Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Simplicty 3884, the 1st JAM in Progress

Simplicity 3884

Last week of January and I'm finishing up my first Jacket of the Month (JAM) for 2011.  I enjoy reading the Stitcher's Guild discussion and seeing all the jackets which are being sewn.

My first one presented me with a challenge when I was sewing it at the sewing retreat last weekend.  The jacket pattern is a raglan sleeve pattern and unlined.  I wanted a lined pattern.  I cut out a lining using all the pattern pieces.  I figured I would use the front and back facings from the pattern and sew the lining directly to them.   Whoops, not really going to work.  That idea works nicely on a set in sleeve unlined jacket.  But not so nicely on a raglan sleeve jacket with all those extra seams at the shoulder and neckline.

Attempted lining pieces
Whoops, facings not designed for that lining!

So rather than reinvent the wheel at this stage, I'll go along with Simplicity's plan.  I'm binding the seams with silk dupioni and will wear it as a lightweight unlined jacket.  If I make it again, perhaps I'll do the stitch and flip technique or simply underline the whole jacket in Ambiance to have that cool lining feeling.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Whole Lotta Sewing Going On

Chef Petey celebrates the sewing guild retreat
It was cold and blustery outside for the ASG Northern VA chapter sewing retreat in Winchester VA but inside it was filled with warmth and friendship.  Maybe it's because I'm getting older but I appreciate these times with my sewing gal pals more than ever.  And I'm so grateful to the chapter board and members who put so much time into making these events happen.  Here's a recap.

Ballroom before all the attendees and their projects
This retreat was held at The George Washington Wyndham Grand Hotel.  There were 39 sewers in the Grand Ballroom and our two meals per day were set up buffet style at the round tables in the adjoining room.  Audrey, you asked about cost and yes, it was more expensive than the non-profit conference center, but definitely not by much.  I attended the full four days, from 9am on Thursday until Sunday afternoon.  Three dinners, three breakfasts, coffee and apples available all day (apple  capital of VA) for a cost to members of $160 plus your own sleeping room arrangements.  The hotel gave us a rate of $85 per night with no limit on the number of people in a room so most people shared a 2 bed double bed room, some had three in a room and others simply drove in each day.   That's not much more money than the decidedly lesser conference center accommodations but sooooo much nicer.

Busy, busy sewers!

One of the loveliest parts of a sewing retreat is the generous spirits of the women who attend.  At my very first retreat, at the beautiful but rustic camp conference center near Appomatax, VA,  I sat with Julie as my tablemate.  Not only was she kind and gracious (which she still is) she was and is a remarkable seamstress.  Julie had recently made her own wedding gown (shown at the ASG national convention in Philadelphia a few years later.)  Julie has a blog as lovely and as artistic as she is and already she has summarized the delightful sewing projects demonstrated at this retreat.  Sewers love to share a good idea and these projects were quick and fun to explain and see in action.
Julie's blog and retreat project summary

I was able to sew a few finished items and came home with a few more to complete.
Jalie twist top for my upcoming trip

Nightgown made by lengthening Simplicity 3624 and making it sleeveless
Infinity scarf from silk chiffon for this Chicos sweater
Simplicity 3884 jacket (more about this one later)
Kwik Sew 3304 swing skirt which still needs lining and waistband
My fleece version of Vogue 2018 stayed up north so no picture at this time.  
Muslin of Vogue 8483 was very disappointing.  I'm not even sure it's worth revisiting since it is similar to this Simplicity jacket but not as nicely fitting.  I might try to copy the collar treatment at a later date.  No picture of this one.

I also enjoyed staying in the delightful town of Winchester, VA.  Even in the dead of winter I got out each day to walk the streets and see the city.  There's a downtown pedestrian mall area, struggling somewhat in this difficult retail economy so I want to support local merchants.  I enjoyed a scrumptious clam chowder at Patsy's Pastry Pizza for one day's lunch and a delicious shrimp bisque and salad at Brewbaker's the following afternoon.  I am a library lover and my visit to the John Handley library headquarters was a true delight.

Judge John Handley of Scranton, Pennsylvania left $250,000 in his will to " . . . open a Public Library for the free use of the people of the city of Winchester forever." The Handley Trustees hired architects J. Stewart Barney and Henry Otis Chapman of New York who designed the building in Beaux-Arts style. The Handley Library opened in 1913 at a cost of $233,230.28 for the building and furnishings. An addition was added to the building in 1979 and a complete renovation, designed by Dennis Kowal Architects, was completed in 2001. 

There are beautiful twin winding staircases on either side of that front entrance that take you upstairs across a glass floor in that dome to the children and young adult depts.   I could have spent hours there but my sewing machine and sewing friends were calling me back.

If you ever have the chance to attend a sewing retreat I hope you go.  Your happy heart will thank you for it.

Meanwhile, it's day 5 of 30 for Lucky the rescue dog's heartworm treatment.  It's not easy keeping a terrier relatively inactive but we're doing our very best.  The two dogs are being kept separate so there's no rough housing going on during this period.   We'll all be happy when the carousing can start again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moving Forward to Retreat....A Winter Sewing Retreat

 I've spent the last two days trying to decide what to bring for projects for an upcoming sewing retreat and then getting those projects, cut out and interfaced before I leave town.  I'll be joining more than three dozen women for four days of sewing, talking, laughing, eating, drinking, fitting, giggling....and did I mention sewing?  The American Sewing Guild Chapter I belong to in Northern Virginia holds two sewing retreats a year, one in late August and one in late January.  Traditionally the January one has been at a non-profit conference center out in the mountains.  Inexpensive but also more scouting and outdoor focused.  I stopped attending about four years ago.  I'm a little too old for plastic covered mattresses in small dorm rooms with other midle-aged women getting up all night for our various reasons.  The food was very much old school cafeteria fare (some wondered if the cooks had been prison cooks at some point) and there was no liquor allowed at the conference center (hmmmm, don't ask, don't tell.)  But this year all that changed.  One of our wonderful organizers, who sell the proverbial ice to Eskimos,  arranged for a fabulous 4 days of sewing in the ballroom of the George Washington Wyndham Grand Hotel and Spa in Winchester, VA.  Wyndham grand in Winchester
Yup, you bet I'll be there.

Projects in the works:

Muslin of Simplicity 3288
1. The jacket in this pattern (which might actually be out of print but is easily available.)  I hate doing muslins and alterations so muslin #1 has been in my closet for two years.  Yesterday I finally took the time to do the adjustments that I needed and made a second muslin.  Love it!!  This is my priority project for the retreat.
Simplicity 3288

2.  Jalie Twist Top in browns and turquoise ITY knit for next month's trip.

3.  Kwik Sew 3304 skirt.  This is an easy pattern but the ruffles require a lot of sewing machine time, perfect for sewing while talking and laughing.

4. Vogue 2018  Geoffrey Beene jacket but in Polarfleece, not doublecloth

Most likely no internet access for the rest of the week.  While I'm away Lucky the rescue puppy will start his heartworm treatment.  We have three crates set up throughout the condo so he can be near us but not active for the following month.  Hubby Steve will be home with both dogs until I return next Monday evening.  I know he'll be taking great care of both our furry guys.
Yesterday's double rainbow in the late afternoon seemed like a good sign to me for a happy outcome.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Putting Together a Travel Wardrobe

Many, many years ago I took some terrible advice for a travel wardrobe.  I was going from the USA to London for a three week university study program in early January.  Somewhere I had read the idea (must have been written by a guy!) to take along clothes you didn't particularly like anymore and discard them by the end of your trip so you could bring home things you had purchased.  I suppose there's some usefulness to this concept but I remember it as a horror.  For three weeks I was wearing clothes that didn't flatter me and were sometimes uncomfortable.  There was very scratchy two piece top and skirt that I had sewn that I had to wear over and over, ugh.   I felt frumpy and stupid each time I got dressed....and trust me, the 70s were not a particularly elegant time so it was bad!!!   Terribly inappropriate advice for this girly girl put into practice....and also foolish for a university student on the tightest of budgets.
Today my travel wardrobe planning is quite different.  We mostly do day hikes, some small town sightseeing and then have a nice dinner each evening.  I pack with a color theme in mind, bring accessories like jewelry and scarves and am happy every day with how I look and feel.  No ugly clothes, just darker colors, mix and match separates and comfy, attractive shoes.
I was going to sew a brown denim jeans jacket for the trip but found this in late November at a Stein Mart store for half off the clearance price, $27.00 total.  

This knit top is one I have reviewed after discovering it in my first Knip Mode, the April, 2008 issue.  Fabric Mart ITY knit with blues, browns and blacks in it.  (My tense smile....a little nervous that some rough-housing might be starting with the two dogs in the hall.)  Since that issue, Burda has come out with their version, #7625

  and this year Butterick has one also #5495
Next up I have to start planning a few projects to take to my sewing retreat next week.  I like to have them cut out and do any interfacing ahead of time so I can sew there and get fitting help with so many good friends around.

Lucky the rescue dog is finally feeling better from his surgery.  We are already working to keep the dogs calmer and more separated.  Now we are asking around from some spare dog crates that we can borrow for a few months in prep for Lucky's isolation time for the heartworm regimen.  Thanks once more for all your good wishes.  Here's the sweet parting shot:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keep Your Fingers Crossed for Lucky

Lucky wearing "the cone of shame"
Lucky has won our hearts in the last five days since he was abandoned at the dogpark and now we're having to do our part to save his heart.  He went to the vet yesterday and we asked for him to be groomed, neutered and to get his shots.  She did a heartworm test and unfortunately for him, and for us, it turned up positive.   Lots of tears here as we read about how serious this is, all from a mosquito bite, so common in Florida.  Next week he'll start on the strong meds that work to kill the worms in his heart.  We have to keep him inactive for a month to try and keep the broken pieces of dead worms from causing a blockage or embolism.   As you can tell from our last picture of the two dogs playing, that will be our challenge.   The vet thinks he's maybe five years old and he's a plucky guy so we're working for the best.

On the sewing front this means that we'll be sure to be spending more time at home with Lucky crated in each room with us to keep him from playing hard once he gets better.  Ok, I could use some focused time in the sewing space.  One thing I have to do is catch up on a whole lot of Patternreview reviews that I haven't updated or submitted.   Blogging has been good for my lax record keeping skills.  And I love getting to read others experiences and be inspired by garments on PR.  I'll also be sewing up some of those knit tops for next month's big trip.  Time to stop worrying about the pup and get busy while he's getting healthy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Good Chanel, Bad Chanel

I took a great online class for Stitch and Flip jacket techniques from the late, great, wonderful Shannon Gifford who taught for years through  Because of her clever techniques for sewing linings and fashion fabrics together, I was able to create comfortable, almost sweater like jackets with her technique.  Here's the progression of successful ones (I use my basic Simplicity #4256 and just modify it for each version.)
First stitch and flip done with piping and facings
Silk tweed also done with facings and piping
First "real, faux-Chanel" with no facings and fully "quilted"

In autumn of 2009 I joined my first sew along blog, Go Chanel or Go Home and loved seeing others make various versions of the iconic Chanel jacket.  I love this one the most.  I think the colors are good for me, it's comfortable and can be casual or dressy depending on accessories.
Go Chanel or Go Home blog sew along version

So what happened next?
I was feeling confident and excited to work on my next version last spring, while here in Florida.  Ok, maybe more than confident, perhaps a little cocky and full of myself:-)  Result ....Mon Dieu, bad Chanel jacket.
Yikes, Coco would not be happy with me.
I decided that I know so much more now, I'll improve upon the method that Shannon taught and do this one a little bit more my way.  Ha!!  Joke's on me.
Rather than block fuse the fabric with lightweight knit interfacing, which I had done for every other jacket above, I decided to use silk organza as the underlining.  Yes, I hand basted the silk organza to each of the eight pattern pieces, but only in the seam allowances and I think that was my big mistake.  The trick to the stitch and flip technique (also described in issue 111 of Threads magazine) is creating a sandwich of fashion fabrics right sides together then lining pieces right sides together, stitch the center back seam, press open, trim the seam to 1/4" then top stitch.  By adding that layer of silk organza, just as fiddly and wonky as Ambiance lining fabric, I gave the now six layers more opportunity to get ever so slightly off grain.  I made my way around the jacket to the front, then hand basted the bias strips of fabric on the outside and tried on the jacket....ugh....see that wonky pulling in the back?  I was heartily PO'd last spring when I saw it.  Put it on hanger in the sewing room thinking I would get back to it and never did.
The nice part about leaving for 5 months is that when I came back this year I had some emotional distance from this project.  First of all the fabric is not flattering on me.  Lovely silk tweed but in a bright mix of colors that don't complement how fair I am.  As of today, I've taken the trim off, done some trimming and pressing and will give it one more try before totally abandoning it.  

Plenty of sewing lessons here.

  • Pick fabrics that flatter you or you may not enjoy wearing that project you spent so much time sewing.
  • Follow the directions until you understand fully what deviations will provide new challenges.  I believe that I could have prevented this from happening if I had hand basted that organza along several parallel grain lines....and with that much hand basting would have decided to block fuse after all.
  • Put that annoying or disappointing project away until you can analyze what didn't work and turn it into a sewing lesson.  For the more mature among you, that may be a short time....takes me longer to get over my frustration.
  • Don't give up.  Sewing has many great results....garments that fit and flatter and wonderful friendships along the way.

 Ok, requisite dog pictures and update.  Lucky is showing his true terrier side, some stubbornness and willfulness starting to display.  He's quite good at responding to correction....but I'll admit it's wearing me out a little just monitoring him.  Definitely like being proud of your baby walking.....and realizing, whoops, be careful what you wish for:-)  DH and I are the ones who have to agree on what's acceptable and what's not and how to be consistent.  We made some mistakes early on with Sam the basenji and I  don't want to repeat those again. Good news is that the two boys walk wonderfully on leashes together now and started playing together which is wonderful exercise for both.  I'm channeling my inner pack leader (yes, I adore the Dog Whisperer and his advice is in my head all of Lucky's waking hours.)  Tomorrow's the big groomer and vet day so he'll be sore and quiet for a while but I bet he'll be back to his perky self soon.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Easy Sewing Therapy: Placemats

I'm needing some very simple sewing projects while we foster little Lucky for these first few days.  These are placemats that I made with more of the donated decorator fabric brought to sewing guild meeting each month.  I wouldn't normally post about this simple a project but the shape is what made me happy.  I was looking for a Big 4 pattern to fit the round table of a friend this last month and could not find this angled design in any of the catalogs.  Then a sewing friend shared this design and I love it.  Worked perfectly for the blue and green placemats that I made in December and now we havesix of these on our oval lanai table.
Pattern dimensions are 20" at the bottom width, length 13 1/2" and width at the top is 11" with 1/4" seam allowance.
Pattern shape

Afternoon of day 2
Here's the slight truce we're at so far between Sam the basenji and Lucky.  I would call it "we've agreed to disagree" tone.  Lucky is definitely getting bolder (not a great thing and why he needs to get neutered and we get trained in managing a terrier) and more playful, definitely a good thing and very fun for us since Sam has never been that kind of dog.  Thanks for all your good wishes.  Our routine is getting re-established with getting a second dog sooner than we had ever considered but we're all learning.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lucky Dog!

Another Lucky dog
We've always said that our dog, Sam, is the luckiest dog on planet Earth.  It was next to impossible for us to find a place to rent in the winter here in Florida and so eight years ago we bought a condo...because of the dog!!    Sam loves his life here, as we do, and all three of us socialize each morning at the dogpark.  So this morning we walked into the dogpark and were greeted by this adorable face at the gate.  Just figured, oh, someone new today.  One of our friends, an early arrival, was calling him "Lucky."  We heard the story that he was obviously dumped at the park (not uncommon, unfortunately) when they came this morning.  So among the 8 humans there we started discussing what to do.  He's remarkably quiet, no yipping, has a collar, but is not neutered and slightly skittish but submissive and fine with all the other dogs.  Hmmmm, you can see where this is going, can't you?  I was hoping that after our "bucket list" trip in two months to start lobbying for a second dog.  I really wanted a female since Sam's an alpha male.  But then "Lucky" showed up.  We brought him home this morning, fed him and now are arranging for him to get groomed, a vet inspection (maybe he is chipped) and neutered.  We'll foster him this week and see how the two of them get along.  Sam's not thrilled at the moment but no aggression from Sam and Lucky is perfectly happy and submissive to all concerned.  Let's see, it was a jacket a month, not a dog a month, right?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Finished: Silk Flower Embellished Sweater and Button/Bias Embellished Skirt

Just saw the most delightful play, "Sylvia" by A.R. Gurney, the author of "Love Letters" and The Cocktail Hour" among others.  All of you dog lovers in the sewing world would find it  a humorous and entertaining show.  Don't tell, but Mr. Lucky was wiping his eyes at the end.   Me, of course I had tears, but I cry at Hallmark commercials...

This morning I was sewing my flowers onto the sweater as well as the bias and buttons onto the skirt just in time to attend the matinee today.  So maybe it's the last minute adrenaline rush but I love how the silk flowers turned out.  They have a slightly burned edge and the silk is lustrous.  These were sale silk dupionis in four shades of blue, from Joanns home dec sale area and I think one from Fabric Mart.  Never quite knew what to do with them but I think I've found the answer....combine them into these multi-dimensional flowers.
I think the sweater will look great with casual jeans as well as this skirt.

The skirt is a repeat of Burda 8294 a simple bias skirt that I fitted this fall.  Thanks to those of you who commented on my design decision post.  I ended up siding with Christiana and Shannon so thank you, ladies.  I appreciate everyone who reads this little blog and especially those of you who take the time to share your remarks.  I know how many blogs I love to read and it isn't easy to comment each time.  Thank you!!!

The finished skirt hem area has a narrow 3/4" bias strip handsewn onto the skirt with crystal marcasite buttons added to give sheen and glimmer along the edge.  Mr. Lucky really liked the skirt and my wonderful sewing friend who was at the theater with us liked the flowers.  Me, I'm thrilled it's done and so very happy with the outcome.  No new pattern here but a fun new outfit and wonderful separates for my closet.
Close up of the buttons, the bias strip and the silk herringbone plaid fabric
Slight burnt edge around each petal shape

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Making Silk Flowers and Caldo Verde

Gathered five petal blossoms and a few more to finish
Acquaintance who knows I sew:  "What are you working on these days?"
Me:  "I'm burning the edges of 90 six-sided silk petals shapes before gathering them into blossoms to decorate a sweater."
Acquaintance. "Oh."

And I'm listening to DVDs of Carl Hiaasen's book,  Nature Girl.  Pretty clever, funny story of characters here in SW Florida.  I've never read any of his humorous novels before and I can understand why people enjoy him.  I'm not sure I'll run out to get another of his soon but it's light reading while I've been doing this embellishing task.

Here's my inspiration:
Threads link to Kenneth King flower instructions and video clip
Here are my steps:
Traced my flower shape onto different colors of silk dupioni

Carefully burn the edges of the flower petals
Wipe the soot off the edges before stacking them in desired color sequence

I am still gathering these flowers to attach to my next Ann Taylor sweater.  I'll be wearing it and my tweed skirt tomorrow to the theater in Fort Myers so will make sure that I get a snapshopt of the outfit for your inspection.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share a wonderful new recipe that we tried last week when it was cold.  Yummmm....and rather healthy as well.

Caldo Verde
From The Best Recipe Soups and Stews, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Serves 6

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over individual bowls
1 large onion, chopped medium
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
6 c. chicken broth
1 lb. (about 4 medium) red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. chorizo or smoked kielbasa sausage halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1 spring fresh savory or oregano (1 used 1 tsp. dried)
6 oz. kale, stems removed and laves cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips (about 4 1/2 packed cups)
ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add 3 cups stock, the potatoes, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Increase the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and mash the potatoes in the liquid with a potato masher until no large chunks remain and the potatoes thicken the soup slightly.
3. Return the pot to medium-high heat.  Add the remaining 3 cups stock, sausage, and savory and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer to blend the flavors, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove and discard the savory.  Stir in the kale and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, drizzling each portion with olive oil, if desired.
Caldo Verde pics and directions