Thursday, September 30, 2010

Under Construction

My sewing room has been out of commission this week which is a good thing for its appearance and a more challenging thing for my sewing project.  The guest room is piled with the "stuff" from the shelves and walls, the ironing board and steam generator are tucked into a corner of our bedroom and I'm somewhere in betweeen.
I did make a quick mock up of my planned knit dress for NYC this weekend.  I made the first one out of a midnight navy Vera Wang knit from Fabric Mart's spring offering.  Wow, wearing that midnight navy is almost as dark and aging as black next to my fair complexion.  And it really goes with nothing in my jacket wardrobe so I think it will turn into a navy knit top that I can tuck underneath something in the future.  On the other hand I'm quite happy with how the brown knit dress turned out.  Same lightweight Vera Lang Fabric Mart knit and a much better color.  I used the Jalie twist top pattern, # 2788, which I lengthened to dress length following my McCalls dress, # 4652.
I generally bind the neckline of my knit tops with a piece of crosswise knit fabric, cut about 2 inches wide.  I sew it to the right side of my fabric, usually 1/4 to 3/8 sa then flip it over, press gently and stitch-in-the-ditch from the right side then trim off the excess.  I think it's a technique I first saw Sandra Betzina use years ago.  The knit doesn't ravel and it's not very bulky.

I like how this dress worked out as an easy under layering for dressy and casual jackets.  Here's a casual summer version which I'll pack for a trip.  It's a RTW knit jacket but looks like a short version of the famous Simplicity #2603.  Wearing it also reminds me of the Loes Hinse article in Threads magazine, issue  110 about buying fabric in groups of three.  Her main theme is that only one of your fabrics in an outfit should "talk" while the others should "listen."  I usually like to make garments that talk a lot....jackets, knit tops in prints, colorful flared skirts.  But I see the versatility of having plenty of listening garments and this dress will be one of them.  For the readers among you, this now dress pattern is also a candidate for the great Kinsey Millhone perfect black dress.

Tomorrow we're heading on Megabus to NYC.  We used Priceline yesterday morning for a midtown East bid and got the Grand Hyatt at Grand Central Station for $165 a night.  We were happy enough with the price that we are staying two nights, since the Sam has to stay in the kennel until Sunday evening anyway.  I don't really plan to do fabric shopping....the last thing on the planet I need...but I might slip into the new find that Lindsay posted about  Truemart, near the FIT museum  and I do love visiting Pacific Trim.  Mostly it's sightseeing....the Fashion Institute museum, free, Target-sponsored Friday at the Museum of Modern Art (I haven't seen the renovation that was completed a few years ago),  visit to the Highline Park, an old elevated railway on the west side converted to an elevated park with wonderful views, maybe the Smithsonian's American Indian NYC museum down at Battery Park.  Two shows from whatever is available at the 1/2 price TKTS booth.  Dining will be eclectic as well....dim sum in Chinatown, B&H kosher Dairy Restaurant, a street cart that I read about might even be our pre-theater dinner one evening since the days are so packed.  But I'm really eager for a post-theater drink at a spot I just found on-line...Campbell Apartment, totally coincidentally right around the corner from our hotel.  Right out of Mad Men.
I did decide to take the wild silk scarve panels to FL and make a dress there which I'll wear with black strappy sandals, much nicer than the proposed black pump idea.   Since I didn't get much other sewing done this week,I planned on sharing a new recipe I tried, dolmades, stuffed grape leaves, but I wasn't thrilled with the outcome...a little meh.  Much easier to make than I anticipated so I might try them as a company appetizer later this year.  It's Tyler Perry recipe from Food Network, in case you want to Google it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How I Feel about Felting

Kwik Sew 3096

At a sewing retreat several years ago I watched a creative friend of mine use her new embellishing machine to felt trims and yarns onto fabrics and create exciting new designs.  I wanted one immediatley but realized that I had recently become a FL snowbird so had limited use for more woolens and embellished sweaters in my wardrobe.  But then last summer, two things happened to change my mind.  First of all, Threads published a wonderful article in Issue 144, Needle Felting Without Wool.  It dazzled my eye and mind with ideas.  Threads article  Then a month later I learned from another friend that Viking ER10 embellishing machines were on clearance for $129.  OK, that means it's a sign from the universe.  I'm supposed to be a new ER10 machine owner.  Not wishing to incur any karmic chaos I purchased the machine, tucked it behind my sewing machine table and didn't open it for a year.
Speeding ahead to 2010 and time to pack projects for the August mini-retreat held by the terrific Northern VA ASG chapter.  I pulled an unfinished felted wool jersey jacket from my "muslin closet" (aka the guest room), packed the yet-to-be-opened ER10 machine and left town.  On the third day, Sunday, of the retreat, I decided to finally unpack the machine and see what it could do.  I'm in love!  It does what any hand needle embellisher can do with the Clover hand felting tools....but it does it faster and with more power.  The felted wool jersey jacket that I wanted to embellish went from crafty looking to chic, with tone on tone details, in minutes.  I laid yarn pieces in place, some roving pulled in lightwight bunches, pressed it onto the fabric surface then ran the machine over it to bond those fibers together.  Here's a great youtube explanation.  youtube ER10 demo

Here are my jacket results.  It's Kwik Sew 3096, a very simple jacket pattern that I was hoping would resemble an Eileen Fisher jacket but with Sigrid Olsen colors on me.  I like the colors, the fabric, which was wool jersey from Fabric Mart which I washed and dried 2X. 

 But I really enjoy the embellishment.  I was having so much fun playing with the machine at the retreat that I used a wool jersey scrap and some unused pom pom wool to creat fabric which has become my reading glass case.  I can see some great possibilities in the future for this ER10 machine.

Eyeglass case with wool embellished onto jersey
OK, next learning might be to understand how pics get included in my posting.  No computer background to help me on this one so please be patient as I experiment.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Starts with the Shoes

How do you usually decide on your next sewing project?  I usually look at patterns in my collection, look at my enormous fabric stash and get some RTW embellishment or design idea.  I don't "need" clothes to wear, I "want" something new to wear.  However, every so often I am caught and have to sew for an occasion...and this week is one of those situations.
Mr. Lucky (aka Steve) and I will celebrate our 23rd anniversary next weekend and just this week we decided to go to NYC and spend two days and a night.  It's a short, fun excursion (and yes, I will make calls in the garment district) mostly to see two shows and enjoy walking around town in early October.  We're taking the Megabus into the city and haven't even picked a hotel yet....watching Hotwire and Kayak daily for a deal.  I love NY (makes you want to hum, doesn't it) and am eager to just be there with the energy, sights, food and drama.  I am a city walker so generally I wear pants, a top and jacket and feel perfectly comfortable and appropriately dressed.  And I have plenty of choices for a typical day trip to NYC. But this is our anniversary trip.   Hmmm, I'd like to feel like a girl when we go to dinner and the theater on Friday evening.  Now, not like a Sex In the City girl, but I do want to wear a dress when we go out that evening...and dresses are not something readily available in my current wardrobe.  And that's why the title of this post.   I walk in NY, no taxis (I'm also cheap) and sometimes the subway.  So if I'm going to make a dress for this trip I have to start from the bottom up, literally.  Here are my choices, date night shoes that are comfortable enough for NY walking.

Now what to make that will go with the shoes, be appropriate for the weather and make me feel like a girl.  I've started working on sewing a dark brown knit dress length version of the Jalie 2788  twist top, overlaying my Mcall's 4652 dress to get the length and width correct.  It will be sleeveless and I think it will look nice with this silk faced silk organza over jacket from the Talbot's  clearance store a few years ago.   And a twist top always makes me feel like a girl.
The one annoying thing about this outfit is how short the belt became this summer.  I was vacumning my closet ( yes, I know, the dangers of housecleaning!) and the vacumn ate the silk organza belt.  In order to make the belt useable again, I'll have to remove the damaged 6 inches in the middle and piece it with a seam.  I think it's forgivable but it annoys good deed goes unpunished.
The benefit of this plan is that I can make that dress in a day, which is a very good thing considering that my sewing room also happens to currently be under total deconstruction.

Plaster walls are being repaired and prepped before being painted again....I think they may have been painted right before or after we got married!  So I'm on a makeshift set up with equipment in several rooms right now.
Next choice shoes:

The other dress is one I've had planned but thought it would be more appropriate for our life in Florida.  We'll be heading down in about 4 1/2 weeks and the bright colors are more suited to the strong lights and resort wear look.  I'm using my T&T pattern, Simplicity 2409 , the dress length version that I made this summer.

These are medium weight silk panels from Fabric Mart, $2 each, that I bought last summer (warned you I was frugal) which I'll line with Ambiance.  But I'm less thrilled about this dress idea in NYC....and it will take more time to make this one in my constrained circumstances.  Of course, it would be nice to finish both and just take the dress to Florida rather than pack the fabric.
Will keep you up to date on the decisions.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Inverted Box Pleat Panels

It’s rather ironic that my first official blog post will be about sewing a home dec project, my least favorite type of sewing, next to alterations, I suppose.  But I found that I had to put together info from several sources to have a result that worked for me so I thought it might be helpful someday to other sewers looking to do something similar.
I wanted to make inverted box pleat, lined and flannel interlined panels for our dining room redecoration project.   We bought a new dining room set two years ago and since then have stripped the former border, bought a rug, a new chandelier and painted the room.  I had wonderful advice from a terrific decorator we had met a few years earlier, Beth Wolfe, who has gone back into commercial design work but was still willing to work with us as a personal client.  Just like in fashion sewing, I don’t always trust my own judgement (with good cause after some awful wadders) and Beth was experienced enough to offer quick suggestions that made all the difference.  
But this post is about sewing so let me get on to explain how I made these panels.  I studied two great resources, The Decorating Diva, Pam Damour’s DVD #108, Designer Draperies.  Her DVDs show her techniques for producing “couture” home dec or what you see in designer showhouses and model homes.  It’s more time consuming and slightly more expensive (everything is usually lined) but just like couture fashion, the results are more long lasting and rich looking from the outside.  While Pam’s drapery instruction was easy to follow, she showcased pleats that I wasn’t using on this project (DVD has standard pinch pleats, goblet, country, tuxedo, box, button and center tacked)  and she didn’t explain how to underline  with flannel on this DVD.  I wanted the current Pottery Barn look of inverted box pleat panels and for that I had a wonderfully current source,  The Complete Photo Guide to Window Treatments, edited by Linda Neubauer.  Terrific pictures and explanations.

I measured the desired finished length of the panel, added 16” for top and bottom hems and 4” for insurance.  I wanted my panels to “bump” the floor, not puddle but have a break like a man’s trouser.  Cut fashion fabric that length and lining 4 inches shorter.  Cut interlining the desired finished length plus 4 inches.
Mark 8 inches across the bottom hem of the fashion fabic, fold up that hem, iron and then double 4 inches back to make a double hem.  
If you are interlining, lay the entire panel piece flat on the floor or long flat surface.  Carefully place the underling flannel an inch or two below that folded hem.  Pin the entire panel and flannel together along that ironed hem and up and down both sides as well as placed several pins in the center of the panel from the fashion fabric right side to hold everything in place.

Hem with interlining
Use your blindhem foot to hem the combined interlining and fashion fabric.  I increased my blind hem stitch length to 1.2 and stitch width to 4 in order to grab the thickness of the flannel and fashion fabric.  But only catching the interlining is ok , too, since the fabric will be supported entirely by the side hems and pleated top hem.  Press again after hemming in place.

Use your blindhem foot to hem the lining fabric, marking only 4’ and doubling for a 2” finished hem.
Cut off the selvedges of all three fabrics.  You will be cutting off the selvedge of the lining by itself.  You will cut the fashion fabric selvedge and the flannel interlining while they are pinned together.  I just kept the side selvedges flat on my cutting table, removed the pins as I came to them and kept repining to keep the fashion fabric and interlining stable and together.  The edges don’t have to totally match.  If you don’t want to trim the flannel or lining, you could just cut at frequent 5 or 6 inch sections.  But you do want to remove the strength of those selvedge edge threads in order for your panels to hang properly.
Selvedges cut off both sides

Lay your panel (fashion fabric facing down) with its interlining pinned in place on the floor again.  Place the lining on top of this panel, wrong side to wrong side.  Place the hem of the lining to match the hem of the panel.  That means you should have a 2 inch fashion fabric hem showing at the bottom without lining showing.  Now get down on your creaky knees again (oh wait, maybe your knees don’t creak like mine!) and turn the side hems.  You will turn the side hem “sandwich” of three fabrics approximately 1 ¼ inches and pin in place.  Both sides.  Hold this entire panel carefully and take it to your ironing area to press that first folded area in place.  Put it back on the floor (oh, I envy you if you have a big long table to do this as professionals do) and fold the side hems on both sides another 1 ¼ inch turn.  Press again and then blindhem in place.   
Panel right side down
with lining right side up

When you blindhem the bottom hem area of each side, insert a drapery weight into the double folded area on the bottom.  (I had a lot of bulk in this area so my blindhem started about an inch above the bottom fold) You can buy weights at Joann’s like I did or also I used small washers from Home Depot that were small enough to fit into the 1 ¼ fold.
 Here’s a great tip I got from Pam Damour.  Lay your bottom and side hem panel on the floor one more time, again, “wrong” or lined side facing up.  (No she doesn’t do hers on the floor but I had to in my pics)  Measure from the bottom hem with a ruler to the finished length you want for your panel.  My finished length was 98 inches.  Measure three times across your panel, at either side and in the middle.  Draw a line across the lining connecting those three marks.  Now measure up 8 inches from that line.  Cut off the excess.  Here’s where I made sure that I didn’t have extra interlining caught in the top hem fold.  Depending on how accurately I had cut the flannel, sometimes I had to reach inside the top area and trim away extra flannel to make sure it wasn’t “bulking” up that top hem area.   (Her method insures that you have the same length for all your panels.  Of course, that doesn't mean I have the same wall length on all my 60 year old walls!)

Pleats marked with chalk
Press this new top hem at your pressing area.  Cut a length of 4 inch wide pleating tape (from Joann’s drapery area) to fit.  Tuck the tape into the top hem and fold the remaining 4 inches underneath.  Press again and pin to hold in place.
Mark your pleats as you want them.  I made 5 sets of pleats with 3 ¾ inches between each pleat and side areas of 21/2 inches.  I used my Chalkener to mark those lines.
Inverted box pleat from
the front
Pin pleats into place.  For inverted box pleats make the pleat form to the back of the panel.  Stitch all five pleats.  Pam’s other very useful tip was to start stitching at least ½ inch from the top hem area, then backstitch and continue to sew the pleat.  It keeps the hem area even since you are sewing through quite a few thicknesses.  It’s a little bulky but my Viking had no problems.   

Inverted box pleat from back
with stitch in the ditch showing

Form the inverted box by opening the pleat to the back, centering the pleat fabric so that a box pleat is formed.  From the front, right side, stitch in the ditch down the center of the box pleat to keep that fold intact.   

Slip stitch by hand the very ends of the hem area corners.  Insert pins ( if you are using them) into the back of the pleat.  I used 7 pins, one in each pleat and one in each panel side hem area.  My pins were placed approximately half way down the pleat box.  (I asked my husband to insert the pins since there’s lot of bulk in those pleats.) Hang from rings on rod.  These are not functioning panels, merely decorative.  I anchored the first ring on the outside of the rod bracket and the rest inside the mounting bracket.  After hanging the panels, if desired, train them overnight by tying the pleats into place with wide fabric pieces to hold the folds in place.

The home dec flannel and cotton lining are from Joann's and the Duralee decorator fabric I ordered from Joni Fine at sales at  

So this is how I started National Sewing Month this year. Labor Day weekend always feels like the real new year to me and I was glad to finish this much anticipated project.  Learning to blog will be another new challenge.