Friday, November 30, 2012

Catching My Breath with Sewing

I don't know what you do when life is hectic, stressful and full of decisions.  Me, I just want to sew something.....anything.  Thank heavens I've been able to find the time to do just that during this past month.
Mr. Lucky and I packed up the car, the dogs and headed down the road to our FL condo a little over three weeks ago.  Since then it's a frenzy of cleaning, grocery re-stocking, and now the start of the process of putting our place on the market this year.  Yup, it's been a wonderful ten years but we're older, poorer and ready to live in one place and that's going to be Baltimore.  We're still young enough to love the vibe of city and suburuban life although maybe we re-think that decision in five or ten years.  In the meantime, we're re-painting, getting a contractor to do some delayed projects, moving stuff (lots of fabric and patterns and craft supplies is what makes up that "stuff") into a storage unit, de-cluttering and generally stressing out over selling a place when we haven't done that in 28 years!!  I'll fill you in on our saga over the next months but first let me share my sewing projects.  Because sewing and reading are what I turn to when all of life overwhelms me some days....and my dear friends are tired of listening to me ramble.  

I was able to cut and sew two simple tried and true dress patterns over the course of a few evenings.  The first one is Simplicity 3678 with view C's scoop neck.  I really like the neckline on this version and think it deserves to become a tunic top sometime in the future. I was missing my northern sewing friends and thinking about them (especially as I was loading up fabric to take to the ASG chapter meeting for their fund raising sale) when I decided to add a touch of faux leather to this dress.  Very last minute I added a thin band of brown Ultra suede light from a scrap I had been given years ago.  It has enough stretch than I can still pull it over my head and bodice since there's no zipper in this knit dress.  Nothing too out there but makes me smile knowing that I added that little detail because of their inspiration.
Simplicity 3678 View C
McCalls 6201 with lucky in the background
The second dress is another TNT, MCCalls 6201, a sheath dress that I can sew rather easily since it too doesn't need a zipper when sewn up in a stretch woven.  I've had this wild pink leopard print I think since the first year we came here and I was shopping the local WalMart fabric tables.  Rather Florida, don't you think?  I was always going to make pants out of it and now that I have the Elle pant working for me, that was my first idea.  But you know what, it's one of those inexpensive stretch wovens that will not hold up over time....and won't like being a pair of slim pants that get stretched and don't recover well.  So it too became a simple unlined dress and I'll get a season or two of wear from it.
And when I get heart palpitations and minor panic attacks at 2 am (I know, I know, nothing life threatening whatsoever but clearly something is going on in my unconscious), here's what I do to distract me late at night....find some engrossing books.  These two hit the spot this month.

From Amazon:

New York Times bestseller and a moving Civil War novel about a young midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon
Fans of Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, Cold Mountainby Charles Frazier, and The Postmistress by Sarah Blake will love this New York Times bestselling tale of the Civil War. Mary Sutter is a brilliant young midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Eager to run away from recent heartbreak, Mary travels to Washington, D.C., to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of two surgeons, who both fall unwittingly in love with her, and resisting her mother's pleas to return home to help with the difficult birth of her twin sister's baby, Mary pursues her medical career against all odds. Rich with historical detail-including cameo appearances by Abraham Lincoln and Dorothea Dix, among others-My Name Is Mary Sutter is certain to be recognized as one of the great novels about the Civil War.

I'm not usually a historical novel reader but this year I have been enjoying several tremendously.  This was engrossing and compelling reading and so impressive for a first novel.  I highly recommend it.
Now for something totally silly and light:
A dear friend and dog lover had recommended this one a year or so ago when I was raving once again about "The Art of Racing in the Rain."  This is no where as serious as that book but is a light detective story narrated by the dog side kick, Chet.  Sort of like a Janet Evanovich story with a dog narrating it.  Wonderful escapism.
It's good to be back blogging and sharing projects and opinions with kindred souls.  Hope that your sewing projects provide you with what you need much as mine have been doing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Disappointed But Undaunted

Does it annoy or frustrate you it when what you thought was going to be a wonderful new garment just doesn't live up to your expectations?  I've two of those experiences in the last month.  When I just got back into garment sewing in the mid-90s, that experience would really throw me for a loop.  I'd be angry with myself, annoyed at "wasted" time and money and frustrated because I didn't clearly understand what went wrong.  Then I started going to American Sewing Guild neighborhood meetings, attending lots of sewing expos and conferences and along the way heard great advice....and also commiseration from even the most experienced teachers.  So I'm sharing these to encourage you to move forward, learn what you can and let go.  They are still making more fabric....and if you live near me I'll probably bring some of my excess to one of those sewing get-togethers.
Disappointment #1
A bias silk charmeuse nightgown....doesn't that sound decadent and sultry and very 1930's pre-code movies ( Turner Classic Movies article about those multi-dimensional women in early 1930s films)  I imagined I'd be vamping around the house like Jean Harlow.  Not how it turned out.  I sewed another Vogue 7823  bias dress, shortening it 7 inches and lowering the neckline about 1 inch front and back.  Self-bias binding  and a little poly fabric flower and it was looking comfortable and flattering....

Vogue 7823 bias gown
before I wore it to sleep in one night.  

Holy hot wrinkled mess.  Needless to say this is not the look I wanted.  I think the idea is still a good one but would work better in a four ply silk or a heavy rayon crepe backed charmeuse like I've done before.  
Wish I could have captured her beauty and style
Disappointment #2
Chico's silk velvet jacket that I love
I've been crowing about my success with the Elle skinny pant look but knew that I would now need some new jackets and tops to make that look work on my body.  The picture above is my inspiration piece for a jacket to wear with slim pants.
I used a pattern I've made before (Vogue 8089) and even made a muslin.  But when it came to the real fabric and lining, I was disappointed with the initial result.  It's wearable but not really what I was imagining.  Here are the pics:
I even look uncertain about this one.
I did like the even shorter version of Vogue 7823 as a bias top
What don't I like about it?  Well, to begin I think it's about 2 inches two short for the look I wanted. Ok, easy to fix on the next one.  Next, I hate the lining technique that Sandra suggests in the pattern and will use a traditional lining next time of just make it unlined.  Even though I made pattern alterations it's still much roomier than I wanted so that means taking out more ease, particularly across the front.  The sleeve head needs to be adjusted to put the ease at the side front up into the sleeve head.  So, a bunch of adjustments before I make my next one.  Not awful, but also not what I had hoped for on this project. 
Maybe with the belt but that's not really a look I like on me.
Lined to the edge hemming technique doesn't work well in light or drapey fabric, IMHO.
 Is it worth putting my efforts into these changes?  I'm up in the air about that question but no need to rush a decision, there are plenty of other sewing projects to keep me busy in the meantime.

But here are two things that did not disappoint me.  A garden club friend recommended this first book.  it certainly wasn't great literature but I found it interesting and engaging.  It's a historical novel based on the life of Hilda Klager, a German immigrant homemaker and farmer who has a passion of breeding new varieties of lilacs, apples and daffodils.  It's certainly not an expected activity for a turn of the 20th century woman but her cross-pollinating and hard work have brought beauty and new discoveries that we still enjoy today.  If you have any interest in gardening then I think you will enjoy this one.

When I got my hands on Cold Mountain years ago I think I read it in three days.  This one is much shorter but just as beautifully written.  Amazon:
Charles Frazier, the acclaimed author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons, returns with a dazzling novel set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s. With his brilliant portrait of Luce, a young woman who inherits her murdered sister’s troubled twins, Frazier has created his most memorable heroine. Before the children, Luce was content with the reimbursements of the rich Appalachian landscape, choosing to live apart from the small community around her. But the coming of the children changes everything, cracking open her solitary life in difficult, hopeful, dangerous ways. In a lean, tight narrative, Nightwoods resonates with the timelessness of a great work of art.
I made sure I read this one slowly to savor very description and subtle point of view.  Simply beautiful.

Reading good books is sort of like sewing up a TNT pattern.  They revive my sinking spirits and encourage me to give a new project a chance.  Hope your latest projects bring you more shouts of joy that sighs of disappointment.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Me, In Style, in Season, Who Knew?

I am notoriously late on adopting fashion, (hey, you've read my blog, you know it's true...) in technology (I have a pay-as-you go smartass phone that works when it wants to) and in sewing up patterns that I buy....hence my frequent OOP Patternreview reviews.  But guess what?  I surprised myself this season.  Skinny pants are in stores everywhere  and I'm loving my skinny pant look, the Elle Pant pattern from Style Arc.  But wait, there's more.....printed skinny pants are in and finally I'm on trend.  This is probably the same cycle as that of Haley's Comet so you might want to catch a glance now before my stylishness disappears on the other side of the universe for a number of decades.  

Elle Pants from Style Arc in Fabric Mart Stretch Woven Print

You can't tell very well in this picture but these are a brown and charcoal black  tone on tone velveteen stretch woven, yes from Fabric Mart.

Look, I'm not the only one wearing these prints right now....although you won't see me in those heels.  All of these are from the Nordstrom catalog, from $595 to $80.  Gosh I'm glad I sew.

What fashion trend, if any, are you adopting this season?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Are You Creative?

Last weekend was the annual meeting for the Northern Virginia American Sewing Guild Chapter.  It was held at the Lorton Arts Center, Workhouse at Lorton Arts Center a former prison and now studios for local artists.  I love a chance to see my sewing girlfriends so I made the trek and enjoyed the company, the food and the wonderful speaker, Nancy Schriber.  Nancy did a trunk show, first of her garments that have appeared in Threads magazine and then of garments that she has made and used in classes to inspire her students.  I've seen Nancy several times over the past decade and a half and always come away appreciating her gentle, encouraging manner which pushes me to think beyond my current boundaries but also gently reminds me to stay true to myself in the process.  Nancy is especially noted for her wonderful hand stitched contemporary sashiko work.  

Nancy Shriber and the jacket that made the cover of Threads magazine's 15th Anniversary issue

Spectacular silk dupioni pieced yet flattering jackets

The insides are as beautiful as the outside

An old, rare sashiko remnant at the back yoke combined with fabric that Nancy painted and mushed in a plastic bag.

Hearing Nancy speak reminded me a conversation with my sister in law while we were out in CA last month.  Are you creative?  I think that anyone who creates something new is creative.  You create a new garment when you select the fabric, the pattern, the buttons, etc.  That's creative to me.  I don't think the only creative people are on Project Runway or in art shows.  Maybe my skills are not where I would like them to be yet but if I put myself down by disparaging my efforts, then I don't feel motivated to improve and enjoy the process along the way.  I believe my sister in law is very creative since she sews beautifully and has taken up shoe painting that is fun and delightful to see.  I think that seeing ourselves as creative gives us permission to try new approaches, admit mistakes and find the lessons to learn.  Are there people far more technically advanced and more imaginative than I am?  Only a few billion on the planet!  But I am so fortunate to have time and resources to let me grow my creativity on any given day.  When my world has cranky, hostile people in it, as it does too frequently, then my creativity and my inspiring friendships take me away mentally and physically from that negativity and fear.  Yes, I am creative and I think if you are reading this post, the you are too.  Here's to a roomful of women last Saturday who celebrated that spirit in each of us.  

Oh, and in case you aren't tired of those Pamela's Patterns pencils skirts yet, here's what I wore to the meeting:
Lace Magic Pencil skirt lined in stretch silk charmeuse....and backyard before the storm

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sewing Up a Storm During Sandy

I grew up in northern NJ, vacationed with my family at the Jersey shore, took the PATH train under the Hudson to lower Manhatten for two summers and enjoy a day trip or two each year to NYC.  Sandy's devastation is touching so many familiar places and I grieve for the families in its path.  We were quite nervous here in Maryland but it's mostly our coastal areas that suffered, not the suburban neighborhood where I live.  We did sleep on the first floor on Sunday night since there are five large trees in the immediate vicinity of our house and roof.  No power outage and just a minor roof leak that we are having repaired today.  To other bloggers who live in those affected areas, I can only hope that your lives gain some semblance of normality soon and that your sewing and sewing friendships cheer you as much as they can.
What do you do when you are nervous or anxious about an upcoming event and can't do any more than you already have to prepare for it?  Me, I sat in my sewing room and sewed down that storm and my own fears.  Nothing that required a lot of brain power....I was already diverting a lot of thought to those big trees, the state of the roof, our water supply.....  So I stitched and stitched away while watching some old movies.  Now the storm has passed for us and I have a number of new items to tuck away in my closet and drawers.  
Here are the pics.
First up in the quilted pick up sticks quilt pick up sticks quilt post that I finished piecing this summer.  My friend Ann quilted it on her long arm and brought it to me on Friday.  I love the block quilting she did on it.  And isn't that wonderful NYC fabric even more poignant this week?  So my first project was sewing on a narrow binding.  I haven't done the hand stitching yet (I was thinking I would do it by daylight if the power went out like it had in June) but it is ready for several long TV evenings.  

Then there's always my faithful new favorite pattern, the Pamela's patterns Magic Pencil Skirt that I enjoy making over....and over....and over.....  
Purchased boiled wool jacket but yes, that skirt again
Same pattern as the brown but different color wave

Stretch woven with navy pinstipes, rather nautical

Another Fabric Mart poly lycra charmeuse
....and yet one more.
I will confess to my fellow fabric collectors that part of my drive to sew up some garments was a recent visit to the Fabric Mart half off the retail store sale.  Cathy and I took a day trip after seing Sandra Betzina's trunk show in early October.  Cathy's new fabric mantra is that for each piece that comes in, three have to leave....either by way of garments or donations.  I'm not quite ready for that ratio but it did inspire me to get cutting and turn some fabric into garments.  More to follow, including a new TNT knit top for fall and winter.