Friday, October 14, 2016

Right Dress, Wrong Season

In mid-August I brought several samples garments to a sewing weekend with fitting guru Sarah Veblen and this dress was the overwhelming favorite among all of us.  What a fabulous pattern and I am loving the final result....but not the fact that I won't be wearing it in public until we head to Florida later this winter.  But if you sew clothes, you know the joy and excitement of a new, versatile TNT pattern.  
Oh, Vogue 8997, how do I love thee?

Vogue 8997
I like the open neckline, the raised underbust seaming, the cup size options, the fun flare in this flared version and this fun stretch sateen from Fabric Mart.  It's the perfect dress for the summer winery outdoor dances that Mr. Lucky and I go to and I only regret that I didn't try this pattern out in late spring.

Here's the fabulous pattern...note that it comes with a two piece sleeve (wonderful in a dress and unusual), a flutter sleeve and a straight sheath version.  I will be making an entire wardrobe of these dresses in all their variation.
When Sarah helped me fit my mock-up, this is what I had to work with:
The pattern has eight pattern pieces for the sleeveless version.  I am so asymmetrical that I had to cut the dress in single layers and had to make adjustments on 12 of the 16 pieces.  So yes, it is a slow process for someone like me.  I am not temperamentally a particularly detailed or precise person. But working with Sarah has shown me the benefits of slowly making these adjustments and working carefully.  I would fail as a custom dressmaker but thankfully my style works for my casual life.  
Eight bodice pieces each with its own little adjustment

I self lined the bodice and then used a rayon lining for the bottom panels.
The stretch woven I used was quite lightweight so I applied light interfacing on the lining edges of the neckline and armholes to keep them stable.  I line sleeveless dresses using a sort of "burrito" method.  I  meant to take good pictures illustrating this technique again but instead will refer you to my original post...lining a sleeveless sheath  
Now let me show you how I will be wearing this dress in public...always with a little shrug.

I brought this project to my sewing retreat in August and one evening went shopping at the local Stein Mart store. (We don't have them in Maryland but they are one of my favorites for Florida casual wear.) I found this lacey little tie shrug for $8 on clearance and it looks like I coordinated it perfectly.
I may end up tracing the shrug because it's perfect for this dress.  And this is how I feel wearing this fun,  girly,swirly, twirly dress...let's get this party started.
Here's hoping that your sewing projects make you feel like dancing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fabric, Fun and Friends

Since this blog is ostensibly about my sewing adventures I will start with what interests you the most, sweet readers.  Did she go to that Colorado fabric store?  Did she buy any fabric?  What is she going to do with it?
Oh, so many questions.  Yes, when Mr. Lucky and I headed west to Colorado ten days ago I had added Elfriede's Fine Fabrics  Elfriede's  to our travel itinerary, particularly once Grace at badmomgoodmom blog enabled me offered to meet up in person.  I'm honored that someone so skilled and learned would even read my blog much less offer to help me select fabric from this wonderful emporium.  
So that was settled, we were heading out to Colorado to reacquaint ourselves with Mr. Lucky's family, take some local walks in town, meet up for more adventurous hikes with Maryland friends in the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park and yes, add to my fabric resource center.

Grace, Elfriede, Jane
 The fabrics:

 On the left is a lightweight wool loosely woven knit.  No, I have no idea but it is just spectacular and my real splurge.  

 Not a wonderful cell phone pic on my dress form but I am thinking cozy jacket wrap. The middle burgundy/merlot is an Eileen Fisher ponte.  Wonderful drape and I am thinking maybe a bottom piece but it too would be gorgeous as a flowing jacket.  (Don't forget, Elfriede has great mail order as well and these pontes are on her site.)
The next piece was my first choice and if I were limited would have been my only purchase.  It is a rayon knit in my mid to fair colors, with that touch of black, and I think the abstract print looks like mountains so it will be a great souvenir garment in the future.
The two fabrics on the left were remnants I just could not resist, a yard and quarter of the soft wool and less than two of another rayon knit.  

I'm thinking shawl collared vest from the wool

and a very versatile knit top that would be a wonderful travel garment to coordinate with many others.

That concludes the sewing portion of our action packed seven day trip.  Mr. Lucky and I did two 10k walks through the University of Denver campus and neighborhoods and then thru the small town of Arvada which is becoming a bit trendier as the downtown is updated and the light rail is moving out there.  We find these great walks through the website for the local Volksmarch club. 
Volksmarches are mapped out by clubs all over the world and are a wonderful way to actively explore a town or natural area.  You look up the public "start point," a hotel or eating establishment or in this case, a local gym.  The Volksmarch Club leaves a registration box and you can pick up a map.  No schedule or racing but it does mean you are parked in a safe area and will be on a circular walk that gets you back to the start point.  If you really get into it, you can do the record keeping and earn pins and awards for mileage and quantity of walks you take.  We stopped that process years ago (reocrdkeeping of any kind is not our forte) and just enjoy knowing that we will always be an interesting place and be able to find our way back.  In the US, it's or internationally
After the lovely fabric and blogging friend diversion in Boulder, Mr. Lucky and I headed to Estes Park to meet up with Maryland friends just completing 5 1/2 weeks on an RV trip seeing ten western national parks.  What a true delight to catch up with them in a gorgeous place and hear about their adventures on the trip of a lifetime.  The weather turned cold overnight and there was snow up on the mountaintops the next morning.  At their advice (perfect advice, it turned out) we got an early start into the park and onto a trail for our first hike of the day, up Deer Mountain, about a 1000 foot ascent with each view becoming more beautiful.  Wow is such a small word for such majestic sights.  

Aspen trees just starting to peak in the fall

Summit of Deer Mountain video

More hikes....marked with sewing pins...
more scenery....

Wildlife...elk rutting time...
The bicyclist did wisely move behind a car as the bull elk was bellowing for the rest of his harem.
I even had the very special experience of catching up with a friend from more than thirty years ago when we were both single career gals with heavy travel schedules.  We haven't seen each other or spoken directly in more than 20 years but when we got together on our last evening in town, the decades melted away and it was as if we had just met up yesterday.  Isn't that the most wonderful thing when that happens!
Still fun and crazy after all these years
If you stayed with me all through this long travel tale, you get to see another sewing surprise.  When we were looking at the Rocky Mountain National Park newspaper of events and hike information, I saw a blurb for a quilt show.  Yes, there is a beautifully curated small 13 quilt show making the rounds of the US national parks as another part of their centennial celebration this year.  Just so happened the the visitor center we stopped at had the display and I was able to capture the shot of the quilt designed for this particular park before my camera battery ran out.  The display is traveling to other parks this year so check your closest location if you would like to see more of them.  NPS Centennial Quilts

Now it's time for me to get into my own sewing room and finish a dress I will be wearing this weekend for a  family gathering.  Here's hoping you are enjoying adventures in or out of your sewing space.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rocky Mountain High Fabric Shopping

My latest sewing project is still under construction so I'll just drop in to ask about your travels and fabric hoarding shopping.  If you've read this blog for more than five minutes you know that I have more than enough fabric for several lifetimes of sewing, particularly at my slow pace.  So unlike some of you who reside in true "fabric store deserts," I don't have any need to visit a fashion fabric store when I am out of town.  But.....I find them irresistible and this coming week I just may have to find this one to explore.  
About 16 years ago I was just starting to think that I could actually learn to sew well enough to create wearable garments for myself.  It happened that year that we were on a trip with a woman from the Denver area and she mentioned her sewing interest and a shop called Elfriede's Fine Fabrics  Ironically enough, I had spent many earlier days in Colorado during the west coast portion of my career in the early 80s. Made a great friend there, Mr. Lucky has some family in the area and I have visited another friend in the mountains several times....but all of those were before my interest in sewing exploded.  Many opportunities, in other words, to learn about this store but all before I took up this hobby seriously.  

Now we are boarding a plane on Wednesday for a visit to those family members before we meet up with Maryland friends at Rocky Mountain National Park for several days of hiking and fun.  
Green Mountain by Shellie Mitchell  
I'm not committing myself to getting to Elfriede's since family and friends come first, but if time allows it would be a nice pit stop on our drive and Boulder is a beautiful area anyway and they just might have something I cannot find anywhere else and we should support independent fabric stores and it's not like some useless tchotkes and Southwest includes "free" luggage and I will only be in there for a few minutes and...and...and.  Yes, that's how my mind operates near a wonderful fabric store.  

Will she, won't she?  I'll let you know in the next installment.  In the meantime, I said I was an old hippie and Colorado was in a lot of our music back then including this sweet one
Here's hoping friends, family and fabric are making you happy, too.

PS  Look at this artist's beautiful work: Shellieartist  and her beautiful fabric on wood pieces.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

McCalls 7357 and Another Vogue 8691

Weather is frequently one of the first things I want to remark upon when I sit down to write a blog post even though I know talking about the weather is just about the most boring topic imaginable.  But weather does affect what we wear and that means it has to do with what I am sewing.  All that said, it is cooler and less humid in the Baltimore area which means I was able to wear this McCalls boho tunic top this week, hooray.  

I brought this project to the Northern Virginia American Sewing Guild chapter's summer "Taste of Retreat" in mid-August.  The summer retreat is slightly smaller, about two dozen participants, but just as much fun.  The conference room we use is light and airy and quite large so we have great table set ups.  After supervising our kitchen renovation (thank you for your kind comments on the results) I enjoyed being with sewing girlfriends and working on projects without deadlines.  I've been embracing the tunic top look in knits and now would like to have two or more tried and true woven versions to play around with.  This pattern fills the bill and I am quite happy with the first result.

The fabric was a border print that I have had for years (I should make a keyboard shortcut for that phrase since I use it so often.)  I think it may have been from Joann's and not from my usual Fabric Mart source.  It's a medium lightweight 100% polyester and I think I originally had in mind a skirt.  I don't overheat easily (menopause just meant that I reached room temperature now and then) but I don't like close fitting poly because of the clammy factor.  This top has side panels, a slight shirttail curve and a side seam dart so even though it is loose fitting there is some shape and I have not been bothered by the poly fabric.  It also has a three piece sleeve that suggests all sorts of techniques for future versions.

Since I had only planned a skirt originally there wasn't a lot of fabric to play with when I was cutting it out.  I didn't want the border circling my hips widest part but I did like the color blending.  I carefully cut out the front and back yoke and the facings to use that blue section in the border area.  I didn't have enough fabric to do the lined yoke as they recommend but it doesn't matter on this blouse.  I could have used an extra two or three inches in length but for my first version it turned out to be acceptable.
I also didn't want to wear a tank top with it so I slipstitched the bottom three inches to keep it shut while I move.  This area will probably get some decorative closure in the future versions.

I'm saying first version because I really like the fit and lines of this pattern.  I will drop the bust dart about 1/2 on the next one and add length but it really is a TNT woven pattern for me know.  I have a decent collection of Susan McCauley's Cambodian ikat fabrics Mekong River Textiles and have never used them successfully.  I thought at the time I purchased them that I would be joining my more art-to-wear sewing friends and make a pieced jacket or two.  Turns out that's not really my look.  I'm an old hippie, yes, but I never feel like myself when I wear something that arty or pieced. But a tunic top in ikat fabrics with jeans or leggings, that's a look I embrace, or maybe lengthened into a summer cotton dress. 
Another relatively easy retreat project was a second version of Vogue 8691, a Katherine Tilton pattern when she was associated with Vogue

 It took me awhile but I like this pattern more and more.  The shoulder princess seams allow for some nice fitting up top, the loose below the bust swing-y part is feminine and comfortable but I don't think I look inappropriately pregnant as I have in some other tops I have made.  This time I did a little contrast with some brown swimsuit lining fabric that I cut 1 inch shorter to a second ruffle and also for the neck binding.  
Vogue 8691 going to the farmers' market

Vogue 8691 and Style Arc Elle pants in a thin knit
I still didn't follow the Vogue instructions for applying the ruffle and next time will do what they say.  Their useful recommendation is to use fusible tape to attach the ruffles before stitching.  The heck with that I said, that fusible stuff is sticky on my hands in the recent heat, I'll just pin and sew.  Yes, I got the layers attached but this particular ITY knit (from Fabric Mart) does that curly thing at the edges so I had to trim that section anyway.  Would have taken just about the same time to use the tape.
Had to trim this area anyway so next time use the tape.
The sewing retreat was productive and relaxing and I still have one more pattern to finish and share with you.  But I also wanted to share what I seem to always bring back when I am in northern Virginia....
No, it's not the Trader Joe's "$2 buck Chuck" although that is a Charles Shaw case.  Maryland doesn't sell wine or beer in grocery stores so I had to re-supply after a summer of fun at home.  This might get us through until I return to VA for the next retreat in January.  Oh yeah, and maybe I won't buy any more fabric this year either.  


Friday, September 9, 2016

How Low Can You Go?

No, this is not a post about décolletage or hemlines.  Our recently completed kitchen and family room renovation has made me look at my sewing supplies with new eyes.  Or rather, having workmen doing plumbing and gas fitting in our basement has made me look at my drawers and drawers of patterns with their eyes....and it's more than a little shocking.  Just how many patterns do I need want to have in my space?  I'm not going all Marie Kondo-y on you, dear friends and family.  I am not going to embrace a minimalist life.  I'm more aligned with the Peter Walsh concept of honoring what I do have by using /enjoying/ seeing it or eliminating it to make life simpler and more free flowing.  So the immediate low can I take my pattern collection and still feel excited, challenged and creative?  Right now I am taking a pledge to cut my pattern collection in half over the course of the next year.  Half of what?  I can't be exact because even I don't know exactly how many patterns I have.  But by next summer there will not be any patterns in plastic drawers in my basement.  That's as much of a pledge as I am will to make today.  
Many of the patterns I decide to eliminate will be giveaways at my local sewing groups and on this blog so watch for future months of freebies coming your way.  

The rest of this post is of a more personal nature so if you want sewing pics and such you can move to the next blog on your reader without hurting my feelings.  I've just had several wonderfully relaxing vacation days and caught up on months of blog reading which feels like reconnecting with dear friends at a reunion.  
"Vacation?"  What could she be talking about, she's retired and her day is her own every day?  How right you are, I am the luckiest person on the planet just to wake up each morning.  But I have to admit, this home renovation project felt like a part time management job and I am glad that the "contract" is over and we can enjoy the results.  There will be home dec sewing projects this coming season but for now the major work is done and I am thrilled with the results.  It feels like we have moved into a new home.  Here are the "after" pics...check out this post Post with before pics  if you want to see the previous 1990 kitchen/family room (minus the min-fruit wallpaper, border and window toppers from my Laura Ashley wanna-be period.)

Our goal was to make a space that Mr. Lucky and I could enjoy now and also make it appealing to the family who will buy it in the near far  undetermined future.  Our contractor was wonderful, the annoying snafu with our first refrigerator has been worked out and now we want to entertain and enjoy the space.  

We would have liked an island but our addition was too narrow by about 12 inches so we have this wonderfully huge peninsula with drawers and a 30" farmhouse sink.  Quartz counter top and new lighting since the back of the room faces north.

We used to have no-wax floor here and now have refinished hardwood throughout.  I am going to paint my own floorcloth for this space.

Past the peninsula is our previous kitchen dining set, a sturdy Amish made oak set which will either become a game table set in the basement next year or be sold at a local consignment shop.  I'm considering having our contractor make a dining table with the side panels of an old treadle sewing machine and recycled wood on top.  But first I have to get a rug for the new, "squarer" space.  I'm thinking of a matching striped wool dhurrie rug that I cut down and bind myself.  Another sewing related project.

We have changed from wood-burning to a gas fireplace which I will especially appreciate on winter mornings.  We also changed from a sectional sofa to these four armchairs.  Mr. Lucky and I watch TV together in the evening and I like cuddling.  We do have a sectional and another larger TV in our living room so we were willing to remove the sofa and change to these chairs.  The room is now more cohesive and welcoming. I will be making long window panels for those four back windows.  We don't need any privacy back here since the space heads out to our deck and is quite high.  Watch for future posts about the gorgeous fabric I was able to steal buy over the 4th of July sale at Calico Corners.  

Plenty of other details in making this all happen but this is not a home dec blog so I will close with some pics from our present location.  Mr. Lucky and I are renting a home at Bethany Beach, Delaware.  Last year we invited several friends but this year we were worn out from renovating, traveling and entertaining so we are just chilling, reading, walking, bike riding and slowing down to a more reasonable pace.  I have loved seeing the activities and projects of my virtual long distance blogging friends this week.  This may be a low screen week for us but I am still grateful for this medium and how it brings kindred spirits closer.  Here's hoping that you have some time in your busy schedules to do the same.
Hurricane Hermine brought only rough seas to this part of the East Coast of the US

Sunset on one of South Bethany's canals

Bike trail on old rail trail from Rehobeth Beach DE to Lewes DE...the first city in the US first official state
Lucky the rescue dog loved an evening on the beach, too