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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Olympia Coat

Do sewing blog posts improve with age, like fine wines?  Probably not because I think garment posts are best when they coordinate with the weather and season.  Southern Hemisphere readers, this post's for you....and for any readers who can remember back to winter of 2015 and this coat project.
Yes, when I left off months ago (more about that later) I was almost done with my first coat project, the Olympia Coat pattern from La Fred.  Here's the final result, finished in mid-February when temps were frigid and snow was still on the ground.  

Olympia Coat by La Fred

I am happy with the result, impressed that I could tackle a coat project and interested in trying a more classically tailored and structured one next winter.  This one filled a gap in my outerwear wardrobe.  I needed something knee length, warm but not bulky with enough room for knit cardigans and tunics.  It is lined in silk charmeuse which feels terrific and is wonderfully warm.  The pattern has a separate lining pattern with a back pleat and set-in, not raglan sleeves.  I was a little concerned about that detail but it seems to work together without a problem.
I used vintage buttons from a Florida friend and covered snaps for all but the top one.

I'm happy with how the underarm gussets turned out (on the right side of the fabric, at least, not so pretty inside) and the chevron of the herringbone down the sleeve makes me smile even when the coat is hanging in the closet.
underarm gusset

I'll share my "need to improve/reconsider next time" thoughts as well.  I used silk organza to underline the coat and am generally happy with that decision.  It makes for a very lightweight, almost sweater-like feel.  I think for a longer garment like this I would prefer a lightweight fusible interfacing for the full coat body next time.  I changed the collar after Sarah  Veblen helped me with the initial fitting and wish I had done a quick neckline collar fitting since this one is a little too confining for my tastes when it is buttoned all the way up.  Since I mean to wear it as a spring/fall coat that is not a problem but is a good lesson nonetheless.  Last lesson is that my linings never seem to entirely please me and this coat was no exception.  I don't bag my jackets and am glad that I hand hemmed this coat.  There's nothing obviously to complain about but I just feel that the lining and my fashion fabric are "fiddly" and not as compatible as I would like.  I don't even know how to phrase that as a question but I will be extra careful when tackling my next lined project.
I feel somewhat sheepish about even blogging today.  I have been absent from the blogging world, neither reading nor commenting, for the last two plus months.  It's been a combination of good things (a wonderful month back in Naples, Florida visiting dear friends and enjoying the best weather possible, a new fiber arts class and some crafty projects) and the sad passing of Mr. Lucky's 96 year-old father in California.  He was a very admirable person, hard-working, dedicated to giving his family a good life and strong values.  His life didn't always turn out the way he would have hoped but he never turned angry or bitter.  Up until last September he was still driving (yes, against our wishes) and paying his own bills and such so this has been sad but not a tragedy.  Mr. Lucky had several long visits in the last six months so while we mourn his passing, we are glad that his suffering was brief and he had memories of love and caring support.
It's good to be back to some blogging and I look forward to catching up on what you are creating for whatever season is happening in your part of the world.  Next up, some spring additions to my wardrobe.  Until then, thanks for reading and I wish you sew much fun.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Patch Pocket "Favoring" and In-seam Buttonhole

Thanks so much, thoughtful readers, for your comments about my sewing retreat projects....and also for your sympathies about my torn up perennial beds from that earlier post.  Blogging about our sewing projects and lives is so rewarding and interesting as it connects me with unmet friends around the world.  But here's a little also brings out my insecurities and performance anxiety.  We won't go into all the reasons for those issues in my life but I will share that I'm more than a little intimidated sharing new sewing frontiers so publicly. But whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  No, no, I don't believe that at all.  But I do believe in stretching myself which is why this is the winter of my first public coat project.  
This weekend I returned to the next steps on the Olympia Coat project.  I abandoned the idea of the windowpane pocket pattern when I saw that it would sit on top of the French dart that I had to add to the coat front panel. I did cut open the dart so it would have less bulk but I still didn't like three layers of the pocket sitting there.  
French dart cut open
So I changed to Fred's alternative patch pocket which is shaped and then topstitched as well as sewn into the side seam. 
Lowered side patch pocket
This is another place in the directions where Fred added just a small detail that helps create a more finished result.  After cutting the lining (a burgundy silk charmeuse) you trim off 1/16" and then sew the seams together which automatically slightly "favors" the fashion fabric.

Lining "favoring" the fashion fabric

 I topstitched with red topstitching thread and placed the pockets 1" lower to avoid the bulk of the dart and give my long arms a slightly more comfortable location.  
Now the back seam is sewn and then the upper shoulder and sleeve seam.  I hand basted those seams first to make sure that I got the herringbone fabric to chevron properly.  
Happy chevrons 
Next step was to add the raised collar that I stole from a Burda pattern and figure out how to create the in-seam buttonhole along the collar seam.  I have loved this little detail ever since I saw Sandra Betzina demonstrate it on her old cable TV sewing show.  She used a now OOP Sewing Workshop pattern called, oddly enough, the Sandra Betzina coat. Sandra Betzina coat on Etsy I actually have that pattern in my resource center and went to it for the directions.  But her coat is unlined and uses a slightly different method.  So here's the simple version that I will be using, tested on some leftover coat fabric.  
In-Seam Buttonhole
I'm using a large button so the first step is to measure out a space large enough for the button to slide through easily.  Sew the seam with that space left unstitched.  

I sewed the facing piece the same way then clipped carefully to create the inseam "lips."

Sew the "lips" of the  outer seam to the facing seam.

Press all seams open and test your button:
My test worked so today I will take these markings and transfer them to my coat collar seam and facing seam.  Fred's directions are interesting at this point.  Rather than sew the lining pieces to the facing, she had you sew the facings to the coat first then work on sewing that underarm dart and underarm sleeve with the gusset.  Again I think I will be doing hand basting to make sure all my layers are stable and work together.  
Just as an aside, I think the real master of creative in-seam buttonholes was Lois Ericson.  Issue 103 (Oct/Nov 2002) of Threads has a beautiful article describing the process with the loveliest examples of her creativity. I'm just happy with my simple one here but would love to plan a garment with such beauty as well as functionality.
Next time you see pics I should have the coat body assembled and be ready to start the lining process.  Deep breathes....