Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Flag Day, USA

Happy Flag Day!  Yes, in the USA, this is the day to celebrate the adoption of the stars and stripes as the US flag.  Here in Baltimore it's always a special day because we also honor Francis Scott Key and the "Star-Spangled Banner."  And is even more memorable since this year is the bicentennial of the War of 1812 which is being celebrated with 40 tall ships in our harbor from around the world, Blue Angels air shows, special concerts and great festivities in town.  All of this to say that I was going to post about a new dress pattern today but instead our wonderful friends invited us last minute to tour the harbor on foot and on their boat.  Here are just a few of the pics from a glorious day:

The Pride of Baltimore II, the only ship among them all with wooden masts

The Blue Angels practicing overhead for the weekend show

No new dress to see but I wore one of my first Today's Fit Vogue patterns from at least 10 or more years ago.  It's a shirt that I only keep in my wardrobe for nautical patriotic events like this.  I've learned a lot about sewing garments since I made this shirt.  However, more than one sailor complimented me today as they helped us up and down gangplanks to tour the ships.

From our house to your, happy Flag Day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One New TNT, One Old TNT

Perfect Tank Pamela's Patterns
Tried and True patterns, TNTs, became a goal for me about six or seven years ago when the whole Sewing With a Plan (SWAP) movement started exploding on the internet sewing groups.  I have an extensive fabric collection, to say the least, but didn't have a large variety of top, bottoms and jacket patterns from which to make a coordinated wardrobe.  Thus began my serious quest to get some patterns that I could just stitch up quickly with minimal adjusting.  The SWAP concept went by the wayside for me but I'm happy that I have TNT patterns in my repertoire and keep discovering a few more.  Here's my latest one, a very simple but effective tank top from my favorite independent patternmaker, Pamela's Patterns  Perfect Tank Top Pattern 
raising the armscye for more coverage
The fabric is a very smooth, lightweight grey rayon and spandex knit from Fabric Mart.  The pattern has two fronts, one with darts and one without.  I used the darted front and a size small.  I like that it covers bra straps although I did have to make a slight pattern adjustment to cover some under arm flubby stuff.  

I wore it last week with a jacket I made a few years ago that needed a gray tank underneath it.  It sews up easily although I think next time I will move the strap location 1/2" further in towards the middle of my back since that's a very narrow spot on my body.  I also might consider some very lightweight knit interfacing on the facings and straps to give them just a touch more body and firmness.  I think this pattern has wonderful possibilities as a lovely knit nightie as well or maybe in some silk stretch charmeuse that I have in my collection.  Another good investment from this great pattern company.

Simplicity 2364
The second item from last week's sewing was a new version of one of my favorite patterns, Simplicity 2364 .  I was culling through my knit fabrics to put items in my give away pile when I wondered what to do with a stretch lace I bought years ago at Jomar in Philadelphia for maybe a dollar or two a yard.  Too sheer for me to wear on its own but not really nice enough to underline for a full top.  But I love it, love it doubled up as the bolero like neck and sleeves of this Simplicity top.  I used two layers of the stretch lace for the sleeves, put them wrong sides together and just treated them as one pattern piece.  

I have a few more lace and slinky combinations in my collection, one in maroon and one in dark olive greens.  I think I might lengthen the top and make one of those into a knee length dress.  Keep reading and watching to see if I get to that project this year.
Now for an entirely different view of things:
Front yard without the roses or fence this spring

Mr. Lucky finishes the job with some rented tool help

Hard at work on a steamy day
While I was inside sewing last week, Mr. Lucky was sweating outside replacing a wooden fence we have had in the front yard for 15 or more years with a bright new scalloped vinyl one.  Last fall we moved an over sized climbing rose, New Dawn, so this summer and fall we'll be re-landscaping the front.  But we were motivated to get the fence replaced in time for the local neighborhood garden tour this coming weekend.  It rained all day yesterday so today I'll spend this afternoon weeding again in preparation.  Hope your labors at home or work are not too back breaking.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fabric, Fabric, Part 2

Ah, how to describe the anticipation and excitement of a day trip to Fabric Mart for one of their retail store sales.  Two of my dear American Sewing Guild friends came to stay the night at my house so we could run up to Fabric Mart and then take the local bus into NYC the next morning.  And I have a local friend, Carel, who is getting ready to retire or reduce her work hours and is mildly interested in returning to sewing after many decades.  She herself is a gracious, soft-spoken woman and I invited her along to see if this sewing thing is something she really wants to do.  Fashion has changed over the decades and sewing your own clothing today may not be the most economical use of your time if you can easily buy RTW.  Sewing "simple" garments like knit tops or pants takes finding the right fabrics, patterns, fitting, etc. and while I love all of the process it is definitely different than sewing in my 20s.  
Off we went, gabbing a mile a minute, stopping for a Pennsylvania Dutch lunch at the Oregon Dairy, a local restaurant, grocery store, petting zoo, ice cream parlor.   Oregon Dairy
Since two of the four of us had never been to Fabric Mart I was trying to lower their expectations about the selection and ambiance of the place.  When we walked in the door Sharon was at the cutting counter and she immediately changed the entire tenor of our visit.  Yes, the upstairs store sale round tables were a little picked over but guess what, there were rolls of fabric in the basement (the basement, I've never been in the basement!) and the warehouse that were on sale for either $3 or $5 (the silks) a yard.  Wish I had taken a picture of our happy faces as we scrambled downstairs and pulled out rolls, ooohing and ahhhing all over the place.  Thank you, Sharon, thank you Fabric Mart, you made our day.  I was merely going to be the tour guide on this trip and instead I came back with these wonderful finds: (sorry, no pictures of people on a buying frenzy, I was too distracted to whip out my camera)
The ity knits:

the stretch wovens for skirts and sheath dresses:

Ity knit and stretch woven combo:
 Stretch linen:

A fun and delightful trip, although I believe we wore Carel out with the high decibel sewing diva excitement.  Oregon Dairy ice cream on the way home made it a perfect day.
Next day it was the Megabus trip to NYC.  Cloudy weather to begin but never any real rain on us as we trekked all through the garment district.  One of our favorite stops was B&J Fabrics B&J  Wonderful selection in a light filled room.  While we were there an assistant from "Tahari" (omg, Elie Tahari Elie Tahari we were almost squealing) came in to "memo" some fabrics.  Just to give you a fashion heads up, he borrowed some deep pastel lilac and yellow and off white laces.   And while I was waiting for Michele and Debbie to get their fabrics cut I saw a familiar face enter the store.  Not only familiar but she was kind, gracious and let us take a photo....yes, the fabulous Kenley Collins  Kenley Collins from Project Runway.

After a little more shopping we headed to the theater. I had run up to the TKTs booth first thing that morning and scored our first choice...
which is playing a limited engagement this summer.  Funny, light, full of well-known actors, the perfect summer froth.  We played stage door groupies at the end of the matinee and got autographs from our two favorites, 

Jessica Hecht

Jim Parsons
Long day and frightening fast bus ride back to Baltimore but soooo much fun.  I may not be able to do trips like this for all my life so I am grateful to get to have a record of friendship and fun.  Hope June has fun in store for you, also.

Fabric, Fabric Everywhere Part 1

Isn't new fabric one of the most exciting things to contemplate?  There's so much potential in every piece and I get so much pleasure from merely "petting" my fabric as I put it away or rearrange my collection yet again.  I've sold and given away a lot of fabric in the last few years but surprise, surprise, they are still selling more of it!  So here are my recent May purchases and some stories about them that may resonate with you, my fellow fabricholics.

Mr. Lucky had been gone on two trips in May so the latter part of the month was my turn to take some trips and enjoy girlfriend time.  I first went to PA to visit my friend, Ann, who has become highly enamored with quilting in recent years.  Ah, I'll be safe, I thought, I'm not a quilter and although I own some quilting cottons, feel no need to add to my collection.  We spent a beautifully warm spring day driving through Amish country to reach the Dansko shoe outlet.  I browsed idly while Ann bought some cute and comfortable clogs and sandals.  I stock up on comfort shoes like these at the annual Dillards sale in Florida each Jan. 1 but eventually I did find something that had been on my "missing shoe list." 
Dansko boots

No, not Cinderella shoes, you know, shoes that you would like to have and only realize when you are getting in what's missing from this outfit? I have wonderful tall and short boots but only in brown.  Black would be nice.  Seems like a splurge for something I'd only wear a few times a year.  Well, since it was May and these boots were more than 1/2 off the retail price and there's no sales tax on clothes and shoes (or fabric) in PA, they'll last forever, we'll sell that Florida condo someday and there will be more winter weather in my year....I gave in.  Oh my gosh they are comfortable and pretty chic, if I say so myself.  And no fabric so far.  
From the Dansko outlet we drove back and stopped for lunch in the very touristy Intercourse, PA (as the old joke goes, yes, it's between Paradise and Blue Ball, Pennsylvania)  Picked up some delicious home made jam at the Kitchen Kettle Canned Goods and sampled many inspiring fruit combinations for my own summer canning.
Back on Main Street Ann wanted to stop at the local quilt store, Zooks, and while she shopped for coordinating fabrics I just moseyed around.  Almost all of the fabrics were the solid plain cotton poly blends for the locals' home sewn clothing or very traditional quilting fabrics, none of the modern ones that I do like.  I was a little bored.  However, I must have some sort of internal fabric homing device in my DNA.  As I wandered aimlessly waiting for Ann to get her fabric cut, I sauntered past a dark little corner, out of the way and did see some contemporary prints on the two dusty shelves.  Looks like this is where the final sale fabrics go since they were all marked $3.29 a yard.  I picked up this bolt and almost yelped out loud.....or maybe sang out loud "I love New York."  
Imagine, I'm going to make a quilt!

Yes, it's a wonderful New York print in my favorite colors of green, gold and brown and one of these days it's going to be a small sized quilt for our family room couch to replace the old beach towel currently in use for Lucky the rescue dog's cuddling time with us.   Untouched bolt, 7 yrds, $23.00, mine.  Even in a Pennsylvania Dutch traditional quilt store I end up buying fabric.

I was leaving the next morning to head back to Baltimore (along with some donated fashion fabric that Ann just had to give me) and felt the car automatically head to Fabric Mart which is about 3 miles, at most, from my friend's house.  Just checking out what was in the retail store since they were having their 1/2 off sale for another week and I was coming up on Tuesday with three other friends.  It looked a little picked over but I said hi to Chris and Sandy.  They were busy cutting fabric for all of you mail order customers around the USA....and told them I'd be back with a carload of sewing friends next week.  Darn it, I couldn't leave this lovely piece had to come home with me that day.  It's a heavy stretch lace ($4.00 a yard) and won't it be an awesome pencil skirt along with this Chicos leather jacket?  
In my mind this fabric is already a skirt.
Ok, that's enough for this episode of unintentional fabric buying.  Next post will show you what happened on that four person Fabric Mart trip followed by a NYC day.  

For those of you not fascinated by the mere purchase of fabric, here are some book recommendations from the last month.  This one has been on the bestseller list for a long time and it deserves its accolades.  

Scientifically fascinating yet filled with such a human story of challenges and determination.  It is our book group selection for this evening, especially interesting since we all live, like the Lacks family, here in Baltimore where all of this happened.  So very, very glad that I read it.

Another Baltimore based story is the latest Anne Tyler novel.  It was sad and heartbreaking at times even if it does have a "happy ending."  But again I am so glad that I read it even though it was rough going.  A young man's wife dies suddenly and yet he sees her accompany him in his daily life as they discuss their short and less than perfect marriage.  

I haven't seen the movie but when this book showed up available for my Kindle from the library I gave it a try.  I was so happy to have discovered it.  I thought the writing was wonderful and found it very compelling and complex.  The reviews that kept referring to "a humorous novel" puzzled me.   I thought it was sad, ironic, melancholy, angry, despairing, accepting and hopeful.  Of course, I won't mind watching George Clooney now that I've read the book.

When I need totally mindless, light, and funny, then Janet Evanovich always pulls through for me.  This latest Stephanie Plum book is as formulaic as the rest but sometimes I just need pure distraction and this one worked perfectly.
So what's on your summer reading list?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Me Made May Thoughts

Whew, I'm glad the photo taking is over for last month.  I don't have any particularly wise or witty thoughts about participating in Me Made May 2012....but heck, I'll share the random thoughts that did occur to me.
1.  I was encouraged by seeing young people sewing across the globe.  No, this wasn't the Arab Spring but it was enjoyable to see creativity and fashion made at home and by hand.  There's a sense of pride, ownership and appreciation for garments fashioned by oneself that is far more rewarding than just experiencing a shopping expedition.  Seeing that excitement was the highlight of the month for me.
2.  I did catch myself dressing with more care and attention to accessories during the month.  Since I needed a photo of a me made garment each day in May, I mostly wanted that photo to reflect a positive, fashionable sewing experience, not just a utilitarian one.  So I deliberately eliminated shots of my polar fleece socks and made sure that I showed a range of garments.  
3.  I was pleased to see that I could accomplish thirty-one days of outfits without repeating a particular garment although I certainly repeated favorite TNT sewing patterns....and isn't that the point of TNT patterns!
4.  I did find a few voids in my wardrobe.  May started out chilly and I noticed that most of my tweed or cool weather jackets are in Florida, not Maryland.  Must do something about that.  I had one jacket that I didn't wear because it needs a grey knit tank top.  Already bought fabric to do something about that.
5.  Taking a picture of myself each and every day (true confessions, I missed one day) was way too self-obsessed for me.  I know that sounds like a little contradictory to point #2 but I discovered that I just don't need to see myself in a photograph that often.  I like to look and feel nice in what I wear but once I'm dressed, that's about it for me for the day.  I have never been a primper, even when it probably would benefit me.  What you see when I get cleaned up and dressed is just about as good as it's going to get today.  The picture taking did drag me down after awhile and ultimately felt too "me me me me May."  
Conclusions:  Glad I gave it a try.  Nice to see others.  Would rather watch from the sidelines and share comments in the future rather than be an active participant.
So, in case you are still mildly curious, here are the last eight pictures of Me Made May, 2012.
Simplicity 2409 as a sleeveless dress

At the Dansko shoe outlet in PA...see new boots in bag!

Yes, that's exactly what I was feeling about another picture...

Me Made May did get me to buy this useful tripod.

Red white and blue for Memorial Day

Waiting for the bus after long fun day in NYC

Done.  Finished.  Fini.  
I've always loved June as my favorite month of the year and now I have another daily pictures to plan for each day.  Hope your June and mine is filled with sewing adventures but no sewing stress.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Jacket with the Fringe on the Top and Bottom

Oh so many blog posts spinning around in my head this I just have to sit down and put them on virtual paper.  Let's start with the oldest project that I was able to complete and wear this past weekend.  I started this jacket in late January and finished it just in time for probably the last cool spell before summer hits us hard.  
The jacket pattern is a favorite, Simplicity 2858, (OOP but readily available on Ebay, etc.)and this is my third version.  I lengthened it five inches, cut off the front overlap so that the fronts would meet at the center front, sewed it wrong sides together at the outer edges and then added bias trim on the front and the back side of all those edges.  It was Louise Cutting, not Susan Khalje, who wrote the great instructions for this trim technique in Threads issue #121.  It's a Fabric Mart tweed with black, brown, tan, gray and pinks.  Cozy and sweater like, perfect spring and fall jacket.
Simplicity 2858
First two Simplicity 2858 jackets

post with bias trim details

I was able to finish the jacket on Saturday afternoon after getting everything done for our annual Floribbean dinner.  We've offered this for the last four years at our church auction.  Six people, drinks and appetizers on the deck (homemade sangria, cheese coins, shrimp, mango avocado salsa) and then dinner (Cuban pork roast, rice and bean salad, tropical tossed salad, grilled banana/ red onion salsa) and dessert (Key Lime pie) inside.  The menu stays the same so Mr. Lucky and I have worked out a smooth routine to get it all done ahead of time.  This year we were extremely fortunate to have offered a Saturday night date rather than our usual Friday night.  Friday night here in Maryland saw a huge storm system sweep through with several small tornadoes touching down, right at the early evening hours.  Saturday arrived with sunshine and blue skies...but a surprise, nonetheless.  As I got ready to slice the dough for the cheese coins, I preheated the oven only to discover that our oven did not function.  The gas stovetop was fine, the range clock worked but the electronic switch would not start and we couldn't even light the gas oven with a match.  Oh, we are lucky to have friends in the neighborhood.  A lovely garden club friend loaned me her oven so I could bake those cheese coins and the key Lime pie.  We adjusted our plans and slow cooked the Cuban pork roast for six hours on the gas grill and all was fine.....and I even got the last of the trim sewn to the jacket and wore it to church on Sunday.  Last year I shared the shrimp appetizer recipe, this year I'll share the yummy banana red onion salsa recipe which always gets raves as well:

Banana Red Onion Salsa
1 red onion, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds
3 bananas peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp dark rum (optional)
lime wedges for serving

Brush both sides of the onion rounds and banana with the oil and sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Grill the onion over the hottest part of the grill, covered until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the onion to the cooler part of the grill and place the bananas cut side down on the hottest part of the grill. Grill the bananas, covered, until browned in spots, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the onion and banana to a cutting board and cool slightly. Whisk the lime juice, mint, brown sugar and rum (if using) together in a medium bowl the sugar has dissolved. Roughly chop the onion and bananas, add them to the bowl, and toss to coat. Season the salsa with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the lime wedges.

Love this with grilled chicken or pork.

Back soon with more sewing news from my place.  Now it's time to read about what's going on in your sewing spaces.