Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Travel Packing and Travel Sewing.

What do you find most difficult/frustrating/annoying/challenging about traveling?  Airport waits and security check ins?  Baggage fees and fears about lost bags?  Packing decisions for your destination and all its weather possibilities?  Cell phone data plans and sketchy wifi?Last minute sewing and finishing to make the deadline?  My answer, all of the above.  All of a sudden Mr. Lucky and I are on a whirlwind of travel over the next several months...so much so that a friend asked me if there was some illness that he didn't know about?!  No illness, I am happy to report,  just a tight, full schedule of events.  
One of most anticipated trips starts at the very end of this month when we are finally off to our Bruges/Amsterdam/London trip. We'll be joining a one week bike and barge trip from Bruges to Amsterdam.  Let's face it, that's the easiest part of packing.  I need layers of leisure wear, padded bike leggings, my bike helmet and a rain jacket.  They told us to bring rain pants.  No, I'll pass on that and just get my leggings wet if it rains during the day....or sit on the barge with a  good book if the rains are present all day long like they were here in Baltimore recently.
The hard part of the packing and anticipated sewing project is what to plan for the evenings of those weeks and for the seven or eight "city" days that we have on our own. I admit it, I like clothes and I like variety and those "likes" don't always mesh with easy travel packing....especially when half of that packing is already taken up with "activewear."   So I am auditioning outfits and working out combinations.  Here are some of thoughts so far and what I am sewing next week to fill in a few gaps.

Color scheme: black, of course, the traveler's standby, along with brown...actually one of my favorite neutral combinations.  I've been assembling outfits to audition them and here's the grouping so far.  One problem already is that the weather has gone from very chilly temperatures in Belgium and The Netherlands to far more lovelier forecasts....which means I'll be reevaluating these outfits in the next few days.

Fun RTW leggings and a Tilton ITY knit top
Tabula Rasa knit top that served me well in London two years ago...and the scarf has a hidden pocket.

RTW Chicos lightweight anorak look with Margarita tank top
Style Arc Elle pants and RTW sweater
Chicos sweater and another pair of Elle pants
Silk kimono Simplicity1318 with same pants

I think I would like one more tunic and one more tank top sewn before we leave although I certainly have RTW ones that would coordinate if time gets away from me...which it often does.  There's gardening to do as well now that it is warm enough to put in the 60 caladium bulbs and a few other fun things on my calendar.  Yes, truly a lucky girl lives in my house.

Weeks two and three of Me Made May17 have zoomed by. Mr. Lucky and I flew down to the South Carolina Low Country for the most amazing family wedding weekend.  Loved seeing cousins and their children for a happy reason, were awed by my cousin's new home....just completed in time for the festivities and even got to visit with a childhood classmate who moved to the area.  So here are some of those mid-month Me Made May items:
Elle pants go to the Delaware beach
Draped front cardigan from Pamela's Patterns, self-drafted travel purse, Bathrobe from the Tabula Rasa jacket pattern
Berry season means time in the kitchen in a Simplicity Daisy Kingdom apron with Maryland crab appliqué

Low Country South Carolina sunset in a Vogue cardigan
My favorite Jalie Elenore pant and my adorable cousin once removed
The adjusted wedding dress in poor lighting.  The hidden strip of fabric worked perfectly to invisibly lengthen the dress to my knee level.

Burda sheath dress and the wonderful fabric flower from Latvia for Sunday morning brunch.

So back to the packing and deciding and sewing.  I hope you have something in your sewing room that has you smiling with anticipation.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Flower Power

I'm previewing the weather maps and packing for two upcoming trips this month.  The first is a wedding weekend on the South Carolina coast.  I've shown the alteration I am making to the RTW dress I will be wearing but this is another dress that I just finished that I plan on wearing to cocktails on Friday night.  It's Burda 6247 that I fit last fall and the fabric is a ottoman textured slightly stretchy poly/rayon/spandex blend from Fabric Mart.  I stitched it up at the winter sewing retreat and basted together the side seams.  It was a very good fit (after making the extensive alterations that Sarah Veblen had marked on the original) and I simply tucked it away to finish later.  
Burda 3247
This week was the time to turn it into something to wear.  I put an invisible zipper in the back and then had to decide about facings or lining or bindings.  The weather in SC can be quite humid so I decided to skip the stretch poly lining that I had planned.  I could have drafted an all in one facing but decided to do a simple, lightweight bias facing on the neckline and armholes.  I tested a few black fabrics in my stash fabric hoard resource center and selected a very lightweight black cotton.  I made my own bias tape then stay stitched, trimmed and sewed the bias tape to the edges.  

There's a lovely youtube tutorial that I found one evening if you'd like terrific advice and instructions from Liesl Gibson on Creativebug.  

I hand stitched my facings on the inside since I now have a smart TV in my sewing room and was enjoying "Bomb Girls" on Netflix.  Yes, I am really getting into this 21st century thing;-)
When I wear this sleeveless dress I will also wear a jacket or bolero to cover my upper arms.  When I put the black sweater on it turned a tropical fun print dress into something too somber for a festive occasion. 
Not as festive as I would like
 I decided I needed a fun pin to brighten up the outfit.  Of course my first thought was, "I can make one."  Mr. Lucky and I are heading to NYC for a day trip next week.  I figured I would just pick up some cream leather and follow the Pinterest directions to learn how to make beautiful leather flowers and of course after making some practice flowers my efforts would be special enough for this wedding...and, and, and.  You could tell where I was heading...Pinterest "fail" and last minute panic.  Another way to put pressure on myself in a busy month.  When I had been looking for diy leather flower directions I decided to hit the "shopping" option on Google.  Look, Jane, people are selling already made flowers!!  That lead me to the Etsy site where I had fun shopping and marveling at people's creativity.  Long story to say, wow, look at these gorgeous flowers that came this week.  

I bought two flowers from Leas Studio  in Riga, Latvia. Great communication, fabulous price, speedy service and delivery and absolutely the perfect answer for this outfit.  I could be making leather flowers for years before I could reach this level of artistry.  
I'll take wedding weekend pictures of the outfits in action and let you see the results later this month as part of #MeMadeMay17.

A dear friend who reads my blog asked me to share my Me Made May17 outfits so here's a week's recap. Pardon the repeat if you are already one of my friends on Instagram.
Tabula Rasa jacket as a duster and Margarita top
Simplicity 2603
An early stitch and flip jacket with a M&S Schmalberg flower from NYC
Much embellished TRW sweater
Magic Pencil skirt from Pamela's Patterns
Another hidden pocket infinity scarf for my upcoming European trip and Margarita top
A McCalls sheath dress and fabric flowers from Affray ribbons appearing at a delicious and enjoyable tea given by Donna,  a member of my wearable art group
Hope some fun projects are brightening up your days.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Maybe Me Made May "17?

What the heck am I thinking?  I just made the commitment to participate in  Zo's Me Made May '17, Zo's Me Made May '17 post something I haven't done for several years.  Hmmm, is this because I'm succumbing to my narcissism that tells me anyone else cares what I have sewn/worn each day this month?  Is it because I want to do my part to encourage creativity and design among my friends and acquaintances?  Is it because I want to still be visible in a world that pressures me to retreat to retired senior citizen invisibility?  Is it because I want to learn more about and participate more in social media?  Is it because I want to make myself a little more neurotic in order to get a picture of myself each day no matter what else is going on in life?  Is it because I want to evaluate my wardrobe to winnow it even more and pictures help me accomplish that task?
Answer, all of the above and more.  So, let the fun begin.  My commitment is to wear a self-made garment or accessory each day in May.  I will take a picture (but not annoy you or Instagram with daily posts) each day.  I also pledge to sew one new garment each week from my resource center this month.  

I am looking forward to more sewing time in the messy sewing room studio starting tomorrow.  This past week we have been busy shopping, cleaning and cooking for today's Downton Abbey inspired afternoon tea for six guests.  I tried several new recipes which were mixed in their results...much like trying new sewing patterns.  But the day was such fun and exhausting and a nice way to gather with friends....and share leftovers with neighbors.  

Scones, cookies, salmon, sausage rolls and Marmalade Cake inspired by Jan Karon's Father Tim/Mitford books. Mitford Marmalade Cake Mine tilted to one side but was still darn delicious.  
Let the May festivities begin....

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

RTW vs Sew It Yourself?

How do you decide what to sew for yourself and what to buy?  I admire the people out there who make the "no RTW" vow because their sewing skills must be quite diverse, their fabric resource centers or availability greater than mine....and their patience for fitting even more so.  Me, I'm a dilettante in many things and master of not many so I have to contemplate my willingness to tackle a project plus its deadline with a realistic assessment of my ambition, skills and past history.  Long introduction to say that my next sewing projects will have a mix of RTW, alterations and brand new garments.  

What prompted this reverie is that Mr. Lucky and I will be heading back to South Carolina for a fabulous family wedding weekend next month.  I've mentioned before that we have a very small immediate family....even smaller than we anticipated when we got together over thirty years ago.  My loving, sweet and delightful first cousins have been including us as part of their extended families and we are so grateful for their kindness and thoughtfulness.  So we were thrilled to be included in the next special event, the wedding of their son to a lovely young woman.  

Now, here's my guilty secret confession, but as sewing peeps I thought you'd understand that my first thought when I got the "save the date" notice was...what a lovely picture of the couple, what a generous family to include us, "what will I wear?"  But the "save the date" came last fall and I didn't do anything about it except put it on the calendar until this winter.  Sarah Veblen had helped me fit two dresses last year.  The full swingy Vogue 8997 one had been so much fun to wear while dancing during our Florida vacation....but it is too casual for this wedding.  I considered making some changes to take down the flare and add sleeves....but would I have time to really do that before the wedding?  Sarah also fit me in Burda 3247 sleeveless sheath dress which could be adapted for a wedding...if I could commit to color and fabric in time to get it done.

I am the most fortunate person on the planet to have that winter tropical time renting a place in Florida... but being away from my fabric resource center and/or New York was frustrating while I contemplated this project. I also knew that the time frame was going to be a real crunch since we would not be back in Baltimore until the first week in April and I had numerous other commitments that would take up precious planning and sewing time. While in Florida I did take myself out to my favorite department store, Dillards, to do snoop shopping.  I tried on maybe twenty dresses in their wedding and evening wear dept.  It was interesting to try styles I would never consider but it would have been so discouraging if I felt the pressure to buy one of them.  I'm in an entirely different clothing demographic these days.  I want something that covers my upper arms...at a time in fashion when every woman is supposed to have Michelle Obama arm definition. I want  knee length dress...not three inches above my aged knees.  Thank goodness I sew!  

I took crappy cell phone pictures just to remind me of some of the things I liked during this process and to remind me to incorporate some details in future dresses.
Snoop shopping details: nice sheer top with sweetheart dress neckline  Too tight but not bad silhouette actually.
Hmmm, all stretch lace might work in a sheath....like the color.  Way too short and boring neckline
Ignore the bra straps...interesting embroidered sleeves and neckline that feel open and lighter
Now here's the surprise part of this experience.  I did find a dress that would fit most of my requirements...dressy enough for this evening wedding reception, comfortable enough for dancing, some color since this is a May wedding, covered upper arms...but still 1 1/2 inches too short. 
Dillards dress
The style is so immensely practical that I want to make several versions for future needs....this could be my dressy version TNT pattern.  My first thought was hey, I'll have time back in Baltimore for a NYC trip to find a similar sequin lace in some colors I like and some nice solid stretch knit for the sheath underneath...easy, flattering, comfortable and dressy enough, jackpot.  

I was explaining all of this to one of my Florida sewing friends when we got together.  She  kept encouraging me to find a way to just add length to the Dillards dress.  I said adding to the hem would just look like I was ten years old and my mother had to add fabric to the bottom of a dress because I was growing so fast.  Then she said, how about making it as a band several inches above the hem?  I vetoed that because a new fabric had no relation to the top of the dress with its lace and coordinated band....but that gave me an idea.  All I needed was another 1 1/2 inches in length.  I certainly have dark navy knit fabric in my resource center....and I could just cut the dress further up my torso underneath that sequin overlay and add the band.  It will be visible to us as sewists but virtually invisible visually to anyone else.  
Voila, that's my plan and here's how it is shaping up in my sewing room.  First, the RTW dress on my dress form...sequins are hard to photograph.

The sheerness of the sequined lace
Underneath the overlay, nothing but a side darted knit sheath dress
With a center back seam so it feels shapely
I don't think of altering RTW which is why my friend's ideas were so enlightening.  She's more likely to buy something and alter it herself and I'm more likely to figure out what the next item is that I want to make for my wardrobe.  Once again, listening to someone else with experience in an area that is not your specialty can be so helpful.  

To tackle this small alteration project I decided to channel the wonderful Mrs Mole who does those astonishing wedding garment re-makes/revisions/miracles.  Mrs Mole at Fit for a Queen blog  Truly, she is the queen in this area.
So I searched the fabric resource center and came up with two possibilities.  One is a dark navy ITY which would be adequate although the fabric itself is thinner, not as dark, and would have to be interfaced.  But then I came across this perfect navy stretch satin silk.  I'm fairly sure it is from Fabric Mart because I have a lot of it although I only need four inches to make this plan work.  I'm using the dull, "wrong" side and I think it's almost perfect:
Wrong side of stretch satin on top of actual dress
Next I used yarn and pinned the yarn in place where the lowest part of that extra 1 1/2' band that I need will be sewn.  I wanted to make sure that it was well enough under the shortest part of the lace overlay and hooray, it is.  So even if the seam and band are visible as Mr. Lucky twirls me around the dance floor. I don't think the band will look glaringly obvious.
Everything looks good so far but I'm not going to get to the actual marking, cutting and sewing this week. We are busy getting ready for our church auction offering, our fourth "Downton Abbey- inspired" tea for ten this weekend.  I've been printing out recipes, some old and tried, several new and delicious sounding, all of them taking time and effort in addition to the house cleaning and table setting.  Here's part of the savory selection in progress...vodka and citrus salmon curing in the refrigerator, an Emeril Legasse recipe Vodka and citrus cured salmon  

Wrapped up for curing in the refrigerator
Do you alter RTW for yourself?  Or do you decide that sewing it would be easier?  Whatever you do, I hope sewing something is bringing you satisfaction and pleasure.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cleaning Up

April is the month when cleaning up is happening everywhere in my life.  Mr. Lucky is doing the heavy digging in the garden beds, transplanting plants that I want moved, removing ones that have died and turning old leaves and plant matter in the big compost bins to make more "black gold" for the perennials, new bulbs and some annuals that are coming soon.  In the house I am making a seasonal closet change which is a good time to evaluate items.  Already I have bags of items heading to charity shops.  I am finally putting away my sewing supplies from my recent vacation and winter sewing retreat and relegating some unsewn projects to the "future" bin.  And I am cleaning up my project blogging list by showing you the last of the winter projects.  I'll start with the one making me most happy, this wool double cloth fabric topper jacket.   

The pattern, Vogue 7627, I decided to use was a surprise.  I thought I was interested in making a faux fur lined winter coat and had Sarah Veblen do a coat fitting two winters ago. 

But as I see myself getting bulkier around my mid-section I decided that a fur lined coat was the last thing I needed.  Yet the pattern kept calling me...the lines of the pattern itself are nice....princess seams up into the armscye of the two piece raglan sleeves.  I was thinking of a lightweight wool topper jacket for wearing over the longer tunics I have been adding to my wardrobe.  I'm going for a sort of Eileen Fisher, simple silhouette in a classy fabric and I'm happy with the final result...which is not really my final result quite yet. 
I have had this plaid fabric for perhaps fifteen years, purchased from the long gone Winchester Woolen Mill.  I have debated over what to do with it forever, boring my sewing friends by dragging it out and petting it while asking their advice. 
Auditioning the fabric on my dress form

Finally, as part of my "use it or lose it" theme I decided to try out a pattern.  If it didn't work, at least I would have had some "sewing lessons" and I would no longer be haunted by the fabric. 

It took me perhaps a half day on my dining room table to cut this project out.  It's a subtle plaid and I cut each piece single layer making sure that the hemline was the start of the plaid matching.  
Match, mark, cut a layer....then drink a cup of coffee

I did the cutting out at home then took it as my sewing retreat project.  I hand basted each seam before machine sewing it at the retreat.  I think this might be the first plaid garment I have ever sewn where I cared about paid matching and am proud that it all worked nicely...even if I had to sew some of those seams twice to get them to match.
I took the jacket to Florida for our vacation since I have a lot of hand stitching in my future before this project is fully complete.  This double cloth is wonderful but the seams do not press flat enough. 

I have a heavy metallic royal blue thread selected and I am going to hand top stitch each one of these seams.  I like hand stitching and thought I would get to it but the results would prove me wrong.  Too much fun doing other things in February and March.  So here are the local Baltimore pics of the still unfinished jacket on me.  I'll put shoulder pads in and get that top stitching done and will enjoy wearing it next fall.  

Checking out the weed status
Just long enough to cover that tunic
Still needing shoulder pads and top stitching
Yes, many times my projects need to percolate for many months before they come to fruition.  Then sometimes, they are quick and easy, peasy ones.  At the sewing retreat I whipped up two more Pamela's Patterns Magic Pencil skirts 

The houndstooth one reminds me of a skirt I wore in high school and I got to wear it when visiting with two grade school classmates in the Atlanta area on our drive south.  I love the border print on the second one and only regretted that I hadn't packed a navy top for the Florida trip.  
I did pack a lace RTW top that I enjoy and wore it several times with these latest Jalie Elenore pants when Mr. Lucky and I went out dancing.
Jalie Elenore pants
All of these, of course, are Fabric Mart fabrics.  These pants made me smile while I was doing snoop shopping in Naples during those two months.  A new friend at the dogpark we got to every morning shared how popular a brand of pants were in her trendy boutique.  She said they were flying out the door and sales were better than they had ever had.  Hmmm, I just had to go visit those magic pants.
Turns out they are a brand from Canada, Up Pants Up Pants  When I tried them on, they are basically a pull on stretch woven pant...gee, just like the Jalie Elenore pants.  One cool idea that I will be incorporating in my next versions....rather than use the fashion fabric for the inside of that wide top band, they use heavy slippery stretch power net fabric.  Hmmmm, I think that may mean you could even eliminate the 2" elastic that I currently use and just rely on the power net.  The other difference was that some of the pants had a wider band as seen in the picture below.  Otherwise, my $8.00 fabric cost version looked remarkably like their $120 versions.
Some versions have a wider band at the top for more tummy control.
Moments like this make me soon happy that I sew.  
I did a lot more snoop shopping for my next projects but that post will have to wait.  I have a big family wedding in South Carolina in the middle of May and then two weeks later we will be on our much anticipated bike and barge trip from Bruge to Amsterdam.  Of course these will be fun in their own right but sewing something for each of them will also be part of the fun I am having back in Baltimore.  In the meantime, I hope you are planning and enjoying projects in your sewing room.