A dress for grandma’s funeral

As mentioned in an earlier post, my grandma passed away this winter. January 31st was her last day, and as I was ill when she got her second bout of pneumonia in as many months, I wasn’t with her when she went. I had visited her just weeks before, and my brother and I had a happy time with her then. In a way it’s nice to have that as my last memory of that grand and impossibly stubborn old lady.

I loved my gran. My whole life we were very close – perhaps too much so. She was a Hostess with a big H, always catering for guests and urging us to eat for four (my family still employs the term “grandma-full” as a term to describe the feeling of being especially over-stuffed). She was part of the resistance movement during WWII, and after my grandfather passed away years before I was born, she lived alone in her big house. She filled it with people and activity up to the time she went blind from glaucoma. The blindness was a slow process, and almost my whole life she needed some assistance. I was always her eyes when we were outside the house. This May she would have been 100 years old.


Me and gran at my 20th birthday

My grandma, always the queen of drama. It’s a wonder she survived the war, what with all the episodes of coming face to face with a German gun, daring the soldiers to shoot. Despite all her anxiety in her later years, I doubt she had it in her to be truly afraid. Life was a play and the world her stage. Being part of the audience wasn’t always easy, but it was never dull.

At gran’s request, my brother and I played a Duet by Mozart, her favorite composer, at the funeral. I play the flute, my brother the French horn, and we hadn’t really played anything together before this. It was no easy task to play at grans funeral. I’m glad we did, but I’m never doing anything like this again. On top of the duet, I volunteered to play Bach’s Air at the beginning of the funeral.

Back when I’d just started to make teddy bears, I made one for gran. To this date this is  the only bear I’ve made who has an open mouth. Binna (she-bear in Norwegian) became gran’s companion, and gran slept alongside her for many years in addition to bringing her with her around in the house. Some years ago gran requested that Binna should accompany her when she died. During the week between gran’s death and me taking possession over my fabric shop, I went to the funeral home and brought Binna with me for a last farewell with my gran. My brother made an ice bear from pipe cleaners years ago, and this went into the casket with Binna.

Binna with a little pipe cleaner ice bear made by my brother

Binna with the little pipe cleaner ice bear sitting in her waistband

As my grandma was prone to depression, always expecting the worst and making a scene if nothing else was happening , I could never wear anything other than black at her funeral. When my other Grandma died two years ago, I opted for pale yellow silk, as I wanted to celebrate her long life, rather than mourn her death. She was a half-full-glass kind of a person. This time around, I was saying goodbye to a person who could be the poster girl for the half-empty glass most of the time.

Still, I wanted to do something special, not just make any LBD and run with it. I decided to use wool gabardine and wool crepe. My inspiration was in large part a dress made by one of my classmates back when we were all making landscape dresses. I remembered her making these softly folded bias strip inserts in her dress, and thought it would be interesting to try. I designed a dress with a folded bias strip running through the whole dress, starting and ending in the back hem. It also features wool crepe inserts in the sides and a double inverted kick pleat in the back. This was not an easy project, and the finished dress feature wool crepe bias strips sewn on top of pattern pieces made from wool gabardine, as the strips by themselves had too little structure. I also discovered that corners are impossible to make with this technique, and the dress is a bit tighter than it started out to be, as I had to cut all the corners, turning them into curves as I went along. Still, I’m pleased with the end result, I really love this dress. I think gran would have loved it too, as all the bias strip details give a lot of structure to “see” with ones hands.


The necklace is a gold watch. This and the bracelets are all heirlooms from my grandma.

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It was a lovely service, and on the days after the funeral, all I wanted to do was to call gran and tell her all about it. She would have loved to hear about all the stories that were told, the details of the service, the people present, the lovely priest. It was a fond farewell with a real special old lady.

Goodbye my impossible grandma, and thank you for being part of my life all these years. I miss you.



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A shirt for Andrea

Last year I went to London with one of my closest friends, Andrea. While I was looking for just the right fabric to take home from Liberty, she found a fabric on her own. As I sew and she doesn’t, we agreed that I’d make her a shirt as a belated birthday present (her original birthday wish was to get something from London while we were there). As last year wasn’t a quiet one either, the shirt ended up closer to her next birthday than the one before, but she was happy with the end result.


I even found blue buttons to match the blue print 🙂

Andrea had a fairly basic shirt which she got from her grandma. This shirt was a bit on the long side, with a back yoke and bust darts. She wanted something close to this in look, and we opted for an old BurdaStyle pattern (#105 in the #9/09 issue of the magazine). I shortened the pattern a bit and made a muslin from old sheets. Based on the fit of this, we decided to add a bit more width to the sleeves, as she liked the roomy sleeves on her original shirt best. Then I made the shirt and requested her to show it off in my blog, which I’m happy she agreed to do.

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Yet another teddy bear and an update on life in general

First of all: I’m sorry I’ve been absent for such a long time, and that my updates before this weren’t exactly numerous before summer either. This has been a crazy hectic year, and I don’t see it slowing down either, and both my sewing and blog suffers. The fabric shop has been doing well enough so far, and I’m looking forward to fall and winter with curious optimism.

Also, my grandma died at the same time I was taking over all the goods I bought from the old fabric shop. My husband hasn’t exactly had too much spare time either, as he has been crazy busy with his own projects, work, the fabric shop and picking up the pieces after gran wasn’t part of the world anymore. I will do a post on my grandma later on, I just haven’t managed to start writing it so far. Suffice to say – we were really close and I miss her.


Now – over to a post I started writing before any of this happened.

This little guy began his life at the lab where I was working before my big fabric shop project saw the light of day, one Saturday evening in November. I needed an addition to the bear I had previously made for Gran’s neighbor, as I learned there were two children and not one in the house.


He is made from a two-tone alpaca, which is a dream to work with and has a great feel to it.


When I delivered the bears just before Christmas, both children and adults appreciated my teddies.

Now I’m just happy I managed to make these guys in time.

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Sewing machines as a religion

This is the story of how I came to own four sewing machines, and how I sometimes want to throw one of them out through the window.

My first sewing machine was a Pfaff Select 3.0. This machine has served me well and has been completely hassle free except for user-induced malfunctions every now and then (for which this machine holds no responsibility). It’s been sewing through everything from flimsy chiffons and silks to eight layers of heavy denim (this was the number of layers I managed to fit under the presser foot). I loved my Pfaff and became a Pfaff convert the day the salesperson in the sewing machine store introduced us.

I read about basic mechanical sewing machines before entering the shop. At the time I only made teddy bears, and I needed a sturdy machine that would handle thick fabrics. The only stitch I planned on using was a straight stitch. Computerized machines scared me, and price was definitely a factor. The Internet told me that Janome Easy Jeans fit the bill. So I went into the shop and asked to see the Janome. What I didn’t know at the time was that the salesperson was a Pfaffist, a Pfaff missionary. He told me politely that the Pfaff was a better machine, praising the integrated dual feed system (IDT), which certainly comes in handy. He then demonstrated the Pfaff and then the Janome with a walking foot attached to show me how quiet the Pfaff was compared to the Janome (it also cost about 40 % more than the Janome). Then he told me about how the Pfaff was used by professionals and was German made (my machine says “made in China”) and that Janome was a lesser brand, made in Taiwan from what sounded like less solid parts. I ended up with the Pfaff and didn’t look back.

Pfaff Select 3.0

Pfaff Select 3.0

I was a happy Pfaff convert and missionary, mentioning the machine and praising the brand whenever I could. And recommending people to stay clear of anything Janome. Whenever I saw someone recommending Janome I considered this to be because they weren’t familiar with the much better Pfaff machines.

When I started sewing clothes, I quicly found my four-step buttonhole lacking. This was especially true when I made one-step buttonholes on the school machines I worked on the year I attended a sewing course. In this course I also discovered a need for having a serger in my sewing room.

I started to look at different sergers. At school we used Janome sergers, which I didn’t care for, as the stitch quality was not the best and I never seemed to manage the threading of these machines. I didn’t consider the fact that these machines had sustained heavy use from users unfamiliar with sergers for many years before I entered the classroom, and just figured that the salesperson who told me to go with Pfaff was right – Janome clearly did not build quality machines. This is the reason why I never considered Janome when I bought my serger. I read about the Pfaff sergers, finding that many reviewers did not care much for them.

I read a bit about coverstitch machines, deciding I wanted this feature as well despite never having coverstitched anything before. The annoying four-step buttonhole and the feeling that I’d somehow outgrown my Pfaff made me scared to buy anything without as many features as possible crammed into one serger. Then I set out to try sergers, having decided I wanted to look at Juki and Viking Husqvarna. I never considered Pfaff, Janome or Elna (Elna being Janome made). The Brother dealer was too far away, and what did a printer company know about sewing anyway? Besides I’d read some dreadful stories about cheap computerized Brother sewing machines. Singer never entered the equation because of their history of making cheap plastic machines in the 80’s and 90’s (my mother owned one of those, and sewing on it was never a pleasure). Bernina and Babylock were out of my price range, and Juki made their overlock machines anyway. They also made the higher end Viking Husqvarnas.

I didn’t like the stitch quality on the Husqvarna combo machine, and frankly, I find the computerized thread tension settings on every Husqvarna I’ve tried is a bit off. Thread tension is something I don’t want my machine to choose on my behalf. Then I met the Juki MO735 and fell in love (or so I thought). I could get a discount if I bought a machine previously displayed in the shop (but never used), and I jumped on this deal way too soon, without trying all the other sergers I wish I’d played with before buying my Juki. It serges beautifully, making lovely rolled hems and even stitches on anything woven. And the shop where I bought it is a missionary site for Juki as they import the machines themselves.

Juki MO735

Juki MO735

I went home with my Juki and loved having a serger which was quiet, sturdy and had the added option of coverstitching. Then I tried to thread it for coverstitch, and found the manual to be lacking. It certainly wasn’t good at explaining serging either, but here I had some little experience to guide me. Coverstitch was new to me, and this combo machine did not make it easy, I tell you. The result was that I didn’t want to touch the machine again for months, and ended up forgetting how to convert it back to serging before I needed to serge a seam again. Much hassle, and I finally managed to thread it right again, happily serging away once more.

This machine is temperamental, and as I found out, doesn’t want to sew medium weight rib knit cotton. No matter what I do (tension, presser foot pressure, cutting width, differential feed, stitch length), the machine stretches the fabric. It sews wovens perfectly, and also handles bathing suit materials and other thin and/or slippery knits, but my favourite at the moment – the cotton rib – it simply cannot do. An extensive online search found that this is due to a construction fault. The problem originates in part from the combo package with added coverstitch, which means having three feed dogs instead of two, with the left (extra) feed dog pulling the fabric away from the needles. The other part of the problem is the multipurpose foot, which is wider than a regular serger foot and has slits where you can add tape and ribbon as you serge. Good in theory, but not well executed, as Bernina and Juki owners have resorted to installing matchsticks into their serger feet. I tried this as well, but it didn’t solve the problem.

The last couple of weeks I have once more tried my hands at coverstitching, which made me just hate the machine all over again. I never should have bought such an expensive machine, let alone a serge-and-cover-combo. After much hassle, I’ve finally gotten a decent coverstitch out of it, thanks to hours trying different settings, a massive online search and JLX2 needles. I’m on the fence as to whether I’m selling the machine.The coverstitch looper has to be threaded from the back of the machine and along the left side, and the schematics and explanations are just not good enough for someone on my basic level of understanding such a machine. I’ve started reading owner’s manuals on coverstitch machines and see now that a stand-alone coverstitch is so much easier to thread than this combo. Time will show if I buy one or not, but I’m leaning towards a coverstitch with a bias tape binder attachment which looks so fun to use!

Enter my third machine, the Janome MC6300 Pro. This machine moved in with me after my search after a machine that did a good straight stitch and a beautiful automatic buttonhole. After buying the Juki, I was biased toward this brand, and checked out the HZL300 and HZL600 (which are really expensive here in Norway!). Then I started entering sewing machine shops asking to be shown the machine which did the best buttonhole. I read a lot online, and I found that the Janome was on sale. I never expected to be a Janome owner, as I still believed the crap about them being a lesser brand etc,  but this machine and I bonded instantly. I got to play with it and the manual at the shop (if the Juki was not my best buy, I certainly learned my lesson!), and then the machine went home with me the same day. I still love this baby, and just looking at it makes me happy.

Janome MC6300 Pro

Janome MC6300 Pro

My third round of sewing machine gazing really made the concept of sewing machines as a religion hit home. In every shop the salesperson would show me their favorite brand, their religion. Whether it was Juki, Pfaff or Viking Husqvarna, they all praised “their” brand as the highest power to be. Me? I’m a sewing machine geek, I love reading about them, looking at them and playing around with them. I’m certainly biased toward Janome after my last shopping experience, but all the big brands have their strengths and weaknesses. After what I’ve read during the last couple of years, I’m cautious about the PVS (Pfaff, Viking, Singer) company as I’ve read a lot of lemon reviews. Still I try to keep an open mind, as my closed mindset is what led me to the serger-cover-combo fiasko (at the price level of the Juki I want the machine to do everything well!). And I’ve come to understand that I very well could be one of those five-machine-owners, as I really like planning and actually buying new machines. However I recognise that sewing machines, and especially brands, are certainly a widespread religion.

And what of the serger? I mentioned I was living with four machines at the moment, didn’t I? Enter my new Elna 664Pro. I went about and tried sergers in multiple shops, ending up at the same shop where I found my Janome. I tried the Elna and the Janome 644D, which are both made in the same Japanese factory. In the end I went with the Elna, which has all the seam settings built into the machine – just roll a wheel, and the correct setting pops up. I love the simplicity of this machine, and look forward to taking her for a spin. The fact that the machine is quiet and cost about 20 % less than her Janome sister didn’t hurt either.

Elna 664 Pro

Elna 664 Pro

I very much hope I will have an ending to my serger woes, as I didn’t try to get the best serger ever made this time around – I tried to get the best serger for me.

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An update on my fabric shop project

It’s been crazy busy these last weeks. The entire shop has been expertly painted and the floors are professionally cleaned. I’ve bought new shelfs, I’ve been gifted some beautiful pieces of used furniture from another shop that’s been redecorating. I’ve moved all the items around a dozen times, give or take. The electricians have worked their magic, and there was light once more. The shop opened Tuesday March 31, and after the big opening sale was done, things have calmed down somewhat. This may  be a result of the great weather we’ve been having lately, and I was expecting to experience a spring/summer decline in shoppers. Still, the first weeks of having an open fabric shop have been very rewarding, and I love all the sewing related discussions I get to have with my customers 🙂 Now I have to find ways to bring new customers in, order any notions currently out of stock in the shop and make plans for the future. There is so much I want to do, and patience not being one of my virtues, it’s a little hard to focus and not start doing everything at once. I really hope this shop will become all I want it to be! Now some pictures to show how the shop’s progressed toward possible-to-open-material. And soome pics of my lovely selection of fabrics and haberdashery. Enjoy 🙂

The shop:

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Look at all my pretty fabrics and notions!

The cleaning and organizing continues, and by the end of the week, this was the result:

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To see all the inbetweens since last update, check out the posts at Sysprasjon.

Now to the lovely fabrics I’ve discovered in the past week:

Check out this pearl embroidered silk chiffon…

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…this photo printed polyester chiffon with German phrases…


…the polyester lace with pearls…


…the black viscose with purple polka-dots…


…fabric to make your own golden bikini


…the fur of Labbetuss (Norwegian kiddie-TV-hero)…


…and this lovely viscose chiffon with crystals and velvet print:


I even started doing a notion of the day series:

A belt buckle…

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…rainbow-colored ric-rac…


…multi-colored hooks (the eyes seem to have been misplaced)…


… and a jacket zipper with stripes:


This is both exiting and exhausting, and I’m really looking forward to open shop!

Have a great week!


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Dude, I’m starting a fabric shop!

I guess the title says it, but I also have pictures to share 🙂

The day after I quit my job, I walked into an old fabric shop with a sign outside stating that they was going out of business. I asked the owner, who is about eighty years old, if it was true, that the shop was closing. He told me he didn’t have the energy to keep at it anymore, but that I was welcome to give it a go myself. You can imagine the though carousel going around in my head all through new years? After talking a bit more with him and agreeing on the price for all the fabrics and notions he still had in the shop come February, I started my own company. Syspirasjon (that’s Norwegian for sewspiration) was founded by myself, my hubby and my father, who wanted in as a silent partner on January 19. Check out the website (it’s in Norwegian, but I’m updating every day I’m at the shop with pictures).

Currently I’m sorting through kilometers of fabrics (that’s no overstatement, I promise – the shop is full of fabrics), cleaning up a bit and planning to redecorate the facilities, which I suspect have remained the same for decades. It’s a lot to do, but I think it’ll be great when I’m ready to open my shop 🙂

You want pictures? Have a look at my last week:

Day 1, Monday: 

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Day 2, Tuesday: We had stared sorting through some of the fabrics

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Day 3, Wednesday: The day began with a table collapsing. This actually turned out as a blessing in disguise, as we cleared much needed floor space.




Semisorted fabrics


My selection of knits so far – more to come

Day 4, Thursday: I’m introducing the fabric of the day

I’ve found a selection of plisse fabrics while sorting through the shop. I’ve got plisse jersey, both solid, plaid and velour

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Can you believe such a fabric exists?


Day 5, Saturday: We took apart a homemade piece of furniture consisting of eight sections with twelve drawers each to make room for redecoration of the place. Also: Fabric of the day is a lovely pure wool damask.


Before (look at all the lovely zippers!)




Isn’t this just beautiful?

I’ll try to update this blog once a week just to show you the shop. And after the opening in March, please visit me in Sandvika (15 minutes west of Oslo) if you’re in the area 🙂


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