Friday, November 21, 2014

A Plethora of Pillows

I love the colors of fall, all the golds, shades of red and orange and lime greens, now almost gone from our November landscape.  This autumn has been spectacular (according to a local newpaper item it had to do with warm days and cool nights) and I brought those colors into our home with new pillows for our living room and family room.  My other laptop is under the weather (and most likely dying as I type) so my careful construction pictures may be lost but hey, these are pillows and the fitting is easy. 
I've been collecting some inexpensive autumn toned home dec fabrics throughout this year.  Some come from the Joann's red tag fabrics when they have a 50% off sale.  The others came from a September visit to the PA Fabric Outlet near Lancaster, PA.  This warehouse type store has a large decorator section with leftovers stuck on very short rolls in large barrels.  I picked up three rolls for $5.98 total with about six or seven yards of the three fabrics so this was not an expensive seasonal update.  I also buy zippers there and the 12-14 inch invisible zippers sell for less than $1.  

I cut the striped fabric into quarters then rearranged them to form that new pattern.  It's a flange pillow but I want it to be a reusable pillow form so there's a back flap with velcro to keep it closed and snug.  I hate pillow covers that don't have a closure like that since the cover grows and looks sloppy very quickly. 
I have enough leftover for a table runner and will probably arrange those stripes in another interesting pattern.
The geometric pillow with buttons on the left has gold silk dupioni piping and an invisible zipper.  I liked watching the youtube from Haberman fabrics on inserting an invisible zipper on a pillow with welting.   
That orange ribbon pillow is one I made last year with a ribbon weaving technique and I am happy to say that we use it throughout the year and it has held up wonderfully.
This next pillow has some sentimental memories for me.  I remember my mother wearing an Asian style jacket in the 50's when I was very young.  I inherited the jacket, too small for me (I was taller than my mother by 6th grade) but I always wanted to do something with the fabric.  I'm glad I didn't cut it up in my short attempt at wearable art pieced garments about 14 years and 25 lbs ago.  Instead, this year it became part of our inside autumn toned pillow collection.  I used a piece of remnant orange tweed home dec fabric from that Joann's clearance table and made a window to highlight the silk brocade then pieced together the remaining brocade for piping.  It needed a little more to bring out the 50's vibe I wanted to keep so I added some dark rust trim around the edge and I think it looks rather retro vintage-y.

On our way out to western Maryland in October we stopped at the new to me Surplus City again, the combination fabric store/hardware store.  Yes, a store for me and Mr. Lucky under one roof!  They too carry mostly home dec fabrics at very low prices and I bought this leaf design for $5.99 a yard.  I did the same quartering and I like the image of leaves falling in all directions.

This last autumn glory pillow is the longest one in the making.  It started with scraps of a poly print that a sweet sewing friend (hi, Kathie) gave me when she moved to Nebraska 18 months ago.  I used my die cut machine and a five layered flower die to cut out the flower shapes, then held each edge to a candle flame to curl them and then layered them together.  TV project.  Can you tell that Mr. Lucky and I spend a lot of time in the evenings watch PBS shows like Endeavor, Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries and Call the Midwife?  I used two layers of a rusty orange poly from another Joann's clearance table and put the flowers on the front, topped with wooden beads for some more color and texture and another invisible zipper.  I enjoy seeing these two pillows together with their sentimental reminders of special women.
Sewing pictures are done but for my friends and family, here come some shots from several of our fall trips.  
In the middle of October we headed to Western Maryland for a "refresher" weekend for Mr. Lucky.  he is a ski patrol volunteer in the winter and this was a weekend where he was one of the instructors for the medical refresher training for the team of five dozen volunteers.  We stopped along the way for a hike along the glorious 

The following week we took our neighbor's sweetest Golden Retriever (we were pet sitting for a few days) to Pennsylvania to pick our last batch of apples for the season.  
Maple Lawn Farms, PA
Yes, those observant sewing friends who are still reading will note that it is yet another Tabula Rasa tunic top that I am wearing.  About 1/4 of those apples are now in small jars labeled "Caramel Apple Butter"....made this year by Mr. Lucky himself!
Two weekends ago we drove from the Baltimore area down Rt 81 to reach Greenville, SC where a cousin of mine had a wonderful wedding weekend for his daughter.  It was the first big family gathering since my aunt's death this summer and we honored her memory while enjoying a happier reason for gathering.  Along the drive we stopped and hiked Crowder's Mountain just south of Charlotte, NC.  
Crowders Mountain, NC
We made a long weekend of it and spent Sunday night in Roanoke so we could drive a little bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive on the way back to Baltimore.  By now, most of the mountain top trees are bare but those in the foothills still have some of those wonderful colors.  
Shenadoah Valley
Here's hoping you have a colorful weekend of sewing and other fun activities on your calendar.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New: Tabula Rasa Knit Tunics

Early in the summer I was a tester for this new knit pattern on behalf of my creative friend, Rae Cumbie, and her line of patterns, Fit for Art patterns (read Rae's blog for great tips and insights into her design process)  Back in July, when I changed sizing and went from a Medium to a Small with the darted front,  I made a comfy, stylish summer robe from the jacket pattern. Then in August she and her partner Carrie sent me the finalized version of the new knit tunic pattern.  Now, I will admit that I was very skeptical that the jacket pattern would translate well into a knit version but at that testing day my skepticism disappeared as I watched middle aged women of various shapes and sizes stitch up stylish and flattering knit topics, soooooo much better than the shapeless T shirts that so many others wear.  Once again, like the jacket, what is nice about the pattern is the choice of an undarted or darted front, a shoulder line that rests on your shoulder, not dropped, but a high square armhole that is a breeze to sew.  Since that swingy side panel is everywhere in RTW right now, I made all three of these with it.  I will try the standard straight side later when I want a closer fit knit top for layering.  Ok, enough prelude, here are my three versions:

Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic with Swing Sides

This is an ITY Fabric Mart border print knit and while I was happy, I wanted it slightly longer.

Double border fabric and how I cut out the pieces

Next up was my boho fabric version...a rayon burn-out knit and two different laces, all underlined with powder-dry, a thin, breathable knit.

This nude powder-dry is ages old....back from a Yahoo fabric buying group before we had easy on-line shopping.  I hand basted the front, back and sleeves, thinking that the burgundy lace would be floaty enough on the sides not to need underlining.  Wrong!!  I could see my fleshy mid section right through that lace.  I used an even lighter fabric, a very thin tricot and hand basted that to the side panel lace so that it would keep the lightweight drape but become opaque.  Saved....or rather I saved the public from muffin top views.

Tricot pinned to the side swing panels
No prying eyes here.
Last version is my favorite so far.  Last year Fabric Mart had rayon knits in coordinating colors and sizes of stripes.  I purchased two sets of color ways and this top is one of them.  It's a purple-y blue and black stripe.  I used the largest stripe for the body, the narrower stripe for the sleeves, the solid blue for the swing panel and made the neckline from the solid and wide cut on the bias.  
Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic and infinity scarf
A better picture with truer colors
Auditioning the proportion and placement of different fabrics
Double fabric neckline finish

I had about 10 inches left of the two stripe fabrics so I sewed them as an infinity scarf and I must say I love the cowl much so that I will probably add a cowl neckline to the pattern this fall or winter.  

Last photo is me wearing my first Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic in Quebec City where we got to watch the September "super moon" rise from the 10th floor deck of the airbnb apt. we rented.  More about the trip and souvenir fabric shopping to come later.  

Sew grateful you took the time to read and/or comment today.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sewing Retreats Past and Future

Wow, this summer I realized that I have three sewing retreats scheduled within six months.  How much fun can one girl stand?  Whenever I mention to non-sewing friends how exciting it is to attend a sewing retreat, they look at me with barely disguised horror.  "You pack up your sewing machine?" they ask as though it were an immovable object permanently installed in my sewing room.  "Do you all have to work on the same project?" they ask in fear that there's a stern taskmaster leading us in mindless factory-like procedures.  Ah, little do they know that a sewing retreat is an oasis of friendship and creativity, a break from your daily to do lists and a great excuse to be absent from the virtual world.  
In mid-August I attended the first of those three retreats and here's what I worked on while I was enjoying the company of my special friends.  In addition to sewing, I also got time to do some snoop shopping at the Leesburg, VA upscale outlet mall (oh those gorgeous seam edges on Ellie Tahari jackets and tops!) and a summer afternoon walk along the Washing and Old Dominion Rail Trail and then dine out each evening.  Perfection!!
The results, some utility sewing....a new outdoor fabric bag for a folding can imagine that yourself...and then two new garments from my "resource center" fabrics.  

This is my latest Tabula Rasa jacket.Fit for Art Tabula Rasa Jacket  (previous post with my alteration and sizing remarks Jane's Tabula Rasa jacket re-do)  The fabrics are a burnout black silk velvet from Fabric Mart, the black, white and pink paisley bordered rayon challis from Peggy Sagers many moons ago, a scrap of black lace from when Fabric Mart was selling those short cuts of designer samples and a pale pink burnout silk velvet that is barely visible as the front panel piping and as the under layer to the back black lace.
Tabula Rasa jacket with swing side panel

I lengthened the standard jacket pieces by an inch and used the side swing panel, also lengthened one inch.  I used the larger wider sleeve version but ended up narrowing it by 1 1/2 inches.  I don't have construction pics to show since I did this at the retreat and was forcing myself "off the grid" that weekend.  

But I will share that my sewing friends were the ones who came up with the suggestion to put the pale pink burnout silk under the black lace.  I initially chose a gorgeous four ply deep almost fuchsia pink for the under layer but it was too bold and just wrong. 

Burnout silk velvet inside the jacket back
Black lace overlay
Thanks to their great advice I love, love, love this new jacket.  Again, I think it is boho enough to be fun without making me look like I am wearing a colorful circus tent.  My only regret is that I cut the flat piping on the cross grain and I wish I had cut it on the bias.  it is only 1/4" in the finished seam but it slightly annoys me that it wants to stand up at my neck curve.  And yes, I have YARDS of it left so it wasn't like it was a necessity.  

No biggie, just a note for next time.  And there will be plenty of next times for this pattern.  Fall and winter are approaching and this is the casual kind of jacket that I love using for layering when it gets chilly and down right cold.
The second successful retreat garment is this new TNT T shirt pattern, Vogue 8699, 

Vogue 8699
Vogue 8699 is one of the Easy Vogue patterns but one that does have different bust sizing.  I made the turtleneck/cowl version as is last winter but never liked the collar.  It was a little of this and a little of that and couldn't make a commitment.  I removed the collar and surprise, I really like the depth of the remaining scoop neck.  

I had used size 14 with the D cup front for the neck and shoulders and bust line, although I did remove some excess fabric above and below my bust line then transitioned to a size 16+ by the tummy and hip area.  This version is from Fabric Mart, a very lightweight buttermilk type of poly.  It is clammy in humid weather but it works well to test the pattern as a very wearable mock up.  I decided to finish it with a thin woven binding cut from a scrap of brown textured silk kimono fabric, source unremembered.  

This is now my TNT T shirt pattern.  The shoulder princess seam allows for nice fit tweaking.  I plan to use it as the base pattern for a number of those clever Marcy and Katherine Tilton patterns.  I don't want to refit a new knit top when I have one that I have refined already.  Necklines and hemlines and side panels can be changed a lot more quickly than I can re-fit a new knit pattern.  So I was thrilled at the retreat, not so much for the looks of this one but because I could see so many good things happening this fall and winter when I use it as a good base.

One last photo and many thanks for your kind remarks about Lucky's new volunteer job and my return to blogging.  I have lots of blogs to catch up with and look forward to seeing more details about your latest projects.  Happy sewing to all.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three's a Charm

It is a warm, sunny last day of September and I am sitting on my deck with the laptop, a cup of coffee and so many things to say.  I had gotten out of the blogging habit this summer but thankfully not the sewing habit.  Since that's what most of you come here for, let's start with one of my new favorite patterns, New Look 6110.  Back in July I wanted to continue on my summer boho theme.  Turns out that I have two RTW blouses already in my closet with these exact same lines so perhaps this pattern would work out for me.  I am thrilled with the results and have a few more ideas to make this one well loved TNT pattern.  Here are my three recent versions and the adjustments that I made:

New Look 6110
This first version is from a silk georgette, long aging in my resource center.  I think it came from the Jomar store in Lansdale, PA.  I did make a mock up of this pattern  and discovered (to no one's surprise) that I needed a slight FBA, a center back seam and 1 inch added to the sleeve length...not the 2 inches that I anticipated and I narrowed the sleeve band by 1 inch.  I never regret making a mock up....but I have regretted not making one.  

When I cut out the georgette, I placed newspaper on my cutting table and then pinned the fabric and the pattern pieces to the newspaper before cutting out the georgette.  I just needed a little more stability to keep everything steady and on grain.  
Newspaper, then fashion fabirc, then pattern pieces
I sewed the vertical sleeve and body seams with french seams.  First pass, wrong sides together,  I used my 1/4" foot which also has just a single hole for the needle, making it precise all along those seams.  I trimmed the seam allowance with my sharp Ginger craft scissors and used the presser foot to hold the fabric taut for closing trimming:
The presser foot is just holding the fabric in place so I can trim the seam neatly with scissors.
Press and then stitch right sides together for a wonderful seam that is strong but totally finished inside.  Around the raglan armholes I did use my serger instead to finish that curved armscye seam.
Since I needed a FBA on the front, I transferred the side dart into more gathers along the top edge.  But that meant I had to be extra careful about making those gathers relatively even at the neckline.  I hand basted the neckline pieces onto the entire garment.  Yes, it's a bit tedious but it ensures that I don't sew and rip when I make mistakes at the machine.  Sewing my mockup taught me that I could easily get lumps and bumps along that area when I just used my machine:
Whoops, front neckline on the mockup would not be satisfactory in finished garment
Using silk thread means that it will be easy to remove.  I also used my stiletto when sewing in that area to keep those gathers even and spaced:
Basted gathers
Stiletto used at the machine
Finished neckline and shoulder gathers
I did not make functional buttonholes since this top nicely slips on over my head.  But I like the button closure so I used my handy spacing tool to decide how many buttons to add and where to sew them.  Do you have one of these tools?

Once I get a pattern to fit, then it's time to do some customizing.  My next version was from a Fabric Mart fabric.  I initially remembered it as a cotton voile but instead it was a very lightweight polished cotton.  Hmmmm, I knew it would not drape as nicely as that silk georgette so I made a change to the hemline by modifying it into a shirt hem, using a template from Louise Cutting's Perfect Shirt pattern (which I have never sewn but of course I own!)  It's a little deeper than I would have liked but still wearable.  I looked too much "mutton dressed as lamb" in this version so I needed to give it a glam it up to take it to a more designer version.  I had just merged my two bead collections from our Baltimore and former Florida home so I pulled out a variety of beads with colors from the fabric and hand beaded it like crazy.  Just random all over the neckline edge to give it a subtle but heavy bling factor.  I am thrilled with the result.  I'll be able to wash it on delicate and any beads that don't make it over time can easily be replaced since there's no special design to it.  
Beading in process....plain neckline on the left, beads started on the right.
Full beading front to back 
New look 6110, version #2
So one of these in July, one in August and I decided to do one more for the slightly cooler but still warm late summer/early fall days.  This version is from a fabulous silk cotton blend from Fabric Mart.  When I felt it, I just had to buy it.  I avoid grey but I loved the gold tone in this fabric which I think means I get to enjoy it with my blonde hair.  The drape on this one is right between the two.  Thin enough to be lightweight and yet with some body so that it doesn't cling to my no longer 1970's body.  
New Look 6110 with gold in the fabric and goldfinch feeder in the background
Auditioning the buttons for version #3
Last picture for this long overdue post will show you version #2 in action....and give you a clue as to what else I have been doing this summer.  Lucky the rescue dog and I are now certified as Pets on Wheels visitors.  We've started making visits to a nearby assisted facility and a local library branch where young readers can sign up to "read to a dog" for practice.  He's a friendly, frisky guy and puts a smile on every one's face.  Next post, some more new garments and more late (not late-breaking) news about summer at our place.  
We both passed!  Lucky and I are Pets on Wheels visitors.
Waiting for someone to read this book to me.
Here to bring some cheer....