Ommel Festival 2018 (And Why You Should Go in 2019)

This year we happened to be in Helsinki during the first year of Ommel Festival, which is a big awesome gigantic sewing festival that takes place right in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

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Image courtesy of Ommel.Fi

This is Finland’s version of The Great British Sewing Bee, but better.

THAT’S RIGHT, I SAID IT. Why is it better? Because FREE ENTRY!

For those of you who follow me on Instagram (@sewing_expat), you’ll already know that we’re moving to Helsinki in early 2019. After going to this year’s event, I am hoping to be involved as a volunteer in 2019 (as the token American?). This year, I was only able to go on the first day for a few hours, yet it was a such a rewarding and fun experience!

Background Info

Ommel Festival is the brainchild of Jenni of Nuppu Print Company.

When I joined the sewing bloggers meetup with Hanne, Auri, and Katja on the first day of the festival, Jenni gave us a quick rundown of the festival’s incarnation and why she wanted to start it. The idea was to have a sewing festival with free entry so sewists could come and take courses, listen to lectures, and best of all – buy some fabric and sewing patterns. Nuppu was one of the vendors at the festival and they have some of the most gorgeous prints (and cards and stationary and and…).

 

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Cotton jersey from Nuppu Print Company, part of my own haul. *drool*

 

One of the coolest ideas brought to life was that you could camp out at the festival as part of the sewing retreat (or you can just camp out if you wanted cheap accommodation). That’s right, bring a sleeping mat, some overnight gear and you can spend all day sewing, go to bed and get up and sew some more:

“A sewing retreat is a brilliant way to get to know new sewing friends and spend time with like-minded people. To attend the retreat, you need to bring your own machines, fabrics and other equipment. We provide participants with sewing and cutting tables and an ironing station, as well as coffee and tea.”

HEAVEN, YOU GUYS. Er. Mah. Gerd. It reminds me of when my husband goes to board game conventions that have this exact kind of setup. I’m a light sleeper, so I personally couldn’t do it, but come next year if my husband lets me duck out for 3 days straight I will likely consider staying in the nearest hotel – haha!

What Else?

I met the gals from Named Clothing and THEY WERE SO NICE. I bought their Kielo Wrap Dress pattern and the Ruri Sweatpants pattern. I still need to go visit their shop in Helsinki next time I’m in town.

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Kielo Wrap Dress pattern. I’ve already made one toile and it’s a fun project!

 

I also tested out a Juki coverstitch machine, and I’m pretty sure that it will be THE coverstitch that I buy. It was smooth like butter, you guys. Like buttah.

There were sewing-related lectures such as:

“…history of the textile industry and fashion, the ecological aspects of sewing, design and also on being an entrepreneur in the industry…”

I love me a good lecture. I assume these lectures were in Finnish since I didn’t go to any of them, but I imagine as it branches to an international demographic there will be some available in English.

There was all manner of workshops available, whether you wanted to start with the basics or work with coverstitch and overlocker machines. Jenni took us on a brief tour of the festival itself and I saw the rooms full of classes, tables with sewing machines and people working away at their projects. I was just sad I didn’t have my own machine there with me!

Speaking of workshops and classes, they were mostly in Finnish but I heard a little rumor that there may be some international teachers coming. Continue to check Ommel.fi and Ommel’s Facebook Page for updates about the 2019 event.

My Experience as an English-Speaker at Ommel Festival

I guess it goes without saying at this point that I had a wonderful time. My lack of Finnish-language skills made no difference and didn’t negatively impact my experience at all. I made some new friends through a fulfilling hobby that brings me joy, and this festival just enhances the experience. I’ve had a rough last few years where we live since I felt a bit like I’d lost my own identity (postpartum depression and not being able to work outside the home can do that).

At Ommel, I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. I was so cheery, I even remembered to take a selfie with my buddy Katja!

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Sewing fraaaaaaaands! Me and Katja of With My Hands, Dream.

But I Don’t Speak Finnish…

I want to also mention for anyone who doesn’t speak Finnish considering attending next year’s Ommel Festival to please do not worry about a language barrier. Seriously. All Finnish people under like 70 years old speak English. Like, good English. Their English is probably better than mine and I’m a smart fancy lady. 

And no reasonable person expects you to attempt any Finnish. It just gets weird and complicated with all the grammatical rules. So take it from me, I don’t speak any useful Finnish (though my husband has taught me loads of swear words) but I had a fantastic time.

Please go and enjoy Finland. Let me know what you think of pulla. Check out the Kansallismuseo – the National Museum of Finland – and remember to go in June so you can go to Ommel!

Curious about anything else? Let me know!

My first FBA (Full Bust Adjustment)

If I haven’t made it clear by now: I got big boobies. Always have. I was an early bloomer so I had boobs when I was around 11 or 12. Granted, I was chubby so that hid everything nicely until they REALLY came in! By my senior year of high school I ended up with these massive breasts that boys felt rather entitled to and men ogled at despite my reminders that I WAS INDEED UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE.

*sigh*

Knits, as of late, have been my go-to projects. I lift weights, and over the past few years I’ve noticed positive changes in my physique that would potentially require lots of adjusting in the back and bust areas in order to get a proper fit. My biggest issue is that for one, I don’t have a lot of fitting experience, and two, I have so little time to work on projects right now because MOM LIFE that I’d rather do something small for my kiddo that’ll get more use, than work on a dress for two weeks in 10-minute bursts.

I probably have Spring blues which will go away shortly.

When my kiddo was still a tiny baby I made my first dress for myself out of a vintage 1960s Simplicity pattern I bought on eBay.

It’s a pretty simple design and to this day I still plan on making another as I liked it so much, but I wasn’t 100% happy with the final fit and result — but I know why now.

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I look fantastic, yeah? This is hard to admit (I am very wary about admitting any kind of vulnerability to anyone) but I wasn’t very happy at the time. I was drowning in the quicksand of postpartum depression. The fog + irritability was wreaking havoc on my daily sanity and taking a giant toll on my marriage. I get choked up thinking about difficult it was.

Side note, new moms: if you even suspect you might have PPD, get help as soon as possible. You’re not alone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You are still a super mom.

Despite my fragile mental state at the time, the project itself went very smoothly. I chose a polyester suiting fabric I’d gotten for free, and found an FBA tutorial via YouTube by Sewing Parts Online. I found it very easy to follow. Overall the whole process was good and I will happily do more FBAs in the future if needed. Right now though I’m on a massive knits kick so I won’t be fooling around with fitting for a while, tee-hee!

Regarding the dress, my measurements changed and I ended up donating the dress, but I’m still really pleased with how it went. The biggest thing I should’ve done was PRESS THE SEAMS. The whole dress looked so untidy because I didn’t press the dang seams! Thankfully nowadays I am much better about doing that and -surprise!- my makes are much more polished.

When a Screw-Up, Wasn’t.

Seamwork Magazine strikes again with the awesomeness. I decided to try out cowl necks and see if it looks okay on me (it does) and if I could cram the pattern for the Seamwork Neenah dress onto a remnant I purchased from Misan Fabrics in January 2017. I managed it…kiiiiinda.

It went well!

 

I bought a small mountain of fabrics at Misan (London) in January 2017 when I went to a Black Sabbath show with my friends Haileigh and Miriam. Much fun was had. The fabric I got was lovely and I’ve actually almost used it all up by now (go me! destash ahoy!). This polka-dot double knit is quite sturdy but has a fabulous drape to it and I thought it’d look fantastic as a Seamwork Magazine Neenah dress – but with the cowl neckline bonus instead of the turtleneck.

I should add: I don’t like turtlenecks. Or at least I don’t like them on me. I have too many bad memories of early 90s outfits and my brothers poking my double chin and pointing out how chubby my face was.

My brothers were dicks. *ahem* Anyway!

I broke a rule before starting this project, checking if I actually had enough fabric, and just sorta bulldozed my way in. In my best Hank Hill voice, “I tell ya h-wat”, it was a heck of an operation. I went full-on Zero Waste Daniel and started turning things in all kind of weird directions, then serging scraps back together and ended up with a pretty good finished product.

OH YEAH

 

So it turned out lovely. The fabric itself was a dream to sew. It has a lovely stretch and wasn’t the least bit fiddly. I managed to save a potentially-ruined project and now I have an adorable dress in my wardrobe that I plan on wearing frequently…which reminds me, I should wear it tomorrow.

Sweet victory.

 

You guys ever have a situation like this?

My First Housecoat/Cardigan

My good friend Jess recommended Seamwork Magazine to me however many moons ago, and I signed up just expecting to read a cool online magazine about sewing – and at $6 a month, I thought it’d be a nice read. What I didn’t realize is that you can save up credits to buy patterns from them as well – and this applies to Seamwork patterns as well as Colette patterns!

I’ve made several Seamwork patterns so far, which will appear in subsequent blog posts, but I wanted to write about an item that I wear ALL THE TIME at home. It’s the Oslo cardigan, and it’s absolutely a staple!

My cat George was wondering what I was on about.

Once I realized you can get patterns via the credit system (which was many months later, might I add), I started having a dig to see which patterns I really liked. I’ll be honest and say I really don’t like big, baggy clothes. I used to have a lot of body issues, especially self-image issues brought on from hypercritical family members when I was growing up, so now that I’m older, wiser, and know how AWESOME I LOOK, I prefer to wear things that are fitted and flattering.

Despite that, I still really liked the look of the Oslo, especially with the pattern’s model holding a cup of coffee. Hehe! I knew I needed a utilitarian-type jacket to wear around the house whilst cleaning and doing other work. I bought a few meters of a quilted poly knit from my local fabric store a few months before that, simply based on the fact it was leopard print and I loooooove animal print. This turned out to be an excellent choice as it helped me re-learn about the placement of pattern pieces to take advantage of the stretch of the fabric.

I still managed to mess up the sleeves a little, I attached them upside-down and ended up with a bell effect, but I’ve called it a “design element” and left it as-is. As you can see from the above photo, it actually looks kinda cool.

A few months later I realized I NEEDED POCKETS and a fastening in the middle because that’s what I’m comfortable with. I live in the mountains and during winter, I need tissues to deal with my runny nose, my kid’s runny nose, my kid spilling something, or my husband spilling something (don’t tell him I told you!). So yeah, pockets. I prefer fastenings too since I just don’t like clothes flopping all around. I think being in the military made me that way – I don’t like “loose ends” of any kind. With that said, I DO put together a really good chignon hairdo, it’ll never fall out of place!

Anyway, I added some pockets from the scraps left over, it worked perfectly!

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I can confidently say the Oslo cardigan by Seamwork is a star. Easy to make, very comfortable and my husband hates it – or, well, he hates leopard print. Regardless, even he complimented my work and said he’ll make an exception from his usually face-making at leopard print since my lovely cardigan is handmade!

A Kinda-Frilly Nightgown.

Oh my glob, you guys. I made a froo-froo nightgown and it’s lovely. I even have gathers on the sleeves with lace edging.

Way too excited.

 

I’ve always liked frilly nightgowns, or at least the idea of them. Pintucks, lace, gathers, all that stuff. Loungewear in general is lots of fun to make, and just as fun to wear! My only issue with a lot of it is that as a housewife, I do a lot of stuff on a daily basis that gets my hands and sometimes clothes dirty – cooking, cleaning, prepping, tidying, stuff like that. I’m busy and therefore need more utilitarian-style types of clothes to wear around the house. But I realized I could still get my frilly fix through a nightgown since I wear my housecoat over it (won’t get messy during breakfast). In a nice rayon (from Desfilart in Girona, Spain) it was pretty easy to sew with stabilizer and the right needle, and I can machine-wash it easily.

This was a SEEMINGLY simple project upon its beginning: simple rayon with a bit of stretch lace edging. Then I started making it and the section for the neck yoke was a nightmare. As I went to write this post, I looked at the instructions again (I made this nightgown last Spring, I think, so several months ago) and STILL don’t get it. I guess that’s why Style sewing patterns are no more….or is that d-bag thing to say? Anyway…

 

I gave up on the yoke. The instructions were too vague and I ended up getting pissed off at one point – which is a sign for me to either pack it in or find another way. The other funny bit is that I bought this pattern without realizing the size. It’s a 42 bust, I’m now a 36. Oops. So I took it in at the side seams mid-construction and just left the rest of it as-is since the extra space isn’t excessive.

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As you can see, it turned out great! Kinda baggy but I actually use it and it’s super comfy. I’m really pleased. I’m going to donate the pattern, though. Vague instructions always annoy me but I’m glad this turned out OK in the end.

The funny thing about sewing patterns, at least in my own experience, is that a pattern I may find vague could be perfectly clear to another person and they will wonder what I’m whining about – hence why I always donate.

Ever made anything frilly? I have a 50s pattern for an epic gathered yoke and ruffled neckline that I might whip up one of these days. We’ll see!

 

Knitting is Totally Metal

Ok so this post has nothing to do with heavy metal music but everything to do with knitting. I’ve jumped in mosh pits, covered myself in tattoos, had a wee bairn but couldn’t conquer the knitting mountain. Until this weekend, friends.

This weekend, I finally learned how to knit.

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Someday. Why not?

It’s one of those crafts that I’ve always admired from afar, cursing my left-handedness and the lack of resources available. My mother-in-law has made the comfiest, lovelist items for my little family, especially for P, and I’ve always wished and hoped that one day I could learn.

UNTIL NOW!

I still don’t know why, for so many years, I thought I wouldn’t be able to learn how to knit. Kinda dumb, right? I learned how to crochet left-handed, from a right-handed person, so why on earth wouldn’t I learn how to knit? Ah well.

This past weekend, Craftsy offered an unlimited streaming offer of their online classes to get people interested in Craftsy Unlimited. I actually think I’m going to sign up for it because I’d really like to learn more about baking, cooking, and advancing with my crochet, sewing and (now!) knitting. It’s 120 bucks for a year, so 10 per month, and with all these classes I want to take – why not?

To be honest, one of my life goals is to kick butt at domestic pursuits and crafts. I don’t need to be the best, but I want to be good at it – ya know?

Saturday morning, I suddenly decided to try out a knitting course on Etsy designed for beginners. The problem with this course is that it was structured for right-handed people. I thought I’d give it a go anyway, but it just wasn’t working out for me. I tried to look on youtube for “left-handed knitting” videos, and I found a few but some of them had awful music playing instead of narration (for me to learn best, I need to watch + listen to an explanation), so even with the videos muted it was too difficult to follow along.

With almost-tears in my eyes, and texting my friend Jess about “I’m about to break these mother f-ers”, I collected myself and returned to google to look for a left-handed knitting course. A Craftsy one with Rick Mondragon popped up in the search results. Well, holy crap. So I started the video and his explanation was so easy to follow and helpful! Hooray!

 

I actually started with these 4.5 needles I had (middle photo) that proved to be too heavy for me, so I set that aside and tried with 3.5 needles (right photo) and some DK yarn from CityMarket (grocery store chain in Finland – oh yes, we’re CityMarket people). I let my arms rest for a few hours and then picked up my size 10mm needles and some super chunky yarn and I’m currently working on that. I plan on getting some cable needles and some stitch markers.

I can’t believe I’m knitting! What the nuts!

Crochet Projects: Baby Blankets

This is the first of many posts about baby items that I’ve made. I loooooove making baby blankets, hats, booties, mittens. Baby stuff, all day every day.

I learned to crochet when I was 8 from my neighbor, Carrie-Lou. Since my grandparents were already quite old by the time I was born (therefore most of them died when I was very young), I didn’t really have grandparents growing up. My dad’s father, Big Dave, was around and was always happy (or perhaps simply tolerated) letting me come over and tinker on my grandmother’s piano or watch NASCAR with him. I have fond memories of spending time with him.

I digress. Carrie-Lou was the closest thing to a grandmother I ever had, and I’ll always remember her with great affection. She died when I was 12. Fun fact: she was the first person to tell me what varicose veins were (haha!) because she herself had them and I asked her why she had lines drawn on her legs. She handled my impetuous question with more grace than I could ever muster.

On to the projects! Here’s 6 examples of my favorite baby blanket projects I’ve made over the last few years.

 

Lap Blanket
When I was pregnant with P, specifically around 6 months pregnant and visiting Finland in January 2015, I decided to make a little lap blanket for her. It’s funny talking about it now because it was in regular use, but when P was really little I was just too tired (i.e. foggy) to go out very often, so I don’t have too many photos of it. It was a pretty simple project, double crochet rows and a shell border made of double crochets put into one chain. I think I gave this lap blanket away to a friend, but it served us well!

 

 

Wrap Blanket
Honestly, I don’t remember who I made this blanket for originally, maybe for my best friend and his wife. I do know, however, that I ended up using this blanket for P and then washed/tossed it in the dryer and IT FELL APART…sort of. It lost its density and became really stringy with loads of holes in it. From what I remember, I frogged it and re-crocheted it into something new. Voilà!

 

 

Asymmetrical Design AKA I didn’t know how much yarn I actually had for this project and needed to improvise
“Tranquil Blanket” by Lisa Wears
I set out to make this blanket for a currently-pregnant friend of mine, but I’ve realized very quickly that one must ask the pregnant person first before they want any blankets, since said friend is both crafty and has already been gifted a small mountain of baby blankets. After I finished this, I decided to just hang on to it in case any other friends became pregnant and then I’d have an instant gift – and that’s what happened! We had friends over for coffee one day and I asked if second-pregnant-friend-of-the-year would like any handmade items. She’s not into handicrafts herself and seemed pleased at the prospect (which of course I loved if for no other reason than to CROCHET MOAR THINGS). Two birds with one stone: I got to make a cute blanket, and friend got a nice lap blanket for the new baby.

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Granny Square Baby Blanket
Those of you who’ve been following me on instagram for some time (and through the various accounts I’ve created, deleted, then created again – ha!) remember this one because it was very much a labor of love. I made this for a dear friend who lives in Germany out of 100% wool yarn that I bought in Finland. I do love the colors and it’s super toasty. I only recently learned, though, that if you want yarn to last longer it’s better to get a poly-wool blend, so like 80% wool and 20% poly or nylon, since it’ll give it more strength and is less prone to breakage and falling apart. Good to know!

I also made a matching bag to go with it because I made so many granny squares that I had leftovers. I lined the back and used some cotton woven quilting fabric for the insides of the straps so they wouldn’t stretch over time.

 

 

Baby Blankets for a Friend
I have an old friend (seriously I met this chick when I was 18.) back home in Pennsylvania who had a baby last year. I went a little nuts making stuff for her, but since she’s crafty in other ways (her interior decorating is TO DIE FOR) I figured I’d send along a bunch of stuff. I made the Baby Ripple Afghan by Tiffany Roan and a modified version of the Granny Square Baby Blanket by Lauren Brown. I was really pleased with the granny square blanket. I cut some flannel bedsheets to size and stitched them on the back of the blanket. As you can see, it’s turned a bit odd; the next time I make a granny square blanket like this, I know now that I’ll need to turn my work after each row. Regardless, the blankets got lots of use as far as I know! 😀

 

 

Modern Colorblock Granny Square Baby Blanket
I have a former academia-twitter buddy (I used to be really active on academic twitter but then decided academia wasn’t for me) with whom I’ve kept in contact over the last few years via social media. She just had a baby last month and I made a few little goodies for her as well. I made the Modern Colorblock Granny Square Baby Blanket for her but a waaaaay sized down version as a lap blanket. It turned out so cute and lovely along with the other bits and bobs I sent along – which I’ll put in another post!

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I normally have a strict rule of “Do NOT ask me to make anything for you” with crochet, so I can do it as a gift for others, and I prefer to offer because sometimes I simply don’t have time or the mental energy to make stuff for people. No pressure for me! As of late, I am happy to make stuff, but like any human being my energy levels vary depending on whatever else I have going on in my life. Anyway, with that slightly ranty bit done, I really do enjoy making things as gifts for friends and especially making baby stuff. It’s usually pretty quick and easy and always useful.

Do you ever crochet anything for friends? If so, what do you make?