Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Secret Sewing and Sadness for Christchurch

Tears of SadnessLike so many people around the world I'm touched with sadness and grief for the people and city of Christchurch, NZ, today.  I've been so caught up in our preparations for our upcoming NZ trip that I was startled to see those images on the news this morning.  Just last night I was perusing the Fodor's guidebook with its pictures of "The Garden City" and now those awful earthquake pictures of the same place on TV.  Mr. Lucky grew up and has family in northern California so we have heard and seen these scenes before but it doesn't change the sorrow and distress that they bring.
On a personal note, our tour operator told us this morning that the local guides we will meet next week are still saying the trip is a "go" but of course we'll be changing the trip schedule once we arrive.  Yes I'm a little nervous but that's also part of my nature so I'm focusing on what I can do and letting go of the rest.

What I can't do today is show you what I've been sewing for the last two days.  Why not, you may ask?  Well, I'm having fun testing a new pattern and its instructions for a delightful sewing friend.  So my lips are sealed.  Later this year after its publication I'll be able to share all the details.
Since I've been evaluating the directions and illustrations for this pattern, it also makes me admire technical writers and illustrators in general.  I think I was an early PR reviewer of Louise Cutting's pattern, East Meets West, a kimono type dress/jacket.  Having sewn most of my later life with Big 4 patterns,  I was so thrilled to read her directions.  Clear, detailed, helpful, extremely specific and wonderful results.  But it is economics, I suppose.  Too many detailed instructions means more paper, fewer garments in a wardrobe pattern and still a lack of consensus on just which way to do something is the best.  So I don't expect such lovely directions from the Big 4 and appreciate them when they do appear in the independents.

My last post before we depart. It's a wonderful trip we have planned but tinged with tears for the losses of our host country.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

JAM #2, a Travel Vest/Cape and Travel Wardrobe

Not much sewing last week but in between visits with friends and family I still caught up at odd moments with my blog reading list.  My blogging only started in September but I so enjoy this delightful way of communicating our sewing joys and sorrows (darn wadders!) around the globe.  So thank you, readers, followers, visitors, lurkers and linkers, you make my day more interesting and my sewing more adventurous.

Speaking of adventure, we leave next week for our New Zealand trip.  Here's the travel wardrobe so far.   I've just finished hours of bias binding this clever pattern, the Vest-S-Cape from Saf-T-Pockets,  #2011 "Sew Accessorized."   Saf-T-Pockets Vest-S-Cape
Cape-S-Vest from Saf-T-Pockets Patterns 

Pattern Description:   When you are on the road there is nothing better than a beautiful, easy to use scarf or our amazing Vest-S-Cape to expand your wardrobe.

Pattern Sizing:  XS-3XL  I used the first size grouping, for XS-L

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  Yes, I believe so.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Instructions are very easy.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I was considering a few types of shawls that I could bring on an upcoming trip of a lifetime to New Zealand.  I like the versatility from this design.  It is basically a large round tablecloth with holes for armholes but it fold and drapes into several different looks.  What I didn't enjoy was sewing yards and yards of bias washed rayon binding.  I'm not good at evenly binding an edge entirely by machine so I hand stitched the binding on the wrong side....around each of the armholes and the entire circumference.  Don't ask me for the total length (I got a D one semester in geometry) but I can tell you that I threaded my  much loved Susan Khalje hand needles 14 times.
Yes, that's how much there is to bind.

washed rayon bias binding

Fabric Used:  Wonderful double knit poly rayon lycra blend from Fabric Mart bias bound with a brown washed rayon also from Fabric Mart, both in my stash.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:  None necessary
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  I don't think I'll need another one soon but it would be nice in a lightweight silk as another travel accessory.
I tried the first version in a black microfleece.  Not good.  The microfleece did not drape nicely and got caught up on my backside.  It looked better on the dressform.  Oh well, it will become fleece socks.

Here's the back view of the brown double knit:
Worn cape-like, my favorite version

Conclusion: I'll be curious to see what I think of it when I use it for our trip.  I'll try to remember to update this review with any additional insights from actually wearing the garment.
Short cape look

What else am I packing?
Most of our days will be spent hiking so I have the standard collection of rain jacket, Polarfleece 200 pullover, gloves and hat (for elevations, something I don't worry about in Florida) hiking pants, one pair a lovely black stretch pair from EMS (recommended by Summerset Banks on her wonderful blog, Pins and Needles blog which combines things I love....artistic sewing and her hiking pictures) and a khaki pair that zip off.  Two pairs of jeans, one a dark wash and one a brown Chicos pair.  That brown is the inspiration base for the rest of my clothes which I will mostly be wearing to the evening dinners and for a few daytime sightseeing excursions without hikes.
Here are some of the evening and sightseeing looks I have planned.  This is a black slinky skirt that I can wear with this Eileen Fisher silk chiffon and silk tank top.

Slinky skirt with Knip Mode top

Sleeveless Jalie twist top made into dress

I'm packing my brown sleeveless knit dress from this past September's sewing projects ( brown sleeveless dress post)and plan on using it with a jacket and as an underlayer for a knit top and even with the poly version of the Chico's top (thank you Anita for that suggestion) from this post  Chicos poncho blouse knock off instructions .  Of course, depending on the weather, any of these tops can go with those pants for cool evenings.
Jalie twist top dress underneath RTW top

Chicos poncho knock off

Simplicity 4095 wrap top

Jalie twist top
Boiled wool RTW jacket
Any thoughts or opinions?  I may be am packing more than I need but I do enjoy having some variety when I travel.  Suitcase on wheels and I can manage just fine.  If we were traveling with more flight connections and more countries or locations than I would agree to pare down.  But this is about as bare bones as I want to be on this trip.

We'll be spending our first two days in Wellington, then take the ferry and the next two days in the wine country in Blenheim.  I'll be celebrating the big 6-0 birthday that last evening (hours ahead of time of when I was actually born!!!) but not exactly as planned.  Mr. Lucky went ahead and wanted to surprise me with a special dinner....only to get an email last night that the restaurant had a fire and will not be open.  Glad to know no one was hurt but any recommendations for dinner in Blenheim, New Zealand?
The following day we meet up with our travel group, 14 of us, who have joined The South Island Adventure with a British hiking travel company, The Wayfarers.  We've traveled with them twice before starting 13 years ago for our 10th anniversary.   The guides and fellow travelers as well as gorgeous outdoors make this our very favorite way to explore another country.

Lucky the rescue dog waiting patiently for the news that he can run and play again
And of course, I can't close out this post without and update about Lucky the rescue dog.  Today is day 27 of his 30 day confinement for heartworm.  It was a rough week for him last week as he had several gagging spells and other unpleasantness as the dead worm makes its way through his bodily systems.  In the last two days, however, he is truly feeling perky and ready to romp.  We take him to the vet for a day long treatment on Friday and then he might be good to resume moderate playtime.  All of us can hardly wait.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Woefully Underdressed at the Fashion Show

Does anyone else have those dreams where you can't find the classroom and you're only dressed in your slip or underwear?  Well, my experience yesterday wasn't as awful as that but I definitely missed the social clues and was remarkably underdressed for a social event I attended.
It was  a last minute decision to attend a design center 4-7pm fashion show and auction for the American Heart Association.  A sewing girlfriend and I decided to attend and I called for tickets the day before.  I don't have much to do with fund raising events in the "real world" anymore and should have asked her what she was planning to wear.  But Mr. Lucky and I are busy planning a major home dec project and I spent the day on the computer while keeping the dogs separate.  At the last minute I just dressed in one of my sporty casual Florida outfits.  Yikes,  did I feel out of place!  A room full of women in cocktail wear and gorgeous shoes.  I brought my C game ("it's just an inexpensive night out with the girls and  ends early") and they brought their A game ("it's a charity event that will be covered in this town's social papers and you never know who might be there")  Oh well, one of the benefits of getting to my age is, who really cares?  It was a fun time for the two of us...and that's what I do care about.

So no pictures of me, either on this blog or in the social pages.  But here are some of the fashions.  The decorators at the design center were challenged to use materials at hand.  Turned out to be a little less challenging than I would have expected but hey, any creativity is good creativity, right?  My shots are blurry but here are a few that I was able to capture.

It's also a good reminder for me that I haven't fitted a dress pattern here in FL so that should be on my spring sewing list.
Big giggle from me when I saw this circle skirt with elastic waist pulled up to be a dress.  I took this same idea in my backpack while in Europe in the early '70s.  Travel dressing for your 20s!

Loved her boots but even with plunging back on this dress it didn't seem flattering from the front

Loved this one.  Multi-curved silk pieces on asymmetric dress with full dolman sleeve on left shoulder

I liked the bias silk plaid, matched at the side seams but not the ill-fitting strapless top

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jacket A Month, JAM #1

Simplicity 3884 and Lucky
Felt like I was back in college, cramming for midterms.  Last night I  finished hemming and sewing on the button for Simplicity 3884, my first Jacket A Month for 2011 so I could get a picture this morning.  

Pattern Description:  Simplicity's description:  Lined Dress or Top, Pants in Two Lengths, Jacket
  My description:  Shapely raglan sleeved unlined jacket with neckline detail in wide size range

Pattern Sizing  6-22

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?  Yes, only I think my neckline detail is more obvious than theirs.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Yes, whenever I decided to use them.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?   Three years ago I was sitting at an ASG fashion show and admiring the jacket that one of women had made.  Of course it was an out of print Burda pattern but fortunately for me Simplicity came out with their spring catalog immediately afterward and this jacket is a near clone of the jacket I admired.   I bought the pattern at the next sale and even made my first muslin of this jacket that spring.  Then I just hung it up in the "muslin closet."  I was hoping to avoid my usual alterations and of course that's just not possible unless I wear a caftan.  I had a bunch of tweaking to do so it sat for two years.  Inspired  frightened by "Hoarders" and the wonderful Peter Walsh show, "Enough Already" I pulled out several of those muslins this fall to make keep or go decisions.  This one was still a go.  The lines are curving and feminine so it was worth making a second muslin.
I sewed that second muslin in time to decide that this jacket would be one of my sewing retreat projects in January and my first Jacket a Month project.
I like the lines of it, the neckline detail and the sleeve slits.  I dislike that there's no lining.

Fabric Used  A cotton matelasse, totally fused with the 60" knit interfacing from Fabric Mart then Hong Kong finished seams on the inside with a silk dupioni from JoAnns home dec remnants.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made  Ok, here's the tweaking list:
FBA of 1/2 ", hollow upper chest meant that I had to remove fabric in the front raglan sleeve and princess seam area.  I did not have to do my usual upper arm widening not did I do a sway back.
I did shorten the sleeves to 3/4 to avoid that one horizontal line when sleeves and hems are the same length.
I'm twisting in this picture but wanted to get a shot of the nicely curved center back seam.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?  I will definitely be using this pattern again.

Conclusion:  Nice lines, great start to my year of the jacket.  Here's a better closeup so you can see the princess seams and front detail.

As I mentioned in the review, one of the most frustrating parts of this project was that there was no provision for a lining.  It was a royal pain to decide to bind all of those seams AFTER I had sewn the entire body and sleeves of the jacket.  Much simpler to bind the sam edges when they are flat, as I did with the facings.  My enthusiasm for attending the sewing retreat kept me from really thinking through the lining challenge.

I did want to show my two favorite Viking sewing feet for sewing those yards and yards of bias silk dupioni.  First pass I use my edge stitching foot to sew the 1 1/2" bias strip to the outer edge of the seam.  The metal lip is to the right and I keep it touching the two fabric edges.
Lining up the metal flange for accurate stitch in the ditch sewing from the front of my machine

Second pass (after pressing the strip around the edge to the back) I use the edge joining foot to stitch in the ditch.   I've learned that the secret to this foot is to watch the metal flange piece and keep it right "in the ditch" and not to look at the needle.  If the metal lip is in the ditch, then my stitch will disappear into that ditch as well.
From the back of my machine, stitch in the ditch is virtually invisible

On the home front, Lucky is in day 12 of his heartworm treatment and doing just great.  He was coughing and gagging starting day 7 but that seems to be subsiding as the dead worm makes its way through his heart, lungs and body.  The two dogs are making nice while we keep them from playing.  It will be so great when the activity quarantine ends.