Thursday, August 27, 2015

Back to School, Back to Sewing, Back to Blogging

In my little corner of the world children returned to school this week, there's a hint of autumn in the air and I am finally sitting down to post some sewing updates.  My summer has been filled with many miles of travel and lots of  fun activities and I have even squeezed in some sewing.  Let's start with the biggest event, our trip to England and Wales during the last two weeks of June.  It was fairly easy to find plenty of clothing combinations to select in my existing  wardrobe so I only stitched up a new Tabula Rasa knit tunic Fit for Art Knit Tunic  top to wear with black Style Arc Elle pants.  It is a border ITY print from Fabric Mart and I played with it a bit to get the layout I liked.  
Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic

Of course, since this pattern is so easy to sew up in about an hour, I made a Baltimore summer version for the far warmer temps and wore it to get my hair cut and colored before leaving on our trip:

I did sew up a simple infinity scarf to pull together a few pieces of previously sewn brown and black separates and also two versions of this Sholdit scarf that I had seen in a travel magazine. Sholdit on Amazon   I wanted an inconspicuous way to carry my passport and credit cards when we went out for the evening in London.  This worked out nicely although I would not really use it on a regular basis for something as big as an American passport, a little clumsy at your neckline.  (If anyone is interested, I will post a picture tutorial.)

Only one more England/Wales sewing project in this post so you can skip the mini-travel report that follows without hurting my feelings.  Just skim down and you'll see the sewing projects inspired by this summer trip.
Mr. Lucky and I had an exhilarating, exciting, simply wonderful holiday. We started with three action packed days in London.  We stayed near Hyde Park so loved walking through the Park to get everywhere since people watching is so much of the fun of traveling.  I first visited London in 1972 while I was back packing around Europe with girlfriends right at this same time of year so it was nostalgic  to feel how much things are the same and yet intriguing to notice the differences.  We loved the Victoria and Albert exhibits on clothing (seeing some fashions that would have been in the shops those four decades ago, of course)
Victoria and Albert Clothing through the years....and a theme for my recent sewing
and Shoe: Pleasure and Pain Shoes....especially since one of the first things I consider in packing is my shoe choice.
The World War I exhibit at the Imperial War Museum was engrossing and saddening.  Wars seem to be declared by the old but fought by the young, so very tragic.  It took far longer to view than we anticipated but I made sure I also saw the Fashion on the Ration exhibit about how ingenious people were with their clothing allowances during the war years.  I remember some older generation remarks about the re-fashioning part of the British Sewing Bee being a reminder of the hardship of those days so it may seem merely interesting and clever now but was probably demoralizing for many people at the time. 
Burda Twist top dress in black slinky and silk organza Vogue 8088
Each day we bought discount tickets for the the theater and saw three shows in our three London nights.  Monday night was the the marvelous Kristen Scott Thomas in "The Audience."  The Audience I had just watched the American Tony theatre awards go to Helen Mirren and Richard McCabe for their Broadway version so was thrilled we could see it in London.  Fantastic play that kept us engaged and discussing it over drinks afterward.  The following night we went in an entirely different direction back to America and "The Book of Mormon." Book of Mormon OMG we laughed and laughed and then laughed some more.  The last night we went for nostalgia and saw "Jersey Boys" which was light and fun and full of baby boomers like us....and maybe even some other former "Jersey girls" in the audience.  
In between we rode bikes in the Park one morning, 

had a tea in the afternoon, 

did some window shopping, including the famous Selfridge windows since we love the TV series, 
and had a great time back in a city we love. 

 Heather and Kathy, thank you so much for your tips for our trip.  We could not fit in the Dennis Severs house because of their slightly unusual schedule and location but we certainly wanted to see it after reading the reviews.  And the McQueen exhibit must have been wonderful but no luck with last minute tickets on our limited schedule.
It was hard for us to leave London but we caught the train that took us to Bangor, Wales for an overnight before heading to the village of Beddelgert and our week with HF Holidays hiking in Snowdonia.  Magic.  Yes, that's the word for this beautiful corner of the earth.  Green and dramatic and and striking and full of history and stories.  There were 24 of us and each day we could decide to take an easy, moderate or difficult hike.  Yikes, you Brits are mountain goats!  We were with experienced "Ramblers" and these were definitely challenging hikes for me but it was worth it to reach the tops of those peaks and see the views.  In five days of hiking, I did 8,200 ft. of ascents and 37 miles and Mr. Lucky did 10, 200 ft and 39 miles.  We have done six other group hiking trips in the last 17 years with other companies and this was definitely the most challenging but oh so exhilarating.  Here are a few of the happy moments:

After saying good-byes to our guides and travel companions we headed to the Shrewsbury area to visit with friends we had met seventeen years ago....and last visited 14 years ago when the footpaths in England were closed due to foot and mouth disease.  It was wonderful to see them in person, take a day trip in the area and to enjoy the village pub each evening.  I'm including this picture because I am wearing a travel souvenir, a kimono like  lightweight long jacket that I bought in London at Top Shop while we were strolling up Oxford Street.  
Lynn and I have tea in the garden in my new kimono jacket.
Back in my sewing room
I loved the print terribly and splurged on the garment even though it is about the simplest thing in the world to make.  But the fabric is just wonderful and I would rather have it for a souvenir than some little tchokte gathering dust.  And it turns out that I love the look.  I'm wearing the skinny jeans fashion some of these days but that means I need tunic tops and longer jackets in my wardrobe.  So yes, this long travelogue does end with a sewing project.  I decided to copy that simple kimono design and proportion and made myself two more kimono jackets that I have worn a few places this summer.  The first one is a handkerchief linen from Fabric Mart that I considered for a home dec project but seemed a good scale for this jacket/duster length.  

The second one is a rayon blend from Fabric Mart that seems to resemble a 50s bark cloth pattern.

I still like the TopShop one the most but it's a new fashion look for me and one that I am pursuing with some other versions in my next posts.  
Until then, I hope August is closing out as nicely in your part of the world and your sewing projects are making happy memories for you too.  And since school days are here, I thought you might enjoy this fun song that I think of at the end of summer:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Making Stuff

I always enjoy coming back from a vacation trip because time away gives me some perspective on my life, my time and how I spend it.  Our wonderful month in Florida in March meant that I came back eager to tackle new things, but not necessarily to sew.  Therefore, if you only want to read about sewing projects, you'll have to wait for a future post.  What I really saw in myself in the last few months was how much I just enjoy "making stuff."  I've always had a crafty streak in me and I've usually associated it with time spent in the company of creative, fun women.  When I started my first job out of college it was a time for macrame and needlework and I joined up with a weekly gathering of girlfriends.  I did needlepoint, cross stitch, a little crocheting and yes, a lot of consciousness-raising.  None of those projects have survived the four decades but I still enjoy the chance to dabble in creative projects which is just what I have been doing this spring.  
In the very beginning of April, immediately after we returned from Florida I headed up to The Mannings The Mannings a huge store and classroom center near Gettysburg and York, PA.  I don't knit, don't crochet anymore but I do love needle felting and wool roving and all its possibilities.  I treated myself to a class on nuno felting.  Despite having several books and watching a few youtube videos, I enjoy taking an in-person class whenever possible.  The instructor, Mary Wilson, was a delight and she brought many samples for the three of us students to be inspired by.  We got a pick a scarf "blank" from the store inventory and then two small wool roving packages and any of the drawers of wool pieces we liked.  My first attempt was fun and I definitely see more nuno felting in the future.  There's a real opportunity to create your own fabric with this technique so this fall I'll be experimenting some more.
Nuno felted scarf

a classmate's shawl in progress
the high tech tools we used to felt the wool roving through the silk

Mr. Lucky and I have modest but time-consuming garden chores each season.  We have large flower beds, about a dozen or more pots of annuals and a modest vege garden.  This year we spent time refurbishing the front lawn and garden beds torn up by a huge back hoe replacing our sewer line in the winter.  I decided last fall that I wanted to add some "garden bling" to my perennial beds to give them some sparkle when those particular plants are not in bloom.  I had seen a California friend creating these "garden totems" a few years ago and many Pinterest inspiration pictures later (and several visits to local charity shops and yard sales) I was ready to try my hand.  It's a very simple process.  Gather glassware of all sorts, shapes, heights and sizes, stack them until you like the form then "glue" them together with silicone caulk from hardware store, the clear type used for installing windows in your home.  In an afternoon or two I put together six totems for my gardens and two three layer stands for the treats at my Downton Abbey Tea in mid-April.  Various vases and glass plates and bowls that were sitting unused in my cupboards are now glittering out in the garden and make me smile as I walk around.
Garden totems ready to go outside
Plates, bowls, candle holders, vases, jelly jars, cocktail glasses

Downton Abbey Tea with new tiered servers on the left

In the garden
Helping to brighten up the newly replanted area
The glass totems are joining last year's "garden bling" project, the decorated several bowling balls, large and small and turned them into garden ornaments also.  Two more mosaic bowling ball projects and one mosaic birdbath are on my project list but then I'll be done with outdoor bling.  Just like clothes projects, too much of a good thing is still too much.
Large bowling balls as gazing balls
Small duckpin ball covered in mosaics
Last bit of non-sewing "making stuff" is from a jewelry making gathering held by a very kind and creative woman I met through my church.  She no longer lives in the immediate vicinity so I don't get to see her often but she included me on her class list for an earring making session at her home in May.  I have done some jewelry making in the past, very modest, so enjoyed getting some useful tips and these two completed projects.  As sewing people, you'll appreciate that the green beads were first bought to coordinate with some fabric and a just completed project.  I'm not even sure I still have that sewing project in my wardrobe but I am very happy with how they turned out and now could always reverse the project and sew something to match them.  The cluster earrings are among my favorite type of design and again were inspired by fabric so they would coordinate with my sewing project.

When Mr. Lucky's 96 year-old dad passed away earlier this year, it was a time of reflection for us as we discussed his legacy and influence on our lives.  One thing we agreed upon is that experiences are more important than stuff.  So yes, I enjoy creating, whether it's these projects or my sewing projects, but I also love the time spent with family and friends and Mr. Lucky.  We are grateful for good health in our current retirement years and we are having lots of mini-adventures that are piling up as wonderful memories.  Just this spring we enjoyed a day trip to see the tulips in bloom at Longwood Gardens and now that I am a member there will be plenty more of those trips in the coming months. 
Longed Gardens in April.
We ventured south to Virginia for two nights and three days and packed in a hike at Cold Mountain in the George Washington National Forest, a day at Monticello and then a creative day for me learning about air brushing from my talented friend, Julie, who I think is the epitome of Alabama Chanin chic. Check out her completed projects on her beautiful blog, from these hands - Journal  Me, I just have all the books, the Natalie Chanin Craftsy class and now the painted well as many good intentions.  Let's see how they turn out.....

Julie showing me how to use Alabama Chanin stencils and air brushing
One of my air brushed fabrics
A pewter black paint on the other fabric
Last week we headed up to Mountain Top, Pennsylvania to visit a dear Florida friend.  We hiked again at the loveliest park at Ricketts Glen and I got to read and meditate on her deck in the company of her dog Riley while the other two humans were golfing.  Sometimes mini-cations are just as restful and enjoyable as a big trip somewhere.

This weekend Mr. Lucky and I are heading off on a 16 day trip to England and Wales. We will start with three nights in London, a city we love. We were in Kent and Surry six years ago but haven't been in London proper for perhaps a dozen years.  It will definitely be a change from my first visit this time 43 years ago when I back-packed with three girlfriends through Europe all summer long.  I fell in love with London and England right from the start.  I was too late to get an Alexander McQueen exhibit ticket this time although I will get back to the fabulous V&A Museum.  We are also interested in the new World War I exhibit at the Imperial War Museum.  From London we head out to north Wales to meet up with a group and we will hike in the Mount Snowden area for a week.  After that we head to the Shrewsbury area to visit with friends who are wonderful gardeners and terrific companions.  If you are traveling this summer, I wish you good journeys.  And most importantly, I wish you good times in your sewing "zone."  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Place, Old Patterns

Last month Mr. Lucky and I had the most marvelous month back in Florida renting a new-to-us condo via VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner.)  There were on-line pictures, of course, and we got to see the unit's exterior the previous year but just like that mail order fabric, there's always some anxiety about what shows up in real life.  Well, we were absolutely thrilled with everything about our place and have already reserved it for next year.  That good luck was followed by the most marvelous March weather we had experienced in fifteen years of visiting Naples and so my sewing was replaced with numerous kayak and bike rides, long visits with old local friends and plenty of happy hours and beach sunsets.  
Packing for the 1300 mile drive south in mid-February is a challenge, especially this past February when we had record-setting cold days in Baltimore and pipes were bursting in neighborhood homes due to the sub-artic temps.  I wondered whether or not to bring sewing projects and my machines.  I say machines, plural, because as a garment sewer I also want my serger along even if it's just for seam finishing.  Of course it worked as I expected....if I pack up all the gear and plenty of already cut out projects, then the weather will be glorious and I will hardly find time to sew....but if I don't, then there will be cloudy cool days that would probably have me wishing for my "stuff."

Serger packed for car transport
I brought seven cut out projects but only stitched up these three, all TNT patterns.  They did come in handy while we were in Naples and for the drive north.  It's kind of funny to non-sewers that you have new clothes at the end of the month but didn't do any shopping.
I had this ITY knit from Fabric Mart with two parts to its personality, the loud rainbow stripes and the quieter gray tones.  I think of it as my bright Florida color and suburban Baltimore hybrid.  I used this year's favorite new knit pattern, the Tabula Rasa Tunic Knit Tee and Tunic

Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic

The next pattern was a breeze to sew but I spent many hours unraveling the fabric to make the fringe. It's McCalls 6444 6444  It is designed for a knit but this loosely woven fabric had a lot of natural "give" after being washed so I gave it about 1/8 or 1/4 more on its four vertical seams and it fits just perfectly.  I fringed the horizontal bottom hem and sleeve hem without any incident, and the pretty turquoise threads mixed with white and navy looked quite nice.  But the collar and vertical front edges only unraveled with the black base threads.  I had to come up with another solution, which I did, but which involved a lot more unraveling.  I cut 1 1/2 inch strips and unraveled both sides, leaving about 3/8 intact in the middle.  I then basted those strips to enclose the outside edges of the collar and front opening before doing a light zig zag to hold them in place.  I love the lightweight jacket look with the fringe and have gotten many compliments including one from my very stylish younger cousin.  

McCalls 6444

Hem fringe before final "haircut"

Testing the double sided fringe idea
The third project was once that I have had cut out since last summer.  It's an extremely soft cotton shirting from Fabric Mart that is perfect for those hot humid summer days.  Not my most flattering top, Vogue 7281 7281, but one I will appreciate in August.  
Vogue 7281
It was a relaxing, refreshing month away and I enjoyed every moment in the beautiful outdoors and with beautiful friends.  I'll leave you with some of the pretty sunsets we got to experience and hope that your travels, local or afar, bring you as much joy.