Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Know When to Hold 'Em...Know When to Fold 'Em..."

The classic betting advice from an old Kenny Rogers song is true for my sewing projects as well.  Sometimes it's just good to cut your losses and move on to a more successful project.  
Last weekend I had two days of sewing and fitting at Sarah Veblen's "Choose Your Focus" workshop Sarah Veblen's class offerings  There were seven of us attending from near and far.  I had spent some of my "idle" home renovation time sewing up and marking seven different mock ups so I could pack them up for Sarah to fit on me and to give me some design and fabric choice ideas.  
I attended two of the offered days, Friday and Sunday and found it a wonderful use of my time. First of all, it made me evaluate my TNT patterns and analyze where there are gaps.  I don't sew everything I wear, nor do I want to.  I have way too many other interests to focus on that concept. My life is rather low key and casual and knit tops are easier for me to fit at home so I didn't need Sarah's help for any of those.  (Of course I am soooooo fortunate that I can easily book time with Sarah if I need tweaking something since she lives about 20 minutes from my house.)  I have pants patterns that work well enough for my lifestyle....the Elenore pull on jean is my current favorite and I have an older bootcut Burda pattern for fabrics with drape that I can rely upon.  So what I decided to focus on A) a fitted sheath dress or two nailed down as a staple.  Carolyn Diary of a Sewing Fanatic has pulled that off magnificently for years.  I had a go at it when we were Florida snowbirds but although my dresses were wearable, they weren't yet perfect. McCalls 6201 I even had Sarah fit me in a different sheath a few years ago but I didn't love love my stretch woven version when I finished it.  Vogue 8828  then B) some patterns for simple woven tops since I already have knits in my repertoire and C) maybe a fun, slightly (but only slightly :-) funky jacket.  Well, two our of three ideas came to fruition.

Here are my mock ups and the patterns I decided to focus on for those two days.  I decided that I wanted to use stretch woven fabric to do my dress fitting with Sarah.  I have a good number of stretch cottons in my "resource center" and they sew up nicely for a casual warm weather dress.  
The first pattern that Sarah pinned on me was that rather dated Burda #3247 dress but which has great bones to it.  Yes, I have to correct the shoulder slope, adjust the front darts, take out a wedge in the middle back but the waist darts were just fine and along with the back darts gave my rectangular body semblance of a nice shape.  I'll open up the neckline and it will be a very useful base pattern.
The most fun pattern was Vogue 8997 which I did as a swing dress.  Lovely lines and once I adjust those princess seams this will also be a fabulous base for all sorts of variations.  This very versatile pattern has a sheath version along with a two piece and flutter about a lot of bang for your Vogue buck!  My third success was a simple but oh so handy woven tunic top, McCalls 7357.  I have a large number of floaty silk and silky fabrics that want to become tunics and I needed something feminine without too much peasant look....which at my age turns into feudal peasant way too quickly.  Not many changes to this mock up at all so it might be a nice easy sewing project for my upcoming August sewing retreat.  

Last success was a very last minute mock up that I brought along in case Sarah had time.  It's a classic blouse pattern, McCalls 6750.
Yes, I can show you what we pinned and marked but it's rather boring:

When I signed up for Sarah's workshop I did not have any particular event in mind.  Since that date I've gotten a family invitation to my aunt and uncle's 50th anniversary at a country club in northern VA so a new dress will be perfect.  

Now, what about those things that did not work.  Oh, I really wanted Vogue 1069 in my closet.  But the mock up looked awful.  That low armhole with the sleeve gusset and my short waisted narrow shoulder very asymmetric body were a bad match.  So, with some help from Sarah, I can adapt what I do love about this pattern....the deep, long shawl collar, the shoulder princess seams, the wide full bottom....and add those elements to a fitted jacket pattern in my collection.  Knowing that makes it so much easier to say good-bye to this particular dream and drop kick this pattern out of my sewing space.

The next discard was that McCalls pattern.  I had actually already done one major fitting and alteration but still greatly disliked the huge bodice dart.  Those other two dresses were so lovely that when I put on this mock up, which was close to being moved into real fabric, I decided it was not flattering enough to bother pursuing.  Yes, I could make it "better" but the design just didn't work as nicely.  I do like the raised waist and again, can use those features and put them on a dress that works better on my body.  
Not particularly nice bust dart

I was happy with the two days of my fitting time with Sarah as well as the benefits of watching her fit other people.  Small 1/4 and even 1/8 inch tweaks can make a lovely difference in how something fits and flatters.  I had sewn up two additional dress patterns but they were rather mediocre once I had gotten fitting help on these two.  I'll tuck them away in my closet in case I want to pursue them later but right now I'm itching to get to work on these four new garments. 

The workshop finished up late Sunday afternoon and I would have loved to holed up in my sewing room all week.  But very kind friends asked us up a lake house they were renting in northern New York state.  It was a small, quiet, beautiful lake and we did enjoy time to read on the decks, kayak, take the small outboard around the lake and then have day trips to Montreal and a wonderful trail at Bear Mountain on larger Cranberry Lake.  
Cranberry Lake in New York's Adirondack Park
Meanwhile, back at home our appliances were installed and the backsplash tile set. We arrived home last night and are happy with how the project is turning out.  We are home for four days this week, then away with friends at another lake, before we settle back and start putting everything together in the new kitchen and family room.  Cleaning, organizing and decorating is in our future but at least the workmen will be gone and we can do this at our pace.  I love summer, even when it is hot like it is this week, and don't want to miss out on the great outdoor activities in Maryland.  There will be time for cabinets and drawers and pantries and curtains when the days are shorter and we want to cocoon once again.  Until then, here's hoping you have been picking good projects that fit your life and style.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Keep Calm and Stop Procrastinating....Vogue 1385 and Home Renovations

Do you ever procrastinate?  Sometimes when I read other sewing blogs I imagine that "those people" never have doubts, never hesitate over next projects and never delay making design, fabric and pattern decisions.  Yes, I know in my head that this is not true but that's the mental game that my procrastination can play.  Then again, sometimes there are just plenty of other fun things in my life that keep my from my sewing room.  I started this sewing project so long ago that I can't even tell you why it took me so long to finally get it finished but the reasons don't matter at this stage.  I do remember that my inspiration was seeing the gorgeous versions done by Margy  Fool4fabric Vogue 1385 and Sharon  communing with fabric Vogue 1385  
I too have some wonderful ikat fabric in my resource center but I wanted to try this pattern on its own and work out any quirks from wearing it.  I used a lightweight jacquard fabric that I had from my Florida fabric collection.  It's very bright for here in Baltimore....and I had planned on finishing it during our Florida vacation in March but that darn procrastination kicked in back then.  It took June and the first really warm days of summer to get me to just "make it work."  
Details:  Vogue 1385  My shirt/jacket is view A.  My version is size C with a small FBA but 1" taken off each side seam from the high midriff area.  I certainly have a tummy and high hip fluff but this pattern has a lot of ease and I guess I am "straighter" than the model used for Sandra's Today's Woman draft.  Fabric is a lightweight cotton poly jacquard from Fabric Mart.  (Tank top and jeans are years old from Chicos.)

Vogue 1385

I was going to do something cute with the reverse white and green side but this fabric is bright enough on its own and does not need any more bells and whistles.  I did do piping along the front edge and collar with a thin cotton lawn in my resource center....which exactly matched that very neon green.  
Lime piping
In Florida where the sun is strong this color would not seem so bright but it definitely glows further north here in Baltimore.  

Next time?  Well, I like the slightly unique design and I especially love the longer jacket versions of Sharon and Margy. I will add a pocket and maybe take out the sleeve darts.  I like the distinctive stand up darted, fluted collar....slight unusual construction in that you mark the darts, many of them, and don't sew them until after you have put together the body pieces and the facing.  

Now it's time to share what really has been my obsession for the last several months.  Mr. Lucky and I have been talking about renovating our kitchen/family room for at least five years.  We were snowbirds then and whenever we came back after six months in Florida, our dirty scratched "no wax" floor, scruffy wallpaper, cracked grout-stained 4" tile and chipped sink, aging appliances and messy wood burning fireplace would shock us into saying "we have to do something about this."  But, being the good procrastinators that we are, we'd rather visit with friends, walk dogs, sew, golf, hike, read a book, kayak, sit on the deck or watch a movie.  
Last year we really started a full fledged effort to come up with a plan, find a contractor and get to work.  That didn't go so well and we were getting discouraged all spring and summer.  Contractors would come out, measure and then never get back to us.  We spent a lot of time looking at ideas "pinning" like crazy to various Pinterest boards, and finally got a referral to a wonderful contractor last fall.  We mulled over our decisions with him in the next few months, took our vacation in March then finalized our plans in April and started work right at the end of May.  
We have a modest home in comparison to many of our friends and family...although more than adequate for the two of us and certainly more than most people in the world.  It was even more modest thirty years ago when we did our first big renovation.  We are renovating to replace those worn items (but we did donate all the cabinets and appliances to Second Chance where they could definitely work in someone's getaway cabin or workroom) and also because we want to make our home appeal to the next buyers, most likely a young family who would enjoy our little neighborhood and its good local schools.  I'm not documenting every day since this is not a home improvement blog but I thought I'd share a little bit of what is keeping us busy.  
First the 26 year old renovation (during my country Laura Ashley period so imagine the fruit and flower wallpaper border, swags and mini floral wallpaper that used to be here also)

Next, clearing out the stuff to get ready for demo:

You can sort of tell from these pictures that we did not add on to the full width of our house 26 years ago.  Budget and engineering constraints.  That matters now only because it precludes us changing to any sort of island layout which is so popular and appealing these days.  Oh, well hindsight makes all of us into geniuses.  So we are keeping the peninsula, making it wider with a full bank of drawers.  We considered the ever popular stool idea but this room is relatively small and we still wanted sit down dining.  One major change will be that we no longer have a sofa in the room but will have four comfy arm chairs. We have a living room in the front of the house with a larger TV and sectional sofa since Mr. Lucky and I do love to cuddle up for an evening of PBS binge watching (yes, we are that generation.)  So this room will work more as one big room and give me more space for my extensive cookware.  
We are removing the wood burning fireplace to put in a contemporary gas fireplace which will give us a sleeker look without the necessary hearth and will be so much easier to use on chilly mornings.  I have loved having that wood fireplace....until the logs would burn down and usually Mr. Lucky had to go downstairs under the car port to fetch more dry logs.  
So here's the work that has been taking place since the end of May:

No more separate no wax floor

Newly stained floors and wider peninsula

Flooring transition piece from old part of the 1933 house to the new

New gas fireplace without the stainless surround that will be installed after construction

New floors and drawers waiting to be filled
In some upcoming posts I will show you the fabric I've selected to make long window panels and also an idea I have for a custom dining table for this space that is sewing related.  Next week the appliances and new toilet are installed which means we should have a functioning kitchen and powder room again.  We are keeping rugs and furniture off the new floors until early August.  It's been a little disruptive but summer is definitely a good time to do this dramatic a project.  We can grill if we need to, we had one week when we had to walk out the front door around outside to the basement to do dishes since the floors were being refinished and there are certainly plenty of places to eat out.  We have had minor issues come up....just had to order a new pendant light this morning since one of them was chipped when they went to install it yesterday.  We are simply so fortunate to be able to do a project like this.  It does feel like we are moving into a new house.  We did it for ourselves and also for an easier resale....but knowing what procrastinators we are it might turn out that we live here longer than expected and go straight to the "active adult community" from here.  
Next up, yes, I did do some additional sewing while this was going on downstairs but I only have mock ups to show you.  Here's hoping your projects, sewing or otherwise, are bringing smiles to your face each day.  Sew grateful, Jane

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.

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.