Sunday, April 29, 2018

Me Make May 2018

I have been wise foolish unrealistic enthused enough to participate in several past Me Made May celebrations.  Nice to know that I have a large self-made wardrobe now although I still buy RTW.  It was useful to see pictures and how I styled the garments I have sewn since I think accessories and styling really do matter in an outfit.  I also participated to make sure that the older generation of sewing enthusiasts are represented.  But the photo taking is such a chore so I usually fade out by mid-May as life and other interests take over.  So this year I will be watching the Me Made May pics from the sidelines but am calling my month Me Make May. 
It's been several months since I have been spending any quality time in my sewing room and that is going to change soon.  I didn't bring any machines to Florida in February and March.  Since we have been home much of the creative time has been spent on gardening work and hosting a major dinner party  in the middle of the month.  So now it's time to pull out the project list and see what I want to tackle.
This month's sewing will be dominated by another wonderful travel adventure.  Mr. Lucky and I are heading back to the UK for another set of walking trips.  I originally put together these plans based on the anticipated return of the Great British Sewing Bee expo which was scheduled back in London in early June.  From that date I found two terrific walking trips with our new to us favorite trip company, HF Holidays UK, one along the South Downs on the southern coast and the other in Scotland at Glen Coe which will include walking Ben Nevis.  But then, major disappointment, no GBSB expo this year!  Oh well, our four day South Downs trip turned into a seven day trip....with one free day so we can explore the local area.  Do any British friends know of a fabric store in perhaps Chichester or Brighton?  Of course the best news is that the GBSB will be returning to television so perhaps next year there will be an expo visit on my travel itinerary.
What this means is that I am planning a few garments for this return visit.  Now, let's face it, I could easily pack tomorrow for a trip like this.  Mostly sporty outdoors stuff that I have already and then the travel layered basics of bottoms, a few lightweight tops and third layers.  But since we sew....
So here are my plans for a few sewing projects to accompany me on this trip and to fulfill my own Me Make May pledge.  My travel colors this year are the ubiquitous black with blue as my secondary color (last year it was brown.)  As always, the British Isles in and temps all over the place. I hate being cold more than anything so I have a few long cardigans and am making two new tank tops for layering.  If the weather is warmer in London and the south then I am making two new rayon knit tops that can stand on their own.  I am also going to try my hand at hand rolled hem on a bright silk scarf square.  I like hand sewing and my only challenge there will be doing a decent job on the corners.  Of course, there's always the cheater serge rolled edge in a pinch.  I also have plans for another project but will surprise you, sweet readers, and see if that comes through.
Fabric for a travel wardrobe
So, no sewing pictures for this post, just a fabric shot of things to come.

Although I don't have much sewing to report, I will share some recipes which, like my reading list, I have not done in awhile.  Two weeks ago Mr. Lucky and I hosted another of our church auction dinners.  In previous years we have put together a Downton Abbey tea party and a Floribbean dinner.  This time our offering was a dinner for six others based upon our European bike and boat trip last year with beers, wines and food from Belgium, Holland and England.  People were in a generous mood since it was the highest per person bid so we felt some pressure to make it special.  

Here are a few pics and the recipes that we used.  No pics of the people attending or "plated" food since I have to admit that we were having such a good time that photo taking didn't cross my mind.  
The menu: five cheeses from France, Holland and England and asparagus wrapped in German ham

The soup course was based on the exquisite fish soups I ordered for the first three nights we spent in Belgium.  I love soups and was determined to recreate it.  I used Anthony Bourdain's recipe and it was fabulous: soupe-de-poisson  Mr. Lucky did the tedious food mill work:  

I used the rouille recipe (a garlic-y saffron aioli) from Cooks Illustrated to serve with toasted bread and it was a big hit.
My immersion blender is my new can't do without kitchen tool.

The main course was a Carbonnade a la Flamande or a beef stew with Belgian beer.  It is a go to recipe that is great to make for a pot luck.  The longest part is nicely browning the beef before combining the ingredients and letting it bake.  Ugly in the pot but yummy in the mouth:
Carbonnade: Belgian Beef, Beer and Onion Stew
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
3 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces  vegetable oil 
2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium), halved and sliced about 1/4-inch-thick (about 8 cups)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups beer (12-ounce bottle or can)
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, tied with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 
Preheat oven to 300 F with a rack in the lower-middle position.
Pat the beef dry with paper towels, then season on all sides with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot.  Add about 1/3 of the beef to the pot – don’t crowd the meat, you want it to have space to brown properly.  Brown for about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip the meat over and cook until the second side is well browned, about another 3 minutes.  Transfer the beef to a bowl.  Continue browning the rest of the meat in batches, adding 2 teaspoons of oil for each new batch of meat.     
Once all the meat has been browned, reduce the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pot.  Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the tomato paste.  Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits, until the onions are lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the flour and stir to coat the onions.  Cook until the flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the beef broth, scraping the bottom of the pan again to loosen any remaining browned bits.  Add the beer, thyme, bay leaves, vinegar and beef (along with its accumulated juices) to the pot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Raise the heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  When the stew reaches a simmer, cover the pot partially, then transfer to the oven.  Cook until the beef is fork tender, about 2-3 hours.
Of course we had to have a Brussel sprouts dish so I made a shaved Brussel sprout salad with pistachios, dried cranberries and grated gruyere with a little vinaigrette dressing.
Dessert was a reminder that we finished our trip by spending four days in London.  I made our favorite (out of so many) British dessert, hot sticky toffee pudding, also from a Cooks Illustrated recipe.  The puddings are ugly also and here they are without the buttery rich toffee syrup and real whipped you'll have to trust me that they are scrumptious.
A few French wines and it was a lovely evening after an exhausting few days of shopping, cleaning, cooking.  
Our reward, in addition to a great night with friends, was a two day mad cap trip to New York City.  We saw three shows, ate at various places, from Lidia Bastianich's Becco to lamb and rice "street meat."  

The FIT Museum exhibit on Norell had just closed the previous weeks, shucks, but I did get to see the 

It was another reminder that our definitions of "attractive" have changed over centuries.  For me, it means sew for the body I have today, enjoy my creativity and the fact that I have a body that carries me through life. Just a few pics to share:
Who knew that boning was used in the upper back garment in these Jane Austen era garments.
Yes, it was thrilling to see Christian Siriano's spectacular red dress for Leslie Jones.  

And when undergarments became less restrictive there was always the hobble skirt fashion to shorten a woman's stride...significant to me since I am such a long distance walker.
And if you do fashion sewing, you know important it is total accurate measurements.  here's the perfect dress for our sewing room outfit, right.
It was a whirlwind trip since we drove up, stayed at a New Jersey hotel on the Hudson River and took a ferry both days into NYC.
Which one is not like the other?

One addition reason for this visit was to give our new pet sitter a trial run with Lucky in prep for a longer trip this summer.  He had a fabulous time in a beautiful home with three little pugs.  
So let me close with a gratuitous dog picture and then get into my sewing room to work on those travel garment fabrics.  

Here's hoping you have great plans for some fabrics in your stash.  And I will be watching for your Me Made May '18 photos.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Snoop Shopping

I first heard about the concept of "snoop shopping" for sewing project ideas two decades ago while attending one of my very first sewing long ago that there were many fashion sewing instructors and vendors.  It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea that I could translate those silhouettes and fashion details into my very own garments.  Nowadays I love getting out of my everyday more than casual dog walking and exercise daily clothes and into some boutiques and department stores for retail inspiration.  And it always helps that one of my sewing friends has a terrific instagram feed for those wonderful fashion details that you are sure to forget once you get into your sewing room: Shoppingsleuth Instagram

So while I love the concept, I seldom put it into practice it when I am at home in Baltimore.  There's always so many more things that I can do inside and out.  But on vacation, that's another story.  So this post is about the snoop shopping (and some buying, let's be honest) that I did while we were in Florida for seven weeks this winter.  And I am brave enough to show you the pictures from those ugly dressing room settings just so you can see how I approach this concept.  Warning, picture heavy but nothing directly about sewing....just about some sewing details that you might see in the coming year.

My purpose in snoop shopping is to actually try the garment on and see if it is something I would wear and sew in real life and then to see what details take it from mediocre to special.  Time is limited for all of us so I want to sew garments that will flatter me at this age and body type and also fit into my lifestyle.  Sometimes I need dressy items and most times more casual ones in lovely fabrics are the ones that I enjoy the most.  I get to try on new fashion seasonal garments and see if I like them on me and then incorporate them or let that trend pass me by. 

First snoop shopping day was after lunch with a Naples girlfriend in a shopping center full of locally owned boutiques and a few chains.  Florals were everywhere and I loved these embroideries:
Embroidered net over floral print
Embroidered net with knit kimono 
Wonderful seams and stripe directions on this knit tunic
Buttons, nothing but buttons, make this long duster fabulous
I love the tone on tone that make this white shirt tunic stand out

I went shopping for sleeve details to try since they are such an easy way to take a TNT pattern and make it seasonally current.  Many of the ruffles that I saw were too big and close to my food wrist.  Then I saw this black blouse and loved the whole sleeve design....and loved it so much that yes, I ended up buying it.

The boutique owner insisted that I try the top on with the black and white rayon pants with a front seam open to above the knee.  The minute he handed them to me I thought "Louise Cutting one-seam pants in rayon with a front seam and slit."  That's how sewing people think....what pattern is that and what detail do I have to change to make it mine.  
And I have the perfect black and white platform sandals to wear after I make these pants

I've seen scallops as necklines and hems but loved the vertical use on this jacket.

Sometimes just fabric catches my eye.  Love the tone on tone floral with underlay
Gorgeous sleeve detail fully lined in navy crepe

Coordinated fabric bows draw in the princess seams to give shape to a long tunic
When I am out and about "snoop shopping" I also find brands to check out and put pictures into my Pinterest file.  That green and white striped top is from Luisa Cerano who makes the simple but elegant styles that I was drawn to in this boutique Luisa Cerano
The next time I did a heavy shopping, trying on, picture-taking afternoon was when I was on my own and visiting a more mainstream but still new to me store, Dillards.  This chain is big and successful but the closest store to me is three hours away in another state.  I had fun trying on a spectrum of styles and here are some of my successes and failures.

This black and red poncho like top is almost exactly the same as my self-drafted tunic tunic tutorial but this time it had a large slightly cowl neck collar that I thought was quite soft and flattering.  So, measure, it, Jane....

With a similar large cowl collar, here's an eyelash fabric version....and the website photo IC Collection eye lash tunic  I do think the funniest thing is that they offer a pair of cropped pants in this same fabric?!

Let's move on to different details that caught my eye:
Button band on only one sleeve and clever gingham fabric details

Easy eyelet back closure
While I tried that top (you can see the front in the pic below) on I also tried on a pair of wide wrap around pants....and there's a reason the fashion advice is not to pair big over big....I just look big.

Now let's head over to Naples' Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue's Naples stores to see if there's anything there that I would like to bring home (style wise) to Baltimore. I love Lafayette 148 and lo and behold, they have a jacket that has been in the mock-up phase in my sewing almost twin of the Donna Karan Vogue 1440 jacket which is now almost impossible to buy Patternreview Vogue 1440  Like the Donna Karan version, this one is unlined but is interlined with a very lightweight cotton lawn. That's what snoop shopping gives you, inside details that don't show up in Pinterest pictures.

Wouldn't it be annoying to buy this jacket and have some alterations person try to figure out how to get rid of those back wrinkles.

Bound armhole and covered shoulder pad
I am wearing a Large and the circumference is correct around my tummy and high hip but the shoulders are definitely too big for my frame.  Once again, so glad I sew....even if the jacket is on sale at Saks today for less than $400😉 Drape front jacket  Trying this one on and seeing the inside details motivated me to revisit that mock up later in the year.
I needed to slip on a shell for those jacket pictures and found this gorgeous silk charmeuse lined ruffled top.  The ruffle was entirely lost and useless under the jacket but I think the neckline and proportion are lovely.  I would make something similar but with sleeves and more hip room....this one is a Medium so I need that tummy space.  As a coincidence, Peggy Sagers referenced this top in one of her recent spring inspiration videos when mentioning the predominance of ruffles and florals in fashion.
Not hard to imitate the drape and placement of this ruffle.
My last project idea came when I saw another Lafayette 148 jacket on display.  I won't get this project done in time for an upcoming June trip but I think the idea has some merit.  One of my sewing group Facebook friends just started a tweed French jacket project.  I have made several of my own stitch and flip versions and love them.  I would like a longer duster like version to take when traveling (in a blue and black or brown and black tweed)....but the sleeve length commitment gets to me.  I would like it to have 3/4 sleeves most of the time but longer sleeves if the weather turns cool.  So I thought I would use the fringe layer to hide a cuff like addition to make such  jacket more versatile....and look, here's sort of what I was envisioning.  Imagine this jacket mid-thigh length and with long sleeves that could convert to three quarter sleeves.  

Underlined again in cotton batiste, bound seam allowances and grosgrain at the front edge and hem

Enough downloads and bad phone pics.  I could show you more but they would still only be about what appeals to me, my style and my life.  What about you?  How do you get ideas for your garment sewing projects?  
I won't be doing any sewing in the immediate future. I have a dinner party coming up this weekend from an offering at our fall church auction so I will be busy shopping, cleaning and cooking up a storm.  But after that I can't wait to get into my sewing space and put some ideas into practice.  Here's hoping there are ideas percolating in your head, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Winter Begone

Spring is officially here in North America so that means it is most likely time for me to wrap up my posts for the small amount of winter sewing I did this year. Yes, it might just be that I have a procrastination contrarian dominant gene in my lineage since my blog posts don't seem to be matching the seasonal sewing schedule.
Back in last season I accepted a FB sewing group challenge to sew a winter coat.  Then several weeks later I ended up buying two gorgeous vintage wool coats at a hospital charity sale and my enthusiasm for a tailored winter coat project died but my desire to sew up some interesting fabric in my stash did not.  I had purchased a double sided faux suede polar fleece combo fabric, Fabric Mart, of course, for a few dollars a yard thinking that it could serve as a coat mock up if nothing else.  Since I no longer needed a heavy wool coat I dug out the fabric and found a pattern that would suit it perfectly...New Look 6536.  I had been doing some tedious and un-photogenic work with Sarah Veblen at the same time so I took the mock up for this coat and we both agreed that this pattern has terrific bones. 
 I was reluctant to give it a try since normally I don't like raglan sleeves.  They usually have folds of fabric along my arm and an unflattering uni-boob look.  But after Sarah made some minor tweaks...a little more room on the armhole seam which is where the bust shaping happens and a large wedge of fabric in the sleeve armscye area.  (Silly me, I didn't realize that yes, raglan sleeves have a sleeve cap and I just needed more sleeve cap height to get rid of those ugly folds.)  
Mock up with sleeve wedge added 
The fabric was relatively easy to sew.  I used a microtex needle and of course did not press the fabric with my iron, since it is polar fleece, merely steamed it, finger pressed it open and let it dry in place.  
New Look 6536
I forgot to take pictures of my topstitching....there's so much of it that I was glad it was DONE.  But I did use two threads in that same needle and was happy with the result.  

Since the fabric wouldn't press totally flat, I did stitch down the seam allowances in two area, along the top arm seam and along that mid-body seam.  I really wanted those seams to be flat and not curl.

New Look 6536
It is the perfect warm but lightweight coat that I need and will wear a great deal in Maryland.  Easy topper to throw over a tunic and jeans and those pockets mean I can run errands and walk the dog without worrying about a purse.  No, it's not the elaborately tailored coat that I imagined appearing on these pages back in the early autumn months.  But it is perfect for my climate and my life and that's what sewing lets us do.
The rest of my winter sewing was a variation on more TNT patterns.  Burda 6809 is one of several tunic patterns that I simply love.  It's got a retro sixties vibe to it and so far my versions have been summery ones.  This winter I wanted to use some bright emerald green embroidered silk dupioni that I picked up on the giveaway table from last year's sewing retreat.  I wanted to make the front collar opening and the cuff have some contrast.  Sarah Veblen helped me by looking for a darker forest green scrap that I could possibly use but that was too much green happening, even at the holiday time of year.  As she I spoke I looked again at the fabric and realized that it was just chain stitched contrast thread on that at home I unpicked about 18 inches of the fabric (sorry again, I was sure I had pictures but no luck finding them.)  There were holes in the dupioni that sewing people would notice but once I lightly interfaced those pattern pieces and pressed them, they simply looked as textured as the silk.  Now I had a perfectly matched coordinating fabric.  I used it for the front collar opening and then made a sleeve cuff pattern with a wedge to mimic that front point.  I was quite happy with the final result and planned to wear it to my book group holiday party.
Burda 6809

Testing the sleeve cuff
But my plans changed when we had a polar vortex hit us in early January.  Suddenly this silk tunic and skinny pants outfit was totally inappropriate for a winter party in the even colder hills of Pennsylvania.  TNT pattern to the rescue.  Here's Pamela's Pattern draped front cardigan in a Fabric Mart  hitachi print knit with a vintage mink scarf added for some extra warmth.  This cardigan just takes a few hours to complete and felt cozy and comfortable.
Pamela's Patterns Draped Front Cardigan
The rest of my winter sewing happened at our winter sewing retreat.  Since I already had the pattern out I decided to bring along another cardigan for which I had another vintage fur collar.

I used a Lisette Butterick 6244 pattern for this waterfall jacket.  I especially like this pattern because it has a neckline dart under the waterfall collar.  That gives some bust space and also a slight lift to the collar area which I find more flattering that the previous waterfall patterns I have used.  I changed the waterfall drape itself by copying an Eileen Fisher silk jacket that I have loved for years.  This is my first version in a very sheer poly from Fabric Mart and still needs to have the edges serged with a rolled hem. One of the nice things about the Eileen Fisher one is the doubled hem on the bottom and the sleeves which gives the silk a nice weight.  I have been saving some Anna Sui silks and think this will do them justice.

Eileen Fisher jacket
Well, Mr. Lucky and I are still enjoying our Florida winter sojourn.  We have friends from church staying in our Maryland house this month while they have a renovation in the works and they sent snow covered back deck pictures yesterday.  We have white stuff on the ground, too...
 but in another ten days we will be driving north, back to gardening, back to pick up my sewing machine from its repair visit and back to fun in my sewing room.  I still have some snoop shopping to do here before I leave so I will report what catches my eye.  Here's hoping your seasonal sewing is going well in your part of the world.