Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rocky Mountain High Fabric Shopping

My latest sewing project is still under construction so I'll just drop in to ask about your travels and fabric hoarding shopping.  If you've read this blog for more than five minutes you know that I have more than enough fabric for several lifetimes of sewing, particularly at my slow pace.  So unlike some of you who reside in true "fabric store deserts," I don't have any need to visit a fashion fabric store when I am out of town.  But.....I find them irresistible and this coming week I just may have to find this one to explore.  
About 16 years ago I was just starting to think that I could actually learn to sew well enough to create wearable garments for myself.  It happened that year that we were on a trip with a woman from the Denver area and she mentioned her sewing interest and a shop called Elfriede's Fine Fabrics  Ironically enough, I had spent many earlier days in Colorado during the west coast portion of my career in the early 80s. Made a great friend there, Mr. Lucky has some family in the area and I have visited another friend in the mountains several times....but all of those were before my interest in sewing exploded.  Many opportunities, in other words, to learn about this store but all before I took up this hobby seriously.  

Now we are boarding a plane on Wednesday for a visit to those family members before we meet up with Maryland friends at Rocky Mountain National Park for several days of hiking and fun.  
Green Mountain by Shellie Mitchell  
I'm not committing myself to getting to Elfriede's since family and friends come first, but if time allows it would be a nice pit stop on our drive and Boulder is a beautiful area anyway and they just might have something I cannot find anywhere else and we should support independent fabric stores and it's not like some useless tchotkes and Southwest includes "free" luggage and I will only be in there for a few minutes and...and...and.  Yes, that's how my mind operates near a wonderful fabric store.  

Will she, won't she?  I'll let you know in the next installment.  In the meantime, I said I was an old hippie and Colorado was in a lot of our music back then including this sweet one
Here's hoping friends, family and fabric are making you happy, too.

PS  Look at this artist's beautiful work: Shellieartist  and her beautiful fabric on wood pieces.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

McCalls 7357 and Another Vogue 8691

Weather is frequently one of the first things I want to remark upon when I sit down to write a blog post even though I know talking about the weather is just about the most boring topic imaginable.  But weather does affect what we wear and that means it has to do with what I am sewing.  All that said, it is cooler and less humid in the Baltimore area which means I was able to wear this McCalls boho tunic top this week, hooray.  



I brought this project to the Northern Virginia American Sewing Guild chapter's summer "Taste of Retreat" in mid-August.  The summer retreat is slightly smaller, about two dozen participants, but just as much fun.  The conference room we use is light and airy and quite large so we have great table set ups.  After supervising our kitchen renovation (thank you for your kind comments on the results) I enjoyed being with sewing girlfriends and working on projects without deadlines.  I've been embracing the tunic top look in knits and now would like to have two or more tried and true woven versions to play around with.  This pattern fills the bill and I am quite happy with the first result.


The fabric was a border print that I have had for years (I should make a keyboard shortcut for that phrase since I use it so often.)  I think it may have been from Joann's and not from my usual Fabric Mart source.  It's a medium lightweight 100% polyester and I think I originally had in mind a skirt.  I don't overheat easily (menopause just meant that I reached room temperature now and then) but I don't like close fitting poly because of the clammy factor.  This top has side panels, a slight shirttail curve and a side seam dart so even though it is loose fitting there is some shape and I have not been bothered by the poly fabric.  It also has a three piece sleeve that suggests all sorts of techniques for future versions.



Since I had only planned a skirt originally there wasn't a lot of fabric to play with when I was cutting it out.  I didn't want the border circling my hips widest part but I did like the color blending.  I carefully cut out the front and back yoke and the facings to use that blue section in the border area.  I didn't have enough fabric to do the lined yoke as they recommend but it doesn't matter on this blouse.  I could have used an extra two or three inches in length but for my first version it turned out to be acceptable.
I also didn't want to wear a tank top with it so I slipstitched the bottom three inches to keep it shut while I move.  This area will probably get some decorative closure in the future versions.

I'm saying first version because I really like the fit and lines of this pattern.  I will drop the bust dart about 1/2 on the next one and add length but it really is a TNT woven pattern for me know.  I have a decent collection of Susan McCauley's Cambodian ikat fabrics Mekong River Textiles and have never used them successfully.  I thought at the time I purchased them that I would be joining my more art-to-wear sewing friends and make a pieced jacket or two.  Turns out that's not really my look.  I'm an old hippie, yes, but I never feel like myself when I wear something that arty or pieced. But a tunic top in ikat fabrics with jeans or leggings, that's a look I embrace, or maybe lengthened into a summer cotton dress. 
Another relatively easy retreat project was a second version of Vogue 8691, a Katherine Tilton pattern when she was associated with Vogue


 It took me awhile but I like this pattern more and more.  The shoulder princess seams allow for some nice fitting up top, the loose below the bust swing-y part is feminine and comfortable but I don't think I look inappropriately pregnant as I have in some other tops I have made.  This time I did a little contrast with some brown swimsuit lining fabric that I cut 1 inch shorter to a second ruffle and also for the neck binding.  
Vogue 8691 going to the farmers' market

Vogue 8691 and Style Arc Elle pants in a thin knit
I still didn't follow the Vogue instructions for applying the ruffle and next time will do what they say.  Their useful recommendation is to use fusible tape to attach the ruffles before stitching.  The heck with that I said, that fusible stuff is sticky on my hands in the recent heat, I'll just pin and sew.  Yes, I got the layers attached but this particular ITY knit (from Fabric Mart) does that curly thing at the edges so I had to trim that section anyway.  Would have taken just about the same time to use the tape.
Had to trim this area anyway so next time use the tape.
The sewing retreat was productive and relaxing and I still have one more pattern to finish and share with you.  But I also wanted to share what I seem to always bring back when I am in northern Virginia....
No, it's not the Trader Joe's "$2 buck Chuck" although that is a Charles Shaw case.  Maryland doesn't sell wine or beer in grocery stores so I had to re-supply after a summer of fun at home.  This might get us through until I return to VA for the next retreat in January.  Oh yeah, and maybe I won't buy any more fabric this year either.  

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Friday, September 9, 2016

How Low Can You Go?

No, this is not a post about décolletage or hemlines.  Our recently completed kitchen and family room renovation has made me look at my sewing supplies with new eyes.  Or rather, having workmen doing plumbing and gas fitting in our basement has made me look at my drawers and drawers of patterns with their eyes....and it's more than a little shocking.  Just how many patterns do I need want to have in my space?  I'm not going all Marie Kondo-y on you, dear friends and family.  I am not going to embrace a minimalist life.  I'm more aligned with the Peter Walsh concept of honoring what I do have by using /enjoying/ seeing it or eliminating it to make life simpler and more free flowing.  So the immediate question...how low can I take my pattern collection and still feel excited, challenged and creative?  Right now I am taking a pledge to cut my pattern collection in half over the course of the next year.  Half of what?  I can't be exact because even I don't know exactly how many patterns I have.  But by next summer there will not be any patterns in plastic drawers in my basement.  That's as much of a pledge as I am will to make today.  
Many of the patterns I decide to eliminate will be giveaways at my local sewing groups and on this blog so watch for future months of freebies coming your way.  

The rest of this post is of a more personal nature so if you want sewing pics and such you can move to the next blog on your reader without hurting my feelings.  I've just had several wonderfully relaxing vacation days and caught up on months of blog reading which feels like reconnecting with dear friends at a reunion.  
"Vacation?"  What could she be talking about, she's retired and her day is her own every day?  How right you are, I am the luckiest person on the planet just to wake up each morning.  But I have to admit, this home renovation project felt like a part time management job and I am glad that the "contract" is over and we can enjoy the results.  There will be home dec sewing projects this coming season but for now the major work is done and I am thrilled with the results.  It feels like we have moved into a new home.  Here are the "after" pics...check out this post Post with before pics  if you want to see the previous 1990 kitchen/family room (minus the min-fruit wallpaper, border and window toppers from my Laura Ashley wanna-be period.)

Our goal was to make a space that Mr. Lucky and I could enjoy now and also make it appealing to the family who will buy it in the near far  undetermined future.  Our contractor was wonderful, the annoying snafu with our first refrigerator has been worked out and now we want to entertain and enjoy the space.  



We would have liked an island but our addition was too narrow by about 12 inches so we have this wonderfully huge peninsula with drawers and a 30" farmhouse sink.  Quartz counter top and new lighting since the back of the room faces north.


We used to have no-wax floor here and now have refinished hardwood throughout.  I am going to paint my own floorcloth for this space.

Past the peninsula is our previous kitchen dining set, a sturdy Amish made oak set which will either become a game table set in the basement next year or be sold at a local consignment shop.  I'm considering having our contractor make a dining table with the side panels of an old treadle sewing machine and recycled wood on top.  But first I have to get a rug for the new, "squarer" space.  I'm thinking of a matching striped wool dhurrie rug that I cut down and bind myself.  Another sewing related project.


We have changed from wood-burning to a gas fireplace which I will especially appreciate on winter mornings.  We also changed from a sectional sofa to these four armchairs.  Mr. Lucky and I watch TV together in the evening and I like cuddling.  We do have a sectional and another larger TV in our living room so we were willing to remove the sofa and change to these chairs.  The room is now more cohesive and welcoming. I will be making long window panels for those four back windows.  We don't need any privacy back here since the space heads out to our deck and is quite high.  Watch for future posts about the gorgeous fabric I was able to steal buy over the 4th of July sale at Calico Corners.  

Plenty of other details in making this all happen but this is not a home dec blog so I will close with some pics from our present location.  Mr. Lucky and I are renting a home at Bethany Beach, Delaware.  Last year we invited several friends but this year we were worn out from renovating, traveling and entertaining so we are just chilling, reading, walking, bike riding and slowing down to a more reasonable pace.  I have loved seeing the activities and projects of my virtual long distance blogging friends this week.  This may be a low screen week for us but I am still grateful for this medium and how it brings kindred spirits closer.  Here's hoping that you have some time in your busy schedules to do the same.
Hurricane Hermine brought only rough seas to this part of the East Coast of the US

Sunset on one of South Bethany's canals


Bike trail on old rail trail from Rehobeth Beach DE to Lewes DE...the first city in the US first official state
Lucky the rescue dog loved an evening on the beach, too


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 sleeve....talk 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