Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Fabric Collecting

Those wise women and men at Fabric Mart had loaded the store tables with some wonderful finds before Christmas.  I stopped by before meeting my girlfriend for our wonderful Longwood visit and loaded up my virtual sleigh for the trip back to Baltimore the following morning.  Here are my selfie gifts:
Two lightweight wovens, one for a holiday top and the other perhaps a stretch pencil skirt
Three lightweight merino knits

Three Supplex nylon lycra knits
Six varied knits, slinky, nylon lycra blends and tissue knits
 Red ponte knit, purple eyelash sweater knit, my two online splurges....wool blend sweater knit with swirls and the green" merino wool fleeced jersey"

Last one is a wool and cashmere deep purple coat fabric.  Yes, those awesome tailoring projects have me thinking that perhaps I too could tailor a winter coat.
Yes, it is dangerous living within driving distance of such a treasure trove of high quality inexpensive fabrics.  All of these (except for the brown wool knit and the green merino) were $2 a yard.  Hmmmm, no wonder a sewing friend sent me this clever poem she received from another sewing fanatic pal.

T'was the night before Christmas, I'm decorating the tree.
I'm wondering what Santa will bring just for me.
Could it be fat quarters or a pattern or lace?
Or a quilt kit, I said, with a smile on my face.
And that's when I heard him, "Hi Santa" I said.
"You know, good old broads should be in their beds"
"I know I should Santa, and now I've been caught"
But I was just so excited to see what you brought."
Well, let's take a look in this room where you work.
He shook his head quickly, and left with a jerk.
I heard him exclaim as he put it in gear.
"You've got enough crap, I'll see you next year!

Mr. Lucky, Lucky and I are away to the mountains this weekend....he for some fun in the snow, me for some cozy time reading and perhaps a little hiking.  Lucky the rescue dog was a foundling in Florida so this year is his first experience with snow.  It took him a day or two to figure out the routine (my sympathies to those of you who were parents and the potty training routine) but now he loves, loves, loves the cool weather.  
Hope you have something in your sewing room that is keeping you interested this weekend.
Gratuitous dog picture for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not find himself at peace.
Albert Schweitzer

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and the sharing of pleasures.  For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.   Khalil Gibran
Thank you, dear readers, friends and family.  You are...

Merry Christmas from the our lucky home.....

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Outfit and Holiday Outings

I was hemming this top thirty minutes before leaving for the holiday open house this evening, a last minute crunch that I haven't done in many years.  It's Burda 7092 sewn up in a textured silk dupioni with gold and black threads.  
Burda 7092

Since it has raglan sleeves it's rather an easy sewing job.  My major extra procedure was to underline the whole thing with a lightweight silk organza.  I like how minimizes wrinkles.  I used size 40 for the neckline and shoulder area out to a size 42 by my waist and hip area. The shoulders and armhole fit nicely after I made the minor alterations I needed and the collar is a nice size and flattering.  I'm just not perfectly happy with how the facing is slightly exposed along the collar seam line. Not exactly sure how to fix that but I'll mull over some ideas.  Next time I think I will narrow the last 12 inches of the ties belt. It has a bias middle section that I narrowed by 4 inches (and added eight extra inches) but I think I could further taper the two straight of grain pieces that form the front of the tie which would make it perhaps more obi tie like.  Of course I could be getting too fussy, something I see happen to other sewers.  We accept less than perfect all the time in RTW but frequently criticize ourselves unceasingly.  
As for other holiday celebrations, I went up to Pennsylvania on Friday (stopping at Fabric Mart, of course, and you'll see those pictures after Christmas) and my girlfriend and I visited Longwood Gardens   Longwood Gardens This time of year the main focus is on 20 plus gardens in the conservatory and its 5,500 plants surrounded this time of year by marvelous Christmas displays.  

Outside in the winter weather there are marvelous light displays after dark. I hadn't been to Longwood for several years so it was beautiful, new and yet also familiar. It's easy to see why tickets frequently sell out for this special place.

Another holiday treat was seeing the new movie release, "Saving Mr. Banks," at a grand, recently restored old movie theater in the area.  Mr. Lucky and I give it two thumbs up.  I grew up reading and loving all of the Mary Poppins books....and I do recall being suspicous, like the author P.L. Travers, that Disney would not do them justice.  I went to the Disney Mary Poppins movie (spring, 1965) with my best friend and absolutely enjoyed it yet also knew that it wasn't exactly what the author had in mind.  This latest film is the backstory to the writing of the film and now I better understand those misgivings.  Emma Thompson is superb as P.L Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney is annoying and touching at the same time.  I was so moved by the film that I have already reserved the biography Valerie Lawson's "Mary Poppins, She Wrote."
I'll close with some snow pictures from my Pennsylvania visit.  Mr. Lucky and I are no longer seasonal Florida snowbirds.....but look, here are some real ones.  Whether your weekend was warm or snowy, I hope it was a good one.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Sewing While Watching Christmas Sewing....on the Great British Sewing Bee

How did Santa know that I would love a special edition of the  Great British Sewing Bee for Christmas?  He's a smart fellow.  In case he didn't get your holiday list yet, here's the youtube version of this delightful show.  I loved every one of the four episodes earlier this year and this was a cozy holiday gathering with the two judges, Andrew Grant and May Martin, the three finalists, Stuart, Lauren, Sandra and the delightful winner, Ann Rowley. 
It played in Great Britain on Sunday and thanks to the miracle of YouTube, here it is for me in the USA a day or two later.  I watched the show while making my pattern adjustments for this Burda #7092 pattern:

Sarah Veblen (of The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting book ) gave me fitting and fashion help last Friday for seven patterns in two hours.  I had worked hard on getting six new pattern mock ups ready and also brought a Kwik Sew jacket from years ago.  I was more then thrilled to find that we agreed that all seven of them are worth adjusting and making up.
Six mock ups and one jacket pin fitted by Sarah Veblen

On Monday I made the pattern adjustments that Sarah marked on the mock up and cut out the fashion fabric and the lightweight silk organza for underlining.
I sew mock ups from a variety of fabrics in my resource center.
For this top my major adjustments were all in the raglan armhole area and under the armhole.
The pencil line is the  new seam line that Sarah pinned onto my mock up.  I mark that on my paper pattern then add my seam allowance, in this case 5/8".  I will say this seemed like an extreme change but it fit wonderfully today when I basted it in place

Today was my day to sit and baste those two layers together and watch that charming youtube show.  

A whole lotta hand basting going on.....
The fabric is a patterned silk dupioni with gold and black cross threads.  I bought a bolt of it at Fabric Mart for I think $2.00 a yard.  I washed the yards necessary for this blouse/tunic and now I don't have to worry about water spots.  
My fabric reads a little darker in real life
I'm going to wear it for another holiday open house this coming Sunday.  I'm working on the collar and facing tonight.  Sarah and I discussed some ideas for making the sash more flattering so I'll be making some samples to try before I cut the fashion fabric sash.  The pattern only uses the sash for a closure but I am not that brave.  I'll add a button on a scrap on the inside and perhaps a covered snap for the outer layer of the wrap.    
In the meantime, I'd like to thank everyone who read my last post about my Patternreview membership.  Your thoughtful answers and different perspectives are helping me develop my next steps. I felt a little awkward raising the topic but the range of points of view are respectful and genuine.  That's the kind of dialog I appreciate.  As my minister says frequently, "We don't have to think alike to love alike."  
To be continued.......

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

To Renew or Not to Renew....

....., that is the question I am mulling this week.  Eleven years and counting.  Yes, I am one of the early PatternReview members, right when Deepika offered a start up idea for those of us who were primarily garment sewers.  My first review (of a paltry 40) is from August, 2002.  A lot of fabric has flowed under my sewing machine feet since then.  I was never a heavy duty reviewer or board poster but PR was always an enjoyable read for me.  I never got caught up in any of the controversies or drama over the years since I can find plenty of that in my daily life if I look hard enough.  When paid memberships started I was quick to sign up and happy to yearly support someone who was creating an inspiring online sewing community.  I was always surprised that a publishing company like Taunton Press of "Threads" fame didn't jump on this internet community bulletin board early but bravo to Deepika for finding a niche that has grown in more than a decade.  I took the most marvelous online classes from the late great Shannon Gifford and consult her notes and tips regularly. Her kindness and detailed explanations put some well known Craftsy teachers to shame.  
But now I am at a different stage in my life and in my sewing. (And should probably update my very outdated profile on the site.)  I have lowered my slow reviewing to a sluggish crawl since I find the whole format so time consuming and unintuitive for a non-techy like me.  I struggle with all the different photo site publishing protocols....Photobucket, PR album, Flickr and my default Picasa which I use almost seamlessly because Blogger is my blogging platform.  I seldom read the reviews since I've learned that for me sewing a mock up is the best way to tackle a new pattern and garment.  I glance at the review gallery that comes in my daily digest about  one third of the time and seldom go any further unless the garment grabs my admittedly fleeting attention.  I am thrilled that PR has created a community of sewing friends from around the world and enjoy seeing those groups gather and enjoy one another's company.  I happen to have wonderful regular contact with my own more local community of creative sewing friends so I understand the thrill of being amongst your own tribe regularly.  So what to do this year?  Renew my paid membership or not?  No the cost will not break my budget....although being a retiree who retired perhaps too soon in light of the last decade of financial turmoil means I watch the pennies and the dollars more closely.  Do I just think of it as a charitable contribution to a great cause....sort of how I consider my library fines?  I'm currently on the fence about this question.  You can probably understand why I am a Piceses with the fish faces looking in different directions.  I have ten days to decide.  What would you do?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Casual Holiday Gatherings

First snowfall and first holiday party!  That's what has been on my agenda this week.  Our social life revolves around rather casual gatherings not the glamorous balls and formal affairs that I read about elsewhere.  Since my holiday outfits have been warm weather versions for the last ten years, I whipped this little McCalls knit jacket up in between sewing six mock ups in the last three weeks.  My Sarah Veblen fitting report will come soon but here's something new in the meantime.
McCalls 6444
It's  a now OOP McCalls pattern, #6444, sewn from a poly knit with gold metallic threads.  Front, back, sew back collar seam and then the sleeves and wear it.  I enjoyed having something new to wear for an open house hosted by a lovely woman from my neighborhood garden club and her husband.  She's from Denmark originally so the scrumptious buffet included a variety of Danish dishes and mulled wine to warm our spirits.  
In the same Scandinavian theme I am wearing my new Dansko boots which arrived earlier this week.  They were a gift certificate door prize which Mr. Lucky and I won on our anniversary and I selected a black leather Baker boot.  Comfy and stylish, just what I want in shoes.  Here's a picture of them from my first day wearing them:
Dansko Baker boots, Peter Nygard jacket, silk scarf panel from Fabric Mart with serged rolled edge
I wore this outfit to meet another sewing friend who is also very big into swing dancing.  She sews coordinating outfits for her husband and herself and they are avid dancers.  We met mid way between northern Baltimore where I live and northern VA so that we could look at shoes at this amazing place....Dance Store online  Ok, specialty shoe store....what's the big deal, Jane?  Well, this was more than's also a shoemuseum:

Yes, ceiling to floor and every surface filled with memorabilia.  What fun!!!  My pictures hardly do it justice but what a delight to just wander and see little things to catch your eye.
Maybe coasters?
Betty White is certainly a woman of many talents!

Maybe models instead of just catalogs?
Mr. Lucky and I went dancing on Friday night since another friend had a band playing at the local swing dance venue.  We're definitely not in the league with most dancers but it was a fun evening.  I redeem my "dance points" with Mr. Lucky judiciously throughout the year and am just thrilled when we do have an enjoyable evening doing "...some terpsicore...."  So hey there, cutes....hope your weekend included some fun with good company.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Gift Exchange

Wow, that was fun.  My neighborhood American Sewing Guild (ASG) group had its Christmas party this past Saturday morning.  One of the members opened her beautifully decorated home to sixteen of us, cooked a fabulous buffet of quiches, fruit salad, cinnamon rolls, stuffed french get the picture.....along with flowing Mimosas.  And to top it all off we had our homemade gift exchange.  I contributed one of my pieced silk kimono scarves and in turn I got something I've been eager to make for myself.... two pairs of these cozy wool fingerless gloves:

My hands are almost always cold and I'm thrilled to have these to wear around the house when I am sewing and reading.  These are a terrific cold weather gift idea and I have Polartec 100 weight in my resource center so I think I'll be tracing these (or using the new Vogue Marcy Tilton accessories pattern with her version ...Vogue 8966 )  I would like to get my hands on some wool sweaters for felting for these gloves as well as some other winter projects I have in mind.
Speaking of reading and staying cozy, I have to keep up with my reading list for the last eight weeks, just for my own enlightenment although I hope some of you readers out there enjoy sharing book lists.  Here are my recent favorites:
Wow,what a page turner.  The Amazon reviews are all across the board but I guess my current reading taste turns to drama, crimes of passion and the long cruel Wisconsin winters.  Each to her own but I'm not denying that I enjoyed this one tremendously.

He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for "a reliable wife."
She responded, saying that she was "a simple, honest woman."
She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving her a wealthy widow, able to take care of the one she truly loved.
What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall so completely in love.
Filled with unforgettable characters, and shimmering with color and atmosphere, A Reliable Wife is an enthralling tale of love and madness, of longing and murder.

Wow, another thoughtful book about the consequences of our unthinking actions.  I've enjoyed so many Gail Godwin books (Ah, Father Melancholy's Daughter was my favorite) and this was another winner.  
Ten-year-old Helen and her summer guardian, Flora, are isolated together in Helen's decaying family house while her father is doing secret war work in Oak Ridge during the final months of World War II. At three Helen lost her mother and the beloved grandmother who raised her has just died. A fiercely imaginative child, Helen is desperate to keep her house intact with all its ghosts and stories. Flora, her late mother's twenty-two-year old first cousin, who cries at the drop of a hat, is ardently determined to do her best for Helen. Their relationship and its fallout, played against a backdrop of a lost America will haunt Helen for the rest of her life

This was our recent book club selection and I was eager to read it after seeing it noted on several reading lists.  Our discussion brought new ideas and insights to this "magical realism" story which I enjoyed although I would only recommend it with reservations.
From Booklist:
In Gaiman’s first novel for adults since Anansi Boys (2005), the never-named fiftyish narrator is back in his childhood homeland, rural Sussex, England, where he’s just delivered the eulogy at a funeral. With “an hour or so to kill” afterward, he drives about—aimlessly, he thinks—until he’s at the crucible of his consciousness: a farmhouse with a duck pond. There, when he was seven, lived the Hempstocks, a crone, a housewife, and an 11-year-old girl, who said they were grandmother, mother, and daughter. Now, he finds the crone and, eventually, the housewife—the same ones, unchanged—while the girl is still gone, just as she was at the end of the childhood adventure he recalls in a reverie that lasts all afternoon. He remembers how he became the vector for a malign force attempting to invade and waste our world. The three Hempstocks are guardians, from time almost immemorial, situated to block such forces and, should that fail, fight them. Gaiman mines mythological typology—the three-fold goddess, the water of life (the pond, actually an ocean)—and his own childhood milieu to build the cosmology and the theater of a story he tells more gracefully than any he’s told since Stardust (1999).

And the Mountains Echoed was my first Hosseini book and I read it so that I could participate in the discussion at my girlfriend's very fun women's book group.  He is a masterful story teller and I was immediately swept up in the saga.  As rich as this book was, it only gets better when you discuss it with other readers.  I was concerned that these stories of loss and separation wold be too emotionally raw for me but I am so impressed with his sensitivity and love for the characters that I am eager to read the first two novels.
Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.

I picked this one up at the library for Mr. Lucky and ended up reading it as well since we are both Sue Grafton fans.  The Kinsey Millhone short stories at the first half were clever little mysteries, reminding me of watching old Alfred Hitchcock mysteries when I was a child, short and intriguing.  The second part of the book are stories based upon Sue Grafton's childhood experiences as an independent youngster free to roam and read at will because of her parents own dark problems.  Enjoyable isn't the right word but so interesting for Sue Grafton readers who love the character of Kinsey Millhone.

This past year has shown me once again how much we need one another to weather life's challenges, sorrows and pain.  This book celebrates the connections and allows the Storycorps project participants to ensure that the special person in their life is acknowledged.

A celebration of the relationships that bring us strength, purpose, and joy

Ties That Bind honors the people who nourish and strengthen us. StoryCorps founder Dave Isay draws from ten years of the revolutionary oral history project’s rich archives, collecting conversations that celebrate the power of the human bond and capture the moment at which individuals become family. Between blood relations, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, in the most trying circumstances and in the unlikeliest of places, enduring connections are formed and lives are forever changed.

Now it's time for me to return to the sewing studio space, a warm spot on a cold snowy day in Baltimore, and finish up my next mock up for my Sarah Veblen fitting session this Friday.   I hope you have a project or a loved one to keep your heart warm today.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mock Ups and Gratitudes

I'm heading to my sewing space for a few hours to watch the Macy's Day Parade and cut out another mock up for fitting in the next few weeks.  I had to reschedule my visit with Sarah Veblen for some personal reasons but am eager to sew up some new winter clothes.  Nothing new to post except a picture of three mock ups which I have prepared:

Margarita Top, Alabama Chanin Corset top and Burda 7798
I'm wanting a sort of boho top for holiday gatherings and might make this Burda patten in some silk velvet or shiny poly in my resource center.

This past Sunday my minister read a beautiful poem for this holiday and one that I've been sharing with friends and family on Facebook.  It sums up my sentiments today.  I hope you have a spirit of gratitude in your heart no matter where in the world you live.

“A Thanksgiving Poem” 
by Peter LaForge:

Perhaps I should have said it just between
The wine and grace, the wishing and the blessing.
That was a time for words, when the scene
Had just begun, before we passed the dressing.
Before the knife cut deep into the breast,
I might have paused, looked up and all around
Into the eyes of each of them. A jest
Came easier, wit tossed into the sound
And lost. Between the stuffing and the pie,
Was yet another quiet moment when
I could have told them all.
Instead I sighed And let it pass. Just once before the end
I should have cried, "Listen, before you go.
I love you. I just wanted you to know."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Normal Sewing

Sometimes you feel like sewing something new and this is that day and that week.  I'm starting out with two new to me patterns, the Alabama Chanin Corset T Shirt  just one example from the Alabama Chanin blog  
and a similarly designed Margarita Tank Top from L J Designs.  Great sale on Londa's Sewing website for Margarita Top

The weather in Baltimore is pleasant today but the cool weather is moving in quickly and I need some lightweight silk knit, merino knit and maybe polarfleece 100 knit tops for under my sweaters and tops.  I'm stitching these two patterns as mock ups to take up to Sarah Veblen for some fitting help next Tuesday.  I've booked two hours with Sarah and if I'm industrious I will take some woven tops and perhaps another dress for her fitting assistance.
Copying the pattern with carbon paper

It takes time to get mock ups ready.  I usually copy the pattern,particularly if it is OOP.  It means marking vertical lines, easy enough to just continue the grain line and use that for marking.  But it also means creating horizontal pattern lines and transferring those from the pattern to the fabric.
My mock up inexpensive cotton poly interlock from Fabric Mart

The Alabama Chanin pattern is a delight to look at in its finished form, but what a pain in the neck to prepare.  I heard Sarah bemoan its lack of trued seam lines when another friend brought it to the June sewing retreat and this morning I had the same experience.  I dislike the bother of "walking" seams but it does make the final sewing easier and so much more enjoyable.  So I "walked" all five seam lines and had to add about 1/2" in length on several of them to make them equal length.  Walking seams from The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting  This simple knit top doesn't have facings which does speed up the process.
The Alabama Chanin sizing chart.....
The Lyla Messenger pattern is a more conventional pattern but one of my pet peeves is not having finished garment measurements anywhere.  I think I'm going to start with small at the shoulder and neck area then move out to a medium size for side seams. 

Yes, it's good to be back in my sewing space and feeling ready to tackle something new.  All of October we were carrying around the weight of our decision about Sam, as well as being busy just taking care of him.  We miss his presence but yes, we know it was the right and loving thing to do.  Thank you, thank you, for your kind, thoughtful words that are helping us heal and enjoy our memories.  It does help to know that others have gone through this and felt this same loss and pain.  As the saying goes, friends and family are what multiply our joys and divide our grief.  
Sew grateful,

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Faithful Companion

January 10, 1999 to November 11, 2013
Stoic, intensely curious, smart and quirky, that's what Sam was.  Cool, hip, unconcerned with anyone except his pack, sort of the Maynard G. Krebs of the dogworld.  Loyal and sensitive.  We had almost fourteen years together.  Mr. Lucky and I have had a tough few weeks making this decision and yes, we are sad, sad sad today, but we know it was the right thing to do.  Not tragic, by any means, in light of so much human suffering in places like the Phillippines but we've been touched and moved by this unconventional dog. 
Sam came into our lives right after I stopped working in the corporate world.  I scarcely knew a thing about dogs and thought every dog just needed the right training to become Lassie.  Now I've learned so much more.  Each dog comes with his own personality, some of it breed related and some of it individual traits.  This picture sums up the difference
Sam, one cool guy, Snowy, my friend's dog,  always eager to please.
Sam made me find out what he needed to make the two of us happy......and that was exercise.  Our first time in a dogpark I saw that all he wanted to do when he was young was run and hunt, just what basenjis are bred to do in their native Africa.  Two visits a day in cooler weather resulted in tired dog, happy owner.  Because of his love for dogparks we have met the most wonderful friends over the last dozen plus years and visited dogparks in many states.  Sam didn't have any need for strangers fawning over him but we loved the social life that came from those visits.
Florida dogpark gang, two legged and four
Sam was highly attuned to me in particular and followed me room to room throughout the day, but often at a distance.  He also followed the sunshine in each room which explains why he loved spending winters in Florida for more than ten years.

On the Florida sewing room carpet
He was never a cuddler but liked having me rub his belly after a meal....and climbing into our bed at 6am to snuggle.

Our friends and family let us bring Sam into their homes for years and we are so grateful to all of them for that kindness.  
We were uncertain when we very suddenly brought home a new dog who had been left at the dogpark almost three years ago.  But Sam was remarkably adaptable and by day three Sam and Lucky were playing hard.  In the years that followed, Lucky was the instigator but Sam was the one who got injured and never retaliated or held a grudge.  Our one dog home suddenly became a two dog house.  Despite their personality differences, we've all been happy together over these years.

In April, 2013
But we've seen Sam decline quickly this past year.  For the first time, he was confused and upset when we returned to our Florida condo last November.  He was virtually deaf and getting cataracts.  When we returned to Maryland this spring we noticed him drinking huge quantities of water and having other problems.  Things had continued to deteriorate all summer and fall and so we had to have that difficult conversation with our vet about two weeks ago. 

Lake Roland and Robert E. Lee Park, home of Sam's favorite runs and hunts

Mr. Lucky was leaving for a trip to CA to see his father so I had six days home alone with the two guys.  We took walks in the woods each day, had plenty of treats for Sam and kept the heating pad in his dogbed turned up.  Hard thing to do but so relieved that we have such a wonderful vet and kind friends who understand because they've suffered this same loss.  Plenty of tears here, laughs at funny memories and happiness knowing that Sam had an absolutely wonderful life.