Friday, April 15, 2016

New, New and New

Our lovely March vacation in southwest Florida ended two weeks ago and I still have not unpacked my sewing projects which is making me feel quite cranky today.  We had such a lovely holiday living quite simply in that adorable condo on the water and are now home planning a major renovation to the kitchen and family room that we had built 26+ years ago.  We are replacing and re-doing every decision we made back then. It will be wonderful when it is done....and will sell quickly should we start the next house hunt.  But just like an over abundant section of patterns and fabrics, sometimes the decisions can overwhelm me.  26 years ago we could afford two choices of cabinet knobs and today we have hundreds.  I am grateful for the years of equity in our house that let us do this but wow, I was also 26 years younger and with far fewer hobbies and interests.  A few more weeks of decision making then we will turn over to the capable hands of our calm, experienced contractor and I will enjoy sewing, gardening, and reading with a vengeance.  
Let me share today my last sewing project from that Florida holiday and a top that I made last spring which I never blogged about.  
I've had this tropical print fabric for years and I think it even traveled back and forth from our previously owned Florida condo and my southern sewing room. It might have come from the long defunct Winchester, Virginia Woolen Mill fabric store closing.  I couldn't commit to a pattern for it....sort of the same feeling I am having in the tile stores when looking at backsplash tiles.  But use it or lose it, Jane. 
I love the colors so decided to do a  simple kimono style over jacket using my TNT Tabula Rasa jacket pattern.  Along the neckband has the tiniest bit of flat piping using the reverse side of the fabric....virtually imperceptible in the picture. It was easy, breezy sewing on the condo deck at the end of March and a few hours later I had something new to wear to one of our last dinners out with friends.  Mr. Lucky had me try one of those artsy blogger poses....just glad I had my terrific Florida hairdresser do my color earlier that month.
Tabula Rasa jacket

vacation sewing studio
In the same bright print vein, here's Vogue 8691 that was finished last spring.  I wasn't sure how I felt about the pattern but it has grown on me and I see a few more fabric combos in my future.

Vogue 8691

Vogue 8691 ruffle and back dip
One of the interesting things about this home renovation does relate to the sewing blog experience.  Taking pictures can be a real hassle and I admire the far more diligent bloggers who do it relentlessly.  But the pictures do give me useful data that my eyes can easily miss when I look in the mirror at a new garment or at a computer generated kitchen plan.  When I am planning a more "serious" sewing project (not these easy uncomplicated ones I just showed you) I frequently enlarge a pattern's line drawings and start coloring in fabric and embellishment ideas.  Turns out I am having to do exactly the same thing for this kitchen/ family room project.  I am trying to decide where to stop and start backsplash tile, what fabric to use for the chairs that will replace the sofa, what mantel shelf color and proportion.  All of those....and many more....decisions work even better than contractor renderings when I take a photo of the space, trace the major outlines and then color in the options I am considering.  Just as slow going as on my next sewing project but I seldom regret the time in the end.
Well, enough about my current obsession.  One of the nicest things about being back in Baltimore is renewing my volunteer commitment with the Pets on Wheels organization.  This past week Lucky the rescue dog got to go to college for the first time.  We joined a few other volunteer dogs for a stress relief break at a local campus.  After two and a half hours of being adored, petted and snap-chatted, Lucky was exhausted but proud of himself.  
Here's hoping you have a sewing project or other commitment that makes you feel the same.
Volunteers Caper, Lucky and Zeus
Wow, I need a break, too.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pamela's Patterns Cool Cardigans #111 Banded Front

When I really started getting into fashion sewing again there were very few indie fashion pattern designers.  I recall going to my first sewing expo....a revelation to me after decades of only home dec sewing....and seeing several instructors who got me excited about fashion possibilities.  Some of those patterns were wildly inappropriate for my lifestyle (then conservative bank marketing/training staffer) and some were beyond my skill level at that stage.  But the pattern picture and personality would suck me in.  Two of my funnier experiences were with women who have now left the expo circuit:  Dos las Tejas and Karen Odam and The Fashion Sewing Group's Nancy Erickson.  I loved Karen Odam's big Texas heart and enthusiasm although what I was doing buying her patterns for my sporty or business life in Baltimore I will never fully understand.  I made the three layer long twirly skirt and remember trying to wear it on a casual work day when the long layers kept getting caught in my rolling office chair.  LOL
Dos de Tejas patterns  
Nancy's patterns were more classic and suitable and I subscribed to her newsletter and fabric swatching service for years.  Fashion Sewing Group patterns Other women had good results but I never had really success with her limited line of patterns because they were based on an early 90s design aesthetic of lower armholes which was quickly becoming passe.  (And to be honest, even when viewing those who were thrilled with their results I saw the same shoulder/armhole folds that I disliked on my versions.) But her drawings and early internet devotees kept me trying yet without exciting successes.  
Now I am a little older and wiser and yes, perhaps more skeptical about anyone having a "perfect pattern."  The indie pattern field has exploded and I am glad to see women, mostly, taking advantage of technology to create new products and new lines of distribution.  For me, however, turns out I need some basic TNT types of patterns that I can then adjust to my fabric, my life and that's what Pamela's Patterns are offering me these days.  I hesitated about even buying this pattern, the Cool Cardigan Banded Front, especially because the original pattern envelope front was so boring.  (Sorry, Pamela, you know I love you but you were wise to change up that printed pattern pic)  But once more, a 30% off sale at Fabric Mart and it joined the cart along with those Jalie pants from my earlier post.  And I am so happy that I added it because I think this pattern has real staying power and opportunity for some fun.  
#111 Cool Cardigan Banded Front

What I like is that Pamela has two front versions, one for B cup fronts and the other with either a dart or eased in dart space on the side seams....which is what this cardigan has.  She has adjusted for a slightly rounded back and forward shoulders so I can almost fit this one straight out of the envelope.  I do a slight 1 inch sway back adjustment, lengthen the sleeves and I am a happy girl in a short time.
This first one is the very same picture as my Jalie Eleonore pants.  It's a very slinky like knit, from Fabric Mart, and packs without a wrinkle so will be so versatile for traveling.  
Cool Cardigan #111 Banded Front from Pamela's Patterns
I made a size S and still narrowed the shoulders 1/2 inch.  I also narrowed the bottom 12inches of the sleeve by 1" total by my wrist.  
Since we are in southwest Florida for the month I have taken advantage of the weather to move the sewing room out to the back deck of our lovely rental condo.
so I could sew up this version of the same cardigan pattern:

It's a beefy, textured knit (yes, Fabric Mart) that has been aging.  I think the tropical print is perfect for the environment, don't you?  

Vacation version of #111 Cool Cardigans Banded Front pattern by Pamela's Patterns
Sewing outdoors is also a lot more fun when I am going through the tedious but necessary step of making a mock up of a new-to-me pattern.  I want a few TNT loose breezy tunic tops for skinny pants and shorts but also want a set in sleeve.  This pattern, New Look 6414, is just what I was looking for this month.  New Look 6414
My mock up revealed that yes, I will have to make a few pattern adjustments when I return to Baltimore:  add a bust dart, raise that front slit 1 1/2 inches, eliminate back neck slit and button and add 1" length to the tunic.  I see a few of these in my 2016 summer repertoire.  For once I was not complaining about "wasting" time sewing a mock up since I got to do it in this beautiful setting.

New Look 6414 mock up
It has been worth bringing my sewing machine and serger on our trip and even more worthwhile to pack our kayaks.  We have taken frequent trips right off the back dock and this past week were accompanied by dolphins as we made our way through the Naples Dock area.  My camera wasn't always quick enough but I think you can make them out just ahead on the right of Mr. Lucky's orange kayak.  
The bay itself is a little rough with a great deal of boat traffic in high season so we enjoy paddling up and down the many canals all over the area.  
We ogle houses, fancy pools and boats of every condition while getting exercise and sunshine. 
On our last excursion a woman came down to her dock area and asked if we wanted two chilled Le Croix waters.  How unexpectedly thoughtful and I promised to pay it forward.  
Here's hoping you find unexpected kindness in your life.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Yves Saint Laurent and Halston

One of the very first things I needed to do after returning to southwest Florida this month was rush to see the Yves Saint Laurent-Halston exhibit at the Naples, Florida Baker Museum before it closed.  The exhibit was here in town for the winter season after opening first in NYC at the Fashion Institute museum.  I am a baby boomer whose small town sewing and fashion sense was definitely influenced by the 60s and 70s designs of these two icons as their aesthetic trickled down the fashion chain.  I don't have pictures from that era to share my interpretations but I did see some patterns online that I know were part of my aspirational sewing back in the early 70s.  
Here are some of my pictures from this luscious exhibit.

Halston American Beauty Rose gown

Halston caftan
YSL Safari look



Of course I have to get close to look at those tiny baby hems on that gorgeous silk fabric....and I swear I owned a knock off of that flowered print on that other mannequin.


The cut and drape on these garments are simply timeless.
I giggled when I saw the YSL garments that inspired the Gunne Sax trend that I loved in the early 70s.  
I loved the Grecian draping on dresses from the era...some you might recall the Quiana fabric craze...and sewed a dress that I remember wearing to my friend's wedding in maybe 1976 with this design line.  Not the best look for my rectangular body but I so loved the flow of fabric.

Timeless!!!
The Pattern Vault Blog did a wonderful job of marrying some of these fashion themes to the 70s sewing patterns that were licensed by Halston and Yves Saint Laurent for home sewers.  
Seeing this exhibit was a trip down sewing memory lane for me and also made me appreciate the freedom we have today to define fashion for ourselves.  The 70s were the start of that exuberance and it was enjoyable to revisit that time.  Of course, as I get older I again have to redefine what works for me, my activities, my interests, my body.  But here's a bit of that boho look which is now so back in style.  It just so happened that this Chicos top perfectly matched the Dale Chihuly installation at the museum and a kind patron snapped this shot .  
Here's hoping that you have something inspirational and fun to keep in mind while you pursue your latest sewing project.



Monday, March 21, 2016

Jalie 3461 Eleonore Pants

Here it is the third week in March and I can already see the end of our wonderful month here in southwest Florida.  We have been enjoying the sunshine and the warmth of renewing friendships.  We have also enjoyed our usual pursuits of biking, kayaking, beach sunsets, happy hours, dancing along with reading and just daydreaming.
What does this have to do with sewing?  Well, some of those dear friends were formed around the local American Sewing Guild chapter and neighborhood group.  Seven of us got together last week for lunch and I remembered our usual procedure so I even brought along some "show and tell."
Yes, I too have jumped on the Jalie Eleonore pants Jalie 3461 Eleonore Pants bandwagon and I am glad I did.  I have a perfectly acceptable stretch woven pull on pants pattern, the Style Arc Elle pants, my Elle pants   but when Fabric Mart had a 30% pattern sale I bought the #3461 Eleonore pattern....and I am glad I did.  That back yoke was something i had considered adding to the Elle pants but here it was already done.
I read the reviews....mostly those of middle aged and older women who like me added 1 1/2 inches to the pant top to make it fit more snugly directly at the waist.  I made a sample mockup in a neon lime green stretch woven and decided to skip their elastic instructions and just use the wide 2" elastic I have with the waistband as a casing.  I decided I didn't need the mock fly front stitching nor the mock front pockets since I will always wear these with a pullover top.  Then I used  a technique from Peggy Sagers' jeans sewing advice.  She says to line up the back rear pockets to make them vertically parallel to the center back seam.  Many jeans have the top of the back pocket parallel to the yoke...but since the yoke is angled, the pocket bottom (where the point is) ends up pointing right out to the widest part of your rear.  I think it's a minor issue for me but it absolutely does make a subtle visual difference.  Another reason I so often like the advice from her aptly named "Silhouette Patterns."  She's always working to make us look taller and leaner and I can use any help I can get.
All three pairs I have made so far have not had a problem with the elastic done as a casing but eventually I will try a pair with their technique so I have a comparison to make.
Here are the three versions....and some comments about stretch woven fabric:

Jalie Eleonore pants, 3461
My first, favorite and most versatile pair.  They are from a very stretchy wool lycra blend with a fine, fine, fine micro rib.  Terrific recovery and the matte finish is so nice.  Fabric Mart Fabrics, of course.
Next pair is from another very stretchy woven that I thought would fit the same but oh no, a little bit lighter weight fabric and definitely clingier.  These pants have a 3/8 seam allowance but I cut them out with 5/8 vertical seams.....and I needed every extra bit to keep from serious VPL problems.  They are very comfortable because of that great stretch but I will make sure to only wear them with a good tunic top to cover my middle section.  I wasn't happy with the topstitching on this somewhat "bouncy" fabric but love the color.
I was sewing all of these pants at my winter sewing retreat at the end of January.  This third pair got quite a hoot when I modeled them with the faux fur vest I had on that day....sort of elderly rock star look.  They are from cotton stretch woven (yes, Fabric Mart Fabrics) and I knew they were going to need a little extra space in those vertical seams because they do not have as much recovery.  So again, cutting them with 5/8 seams and then giving up that extra 1/4 for fitting made them very wearable and kind cute, too. 

Back deck pics in February with very little sun, sorry
 In the interest of science, I will also share the back version on this wild print.  You can't notice the effect of the of the vertical pocket placement on this wild print, but trust me, it works.  Line them up to the center back seam and they point down your leg line, not outward.
Only because we are friends, right....
Now let me share these new pants in their native habitat, where I actually blend right in with the million other people here brightly decked out for the stronger sunshine and resort vacation experience.  
Feeling happy in Jalie 3461 even before happy hour with friends
Here's hoping you are getting to enjoy the people and activities in your life that make you happy.  Here a few more pics of what does that for me:








Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vogue 8932...Better Late Than Never

It's a warm, sunny morning here in southwest Florida and I am basking in the quiet.  Mr. Lucky and I are back in our rental condo enjoying the vitamin D, seeing beloved dear friends and celebrating our mutual birthdays this month.  What better time and place to sit down and catch up on blogging about some "recent" sewing projects.  
Our Baltimore winter has been mild for the most part...with the exception of that 30 inch record-breaking snowstorm about a month ago.  That weather made it perfect for wearing this Vogue 8932
jacket.  Vogue 8932  It's OOP but still available on the internet.  I worked on it two years ago at the Northern VA winter sewing retreat in Winchester, VA.  I had made some pattern alterations and was working on my "good" version in a luscious brown ponte.  But those back seam lines caused me an annoying problem.  I got a "bubble" at each of the points and no steaming or pressing could make them sit flat enough for me.  Was it "wearable?"  Probably.  Would I enjoy wearing it?  Probably not.  So I abandoned the project, sulked, and moved on.  This past summer, at another sewing retreat, the talented, focused and creative Audrey, of    Sewtawdry casually asked about the jacket since she was curious about the result.  I had to somewhat shamefully admit that I had not returned to the project but that question made me pull out the pattern again in late fall.  
I made one more alteration before I cut it out.  I used this olive/chartreuse wool jersey that I had washed and dried several times so it feels like very lightweight boiled wool.  Yes, another Fabric Mart find from years ago that I had been saving for just the right project.  When I tried on the brown ponte jacket project (stored in my failed project mock up closet corner) I noticed that if I wore it with a tank top that the back was still a little too short for my taste.  I added 1 1/2 inches to the center back hem and tapered the curve to nothing by the side seams.  I also added 3/4 of an inch to the front of the jacket or else those points pointed to an unflattering part of my front anatomy.
Here are the pictures:
Vogue 8932 Front
Vogue 8932 Back
Vogue 8932


I love the lightweight but warm coziness of the jacket.  One of the challenges was deciding how to finish the facings on the jacket.  It is unlined but has facings along the front and all the way around the back.  Turning a seam allowance on this fabric, even with understitching, just was too bulky.  So I looked at several RTW boiled wool jackets and noticed a nice, flat seam edge technique for facings....
The facing is stitched wrong sides together then two rows of top stitching keep it in place.  
To prevent the facing from moving or flipping out, it was invisibly blind hemmed with nylon thread on the inside of the jacket.
Front facing, wrong sides together, two rows of top stitching then SA trimmed off.
I hand stitched the facings very lightly all around the jacket and am happy with how very "sweater-y" it feels when I wear it.
I topstitched all the seams with a medium weight silk thread, very subtle and tone on tone, but it also let me trim the seam allowances down and make them very flat.  I took my time doing it and was grateful for the free arm of my Viking 770 machine which let me slowly reach both sides of the two sleeve seams.
When it came to a closure, I decided I didn't want snaps as I had originally planned.  I found this strong magnet set on the notions wall at Joann's and hand stitched (with the help of a leather hand needle and thimble) both pieces in place.  It is strong enough to keep the jacket closed when I want it closed but does let time wear it open which is how I wear it most of the time.



I like how the magnetic keeps the front of the jacket sleek and unfussy.
Overall I am so happy that I came back to this project.  I think this pattern was a real sleeper and really deserved better than drawings on the pattern envelope.  I am planning to make a lightweight wind pro polartec version in the future.  I might even consider making a slightly longer straight hemmed version which keeps those flattering vertical seam lines but changes the hem design.  All in all, a great pattern and a real reminder not to give up when things don't go your way on a sewing project....although you might not want to put it off for two more years:-)