Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vintage Sewing and Kayaking

No, I'm not sewing while kayaking but yes, I am using our new favorite outdoor activity as a way to accomplish a sewing task.  I've been reading sewing bulletin and message boards for more years than I care to count. There have always been people who have vouched for the quality of old vintage machines and wonderful people who coached them into how to buy and care for them.  I've ended up with four of these over the last dozen years.  Now that we live in one place, I've decided to actually use them or lose them.  But first let's get them up and running smoothly.  One of the blogs I enjoyed was Ed Lamoureux's  Vintage Sewing Machines   One of his first posts from 2006 was a taste of what was to come: "In the last couple of years, the Internet has spawned some sites where antique and vintage sewing machines are discussed and parts are swapped. If you can find those sites, you will learn more about old sewing machines there than from any other single source.
This blog is my attempt to help the antique and vintage sewing machine buyer to select and maintain an all-metal machine."   So last week when we wanted to bring our kayaks somewhere new, I started an internet search and found the quilt shop that he now owns where he picks up and repairs these grande dames.  Olde Towne Stitchery, Leonardtown, MD
Those four machines (actually three, one just for parts) are now in Ed's care.  While he's working on them I can create a "Studio B" in our basement where I can keep them up and running upon their return.  

And after we dropped them off, Mr. Lucky....or as a girlfriend called him when she saw his canning prowess, Mr Perfect (I think that means he's Mr. Perfectly Lucky) and I had a few hours kayaking from the small launch at Camp Calvert.  We were on the northern part of Breton Bay in an area of Maryland that is quite unfamiliar to us.  Partly cloudy day which was actually nice since it was cool and we could stay out longer to enjoy the scenery, wildlife and the water and skies.  
As our neighbor remarked when he saw us loading both kayaks and sewing machines into the car, "I bet you are a demographic of one today and that no one else in America is doing exactly that this morning."  

As part of the themes of vintage and  use it or lose it, I am sewing up some scarves from my stash of scraps, many of them vintage kimono pieces sold in coordinated packs.  

Here's the first finished "aqua series."  It's designed for me at 58" and the two additional ones will be slightly shorter.  One will go to my church auction in November and one to my gift shelf....girlfriends reading, close your eyes.
Speaking of gifts, don't forget to go back and choose one of the blogaversary gifts from this post 9/22/13 Blogaversary Giveaways  Open until midnight on October 1 then the winners will be selected and notified.  Good luck to all and happy sewing to all as well.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Washing Leather Garments

You have got to be kidding me.  That was my first thought when I saw this post about washing leather purses and garments from The Elegant Bohemian blog  
You Can Really Machine Wash Leather It looks like Serene might be taking a break from blogging but this post is still a marvel. 
I wasn't ready to throw a vintage Coach purse into my washing machine but I did pull out my Murphy's Oil Soap to try an experiment.  

Would you wash leather skins?

You see, a few years ago I got caught up in my usual Patternreview and blog frenzy. Several terrific sewists made beautiful leather skirts, purses and jackets and I thought I might join the crowd.  I was stalking visiting Fabric Mart that summer and they were having a clearance sale on remaining leather skins.  Caught up in envy and a buying frenzy (my usual mode of operating at a Fabric Mart sale) I bought a pile of pearlized baby blue leather skins....pearlized baby blue, what was I thinking?  I have five of these suckers in my fabric collection and now no earthly idea what to do with them.  I was going to make a leather jacket and must have thought the baby blue wouldn't look too silly in southwest me, after living for ten years in a wealthy resort area, I could easily imagine some trophy wife wearing a baby blue leather mini dress.  But I have come to my senses and admit that I was just caught up in a perfect fabric frenzy storm.  And although I may be a trophy wife, I don't live in SW Florida anymore.    
Left side the strip I washed and let dry flat overnight.
Maybe a slight "crackling" on the finish on the left side piece of leather
All of that background to say that I am cleaning out my resource center and pulled those skins out of the closet once again.  I decided that perhaps a touch of this blue might be nice on a ponte knit top or skirt.  But would I want to pay dry cleaners to maintain it for me?  That's when I decided to Google handwashing leather and came up with this terrific post.  

I cut off a long strip and tossed it into the sink with half a capful of Murphy's Oil sol, warm water and swished like crazy.  No baby blue in the water and that skin was totally wet and sudsy.  Rinsed it then blotted it dry with a towel, again no dye run off, and I let it dry flat overnight.  I did not precisely measure the piece but it seems not to shrink with the hand washing.....a machine might be different, of course.  The pearlized finish is slightly crackled but other than that the leather looks virtually the same washed or unwashed.  

Wow, this opens up some interesting ideas for my wardrobe while still keeping it hand washing friendly. I don't mind dry cleaning my lined jackets but since I prewash almost all of my fabrics, I'd like the option of delicate washing them at home after sewing them up.  
No immediate plans for this leather but it's nice to know that my options have expanded thanks to some new knowledge.  Have you ever washed weather garments or purses?

In more directly sewing related news from the "studio" I also stitched up a few of these quick items after that detailed dress work.  DO you know what they are?  
Yes, these tubes will become pillowcases for Rhonda's pillowcase drive.  Rhonda's Creative Life

She's doing a great kindness by harnessing the power of her blog to get sewists across the country assembling pillowcases for charity.  Bravo to her and bravo to all of you who give your time and energy to any good cause.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lining a Sleeveless Sheath Dress by Machine

Thank you for your kind comments on my Vogue 8828 dress.  And I am happy to see many of you entering the blogaversary giveaway from my last post.  You have until October 1 to add a comment with your choice of gift.  
Let's get down to lining details...careful, this is very picture heavy.  I learned how to do this lining from Trena's blog  The Slapdash Sewist  and it's made my sewing life much easier and my sheath dresses so comfortable.  
stretch silk lining
lining back
I decided that I did not want facings and a lining on this dress.  But facings, since they are usually interfaced, add a nice stable edge around the bias curves of necklines and armholes.  So I decided to use a lightweight interfacing on those areas.  
Interfaced lining at front edge where facing would usually be.
My lining is a stretch silk charmeuse from Fabric Mart, another find from years ago that has been aging in my resource center.  It has a crepe backing with a shiny front, at least 20% stretch and is rather "beefy" in weight.  My interfacing was also a stashed piece labeled as "Sewer's Delight" and I bought it at Louse Cutting's now closed fabric shop.  Louise has the most wonderful selection of truly couture interfacings so even though this one is no longer around, check out what she does have to offer.  Cutting Line Designs 

The dress is lined to the edge but since the turquoise silk was the perfect match for the color in the dress, I made piping to go around the neckline and armholes. I used rayon rat tail as the filler, cut 2" bias strips of silk, stitched with my buttonhole foot close but not tight against the rat tail, trimmed the binding to 5/8" from the rat tail and hand stitched the piping in place since I didn't want it to move when I sewed it all together.
I mark my piping after adding the filler for more accuracy.

Piping basted into place
A you can see from this picture, I've assembled much of the dress already.  I've sewn all the front six pieces together, then the back 8 pieces.  I've joined the dress at the shoulder seam and I have installed an invisible zipper in back.  My piping is basted in place and now I'm ready for the lining.  The side seams have not been stitched together.
I sew all the lining pieces in the same manner, except I keep the back center seam open since there's no zipper there.  Next I sew that back seam edge to each side of the zipper tape, by machine, not by hand.  First I lay out my dress and lining, wrong sides together.  Some people may not have to do that step but I have to see what's happening in front of me....I seem to lack the inner geometry gene.
Now I know that I want to turn under the lining seam allowance along the center seam and sew it to the zipper tape. I pull one section away and pin the other directly to the zipper tape, this time right side of lining to the inside of the zipper tape:
Right side of lining seam allowance pinned to zipper tape
I offset the lining by 1/4" and then sewed the lining, using my zipper foot again and a 3/8" seam allowance down the length of the zipper.
Viking zipper foot and needle position 4.0 to the left
I repeat the same procedure on the other half of the zipper and then sew the rest of the seam from the bottom of the center lining.  Now I have the lining attached to the zipper tape and I am ready to sew the neckline seam, right sides together.  
Lining has been sewn to both sides of the zipper tape
I sew that seam at 5/8" but still use that zipper foot to stay just inside my previous hand basting so I have a tight nice piping on the outside.
Neck seam before it has been graded, clipped and pressed....those steps make all the difference.
Grading the seam, clipping and pressing makes all the difference.

Final step is similar to a yoked shirt "burrito" technique" where you roll up a garment section in order to sew smoothly and then pull the garment through an opening.  In this case, you will sew the right side of the garment armhole to the right side of the lining armhole.
I like to start by laying the dress flat again.
Roll up one armhole, lining and fashion fabric together:
One armhole of fabric twisted together
Now open out the fashion fabric and lining on the opposite armhole and place that rolled "bundle in the middle.
"Rolled bundle of armhole" placed on top of right side of opposite fashion fabric and lining armhole
Pin together the right sides of that armhole's lining and fashion fabric:
Right sides of armhole pinned together with that "roll" inside.

Since I had piped that seam, I made sure to again stitch it with my zipper foot inside the basted piping line.  
Here's the part that might scare you the first time....and the reason why I am always laying out my dress flat to make sure I am sewing the correct sides together.  It's best to grade and clip the armhole seam now, before you pull it through the shoulder.  But if you have any doubt that you haven't done this procedure correctly, then I'd suggest pulling the garment through the shoulder first and checking your work...then pull it back and do that clipping. Take your time and you can clip with impunity...and good pressing and grading on curves means a snug flat seam.  I understitch the armhole lining and seam allowances together also.  If you use your machine you can't stitch all the way but I used a prick stitch and hand stitched the armhole all the way around. You can see the small prickstitch in some of those pictures.

After you have stitched the two armholes, you can then pin the side seams of the dress together, right sides together, and do the same for the lining.  One benefit you will notice from this technique is that it makes it easy to take the side seams in or out on a lined dress.
Easier to show in person but I hope the pics are a help sometime in your sewing future. 
Next time I might try the couture lining technique from  Susan Khalje's article in Threads 125 which uses a lot of handsewing....perfect for cold winter nights in front of the TV with Mr. Lucky,
Speaking of Mr. Lucky, here's proud picture of the new canning expert at our house.  I made our first batch of these Pickled Dilly Green Beans Pickled Dill Green Beans a week ago and they are wonderfully crisp and tasty.  Mr. Lucky helped me while I was working on church course materials over the last few day by making the second batch himself.  14 half-pints of pickles and a proud guy in the house, now that's priceless.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

New Dress, Three Year Blogaversary and Giveaways

I'm happy as can be with the result of all that pattern adjusting to this Vogue 8828 dress pattern.
Vogue 8828
I have a black cardigan and a turquoise one that looked OK with this print but I'm enjoying the shock of this chartreuse yellow.  Not exactly autumn seasonal sewing but I plan to pack this one for our Florida rental in March so I'll be wearing it in sunshine eventually.
It would be fine for a summer wedding, too:
Very hot weather version    

I like the lowered neckline and think that a variety of shapes could make this very versatile dress pattern in my repertoire.  I'll share more about the stretch silk charmeuse lining in a future post.  
Now let's celebrate something and give gifts.  How about my three year blogaversary?  Hooray!  Yes, it's true, I will use any excuse for a party.  Sorry, I can't serve most of you drinks and cake but I can offer you some giveaways, one for every year of my blog life.  
Giveaway Number 1
Giveaway number 1 is the hardcover first edition of Fit for Real People (FFRP) one of the most referenced fitting books among sewists around the world.  I'm also including a lovely Taunton Press book on fitting upscale lingerie and loungewear.
Giveaway Number 2
I buy Clare Schaeffer's Vogue patterns mostly for the sheer joy of reading the couture version of their instructions.  Maybe you don't have these in your collection yet.
Giveaway Number 3
Here are five more Vogue patterns with wonderful details...generally sizes 12-14-16 is what I buy in a multi-size pattern.
Drop me a comment about which giveaway you would like and your email address so I can contact the winners.  I'll pay postage in the US or internationally.

I didn't celebrate year number two of blogging last year.  I was way too preoccupied and anxious about some unkind, petty people in my life who took up way too much mental time.  Hooray, they are no longer around and I feel like me again.  My celebration, therefore, isn't really about three years of blogging....I do that erratically and merely adequately.  But I am celebrating hope and perseverance and love and friendship and nature and support.  So here's to all the things that keep us moving forward through pain and angst.  You, my lovely readers and fellow creative artists are part of why I am celebrating today.  Here's a toast to knowing that we are wonderful people and today feeling wonderful as well.  Now hurray and enter....I'll pick the winners on October 1.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sew Bittersweet

Yes, that's how I am feeling this week, bittersweet.  The days have been beautiful, clear skies, cool nights and warm sunshine days.  I have had time to sew and time to work and time to kayak and ride bikes. But underlying the good things in my life has been the sad news about the people killed in the Navy Yard, among them six Marylanders, mostly in my age bracket.  And in the smaller world of sewing bloggers, I have been mourning the passing of Gwen of All My Seams All My Seams.  Gwen was one of the first people to add me to her blog roll when I started blogging three years ago, just an example of her kindness and welcoming ways.  She was always quick to comment on a post and I saw her encouraging, creative spirit on many, many other bloggers' comments sections.  When Gwen's jacket was selected to be in Threads magazine this past winter, I was thrilled and excited to see her recognized on a larger stage.  We went through a mutual move this past winter and spring and supported each other through the stress and uncertainty.  I will miss her but as I sew and write about my sewing, I will also remember to spread some of her encouraging comments and cheers to other bloggers.  It's the least I can do in her memory.
Sewing and enjoying the beauty of nature does provide healing during sad times and I am grateful to have a hobbies that engage me.  My latest dress saga does continue.  

All fourteen pattern pieces have been adjusted and the wearable muslin is stitched and ready for its lining.  I've selected a stretch woven for the first version.  It fits nicely but being a stretch woven I think I'll take the side seams in about 1/8" all the way the length of the dress to account for the extra stretch.  This is fabric I've used before, on a jacket that I stitched and enjoyed in Florida but which has moved on to a better life somewhere.  There was enough to make a sleeveless dress.  Free fabric, right?
There's an invisible zipper in back and I though I'd share how I make sure the above waist seam matches at that zipper area.  

Pin one side of the invisible zipper tape to the seam.  Pull the zipper up to the seam area and use a fabric marker to indicate on both seam tapes where the dress seam is.  Pull the zipper tab back down in order to sew the zipper in properly.
When you sew the zipper tape to the seam allowance (using that most wonderful foot, an invisible zipper foot  Viking Invisible Zipper Foot ) just make sure that those marks line up with the seam.

Matched back zipper with waist seam
plan on making this a sleeveless version with piping around the adjusted (and much more flattering neckline, IMNSHO) and armholes.  I just happen to have a wonderful stretch silk charmeuse in the perfect aqua for the piping and the lining.  
This weekend Mr. Lucky is leaving for two days so I'll have the house and sewing room to myself to finish the dress.  Off to select interfacing . I hope your weekend days will be more sweet than bitter.
Stream side pic from a bike ride along the beautiful Northern Central Rail Trail in northern Baltimore County

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pattern Adjustments for a New Dress

Yes, it's National Sewing Month again in the US. September is a time to celebrate our passion, but we know the creative, therapeutic and calming effects of sewing are joys that we can celebrate throughout the entire year....from The American Sewing Guild website In my sewing space, however, it seems to be national pattern alteration least it feels like that's how long these alterations are taking me.
This dress is Vogue  8828, 

a plain Jane dress pattern but with great personality bones.  (Don't you hate the pocket flaps under her bust?!) It was one of three patterns that were the result of Sarah Veblen's fitting and sewing retreat in late June.  Sarah pinned and marked all 14 pieces of this dress.
Front of Vogue 8828
on my asymmetrical body and last week I took that marked up muslin and methodically transferred each adjustment to the paper pattern.  (14 pieces because I have to cut a right and left version for each of the seven pieces for a sleeveless version.) can barely make out the vertical and horizontal balances lines drawn on this mock-up
Different colored pencils were used to delineate new seam lines from old ones and new cutting lines from old ones.  Sometimes I had to add tissue to parts of a pattern pice, sometimes cut away excess tissue.  After each piece is adjusted I "walk" the seams to make sure they are the same length or have no more than 1/8 inch of a difference.  

Vertical and horizontal balance lines to be marked on the mock-up dress.

Yes, double the pattern pieces to mark and adjust
I finished the first revision by the end of the week and then cut out my second muslin over the weekend.  Earlier this week I sewed up that second muslin and made some more pattern adjustments.  (Yes, it's almost as boring to write about this process as it is to do it.)
Now I have a customized, fitted sheath dress but it's time to make some style changes.  I am planning on a simple sleeveless sheath for the first "real" version of the dress but I heartily dislike the jewel neckline on the pattern.  I've been auditioning some neckline ideas and decided on a simple scoop neckline for this dress.  Yesterday I traced the top seven pattern pieces and today I will draw the new neckline and new facings.  
Pattern work for a fitted dress like this is tedious to me but I know in the end I'll be happy with the result.  I would only spend this amount of time and energy on a fitted garment like a fitted jacket or sheath dress and only do this a few times a year.  It's not my favorite way to honor or celebrate "National Sewing Month" but I've learned the payoff for being careful and meticulous here is an easier to sew, fully personalized garment.
A much more engaging past time for the last week has been devouring this book on my Kindle:

The Warmth of Other Suns .....Amazon Reviews
Isabel Wilkerson, already a Pulitzer Award-winning journalist, has been acclaimed for this thoroughly researched and thoroughly readable account of the internal migration of more than 6 million African-Americans from the South to the North, mid-West and West Coast from the turn of the century to 1970.  She interviewed well over a thousand of these migrants to personalize the census and historic details of this enormous shift in population.  She focuses on the life stories of three of the individuals in particular so there is a wonderful blend of history and personal narrative, a technique that I enjoyed in Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken a few years back.  Highly, highly recommend and I am so glad that my book group decided to read it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Organizing My Pattern Collection with Fabric-Covered Binders

Thank you, kind readers, for your comments about the T-shirt makeover.  It was a very busy, crowded school board meeting this week so I didn't get to talk with many of our neighbors but I did feel fashionable.... or as Barb said...a well accessorised community activist hooligan.
Keeping on the school theme, did you have to make bookcovers for your school books when you were young?  I still remember coming home the first day of school and cutting up paper grocery bags to make book covers for the new textbooks I had just received.  I even recall being envious of a very few girls who came to school the next day with wrapping paper covering their books.  That was an unnecessary extravagence in our family. But I did enjoy the doodling and decorating that I got to do on those plain covers which today is expressed in designing the clothes I want versus being limited by what's in stores and in fashion.    
I'm more than grateful to my parents for those early lessons in thrift and prioritizing expenditures.  So my latest recycling effort shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows me.  
This summer I have slooooowly been combining my sewing room contents from our former Florida home with those here in Baltimore.  The most recent part of that project has been culling and combining my pattern collection.  It's a gaggle, a covey, a flock an exaltation of patterns, that's for sure.  I have three cartons of leftover patterns to donate to my sewing groups but still have dozens, (that's what I tell Mr. Lucky) or hundreds, (that's the truth that I tell my readers) of patterns to enjoy.
Pattern Organization
I use recycled three ring binders to hold the pattern envelopes.  These are binders from former work projects, classes I've taken or feeble attempts at scrapbooking in my past.  Since they are different colors and sizes, I wanted to make their appearance a little less jarring on my shelves.  I pulled out my leftover home dec fabric (last seen as a pillow for staging the former FL sewing room) and made simple binder covers, using the same system as those grocery bag book covers of yore.  Here's the quick visual tutorial that might bring back school memories:
Cut/rip fabric crosswise and inch or two wider than your binder.  Serge around the edges.
Lay the binder open on the fabric, outside of binder to right side of fabric.  Fold over the inside flap of fabric as far as you would like.  Pin those right sides together....mine have about a 3/4 seam allowance.

Do the same thing on the back cover of the binder, trimming the excess fabric as necessary (and then serging that edge.)  At the sewing machine stitch those four edges for the length of the two fabrics, right sides together and back stitching at the end of the seam which will get some strain when you insert the binder cover.
Turn the cover right sides out and use a point turner to get those corners sharp.  Take it to the ironing board and press it flat, turning down the seam allowance on the unstitched section in the middle.

Insert the front binder cover into the fabric sleeve.
Insert the back cover, bending the binder backwards slightly if necessary.

This must be my selection of patterns for jackets since that's a Claire Schaefer pattern from Vogue right  up front.
Here's how the random binders now look on my shelf....more uniform and less distracting visually.

I will use the simple embroidery alphabet on my Viking 770 machine to create fabric labels for the outside...."Pants and Skirt"  "Blouses and Tops"  "Lingerie"  etc.  That will mean a bit of a learning curve for me so don't look for those pics real soon.
Here's the way I store the rest of the pattern envelope "guts."  The tissue patterns themselves are crammed stuffed tucked into quart plastic bags and filed by pattern company in these drawers with an overflow in another room.  I tried to cut down enough to still keep them all in one place but that's not going to happen.  Guess I'll wait until the next big move for that purge.  In the meantime, I am keeping my vow of one in, one out.  I still buy patterns but when I do, an equal number have to leave and find new homes.  
Next up will be some posts on my latest dress project.  Hope September is making you feel organized and ready to sew new things.