Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Are You Sewing for New Year's Eve?

No gala balls or Paris jaunts for New Year's Eve at our house.  Our decade in Florida meant that we picnicked at the beach for sunset then watched fireworks at 7:30.  This year we are enjoying a mild winter in Baltimore and are having a small gathering among friends with just substantial apps before we go to see another friend's rock and roll band.  I bet we're home before the big ball falls in NYC.
So what to wear?  Casual, comfortable with maybe some glitz for the celebration.  Back in late November we visited my cousin in Beaufort, SC, and did some shopping a charming local boutique.  Now, when sewing friends visit places like this, we're always seeing a version of a pattern and then maybe the fabric we'd like to buy.  So my cousin saw this cute lightweight shrug/cape polarfleece in a wonderful caramel color that looked terrific with her coloring.  I saw her look as lovely as can be but then I also saw a pattern I had sewn a few years ago before a trip we took...Vest-S-Cape from Safety Pockets Patterns  Awful name, IMNHO, but it's the simplest thing (as her children said, just a tablecloth with holes) and I decided I needed a few more in my wardrobe.  So here's my New Year's Eve version.  I'll wear it with a simple black top and skinny black jeans.  I finished the outside edges with my serger and did a narrow bias binding on the armholes. 
Vest-S-Cape from Safety Pockets Patterns

I will try to edit this post later in order to get a picture of me wearing the outfit but winter indoor pics are rather a challenge.  
Ok, I braved the cold to get some shots this afternoon:

I liked having that lightweight layer, especially around my neck so I made another one from some black and white and glitz tweed.  Both Fabric Mart pieces that needed to leave my resource center and have a life in the real world.

No end of year perspective post nor sewing resolutions for next year from this lowly sewing blogger.  But I do wish each one of you sweet, kind readers a wonderful new year full of good things, adventures and friendships.  I never dreamed that sewing and sharing my little attempts at fashion sewing could bring me so many great friends....ones I see regularly and ones I have still to meet.  I am lucky indeed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Shopping and Reading

My coat project continues with some mental pattern work and sewing but nothing happening in the sewing studio quite yet.  A big project has to percolate for me as I make all those fabric and design detail decisions.
When we left off I was taking those five mock up coats to Sarah Veblen for fitting and design help.  As always, Sarah helps me clarify my instincts and also saves me from countless hours trying to make something work that just won't.  We agreed to toss out one coat entirely, the Vogue 2598.  That clever saddleback back can be captured with a better pattern in the future.  The other four are keepers, with some pattern adjustments (yet to be made.)  
Next up is my fabric decision.  Since I want to make several knee length coats, and since Fabric Mart kept sending those store emails before Christmas, and since Mr. Lucky is away for the holidays this year taking care of a family situation, I decided to point my sleigh car towards the store and fill it with fabric.  My reasoning is that coats require a lot of fabric and warm fabric and I have only been buying enough for short, lighter weight jackets.  Oh heck, I don't really need a reason, you understand.  So here's what came home with me a few days before Christmas:
Rasberry/merlot Wool Melton

Brown Wool blend with charcoal tweedy reverse side
A novelty wool blend with sparkle

Classis wool herringbone
I will be starting with this last fabric and using it for the LaFred Olympic Coat pattern since those herringbones will look nice on the bias sleeve.  I have pattern work to do....adding a dart that Sarah marked and then trying out several collar ideas.  I'm also considering underlining and interfacing questions.  All of this process is just as enjoyable to me as the final product.  Of course, I can get myself too involved in research and the process (which might explain why I didn't get married until I was 36) but even just reading about sewing is a pleasure for me.  Here's what's on my bedside table these days:

This first coat will not be a full out vintage tailoring project but I am fascinated by the thought and care that does go into a couture custom coat or jacket.  
Next up, collar decisions.  In the meantime, I hope your holidays were wonderful and the New Year is full of promise and happiness.
What, Santa said I have too much fabric?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Winter Coat Decisions

Last year this time I was buying warm winter parkas, sewing knit silk underthings along with cozy sweater knit tops and jackets.  It was my first winter in Maryland in ten years and the coldest one in thirty.  This year my plans are slightly different since I'd like to add some style to my burgeoning winter wardrobe.  One thing I noticed was that despite a decent array of fall/winter coats and jackets, sometimes I didn't have exactly the right coat for an outfit.  Some of those new sweater knit jackets had panels too long for a sporty jacket.  And the two knee length coats in my closet are either too lightweight or too dressy for everyday casual.  So I am on a quest to make two wool coats this winter and thought I would share the decision making and construction process with you, my sweet readers.  In the last month I have stitched up five (yes, five, can you believe it) sample coats from patterns in my collection.  Here are the candidates for this season's coat project:

Candidate 1  
I liked the back interest on this pattern and the raglan sleeve for a winter overcoat.
Here's the mock-up:
Wow, even in this fuzzy shot you can see that there's a lot of fabric happening in this coat.  

I do like the sleeve and collar area, but that armhole is large and quite low.
Candidate 2
Hmmm, again I like the almost raglan sleeve but this coat is designed to be fully reversible. Do I want a reversible coat?  Here's the mock-up:

Despite having to sew four of those finicky corners, I really like the collar and proportions on this one.  It uses a lot of fabric because of that cut on sleeve so it might mean fabric shopping if I pursue this one.
Now here's where I have to pause for a moment.  I did some snoop shopping in the quaint little town of Lititz, PA back in November and fell in love with a line of wool/alpaca coats and jackets at one of the boutiques there, a line called Beyond Threads. I tried on this wonderful Corina jacket (although the sleeves were about an inch too short, typical for me in RTW.)  What you cannot tell from the picture or the description is that there is an underarm gusset that means the dolman cut on sleeve actually has a higher and more flattering lower armhole. 
Corina Jacket from Beyond Threads
So while I was contemplating my next jacket, I was also searching high and low through my pattern collection for  dolman sleeve with a gusset. I am too geometrically challenged to draft my own version but I could transpose one, I think.  No luck in my resource center so I googled my request and up popped this pattern, from the wonderful and sadly too early departed Fred Bloebaum.  It was on Etsy and for $5 it was in the mail while I was working on some other holiday sewing.  
Candidate 3
Now try to look past the early nineties oversized illustrations and look at the pattern lines.  I sewed up a size small (although according to the suggested sizing I should be a medium) and here's the mock up:
Olympia Coat
I don't like the petal collar or that frumpy length  but I do like the sleeves and the close but roomy fit of this pattern.  I can change the collar to a standup asymetrical one rather easily so I think this one has promise also.  Here's the two piece sleeve and the gusset.

Nice bias lines on the sleeve
Fred's pattern is wonderfully designed with great instructions for interfacing and even a roll line for that petal collar, something that the Big Four should include more often.  
By now I was getting a little winded with trying new patterns and going to the trouble of marking those grid lines on my mock ups.  But I had two more patterns to consider so onward....
Candidate 4
Wow, an oldie pattern again but a real classic topper coat, just what I think will fill the hole in my winter wardrobe.  Being a Burda, it too has some nice instructions for the lining and that collar roll line.  Here's the mock up:

Nothing unique but this one could be a real work horse of a pattern.  Those early nineties drop shoulders will have to be adjusted but otherwise it looks promising so far.
The last candidate was truly just for fun.  It does not fulfill any wardrobe hole but sometimes you just feel like venturing out into uncharted waters.  I got caught up in the Thanksgiving weekend Craftsy sale when all the classes were $19.99. (The sale continues: Craftsy classes ...and it's not just sewing )  I added more classes than I care to admit to my already loaded inventory.  And since I was there I decided to watch more of Natalie Chapin's stenciling and stitching class.  This pattern was the freebie that came when I bought the class last year and so I decided to make a mock up and see if it is worth pursuing.  Here's a very rough mock up (the pockets are quite unique and I got annoyed and did a rough and dirty version just for placement on one side.)
Candidate 5
Candidate 5

So, that's what I have been sewing for the last month.  Last week I bundled them all up and took them up to Sarah Veblen   I paid Sarah for her time in evaluating each one, making fitting adjustments as needed and then evaluating some fabrics I am considering.  It is the nicest Christmas present I could buy for myself.  I'll share the results in a future post.  
I also received a Christmas present of sorts of some nice woolens from a friend at the gym (most of them will be giveaways at January's retreat.)  When I was thanking her and shared that I hoped one of the plaids was enough for a coat, one of the other women was puzzled.  I had mentioned that I had stitched up these five coat mock ups before deciding which two I would pursue this year.  She asked me quizzically if it wouldn't just be easier to buy a coat?  Ah, the sewists out there know that yes, of course that would be easier for most of us but that's not why I sew....and maybe not why you sew either.  I love the fabric, the process, the creativity and freedom....and also the many dear friendships among others who understand. I'll be warmer this winter with all of those things close to me.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Plethora of Pillows

I love the colors of fall, all the golds, shades of red and orange and lime greens, now almost gone from our November landscape.  This autumn has been spectacular (according to a local newpaper item it had to do with warm days and cool nights) and I brought those colors into our home with new pillows for our living room and family room.  My other laptop is under the weather (and most likely dying as I type) so my careful construction pictures may be lost but hey, these are pillows and the fitting is easy. 
I've been collecting some inexpensive autumn toned home dec fabrics throughout this year.  Some come from the Joann's red tag fabrics when they have a 50% off sale.  The others came from a September visit to the PA Fabric Outlet near Lancaster, PA.  This warehouse type store has a large decorator section with leftovers stuck on very short rolls in large barrels.  I picked up three rolls for $5.98 total with about six or seven yards of the three fabrics so this was not an expensive seasonal update.  I also buy zippers there and the 12-14 inch invisible zippers sell for less than $1.  

I cut the striped fabric into quarters then rearranged them to form that new pattern.  It's a flange pillow but I want it to be a reusable pillow form so there's a back flap with velcro to keep it closed and snug.  I hate pillow covers that don't have a closure like that since the cover grows and looks sloppy very quickly. 
I have enough leftover for a table runner and will probably arrange those stripes in another interesting pattern.
The geometric pillow with buttons on the left has gold silk dupioni piping and an invisible zipper.  I liked watching the youtube from Haberman fabrics on inserting an invisible zipper on a pillow with welting.   
That orange ribbon pillow is one I made last year with a ribbon weaving technique and I am happy to say that we use it throughout the year and it has held up wonderfully.
This next pillow has some sentimental memories for me.  I remember my mother wearing an Asian style jacket in the 50's when I was very young.  I inherited the jacket, too small for me (I was taller than my mother by 6th grade) but I always wanted to do something with the fabric.  I'm glad I didn't cut it up in my short attempt at wearable art pieced garments about 14 years and 25 lbs ago.  Instead, this year it became part of our inside autumn toned pillow collection.  I used a piece of remnant orange tweed home dec fabric from that Joann's clearance table and made a window to highlight the silk brocade then pieced together the remaining brocade for piping.  It needed a little more to bring out the 50's vibe I wanted to keep so I added some dark rust trim around the edge and I think it looks rather retro vintage-y.

On our way out to western Maryland in October we stopped at the new to me Surplus City again, the combination fabric store/hardware store.  Yes, a store for me and Mr. Lucky under one roof!  They too carry mostly home dec fabrics at very low prices and I bought this leaf design for $5.99 a yard.  I did the same quartering and I like the image of leaves falling in all directions.

This last autumn glory pillow is the longest one in the making.  It started with scraps of a poly print that a sweet sewing friend (hi, Kathie) gave me when she moved to Nebraska 18 months ago.  I used my die cut machine and a five layered flower die to cut out the flower shapes, then held each edge to a candle flame to curl them and then layered them together.  TV project.  Can you tell that Mr. Lucky and I spend a lot of time in the evenings watch PBS shows like Endeavor, Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries and Call the Midwife?  I used two layers of a rusty orange poly from another Joann's clearance table and put the flowers on the front, topped with wooden beads for some more color and texture and another invisible zipper.  I enjoy seeing these two pillows together with their sentimental reminders of special women.
Sewing pictures are done but for my friends and family, here come some shots from several of our fall trips.  
In the middle of October we headed to Western Maryland for a "refresher" weekend for Mr. Lucky.  he is a ski patrol volunteer in the winter and this was a weekend where he was one of the instructors for the medical refresher training for the team of five dozen volunteers.  We stopped along the way for a hike along the glorious 

The following week we took our neighbor's sweetest Golden Retriever (we were pet sitting for a few days) to Pennsylvania to pick our last batch of apples for the season.  
Maple Lawn Farms, PA
Yes, those observant sewing friends who are still reading will note that it is yet another Tabula Rasa tunic top that I am wearing.  About 1/4 of those apples are now in small jars labeled "Caramel Apple Butter"....made this year by Mr. Lucky himself!
Two weekends ago we drove from the Baltimore area down Rt 81 to reach Greenville, SC where a cousin of mine had a wonderful wedding weekend for his daughter.  It was the first big family gathering since my aunt's death this summer and we honored her memory while enjoying a happier reason for gathering.  Along the drive we stopped and hiked Crowder's Mountain just south of Charlotte, NC.  
Crowders Mountain, NC
We made a long weekend of it and spent Sunday night in Roanoke so we could drive a little bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive on the way back to Baltimore.  By now, most of the mountain top trees are bare but those in the foothills still have some of those wonderful colors.  
Shenadoah Valley
Here's hoping you have a colorful weekend of sewing and other fun activities on your calendar.

Friday, October 17, 2014

New: Tabula Rasa Knit Tunics

Early in the summer I was a tester for this new knit pattern on behalf of my creative friend, Rae Cumbie, and her line of patterns, Fit for Art patterns (read Rae's blog for great tips and insights into her design process)  Back in July, when I changed sizing and went from a Medium to a Small with the darted front,  I made a comfy, stylish summer robe from the jacket pattern. Then in August she and her partner Carrie sent me the finalized version of the new knit tunic pattern.  Now, I will admit that I was very skeptical that the jacket pattern would translate well into a knit version but at that testing day my skepticism disappeared as I watched middle aged women of various shapes and sizes stitch up stylish and flattering knit topics, soooooo much better than the shapeless T shirts that so many others wear.  Once again, like the jacket, what is nice about the pattern is the choice of an undarted or darted front, a shoulder line that rests on your shoulder, not dropped, but a high square armhole that is a breeze to sew.  Since that swingy side panel is everywhere in RTW right now, I made all three of these with it.  I will try the standard straight side later when I want a closer fit knit top for layering.  Ok, enough prelude, here are my three versions:

Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic with Swing Sides

This is an ITY Fabric Mart border print knit and while I was happy, I wanted it slightly longer.

Double border fabric and how I cut out the pieces

Next up was my boho fabric version...a rayon burn-out knit and two different laces, all underlined with powder-dry, a thin, breathable knit.

This nude powder-dry is ages old....back from a Yahoo fabric buying group before we had easy on-line shopping.  I hand basted the front, back and sleeves, thinking that the burgundy lace would be floaty enough on the sides not to need underlining.  Wrong!!  I could see my fleshy mid section right through that lace.  I used an even lighter fabric, a very thin tricot and hand basted that to the side panel lace so that it would keep the lightweight drape but become opaque.  Saved....or rather I saved the public from muffin top views.

Tricot pinned to the side swing panels
No prying eyes here.
Last version is my favorite so far.  Last year Fabric Mart had rayon knits in coordinating colors and sizes of stripes.  I purchased two sets of color ways and this top is one of them.  It's a purple-y blue and black stripe.  I used the largest stripe for the body, the narrower stripe for the sleeves, the solid blue for the swing panel and made the neckline from the solid and wide cut on the bias.  
Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic and infinity scarf
A better picture with truer colors
Auditioning the proportion and placement of different fabrics
Double fabric neckline finish

I had about 10 inches left of the two stripe fabrics so I sewed them as an infinity scarf and I must say I love the cowl much so that I will probably add a cowl neckline to the pattern this fall or winter.  

Last photo is me wearing my first Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic in Quebec City where we got to watch the September "super moon" rise from the 10th floor deck of the airbnb apt. we rented.  More about the trip and souvenir fabric shopping to come later.  

Sew grateful you took the time to read and/or comment today.