Monday, July 30, 2012

Offray Ribbon Outlet, Hagerstown, MD

Yes, fashionista sewists, there are ribbon outlets as well as fabric outlets in my corner of the world.  And you wondered why I call myself lucky?
On my drive to my friend's terrific birthday party, I was within a few miles of the famous Berwick Offray Ribbon Outlet and just had to stop in for a I hear an "amen?"  
Berwick Offray outlet write up  The plant is located in a suburb of Hagerstown, MD and like any good outlet, the inventory changes daily.  I don't even "need" any ribbon but their prices and selection make this stop irresistible.  And those Pinterest pictures and projects  are always in the back of my mind so here's what I got and here's how I'm storing it.
Simply Irresistible
$.50 a roll, from 10 yards to 30 yards on a roll
My most expensive purchase, $3.60 each for 10 yards apiece
$.10 a roll....and the blue gingham is wired!
$.25 per bag
$.50 per plastic grocery bag
Yes, there are rolling canvas carts full of these grocery bags with yards and yards of ribbon just stuffed inside...$.50 per bag.  So I was right behind the woman who brought out a new supply and grabbed four bags.  When I got home I emptied the bags and started winding up the ribbons inside.  The red white and blue ribbons were obviously leftovers from the recent US patriotic holidays.  The stars were probably meant to be printed on all the ribbon but missed some so now I have a coordinated set with which to update my holiday door wreath.
The pale Green is wide, wired ribbon in one of my favorite colors and which happens to be the green in that new "Tres Chis" fabric adorning my sewing room.  
The black and white polka dot is also wired ribbon and again has some misprints and faded dots along the yards....but there's plenty here to be salvageable for a sharp project.
I included the last bag unwrapped just to show you that they look quite mundane and boring at the factory.  here's what happens when you dump out one of these grab bags:
Spilled out onto the floor

As you start winding the ribbon you notice the color changes and flaws and can decide to remove them or mark them.  I simply cut this bundle into separate sections of color:
All this ribbon from that bag

Here's how I organized this latest collection along with other ribbons in my resource center
Now let's all sing along with the late Robert Palmer...
don't you think a ribbon outlet is 
Simply Irresistible?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sewing Room Makeover, Part 1

Thank you, once more, sweet sewingly lovely readers, for your comments on those Vogue tops.  I tried to reply to your comments but either Blogger or my computer won't let me publish a reply.  But I do appreciate each one.  Sewing can be such a solitary hobby and it's a treat to speak to one another, even if it is only "virtually."

So, are you a "Pinner?"  My new unproductive passion, Pinterest, continues to inspire me with pictures of beautiful rooms, smiling children and delicious plates of food.  Now I realize that all of those are merely photographs and that reality is far more complicated, but those pictures do mesmerize me at times.  But this blog is not Pinterest.  No pics of beaming grandchildren on vacation with me, nor do I have a food stylist present when I'm dishing up dinner (even if it is scrumptious) and my pictures of a room in our household always seem to include some electronic charging cords and the rear end of a dog or two.  But I know that we are all nosy about one an other's lives so I'm going to share some of my ongoing summer sewing room improvements.  It's a work in progress and I'm happy with the progress I'm making.
It started this year with a change in lighting.  Just last year Mr. Lucky (my DH from henceforth called " a saint) replaced an '80s overhead fan and hanging light fixture (yes, with classic frosted scalloped globes) with this cool looking set of five lights that I found half price at Home Depot.  Ah, the reason it was half price must have been that it only gave off half the light I needed to find my way around this room.  Dim, full of shadows and the lights kept blinking off on their erratic power strip connection.  So this year I knew I needed a huge increase in wattage just to make this room really usable and enjoyable for these aging eyes.  Mr. Lucky spent one entire day re-installing new ceiling lighting for  me, a genuine headache because we have old wiring and he forgot to write down the connections when he took off the old.  Up and down, basement to second floor to turn off the power, turn on the power, turn off the power and try another combination.  He worked it out eventually and now there's a not as attractive but marvelously bright 4 "sunshine bulb" fluorescent box in that ceiling.  Oh my gosh, the difference is has made is almost indescribable.  Colors are clear and realistic, no more shadows and I love working in there any time of day or night.  I'll post new and improved lighting pics in the future.
Former hip but impractical celing lighting fixture
Next thing was a need to pretty it up while making it function a little better for me.  I saw this delightful "Tres Chic" print at a home dec store in Winchester, VA during our sewing retreat.  My second favorite fabric store,, had a sale earlier this spring so I got four yards of it for window toppers and some other sewing room accessorizing.  No window toppers yet but here's how I've used it so far.  
Ikea cabinet full of knit fabrics that constantly distract me with possibilities 
"Tres Chic" fabric focuses my attention on the fashion project at hand
The Saint recovering and reassembling my Ikea chair
Now let's turn our attention to that large cutting table and pattern storage arrangement smack dab in the center of the room.  It's been put together rather makeshift and functions nicely, just looks awful.  (They are old greeting card drawers from the business that closed down the street about 8 years ago.)
Usually it has little post it notes with the pattern info in each drawer
One of the frequent techniques showing up on Pinterest has been simple instructions to make chalk paint in any color.  This room could use some color so I decided to put it on these drawers and make them into something useful.  Pink paint to the rescue.  I used a coordinating pink from the fabric colors, almost Pepto Bismol like.  
I chose Pink Cafe from Behr paints

Did a primer all around the drawer cabinet and applied one coat of the pink to all four sides.  

After that base coat I filled an empty sour cream container with my chalk paint cup of paint mixed with 2 T of unsanded grout that I lightly mixed with water.  I applied two coats to the drawer fronts and to one side of the cabinets.  

After the paint dries, rub chalk over the entire surface to sort of prime it and then use it as a chalkboard.
Now I can easily see what patterns are in each drawer and change the info when needed
On the cabinet side facing the window and ironing board I also painted chalk paint and use that side as a memo board for things I need to buy on my next sewing shopping trip.

I loved my new chalk paint so much that I made a little extra gift for a dear friend's birthday party last wek.  Yes, you can apply chalk paint to glass....and change the message any time you like:

Back in the sewing space... I made a stencil from  a metal decorative dress form that I bought on Etsy a few years ago....aren't these three cute?

This side of the pattern cabinet faces a wall and my dressform so it is just decorative. I love the stencil image welcoming me I walk in the room.

Third side of the cabinet
The back of the cabinet faces the long wall where my sewing machines are.  Mr Lucky again came to my rescue and installed pegboard on the last side of the cabinet.  I'll be installing hooks and dowels and putting my ribbon collection there.  Ah, my ribbon collection.....that's a whole other story.  

I'm loving the aesthetic improvements in my sewing space and have been sewing up a storm in the last week.  Thanks for stopping by.  Now I'm going to take a blog tour and visit some other sewing rooms around the world.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two More Vogue 7717 Tops

Thank you so much, lovely readers, for your kind comments about those bias dresses from my last post.  I'm wearing one of them as I type and so appreciate you taking the time to stop by, read and comment.  
The hot July days we have been having sent me to the sewing room to make up two more Vogue 7717s.  This one is from some coral/tangerine eyelet (FabricMart) that I have had in my collection for at least five years.  I thought maybe it would be a light summer jacket and even have a coordinating inexpensive (meaning thin and flimsy) knit in the perfectly matched color to make a tank top for the proposed jacket.  But then the 90-100 degree F days kept repeating and I made a cool, lightweight top instead.  I am never a person who is on the cusp of any fashion trend but I did have to give myself some "atta girl's" for sewing up this color while it was still in fashion.
Vogue 7717
These tops are so easy to make that I have to find a way to add some spice to them.   The next one is from a very wrinkly linen mini-check, also from Fabric Mart.  I must have been inspired by a discussion on Patternreview of the Jalie scarf top because I decided to add a mini fabric tube "scarf" held in place by fabric loops and accented with some buttons from my collection.  Despite having washed this linen a few times, it remains rather scratchy as well so this won't become my best loved top this summer.
Fabric tube scarf detail
What I am loving these days is summer produce.  Here's some of that peach jam in the making that I mentioned previously.  

And here are our Brandywine heirloom tomatoes, obviously happy as can be in this weather.  So despite the heat there's still summer fun happening at our house.  
Next post, staying cool indoors with some sewing room redecorating.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Another New TNT Pattern

Vogue 7823
Why did I wait so long to try this pattern, Vogue 7823?  Well, mostly because I don't like the cover picture with its high neckline and long mid calf length.  And because I was nervous about a bias cut dress on my less than svelte middle aged figure.  I definitely should not have waited to give this one a try.

Last summer I joined the dress making bandwagon and churned out a half dozen stretch woven sheath dresses McCalls 6201 sheath and a few empire waist knit dresses  Simplicity 3678.  I liked how easy they were to wear in the summer and decided to try a few more dresses this summer.  
One of my friends in Florida was raving about the benefits of linen during a heat spell last year.  I have collected a lot of linen over the years when I thought I was going to be making Louise Cutting or Sewing Workshop patterns.  Turns out they are not garments to get me through sultry mid atlantic summers so that linen has been sitting in my collection since then.  But sewing that bias linen top (Vogue 7717 post)  this spring gave me the idea to try a linen bias dress....only what pattern to try?  I was going to place a simple sheath on the bias but turns out that I had this pattern in my drawer, hooray.  Now I'm loving it in linen and lightweight wovens. 

I made size D, cut the neckline about 1 1/2" deeper, raised the armhole depth about 3/8", otherwise I used the given two armscye darts and two back shaping darts.  Bias trim the neckline and armholes, stitch a baby hem and it's a cool, lightweight way to get through summer.
Here are the four versions that I've sewn in the last four weeks....with a few more in mind.
The first picture is actually my third one.  It's a denim/navy colored linen and I am wearing it with a handwoven silk shawl from Mekong River Textiles  Mekong River Textiles I added a band of trim around the neckline, some blue toned braided mini soutache from the PA Fabric Outlet that I hand stitched in place after I had bias bound the neckline.  
Since our temps were in the 100s in late June and early July I planned on wearing this outfit to an outdoor wedding in the country two weeks ago.  But then that little thing like the derecho storm hit that Friday night and all bets were off.  We missed the wedding, about three hours away, and lost power for four days.  Thanks, however, to our more than generous next door neighbors we were able to hook up our refrig to their generator and keep food safe, a fan or two running and by Monday I was even hooking up my sewing machine and doing some sewing.  But that's another post for another day.  In the meantime, here are the other three versions.
First version in camel linen with some strange light reflections from that mirror

Plain black grey linen

mini check cotton rayon shirting fabric

  I also think I can slash off about 18 more inches and have a nice bias top pattern.  I am one of those people who loves a new TNT pattern and doesn't mind making a few versions once I get the fit refined.  I know others find that a little too factory-like or just dull.  I love those people because they keep sewing new things that make me ooooh and ahhhh all over the internet.  I'm not one of them but I sure appreciate the work that goes into sewing, reviewing and posting pics of the process.  Here's hoping your sewing is fun which ever way you do it.

Last post I promised to share what other activities were diverting my attention from sewing.  I love summer for reading....oh, heck, I just love reading and here are my most recent recommendations:

I believe Anna Quindlan and I are about a year apart in age and this book deeply echoes my feelings about aging.  I have been very fortunate (hence my blog name) that major tragedies have not stricken my life so I've enjoyed getting older without huge diminishment in my quality of life  Do I have regrets? Yikes, of course or I would hardly be human.  Do I sometimes envy today's thirty and forty year olds because they will see more of the future than I?  Again, yes, yes. I am so curious to know how the story continues.  Do I spend my time worrying about my wrinkles, bumps and sags?  Sure, sometimes, but most of the time I'm thrilled to be where I am in life.  This book was a celebration of all that is good right now...all the while knowing that it will not last forever and may not last for long.  That's what makes me grateful for each and every day of so many blessings.

I love a well-written "happy" book and this next one is just that.  

I've enjoyed Adriana Trigiani since I read her Big Stone Gap trilogy years ago (start there to get a good flavor for her) and then loved, loved, loved, Lucia, Lucia a few years ago. Lucia, Lucia Amazon blurb and reviews Sewists, grab that one and enjoy the pages of custom sewing descriptions for gowns in 1950's and 60's New York City.
The Shoemaker's Wife is another wonderful story, almost prequel to the characters of the of Lucia, Lucia.  It combines true historical characters, the opera singer Caruso, for example, with a fictional account of two immigrants from the same northern Italian region who come to America at the turn of the century.  Sweet, romantic, entertaining.  
For real life love stories here's a terrific collection from the NPR series, StoryCorps.  StoryCorps stories are audio stories taped in special booths set up around the USA and then broadcast on the radio. This is a collection of some of those stories which have been transcribed into a written format.  Sometimes funny, sad, touching, tender, but all of them heartfelt.  Three categories of stories are included:  Found, Lost, Found at Last.  Here are some samples from the Dave Isay interview on NPR  Love is All There Is
This last selection came from my monthly book group.  One of the guys in the group had read the new Stephen King novel, 11 22 63 which sets up various alternative endings to the day that President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.  The book group member had heard an interview with Stephen King who described the book below as the best time travel book ever written and he suggested we read it.  Well, in my case, that would be re-read it.  I loved this book when I first read it in the early 1970s and this is the copy still on my bookshelf.  I was curious to see if my opinion would hold up over time and it has.  It's a very detailed account of Simon Morley who volunteers for a government experiment to test a self-hypnosis version of time travel.  Not particularly fast paced but it combines a mystery, a historical novel, again blending real events and places with fictional ones, a romance, perhaps a little improbable but charming nonetheless and it has illustrations.  The book group participants generally enjoyed it and I was thrilled to have a reason to read it and love it all over again.  Most of the the books' action takes place in the Manhattan of 1882 which the author is constantly comparing to the Manhattan of 1970.  Since I was working in NYC in the summers of 1970 and 1970, these were places that were familiar to me daily and I greatly enjoyed such a lively account of what it had been like almost a hundred years earlier.  

If you've stayed with me this long I'll close with another project that has been stealing my time this summer.  I've always been interested in mosaics, sort of why I like fabric because of certain textures.  I took a three week beginner's class at a local mosaic store and wow, do I have respect for people who do this regularly.  This 9 by 12 picture frame was slow going and mosaic work is clearly not going to be my new passion.  I will, however, now work on the three projects I have had planned but that's it.  Nice outcome but too time consuming.  I'd rather be sewing.
Thanks for sticking with me so long this time.  Now let's get back to what we really love to do....dream up that next sewing project.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

These Booties Are Made for Walking

I have had two baby showers to attend in as many weekends last month and both moms are expecting their very first, a boy.  I could have made it easy on myself and just done the baby registry thing....which I did as well.  But I just had to try something new and although time consuming, I'm thrilled with the results of this sewing for babies time. Since the babies will be born in the fall, I made warm infant sized shoes with two different patterns.  Here's the scoop:
I used my Viking 5 needle embellishing machine to "make" the fabric.  The red shoes are from a cashmere St. Andrews golf sweater that my husband inherited but the moths got to it over the years.  I have put it through the heavy duty wash and dry cycle in my machines a few times which felted it but it still wasn't sturdy enough to work as a tiny shoe.  I cut off one sleeve (enough for the smallest size of shoe) and proceeded to run the embellisher up and down, back and forth the two layers until they were felted closely together.  Wonderful layer still has the ribs of the sweater slightly visible, bottom layer is a little fuzzy and woolly feeling, perfect for the shoe interior.
Bitty Booties

Next I assembled the shoes using a free pattern from Heather Bailey's website:  Bitty Booties by Heather Bailey  What a generous resource and so many inspiring versions.  I'll eventually post a pic of mine on the photo group she has set up.

But I couldn't stop with just one pair so I tried out the Simplicity 2867, a 1948 vintage baby bootie pattern that is too precious for words.  Simplicity 2867
Simplicity 2867

I did the same needle felting on apiece of mohair wool that I had washed and cut into potholders a few years ago.  It made great potholders because wool insulates so wonderfully and because it still had some fluffiness for padding.  But again, I wanted the baby booty fabric to be a bit thinner for sewing so I felted it for about an hour.  It thinned out but was still flexible and comfy.

For both of these I overlapped the back seam to reduce the bulk inside where it would rub against the baby's heel.  I did very "rustic" looking embroidery floss trim and added the ribbon bows, using a hole punch on the Simplicity brown booties to make them fully adjustable.

Here are a few more pictures of the process
Back heel overlapped seam
Needle felting the fabric to make it "thinner"
Two Simplicity pattern pieces

Fuzzy inside of the booty and ribbed outside

Two sweater layers felted together

Delicate burpers, use the left one, hefty burps, pick up the right one.
I also added two different versions of baby burp cloths to the gift bags for the showers I was attending.  I sewed up a two flannel contoured version (roughly 20 inches long by 7 inches wide with rounded corners and a contour for the shoulder in the middle) and for the big burpers, a cloth baby diaper and flannel traditional version.  

Knip Mode 04-2008
I was working on these gift packages at the end of June right around the 4th of July.  I did take a break from sewing for others to make something fun and easy to wear, this Knip Mode 04-2008 twist top.  It's fabric from my June Fabric Mart excursion and I wanted some version of a red white and blue knit for the July holiday events we attend.  This ITY knit was perfect and although it's probably an Asian inspired print, it does resemble fireworks to me as well.
I wore it to the annual Baltimore Symphony concert at Oregon Ridge Park, an event that I've been enjoying since the 1970s.  Gorgeous setting, beautiful music, wonderful friends, great food and then fireworks, wow, that's what freedom means to me.  Thanks so many men and women who gave that ultimate sacrifice to let us enjoy this and every other day.

Next post I'll show you the dress pattern that I've fallen in love with in this latest heat wave, catch you up on books I've been enjoying....and not enjoying... and show you what else is stealing my time from the sewing room this summer.