Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vogue 8953 Surprise

There are simply some patterns that I skip right over in the pattern books.  Most of the time it's because the style is too bare/youthful for me Vogue 1342 too kitschy/vintage Vogue 8789 or too what the heck why would I want to wear that in public Vogue 1372
Vogue 8953 fell into that last category.  I actually like some of the new boho looks with the more current skinny jeans and pants in my wardrobe but this tunic looked like the old shapeless sack with a belt when I saw the line drawing.  I zoomed right past that page when it came out in the catalog. Vogue 8953  But surprise.....not really a sack after all.
Vogue 8953, version #1

Vogue 8953 with flared bottom peplum, not the sack like drawing

This is where sewing friends are the bestest!!  I was at the June meeting of my "neighborhood" ASG sewing group (my "neighborhood group is about 50+ miles away in Northern VA but what's distance between friends) and one of the group had sewn this pattern for her daughter.  She didn't love the directions but I loved the look of it for one significant reason.  Turns out that the bottom section is actually two separate pattern pieces in a lovely flattering circle skirt design so it drapes nicely as a peplum rather than merely being bunched up fabric below the belt.  She let me try on her daughter's top and it fit almost perfectly....or at least enough for me to know that it was worth pursuing on my own.  I bought it at the next Vogue sale and worked on my mock up by the end of June.  The mock up showed me that I still needed a few adjustments. I was hoping against hope but no, I still needed a FBA even in this full a top because the front was pulling forward to I added a 3/4 inch FBA and moved it to the top pleats.  
FBA moved to the top gathers
I also had to do my usual swayback and added a center back seam so I could take out 1" in length in the back above the waist.  I lengthened the sleeves 1 1/2 inches.  I made some small changes to the front and back neckline.  I lowered the front neckline by 1" and raised the back neckline by 1" tapering to nothing by the shoulder seams.  That meant that I had to make three separate facing patterns to create the interior band.  
Three facing top band pattern pieces

I also liked the neckline ruffle to be a little wider since I frames the face nicely.  I stitched the top seam at 3/8" not 5/8 and also moved the gathering stitching lines right down to the edge so my ruffle is about 1/2 " wider" than the pattern calls for. 
Finished ruffle width is wider than Vogue designed it.
My friend had a valid complaint that the Vogue patterns presume you don't have a serger so there's a lot of fussing with turning 1/4" and stitching in order to finish raw edges.  Grrrrr, I wish they would make the opposite assumption....."serge those edges or you don't have a serger, finish them like this...."
Serged on the inside ...and a view of my zig zag understitching
The boho look is not my most flattering look and I have to be careful of treading too close to the "mutton dressed as lamb" ledge.  But I have been wanting some very lightweight woven tops for our humid summer days and this is one of the patterns that fits the bill.  I have a medium blue denim pencil skirt that I think will be cool and comfortable with this first version sewn up in Fabric Mart voile that has been aging for a few years. 

Another instruction change is that I used the famous Steam a Seam to "seal" the seam allowances inside the seams where the drawstrings are attached.  That way no matter what tool you use (I use a safety pin) the drawstring won't get caught as you try to ease it through the casing.
1/4 " Steam a Seam applied to edge of seam allowance for the width of the casing seam
Ironed and sealed in place so that it will let the safety pin glide over it inside the casing.
Next time I used the Steam a Seam 2 Lite version....just as strong but less stiff
I liked that gathered neckline of this Vogue pattern so much that I went right ahead and tried out a straight tunic for version #2, merely lengthening the top pattern pieces from the bust area for about 14 more inches.  Here it is in a very wrinkly cotton cheap voile.  Very wearable for this summer but I think I'll add an inch or so of side seam ease before I make it up in a lightweight silk or rayon.  
Vogue 8953 Version #2 straight tunic
A little longer with more ease back there next time...Lucky agrees.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tabula Rasa Jacket into Bathrobe

I am not really a fashion follower but sometimes fashion trends creep into my consciousness and I find myself up to date without even realizing it. (This happens about as often as a full moon total eclipse.)  So I noticed that one of my June sewing projects is actually very au courant per this New York Times article on the kimono resurgence this summer Kimonos Shift from Runways to Music Festivals
Tabula Rasa Jacket from Fit for Art Patterns....as a bathrobe
Yes, I'm fashionable just because I re-visited the Tabula Rasa jacket pattern from Fit for Art Patterns recently. Fit for Art Patterns I am fortunate enough to be friends and neighbors with Rae Cumbie and she had asked several sewing friends, amateur and professionals to help test the pattern and directions for her newest version, a tunic, t-shirt and blouse based on the same design lines. The new pattern and a terrific trunk show will be debuting in a few weeks at the national American Sewing Guild meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.  I won't be there this year but I encourage anyone who is attending to check out the latest version.  Rae is an artist with fabric and also understands how we want casual, comfortable designs with a flair.  
So after the test sewing day I was inspired to head home and work on another version of the Tabula Rasa jacket, this time lengthened so that I can wear it as a summer lightweight bathrobe.  I have had yards and yards of this Asian inspired design fabric which I think is a mid-weight rayon.  My camp shirt days are gone with the '90s but I love the feel of this fabric and the designs.  I lengthened the jacket pattern 15 inches, used the flared side panel and the original sleeve shortened to 3/4 length.  With some fitting advice from Rae I raised the back neckline and added shoulder darts so I could keep the fabric on the fold for center back.  I sewed a size S with the C/D front which has two small side darts in the woven version. 
The square armhole with almost invisible small side seam darts in the jacket body
I added flat piping from some denim tencel in my resource center and a belt trim with the same tencel.  I love it.  It is heavy enough that I can sit outside on our deck early on summer mornings without feeling overly exposed to the elements.  And gosh, if I attend on of those trendy summer music festivals in the Hamptons or Berkshires I guess I could also wear it as a kimono jacket.  And Mr. Lucky likes the print tremendously so won't he be surprised to see a Kwik Sew shirt for him in the future.  
Watch this space for some more woven and then knit versions coming this summer.  That test sewing day really helped restart some of my sewing mojo.
On a more personal note, I've been putting off writing this blog post for sad (not tragic, just sad) reasons of my own.  My blog is an informal way to communicate with my family members around the country and one my most loyal readers was my dear aunt and godmother who died just a month ago at age 84.  Mags lead a wonderful life and her death was not painful nor sudden, just sad for those of us mourning.  My aunt was an inspiration to me from an early age and I have so many wonderful memories.  She was truly a feminist who had it all....just didn't have it all at the same time.  She attended college and graduate school and taught abroad before marrying and starting a family.  She and my uncle had five children and they put together the most wonderful tributes to her at the funeral service. My two remaining uncles, aunts and cousins from all the families flew in for a joyous celebration. She was a woman of faith, humility and humor.  She was an avid reader and we often compared books over the phone or on my visits.  She had an amazing memory for all the people she had ever met and was always making connections and linkages.  On a cruise about twelve years ago she met Judy Barlup and was so pleased to tell her that she had a niece who loved to sew and wanted to know if perhaps we had ever met.  Sewing, however, was a foreign language to her and my cousins recall great family get togethers which always included outsiders that she would invite so they wouldn't be alone....but didn't include homemade cookies because she was just too busy.  She had an intellectual curiosity and open mind all her life.  When I left the church that I had been raised in, she wasn't critical, just wanted to know more about the quirky new to her religion that I had chosen....and wanted to make sure that my selected religion and I were involved in charitable activities and causes.  She wasn't afraid of the computer and kept up with grandchildren that way as well as read my blog and Facebook postings.  I miss her terribly already but am happy to have had so many great times with her.  Just wanted to share some fun pictures from the past:
My aunt's eigth grade graduation along with my mother looking snazzy...in the Bronx, NY
My aunt and godmother.  I don't seem to be enjoying the moment as much as she is.
With her first car.  Mags was definitely a modern woman.
Here's hoping you have happy memories of an important person in your life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not Sew Genius

Aphorisms certainly have some truth behind them.  "If you knew better, you would do better."  That
sounds hopeful and positive doesn't it?  Well, sometimes I know better and I still proceed ahead full speed to my next wadder....or ex-boyfriend....or bad meal....the list goes on.  This time it was my jeans project from last month and the Craftsy jeans class.  In early May I earnestly followed Kenneth King's very explicit directions to copy a pair of jeans that fit well. Then I even stitched two sample pairs, just for fitting purposes and I was pretty darn pleased happy thrilled.  Wow, this system works!!!  I deliberately made one in the non-stretch recommended fabric and the other in a stretch woven, but with very little cross grain stretch.  There seemed to be only a little difference in the fit of either.  My pictures aren't terrific but here they are:
Mock up jeans in woven with very little stretch


Mock up in non-stretch denim
I wore them both around my sewing room and made the smallest adjustment to my pattern.  Maybe my first mistake was that I put aside this project for a few weeks and was: busy in the garden....we were on our little neighborhood garden tour in early June and I was also co-chair of the project....reading up a storm....books to follow further down....or on some lovely trips....the Winterthur Downton Abbey Costume exhibit, Longwood Gardens visit with concert and nighttime fountain display and A Prairie Home Companion broadcast at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts.  Maybe all those things distracted me so much that when I returned to the jeans project I forgot all that I know about sewing the right fabric for the project.  I did exactly what Kenneth King said not to do and I pulled out a verrrrry stretchy but gorgeous deep chocolate brown micro cord that was almost like stretch velvet.  I ignored the early warning bells and then the later ones that told me to interface the zipper in such a stretchy fabric.  Ugh, they were awful.  They didn't fit like my favorite jeans or my mock up because the fabric was so very different.  Ripples and baggy, yuck.  By then I was so annoyed that I tossed them into the trash and took a break from my sewing room.  I'll return to the jeans project after getting my hands on some non stretch denim.  I'll return to that beautiful chocolate brown micro cord fabric and make myself a pair of Elle Style Arc pants later in the fall and they will be a much better pairing of fabric and pattern.  So, no successful sewing project to see here (Judy, your jeans are inspiring and are keeping me moving forward.)  I'll close with some pics from those trips and the books that kept me distracted late into several warm spring nights.  Here's hoping that your projects are working out better for you.....and that I listen better to experience and advice.
Rustic gardens at Winterthur Museum
Pictures to follow in the future
Pulled out several beds for replanting and reconfiguring
Not the new flower beds at our place.....but the old ones at Longwood Gardens
Our third visit to hear Garrison Keillor's radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion
We sat and picnicked on the lawn at Wolf Trap in Virginia
Four out of five stars from me
Three out of five
Five out of five and especially relevant to the sewists amongst us.
Two painful book group selections....this one and...



Three and a stars
Four out of five stars
Five out of five
Four out of five

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taking My Time and Taking Breaks

There are eleven groups of lessons in Kenneth King's Jean-ius class and so far I have completed lesson one, the jeans thread tracing.  Slow sewing for sure.  
Marking the jeans you love with thread tracing

Who knew I would make every rookie mistake which meant it took me twice as long to do this step.  
Front thread traced
Back thread traced
What mistakes?  Well, I used a strong milliners needle to do my thread tracing.  Nice sharp point....and a little too late discovered that randomly I had picked up one single thread on the inside of the jeans....which meant clipping and redoing the tracing when I moved the jeans.  

I really struggled understanding and seeing how to make the crosswise grain markings and missed a little phrase of Kenneth's...."lay the pants flat" which meant don't do this with the side and inside seams pinned together as in the previous illustration.  I was quite uncertain about my back crosswise line and kept going back and forth with the class video and my jeans in order to figure it out.  But persistence has paid off and I am ready to move to the next step of transferring these markings.

Meanwhile I am loving Craftsy's decision to create an ipad app that lets me download the class and watch it offline.  Hooray for that convenience.  My sewing room is the unhappiest place in the house to get our wireless connection so this makes my collection of classes so very convenient for me.  I've only downloaded the Jean-ius class and it does use up memory but I think once I've done this process there's no reason to keep it on my pad.
I did do a little retail therapy while prepping for this class.  I needed to buy pins, of all things.  I use Susan Khalje's very fine Japanese pins in my sewing room but they would be too thin and bendable for all the denim pinning that would go on during class.  So of course while I was at Joann's I had to pick up some of the new Vogues on sale this week.
New pins on the left
On the left, the pants are what I really love in that pattern and on the right, I love what Sharon and Margy did with this pattern.  Communing with fabric  Fool4fabric
Add caption
A few more.....

Then an Amazon order showed up with a few items that I had ordered while making my pink flower extravaganza.  These are single needle felting molds for making flower shapes our of wool roving.  Since I am heading out to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival late this Saturday afternoon, I'll pick up some more wool roving for these and future projects.
Last bit of retail news is from a neighbor.  Mr. Lucky and I took Lucky the rescue dog for a walk on Saturday so we could peruse the next neighborhood's community yard sale.  As always lots of children's clothing and my only interest was to look for a souffle dish.  But a lovely woman was selling off items from her parents' home which was being sold.  We picked up a small saucepan, small bowl and these lovely hand crocheted laces.  

Two of them were designed to be pillow edging and the other had been made for the top of a chemise nightgown.  The nightgown fabric is long gone and one of the straps was replaced over the years with similarly colored twill tape.  These were lovingly tucked away in the crochet box, maybe the box that held that crochet thread in the beginning, probably from the 1920's.  I love the lace but I also love the care and re-use effort.  
Speaking of lovely and re-using items, don't you just love the pin cushion that my sister-in-law made for me some years back.  It is too fragile to hold my every day pins at the machine but I am keeping my less regularly used pins in it and put it on the shelf afterwards to keep it safe and admire its design.
Last thing I have enjoyed in the last few days is reading this:
It's the selection for my book group discussion next week and I am glad it was selected.  Not a demanding read but engaging.  Those of you with an interest in historic quilts will enjoy the discussion of English and American quilts....pieced via templates versus applique.  
From Booklist: Honor Bright sailed from England to America in 1850 with her sister, Grace, who is betrothed to a fellow Quaker in Ohio. After Grace’s death, Honor is left in the awkward position of an outsider, searching for her place in an unsettled land of restless change where even the Quakers are different from those she had known at home. She finds solace in writing letters to friends and family in England and in the exquisite quilting skills that tie her to her old life and offer some hope of ties to a new one. Honor’s only true American friend is Belle, the unorthodox milliner who clandestinely aids runaway slaves, even as her rough and charismatic brother, Donovan, hunts them down. Horrified by the realities of slavery, Honor faces the new complexities of the Fugitive Slave Law and the challenges it poses for the Quakers and for her personally.
Nothing but coincidence that I had just read Sue Monk Kidd's novel about the abolitionist sisters from South Carolina and their challenges in opposing slavery and in becoming Quakers.
Now, onward to lesson two.....

Monday, April 28, 2014

Against My Grain

In my many years on this planet, my friends, colleagues, family and husband have said some nice things about my skills, talents and even my personality.  But I have seldom infrequently ok, probably never been complimented on how methodical I am.  In my younger years I reveled in being "enthusiastic and spontaneous."  Now I recognize the downside of those same traits...."undisciplined and distracted."  I can get the job done but it isn't always pretty watching it happen.  This might explain why I own numerous Craftsy classes but have only once watched one of them all the way through.  But like an overstocked "resource center," having too many unused Craftsy classes can be too much of a good thing.  So let's see if any of you Craftsy fans can tell which class I am committing to working my way through in the next month:

Craftsy class preparation
Yes, you're right, it's the Jean-ius class taught by Kenneth King.  I'm  liking him a lot as an instructor.  There are many steps, far more than any other RTW copying technique I've seen, and he explains his reasons for taking each one.  I'm one of those annoying students who wants to understand the why of each direction you give.  That childishly rebellious streak in me balks at "just do it this way."  I've almost made my peace with the fact that this class still may not produce a pair of miracle jeans.....the ones that make me look 20 lbs thinner and 20 years younger.  When I saw the finished gallery of projects, I was terribly impressed with a number of the results achieved by sewists all over the world.  Yes, I could just start with a Burda jeans pattern and work from a mock up and yes, I was impressed by the free jeans webinar info from Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns Peggy's Webinars and her pattern might even work but once more, let's use it or lose it.  I'm going to take this Craftsy class slowly with some simple TNT sewing in between for a break.  What made me consider making jeans is that so many retailers I used to buy from either have folded or no longer carry long length as an option.  I don't actually need blue denim jeans, I can still buy those in RTW but I love jeans in different colors and fabrics and am willing to give this method a shot. Maybe it won't work in the end but at least I will have practiced some slow sewing and that might have some good benefits for my mind as well as my closet.  I'll keep you informed as I progress.
In a slightly related note, on Friday Mr. Lucky and I had a tour with a friend of the Discovery Channel's Creative and Technical Center.  It was another one of those fun activities from our church auction.  We got to see where they do the sound editing for the many, many shows produced by Discovery.  In one of them, the fellow working on a promo for a show with loud zooming cars described his job as a cross between technology (as he demonstrated the sound library with 20 sounds from a 1975 Cobra) and art because he was the one making the choices about what cuts to use, for how long and when, all in a 15 second promo.  Made me think about the best seamstresses I see on blogs and in life....those who have beautiful choices of fabric and pattern and the finesse and skill to execute the construction so wonderously.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

New and Old, All in One

A car must be twenty years old in order to qualify for "historic" license plates; I have only a few more years to go to get my Social Security benefits; our 12 year old MacBook was called "vintage" by the Apple employee....so what do I call this aging Sewing Workshop Teagarden Tee pattern besides Out of Print?  Yes, I've owned this pattern for enough years to decide to either use it or lose it, a common theme in our household these days.  I bought the pattern itself fifteen years ago after a great local Sewing Workshop trunk show put on by Nancy Schreiber.  Didn't touch it until seven or eight years later when  friend stitched it up at a summer sewing retreat and let me try it on. I liked the lines of it so it moved from my file cabinet to my "must try" pile.  A few years ago I decided to cut it out in cheap junky surplus knit then stuffed it into a 2 gallon plastic bag to age.  I took it to at least two sewing retreats and back and forth to Florida.  (Recipes would usually call this step "mix thoroughly.")  Finally I have taken it out of my mental filing cabinet (the section marked Unfinished Things You have Halfway Started and Wish Would Go Away), pulled it from a plastic tub and focused my attention long enough to give it a whirl. 

One big pattern piece, plus gusset, that gets sewn up the back and center front then folded into place.....just like the Vogue Issey Miyake #2094, a version from before my garment sewing time
I used Sharon's hint to label all the match points  Communing with Fabric Teagarden Tee
quickie mock up for fitting purpose
Hey, not bad after all.  Now, my dressform has lovely straight and square shoulders so I will need light shoulder pads when I wear it.  But because of the wrap around origami design there are some pulls in the back on me.....and on the dressform, who has a younger, perkier figure.  
For once it wasn't my fluff making those ripples
So I'm not going to fret but will go ahead and make a "real" one.  I think 1 or 2" longer and then I'll cut it out in a soft, cozy brown rayon knit and sew it up.....sooner than the next few years, I promise.  It will be new to me, but an old design in "pattern years."
There's a little background to this project All those years ago I was already discovering this wonderful community of sewing aficionados on the web.  Long before pictures on blogs and Pinterest, even before Patternreview, there was an early sewing bulletin board. Two kind members of that community posted helpful tips for sewing the gusset on this pattern...and I am here to thank them for those encouraging remarks and explanations Cat Fur Studio blog  Mamafitz blog  After all those years and miles, I had saved their posts which made me smile and helped me make this top work.  Sew grateful, Barbara and Linda.
Yes, notes from 14 years ago.