Friday, October 29, 2010

Gift for a Friend....and for Me

Cowl cover up
Do you get inspired to sew a new project from watching what other people are wearing?  I do.  The winter before last I noticed women in SW Florida wearing filmy, sheer shawls as a top layer over sleeveless tops.  But rather than a shawl that you have to keep adjusting and managing, these were much more stable while still covering the upper arm area.  I made rough mental measurements then went home to figure out my version.  I started by taking a pashmina shawl and pinning it together and pretty quickly figured out this project.   The ones in this post are winter, cold weather versions....but it works just as easily in sheer silks.
23' by 68"
Instructions:  You need a 68-72 inch length of fabric.  Cut it lengthwise so that you have a panel 24" wide.  The sample you see is a black and burgundy mohair that I have washed and dried one time.  The fabric piece is 68" by 23'.  Since this is now a felted wool, I didn't have to worry about the edges raveling.  When I make these in thin silks I do a rolled edge on my serger on all four sides, trimming off some edge to get that 23 x 68 finished piece.

Fold the piece in half and pin it leaving 13" open from the fold edge.

 Now you are going to sew one seam 1/4", from the bottom to the start of the 13" opening, backstitching at the start and end.
I slipstitched the seam to keep it flat in this wool.  For the rolled edge versions that's not necessary.

So what do you get?  A cowl neck, feminine short shawl that slips over your head.  It's warm in wool, polarfleece or a sweater knit.  It's a lightweight coverup over a tank top when done in silk chiffon or filmy rayon.  If your fabric is more that 48" wide to start with, you get one and a friend gets one.  
Polarfleece version showing length in the back

Lightweight wool version

Monday, October 25, 2010

A New Skirt for my Inner Emma Pillsbury

My name is Jane and I'm a Gleek.  Yes, I love Glee, the music, the clothes, the actors...although I will admit it took a lot to get me watching FOX.  Well, politics aside, last week I decided to sew a quick something to wear to my annual 8th grade reunion weekend in northern NJ.  This started 11 years ago at the second HS reunion I attended.   Bored after an hour, what I did enjoy was catching up with classmates from my parochial grammar school years since I had known them, their siblings and their parents for my entire childhood.  I reconnected with a wonderful girlfriend and now we've had two big reunions with people coming from around the country, some of our former teachers and an annual lunch date just to keep in touch.  My girlfriend and I drive up the night before, meet with anyone who shows up for a burger at the local hamburger joint (in business since 1956) then walk the streets of our hometown the next morning, meet for lunch with more classmates and do a drive by of our childhood homes.
My former room, over the garage, sewing machine,
in the room to the right of the garage

WWEPW in about 30 years?
Sewwwwww, what to wear to this annual nostalgia fest?   This year I was influenced by the wonderful WWEPW blog.What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear?...yes, what would Emma Pillsbury the thoughtful, OCD guidance counselor and adult love interest of Glee, wear?  I had a new August silk cardigan that needed a skirt and some lapel ornament.  Pulled out an untried pattern, Burda 8294, with a short lined, bias skirt and in two short days of sewing had a new skirt and quickie pin ornament.  It was a hectic week here as we are visiting with so many local friends before we leave town for seven months and also finish up house and yard projects.  But I was happy with how the outfit came out despite my crunch.

Temperamentally I am not a quick seamstress.  I mull projects over, take frequent breaks, have several projects going at the same time (even I realize this sounds a little ADHD) and have difficulty finishing. But I loved how the bias wool/silk fabric looked for this skirt.  It's from Fabric Mart.  I still have 3 yards left so it will be a jacket one day also.

For the pin, I used some shapes that a friend had designed for cutting T shirt jersey into shapes for embellishing.  I cut the back piece out of a brown suede scrap then several sizes from pink organza and the pink and brown wool scraps.  Sewed a big brown vintage button and done.  

Came home with more funny stories from my classmates' memory banks and a heart of  gratitude for our families and one well as chocolates from the amazing confectionery store still thriving in my home town.

Hmmm, the button actually looks like chocolate, doesn't it?

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Little Green Dress, LGD

Simplicity 2404
For the past few years there has been a great deal of talk about the famous Little Black Dress, or LBD, of the fashion world.  Even when "grey is the new black" or "camel is the new black," every fashion guru cites the LBD as an indispensable must have.  So here I am, retired, spending time sewing, reading, taking long walks, cooking and gardening, not usually activities associated with the LBD.  I'm a "slow adopter" in marketing terms. I never rush to buy the new gadget or fashion....have to wait and see if it is really worthwhile.  I other words, I love to procrastinate.  And I have procrastinated on this sewing project for just long enough.

I was inspired to think about sewing a LBD when Threads did the wonderful Issue #130 with several great designer examples.  That was three years ago.  One year ago I helped a Florida friend fit a sleeveless sheath.  We did 2 muslins and then she made an absolutely stunning silk dupioni sheath, lined and underlined.  Wow, I helped her fit that dress and still I was LBD-less.  What's wrong with that?  So this summer I declared that I was going to get at least one fitted dress fitted to my body and sewn into something wearable.  I made two muslins, both Simplicity patterns, #2404 and # 2550.  Since 2404 was the best fitting one in the initial muslin, I made some changes and cut it out in a woven cotton sateen for my sewing retreat weekend in mid-August.  It needed help, still, since I find it so difficult to fit the back decently.  My sewing guild buddies pinned me up in minutes.  Let me tell you, that's  a huge benefit of ASG membership.  You meet the people who can inspire you and also help you do this challenging fitting stuff.  I had other projects in the works, however, and didn't pursue it again until last week.  This past Saturday was my ASG Annual Meeting in Northern Virginia.  I wanted to finish the dress that these generous friends had helped me fit.  I don't think black is a flattering color on me so I made my first wearable one out of this green rayon-poly-lyrcra from Fabric Mart.  The meeting was as fun as 40 sewing fanatics in a room can be and I was happy to have completed this project.

The dress is lined in the body with stretch silk from a wonderful sale at Michael's Fabrics years ago.  I was thrilled to have a stretch lining with the slight stretch of this woven.  It was fitted to account for the very extreme asymmetry of my body.  I have scoliosis and my right shoulder is about 1" lower than my left.  You can't tell from this pose but I'll post my custom body form one of these days to show.  Therefore a fitted woven dress or blouse is a real challenge for me, one that I was avoiding.  Jackets with structure or knit tops with their casual look don't need as much alteration.  I ended up with single pattern pieces for each side of my body....14 pattern pieces for the dress and 12 pieces for the lining since I only lined the body.  What a PITA to cut out and you understand my procrastination.
I cut full pattern pieces for the lining then stitched the interfaced facings directly to them.  I basted the lining and garment armscyes together then used 11/4" strips of Ambiance lining to do a single layer bias binding all around the armhole.
facngs to be stitched to lining
I don't love, love the finished dress since I find it wrinkles even with its lining.  But I do like the fit and style of the dress.  Now I'm ready with a fitted pattern to consider more versions of the LBD for my closet.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sew a gift for your favorite cook

Taking a break from sewing a dress, Simplicity 2404, to share the first of a few posts on gifts.  Mr. Lucky and I come from very small families and don't really exchange Christmas presents with the few adults in our immediate families.  And I feel like it's Christmas every day since retiring after paid employment of 34 years.   Early retirement is the best gift I ever got....and one that has kept on giving for 10 years.  I also don't usually sew for others generally because think most of my friends and family would rather purchase clothing or an accessory rather than get something I made.  It's nothing personal...or maybe it is, since we each have our personal taste.  But there are some presents that I make as a hostess gift or small memento, good for any time of year.  Today's post is about these terrific pot holders.    
hot pads in various sizes at our house
They started with leftover Fabric Mart mohair.  I had made a throw with 1 1/2 yards of it and had about the same amount leftover.  I put it into my front loader washing machine on heavy duty then in the dryer on the same.  Yes, it shrunk but I'm not scientific enough to tell you by how much.  I just wanted to change it into felted wool and then decide what to do with it.  I was considering a felted purse but I knew I would never use it.  Since wool is such an excellent heat insulator, why not try pot holders?  One layer wasn't thick enough so I just used a long serpentine stitch on my machine to join two layers.  Perfect.  I tried a few different sizes and like the finished 6"x9" the best.

12 pairs later and I have an easy, useful hostess gift.
Felted wool jersey in 2 layers
I did the same with the leftover felted wool jersey from my Kwik Sew jacket.  I imagine that these would be just as simple to make with wool sweaters that accidentally---or on purpose---ended up in the regular wash.  Trim them with wavy edged rotary cutter and you have a lovely gift.  You'll feel better using up scraps and ruined sweaters and both the planet and your friends will thank you.
Nest post, a new dress.  Hoo hah, all you great dressmakers are getting to me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What will happen to your sewing stash?

notions and patterns
 I spent yesterday in Pennsylvania with long term and new sewing friends visiting an estate sale of a prolific sewing guild member.  She had passed away at 80 years old and several of her friends spent what looked like days organizing her supplies and fabric collection for a sale.  The ASG neighborhood group advertised it and five of us drove there for a few hours of shopping, talking and marveling.  I never met this woman but I knew as soon as I saw her patterns and fabrics that I would have greatly enjoyed her company.  Beautiful fabrics, wonderful color sense and a range of interests, from jewelry to embellishing.  Just like me, she had every garment sewing book ever printed and more ideas than time available.  Here are the pictures for what I came home with, some items for a sewing friend but most of it for me.
mostly silks, some kimono fabrics and some rayons along with silky polys
But let's face it, buying these items at an estate sale does make you ponder your own "collection"  as well as your own eventual demise.  Now I intend to carry on as long as possible but I also acknowledge that I will die with a "to-do" list still going strong...if I'm lucky.  I hope that my sewing guild friends do the same for me...sell and donate all my beloved machines, fabrics and supplies in both homes, in MD and FL.
The major disappointment I had yesterday was that so few young women would know about this amazing sale.   There's a topic on Patternreview right now among beginners and the lessons they would offer to other beginner sewers.  One repeating theme is that you should buy quality tools and fabrics.  That's hard advice to take in tough economic times.  It's also difficult advice to take when you a beginner and don't know if this "sewing thing" is going to really be enjoyable for you.  I spent many years buying junky cheap fabric because I doubted my abilities.  Turns out I didn't know how to fit myself and once I really understood that, my sewing took off....but I had wasted time and money until then.  A sale like this one could outfit MANY beginning sewers with the supplies and fabrics to really make a difference in their results.  What a shame that they either don't belong to ASG or don't take advantage of learning from the older generation around them.   This woman obviously was a wonderful seamstress and her sewing estate will continue to be a gift to the future.  I was cheered to hear that the unsold collection will most likely be donated to the vo-tech sewing program or the 4-H sewers.  I want the same to happen to my unused collection so that others can experience the creativity and friendships that fashion sewing provides me.  SO what will happen to your stash?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sewing with Gratitude, Occasionally

My sewing for others usually follows the sentiments of Elaine at The Selfish Seamstress blog.  In my words, "I'm too slow, you can't afford me, you'll have to wait forever or no, not interested."  So I have to love you a lot to sew something for you.  And yes, that's why I made this shirt for Mr. Lucky this week.  He worked so hard getting my sewing room patched and repainted.  He spent forever installing ceiling lights which I now realize were a mistake and will probably be replaced next year.  Then he took me to NYC for a wonderful anniversary weekend.  I had cut out two Kwik Sew shirts for him this summer but never got around to making them so this was the apprppriate time, don't you think?   And besides, I wasn't happy with how my own latest sewing project was going so I needed a success.

I used a TNT pattern for him, KS 3422.  The fabric is another Fabric Mart find from years ago, a very thin cotton silk blend that feels light and airy.  I have no idea why I bought it for myself but I loved the touch and the price.  It's a very dense weave so even a new size 75 quilting needle was hammering the fabric.  I changed to a size 70 sharp needle and all was well again.  I follow the KS directions and have succes although I did deviate in two places.  I used the wonderful invention, Steam a Seam 2 lite, to fuse the pocket into place before stitiching it.  I also did the shirt hem treatment a little differently.  First I serged the hem at a slightly increased differential feed number...1.3 on my Babylock.  This slightly curved the bottom hem.  I pressed it 1/4' then pressed again before using my edge stitching foot to sew the tiny hem.  It makes the hem area look totally finished.  I believe both of those were useful tips from louise Cutting.
Next shirt I think I'll try the flat fell seams on the side and shoulders but I'll have to slightly adjust the seam allowance in those areas.  Pam Erny just republished directions on her webiste on how to do this at the sleeve.  Off the Cuff blog.   It's a lightweight sports shirt for up here in MD fro fall but he'll pack it and take it to FL when we leave in 3 weeks.

As for my personal sewing disappointment this week, I'll wait to blog about that later when I can get some pictures and ask for feedback.  I'm heading up today to visit a friend in PA.  Tomorrow we're going to a fabric sale of a woman from her sewing guild who has passed away.  From what I've heard she was a wonderful sewer as well as friend so although the stash that is left may be impressive, I don't believe it's sad and frightening like some of the craft and fabric hoarders I have heard about.
In the meantime, here are pictures of the new and improved sewing room.  We still have to install some Homesote boards on the wall behind the entry door.  I'm going to live with it for a while and see what I think about the wall space behind my sewing machine and sergers.
Sewing room from entry door

Rocketeer, felter, Viking 770, Baby lock CS, Babylock Imagine

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Organza Flower Details

I've been wearing the embellished tweed skirt from the previous post for about a year now and still am happy with how the embellishing turned out.  So I thought I'd share what I did in greater detail.  Now that so many sweaters and jackets are being embellished with these flower designs, this might inspire someone to try it elsewhere.  I've always liked items with some feminine embellishment, lace, some glitter, ruffles, etc.  But my everyday style is definitely more classic sportswear so how on earth does embellishment fit in without looking too crafty?  This skirt was my attempt to marry those two sensibilities together.

skirt front
I searched for flower tutorials but didn't want heavy roses or yo yo flowers for a trim.  I needed somehing flatter and more deconstructed.  I found Calamity Kin's great blog, Calamity Kim blog,  with wonderful instructions for folded and twisted flowers.  I used silk organza pieces from my stash and made several different size flowers.  Then I unraveled 11/2" squares of the tweed for flower centers.  Sewed seed beads for some sparkle in the center.  I connected the flower sections with bias strips,  cut 3/4" from dark brown organza with some branching sections and hand stitiched that wth large stitches to emphasize the branch like feeling.  I liked the flowing movement around the skirt bottom and kept it well below my seat in the back.   Now I'd like to do something similar on a few RTW cardigans that I have.   Embellishing with these flowers won't reduce my huge stash substantially but will give me some easy handwork while enjoying some of the fall TV season.

skirt back

Monday, October 4, 2010

New York City and What I Wore

My last post was about sewing up a brown knit twist top dress for our upcoming visit to NYC.  We'll, I thought I'd share what else I wore over the weekend since I still have to write two PR reviews for these items.  Friday it poured rain on us all afternoon as we made our way to the TKTs booth near the South Seaport Center so I don't have pics for that day.  But the skies cleared in the evening as we got back for a pre-theater drink and time to change for the theater.  I wore a Burda skirt #8213  that I made a year ago when I wanted to do something ala Betsey Johnson.  I'm pretty darn happy with how the bottom embellishment came out.  I wasn't happy that the brown 2 inch heel b.o.c by Born boots hadn't arrived by the time we left town so I'm in flats.  Oh well, not too bad for a wonderful walk to the theater.
We saw "The Pitmen Pictures" which has just opened on Broadway after being a hit in London.  It's the true story of coal miners in the north of England who take an art appreciation course and end up becomng painters themselves.  There's so much about creativity, art, desire and camraderie.  Those of us who sew for ourselves sometimes see "high fashion" as being remote from our lives much as these miners saw "art" as something foreign to theirs.  Yet when given the chance, the tools and the encouragement to create, each one of them was able to produce personal and meaningful work.
Saturday the skies were bright blue so we walked all over lower Manhatten while I did some snoop shopping in Soho, Greenwich Village and Chelsea.  Since I live in SW Florida for 7 month of the year, I enjoy just being around young, hip adults for a change although I must admit that most of the fashions don't work for my style.  No leggings on me anymore, large tops just make me look sloppy but I do think there are ways to adapt trends into more wearable versions for myself.  I wore my Simplicity #2858 jacket that I made for last year's PR lined jacket contest and a scarf that I made when I took Shannon Gifford's stitch and flip jacket class a few years ago.  Shannon was the most wonderful teacher, so thorough and thoughtful.  She encouraged us to try the technique on scraps first so I ended up making this scarf.

For the theater that evening we scored two half price orchestra tickets to see "A Little Night Music" with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch.  I had read the New York Times article this summer saying that sometimes, contrary to popular opinion, replacements in Broadway shows were actually better than the originals and that was the case for this show.  I love Steven Sondheim musicals but had never seen this one so was thrilled with our luck.  Hardly a breath in the audience, but many a tear when Bernadette Peters sang "Send in the Clowns."  On a fashion note, however, my husband just rolled his eyes at how people were dressed.  Yes there were Saturday night date night outfits but they were far outnumbered by casual mall wear or at home watching video wear.  Ok, so I don't go to society galas or late night clubbing, when else am I going to get "dressed up?"

Friday afternnon we visited the FIT Museum and saw the two exhibits,  Eco-Fashion: Going Green and Japan Fashion Now.  Now, I'm as "green" as the average American....or maybe a little Lake Woebegone above average.  Have my own water bottle, bring my own bags into stores, grow organically and support my local CSA.  I never really thought much about the environmental impact of fabric production but the first show focused on much of that.  It's a big question for all of us, our footprint on the planet.  I don't have answers but it was a thoughtful show with a variety of garments, from indigo dyed fabrics to pleather, heirloom clothing remade to disposable garments of recent years.

I was going to keep to my fabric diet (at least while Mr. Lucky was around) but we walked up 39th Street on Friday afternoon and I ducked into one of the open shops.  I don't even know the name, I just saw instinctively the knits for $2.99 yard and bought two pieces.  Wish I had gotten three yards of the black and blue heart border but it will just challenge me to be more creative.

Last part of this post is a recipe so you can stop reading if you don't bake.  Sam the basenji is not the sweetest dog on the planet to strangers so we take edible bribes to the kennel staff when he gets boarded.  Last week I took him up to PA where we picked a 1/2 bushel of apples at our favorite orchard.  Here's the delicious apple snack cake that I make for the autumn bribe.  It's my version of America's Test Kitchen's Easy Apple Snack Cake from their Family Cookbook.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons of Penzey's Baking Spice Mix
(or their version, 1 t cinnamon, 1/4  t ginger, 1/2 t allspice)
1/4 t salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup applesauce
1 t Penzey's dried lemon rind
(or their version, 1 t grated lemon zest)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced medium (2 cups)  I used the local Mutsu apple variety which is similar
(optional 1/2 cup raisins)  not in my recipe

Heat oven to 325.  Lightly coat an 8 inch cake pan with vegetable oil spray.  Whisk the flour and dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside.

Beat the brown sugar and butter in a mixer on medium for 3-6 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Beat an egg in one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed.  Beat in applesauce and lemon.

Mix the flour mixture gently into the egg mixture until no streaks remain.  Stir in the apples (and raisins if using.)

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Back until a wooden skewer comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for at least 2 hours.

Can be kept for three days at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap.

I made two of these, one for the kennel staff and one for us.  Yummm.

Here are the Penzeys spices I used.  Great website and terrific free catalog with recipes as well as retail stores in major cities.