Instagram.

    Swimming/Lifeguarding - FAIL
    I've yet to find my work/life balance with my new job, so this isn't even on the stove, let alone the backburner.

    Stop Drinking - PASS
    Still not a drop since November! There's been times where I've certainly been craving a drink after a long or stressful day, but honestly a pop or virgin Caesar hits the spot just as well.



    Frugality - PASS
    I did a bit of shopping this winter, but many things hit off my wardrobe to-do: I bought vintage overshoes, a new novelty brooch and deliciously warm winter boots that were 50% off.
    I also bought some new glasses, which were also on my wardrobe goal list, so I don't feel too bad about those either.
    I did accrue a bit more credit card debt thanks to some medical expenses, but I have my reimbursement cheque, so I'll be able to get back to square one!
    In terms of planned spending, I've got my eyes on the Nexus 7 tablet (or, more likely, the Nexus 8, which is rumoured to be coming out in July) as well as a few other vintage wardrobe staples. I've even made a spreadsheet of my wishlist with costs, so I can figure out how much I have to save and for how long in order to buy the item.

    Less Waste - FAIL
    I haven't really noticed a decrease in our waste, but I am monitoring our food useage closely so I know what we can eat before it goes bad and what we can't. We're also considering signing up for an Organic Box.

    Downpayment/Savings - PASS
    Hard to say if this is a pass or fail at this point, since it's going to take a while to save up. I've decided to make my TFSA my downpayment fund, and I'll also be putting half of my tax rebate in there this year (the other half will go to my savings account), which will bump me up to ~$600 of the $12,000 I'd like to save up. So I'll give it a pass based on the fact that, slowly but surely, my little fund is starting to grow.
    I also foresee paying off my credit card debt happening a little faster than I anticipated when I made these goals, since I got a nice raise with my new job.

    Charity contributions - PASS
    I've donated to charity in January and February - I'm just switching my giving cycle to mid-month instead of the beginning of the month, so March will be ticked off soon too.

    Time - FAIL
    I haven't done much volunteer work yet, but I do have some ideas up my sleeve.

    Blood Donations - PASS
    I gave blood in January, and I am booked in for March! Both of these times I brought/am bringing a newbie to give blood and encouraging them to do the same next time they give.


    Final score: 7/11
    Not too bad in my opinion! How are you coming with your New Years Resolutions?

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  6. In photos: Edmonton's Neon Light Museum

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

    On Friday night, as part of the celebrating my new job, Ian and my friend Heather took me out for dinner and to the launch of Edmonton's Neon Sign Museum.


    The museum is a collection of restored vintage signs from Edmonton's neon age, all installed outside the Telus building at the corner of 104 Ave and 104 Street. While only eight are up right now, there will be 12 (or hopefully even more!) in the future.






    It's such an innovative use of spacing on an otherwise unremarkable building (sorry Telus), in one of Edmonton's up-and-coming historical neighbourhoods, and will hopefully inspire new neon ventures in the future.



    To see some photos from the installation, check out Ian's photos for the Edmonton Sun. All photos above copyright Ian Kucerak / IK Creative.
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  7. Send her Victorious!

    Sunday, February 9, 2014

    Like nearly every vintage knitter, I participated in By Gum By Golly's Knit for Victory challenge this winter, hosted by the ever inspiring Tasha. And man oh man, do I ever feel victorious after finishing my project!



    I chose the Clara sweater, a redesign of the 1940s Victory Jumper, by Rohn Strong. I used Knit Pick's Swish Worsted, a very yummy Merino wool (full Ravelry project page here) in dark red, blue and white. While it's not very Canadiana-patriosm, I'd say that it's still authentic because in the 1940s we were flying a flag that used a Union Jack (plus, that colour combination is my favourite right now, as seen in my last me-made wardrobe projects). Thus the ode to the Monarchy in the title. ;)

    For those of you that followed along my knitting progress on Instagram, you'll know that my project was fraught with suspense. I started after Christmas, and quickly knit up the sleeves (I am never knitting sleeves last again). However, as I got halfway through the front, I started running out of the dark blue wool. Hastily I ordered another skein and put the project on hiatus for about a week to wait for the extra yarn to show up. The knit along finished Jan. 31, and I cast off with 24 hours to spare. I had to jet home on a lunch break to take these photos to be counted in the Flickr pool.

    Note: for anyone considering to do a striped sweater like this, learn how to weave in your ends as you go without the colour showing through. It saves SO. MUCH. TIME. I'm also very proud of my seaming and stripe matching skills.



    I also ran into some issues with the writing of the pattern, as the pattern doesn't account for the increases you make as you knit once you start binding off the armholes. Luckily I was able to contact Rohn and to work out the issue. You certainly can't do that with vintage patterns!

    However, because of the counting error I think the neckline is a little wonky. Rohn suggested I have 18 stitches for each shoulder as the pattern originally suggested and bind off a wider collar, but I think next time I would bind in off in the ratio suggested in the original, as I find that the way I did it made a wider, squareish neckline. I'm going to try and block the squareness out of the collar; failing that, I'll go back and make the collar a bit longer, but decrease some stitches to get a rounder neckline.



    Also, I did not get the puffy sleeve result. In fact, I had to sew up some of the armpit because the sleeve didn't take up all the armhole. No idea how that happened!



    Regardless, this is definitely going to be a wardrobe staple! It's so comfy and not itchy at all, and the wool is a beautiful colour. I am in love with Knit Picks wool, and highly recommend it. All in all, a very successful project that took me only 40 days - hiatus included!



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