Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Snoop Shopping

I first heard about the concept of "snoop shopping" for sewing project ideas two decades ago while attending one of my very first sewing long ago that there were many fashion sewing instructors and vendors.  It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea that I could translate those silhouettes and fashion details into my very own garments.  Nowadays I love getting out of my everyday more than casual dog walking and exercise daily clothes and into some boutiques and department stores for retail inspiration.  And it always helps that one of my sewing friends has a terrific instagram feed for those wonderful fashion details that you are sure to forget once you get into your sewing room: Shoppingsleuth Instagram

So while I love the concept, I seldom put it into practice it when I am at home in Baltimore.  There's always so many more things that I can do inside and out.  But on vacation, that's another story.  So this post is about the snoop shopping (and some buying, let's be honest) that I did while we were in Florida for seven weeks this winter.  And I am brave enough to show you the pictures from those ugly dressing room settings just so you can see how I approach this concept.  Warning, picture heavy but nothing directly about sewing....just about some sewing details that you might see in the coming year.

My purpose in snoop shopping is to actually try the garment on and see if it is something I would wear and sew in real life and then to see what details take it from mediocre to special.  Time is limited for all of us so I want to sew garments that will flatter me at this age and body type and also fit into my lifestyle.  Sometimes I need dressy items and most times more casual ones in lovely fabrics are the ones that I enjoy the most.  I get to try on new fashion seasonal garments and see if I like them on me and then incorporate them or let that trend pass me by. 

First snoop shopping day was after lunch with a Naples girlfriend in a shopping center full of locally owned boutiques and a few chains.  Florals were everywhere and I loved these embroideries:
Embroidered net over floral print
Embroidered net with knit kimono 
Wonderful seams and stripe directions on this knit tunic
Buttons, nothing but buttons, make this long duster fabulous
I love the tone on tone that make this white shirt tunic stand out

I went shopping for sleeve details to try since they are such an easy way to take a TNT pattern and make it seasonally current.  Many of the ruffles that I saw were too big and close to my food wrist.  Then I saw this black blouse and loved the whole sleeve design....and loved it so much that yes, I ended up buying it.

The boutique owner insisted that I try the top on with the black and white rayon pants with a front seam open to above the knee.  The minute he handed them to me I thought "Louise Cutting one-seam pants in rayon with a front seam and slit."  That's how sewing people think....what pattern is that and what detail do I have to change to make it mine.  
And I have the perfect black and white platform sandals to wear after I make these pants

I've seen scallops as necklines and hems but loved the vertical use on this jacket.

Sometimes just fabric catches my eye.  Love the tone on tone floral with underlay
Gorgeous sleeve detail fully lined in navy crepe

Coordinated fabric bows draw in the princess seams to give shape to a long tunic
When I am out and about "snoop shopping" I also find brands to check out and put pictures into my Pinterest file.  That green and white striped top is from Luisa Cerano who makes the simple but elegant styles that I was drawn to in this boutique Luisa Cerano
The next time I did a heavy shopping, trying on, picture-taking afternoon was when I was on my own and visiting a more mainstream but still new to me store, Dillards.  This chain is big and successful but the closest store to me is three hours away in another state.  I had fun trying on a spectrum of styles and here are some of my successes and failures.

This black and red poncho like top is almost exactly the same as my self-drafted tunic tunic tutorial but this time it had a large slightly cowl neck collar that I thought was quite soft and flattering.  So, measure, it, Jane....

With a similar large cowl collar, here's an eyelash fabric version....and the website photo IC Collection eye lash tunic  I do think the funniest thing is that they offer a pair of cropped pants in this same fabric?!

Let's move on to different details that caught my eye:
Button band on only one sleeve and clever gingham fabric details

Easy eyelet back closure
While I tried that top (you can see the front in the pic below) on I also tried on a pair of wide wrap around pants....and there's a reason the fashion advice is not to pair big over big....I just look big.

Now let's head over to Naples' Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue's Naples stores to see if there's anything there that I would like to bring home (style wise) to Baltimore. I love Lafayette 148 and lo and behold, they have a jacket that has been in the mock-up phase in my sewing almost twin of the Donna Karan Vogue 1440 jacket which is now almost impossible to buy Patternreview Vogue 1440  Like the Donna Karan version, this one is unlined but is interlined with a very lightweight cotton lawn. That's what snoop shopping gives you, inside details that don't show up in Pinterest pictures.

Wouldn't it be annoying to buy this jacket and have some alterations person try to figure out how to get rid of those back wrinkles.

Bound armhole and covered shoulder pad
I am wearing a Large and the circumference is correct around my tummy and high hip but the shoulders are definitely too big for my frame.  Once again, so glad I sew....even if the jacket is on sale at Saks today for less than $400😉 Drape front jacket  Trying this one on and seeing the inside details motivated me to revisit that mock up later in the year.
I needed to slip on a shell for those jacket pictures and found this gorgeous silk charmeuse lined ruffled top.  The ruffle was entirely lost and useless under the jacket but I think the neckline and proportion are lovely.  I would make something similar but with sleeves and more hip room....this one is a Medium so I need that tummy space.  As a coincidence, Peggy Sagers referenced this top in one of her recent spring inspiration videos when mentioning the predominance of ruffles and florals in fashion.
Not hard to imitate the drape and placement of this ruffle.
My last project idea came when I saw another Lafayette 148 jacket on display.  I won't get this project done in time for an upcoming June trip but I think the idea has some merit.  One of my sewing group Facebook friends just started a tweed French jacket project.  I have made several of my own stitch and flip versions and love them.  I would like a longer duster like version to take when traveling (in a blue and black or brown and black tweed)....but the sleeve length commitment gets to me.  I would like it to have 3/4 sleeves most of the time but longer sleeves if the weather turns cool.  So I thought I would use the fringe layer to hide a cuff like addition to make such  jacket more versatile....and look, here's sort of what I was envisioning.  Imagine this jacket mid-thigh length and with long sleeves that could convert to three quarter sleeves.  

Underlined again in cotton batiste, bound seam allowances and grosgrain at the front edge and hem

Enough downloads and bad phone pics.  I could show you more but they would still only be about what appeals to me, my style and my life.  What about you?  How do you get ideas for your garment sewing projects?  
I won't be doing any sewing in the immediate future. I have a dinner party coming up this weekend from an offering at our fall church auction so I will be busy shopping, cleaning and cooking up a storm.  But after that I can't wait to get into my sewing space and put some ideas into practice.  Here's hoping there are ideas percolating in your head, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Winter Begone

Spring is officially here in North America so that means it is most likely time for me to wrap up my posts for the small amount of winter sewing I did this year. Yes, it might just be that I have a procrastination contrarian dominant gene in my lineage since my blog posts don't seem to be matching the seasonal sewing schedule.
Back in last season I accepted a FB sewing group challenge to sew a winter coat.  Then several weeks later I ended up buying two gorgeous vintage wool coats at a hospital charity sale and my enthusiasm for a tailored winter coat project died but my desire to sew up some interesting fabric in my stash did not.  I had purchased a double sided faux suede polar fleece combo fabric, Fabric Mart, of course, for a few dollars a yard thinking that it could serve as a coat mock up if nothing else.  Since I no longer needed a heavy wool coat I dug out the fabric and found a pattern that would suit it perfectly...New Look 6536.  I had been doing some tedious and un-photogenic work with Sarah Veblen at the same time so I took the mock up for this coat and we both agreed that this pattern has terrific bones. 
 I was reluctant to give it a try since normally I don't like raglan sleeves.  They usually have folds of fabric along my arm and an unflattering uni-boob look.  But after Sarah made some minor tweaks...a little more room on the armhole seam which is where the bust shaping happens and a large wedge of fabric in the sleeve armscye area.  (Silly me, I didn't realize that yes, raglan sleeves have a sleeve cap and I just needed more sleeve cap height to get rid of those ugly folds.)  
Mock up with sleeve wedge added 
The fabric was relatively easy to sew.  I used a microtex needle and of course did not press the fabric with my iron, since it is polar fleece, merely steamed it, finger pressed it open and let it dry in place.  
New Look 6536
I forgot to take pictures of my topstitching....there's so much of it that I was glad it was DONE.  But I did use two threads in that same needle and was happy with the result.  

Since the fabric wouldn't press totally flat, I did stitch down the seam allowances in two area, along the top arm seam and along that mid-body seam.  I really wanted those seams to be flat and not curl.

New Look 6536
It is the perfect warm but lightweight coat that I need and will wear a great deal in Maryland.  Easy topper to throw over a tunic and jeans and those pockets mean I can run errands and walk the dog without worrying about a purse.  No, it's not the elaborately tailored coat that I imagined appearing on these pages back in the early autumn months.  But it is perfect for my climate and my life and that's what sewing lets us do.
The rest of my winter sewing was a variation on more TNT patterns.  Burda 6809 is one of several tunic patterns that I simply love.  It's got a retro sixties vibe to it and so far my versions have been summery ones.  This winter I wanted to use some bright emerald green embroidered silk dupioni that I picked up on the giveaway table from last year's sewing retreat.  I wanted to make the front collar opening and the cuff have some contrast.  Sarah Veblen helped me by looking for a darker forest green scrap that I could possibly use but that was too much green happening, even at the holiday time of year.  As she I spoke I looked again at the fabric and realized that it was just chain stitched contrast thread on that at home I unpicked about 18 inches of the fabric (sorry again, I was sure I had pictures but no luck finding them.)  There were holes in the dupioni that sewing people would notice but once I lightly interfaced those pattern pieces and pressed them, they simply looked as textured as the silk.  Now I had a perfectly matched coordinating fabric.  I used it for the front collar opening and then made a sleeve cuff pattern with a wedge to mimic that front point.  I was quite happy with the final result and planned to wear it to my book group holiday party.
Burda 6809

Testing the sleeve cuff
But my plans changed when we had a polar vortex hit us in early January.  Suddenly this silk tunic and skinny pants outfit was totally inappropriate for a winter party in the even colder hills of Pennsylvania.  TNT pattern to the rescue.  Here's Pamela's Pattern draped front cardigan in a Fabric Mart  hitachi print knit with a vintage mink scarf added for some extra warmth.  This cardigan just takes a few hours to complete and felt cozy and comfortable.
Pamela's Patterns Draped Front Cardigan
The rest of my winter sewing happened at our winter sewing retreat.  Since I already had the pattern out I decided to bring along another cardigan for which I had another vintage fur collar.

I used a Lisette Butterick 6244 pattern for this waterfall jacket.  I especially like this pattern because it has a neckline dart under the waterfall collar.  That gives some bust space and also a slight lift to the collar area which I find more flattering that the previous waterfall patterns I have used.  I changed the waterfall drape itself by copying an Eileen Fisher silk jacket that I have loved for years.  This is my first version in a very sheer poly from Fabric Mart and still needs to have the edges serged with a rolled hem. One of the nice things about the Eileen Fisher one is the doubled hem on the bottom and the sleeves which gives the silk a nice weight.  I have been saving some Anna Sui silks and think this will do them justice.

Eileen Fisher jacket
Well, Mr. Lucky and I are still enjoying our Florida winter sojourn.  We have friends from church staying in our Maryland house this month while they have a renovation in the works and they sent snow covered back deck pictures yesterday.  We have white stuff on the ground, too...
 but in another ten days we will be driving north, back to gardening, back to pick up my sewing machine from its repair visit and back to fun in my sewing room.  I still have some snoop shopping to do here before I leave so I will report what catches my eye.  Here's hoping your seasonal sewing is going well in your part of the world.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Beachwear and Books

Hello from warm, sunny southwest Florida where I am sitting in a library courtyard with flowering trees, a splashing fountain and fluffy white clouds drifting across the blue skies.  We left Baltimore more than a month ago and are enjoying all the pleasures of a winter vacation in a tropical environment.  So I thought I should share some tropical clothing that I've sewn for this trip.   
Mr. Lucky and I are in two rentals this season (too long a story but it all worked out in the end) and our February rental was a fantastic surprise.  The VRBO house was available last minute and was just magnificent with a heated pool and spa in the back courtyard.  It also included access to the resort pool and spa and all the amenities...tiki bar with music three nights, outdoor dining, gym, multiple pools, waterfalls, just glorious.  So to finally make this about some sewing, here's a purse I customized with leftover fabric from the guest room curtains and pillows I sewed many years ago 
  and here I am wearing my most pinned sewing project, a pullover poncho that seems timeless since it continues to get plenty of hits from searches.

I have sewn versions in silk, rayon and this very "hole-y" open weave knit which I made longer as a swimwear coverup which might be my current favorite.  I think even Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns just did a youtube video on something very similar that she saw while doing her upscale snoop shopping.   
I wrote that original post almost eight (eight?!) years ago when we owned a condo here in Naples.  Turns out I am much better at renting someone's great place than owning a second property.  Now we get to enjoy time with northern friends who come visit while also catching up with FL friends who are happy to see us again each season but I don't have the worry when I leave (nor the nasty mean-spirited emails from absentee owners when I was on our little eight unit condo board.)

Cheers to friendships near and far.
This tunic is another tried and true pattern, New Look 6110, one of my very favorite done in a lightweight silk tissue crepe.  I am happy there's a print (of NYC and its landmarks) because my placket looks terrible on this version.  Must refine that process since I love the pattern and have lots of other plans for it this year.
Jalie Elenore jeans #3461
It's Florida so there must be flowers....even on my pants.  These are the ever popular Jalie 3461 Elenore in a Fabric Mart stretch woven.  All of these summery garments were done at this year's winter Northern Virginia ASG Winchester retreat, our 8th year at the lovely George Washington Wyndham hotel.  And this year the cocktail of the night, specially designed for our group, was the "Berry Bobbin."  Cheers again!

Let's move on to the other sub-head for this blog, my reading selections.  One of the friends who I am looking forward to seeing in person in a few days always asks me what I have been reading.  Hmmm, I have been reading at a greater pace than usual this past year but I still had to go back to my library reading history to recall titles and my opinions about them.  My blogging has slowed down so much that my book reviews dropped off the to-do list.  However, just like in sewing, it's fun to read over these pages and recall the books I have been enjoying.  
First up is a series that will be largely unknown to an American audience.  In June of 2016 when we were on our Wales walking trip (look here if you want to see those sewing projects and my bragging about my mountain hikes Wales sewing and hiking) I spent a lot of time talking with a particular couple at several meals.  He was an avid reader and we discussed  so many books, mostly by American authors.  His partner, however, was only focusing on one author, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, and her Morland Dynasty series.  Several months after the trip I read the first one and now I am totally addicted.  Morland Dynasty series  
I was an English major for my undergraduate degree so of course had English history in my studies.  But these novels have me understanding that history in new and interesting ways. I am on book 19 (and these are long books, 500-600 pages at least) and have to pace myself because there are only 35 in the series.  One of the libraries in Maryland carries her books so I inter-library request them and savor each one.  Bravo to her for being so prolific and so consistently enjoyable with characters that are unique and compelling. 

I am a member of two book groups, one at my church and one up in PA where a long time friend lives.  That book group has adopted me over the years and I am fortunate to be included in their homes and their group.  This year Mr. Lucky and I were able to attend the holiday party and gift exchange.  One the delights (after the yummy food and funny re-gifting) was a special book group tree that our hostess had decorated with min-frames holding pictures of the covers of books we had read.  I thought I had a picture of the ornament but seems to be just us women celebrating good times and good friends.  (I think I will steal her idea in the future and put an ornament on my tree for my favorite book of the year.)

We did vote on our favorite book from the past year and the top two were my top two as well:

Since we are talking about rating books, here are my five and four star selections from the last year or so of reading.  Most of these are novels and many of them are books that I read, and  so enjoyed, only because someone in my book group selected it that month.  I love my book groups just as much as I do my sewing girlfriends and groups and for the same reasons.  They introduce me to new things, inspire me with their breadth of experience and keep me laughing and sometimes crying together.  Here's hoping you have good books and good friends to do the same.
My five star, don't miss if you love books selections:

My four star selections....books I recommend but maybe with some minor reservations but I thoroughly enjoyed.

Three stars....I wanted to really enjoy these but ultimately found them readable but disappointing.

Right now I am awaiting book 19 in the Morland Dynasty to arrive and have two books "in process."  Sunny afternoons and beach sunsets are perfect for escaping into other worlds and other minds.  I will let you know what I think of them and hope you share some of your favorite reads, too.  Sew grateful to have the time for such pleasures.