Monday, November 29, 2010

While Visions of Patterns Danced in Her Head

No pics, no sewing, just cold medication, dozing and reading.  I woke up with an awful cold and fever so the closest I can come to sewing is reading A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff in a few waking moments.  Didn't make the pajama deadline, drat, but at least they are cut out and waiting for my return.  ZZZZZzzzzzzzz

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jacket Beats Pajamas

 Today's sewing time started shrinking rapidly and I have to accept that reality and move on.  Pajamas were put on hold while I worked on the Vogue 1100 jacket.  I thought I might finish in time for tomorrow's ASG chapter meeting.  Not going to happen, too many interruptions today.  Some jacket progress, however, so not a total waste.

I was distracted by those interruptions and ended up sewing the cuff on the right sleeve three times and still didn't get it right.  You can't tell in this fuzzy photo but I've done the same hand stitching on the cuffs as for the pockets.  When I made the muslin I did not put the cuffs on and decided to lengthen the sleeves 1 1/2 inches.  I stitched the cuffs on, tried the jacket on and realized I hated the longer length.  Ok, cut it off, sew the sleeve seams and little wider and re sew the cuff.  Whoops, one side looks better than the other with that hand stitching.  Unsew again and try one more time.

These are lightweight molded shoulder pads that I found a year ago at the PA Fabric Outlet outside of Lancaster, PA.  This is the type of store that has lots of "stuff" but seldom the same stuff twice.  These are perfect when you want a very light shaping but not heavy padding.  I use one for my left, "standard" shoulder shoulder and two for my right "leaning" shoulder.   Ok, time to do some hand sewing on the front collar and edges.   I won't finish it in time for this month's meeting.  That's ok, I think I want to rein in those huge faux pocket flaps anyway.  What do you think, about 1 inch less width?  Right now they looks like rudders.

Off to do more handwork, this time down the front edges and around the collar.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Ready for a Pajama Party...with a Recipe, Too

I loved pajama parties when I was young.  Staying up all night, giggling, telling secrets, eating junk.  These days I love getting a good night's sleep more than any of those.  However this holiday weekend I'll be enjoying a pajama party again thanks to Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics (so aptly named)    Gorgeous Fabrics Pajama Sew Along     Her pajama sew along got me to commit to two sewing projects.   I dislike commitment so I'm quite grateful to Ann for pushing me to make this decision.

Plan 1 is to make the nightgown from the McCalls pattern # 4218 .
I like the front tucks and side darts which give it a little shape without clinging.  I'm using more of a wonderful crepe backed satin rayon that I've used previously for sleepwear....Kwik Sew # 2981

 Patternreview for my three versions of KS 2981

For Mr. Lucky I'll make another pair of flannel pants from Simplicity #8082.  I made him  a pair when he was up north a few years ago and he seems to enjoy wearing them so he deserves another set.  That flannel will come from a local sewing friend with an amazing "collection."

 Lastly I'm considering doing a tracing of an Edith Head designer Vogue pattern, #1560.  I don't look anything like the model on the pattern front (oh, no, Jane, you're just being modest, I can hear you saying) but I think the dress would make a lovely nightgown in a lightweight knit without the zipper.  You can't tell from that tall, tanned Amazon on the pattern but it has an upper bodice with bust darts, a center front and a back seam and narrow straps which cross in the back.  I won't get it sewn this weekend but the sew along is putting it to the front of the queue for a first fitting.

Here in the US it's Thanksgiving weekend, my second favorite holiday after July 4.  We'll be spending the day with local friends and all I have to bring is an appetizer and a dessert.  I'm using Cooks Illustrated/America's test Kitchen Cookbook for two of my go to recipes.  Here's their great Cheese Coins :

Makes 50-60 coins

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups all purpose four
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t paprika
2-4 T ice water

1.  Pulse all ingredients except the water in a food processor until combined, about 12 pulses.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of water.  Squeeze the mixture with your hands to form a ball, adding more water as necessary.  Form the dough into two 10 inch logs and wrap each tightly with plastic warp.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the logs into 1/8 inch thick coins and place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning the sheet around midway through that time.  Cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Hmmmm, sharp cheddar, butter, flour, what's not to like.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Buttons and Books

Vintage button gift
Aren't buttons amazing?  Every color in the rainbow, every material know to man....but you still have to search high and low to find just the right button for a project.  That is why I stopped stashing buttons a few years ago.  I was notorious for collecting buttons, in NYC, in PA at Sauder's, on vacation.  And guess what?  When I needed buttons for a project, I seldom had the right number, size or color.  So, no more stashing buttons.  I've been quite good about that resolution....but here are buttons which a dear friend just gave to me last week.  We met some years ago in a women's group at my church and I had always admired her style and then admired her character and charm.  I'm saddened for myself that she's moving into a retirement center back up north since she had joined our little sewing group last year.  But joining us did get her back into sewing.  When she was here in FL packing and cleaning out the house she gave me a large bag of fabrics, hem tapes, zippers and some bags of buttons.  Most of it will go to my ASG meeting since I hardly need one more item.... but I could not resist keeping these wonderful buttons.   Aren't these beautiful?

Making slow progress on the turquoise jacket.  Fine by me, I enjoy the process just as much as the result.  As I've started the actual construction I also have to commit to the embellishment I'm going to use.  That's where Patternreview and snoop shopping give me so many ideas.  I loved the padstitching on this version of the jacket, from merrypatter   merrypatter's blog of Vogue 1100    I'm doing a similar version with three threads of embroidery floss stitched twice around the edge.  I like the hand rustic look but did it in tone on tone so it wouldn't look so "country."  I hope that's can tell me otherwise, you won't hurt my feelings.
Vogue 1100 pocket embroidery

I haven't mentioned any books in this blog yet but that changes today.  Last week I needed a light little read at night to take my mind off of a bunch of decisions I'm trying to make.  Found exactly the right book to do that.....and there was sewing in it, too.  It's been out for years so perhaps some of you have already enjoyed it....Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik.  I almost always enjoy girlfriend books which span the years (think Ya Ya Sisters and you know what I mean.)  This one opens in the late 60s this capturing today's Mad Men and vintage trends.  But I especially enjoyed the format. The suburban women of the book meet in their 20s and 30s and start a book group.  The ensuing two plus decades follow their lives and the books they read over those years.  Loved that idea and the author carried it off delightfully.   Of course it has to merely touch on many topics and social issues over those years so it's not a finely hewn character study but an entertaining read.  And yes, the character who sews knows what she's talking about...."Kari was a snob when it came to her material--she loved fine worsted wool and soft silks and Egyptian cottons."  

This week's evening read goes an entirely different but just as enjoyable direction.  Work Song by Ivan Doig is introducing me to copper mining in Butte, Montana, the Wobblies, and mine safety for miners....obviously still a relevant subject around the world although this story takes place in 1919.  I've enjoyed several of Doig's other books and this one is a page turner of a historical novel.  Lightweight but pleasantly enjoyable.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wrap It Up

Christmas present from the past
I've cut out Vogue 1100 from a turquiose linen rayon poly blend that is ancient.  Not the world's nicest fabric for this jacket but a great color so I'm willing to give it a try.  Cut it, fused interfacing and cut the lining yesterday.  None of that is particularly photogenic so I'll post a picture of a purse I made as a gift two years ago.  I had recieved one of these same purses from a wonderful friend who gifted it to me after winning at a sewing guild raffle.  Loved the texture of it so eventually I bought the book, It's a Wrap, by Susan Breier.  Susans stitiches website    
I've mentioned before that I'm not going to get into quilting but years ago I started buying quilting cottons every so often.  Here's a fun way to use them...and any other thin, colorful fabric.  This particular one was a gift for my dog loving sister-in-law hence the dog theme fabric.  I added a drawstring inner cover about 1/3 down from the top of the finished purse to make it a little more private.  I'm still thrilled with how my first project came out, good colors, good shape and great texture.  

Here's the gift one.  Wonderful chocolate brown and lime green colors.

 A jacket waiting to be sewn:

Friday, November 19, 2010

What This UFO IS Teaching Me

This Burda 8172 jacket has been sitting in my UFO closet space for at least five, maybe six years.  Each year when we return to Florida I immediately notice things that have to charity, to freecycle, to the sewing guild, to the dump.  It's nice having 5 months away from this "stuff" to get a new perspective on whether you use something regularly or love owning it.   So this year I decided to make a final decision on this jacket and maybe on this pattern.   It needs a button and buttonhole but Mr. Lucky snapped a picture so I could get some perspective on it.  What have I learned from it so far:

1. Colors:  I do like the slightly nautical stripe and medium tone colors of red, white and blue.  I'm sure that's what drew me to the fabric in the first place.  Lesson is that medium tone colors are best for me, not too strong, not too pale.

2. Fabric:   The fabric itself is from Walmart, $1 a yard, and is a cotton lycra that feels scratchy and bulky, ughh.  I bought it my first season here in FL, seven years ago.  I was feeling lonely and sad....Mr. Lucky was still working, my father had just died the previous year and I missed him here terribly and I had yet to make any real friends in FL.  Lesson, these are not good reasons for fabric shopping.

3. Style:  I was just starting to understand that I look best in darted clothing.  However, it's still quite a boxy look for me.  I wear boxy jackets on a casual basis but how many patterns do I really need for this look?   My favorite casual jacket pattern is Kwik Sew, a jeans jacket with some nice shaping.  That's my go to pattern for these woven lycra fabrics.  This pattern was designed for felted wool jersey and tweeds....softer fabrics than I chose.
The lapels are a little larger than usual but I'm liking them now more than I did at first.  The jacket isn't lined and I think that's also a mistake in this uncomfortable fabric.  I do like how I changed the cuffs.  I would definitely need to add a beefed up shoulder pad on my sloping right shoulder since I didn't adjust when I sewed this jacket.  Nowadays I do take a deeper shoulder seam on the right and cut the armhole slightly lower to compensate.
When I look at the jacket length on my body, too many horizontal lines at one place...the 3/4 sleeve looks like it's almost parallel with the hem, never a good look for me since it's right around my widest part.

Now that I've written this post and looked at the picture more closely there are enough reasons for tossing this one.  Blogging about sewing projects is a good way to get some distance emotionally from the project.  I don't know why it's so hard for me to let go of these ideas and projects (that's a whole different kind of blog:-)  I do know that I have never regretted letting go of something and moving on to the next good thing.  Good sewing lessons and now....

Onward to the Vogue 1100 jacket...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sew Lonely No More

First of all, let me thank you for reading, commenting, following and just paying any attention to this little sewing blog.  I'm so enjoying connecting with you through your blogs and pictures....and your successes and frustrations.  Sewing can be a solitary task.

Sewing studio days begin again.  

When I started fashion sewing again, about 15 years ago, I was thrilled to discover a national organization, the American Sewing Guild, with chapters all around the USA.  There are chapters in major metropolitan areas and then more local neighborhood groups within that chapter.  I was still working at the time and like many of you, did not know people who appreciated the art of sewing.  So perhaps three times a month I would drive to meetings from 10 to maybe 30 miles away just to meet up with others who shared this passion.  Over time I  made friends who were interested in fashion sewing also, attended several national ASG sewing conferences and still love going to sewing retreats.
Now I'm retired and have more time to sew but I still need and want the social side of this hobby.  I belong to two ASG chapters, the Fort Myers, FL one and the Northern VA one.  Unfortunately the closest FL neighborhood group for me meets on an invconvenient evening.  So last year I decided to start my own "sewing studio days" for any interested local friends.   I sent an email to the creative, local sewers I know that I would have two days a month, from 10am-4pm, when I was going to be at home in my "studio."  They are welcome to come, sew, bring patterns to fit, share ideas and questions.  I have drinks but if you want lunch, bring a brown bag.  What a hoot!  Sometimes there were two of us, sometimes there were seven of us, all the time there was creativity, excitement and lots of help.

Now I think I know what was missing for me for so many decades.  I learned to sew out of necessity and I felt almost apologetic for having home made clothes.  I didn't even know there were sewing and tailoring classes....and would have doubted my abilities anyway.  I had to unlearn that approach and focus on the fashion, friendship and camraderie I find among sewers (sewists?)

Yesterday sewing studio days resumed at my house.  Here's the one friend who was able to attend.  I cut out and made a muslin of Vogue 1100 in that dreadful twill above.  I have a few adjustments to make and I'll be ready to cut it out of "good" fabric.  Not sew lonely anymore, just happy for so lovely friendships new and old.

Silk chiffon blouse poncho....inspired by RTW

I love Chicos.  Love their jewelry, their clothing lines have gotten more shapely over the years and their look is what I often aim for, upscale sportswear for a casual, middle aged lifestyle.  Especially love their fabrics although frequently the colors are too harsh for my extremely fair complexion.  The summer before last when I was on my quest for a sheer top that would cover my upper arms I came across a simple design of theirs in the store.  It was the Painted Palm Poncho Blouse and keeps appearing in their line with different fabrics (and names) each summer.  I tried it on and it fit the bill for what I wanted to accomplish...something lightweight for the hot days of summer but would still provide me with some coverup.  Sorry, my upper arms seldom go flapping free in public unless I'm working out or swimming.   So I figured out how to assemble one quite easily and thought I would share this with you.
Chico's website:   Paisley Foil chianti version

Another rayon one

Lightweight poly, silk chiffon or rayon  45-60" wide
48" in length (or more depending on desired final length)

Cut two pieces of fashion fabric, 24" long by fabric width (or shorten to 24 x 44", my preference....although the blue rayon picture is 54" width fabric)

Use your serger to create a rolled edge on all four sides of each piece.  I just used regular serger thread but you can use decorative thread if you want.

Stitch the top shoulder line, right sides together, with a 1/4" SA.  Leave a 13" opening in the center for your neck opening.  (I usually fold this fabric in half at the neck opening, then mark 6 and 1/2"  from that fold on either side.)   Back stitch at each end of the neck opening.

Press the seam open.  Turn right sides out.  Place the top on a flat surface so that wrong sides are together and the sides are straight and even.

Determine the lower body with opening for your body.  Measure your hip or upper hip line and add desired ease....3"-6". ( Ex.  My upper hip is 42".  I add 4" of ease.  42+4=46")  Divide that number in half to find how wide to make the body opening.  (Ex. 46" / 2= 23" body opening.)

Create the side seam and sleeve opening by using that body opening figure.  At the bottom of the flat garment on the table, measure from the midpoint.  (Ex. my midpoint is the 22" mark....yours may be larger if you use wider fabric)  Mark from that midpoint, to the left and right, the body opening you need. 
Ex.  My midpoint is 22".  I need a body opening of 23"  From the midpoint I mark 11 1/2: to the left and 11 1/2 inches to the right.  The remaining fabric will drape down and become my "sleeve."  The seam will end approximately 10" from the shoulder line.

Pin a straight line 13" from the bottom of the blouse to create the side seams.  Sew side seams directly up that pinned line and back stitch at the end.  This might seem a little strange because you are sewing wrong sides together (ask me how I know that:-)

Variations:  You could create a center front opening, maybe full opening so that it is jacket like or just a deep V.  And you could use a more couture seam finish, too.

Ok, I know most of you are sewing with woolens, making coats or knitting socks and hats.  So file this in the "next summer" folder and have an easy, patternless way to use up yards of those filmy, silky fabrics that are languishing in your stash.

When I teach this in person at an ASG meeting I have a diagram that explains this a little better.  Maybe this photo will help.

Is this a useful garment in your wardrobe?  Is this tutorial clear enough?  Love your comments and helpful suggestions.  In the meantime, hope your sewing projects are working well for you.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This Skirt is Made for Dancing

I love a good twirly skirt.  When I had to figure out my fashion style upon leaving corporate life I discovered the fun of sewing and wearing some terrific Kwik Sew "twirly skirts."  I live in warmth for much of the year so I had to figure out a new look.  I could do the classic middle aged woman's version of shorts....the cropped pant.  Yes, I do own and wear many a cropped pant for the casual run out to get milk at the store look.  But even with my relative height this is not a flattering look on me.  Most of the time I stick to a standard jeans and knit top or jeans and lightweight jacket look.  Boot cut jeans and a slightly fitted jacket give me good proportions and lines.  But there are those moments when I want to release the inner girl in me and that's when I want another one of those skirts.

This one is Kwik Sew 3231, 8 gore basic and one I can cut and sew in my sleep by now.   I cut a bunch of them at a time and leave them in a drawer in my sewing room.  I sew them out of lightweight silks, polys and rayons, anything with some swoosh to it.
For this one I decided to line it rather than wear a half slip.  Red ambiance in my stash from Joann's and the brown tropical poly I'm sure from Joann's as well.

This week has been busy grocery shopping, cleaning and socializing with friends who are back in town.  But I wanted something new to wear when Mr. Lucky and I went downtown for dining and dancing last night.  Once a month there are half a dozen music groups on the streets and I swear every baby boomer in SW FL comes to relive their high school dance days.

Mr. Lucky and I took dance lessons for a few years so we can do some swing and fox trot and even a few Latin dance steps.  Great exercise and I appreciate him for making the effort when so many men don't.  We're not ballroom dancers by any means but we do have a fun time together and that's what matters to us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Kind of Quilting

Rag quilts for dogs
My closest sewing friends and teachers, some of them spectacular quilters, know that quilting is probably not going to be my thing.  All those corners to match, the precision of exactly 1/4' seams, then the quilting itself, wow.  Some things have to drop off the life bucket list.  Me, I've eliminated tap dancing, oil painting and quilting.  So isn't it surprising that every now and then a quilted project shows up in my sewing room.  How does that happen?  In this case the project is for charity and the sewing doesn't have to be that precise....and the recipient can't complain in a language that I understand.  

Yes, last year I started sewing charity quilts for rescue dogs.  A childhood friend has retired here to SW Florida.  I have enjoyed reconnecting after almost 4 decades of only hearsay from our parents.  Her sewing skills advanced and improved over those many years (mine stayed in childhood rebellion and grumpiness until the late '90s.)  Among her many talents, she's a lovely machine embroiderer and quilter....and wonderful teacher.  She's worked in quilting and fabric stores for many of those years and has accumulated quite a large collection.  As we got reacquainted she invited me to join her in using up some of her flannel collection by making these small flannel rag quilts.  We made either 4" strips or 9" squares and stitched them in three layers.

4" strip rag quilt

But why show these to you, my dear readers, who love clothes and fashion sewing like I do?  Well, for a couple of reasons.  One, I think it's tragic that a million dogs are euthanized every year yet a million more are bred, too, too many in puppy mills.  Rather than buying a new puppy I would love more people to seriously look into rescuing a dog.  There are breed specific rescues if your heart is set on a certain type and the cost is less than a puppy store.  These quilts go to small dogs in SW FL who are looking for forever homes after they have been rescued from a puppy mill or given up for adoption, victims of the struggling economy in this area.

Rag quilt collection
From a sewing perspective I think it's great to have a project like this around.  Sometimes I lose my sewing mojo or can't commit quite yet to the next creative project.  Just putting together these quilts gave me time in the sewing room, an easy non-critical project and a break from a challenging one.  When we returned home to FL this week I still had a pile of these that had to be clipped.  It's a great way to keep your hands out of the snack jar at night while watching TV.  Now these go off to the rescue organization and I'm back to regular programming.

OK, one more shot of the luckiest dog alive today.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sewing with a Travel Plan...and a Lemon Curd recipe

Add caption
After 5 days of driving and visiting with family and friends along the way we are back home in SW Florida.   That means it's time for me to unload fabrics and patterns that I've purchased over the summer that might deserve a home here in the sunshine.  This year is a little different, however.  We are planning a big trip in mid-winter so I'm putting together a sewing plan for that vacation.  We'll be doing a lot of hiking and outdoors time and I have a regular wardrobe of LL Bean and ExOfficio to get me through the days.  What I'll need are garments for travel days, some sightseeing in town and evening meals with the group.

I'm making brown my base color and will work from there.  I've never done an official SWAP on Stitcher's Guild or Patternreview.  I wear everything I sew and never cared about coordinating so many items since I don't need a work wardrobe at this time of life.  But when I travel I definitely do pack with a color theme.  Here's the initial selection.  I see a brown stretch denim jeans jacket and a brown knit jacket as my "third layers."  Then a dark brown knit top and several brown prints which will go with brown jeans already in my wardrobe.  A brown knit skirt and a print skirt will round out the ensembles.  Some fun chunky jewelry, a scarf or two and I'm ready to go.

Not much sewing going on here yet so I will share a recipe.  I make jam, jelly and caramel apple butter for our use and for hostess gifts throughout the year. We also empty our refrig and freezer in both places so I'm always using up ingredients.  This one used up eggs, butter and lemons.

Lemon curd with meringue cookies and gift bags

Lemon Curd and Meringue cookies  (Gifts for our neighbors and friends who watch our home)
Best ever curd recipe because it does not require straining the curd.

3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. (The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts.) Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 min. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don't let the mixture boil.

Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

Here's the link to the Fine Cooking recipe with pics.  Fine Cooking lemon Curd recipe

Make meringue cookies with the leftover egg whites.  Spoon some lemon curd onto those light little cookies, ymmmm.