Friday, December 31, 2010

Sewing Resolutions

I truly enjoy the end of the year photo collages and remarks made by sewers around the world.  There's a common thread of sew more, worry less, master some new techniques and use more of the already stashed collected patterns and fabric.  I'm good with all of those.  I did not make a formal, written plan for sewing in 2010 since I only started blogging in September.  I did make a verbal commitment to get a fitted dress made (done), work on welt pockets (not done) sew from my stash (definitely done) and get a wrap blouse pattern fitted and sewn (half way there.)
Last sunset of 2010
I'm keeping it equally short and simple for 2011.  Sew 12 jackets.  Ok, maybe not simple, but certainly short.  As  part of that project I will make welt pockets for at least for one of those jackets and I'd like to work on my lining and lapel techniques.  I'll definitely sew a lot of things from my fabric collection but I'm not foolish enough to commit to not buying fabric in 2011.  On the other hand, I will be donating and gifting pieces from that collection which deserve to go to new homes, the same with patterns that I'll never use.
Nothing too unusual about these plans.
But 2010 has had a profound effect on me in other sewing related ways.  When I heard in the late spring of this year that the wonderful Shannon Gifford (remarkable Patternreview teacher) and Fred Bloebaum (terrific pattern designer of La Fred patterns) had passed away at such young ages I was so saddened for their families and our sewing community who lost inspiring, encouraging, patient and creative teachers.  They were both younger than I am, even more tragic that they died right when their lives were full of joy, family and accomplishment.  Yes, I know in my head intellectually that any day on earth could be my last day, but their deaths were reminders at the heart level.  Not long afterwards, my husband and I were out for happy hour one evening and I reminded him of a plan we have.  We've always said that when the dog dies (mind you, that could easily be 5 or 6 years away since Sam  is a healthy 11 going on 12) we'll take our big trip to Australia and New Zealand.  Well, that night I decided that who knows if one or both of us will outlive the dog and I want to take that trip now.  So that is why late this February into the first two weeks of March we'll be traveling for my "bucket list" trip.  Sam will be heading to a great kennel here in SW Florida and we'll be flying off to New Zealand for 3 weeks hiking and touring the South Island.   I'll be sewing up several pieces to take on that trip over the next two months in between planning more details of our visit.  It's more than a little ironic that sometimes it takes sadness and pain for us to fully experience joys but that's the contradictory nature of life.
In the meantime, wishing you a happy new year and the chance to fulfill your heart's desire this year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Making Design Decisions

Now what?  That's the stage I'm at in this sewing project.  A few weeks ago, when it started getting cold here in Florida (yes, "cold" being a relative term) I made another version of Burda 8294, a bias, lined skirt from a silk herringbone plaid.  Quite plain on its own but I have two sweaters that I will wear with it wit, one a navy V neck and one this medium teal-ish blue from my Ann Taylor visit.  I also have a stash of glass marcasite buttons from an Ebay purchase years ago and collection of random blue silk dupioni pieces so I'm looking to see how I can combine these elements.

Today I've replaced the sweater buttons with the glass ones.  I've also made my first attempt at a Kenneth King inspired silk dupioni flower.  Mine only vaguely resembles his luxury version but I'm liking the color combination.  I think I'll refine my technique....or just call it "rustic" if that doesn't succeed and make a flower collection for the neckline of the sweater.  But what about the skirt?  I could just leave it alone....good grief, not that!  Maybe I could add a seemingly random scattering of buttons along the hemline

or maybe use these bias strips to do a design.  In this tryout I'm glorifying myself by forming "J's" along the hem, you know, sort of CC Chanelish.
Glass buttons on the hemline

My final idea for the afternoon was to combine the two, doing a serpentine edge with the bias and then interspersing the buttons along that line.

Bias strips and glass buttons
Oh, the blues in the skirt are much more bluer than the pics....where it looks grey.
Any opinions or other suggestions?   Hmmmm, I'm leaning to just plain skirt as I look at the pics.

Ok, that's it for today.  I'm heading out for a walk then have to get cooking.  Tomorrow is a picnic on the beach with friends at sunset, followed by fireworks at 7:30.  For once I'll be glad to have them early because of the chill in the air although usually I find it hilariously funny that we have early bird New Years here in the land of retirees.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Embellishing a Holiday Sale Sweater

Our Christmas celebration here in SW Florida was low-key, enjoyable and I also loved seeing the variety of celebrations among blogging friends around the globe.  Mr. Lucky and I went out for brunch on Christmas Eve and wandered a beautiful mall afterwards.  After buying a new saute pan on sale at William Sonoma,  he sat in Barnes and Noble while I cruised the stores doing some snoop shopping and ultimately some real world shopping.  I was eyeing jackets in Saks Fifth Avenue to get some ideas for what I want to work on for the 2011 jacket sew along.  Then I stopped at Ann Taylor for their 40% off everything sale.  Ended up with three sweater which you will be seeing over the next few weeks.  It's been so cold here in Florida (no, I understand, not as cold as elsewhere!) that I was looking for sweaters with real warmth.  I wear mostly rayon nylon blend sweaters and knit tops because they are cooler in warm weather.  But wow, this morning there was frost on the golf course and on our cars and I was COLD.  So I was excited to find a few silk, rayon cashmere blends, perfect for some real warmth but still lightweight.  I've been so inspired by the blog Grosgrainfabulous this past month.  Grosgrain blog  Every day in December (!!!) she bought a thrift store sweater and embellished it, very Anthopologie without the price. Anthropologie sweaters Now, at my age I have to be careful with that Anthropologie thing....too much and I don't look hip, I look like the Carol Burnett washerwoman mix wardrobe.

I don't wear solid black too frequently so wanted to embellish it with something softer.  Luckily I had yards and yards of this lace, I believe inherited from my mother when she was on a yard sale binge in the 80's.  Measured the neckline to the first button, tripled it and gathered the lace then hand stitched it around the neckline.  Did the same at the pocket area and I'm quite happy with the result.

In addition to this fashion project I did get some home dec sewing done over the past few days.   Recovered my dirty ironing board cover and then made pillows as requested for the great friends who watch our condo for us in the summer.  I'm not even a fan of blue in decorating but I love the indoor outdoor fabric she chose.
It's good to be back blogging and sewing.  I love holidays, festivities and fun but I also like my solitude and quiet time.  That's what easy projects like these give me, time to think and regroup.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Winter Solstice

They resemble mittens but they are actually socks ....stretch Polarfleece and Polarfleece 200 socks made from the Green Pepper pattern, to be exact.  These are among the most well-received gifts I have ever made so here's the batch for this year's presents.  I have purchased different weighs and designs of Malden Mills Polarfleece over the last ten or twelve years.  It is absolutely the best imaginable, never pills, stays looking new for years and wears like iron.  For years LL Bean would only use the genuine Malden Mills Polarfleece in their garments.  I even visited the retail store (now closed to anyone except full roll buyers) at the factory in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Business readers know the story of Malden Mills from the mid-1990s when a fire destroyed the mill but the employees were kept on while the company rebuilt.  Fashion and the economy did them in by the new millennium and they have now filed for bankruptcy a second time.   Malden Mills History news report   Like so many other textile manufacturers in the US, cheap overseas competition has cut into their business strongly.  They are still the highest quality manufacturer in their field with an amazing and admirable collection of technical fabrics.  But their limited line of fabric means that much of the fabrics and designs I liked are no longer available to retail fabric buyers.   G Street Fabrics used to have "less than a yard" leftover cuts, most likely from clothing manufacturing.  Look at outdoor wear catalogs these days and very few of the items are genuine Polarfleece.   Oh well, it's a global economy, I know, but I sure miss the choices I used to have.   When I made a tied fleece quilt for a friend's son who is an avid Boston Red Sox baseball fan, I hated the thin fleece I had to buy from Joann's just to get the licensed design.  I used up more of that Polarfleece collection by backing it with a thin Polarfleece 100 to give it substance and endurance.

Now the cards have been written and mailed, the presents are completed and delivered, what's a girl to do today to celebrate the winter solstice?  Go kayaking, of course.
It was a gorgeous sunny day here, unlike the nightmare weather in Europe and other parts of the US.   If you are reading this post from one of those areas, I hope you are keeping safe and warm in such treacherous conditions.
Mr. Lucky and I rented kayaks and cruised the estuaries near the Gulf of Mexico, spotting birds (even a bald eagle), fish and then this surprise among the mangrove groves:

Merry Christmas from southwest Florida!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Changing for the Better

2010 version Simplicity 2603
It's been an enjoyable holiday season in real life but I haven't been having too many sewing successes in the sewing room over the last week.  No matter, I am pleased with a slight adjustment I made to an already sewn garment.  Don't you wonder sometimes why you spend your time carefully constructing something that fits but then don't really make a regular part of your wearable wardrobe?  I have severely edited my closet closets over the past five or six years and continue to do so each season.  It's made it easier to become a bit more ruthless about discarding what I'm not wearing.  This cardi jacket was one of those items that had to change or go.
I made the "short" version of Simplicity 2603 during the late summer and early autumn of 2009 when it was a sew along on Patternreview.  As my review stated, I was mostly happy with the result.  So here we are a year later and I have hardly worn the sparkly grey version (and never wore the blue slinky version in my review.)  Ok, what's the risk...go ahead, chop off pieces in a few places and now I'm thrilled.  Much less fabric around my neck and down the front, shorter length is a better proportion and now I have a light, swingy sweater like third layer jacket.  Is it sewing? Is it refashioning?  I don't care what you call it, I'm happy to reclaim and enjoy this pattern.  Now I see a few more in my future....and ones which I will actually wear.
2009 version Simplicity 2603

Removed 4" from neckline, 2 " from length and 2 inches across front diagonal.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Twelve in '11

Great sewing minds think alike.  I'm joining in with Robin, Robin's blog Carolyn,  Carolyn's blog and other talented sewers around the globe.  Gigi's wonderful posts Gigi's  about her 2010 jackets had me pondering this week....and it turns out that there are numbers of us on the same wavelength.  Let's make 2011 the year of the jacket.

Jacket sewing is really what inspired me to re-enter the world of fashion sewing.  One of the first jackets I made was a pattern from Sandra Betzina's No Time To Sew pattern collection. No Time to Sew on Etsy
 It was a shawl collar, dolman sleeve (it was the early 90's after all) jacket and I did my first piping on it.  Her TV show on HGTV, Sew Perfect,  and her infectious enthusiasm were so inspiring.  Even now I beam when I recall a woman at a sewing conference complimenting me on the color and piping detail of that jacket.

At one of those sewing expos I heard Nancy Erickson of The Fashion Sewing group speak.  Nancy Erickson's site  What was memorable about her talk was the advice to spend your precious sewing time on things you probably couldn't or wouldn't buy....designer jackets.....and not on things that you probably could already afford....T shirts.  Wow, that was entirely different from how my mother approached sewing and it struck a nerve.  I subscribed to Nancy's newsletter for years, bought her patterns and even attended a long weekend workshop.  I never got her jacket pattern to work for me....that low armhole, even after many alterations never fit my bust and upper bust area to my liking.   But then Sarah Veblen Sarah's site fit me a few years ago and it's been fun ever since then to make jackets.

Count me in for 2011.  Jackets fit my lifestyle, my body and have great paybacks for my time.  I have some TNT patterns that I can adapt and there are a few that I'm willing to add to my repertoire.  I also like the fact that any "third" layer can be considered a jacket.  I have a few knit pieces that I want to get into my wardrobe so they'll be on the list as well.

What's on my radar?
Since Pantone is predicting that Honeysuckle Pink is the new spring color, I think this fabric will be perfect.

I have no intention of matching those large hounds tooth checks since I have to sew separate shoulder seams at left and right.  So I might just make put a sleeve and side panel on the bias or better yet just use a raglan sleeve pattern.

And I've been meaning to make another stitch and flip Chanel knock off in this soft wool silk blend:

I can still fit in the easier to sew items, knit tops and skirts, but I like having a specific goal for the sewing year.  Of course, this goal appeals to me while it's quite chilly here in Florida.  One thing I'll have to do is cut out several of those jackets ahead of the hot summer weather.  When it's warm and humid, jackets, interfacing and linings are the last things I want to think about.  I see some cutting marathons in the next few winter months.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy 235th Birthday

Yes, I am a Jane Austen, fan, although not a fanatic.  Perhaps it's my name, perhaps it's merely my English major reading habits, but mostly it's the courtly romance, tension, social mores and wit that I simply love.  So today, happy birthday, Jane.
Each December I celebrate Jane's birthday by re-reading one of her novels.  It's the perfect antidote to any holiday craziness.  Wonderful escapism into a different world.  I don't treat them Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, enjoy Emma and Mansfield Park and tolerate Northanger Abbey.   I also love the BBC adaptations and one of the contemporary DVDs, "Lost In Austen," is a total delight.  Even businesses are aware of her long time popularity.  Jane Austen and the Wall Street Journal  This year Persuasion is on my bedside table.  (Irene, I bet you understand.)

Enough of my Anglophile ravings.  To make this slightly sewing related I suggest a project that will allow you to watch a movie of your choice while making something nice and useful for your sewing room.  I have been using these plain metal washers for pattern weights for several years.  A dear sewing friend and new blogger just posted this lovely gift version,
Michelle's pattern weights
something I had been meaning to do myself.  So last evening, while watching Survivor (not all my interests are seemingly highbrow:-) I wrapped these up.  Side bonus, it keeps your hands out of the cookie jar.

From this
to this

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Padding my Dressform and Some Small Misfortunes

I've been meaning to make my dress form slightly more presentable.  This one resides in SW Florida and is a fairly good representation of my body circumference....but not body geography.   I cannot remember where I got her.  She's wearing one of my bras with some fiberfill inside and I also padded her tummy and back fluff areas.

I like using a dress form mostly for design purposes.   The linen robe is a 1961 Vogue pattern (that I still have to review on PR)  The dress form helped me place the lace.  But we've been having contractors in and out of our condo in recent weeks gathering info to make bids to redo our master bath.  I decided that my dress form needed to be more modest when she was "undressed."  I sewed a cotton knit tube then pinned it tightly into place over the padded form, re-pinned, restitched and pulled it into place.  As I said, I'm not looking to recreate my undressed body (that's a different post for the future when I write about MY TWIN dress form in Baltimore.)  I have narrower shoulders and spinal curve that gives me some pretty severe asymmetry.  But for modeling a woven garment this one works just fine.

In the meantime, here's what happens when you try to do a quickie project like this one in a hurry.  This lanyard was a gift from a lovely friend who came to visit last winter.  Small world, turns out we are alums of the same undergraduate school, the University of Delaware (along with Vice-President Joe Biden and cute Joe Flaco of the Baltimore Ravens football team.)   Great useful gift.  I've never sewed with scissors around my neck and now I can't imagine how I did so without them.  These are cute and very sharp Ginghers that I bought at Joanns on clearance a few years ago.  I've cut the lanyard twice now so eventually I'll make myself a new ribbon one.

I also tried a little craft project that I had been considering and was disappointed with the initial result.  this is my first attempt at a kanzashi flower.  Lots of great web instructions out there but I was trying to do too much in one day and didn't pick a good fabric nor really prepare it enough.  OK, something to go back to when I'm in a more Zen like state of mind.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Susan Khalje Needles and Pins

Oh, I wish I were a poet so I could write a love sonnet to these hand sewing needles.
I've been to Susan Khalje's wonderful trunk shows at the American Sewing Guild conferences, I read her Threads articles closely and of course, I own her books, even the "wedding gown" book although I never made my own nor do I have a daughter to sew one for in the future.  But up until last spring I had not taken a hands on class with Susan.   I signed up for the Fort Myers chapter workshop on "Couture Techniques" and loved every minute.  Couture involves great precision and a lot of hand sewing.  I seldom (if ever) will make a entire couture garment.  But the techniques are useful when adding touches of couture details to  a fashion project.
One of the greatest benefits of the workshop buying these fabulous hand sewing needles from Susan.  Susan's website store   I had already become a pin snob years ago and only use Japanese glass headed pins.  Susan sells them as well so I resupplied myself with another 2 boxes.  The hand sewing needles were  revelation to me.  Smooth as glass and also remarkably strong.  As Susan describes them , they don't arc when you are sewing through multiple layers or heavy fabric.  I keep them separate from any other hand needles and am jealously possessive of them.  They deserve a nicer, cuter "home" but for now they stay together in some felted wool jersey and I lovingly make sure they have a cozy, safe resting place each night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snap Out of It Bag

Last winter I learned about using retractable metal rulers to create closures for bags.  My BFF came to visit and we explored quilting stores together where the new patterns from The Stitichin' Sisters Stitichin Sisters site were selling like gangbusters.   We made a few while she was visiting and I, being the non-quilter, had to made some adjustments to make it work for me.  First of all, I want a bag to be big enough to hold a full length pen or pencil so I made it wider.  Next, I find those 1/4 seam allowances somewhat fiddly so I made the side seams 1/2".   I also like some width at the bottom so I made a small boxed bottom.  I liked different closures rather than prairie points so I used shaped tabs and fun buttons, and last I wanted it sturdier so I used interfaced fabric or home dec fabric.   I'm happy with how it turned out and now I have a hostess gift and holiday girl gift whenever I feel like taking about 40 minutes to make one.
I made this one to take to our sewing guild meeting in the spring.  One of our members works at the Robb and Stuckey designer showrooms (large, luxurious furnishings and decorator store) and she brings decorator scraps each month.  It's fun because the fabric scraps are often coordinated.  These are the three that I took off the table to make this little bag: two cottons and a plaid silk that I used for flat piping.   We have an annual "competition" to see what became of the "leftovers."
Here are visuals to show how I made mine:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Infinite Number of Infinity Scarves

Ok, that's a slight exaggeration.  There's a finite number of infinity scarves on the internet and now I'm joining the crowd.  This is my quick version from silk chiffon I've had for years, most likely from Jomar in PA.   I made mine 68 inches long (because that's how long my cutting mat is) and 30 inches wide.  I found the full 45" too billowy, even in this silk chiffon.  So if I were very ambitious I could make another scarf with the leftover chiffon and a rolled edge....but I put it in the giveway pile just to make it leave my stash

And yes, those of you with observant eyes will notice that the green jacket in my October 4 New York City post is now blue.  A horse  jacket of a different color!  This is the same Simplicity 2858 pattern and even the same leather pieces for an accent.  I made this one first and was so very happy with it that I made an identical one in the different color scheme for the PR 2009 September jacket contest.  Lucky for me I live in two places so only you keen eyed readers will know that two of these are in my wardrobe.  This one, the original now resides in FL and the green in Baltimore.  I don't think they miss each other.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Early Christmas Presents

2 yards of lightweight sweater knit
There's no real need for me to be out and about on Black Friday....or any other notorious shopping day of the year.  Very small family remaining on either side for Mr. Lucky and me, my friends and I stopped gift exchanges except maybe for the lovely consumable or "any random time" surprise.  But those Black Friday emails got me.   Fabric Mart, 25% off!  Threads, 25% off and free shipping!   So this week the UPS man came to my house bearing packages for me....ooooh, I just had to open them right then and there.

1 1/2 yards ITY knit (almost 2 yards actually)
Now don't even ask what I'm going to make out of these.  Most likely knit tops of some sorts and a sweater set from the leopard.  I seldom have a plan inn mind, just plunge ahead into a fabric store and buy what I like.  Fabric Mart is so very generous with their cut lengths that I'll have plenty of fabric for at least a top and perhaps a dress.

Same generous 1 1/2 yard piece

My final big treat, the Claire Schaeffer DVD from the Threads sale.  $29.99, what a steal for perpetual classes on my computer.
I hope Santa brings you and everyone else treats that make your heart sing with happiness.  He's done a good job at my house already.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Vogue 1100 review and pics

   Pattern Description:  Vogue 1100
Loose-fitting, lined jacket A has two-piece collar, two-piece, three-quarter length raglan sleeves with cuffs, front princess seams, mock welts, inverted back pleat, slightly flared back hemline and single buttonhole and button closure
 Pattern Sizing:6-20

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Fairly easy to follow.   As always, I find the front facing and hem lining the most difficult to accomplish.  I made my lining a hang loose version to allow for the swing of the jacket back.  I think that’s what the Vogue directions were ending up with as well but they never spelled it out directly.  Sometimes you have to hit me with a big beam to get my attention.   Otherwise I think anyone with some sewing experience could handle this one.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I’ve had this pattern for a while.  I particularly enjoyed seeing Annette’s ,  jewelea and merrypatter’s versions since they each gave me some ideas for my own.  I immediately liked the collar on this jacket.  It’s similar to few others I’ve made:  Kwik Sew  3095 and Simplicity  2858.  Like the Simplicity jacket it has princess seams which I think are a girl’s best friend, especially on a jacket that tends to be boxy….but I tend to be boxy in my midsection also.

Fabric Used:  A linen blend that has been in my collection for years.  I bought it in Baltimore at a fabric store that used to be on Erdman Avenue (Maybe called Fabric Warehouse)  I probably bought it in the early 90’s since it has that bright color saturation from back in those days (now being revived in the 80s look of today)  It must have some rayon since it presses nicely but also has a repugnant smell when damp. 

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I did make a quick muslin and made the collar slightly wider at the back since I too found that it was pulling away from my neck.  I probably should have done a round back alteration but was too lazy to bother in this swing jacket back.  I did a FBA on the princess seams up front and added 1” to the total length.  I did a modified S curve on that princess seam to give the jacket slightly more shaping on the front (can’t find that great Threads article about shaping under the bust area to bring the princess seam bottom slightly closer to the body) Initially I also added 1 ½ inches to the length of the sleeves.  My boo boo since I was judging the muslin sleeve length without the added cuffs.  I took out 1" of that length when I got around to adding the cuffs in the fashion garment.
I like the saddle stitching that merrypatter did on her jacket so I did something similar. 
I wanted a tone on tone subtle look since I planned on wearing jewelry with this jacket.  I used three threads of embroidery floss and did two rows of stitching around the cuffs, pocket flaps, upper shoulder front, back above the swing pleat and up and down the front and collar.  I actually like handsewing and like the rough texture this gives to the jacket without screaming handmade (I hope.)   I didn’t want it too precise or else I would have used a guide like Tigertape or a basting stitch.
For the hanging lining I did anchor the side seams of the lining to the jacket with thread loops

The pocket flaps are simply that, non-functioning flaps and a bit large at that.  I would reduce their width aby about 1" and maybe make a real pocket...although I don't need too much extra in that location.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Simplicity 2858
Hmmmm, not sure I will sew this one again.  I actually ended up liking my Simplicity jacket more.  One reason is the under collar piece of the Simplicity jacket has what I call a modified collar stand.
The collar is therefore supported to stand up and mold around my back neck which I think makes for a more flattering collar.  I hate sewing the Simplicity jacket because it has those annoying square corners for the shawl collar and lining but I think the results are better.  This Vogue collar is much, much, much easier to sew, however, so I'll keep it around for a while.

Conclusion: Flattering collar, nice color, keep it for the files of maybe.